Let’s face it, it’s been a rough week.
Accused sexual predator and alleged beer-fiend Brett Kavanaugh was appointed Supreme Court Justice. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change held grim news for the future. The New York Times published a report on Trump’s taxes that didn't dominate the news cycle. Tropical Storm Michael will probably be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall. Oh, and Melania Trump wore an ugly hat with disturbing cultural implications on a trip to Africa.
Deep breath. It’s important to stay aware and active, but when things get too overwhelmingly dour, it’s okay to shut out the outside world and do something nice. Here are five movies to watch when things are decidedly less than OK. So slap on a face mask, heat up some tea, light a scented candle and get watching:
Usually, it’s just boy meets girl, and the rest is history, but in this wildly charming, crowd-pleasing throwback, it plays more like boy meets girl, girl isn’t interested, boy starts band to impress girl. “Sing Street” plays by all the familiar beats you expect it to, but it does so with a charisma and grace that’s unexpected and endlessly welcome. There’s a boundless optimism to the proceedings, and that renders the admittedly predictable story cheerful and exuberantly happy. “Sing Street” is filled with great music and a slew of lovable characters; it’s a familiar song, but it hits all the right notes, and it’s impossible to watch without feeling warm and optimistic. In other words, it’s essential viewing for those sunny days where everything feels gloomy anyways.
'The Straight Story'
The term nicecore wasn’t popularized or even coined until 2018, but if ever there was an originator of the nicecore brand of singularly pleasant and overwhelmingly good films that would come to define it, David Lynch’s true-story drama “The Straight Story” would be a good contender. Adapted from the story of a man who rides from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower to visit his sick brother and mend their tenuous relationship, it’s a bizarre but welcome film from the director of horrors like “Eraserhead” and noirs like “Mulholland Drive.” It’s “The Odyssey” by way of lawnmowers and the deeply human capacity to do and be good; an important and resplendent film that reminds at every moment that kindness is a fundamental facet of humanity, regardless of whether or not that’s always apparent. You can’t not be moved by it.
The sequel to a charming, if immemorable romance called “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” follows a man and a woman who rekindle an old flame when their paths cross in the sunny streets of Paris. The catch – he has to make a flight home at sunset. There’s more to it, especially in the nuances of their past together, but the basic premise is both charming and wonderfully simple. Directed by Richard Linklater, the dedicated visionary behind “Boyhood,” it’s a naturalistic film steeped in the down-to-earth behaviors of its infinitely likable leads, and as it follows them through the Parisian cityscape, it develops warmth and bubbling happiness. Pair that with an all-timer of an ending and you’ve got a sumptuous, sun-soaked romance even the most cynical movie-watcher can’t say no to.
'Paddington and Paddington 2'
I wrote at length about the brilliance of “Paddington 2” in a column, but really, both “Paddington” films are infinitely happy movies just waiting to be fallen in love with. The stories of a talking, humanoid bear from the fictitious land of Darkest Peru, the movies follow the titular fuzzball through a series of trepidations, but there’s an ever-present charm and whimsy that makes them feel like diet Wes Anderson. And I mean that in the best of ways; the “Paddington” movies don’t plunder that fanciful aesthetic for its textures only, they understand the charm and gentle feeling of fantasy that it entails, and wisely lean into it. They’re really, truly, wholeheartedly delightful.