Weekend Roundtable: Your Happy Place

Some days, you just need to bury your head under a pillow and block the rest of the world out. Today may be one of those days. When you’re depressed or despondent and it feels like the entire world is falling apart, what movies, TV shows, games, music, etc. do you fall back on to lift your spirits?

Shannon Nutt

The real question this week is when am I NOT depressed, despondent and feeling like the whole world is falling apart? But I’ll digress and play along. For me, it has to be ‘Seinfeld‘ – perhaps because the show’s characters are as shallow as I often am, but mostly because it’s perhaps the best-written comedy ever to air on network television. Even though I own all the episodes on DVD (where are those Blu-rays, Sony?), it’s one of those shows I’ll always stop and watch a few minutes of if I’m flipping through channels looking for something to watch. Even though I know many of the episodes word-for-word by this point, it always manages to make me feel a little better about my miserable existence.

Luke Hickman

For some sick reason, instinct leads me to fuel the feelings by watching emotionally heavy films with characters who are somewhat messed up, but show signs of getting better. My subconscious may need to see others overcome their hurdles in order to help me get through whatever has got me down. If you know me, then you can probably guess what my go-tos are. At the top of this list would be anything from Cameron Crowe – even the movies that most people consider duds. Everyone loves ‘Say Anything‘, ‘Jerry Maguire‘ and ‘Almost Famous‘, but I also enjoy basking in his charming characters and witty angst-filled banter from ‘Elizabethtown’ and ‘Aloha‘. As flawed as those movies may be, they hit the sweet spot. When I’m really down in the dumps, I’ll pop in what’s arguably his darkest film to date, ‘Vanilla Sky‘. Rich with loneliness and longing, I eat it up.

After that, I’ll consider the late 1990s and early 2000s films by John Cusack. My personal belief is that Cusack’s everyday, down-to-Earth characters perfectly capture the way that most men are on the inside. ‘Grosse Pointe Blank‘ is a nice lighthearted one. ‘High Fidelity’ is a little darker, but still fitting. If I’m in the need for sappy romance, I’ll throw in ‘Serendipity‘. Adding the lovely Kate Beckinsale to the Cusack formula makes for a wonderful combo.

Not only do the stories, characters and dialogue in these films have the power to calm me down, but they all feature stellar soundtracks. Each is loaded with a great collection of songs, and many of Cameron Crowe’s films are driven by Nancy Wilson’s melodic piano and acoustic guitar scores.

Mike Attebery

I’m going to my niece’s wedding on Friday, so I already have a distraction from a day I’m hoping to endure but not acknowledge. If we weren’t going to be with family, there’s a good chance my wife and I would be home watching a movie to lift our spirits, and if I know us, we’d be watching ‘High Fidelity‘.

I first introduced my wife to Nick Hornby’s book in college. It’s one of my favorites, and one of hers now as well. In 2000, we were in the first audience to see the movie version, and though it moved the action from London to Chicago, it kept the heart and soul of the book intact. We loved it, and the movie has only grown on us over the years. We usually watch it once a year, and by the time we reach the end, with “I Believe (When I Fall in Love)” playing over the credits, we’re in a pretty great mood. We could definitely use that feeling right now. I have a feeling we’ll be rewatching ‘High Fidelity’ when we get back from the wedding.

Aaron Peck

Since I live too far away from Disneyland to go every time I feel down, I usually turn to a few of my favorite movies to cheer me up. I find that infinitely rewatchable comedies are the way to go here – movies that you’re familiar with, but make you laugh even though you have every line of dialogue memorized. For me, one of those movies is ‘The ‘Burbs‘. No matter the funk I’m in, this movie puts me in a good mood every time. Much more recently, I’d say ‘La La Land‘ will be one I revisit often. It has me smiling right from the opening musical. Oh, and speaking of musicals, ‘Sing Street‘. It’s hard to be mad if you watch ‘La La Land’ and ‘Sing Street’ back to back.

M. Enois Duarte

The genres I’m quickest to jump on when feeling down are slapstick comedies and brainless action flicks. Basically, something I can watch to shut off my brain and ignore the world outside. With a drink in one hand and the remote in the other, I’ll always laugh my ass off at ‘Airplane!‘, ‘Spaceballs‘ or ‘The Naked Gun‘. The same goes for ‘Clueless’, ‘Not Another Teen Movie’ and ‘Back to the Future‘.

When I’m feeling a bit friskier and wishing something dead, you can catch me eating unhealthy food while kicking back to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘, ‘The Fifth Element‘ or pretty much any Schwarzenegger flick from the late ’80s and early ’90s. I don’t have one specific movie that I’ve consistently watched when I’m feeling bad, but most recently I’ve seen ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘ quite a bit since it premiered.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

When I’m feeling melancholy and have to drag myself to work anyway, I’ll grab Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” on my way out the door. Though it’s not exactly a pick-me-up, there’s just something about Jeff Mangum that heightens those emotions in a way I find completely irresistible, and screaming along in the car is always cathartic.

