Cozy Dens: the Daily’s Winter Video Guide

Gabriel Shapiro

Staring out the window earlier this winter I thought it was a particularly cruel trick that it should be so cold without snow, which would make it at least aesthetically appealing to be outside. For those of you who, like me, question the wisdom of going out in the cold more often than necessary, the Daily presents a list of movies you can watch at home. Now, you could write your own list, but it seemed more fun and educational to get several different perspectives. Any list like this is apt to be incomplete, and the list makers frequently grumbled: “Why can’t we give you our top 20?” Alas, though the lists could go on and on, the line was drawn at five. Also note that some of the contributors included comments themselves, while for others comments were added by the author.

Pankaj Arora, junior, Carlson School of Management:

“American Beauty” (1999)

Sam Mendes’ huge hit exposes what everyone fears: that we’re wasting time running in the rat race. Superbly acted, funny and disquieting.

“Schindler’s List” (1993)

Another biopic, this time about an unlikely hero giving up profits to save lives in Nazi Germany. A moving film all around.

“American History X” (1998)

This is a truly frightening film. Freddy Krueger has nothing on these guys, mainly because they’re real! Watch it with the lights on.

“Gandhi” (1982)

Nearly everyone has a concept of who Gandhi was, but this movie does a good job of putting the pieces together and providing some insight into the man and his life.

“The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), “Good Will Hunting” (1997)

Both feature all-star casts and big names behind the scenes and both will have you feeling better about the potential of perseverance to actually pay off. They also work nicely as date movies as they’ll give you plenty to talk about.

Keya Ganguly, professor, cultural studies and comparative literature department:
“Faces” (1968)

Cassavetes once commented that this was an “attack on contemporary middle-class America, an expression of horror at our society in general.” Frequently cited as a key element in bringing cinema verité into Hollywood pictures.

“Modern Times” (1936)

Chaplin puts his famous tramp through the rigors of life and work in modern industrial society. You’ll be laughing so hard you’ll have to watch it again to catch it all, and when you do, you’ll have seen some of the best social commentary ever caught on film.

“Bicycle Thief” (1948)

Vittorio de Sica won an Academy Award (one of his four) for this movie before the “Best Foreign Picture” category had been invented. Widely regarded as one of the all-time classics, this is a tragedy with real heart-breaking power.

“Battleship Potemkin” (1925)

Revolution is all over in this film, and the film itself was nothing less than revolutionary. Silent, violent and way ahead of its time.

“Charulata” (1964)

Satyajit Ray has shaped the world of cinema, as Rabindranath Tagore has the world of literature. Together they tell a subtle story of love of all sorts, and every glance, every sigh has a weight that can crush your heart.

Niels Strandskov, the Daily’s arts editor:
“La Dolce Vita” (1960)

A painless introduction to both foreign cinema in general and Fellini in particular. Ciao, Marcello!

“My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985)

“What are those buggers up to?” Plenty of sex and humor, a little violence and all the glamour you can fit into a London Laundromat.

“Night of the Hunter” (1955)

The definitive Robert Mitchum bad guy role. “Ah, little lad, you’re staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of right hand, left hand? The story of good and evil?”

“The Phantom of Liberty” (1974)

One of director Luis Buñuel’s favorite films, it has high production values and is more surreal than “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” but still accessible.

“Le Samourai” (1967)

There’s never been a bad-ass action hero as cool as Alain Delon in the role of hunted Paris hitman Jef Costello.

Dan Ibarra, designer, Aesthetic Apparatus:
“Dustin Diamond Teaches Chess” (2001)

A four-hour instructional video by the actor who played Screech on “Saved by the Bell.” The first two hours – which are filled with bad impersonations, confusing hand gestures and the faint sounds of trucks passing by – will make you cry tears of joy and pain.

“Dark Days” (2000)

A documentary about the homeless living under the subways of New York. Not only did this film leave me speechless but the filmmaker knew nothing about cameras, film or lighting when he filmed it, so it’s also a miracle that it even exists.

