It’s finally getting genuinely cold, here. Today is clear and bright with a crisp breeze. It’s just the kind of autumn day I like the best. It makes me want to take a journey (not a trip…a serious Journey) or contrarywise to do picturesque fall things like baking or trekking through the woods in big boots and a chunky sweater or reading in a big chair under a hand-knitted blanket with hot tea at my elbow.
Of course, I work at a university, so autumn is usually the time of year I am least able to do things like that. Fortunately for me, actual fall weather held off till the second week of November, here. I can do all the picturesque things I want in the deep dark of evenings when the sun sets an hour and a half before I get off work.
It’s a season for comfort in food, in living space and in mind. We sit in the brief pause between the Halloween feasting season and the endless festive crawl that is the Thanksgiving into Hanukka into Christmas (and in particular all the relentless commercialized frivolity the latter exposes us all too, which are awful even if Christmas is a holiday you celebrate and can be a freaking apocalyptic nightmare if you don’t).
Just anticipating the mix of good and bad of stress and fun together that the Festive Season represents can make me feel as small and irrational as Gir in Invader Zim. Who eats his cupcake and then cries about it being gone.
We can all take this pause before we’re exposed to endless parties with uncomfortable co-worker chitchat and tense family meals where you’re just bracing yourself for some relative to say something microaggressive (or, indeed, just aggressive) about something near and dear to your heart, to feed our souls before the storm hits.
I feed mine with comfort foods and with comfort fictions. After the spook-fest of Halloween, I often like some serious rose-colored glasses viewing and reading material. It’s the time of year I’m most likely to re-read the Oz books, for example. Or to watch some of my favorite classic movie musicals like Hello, Dolly or Singin’ In the Rain.
Sometimes I also like to re-watch favorites from when I was a kid like The Muppet Movie or Pollyanna or the Winnie the Pooh Disney movie.
I also like shows with unreasonable amount of idealism (Vicar of Dibley) or an unreasonable amount of fantasy wish fulfillment (Leverage).
The real trick is to find something that I’ve never seen before that feeds the gaping maw of my small, irrational feelings to stave off the weltschmerz that winter can bring.
In the same way that it can be difficult, in adulthood, to find something that *blows your mind* and excites and captivates you as much as the things you loved in your youth, it can also be difficult to find anything that makes you feel as safe and as positive.
This is the time of year I go out on limbs for high-quality schmaltz. I like to find small, happy stories that make the best of the world shine a little brighter. I think this is the impulse at the back of the scores and scores of truly awful Christmas films and specials that infest everywhere in December. But I am looking for something more emotionally resonant than those — something that can truly soothe the savage anxiety brain-weasels and make the dark seem cozy instead of opressive.
It’s rare enough that I am not sure I can name the last time I saw a film that struck me this way, though a few things I’ve seen this year vibrate on the same frequency.
Table 19 is a comedic drama that has realistic and bitter moments, but has an overall warm and human feel that makes it well worth the ride. It’s difficult to describe without giving away the twists and turns but suffice it to say: the trailer is not remotely using the full emotional palette.
The Big Sick is on the very short list of romantic comedies that I adore. Perhaps because it’s a story straight out of real life. Perhaps because the comedy is tempered with plenty of heavy things. Probably, though, it’s just because it doesn’t follow any of the stupid compulsory-heterosexuality tracks that romcoms often do.
Logan Lucky is a story about people being much more clever and devious and ingenious and persistent than other people believe possible. And then developing a nefarious plan that is applied for good. It felt almost like a lost Leverage episode to me, in some ways.
Hidden Figures is another inspired-by-life movie about awesome women kicking ass against a system that is one hundred percent designed to hold them back. It also has bonus space nerdery. (Space nerdery is always a point in something’s favor for me.)
Gifted is a movie about family being difficult and human and also being super important.
I’m sure I’ll encounter more movies that are almost right before next fall. And if I am very lucky, maybe I’ll find a film that will be worthy of watching in a double bill with The Music Man….while sitting under a hand-knitted blanket with hot tea at my elbow.
In the meantime, I wish you mashed potatoes and gravy.