The Roundtable took a break for a couple of weeks over the holidays, but it’s back to kick off 2011. Where I live in Boston, we had a pretty big blizzard just after Christmas. That got me thinking on the subject of movies about winter or snow. Let’s look at some of our favorites.
- ‘Groundhog Day‘ – When I think about winter, the first movie that comes to mind is the Bill Murray classic ‘Groundhog Day’. Winter weather is essential to the plot. No movie captures the desperate longing for an end to the dismal gray and cold winter. It could even be seen as a metaphor for the end of the seemingly unending season of cold, awful weather. It’s also the first thing I think of when I slip, fall, or step into a puddle of frozen water. “Watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy!”
- ‘Barbershop‘ – I don’t know why, but cold weather always makes me want to watch ‘Barbershop’. I’m not really a fan of any of the film’s stars (although
I do think it’s the best role Cedric the Entertainer has ever had). There’s just something about the film’s setting that makes me want to curl up on the couch, cocoa in hand, and enjoy the show. The combination of winter weather in the Windy City, combined with the boisterous, good natured ribbing amongst the barbers and the customers in the warmth of the shop, lets me forget my problems and just hang out for an hour and forty minutes. I really can’t explain the draw. I hate getting my hair cut. I hate going to the barbershop. I hate small talk. I have no insights into sports. I’m probably the worst barbershop patron around, but cold weather, that movie, and yours truly somehow go hand in hand. On your next sick day or the next time you’re fed up with the winter weather, check it out.
- ‘The Shining‘ – Few movies have ever captured the isolation, loneliness and despair of the winter season as well as Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. That hedge maze scene is of course an iconic moment in cinema history, deservedly so. Stephen King may not have liked the adaptation, but his taste in movies is seriously suspect. The guy endorsed that wretched TV remake starring Steven Weber, ferchrissakes. He also directed ‘Maximum Overdrive’. Whatever Stephen King has to say about a movie, the opposite is probably true.
- ‘Better Off Dead‘ – Attempted suicide is not usually played for laughs, but this ’80s comedy manages to give hope to all angsty teens. Despite how desperate things may seem, life actually does get better. You just might manage to best your arch nemesis in a ski race and mend your broken heart with the help of a hot French exchange student, all while outrunning an evil paperboy who really wants his two dollars. I suppose I must admit I’m a sucker for all things John Cusack, but I really love his collaborations with writer/director/animator Savage Steve Holland. ‘Better Off Dead’ (and its summer companion ‘One Crazy Summer’) is undeniably quirky, but Cusack sells it. The result is a great deal of fun.
- ‘Fargo‘ – I’m a bit put out. After much contemplation, I had decided to go with ‘Better Off Dead’, only to find out that it had already been selected by Mrs. Z. A better person would say that great minds think alike, but I say she used her insider influence and stole my pick. So I decided to switch genres and go with ‘Fargo’. It’s about as winter as they come. Not just with the snow, bleak landscapes and layers of clothes, but in the crushing weight of humanity that one feels most deeply in the long stretch of a March.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘Dead Snow‘ – Awww…I already exhausted the killer mutant snowman horror-comedy ‘Jack Frost’ a couple weeks ago. There are plenty of other snow-blanketed genre flicks I could poke at in its place: ‘Let the Right One In‘, ‘Misery‘, ‘The Thing‘, ‘30 Days of Night‘, ‘Gremlins‘, ‘Black Christmas‘, and ‘The Abominable Snowman’, just to rattle off a few. Since I’m just picking one and not writing a 5,000 word essay, I’ll go for ‘Dead Snow’. This splatter-comedy import takes the ‘Evil Dead’ spam-in-a-cabin formula and shuttles it out to some snowy Norwegian wasteland. The setup’s about what you’d expect: a bunch of twentysomethings on vacation head out to a remote cabin. They drink! They party! They do oodles of R-rated things to each other! They get munched on by Nazi zombies decked out in full WWII regalia! Piling on hand grenades, Molotov cocktails, the obligatory chainsaw, a snowmobile fitted with a mammoth machine gun, and plenty of gut-munching, ‘Dead Snow’ is one of the most deliriously over-the-top zombie imports to shamble along since Peter Jackson’s legendary ‘Dead Alive’.
- ‘A Simple Plan‘ – When we were first asked to write about our favorite snow-bound movie, I thought of a few that would have fit the bill right off the bat. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber’ came to mind first, but I wanted a movie constantly set in a snow-covered wilderness. That’s when I thought about Sam Raimi’s great little 1998 thriller starring Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, ‘A Simple Plan’. Filmed almost exclusively in the frigid outdoors of Minnesota, ‘A Simple Plan’ is a suspenseful thriller about a few men who find $4 million in drug money in the middle of the wilderness. Not only does the money ruin the relationships the men had with each other, it also drives them to murder. The snow and freezing temperatures add a character to the movie like it does in the frozen thriller ‘The Thing’.
- ‘The Dead Zone‘ – Not that it’s particularly ABOUT winter or snow, but there seems to be an uncommon frigidity to David Cronenberg’s ‘The Dead Zone’. (A similar chilliness can be felt in ‘The Brood’, but for the purposes of this discussion, that’s neither here nor there.) For any of you unlucky enough to have missed ‘The Dead Zone’, it’s about a man (played by Christopher Walken, lending a kind of elegance to eeriness) who suffers a head injury, wakes up many years later, and has the ability to tell the future. The accident he gets into at the beginning of the movie (he hits a milk truck) seems to have been cased by icy roads, and the rest of the movie just feels like winter – damp, depressive, and so damn cold you feel like you can see your breath in front of the television screen. David Cronenberg is a Canadian director, so he has a preternatural connection with wintry weather. (See also: Atom Egoyan, specifically ‘The Sweet Hereafter’.) The movie is based on a story by Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about the madness of isolation and bad weather. But there’s something about ‘The Dead Zone’ that feels even colder than his other concoctions. If you haven’t seen it, do it now. I’ll give you a couple of seconds to turn the heat up beforehand.
Feeling cold enough yet? Give us your picks in the comments.