To be honest, if I were married I’d be watching it with her. Actually, I love Love Actually. I’m a complete sucker for it, despite the creepy stalking storyline.
So let’s come up with a slightly different scenario. Let’s say your lovely and delightful wife tells you that her sorta best friend from college is coming over tonight and they are going to drink wine and watch Love Actually together. Uh-oh, that sorta best friend from college. You know, the one who is always having some kind of drama with her mother or her boyfriend or that jerk she works for at the bank and who always ends up having two glasses of wine too many and then starts crying about her ex-husband who she ran into the other day and he’s lost all sorts of weight but looks really sad and can’t possibly be happy with that “person” he’s been seeing who everyone knows isn’t really a natural redhead. Yeah, that friend. She’s coming over. This is exactly why you bought a second TV and set it up in the bedroom.
So you’re going to need to find a movie—and probably two—that you can watch by yourself in the bedroom while your wife and her sorta best friend get hammered and watch Love Actually and then talk about finally going to Vegas together, no kidding, this time we should do it and then start drunkenly singing Journey songs a capella. You’ve got a headache just thinking about it, don’t you? Well, here’s my movie guide for when you’re facing this regrettable situation.
Of course! Gremlins! How come we always forget about this fabulous movie? It’s a perfect blend of horror and comedy. Plus, it has Hoyt Axton! Not familiar with him? Oh, that’s too bad. Hoyt Axton has one of the sweetest baritone voices you’ll ever hear, plus his mom co-wrote Elvis Presley’s first hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” The premise here is that Axton is a struggling inventor who is in a shop in some unlocated Chinatown in some big city somewhere and buys an adorable little animal from the shop owner, Mr. Wing. Three small rules about these mogwais, Mr. Wing says: don’t expose them to bright lights, don’t feed them after midnight, and don’t get them wet. Hah! A charming and clever screenplay by Chris Columbus, who went on to direct Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and a couple of the Harry Potter movies. Good rule of thumb: Just do what Mr. Wing says and there won’t be problems.
You know what’s a good word for this movie? Rollicking. It’s a rollicking movie. Which, of course, means exuberantly lively and amusing. Shane Black directs a Shane Black script, which means it’s going to be over-the-top, violent, witty, and non-stop action. Robert Downey Jr. stars as a small-time crook fleeing the scene of a crime who ends up in the audition for an action movie by mistake… and gets the part. This movie is loud, brash, and a ton of fun. And when those two are in the living room silently sobbing with Emma Thompson while she listens to “Both Sides Now,” you’ll be having a rollicking good time behind the locked door to your bedroom.
Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t that U.S. Senator Al Franken as the idiot porter hanging out with a gorilla in the back of a train from New York to Philadelphia? Yes, it is. This is my favorite Eddie Murphy movie by far. He is just about perfect as street hustler Billy Ray Valentine who is given a wealthy white man’s life by two old conniving super rich mean guys (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). Does the revenge scheme cooked up by Murphy, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis make an ounce of sense? No. But then does it make an ounce of sense that the guy with a bit part as an idiot porter talking to gorilla would end up as an actual U.S. Senator? No, probably not.
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model BB gun. Is that too much to ask in 1948 Indiana? This is a beguiling movie about American boyhood, with a screenplay by Jean Shepherd based on his own writings. A perfect counterpoint to what those two are watching out there in the living room.
This is the movie that made Tom Hanks a star. Hanks had been a successful TV actor and had made a few movies (including the outstanding comedy Splash), but his performance as manchild Josh Baskin propelled him to another level. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his performance here. The screenplay is just brilliant—much more complex than it seems at first viewing. It was written by Gary Ross (who went on to direct The Hunger Games) and Anne Spielberg. Yes, she’s Steven’s sister. The film was directed by Penny Marshall, and was the first film directed by a woman to gross more than $100 million.
David Raether is a veteran TV writer and essayist. He worked for 12 years as a television sitcom writer/producer, including a 111-episode run on the ground-breaking ABC comedy “Roseanne.” His essays have been published by Salon.com, The Times of London, and Longforms.org, and have been lauded by The Atlantic Magazine and the BBC World Service. His memoir, Homeless: A Picaresque Memoir from Our Times, is awaiting publication.