Ms. 35 #9: Holiday Home Viewing
Editor’s Note: Ms. 35 has received several questions pertaining to this week’s First Nations Day (or, as it is more affectionately known, Thanksgiving). In lieu of several individually-tailored responses, enjoy this composite answer and the helpful advice therein.
P.S. Don’t get left in the cold this Holiday Season—Ms. 35 has answers to your burning etiquette questions. Send yours to [email protected] !
Let’s begin this holiday screed reflecting on the small joys we still have to be thankful for, even in these dark times. Like many New York cinephiles, Ms. 35 grew up outside the glittering boundaries of the Windy Apple—there were movie theaters in my town, but little in the way of repertory or foreign releases. Why, as a young pup, I spent the better part of my day above grandpappy’s Video General Store and Grain Barn, sneaking penny candies and Zalman King tapes while the old man’s back was turned. Coming to the city, I was blown away by the number of theaters and spaces New York had to offer. A vibrant community of likeminded folks helped expand my tastes and interests, and Ms. 35 wouldn’t be the advice columnist she is today without the city’s active and engaging film culture.
Our dear little “Island off the coast of America” is filled with expats from all over, and New York film programming reflects their myriad views. Different as our backgrounds may be, we all share two passions: a feverish commitment to moviegoing and a pricey preference for coastal cosmopolitanism. This holiday, many of us will trudge back to the one-horse towns we shook off for bright lights, plush seats, and Dolby Surround Sound. As you read this column on some slow-as-fuck airport terminal Wi-Fi, preemptively irritated at your flesh and blood, think fondly on your chosen family of freaks and weirdos to whose bosom you’ll soon return.
Remember to check in with yourself while you’re back at the ranch, and keep a tab on your mounting anxieties. Do you find you’re experiencing the following symptoms: dry mouth, aspect ratio irritation, soap-opera vision, general ennui? If so, you may be suffering from RCWS: Repertory Cinema Withdrawal Syndrome. Rest assured, you are not alone. All creatures must adapt to their environments. Maybe your parking lot donut skills are rusty, but who in your extended family could get from Ditmas Park to Anthology and still have time to grab a samosa? The longer your urban tenure extends, the further your ‘favorite film’ list will deviate from popcorn fare, eventually even beyond the so-called ‘canon’ of mature, respectable pictures by pedophiles and French racists. Try to keep it together while you and Mee-Maw are chilling in the drive-thru line of a Beverage Barn. It’s a long weekend with the family, not They Live, and you’ll get through it.
RCWS is a common side-effect of the Holiday Season, and if your dear relatives are anything like Ms. 35’s, they don’t know their Bresson from their Besson. Does this sound familiar? Someone asks you, resident “film buff,” to “curate” the post-gluttonous movie night. Inevitably, no one likes your suggestions, and you end up binging on whatever trash your mom TiVoed, IF she can get it to work, and if you can wrest the remote away from your football-obsessed uncle.
On the hierarchy of unpleasant experiences, this nightmare scenario is wedged somewhere between “roasted over an open fire” and “mensroom line after a Michael Mann movie.” But wait—what about your poor folks? They can hardly recognize you now, you big city snob! What happened to their little child content to spend hours parked in front of the tube, rewatching Gremlins, Terminator 2, or some other cherished childhood equivalent?
This year, just this once, you’d like to sit down and genuinely enjoy a film as a family. Don’t lose heart: newfound cultural capital and a healthy, affectionate relationship with one’s relations need not be mutually exclusive. Maybe they look like a clutch of sweatpant-clad mouth-breathers from the lofty vista of your Park Avenue penthouse (by which Ms. 35 means ‘Ridgewood railroad’), but are you any better? These are your people and, like it or not, a bit of them will always be with you, no matter how many swank opening nights you smooth-talk your way into.
So when you board that Fort Wayne red eye for a long weekend of tin can-shaped cranberry sauce and a decidedly un-farm-to-table turkey dinner, take a look around the table and ponder on your shared interests. As family, you’ve got things in common beyond Uncle Jim-Bob’s eyebrows and Aunt Beth’s fierce cheekbones. What do they joke about? What makes them cry out in fright, recoil in disgust?
Still stumped? If you’re reluctant to expend eating energy, or anticipate an L-tryptophan-induced coma, feast your eyes on “Ms. 35’s Foolproof Family Films (Mostly Without Any Weird Sex Stuff)”:
The Man Who Came to Dinner, 1942: For great wits, cast like pearls before swine into the morass of middle America, I tender this early Christmas Gift. A pain-in-the-ass theater critic breaks his leg on a stop in Flyover Country. During his recuperation, he learns the value of being sweet to boring people, because patience and kindness are a New Yorker’s vestigial organs.
RoboCop, 1987: This is big-budget box office bonanza fun, and it’s got something for the whole family! Neocon in-laws will love the shiny weapons and casual distaste for civil liberties, but that cool aunt with a pierced nose and “Bernie 2016” sticker on her Prius will appreciate the biting satire and prescient irony. And kids love the gratuitous violence!
Living Stars, 2014: An Argentinian doc showcasing regular people dancing to their favorite song at home. Enjoy the mild voyeurism and plotlessness of reality TV minus the awful people and stress! Plays like a top 40 mixtape, feels like sunshine on a cloudy day.
Stagecoach, 1939: Action! Adventure! Gorgeous scenery! Plus some sex-positive respect for the ladies, courtesy of The Duke himself (thus brooking no argument from your uptight, gun-nut grandpa).
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, 1978: Wu Tang name-brand recognition might help this Shaw Brothers classic go over more smoothly (and accept you’ll probably have to go with a dubbed version). A film that’s 75% setup and 25% kickass follow through, combining the training-montage satisfaction of ROCKY with the joy of watching dominoes topple over.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, 1985: A perfect film for sneaking in subversion via kiddie fare. Also just a perfect film.
Blueprint of Murder, 1961: Who needs the dour seriousness of Jason Bourne or 007’s male libido when you can get international corporate espionage with a side of baseball! When his brother dies testing a game-changing new car motor, Jiro suspects it wasn’t mere accident, and stalks through the clubs and cults of Tokyo to find out what happened.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963: An all-star cast and slapdash goofiness make this charmer hard to resist, but if anyone claims it’s too ‘old,’ go with 2001’s Gen-X equivalent, Rat Race. Half a dozen of Spencer Tracy for one, six of Rowan Atkinson of the other, both go high and lowbrow enough to get a laugh from everyone in the room.
Magic Mike XXL, 2015: Pop this in while the boys are in the den snoozing through the last quarter of America’s Team vs. Worst Team Name Ever. The sequel-not-sequel to “Magic Mike,” minus McConaghy, is movie catnip for maiden aunts, frustrated housewives, closeted cousins, sexually-liberated Snapchatting teens, and everyone in between. Plus the plot is so feather-light, everyone can follow, even after eight glasses of Merlot!
Don’t feel discouraged when your kin don’t cotton to this shortlist of suggestions. If, after much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, you can’t settle on a movie, then perhaps there’s just no reasoning with ‘em. Surreptitiously stream the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon on your phone and console yourself with the thought, hell, maybe you were adopted after all.
See you at the movies,
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