“Glitter”/”Crossroads” (2001/2002)

The two best-worst movies ever. They are grouped together because neither can be considered a whole film and they both have the same plotline. For the truly masochistic: view the “Glitter” DVD with audio commentary on.

“A Christmas Story” (1984)

This film is part of our social fabric. It’s also scientifically proven that roughly 25 percent of our day-to-day conversations are comprised of quotes from this film.

“Hudsucker Proxy” (1994)

My token Coen brothers film. It’s subtle, hilarious and beautifully minimalist all at the same time.

Larry Shapiro, father of the author:
“Cinema Paradiso” (1988)

Director Giuseppe Tornatore captured the range of emotions in this Italian movie about a man who loved movies without making it so saccharin that that you lost the subject in the syrup.

“Journey of Hope” (1990)

A gripping movie about a Kurdish family’s journey to a better life in Switzerland; from open to close, the viewer is captured by the father and his family.

“The Graduate” (1967)

This is Dustin Hoffman’s first classic. In 1967 we all fantasized about life’s choices, as presented, and “The Graduate” gave us the vehicle. As memorable as any movie.

“The Fast Runner” (2002)

Titled “Atanarjuat” in Inuktitut, the main language used in the movie, this is a fabulous depiction of the Inuit people inhabiting the Canadian Arctic region. The backdrop is an intra-tribal conflict which allows all of the nonprofessional actors to shine.

“Irma la Douce” (1963)

Given my predilection towards fun and funny, and the then likeable Shirley MacLaine, this gets my final vote. In 1963, my friend Larry and I ducked into the theatre, hoping no one saw us, and sat through one of our greatest fantasies.

Martin Wong, co-editor, Giant Robot magazine:
“Repo Man” (1984)

A punk rock cult classic. Full of everything a growing kid needs, glowing car trunks, weird and totally low-budget special effects, alien intrigue and more pinecone air fresheners than you can shake a stick at.

“The Killer” (1989)

This film has John Woo directing Chow Yun-Fat (you try to mess with that and you just can’t do it). Action is what one might expect, and you get it in abundance, but what makes this movie stand out is that you find yourself actually caring about the characters.

“Chungking Express” (1994)

A funny, sad, intelligent movie from acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai. Two stories investigate life in Hong Kong and life in general through two cops and their private lives.

“Rushmore” (1998)

Wes Anderson’s first big hit and his follow up to the indie smash “Bottle Rocket.” Anyone who has gone through high school will identify with Max, who is busy avoiding anything he hasn’t created to amuse himself until his abrupt introduction to the “real world.”

“Shaolin Soccer” (2003)

Just as the title suggests, this movie is a blend of Kung Fu and soccer. As the title also suggests, this movie is a hilarious send up of sports movies and martial arts/action flicks. “The Matrix” style visual effects along with the over-the-top caricatures make this a hugely entertaining comedy.

Corinne Wilson, Jetsetter:
“Roman Holiday” (1953)

Audrey Hepburn stars opposite Gregory Peck as a sophisticated but naive princess in this fabulous love story. She won an academy award for this, one of her earliest films.

“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)

It will make you want to learn to tap dance and surround yourself with a bunch of Donald O’Connors.

“Son of the Bride” (2001)

A fairly recent release from Argentina, it’s a love-conquers-all story about the benefit of being an unwaveringly starry-eyed romantic. Not to mention the fact that the Argentinean accent is the sexiest of all the varieties of Spanish.

“The Professional” (1994)

A superb cast, under the direction of an equally superb Luc Besson, featuring a pre-“Phantom Menace” Natalie Portman, Jean Reno as the ultimate socially inept, hunky hero and Gary Oldman as the evil, debonair villain extraordinaire. All adrenaline, but a big heart, too.

“Wing Chun” (1994)

Incredible Michelle Yeoh stars as a village woman who discovers strength comes from embracing everything that you are, and that you can still kick a lot of butts while wearing pink.