Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 2006, or earlater

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Great Movies for a New Years Day Hangover


Damn but you made a mess of things last night --I mean you must've since you don't remember and your girlfriend's on the couch instead of in bed with you and you're fully dressed, under the covers, waking up now in late afternoon, bleary and a mess, to reach with shaking hand for that warm foam-crusted highball on your nightstand, swilling it down before the gag reflexes can kick in, before you can get sick from the pain of hangover. You choke it down, which gives you strength to pop up and make a gin and juice 50/50 juice glass full. Bliss. And then... floating through another blackout day.

Then... waking up again, a messier mess of things, blearier, shakier hand, for that warm... wait where the fuck is it?


When did I start to lose you in that last paragraph? The crusty highball reach? Well, we can't all be 'blessed' with alcoholic genes. For the rest, a hangover on New Years Day is as close as you're gonna get. Let's say you wake up at least, and it's January first, and it's getting dark all ready or so it feels, and it's cold, and you don't have to work tomorrow, so there you are. It's time to watch TV and recuperate. That's where I can help.


There are no-nos for hangover or detox recovery movies to be avoided, and other things to be sought:

NO: gross-outs: eating, bodily humors, bathroom incidents (you'll literally gag)
NO: bugs, jungles, tropics (i.e. no sweltering heat - you'll sweat in sympathy)
NO: Cruelty and ugliness (all your sense are amplified)
NO: Loud sudden shocks, screaming, banging on pots, or playing harmonica
NO: Shouting, yelling, blue collar misery
NO: factories
NO: TV commercials (so watch TCM or DVDs)
-----------
YES: Sexual heat, with good rhythmic second chakra breathing (realigns the dilated nerves towards pleasure rather than pain)
YES: cold climates, snow, ice
YES: Youthful love and tragic romance (you're very emotional)
YES: people talking in low, conversational voices
YES: the sweet freedom of cheerfully facing immanent death for a noble cause (allays your guilt re: trashing today through yesterday's revelry).

SO.....

1. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) Dir. Peter Hunt

The main thing here that's good for the alcohol-poisoned penitent is the length of the film and the cold atmosphere: the frozen, snowy on-location Alps raced around in by hard-to-shake bad guys in pursuit of our boy Bond--Lazenby, who's just dull but not obnoxious, so it's quite all right. The trip to Blofeldt's mountaintop lair is itself an amazingly cohesive journey, from car to helicopter to cable car, up, up, up. And then some girls girls girls who aren't afraid to write their room numbers in lipstick on Bond's naked thigh, and the amazing Telly Savalas laying out his big plan, cigarette in hand, or saying "you love chickens...." with that great nasal smoker delight in his voice, through a light-sound hypnosis machine. And then down down down, via cable car, skis, one ski, ice skates, car, and on and on, chased by actual professionals who can't easily be brushed off, for a change. By then your pulse will be slowing and the relative leisurely composition of the first half of the film will ease you into the hair-raising second half. Bond is always comfort when detoxing, but nowhere near as comforting for the alcoholic in recovery than when sheathed in snow and supported by Mrs. Peele herself, Diana Rigg. She's so forgiving of his momentary fear, and his gratitude for her managing to be in the right place at the right time is so touching, and her fearless ability drive aggressively when he's just too worn out, is so palpable it's like she's our own AA sponsor.

TITANIC (1997)
Dir. James Cameron

See above for importance of cold and length. You need long cold movies, because being without a movie to watch, or pick next or figure out something else to do after an hour and a half is terrifying. Loneliness or the terror of being dragged out to another overpriced club are always beckoning. Also, your heart is like those icebergs, melting now with remorse, and other things. I saw this in the theater the day after New Years Day, which I spent getting royally sick as my girl tried to get me to stop booze cold turkey. She wouldn't even give me no weed! It would have helped with the nausea. That bitch. But the next day we went to see TITANIC and leaving the theater I could barely walk, my dilated nerves and heightened volatile emotions were so carried aloft in the grandeur and sweep and blue light ice farewell, I was a sobbing mess. My cold turkey girlfriend sneered at me for crying but that didn't bother me. The film's got everything a good hangover movie needs: ice, love, and in-the-moment live for today-no tomorrow philosophy. I could have done without the framing device. but hey, I guarantee that if you're in that dilated nerve ending brutal hangover state, the movie will work for you too, and now you can FF-right past Bill "I never let it in" Paxton, if you want, though you won't have the wherewithal to do so so just SUCK IT UP! 