I don’t have a go-to at home when I’m feeling down, but there are a couple of recurring themes. Unsurprisingly, I gravitate towards very familiar movies that are howlingly funny – say, ‘UHF‘ or the accidental comedy of ‘Troll 2‘. (The aging college radio DJ in me deems it necessary to point out that I was into ‘Troll 2’ in the early-to-mid ’90s back when it was an HBO staple. You Johnnys-come-lately with your YouTube videos…) I also turn to films that inspire a sense of awe. ‘Forbidden Planet‘ and the near-entirety of Hayao Miyazaki‘s filmography are staples there. I’ve never really thought about the reason why, but I guess the visually entrancing majesty of those fantasy worlds inspires me to look at this one through a more optimistic set of eyes.

Josh Zyber

When I’m feeling dejected, it’s time to binge-watch ‘Star Trek‘ – mostly ‘The Original Series’ and the first six movies with the Kirk & Spock crew. Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of a future where humanity eventually gets its act together and pulls itself out of the catastrophic shitshow we’re living through today sure seems reassuring right about now.

What picks you up when you’re down in the dumps? Tell us in the Comments.

33 comments

  1. NJScorpio

    When I want to escape into my cinematic equivalents of comfort food, giving myself warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia as well as excitement that never diminishes, I turn to either ‘Terminator 2’ or ‘Aliens’. Scene after scene is classic, with memorable lines and action sequences that are still thrilling by today’s standards.

    When I’m a bit depressed, and I want to retreat into the world of my 15 year old self, I put in ‘The Crow’. It can’t rain all the time.

    When I’m feeling like a cog in the machine, lost in the bureaucracy, and questing my place in the world, I throw in my copy of ‘Brazil’.

    • William Henley

      I don’t think I have ever wanted to retreat into my 15 year old self. Acne, scrawny, short, bullied. 14400 baud modem, 486 computer on Windows 3.1, VHS. Ace of Base and Alannis Morsette were on the radio. A male chauvinist pig was in the White House and his wife tried to silence any woman who spoke out against him. Beavis and Butthead were cool.

      Nah, there is no way I would ever want to retreat into my 15 year old self again!

  2. I go for the nostalgia of my youth. That works for films; with music it alters my consciousness too much and often makes me sad.

    But I will rewatch the films of my 20s when I had moved away from home, acquired a new gang of movie-going friends. We took it very seriously.

    Then my 30s when I was living alone, watching whatever the hell I wanted. Relief from the job

  3. Csm101

    My go to feel good movies if I’m feeling down are Nacho Libre, Scott Pilgrim, and Hot Fuzz.
    Feel good music, The Cars greatest hits.

  4. Barsoom Bob

    I have been watching “Man in the High Castle”, for pointers on how to live in Nazi America. “V for Vendeta” comes to mind but I truly hope we find a way to “Gandhi” it.

  5. charles contreras

    Anything with a body count will do, such as any zombie movie by George Romero, the Dirty Harry films, or my ultimate go-to feel good movie, The Exorcist. Maybe those are brutal choices, but watching them gets it out of my system just in time to go back to work with assorted drug and alcohol abuse clients. (Not the easiest job in the world, but films like those sure help to take the edge off).

  6. William Henley

    Movie wise, a couple of my go to movies are Sound of Music, Singing In The Rain, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Mary Poppins. Well, I guess those are the days of high stress. On those BAD days, when you just want to blow off steam, Terminator, Demolition Man, Braveheart and The Patriot are some of my favorites. If I want something kind of dark, I may go Interview With the Vampire. And those days when I am missing a certain someone, the first Harry Potter movie works.

    As far as TV shows, anything that is funny while having a hard drink works well for me. So those are Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Red Dwarf, Robot Chicken, Family Guy and American Dad. Now, if I am in a pretty good mood and relaxed, and want something light, Bringing Up Bates is awesome!

    Now there are those times where you just need to relax the mind. Something nice and peaceful. There is a show that airs daily overnight on Daystar called Reflections. Pretty much relaxing music, beautiful scenary, and then they will ocassionally flash up a scripture verse. I’ll usually keep a couple of episodes on the DVR to put on on those days where you just want to come home from work, crash on the couch and have something relaxing on in the background.

  7. JERP

    When I’m glum I watch Clint Eastwood westerns like High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales or Unforgiven as well as movies like Aliens, Terminator, Jurassic Park, the Thing, etc. or anything by David Cronenberg. If I want to veg on the couch and not get up I’ll watch long classics like Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia or Ben Hur. The winter weather has been crappy with not much to do so I’ve also re-watched the Wire and the Sopranos lately in long unbroken binges. If I want laugh I’ll watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Meet the Parents.

    When I heard that Miguel Ferrer passed I watched Traffic….he was so good in that and also some episodes of Twin Peaks he was in.

