Popcrunch.com – November 14th, 2010 by Tim –16 Feelgood Movies That Don’t Treat You Like A Moron
When someone calls a film a “feelgood movie”, that usually means it’s trite, boring, saccharine, cliché, or any combination thereof. Suitable for churchgoers, all-age events, and your Aunt Sally who has all the kitten photos. That said, there’s a collection of films out there that legitimately do make you “feel good”, and do so without losing their intelligence or humor.
Pleasantville’s uncanny mixing of black and white with color footage was one of the first films of the digital revolution, where the entire film was scanned and recolored in order to achieve the effect. Considering this happened in 1999, it was an incredible technique, but also remarkable for the subtlety with which it was used. Rather than overtaking the plot with garish CG, the introduction of color was beautiful and an accessory to the story. The tale of an idyllic 50s utopia that is utterly repressive is hardly a new idea, but the way it was presented, and the amazing way outside views were introduced was utterly perfect.
15. Full Monty
Unemployed steel workers take off their clothes in order to make money. I’m still not quite sure how that plot became the wonderfully warm and funny story that was the Full Monty, and sparked a renewed American interesting in British films (and their men). It also brought a number of traditional British tropes to American audiences, and suddenly for a continent of people, the struggling working class lout was a fresh and interesting character. Yes, Full Month is cheesy, but it’s also funny and touching, but manages to retain some edge and not descend into saccharine mediocrity.
14. Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola’s acerbic film about jet lag, culture shock, ennui and love is both hilarious and haunting, especially for anyone who has found themselves in a country where they can’t speak the language, can’t read the writing, and even the television commercials are terrifying and bewildering. It’s a haunting and touching film, and even though it’s not as overtly “feelgood” as some of the other flicks in this list, it does have one of the more touching relationships seen on celluloid. The connection between Murray and Johansson seems so real in the face of the incredible weirdness of Japan, that you can’t help but wish for something similar yourself.
I live in Indiana, so this and Hoosiers are required viewing. I don’t actually care, but everyone else in this freaking state is nuts about this film. It’s painfully earnest flick, and the build up for that ultimate scene with the chanting crowd is so intense, and such a wonderful type of magic. Sure, the movie massaged facts a little, and sure it vilified a few people, but all in the name of a good story, right?
12. Don Juan DeMarco
Ladies love Johnny Depp. It’s an undeniable fact. And in this film, he’s mostly shirtless and seducing all the dames. Seriously, you want some lessons in how to impress women? Forget all that PUA crap, and watch this film. It’s just stunningly beautiful, and fun, and touching, and more than just a little bit hot. Watching Depp play the world’s greatest lover is a recipe for romance, and it’s hard to come out not only feeling amazing about life and love, but also wanting to drag the nearest person into bed with you. Preferably with a domino mask. The only downside of this flick is Marlon Brando, who is as bloated and unintelligible as ever.
11. Billy Elliot
Oh, those working class Brits, what heart warming shenanigans will they get up to next? Seriously though, Billy Elliot took the world by storm when it arrived, and it’s not hard to see why. A kid pushing against societal views on what’s okay for a boy to like, a struggling family without a mother, and some utterly wonderful dance scenes. Every part of this film after Billy’s father decides to support his desires to dance are just so incredibly touching. Jamie Bell did an absolutely amazing job as Billy, and his hyper-kinetic and awkward dance scenes are a wonder to watch. It’s weird to think that this film was R rated originally, and was re-cut down to a PG-13 when it went to DVD by removing much of the profanity — which kind of kills the point, I think.
10. Paris Je T’aime
For a film that’s about Paris, and almost exclusively in Frech, the trailer sure does manage to show a lot of English. I guess American markets would flip their shit to see someone who isn’t a bad guy speaking another language during a trailer. Paris Je T’aime is a series of 18 short films, about love, loss, and Paris. Mostly just Paris. What makes it such a wonderful film is the sheer breadth of content. There’s romance, comedy, slapstick, even a bit of horror. Something for absolutely everyone. And even though some of the segments have a decidedly tragic or bittersweet feel, the overall tone of the stories is upbeat and hope filled. It such a wonderful hodge podge of style and content, but you can’t help but walk out feeling amazing — and wanting to hop on a plane.
9. Harold and Maude
I get the feeling Harold and Maude would never be made today, or if it was, the tender May-December romance would instead be played for cheap laughs, rather than the touching and and beautiful relationship that the film exhibited. The 20-ish Harold is obsessed with death, and the 79-year old Maude is quirky and loving life. She’s the elderly relative of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, injecting irreverence and humor into a staid and repressed 20-something, filled with ennui. Harold and Maude is gloriously funny throughout, flirting with existentialism and nihilism yet somehow never feeling bogged down. It’s unlike any other romance flick on the planet, and wonderful in every way.
