It's been a tough year for us earnest reporters of The Canberra Times. What do we tune into when we want to tune out? Read on. You might never take us seriously again.
You had me at "the human brain weighs eight pounds" Jerry Maguire, you sweet, sweet movie, with your wall-to-wall catch phrases and great lines. This movie is my comfortable hoodie and has been since it came out in 1996. It stands up to rewatch after rewatch, and spares me (just) from being another basic bloke listing Shawshank as my favourite of all time. A romance at its heart but with a smart, sports movie exterior, Jerry Maguire delivers us the timeless lines "you had me at hello", "you complete me" and, of course, "show me the money!" amid so many great moments. It was Renee Zellwegger being just lovely, Tom Cruise almost a decade before he jumped the couch, Kelly Preston with an awesome right hook and, best of all, Cuba Gooding Junior as Rod Tidwell, the NFL player with an outsized ego to match his loyalty to his agent/"ambassador of Quon". My love for this movie is stronger than oak.
Daggy German mountain rescue soap Die Bergretter which we watch through the ZDF app. Storyline predictable, repetitive and the hot dude that my wife quite fancies always saves the day doing something dangerous. But it's worth it for the sweeping helicopter shots of the Austrian Alps. We're currently up to season 12.
When times were tough I turned to the series of Great British somethings, Bake Offs, Sewing Bees, Pottery Throwdowns. Reality television without the drama, unless you count soggy bottoms on pies, errant hems and pots which crack in the kiln. Something about the whole Keep Calm and Carry On nature of it all. On The Great Pottery Throwdown, judge Keith Brymer Jones, one of Britain's best ceramic designers, was often moved to tears by the creations of the contestants, and it was just the loving tonic I needed.
My wife Karyn loves Schitt's Creek on Netflix. It's just easy watching and so so funny, even though I've watched the entire series about 12 times I still pick up some new jokes, you can fall asleep and know you're not going to miss anything. You just go back to what you've missed and laugh again. As for me, you can't go past The Simpsons, for pretty much the same reason as above. I also love putting on music videos on Youtube from my favourite bands such as KISS, AC/DC or Motley Crue, always makes me feel better.
I binge-watched the three seasons of Succession and felt punch-drunk from its sheer nastiness and exhilarated by its pure-gold comedy. So. Many. Hilarious. Lines. I need to re-watch it again to commit all the one-liners to memory. Like when Tom is attending a Republican party gathering and reassures Greg: "This is a safe space where we don't have to pretend to like Hamilton". It's a drama but it's so, so much a comedy about the Roy family squabbling over who should take over the global media business, all in swoon-worthy locations from Manhattan to Tuscany. Come. On. Season. Four.
My comfort watching is old Star Trek, especially The Next Generation episodes and movies, before subsequent directors responsible for the spinoffs and reboots decided that lens flares in every shot could enhance any scene. Nothing else picks me up like hearing the familiar tones of a Captain Picard monologue about truth, duty and the choices we make as individuals. Every playthrough still feels like an adventure, knowing my morality will be challenged, but with the reassurance that by the end decency will prevail - often because of the power of words and diplomacy, but if not, there's always photon torpedos.
You can't go wrong with the 1989 grand final, when the Canberra Raiders won their first premiership. It starts a little bit slowly, but that second half is something to behold. Benny Elias' attempted field goal hitting the crossbar for Balmain, Chicka Ferguson dancing through defenders to send it into extra time and then Steve Jackson beating every would-be Tigers tackler about three times to bring that trophy back to the Queanbeyan Leagues Club. It's still a thing of beauty.
Join the gunslinging renegade space Captain Mal (the captain with a heart of gold, of course) leading a loyal bunch of thrown-together misfits on adventures around the galaxy. Firefly is genius US director Joss Whedon's made-for-TV tour de force series from 2002, following on from his too-saccharine Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Sadly, Whedon's fall from grace is complete, with allegations of abusive behaviour on set and off. He's reportedly a near-recluse as a result. But that aside, Firefly was Whedon at his creative best. Serenity is the ship the stellar cast call home and the characters they play are marvellously portrayed and lovably idiosyncratic. Humour, pathos, drama, and some wonderful moments. And the blood-thirsty Reavers rival only the Borg as the nastiest beings to roam the frontier. Firefly was a binge-watching sci-fi must before the term was even couched.
I probably watch The Holiday at least once a year - mostly in the leadup to Christmas (as the title suggests, it is holiday-themed). This romantic comedy has witty one-liners and sweet characters of a variety of ages - from two adorable girls to a wise, elderly widower and everyone in between. It also features a score from none other than Hans Zimmer and acting from Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black. This film shows the significance of love, family and friendship in our lives and especially during the Christmas and New Year period. You can't help but smile throughout and feel excited about the festive season ahead. Perfect to sit back and watch with a cup of hot chocolate and little marshmallows (if you don't get this reference, you need to watch this movie).