  8. EM

    I like Luke’s hair-of-the-dog answer, for it reminds me of how I similarly deal with the stress of air travel by watching such fare as Airplane! and the Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”.

    For more general sorrows, the soaring escapism of my salad days sings: the Star Wars trilogy (the trilogy), Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Star Trek II, Back to the Future make great palliatives.

    That said, any familiar favorite can be welcome. Years ago, when an outpatient abdominal surgery turned into a nine-day hospital stay, I found a 24-hour Aliens marathon on my room’s TV. You might think that a movie about people’s abdomens being ripped apart from within and without wouldn’t be comforting under the circumstances, but it gave me much happiness. Perhaps it was more hair of the dog.

    • William Henley

      I think something that lightens what you are going through in some way can lift your spirits, understanding that things could be much worse. Last time I saw Airplane was on a transatlantic flight. Flying usually stresses me out (the whole getting things in order before I leave, packing, getting to the airport, getting through security), so I am usually a wreak by the time takeoff occurs. By the time the drink service comes around, I am ordering a hard drink and watching something on my tablet or reading (on flights under 3 hours). So, a glass of wine and watching Airplane while at 30,000 feet is a great combination.

      When my fiancee passed away 9 years ago, the movie that I watched over and over again was Interview With the Vampire. Stay with me on this. I had known her pretty much since she was born. When she was 7, her kidneys started failing, and it wasn’t until she was 15 that she got a transplant. Interesting thing about kids or teenagers with kidney issues is it actually stunts the growth process. So even when we were dating when she was up in her late teens and 20s, after she had the transplant, many people still mistook her for being significantly younger than she was. So the story of Claudia fascinated me – the story of a being who was in her 50s when she died. I identified a lot with Louis at the time, who was greatly affected by her death. Thank goodness that, unlike Louis, I learned to deal with and get over the pain. But for quite a while, I identified with Louis and with his pain over loosing Claudia.

      I am thinking that every time I have ever seen the Alien movies have been when I was sick. I certainly cannot identify with watching it while sick in the hospital, but I get it

      So yeah, watching a movie that is dealing with what I am going through at the time kind of helps dealing with it. I think, at least with me, it is like, even with something as fictional as Alien or Interview With The Vampire, the fact that someone has identified with the pain you are going through really helps. I realize that these are normal human experiences that many people have gone through, and can use those experiences to write stories, or movies, or whatever. It brings comfort knowing I am not alone and that people have gotten through it, and that you have a choice on how you will deal with it. Like with Interview With the Vampire, I eventually had to make a conscious choice that, while I knew the event would always be part of who I am, that I did not want to spend the rest of my life in grief like Louis did.

      • EM

        Yours is a bittersweet story, and I focused on the sweet. Thanks for sharing.

        Your reply also reminded me obliquely that I meant to address something you mentioned in your earlier general post. I too watch video wallpaper to relax sometimes. I’ll put a video on the TV and often have one projected onto the ceiling over the TV. I usually keep the videos muted and introduce my own soundtrack by CD. Videos include Clouds (alas, DVD only), The Splendor of Color: A Kaleidoscope Video, StarGaze, and Beneath the Aurora (aurora borealis). To get from “down in the dumps” as in Josh’s question, I’m often going to need classical music: Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, that sort of thing. Particularly with StarGaze, space classical music such as Holst’s Planets and soundtracks from various iterations of Star Wars and Star Trek can work very well. I like other kinds of music too. The Splendor of Color goes well with Jimi Hendrix and latter-day Beatles. Once I made a DVD cobbled from footage of various atomic tests; it’s kinda like fireworks-zilla! I find it goes well with Wagner scores or Strauss waltzes.

        • William Henley

          Classical is great. I listen to it a lot when driving home from work to keep me from killing every other driver on the road. I also like listening to the MusicChannel Soundscapes (and Alexa has a Soundscapes channel as well), as well as Yanni.

  9. Thulsadoom

    For me, it’s probably Conan the Barbarian (The soundtrack especially, when I’m feeling down) or Little Women (same again on the soundtrack). Perhaps with a dash of Pride and Prejudice (BBC version) or Escape from New York (and other Carpenter’s, like The Fog and In the Mouth of Madness). Most people expect my go-to movie if I’m down, to be Star Wars, but I have to be in a more cheerful/positive mood to get the most of it. 🙂

  10. cardpetree

    I’ve been in a great mood the last week. Started watching Aliens on TNT Saturday night and couldn’t take the censoring. I had to pull out the Blu-ray and watch the actual movie. But I guess if I’m a little down, I like anything that’s got some action or a good Sci fi horror like Alien, Aliens or Predator.

  11. I generally find myself gravitating toward mid-80’s stuff I watched as a kid. Goonies, Lucas, Indiana Jones, Say Anything…stuff like that. Sometimes a good musical like Once or Singing In The Rain.

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