8. When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally is a perfect example of how to do a romcom right. It’s smart, it’s funny, there’s real chemistry between the leads. Unlike the mountains of crap that usually get shovelled out of the romcom industry, When Harry Met Sally isn’t just a brainless chick flick that guys get dragged to. It has heart, it has brains, and it has soul. Much of this comes from the fact that the people involved were amazing writers and actors. Harry is based significantly on director Rob Reiner, and Sally on writer Nora Ephron, but Billy Crystal was allowed to tweak his part considerably, bumping the humor content. If you have to get a romcom for a date night, this is one of the better ones.
7. School of Rock
Jack Black can be an utterly insufferable jackass, but sometimes he’s blisteringly funny too, and School of Rock is one of those rare occasions. Watching Black surreptitiously transform a prep school class of kids into a rock’n’roll band is a wonderful, wonderful sight, especially in the form of his montage of teaching the kids the background of the genre. I keep meaning to track down a super high resolution version of the blackboard chart he made, linking all the different rock sub-genres together. If you need proof that this movie is awesome, they actually managed to get Led Zeppelin to okay using their song in the film, something that almost never happens. It’s all about sticking it to the man.
6. Big Fish
I firmly believe that Tim Burton is a good director, he just needs to be reigned in a lot, as his best stuff is often when he doesn’t just get to go all Elfman/Depp/black swhirls crazy. Point in case: Big Fish. Due to it being adapted from existing work, there’s less Burton goth-light, and more heart and soul. If you’re a guy, it’s one of the few films where it’s completely okay to bawl your eyes out, because I swear, every time I watch this movie, someone cuts onions nearby. You can’t watch this and not feel the immense amount of love that infuses it. The love between husband and wife, and the love between father and son. It’s beautiful, subtle (by Burton standards), and makes you want to go hug your dad.
5. O Brother, Where Art Though
A modern satire retelling of the Odyssey. Sort of. One of the Coen brothers’ better movies (they really do seem to alternate between great and mediocre, don’t they?), O Brother is set during the Depression as three men escape from prison in order to go and try find a treasure. It’s a story that’s broad enough that it could have been done as a slapstick comedy, dark drama, or just about anything else. The Coens managed to somehow craft this incredibly smart comedy out of it, with their usual absurdism flowing throughout. It’s helped along by the absolutely amazing collection of folk music that makes up the soundtrack, which went on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year, and inspire a resurgence in interest in folk and bluegrass.
4. The Castle
Somehow, The Castle never really took off in America, which is a shame because it’s honestly one of the funniest comedies to come out of Australia, and the utter definition of the “little Aussie battler” trope that they’re so fond of. The characters are so wonderfully and blissfully self-unaware, completely happy in their middle class, tacky lifestyle that no-one else understands. It’s a story of an underdog against the Government, but more than that, it’s a celebration of family, and their love for each other despite obvious fault. It’s also bitingly funny, and in the Antipodes is more quotable than Austin Powers.
3. Love Actually
Love Actually should be utterly mediocre. It’s an ensemble movie, made by a British romcom factory who maintain their success by just throwing Hugh Grant into everything, and watching the knickers drop. Somehow, it rises above this, with an absolutely stellar cast that somehow makes what could just be an overly cutesy holiday romance movie into something genuinely touching and funny. Shallow as a teaspoon, but still endearing, Love Actually attains that rare honor, of being a romance that’s honestly funny, and enjoyable by just about anyone.
Amélie is, to put it bluntly, perfect. It’s possibly the most wonderful, gleeful, and joyous movie ever conceived. Every single scene is bursting at the scenes in wonder and beauty. Shy, imaginative Amélie spends her time attempting to make people happy, using labyrinthine schemes and plans. Watching the film, it’s impossible not to get caught up in her immense imagination, and the joy she manages to cause in others. There’s nothing else to say, it’s a film that brings joy and laughter to everyone, and will make you feel absolutely amazing.
1. The Princess Bride
So what in the world could possibly be better than Amélie? The Princess Bride. For a generation of kids, it perfectly captures everything we ever wanted in a movie. Action! Adventure! Romance (ewww)! Treachery! Horror! Miracles! I challenge you to find anyone born in the 80s who can’t quote at least half this film by heart, and won’t drop absolutely everything to watch it. There’s nothing that can compare to it, and we’ve all seen it hundreds of times, and will watch it happily a hundred more. This movie makes me happier than anything imaginable, and deserves top honors.