 I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1944)
Dir. Jacques Tourneur / Prod. Val Lewton

You wouldn't think a movie set in the Caribbean would fit this list but this isn't the 'real' Caribbean. No one sweats on the isle of San Sebastian; it's a Caribbean of the mind, cool and dry as a thigh bone rattle, and full of windy mystery as experienced through the eyes of a smitten nurse (the always soothing Frances Drake). I love the spiderweb latticework shadows of potted ferns and porch struts and harp strings, and through it all blows a gentle insistent leaf-rustling wind which builds to a thrilling, satisfying chill in the midnight through-the-cane field walk, the wind calling them through skull sign posts and dry cane stalks and a skeletal Darby Jones guarding the way. When we were young, brother and I watched this and Cat People nearly every night on a back-to-back tape every late night for an entire summer, the fan roaring in front of the TV, amazed how well such apparently slight 'everything to the imagination' films like these could hold up under such heavy repeat viewing. I watched it again recently and was floored about how so little happens, and so quickly. I love the beautiful opening with the Canadian snow outside the window and a Frances Drake voiceover, through to the end with a local black wise man's voiceover on St. Sebastian, offering a prayer for the dead. Where did that guy come from? We don't see anyone with that voice, but it works - he's St. Sebastian himself, perhaps... either way it's as soothing and lovely as a 50/50 gin and grapefruit juice for breakfast.

NADJA (1994)

Directed by Michael Almereyda

This was made by someone with a clear love of the genre, as it's structured like a loose remake of the 1935 Universal horror classic, DRACULA'S DAUGHTER with shades of THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, and BLOOD AND ROSES (i.e. CARMILLA). It's full of beautiful black and white film compositions, with occasional lapses into pixelated imagery culled from a then-the-rage Fisher Price Pixelvision movie camera. With a bad hangover you wont mind the blurriness of these stretches, which add a dreamy surrealist patina, and the rest of the film is de-gorgeous (a phrase we used back then, as Deee-Lite was pop queen of NYC night life).  I couldn't get more than 45 minutes into the over-baked unoriginal pomp of Jarmusch's overpraised ONLY LOVER'S LEFT ALIVE but this film really knows its classic horror movies and has some interesting things to say, with great Gothic shots that wondrously fuse the downtown grit of NYC and the lighthouse expressionism of the old world. Nadja (Elina Löwensohn) is weary of her jet set life and longs to love her latest victim, a girl with a great East Village apartment. The cast is gorgeous, and soothing to the eye. Unlike, say, so many Duplassy mumblecore types, these actors are both gorgeous yet intelligent, witty yet not snarky. And hangovers can be soothed by the beauty of Galaxy Craze as Lucy--a kind of Molly Ringwald divided by Deborah Kara Unger. There's also the beautiful Martin Donovan as Harker, a once-beautiful Peter Fonda as a hippie Van Helsing, and a surprisingly sexy Jared Harris as a punk rock ill brother Nadja harbors weird incestuous desire for, and Suzy Amis as his nurse whom Nadja wants out of the way. It's clear in every frame and spoken word that the Gothic expressionistic blood of Karl Freund, the philosophy of Nietzsche, and the downtown cool of Abel Ferrara cohere and flow through Almeyerda's venis. I even like his 1998 film THE ETERNAL (Aka TRANCES), a weird Irish bog mummy tale that plays out like a hybrid SHINING-SZAMANKA coupled to that old Bram Stoker chestnut "Jewel of the Seven Stars," filmed once by Hammer in the 60s as BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB. Like NADJA, also good for a hangover.

Galaxy Craze
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5. SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

Dir. Harmony Korine

A homage to film noirs like GUN CRAZY or THE BIG SLEEP, molded halfway into a Lite Brite money chute that's intoxicatingly dangerous, its measured sexual breath energy is perfect for second chakra-alignment. I haven't had drugs on my person in years but suddenly I felt the cops coming in through the window, or through my skin, watching Korine's movie with my headphones on. The cold feeling in the blood it created made me realize, for the first time, I never knew that blood 'running cold' is a literal thing. It reminds me why I never liked cocaine -- I'll gladly sacrifice the sexual gyrating moment by moment heavy breathing tactile intensity to not feel the blood run cold pit of the stomach disappearing empathy response. But BREAKERS glows like the secret chamber in a TWIN PEAKS bordello. Once the Jesus freak girl goes home, this shit really gets good, turning into a badass bizarro world version of CHARLIE'S ANGELS with James Franco inhabiting the role of a southern fried gangsta rapper Charlie--singing Britney songs on his outdoor piano, fellating a gun and squabblin' with his childhood buddy, the reigning (black) king of St. Pete. Hear it with 'phones for maximum ASMR drugginess; it will contextualize and heal and soothe your hungover brain... and ease your woeful remorse.

6. THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1957)

Dir. Douglas Sirk

Like Harper is a grim sequel to The Thin Man, which itself was a sequel to The Big Sleep (i.e. Nick and Nora are what happened after Marlowe married heiress Vivian Rutledge), so The Tarnished Angels can be imagined as a sequel to those 30s MGM barnstormers, with Robert Stack as the Clark Gable daredevil pilot, and Jack Carson as the Spencer Tracy dog fox gone-to-ground mechanic. Then there's Dorothy Malone in the Harlow role, so smoking hot and well-lit you join the crew of leering sleazebags that pay to watch her parachute down in a fluttering skirt. It's based on a Faulkner story and you will finally believe Rock Hudson can act as he plays a tipsy reporter smitten by Malone and in quiet awe of Stack's daring, but Stack needs flight "like an alcoholic needs his drink," and when his plane crashes out from under him he pimps out his wife to get a new one.

The flight races are spectacular, some truly amazing barnstormer flying going on. It's in black and white Cinemascope, a rarity in itself, but you eventually get sucked in, especially with a decent DVD transfer, which you can get via the TCM Archive and maybe nowhere else. Expensive, then, but worth it... Even if you come away from it all feeling a bit down on life as a whole, you're sure one thing: these three leads show so much power they all but crack the film apart. The best scene occurs with Stack and Malone crashing on Hudson's floor and couch. He comes home a bit drunk, Carson is asleep, and there she is, awake and whispering to him. Sirk's decadent black and white lighting shining through her white nightgown as she spreads herself along the couch, and it's so hot you almost pass the fuck out. Looks like we're... closed for the evening. I'd give Stack a plane too, and so would Rock, if we could have for ourselves even for a night the Malone in this film --and we hate ourselves for being so vile, and so does she. But that just makes her all the sexier. That and the whispering and the live-for-the-moment all make it an ideal hangover movie.

7. ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930)

Dir. Victor Heerman

Few consider ANIMAL CRACKERS to be the Marx Brothers best film (most go for either NIGHT AT THE OPERA or DUCK SOUP), but much as I love all their Paramount work and their first two movies at MGM, for my acid viewing, nothing beats 1930's ANIMAL CRACKERS. It's their most psychedelic and unforced. When Groucho does his STRANGE INTERLUDE impression and steps out of the action to directly address the camera in a dreamy poetic rhythm, trippers freak out thinking he's talking directly to them across time and space. It's also the second and last Marx effort based on an actual a priori stage play (so all jokes are time-tested), and it has a great George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart script. It takes its time and spreads out and was filmed out on Long Island and the Brothers radiate a zany ease only proximity to their hometown NYC can provide. Make sure to see it from the beginning, when it starts it looks like it's going to be the most boring musical ever made: Seems 'yawn' Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) is giving a party on her Long Island estate. Oh great, you think with inner sarcasm, this is gonna be super boring and can ease my pain by offering no suspense or guilt whatever; then... Captain Spaulding arrives --and we get a rare chance to see Groucho wow the crowds with some truly original leg dancing. All worries vanish into a haze of giddy laughs and bourgeois tolerance, even when they occasionally drown you in puns. And your dilated nerves will be glad to hear Harpo's absolving harp interlude and will gently trill at the bare Norma Shear shoulders of the younger ladies, and will be assured by the imperious gullibility of Margaret Dumont no permanent harm can happen here; and there's also future alcoholism survivor Lillian Roth, rolling her eyes like she's too good for it all--and we certainly agree she's too good for Hal Thompson as the earnest wooer whose rank imitation has the "the soul of the Bogard." Truly, that battered MacGuffin canvas heals the broken misery of life. 

8. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

It's regal, it's lovely, its gray flannel and blue train color schemes soothe the spirit, and of course Cary "No mother, they didn't give me a chaser" Grant forgives us all trespasses. He soothes a scene just by being in it. Wily agent Eva Marie Saint is soothing, too, never speaking above a purr. Even the bad guys (James Mason and Martin Landau as his fey henchman) never shout but rather use their words in silken eloquence. The only loud behavior comes from Bernard Herrmann's aggro score. It's a Bollinger mimosa of a movie, and long enough that it counts as three refills-- enough to uncoil your misery.

