February, oh February. How you never cease to amaze me with your freak snowstorms and somehow always noticeably short length. For most, you are a signifier of romance as you offer us the quintessential day of love itself, Valentine’s Day. For others, you are a signifier of loneliness as you offer us the quintessential day of exclusion itself, Valentine’s Day. And for some, you are a signifier of stuffed animals and roses as you offer us the quintessential day of red itself … yeah … you get it.
Me? February is none of those things, actually. Romance is overrated, loneliness is inevitable and red … well … red was a movie Morgan Freeman was in recently. To me, the month is centered around one person: Oscar.
That’s right. After spending decades avoiding movies at all costs, I have spent the last three or four years breathlessly shuffling through all the cinematic gems I’ve missed, all the while trying to keep up with the current-day, ever-changing world of popular film at the same time. Movies have managed to consume the majority of the very few brain cells I have left, and because of that, February has morphed itself into one of my most revered times of the year (it doesn’t hurt that the Grammy Awards ceremony takes place this month, too).
In any case, below are five picks you can mull over as you navigate your way through the year’s shortest month. If winter ever decides to actually show its ugly head, you can take any of the following five flicks, turn out all the lights, cuddle up with that dangerous space heater we all know you own and enjoy any of the titles below (and yes, if only “Leap Year” were available to stream …).
Onward and upward …
1. “The Trip” — Probably the most surprisingly satisfying movie I’ve seen this year, this is a faux-faux-documentary (get it?) that follows British actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they travel the Northern England countryside, visiting various restaurants for Coogan to review in The Observer. The result is a uniquely comedic mockumentary that somehow manages to keep your attention through each of the 107 minutes it lasts. Sprinkle in a few romantic B-stories. Add an almost entirely improvised script that proves exactly how funny both these men can be. Dash a touch of the “Wait. Is this real or is this not real?” sentiment that lingers as you watch, and what you get is the best comedy of 2011 that you didn’t see.
2. “Trainspotting” — Is it nearly as good as all the cool kids claim it is? Probably not. But then again, what is? Ewan McGregor’s breakout role is as raw as anything you’ll ever see on a movie screen, and while the dialogue can be a tad hard to understand at times (goodness, those are some thick accents), this is a film everybody should probably see, if only because of the acclaim it has received over the years. I mean, my God. “Trainspotting” should be listed in a thesaurus next to the phrase “cult following.” Don’t watch this with your parents, kids, and don’t watch this movie with your kids, parents. Drugs. Sex. More drugs. More sex. And even more drugs. Save this for a night when you’re sure no one else will be around …
3. “That Thing You Do” — … And on the flip side of that, you’ll find “That Thing You Do,” Exhibit A when it comes to “The Movie You Can Watch With Your Family.” The thing about this film, though, is that not only can you watch this with everyone from your 95-year-old grandmother to your five-year-old cousin, but you can also all find different reasons to enjoy and appreciate it as well. Maybe Tom Hanks’ crown achievement (if only because everything about this was drummed up by him — including the brilliant Playtone Records), “That Thing You Do” will forever be that movie you never turn off, yet never think to actually buy. It’s timeless for all the right reasons. How could you possibly ever hear this and act as though you’ll ever be able to get it out of your head …
4. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Foreign)” — It’s fun. And that’s about all I can say about that. Not nearly as good as all the hype suggested years ago when this initially hit theaters, the original version is still worth a couple hours of your time. I’ve heard people complain because the subtitles make it hard to follow the plot. I’ve heard people say this most recent American adaptation is better. I’ve heard people say it’s not nearly as good as the book. Blah. Blah. And blah. The subtitles shouldn’t get in your way, as long as you have a brain. I bet the American version is fine, but it’s hard to think Ms. Mara is a better Lisbeth. And stop all your book talk, please. Pretty please, actually. Books and movies are two different things (best case of this would be “Up In The Air,” mind you). We get it — you picked up one book in five years and now you want to have the ability to actually mean it when you say you “read the book.” Spare us. This is a fun, little movie that is as entertaining anything else you could possibly sit down with. And what’s wrong with that?
5. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — You didn’t think I could offer up picks for Oscar month without suggesting at least one Best Picture winner, now did you? 1975’s winner, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” is quite literally one of the best movies of the last 50 years. Jack Nicholson as good or better than he’s ever been. A young Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd prancing around, all but cementing themselves as stars-in-the-making. And who could ever forget the Chief, Will Sampson’s despondent yin to Nicholson’s yang. Best Picture. Best Director. Best Actor. Best Actress. And Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s one of only three movies to ever accomplish such a feat. Or, in other words, don’t expect “The Artist” to pull off the same thing in a couple weeks.