May is a nice time for movies dripping in scenery, yet not epic in narrative. As the days grow longer and my mind begins to wonder, I find myself drawn to films that dwell on beauty while also amusing, meaning I don’t have to think too much–just enough to make me feel like I’m escaping the mundane. So, while April showers bring May flowers and May hints at summer, why not augment spring by watching 5 dewy films?
5. The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Before Looper, Rian Johnson earned those comparisons to the Coen brothers with this quirky film about two orphaned brothers (Mark Ruffalo & Adrien Brody) who become confidence men wooing rich heiresses out of money. Enter rich heiress (Rachel Weisz) who challenges the type, add a voyage aboard a ship referencing Mark Twain, pop a dash of that girl from Babel (Rinko Kikuchi), and you’ve got a film that plays with magical realism, film noir, and nineties sensibilities. Think Big Fish meets Notorious. Why is it so good during May? Cause it’s dripping with novelty.
4. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
If you happen to like the con man theme in The Brothers Bloom, you need to know who did it first. My favorite movie to watch on a lazy afternoon is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It’s still funny every time. A seasoned con man (Michael Caine) challenges an upstart (Steve Martin) after the young man moves in on his territory in Beau-Mont-Sur-Mer, France. Seeing Martin and Caine riff off each other reminds you how great the eighties could be (but often were not). Also, the scenery of Southern France isn’t too shabby. Hipster Test: Ask someone why there is a “cork on the fork” and see if they really do know everything!
3. The Secret Garden (1993)
The Secret Garden is one of the most luscious films, exploding with natural beauty while subtly alluring viewers. With all the CGI, 3D, IMAX overload, you may want to watch a film that relied on actual scenery for its compositions. Highlights: Maggie Smith as a villainous maid (Lady Violet would be so mad!); a young female heroine who is not only fully-formed, but challenging; and a female director who also directed episodes of The Wire and Treme. The film is not only faithful to the book, but embellishes with caution and appropriate candor. Honestly, this film should be shown to all little girls–with all the ravings about Merida in Brave, I think most people should revisit their opinion of Mary Lennox. It’s not her fault she was confined to the end of the Victorian era.
2. I Remember Mama (1948)
It’s the mantra of May, “Don’t forget Mother’s Day!” Well, whether you did or didn’t, you can remember mom with this gem of a film, which also happens to be from the year my mother was born. Don’t be scared by black-and-white and 1948; you’ll be absorbed in this film in about 15 minutes. You thought your mother had it bad? Try being a Norwegian immigrant in San Francisco in the early 1900s, raising children on a shoestring budget. The story is narrated by Katrin, one of the daughters, as she remembers her mother and her childhood. At times she challenges her heritage and her mother’s methods; at others she glimpses the complexity of her mother’s world. This film is dotted with poignant lines and comical sketches, all of which relate to anyone who’s experienced adolescence.
1. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Ah, Paris in the springtime! What could be more divine? Well, for those of us who aren’t trustafarians, we can jet off to Paris in Woody Allen’s homage to both Paris and nostalgia. I never would have thought Allen would give up the neurotic, romantic role, or that Owen WIlson would be just the WASP to carry the torch, but Midnight in Paris proved me wrong. Wilson is at his best as Gil Pinder, a sell-out screenwriter from LA who longs to write a novel in Paris, like his literary heroes. Allen tackles magical realism and transplants the manifest destiny of ownership to Paris, as Gil is transported back to 1920’s Paris while walking at midnight (cue Patsy Cline). Watching well-written charicatures of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmigway is fun, but watching Rachel McAdams as a snarky, spoiled fiance is even funnier. If you are wondering why this film made #1, just watch the first 3 minutes–it’s nothing but shots of Paris and music. You’ll feel as if you’ve escaped the mundane already, and the magic hasn’t even happened yet. It’s a subtle fantasy, and that’s what May is all about.