Writers' Note: Warm and Fuzzy
When it's chilly outside, which movie makes you want to snuggle up with a warm cup of hot chocolate? Just in time for the holidays, several writers from the BFB team have taken the time to select films that make them grateful for modern heating. Whether the movie itself is actually set during the cold season, or just radiates everyday comfort, here are four writers' interpretations of the prompt, "warm and fuzzy."
In my eyes, there is no other film that captures the duality of the holidays quite like Todd Haynes’ 2015 period drama Carol. Rarely do we see both the hurt and joy of the holiday season handled with such grace and, dare I say, warmth? Captured frequently through rainy windows and crowds, stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara both offer career-best performances with equal parts tenderness and restraint. The aforementioned realistic portrayal of the emotions that come with the holidays is piercing in the context of the lives of protagonists Carol and Therese. The main characters yearn for each other, peace, stability, and home whilst surrounded by red and green 1950s decor.
In the final few days of November, I prepare for and begin annual Christmas traditions. One of the traditions that is most important to me is a rewatch of Carol. Every year without fail, I’m reminded of the delicate nature of budding romance as well as the lengths we women go to in order to help one another. Carol is a film about love in many forms. In addition to the exploration of romantic love shared by the main characters, the film also contains heart-warming portrayals of maternal and platonic love. In my eyes, there couldn’t be a more perfect way to ring in Christmas celebrations than with Carol. It’s a film made by and about love, and what’s more holiday season than that?
When it comes to the question of what movie makes me feel “warm and fuzzy,” the animation of Pixar immediately comes to mind. I’d go as far as to say that 11 of their 24 films are prime examples of that feeling. I could go into detail about all of them, but 2007’s Ratatouille takes the cake out.
Despite the fanbase and reputation the movie now enjoys, I'd still argue that Ratatouille has been a criminally underappreciated work of art. Telling a feel-good story about the most extraordinary of talents coming from the most unlikely of places, Ratatouille enlightens audiences with its vibrant display of Paris and gorgeous score from Michael Giacchino. We also see some incredible voice acting from Patton Oswalt as Remy and acting legend Peter O’Toole as Anton Ego. I love how Ratatouille doesn’t pose Ego as a villain, but rather as a challenge to our protagonists. He’s not in the movie much, but when he re-enters the plot after being first seen in the prologue, he makes it clear that he’s not necessarily out to ruin Gusteau’s. On top of that, Ego’s food review at the end is absolutely genius, not only by way of its writing, but O’Toole’s brilliant voice acting.
Remy and Linguini go through a series of zany misadventures to get to where they need to go. They face their own personal trials and tribulations as Remy balances his duties as a rat and as a companion to a human. Meanwhile, Linguini winds up on a rollercoaster ride of love, loyalty, and truthfulness. Ratatouille is at its best when it shows its characters taking it all in, whether it be the chaos of a dinner rush or Remy first discovering Paris. It just makes you feel good (or in this case, warm and fuzzy).
A Monster Calls is adapted from a children’s book consisting primarily of black and white charcoal drawings. It’s set in chilly, rural England. The main character is bullied at school, and his mother is sick with cancer. So why does it earn the descriptors of “warm and fuzzy?”
For one, the movie employs a breathtaking animation style that brings the black and white drawings of the book to life. I was lucky enough to see it for the first time on the big screen, and its style dumbfounded me. Additionally, the movie has one of my favorite scores of all time, courtesy of composer Fernando Velásquez. Even while the brunt of the movie deals with a kid getting shat on at school and dealing with the implications of his mother being ill, there is an escape: a giant tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, who visits his room at night. Through the tree monster’s lessons, young Conor reconciles his complex relationships with death and grief. It’s got a hearty dose of mysticism within its cold and dreary reality.
The film is technically a PG-13 children’s movie, so it’s easy to understand why it teeters the line of overly simplistic and a tinge too dark. But for the emotionally mature 12-year-old, and those adults willing to sit down and watch a movie about a child going through his first experience with loss, A Monster Calls hits all the right emotional beats.
At the very end of the film, the camera pans upward to the sky. Each time I see it, it makes me feel like I’m ascending after having learned the hard truths of life. Its melodramas are poignant, and its cast is formidable. It makes me sob like a baby, and after it’s all over, I feel warm and grateful for the loved ones I still have in my life.
Being a man of bizarre tastes, the movies I find comfort in are often less than comfortable. Two of the movies I’ve thrown on the most recently, whether to get through a rough patch or generally de-stress, are Altman’s Popeye (while I find it cute and fun, I have been told by reliable sources that I am a “maniac” for finding it soothing) and the phantasmagoric nightmare that is Teruo Ishii’s masterpiece Horrors of Malformed Men. Tempted as I am to write about the latter simply because I would look like a psychopath, there’s only one real answer when it comes to “warm & fuzzy” for me: An American Werewolf In London.
I won’t be naming the movie’s writer-director at any point because I don’t respect him. Suffice to say, Orson Welles once advocated for his murder. (Welles’ exact words? “Kill him.”) Despite the fact that I find the rest of this director’s filmography either bland or outright reprehensible, American Werewolf is still one of the quintessential films for me. Every Halloween for five straight years I’ve sat down for what I call my “yearly centering.” I’m only half-joking. There’s something immensely calming to me about American Werewolf, something I can’t place my finger on. If I could crack it, if I could somehow understand its strange allure, perhaps I wouldn’t find it so spiritually irresistible. The movie meanders through its razor-thin premise: an American on vacation in London (David Naughton, playing a character named David) survives a werewolf attack and becomes a werewolf. To add at least superficial heft to the plot, his undead buddy (Griffin Dunne) says that thousands of souls will walk the earth in limbo unless David kills himself and severs the werewolf’s bloodline. Nothing ever comes of this.
Ostensibly a comedy, American Werewolf spends roughly the same amount of time on its awkward gags as it does developing David’s manic emotional state. Lurking beneath the surface (at least, until it comes out in full force in the movie’s shocking and disorienting climax) is a sense of not just doom but unrestrained nihilism. Violence and death are alternately played as both tragic loss of life and sadistic comedic beats. Perhaps by accident (I don’t have much confidence in the writer’s grasp of thematic content), guilt becomes central to the playfully oppressive atmosphere. Nearly all the characters are constantly trying to cut ties with their past and future actions, denying their very existence until it's no longer possible; or another bloody corpse turns up.
So, how the hell do I find it either warm or fuzzy? I’m not really sure. For all of its nihilism and rather effective horror setpieces, the movie has an empathetic streak. Beyond that, An American Werewolf In London is content to live in its world of comedic contradiction. Lingering shots of the English countryside give me gooseflesh, my body’s memory of the cold I felt when I was there, years ago now. The screeching of the London Underground recalls the smell of cigarette smoke to my nostrils. Naughton and Dunne give offbeat performances that are once-in-a-blue-moon magic, particularly Dunne, who somehow manages to make the line “Kill yourself, David, end your life!” simultaneously hilarious, threatening, and (I am not kidding) earnestly caring. Every year, by the time Piccadilly Circus is littered with mutilated bodies and “Blue Moon” by the Marcels kicks in out of nowhere, I’m positively gleeful. Sure, I might not know if what I just watched was hilarious, miscalculated, or just deeply sad, but I feel warm, and maybe even a little bit fuzzy.
-Ella, Tyler, Lydia & Chance