Hey there. Still in quarantine? Yup. Me too. Still going to be in quarantine for the foreseeable future? Yup. Me too. As you may or may not know, a few days ago we published a blogpost penned by yours truly. In it, for your reading and viewing pleasure, I assembled a list of movies about isolation, quarantining and disease for you to wallow in despair on the couch with. Immediately upon publication, I received several messages from the rest of the Fleet team telling me this list was utterly useless. “The last thing we want,” they said. “Is to think more about how bad everything is.” Which… yeah, fair point.
To atone for my sins, here is a companion list. Or rather, a contrasting list. This time, I’m giving you a heap of films to watch when you just want to escape whatever is occupying your mind. And to further compensate for the complete waste of time that was my previous list, this one has nearly twice as many entries. And every entry is a double feature. Yeah, we all need to kill time, huh.
Kill that brain noise. Disappear into a new world. Maybe just feel good for a while. Although, as you will be prone to finding out sooner rather than later, my definition of feeling good is mostly just… feeling bad. Hear me out, though.
#1: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) / Isle of Dogs (2018)
Before I inevitably twist the definition of feel-good, allow me to be straight forward. Not for a second during the entire runtimes of Fantastic Mr. Fox or Isle of Dogs will you feel bad. They’re two of the cosiest films ever created; bathed in buckets of autumnal golds, oranges and yellows. Their stories are simple, devilishly entertaining and have kind, wonderful messages by the end. Literally nothing about this will make you feel bad. Except maybe a part where they kill some chickens in Fantastic Mr. Fox. If you’re like… a hardcore animal rights activist you might have a problem with that. Otherwise, knock yourself out. Wes Anderson for the win. The world’s cosy tweed blanket.
#2 Little Women (2019) / Lady Bird (2017)
Don’t mind me, I’m just sneaking both of Greta Gerwig’s movies on here because of course I am. Don’t tell anyone. Except, you know what? Tell everyone. Masterpiece movies from a master director, that’s what these are. And both are extremely comforting, but in different ways. Lady Bird makes me feel very bad for most of its 90 minute runtime. Or, on second thought, a better word is possibly melancholic. I’m at pretty much the exact same place in my life as the main character of that film, and going through very similar experiences. So when the movie goes all “Yeah so all this childhood business, that’s over now.”, it makes me feel a painful sort of nostalgia – both gut wrenching and incredibly comforting at the same time. On the other hand, there’s Little Women; my personal favourite. It’s based on a truly kind book, was created with true love and gives true comfort. What more could you want? Do you need a hug but there’s no one else around? Watch these. As I said: Lady Bird and Little Women, of course they’re on here.
#3: My Neighbor Totoro (1987) / Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Again, this one is pretty obvious. You’ve most likely seen at least one before. But if you’re like me, you never had the Ghibli movies on DVD back in the day, so you’ve barely seen any of them. And as someone who is binge-watching them on Netflix right now, I want to tell you two things: One, they are absolutely worth every second, Totoro is the purest, kindest thing; Kiki’s Delivery Service is like the filmic equivalent of a deep, slow breeze in summer. And two, they are on Netflix! If, for whatever reason, you missed that development: several dozen Studio Ghibli movies are right there. On Netflix. Watch them. All. Now, if you can. Unless you live in the US. Because then you can’t. Sorry, I guess, but honestly it serves you Americans right for having all the other cool stuff.
#4: The General (1926) / The Goat (1921)
How would you like to see a man performing death defying stunts on a moving train in a movie that’s ninety-four years old? Why is the latter half of that sentence necessary, you ask. Well, because ninety-four years ago, they certainly didn’t have all the things we take for granted and associate with stunts nowadays. You know, small things like wires, CGi, and general safety. “Why, that sounds horrifically stressful, Noah,” you respond. “I don’t what that.” But what if I told you you do? The General, and tonnes of other Buster Keaton joints (The Goat a highlight), will have you squirming, screaming and laughing on your couch, in your bed, or (God forbid) on the bus. Most of it is on YouTube, all of it is brilliant, and getting swept up in theatrics of old might just be what we all need right now.