Back to the Future (1985) is unquestionably the greatest movie of all time, the perfect pick-me-up if you need to forget your troubles for a couple of hours. The story is cool. The casting is perfect. The soundtrack is incredible (Alan Silvestri's theme tune is iconic. Power of Love. Earth Angel. Johnny B. Goode. If I can go all old man yells at cloud on you for a minute: "They don't make 'em like that, anymore.") And, if nothing else, the movie provides probably the least-worst way for today's troubled youth to experience the awkwardness of a budding mother-son romance (thanks, internet. You've ruined the world again). Hello, Mrs Thompson.
My go to recipe to deal with the New Year's Day scaries is seeking comfort in old, easy to watch television. The staples include Schitt's Creek, Parks and Recreation or The Office (US) - all three never fail to hit the spot for easy watching and light-hearted content when hungover. If I want to feel better about my life choices, however, I opt for something new in Cooking with Paris. Do not walk, run, to watch this one.
My go-to comfort movies are superhero ones. You may think I'm just caught up in all the rage and cinema zeitgeist, but I've been a sucker for them since the days of George Clooney's batsuit nipples (not to say I condone that batsuit, of course). Way before the Marvel Cinematic Universe decided it would create a paradigm shift by serialising movies to create perpetual thirst in moviegoers. Superheroes are the gods of modern mythology that satisfy most our need to escape.
When I need a comfort watch I often turn to the movie Casablanca, there are so many memorable scenes and lines and characters and it's full of humour, romance and drama. Often I will get obsessive about a film (or TV show, or song, or piece of music) and play it repeatedly. While I wouldn't call it Martin Scorsese's best movie, The Departed has a pulpy energy and appeal and I've been rewatching it a lot recently. If I love a piece of music, I'll listen to different versions of it - Francois Couperin's Les barricades mysterieuses and J.S. Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in D Minor are two examples that I love exploring on different instruments and in varying interpretations.
For sheer bingeability, I recommend Ozark on Netflix. It's a dark crime drama about a quiet accountant in Chicago who somehow gets entangled with a Mexican drug cartel and who then tries to escape them. If he doesn't, they will kill him and his family. The series is set in the Ozarks in Missouri, a stunningly wild and beautiful region of lakes and mountains but, it must be said, with more than its fair share of down-at-heel, dirt-poor people with a penchant for beatings and shootings. Guns are more common than toothbrushes. Ozark is as dark as it gets and the suspense means you may have to leave the screen for periods. But, blimey, they know how to murder in those parts. Start with Series 1. You won't stop until the end.
My comfort shows are Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, Suits and Friends and for movies I always turn to Harry Potter. That being said, I've been told I don't have very good taste in shows and movies, and have missed out on seeing all the childhood classics such as Lion King, Shrek, Toy Story, Babe etc so I have an extremely limited range. My confession is that I love the minions from Despicable Me, I thoroughly enjoyed the Minion Movie and am looking forward to the second one.
If I've got a few hours to kill, some classic war action is hard to beat: Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, A Bridge Too Far and Apocalypse Now are personal faves. If I'm in a more peaceful mood then I'll lean towards Amadeus (that wonderful soundtrack by the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields) and about once a year I have this compulsion to watch The Doors (the only Oliver Stone I've ever really gotten into). On the small screen I will never let go of my boxed set of the Battleship Galactica reboot, Reilly Ace of Spies (starring Sam Neill and released in the very early 1980s), and the 1984 version of Dune which everyone panned but which I loved for its brilliant cast and its steampunk imagery long before steampunk was actually a thing.
The Big Lebowski is my comfort food. I've lost count of the times I've watched The Dude in action, or is that His Dudeness? El Duderino? There's no doubt the film has become a cult classic, but it's also becoming more broadly recognised for the cinematic masterpiece that it is - the Coen Brothers greatest work (which is saying something). Every time I watch it, I find something new to appreciate. And where to start with the star-studded cast? For me, I could watch John Goodman's portrayal of Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak over and over again. The Dude and his bowling buddies (even Jesus) are my mates - and I'm sure I'll be celebrating the festive season with them at least once this summer.
My favourite comfort watch is Little Women, the 1994 adaption. Sounds a bit lame but it is quite magical. A 20-year-old Christian Bale as Laurie and a young Winona Ryder as the head strong Jo March are a treat. Let's not forget the beautiful costumes and soundtrack. The film is very heartwarming and I've loved it since I was a child.
Gilmore Girls is my go-to series when I need comfort. Lorelai, Rory and the charming town of Stars Hollow never fail to lift my spirits. Its witty writing and obscure history and pop culture references across seven seasons make it the best kind of show to watch and rewatch. Pair with Scott Patterson's entertaining and informative podcast I am all in for the ultimate Gilmore Girls fan indulgence.
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