9. MACBETH (1948)

Dir. Orson Welles

I'm partial to this film from days of watching my streaky VHS dupe over and over during my last alcoholic relapse, drawing pangs of solace from Macbeth's inconsolable guilt, his sense of letting ambition and his wife's venomous viper words (she's the equivalent of the demoness in the bourbon bottle) draw him farther and farther into the morass. This is the movie for when you're trying not to think about the horrible mess you made of your night, and nervous system. And now thanks to Olive's Blu-ray you can see the dirt on the stage sky - the vast cavernous set--with jagged mountainsides fresh from Republic westerns, like a spirit world, neither indoors no out, neither onstage, no off, with the thick atmosphere seeming to breathe and thrive, even when the Scottish brogues are so thick you can barely understand a word... but who cares? You can savvy enough to be moved and to have your emotional state of remorse and guilt reflected in great Elizabethan poetry, the feeling of eternal night and fog and Welles' voice as absolving and dissolving in its mellifluent baritone as an Epsom salts bath.

10. THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)

Dir. Frank Tuttle

With her soft dream-like voice like she's trying to not wake up your angry girlfriend, Veronica Lake is a great salve for any hangover. Her chemistry with the equally soft-voiced Ladd is palpable, and sublime enough to forgive the endless contrived coincidences the plot hinges on. There's a weird thick layer of quiet in this film, perfect for hangovers or guilty consciences. Topping it off, the great Laird Cregar as the most silken of villainous stooges, his whole elegantly large form trembling at the thought of the violence he must inflict on his captive, he brings it all into perspective; it's just another night after all... you'll live. No matter what you did last night, Veronica Lake forgives you. Have a peppermint. (See: Veronica Lake Effect).

Erich Sez: When in doubt pick quiet, dark movies w/ devouring hotties
Now if you decide, wisely, to drink more the morning after, i.e. the hair of the dog, to cure your hangover, may I suggest the films mentioned below? A highball glass filled halfway up with gin and topped off with grapefruit juice, no ice, will dissolve the pain and you'll feel the glorious flush of rapture that only the true benders know, and these films will let you know you made the right choice. Just remember to leave a half-full glass of the same concoction by your bedside, because the hangover is going to be substantially worse the next time you wake up, though chances are you won't have time to even make it to bed. You'll just wake up on the couch, the DVD menu on eternal repeat and hopefully that half-full drink will be there. Down it quick, hit play again, and now you'll really be on a bender.

W.C. Fields says go for it!
I stopped drinking before the advent of DVDs, so I woke up to a rewound videotape, but either way the effect is the same. Hit play before you have a chance to second guess your decision. Movies can be watched over and over and over when you're on a bender! I saw SPECIES (1995) a hundred times that way. It's got everything you need: a soothing blonde beauty -- Henstridge is so achingly hot (and unaugmented) she actually seems alien. There are explosions, an escape onto a train, and any sexually frustrated male in the throes of delirium tremens can appreciate her need to mate fast, before the blue devils hot on her trail come a-cockblockin'. These devils are a bunch of sweaty losers played by Oscar luminaries like Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley, led by Michael Madsen as a tough guy. He can barely keep a straight face as the tough guy but his late inning tryst with Marg Helgenberger is a stealth bolt of proof grace. Two confident mature people coming together with nothing but carnivorous respect? I'll drink to that. (See: Natasha Henstridge Vs. the Coordinated Cockblock Quintet).


But in the meantime, you're an outlaw now, so enjoy that giddy flush of freedom that comes with the pall of death hanging over it, the rare Marx Brothers-ish joy when you know the ship has sailed and you're not getting back to land until you jump in the ice cold water and try to swim to shore. And the longer you wait, the farther the boat sails out to sea, and the longer and colder the swim. So why not stay aboard for another day?

See also the good folks at Modern Drunkard, who originally published my Guide to the Bender article (later reprinted in Daedalus Press's Decadent Handbook), and who have lots of great film reviews. Of course anything by W.C. Fields is golden, particularly INTERNATIONAL HOUSE and NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK. There's also THE THIN MAN, APOCALYPSE NOW, and of course, I would imagine since again I got sober before it came out, but GHOSTS OF MARS. One look at this great, terrible, magnificent film - and I knew... I knew. Mars, in the company of Natasha Henstridge and her stash of 'clear.' A matriarchy and Joanna Cassidy from BRADE RUNNA? What better way to drink through the dawn?

 In the words of Desolation Williams, "Come on, you Martian motherfuckers!"


PS - In honor of hangovers and seeing double we've answered sporadic requests to change the white on black print we've used since the beginning of the site. The result is you can read longer without feeling dizzy, we hope. It's still being tinkered with and we welcome feedback. (--erichk9@aol.com)

PPS -  By 'we' I mean me, of course. But it sounds like there's a whole staff that way. See? Honesty, that's the resolution.... Happy New Years!

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