#5: Summer with Monika (1953) / Call Me By Your Name (2018)
Swiftly, we move on from director-double-features to pairings based more on atmosphere and theme. The above coupling is constructed from two films about passionate romances set during summers that seem simultaneously eternal and fleeting. Directed by Ingmar Bergman and Luca Guadagnino respectively, Summer with Monica and Call Me By Your Name will envelop you sweltering heat waves – not always necessarily because of the weather. Fair warning, though, as “fleeting” is a keyword here, don’t expect the third acts of either film to make you feel particularly hopeful. Although hopefully, by the time summer winds start blowing through overwhelmingly green treetops, we’re all allowed to go outside again.
Perhaps being sad isn’t the worst thing in the world either. To quote the Nirvana song Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle: “I miss the comfort in being sad.”
Yes, I did just quote a Nirvana lyric.
#6: Little Miss Sunshine (2006) / The Florida Project (2018)
Aside from both having posters with people running, Little Miss Sunshine and The Florida Project fit together in other ways. Thematically, the characters are running as well. They are stuck in certain places they desperately want out of, or running head first toward uncertain goals. Both movies comment on and celebrate a trashier side of Americanah. For me, The Florida Project perfectly captured what it’s like to be a kid. For filmmaker and Fleet member @chisolaa, Little Miss Sunshine “has always been a special film because it makes me extremely happy. I love how human it is, how it presents its characters and how the family goes from fragmented to united.”
Yeah, like you‘d need me to say anything else after that.
#7: When Harry Met Sally (1989) / The Holiday (2006)
Right here it gets awkward. Remember back in my other quarantine watchlist when I rather embarrassingly admitted to not having seen Contagion? Well this time it’s even worse. This time I haven’t seen either of the two movies that make up an entry on the list. “Then why are they on here, you dumb fuck?” I can hear you yell, quite rudely. Simply put, they were both suggested to me, and I didn’t have the heart to let the suggesters down. When Harry Met Sally is a classic and I really should watch it and if you haven’t you should, too. That scene in the restaurant is funny. Saw it on YouTube…
I don’t have a written motivation for The Holiday but Pelle from the Fleet team said he would beat me up if it wasn’t on the list. It’s a Christmas movie and doesn’t really fit, thematically, but I don’t want a black eye. We’re all about comfort and good times here.
#8: The Wizard of Oz (1939) / The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
So. You have a want. A need, if you will. A need to be distracted. A fix of escapism. What better way, then, to get what you want and need, than to literally be transported to another world. Both these films follow normal people who are unsatisfied with the “real” world, and embark on adventures in fantasy worlds mysteriously connected to their own. You’ve got singing, dancing, polar bears, lions, witches, Tilda Swinton witches and James McAvoy with goat legs. That last one may not be as instantly appealing as the others, though, now that I think about it. To some of you it might be the most appealing thing. Nothing wrong with that. I get it.
#9: Cléo from 5 to 7 / Tokyo Godfathers
Miss going into town? Me too. Feeling off-balance and directionless in your day-to-day existence? Me too. If your answer to both, either och neither question is yes, then you should sit your ass down and watch Cleo from 5 to 7 and Tokyo Godfathers. Both follow interesting characters whose lives are thrown for a loop because of a sudden, monumental change and we see a glimpse of their everyday lives in bustling cities. Cleo is directed by the (yes, I said it) best French New Wave director, Agnes Varda. Meanwhile, Tokyo Godfathers is an under appreciated gem from Japanese master Satoshi Kon. I love both dearly, and I hope you will, too.
#10: Rear Window (1954) / Secretary (2002)
Allow me to get weird for this final entry. Not to brag, but I am feeling quite clever for coming up with this particular double feature. Rear Window and Secretary are both movies belonging to genres that many people find comforting: one being a murder mystery, the other a romantic comedy. Where they stand out from their packs, though, is in a shared theme of fetishism. That might not sound incredibly comforting, and it isn’t, really. But the perverted voyeurism of Rear Window and the deliciously entertaining sadomasochism in Secretary are sure to give you a new angle on familiar archetypes. While sticking to the frameworks that made the genres comforting to begin with, naturally.