Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Reserved Seating: What's the Right Movie?

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
Adam: Welcome to a special edition of Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: Today we’re going to pick what movie(s) we would watch to match certain moods, holidays, life events, etc. Leave a comment below with your picks and join in on the fun. Speaking of fun...

Mood/Moment #1 - Sad After Getting Dumped

Adam: Any action movie on a “4 Film Favorites” DVD, e.g. Bloodsport, The Last Boy Scout, Under Siege, Passenger 57, etc.; the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy
Why? I got dumped once from a relationship that was emotionally exhausting. I was sad but knew from experience I couldn’t dwell on it for too long or I would be in a funk. It was better to dull the pain and move on. One of my best friends and I got together and watched a full day worth of late '80s-early '90s action movies and the mixture of carnage and bad jokes was just what I needed. Like a dog, these movies have always been there for me and reliably cheer me up. I don’t even have to watch one of the good ones. Sometimes, The Quest or On Deadly Ground will do the trick. The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy also gives me a certain amount of resolve but lets me mope a little, too. It’s a very empathetic series.

Rob: High Fidelity, Her, Joe Versus the Volcano, Eyes Wide Shut, In a Lonely Place, Chungking Express, Annie Hall, Lost in Translation, Possession, Mulholland Dr.

Why? My picks here are a little obvious, but this is a really interesting juxtaposition that tells our readers a lot about who we are as people. When I go through something really emotional, my reaction is never to “dull” it or push it away with a distraction. I can’t be distracted. I need to analyze, deconstruct, and reflect, and movies help me do that. I need to dwell in it, to really sink into it and let it infect me until it oozes out of my pores. It definitely leads to a “funk,” like you mentioned, but introspection and self-debasement are part of my process. I’m a brooder — I need to let something completely destroy me, so I can rebuild. Obviously, you’re much healthier than I am.

Adam: This is so interesting. I tend to gravitate towards sad movies if someone is sick. E.G. I was only able to deal with someone’s illness in recent years by watching things like A Monster Calls because it gave me a venue to cry and be upset in private where I needed to be strong in reality. For break-ups, I would have more of a list like yours when I was younger and didn’t know myself as well (that’s not meant to be talking down to you, btw). I know now that if I dwell I would deconstruct to the point where I’d have difficulty constructing again, so I know I can’t do that anymore and need something less triggering -- like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

Mood/Moment #2 - Thanksgiving
Adam: Street Fighter (1994)

Why? This is surely a coincidence, but in the early 2000s my cousin and I found Street Fighter on cable annually for about five years straight during Thanksgiving. We watched it each time. Pre-dinner is always for football, but the TV is usually free after dinner and I sure as hell am not watching the Dallas Cowboys.

Rob: Ikiru, Fast Five, True Stories, Swiss Army Man, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The World’s End, The Lion in Winter, Superbad, The Iron Giant, Creed, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Why? My holidays always involve a lot of driving, so there’s very little downtime to build viewing traditions. Instead, I just went with some movies that make me feel thankful to be alive and to have the family, friends, experiences, and challenges that I do. They’re not all warm and fuzzy; some of them are kind of brutal experiences for me, actually. But I definitely leave each one with some catharsis and perspective.

Adam: Any of the Rocky films feel absolutely right on Thanksgiving. They are November staples to me. Others are the Harry Potter movies, Bond films, or movies that are dominated by costumes and art direction like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the most recent Murder on the Orient Express.

Mood/Moment #3 - On an Airplane
Adam: Going in Style (2017) or something similar

Why? When I’m on a plane, I don’t want to watch a movie I care about or anything where the visuals are essential to the movie’s appeal. I’m watching the movie on a tiny screen so seeing something equally modest in approach feels right to me. Going in Style is a perfect airplane movie because it’s innocuous, forgettable and calm.

Runner-Up: A Daniel Craig Bond movie. This goes against what I previously said about it not being a visually spectacular choice, but I’ve seen people watching Bond movies on their tablets several times on flights and I’m always jealous of them. I once eavesdropped Spectre off a guy in the row in front of me without sound and it’s the only time I’ve liked Spectre.

Rob: A Knight’s Tale, Clue, A Few Good Men, Galaxy Quest, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Godfather, Star Trek Beyond, Casino Royale, Fargo, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Inglourious Basterds, Ocean’s Eleven.

Why? I don’t fly enough to really establish habits or preferences, so I’m going to modify your premise a bit and choose comfortable, familiar, “background” movies, stuff I can check in with while doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom and not miss too much. I know most of them by heart, and I can quote them out loud while mopping the floor or something and not feel like I’m being judged. They also tend to be on the longer side and feature ensemble casts or episodic structures, which I think helps keep them entertaining when I’m not paying full attention.

Mood/Moment #4: Alone with My Thoughts
Rob: Spider-Man 2, Whiplash, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Quantum of Solace, Locke, Blue Ruin, Ex Machina, Hard Candy, The Station Agent, Rear Window, Personal Shopper, Nightcrawler, Harmontown, Collateral, In Bruges, Black Snake Moan, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Enemy.

Why? I wanted to counter the “togetherness” theme of #2 and highlight some movies that I watch when I feel really alone (not lonely, just alone) and misanthropic. It doesn’t have to be at a specific person or about a specific event. It’s not even about depression or anxiety. It’s more about emotional realignment, I think. It’s important to have a bad day, hate the world, and get some “nobody understands me, and I don’t understand anyone” time to yourself every now and again. These are movies I have to go through on my own. I think Arrival will eventually be on this list, but I need to watch it again to be sure.

Adam: Dogfight, Babe, Pinocchio, Paddington 2, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Saturday Night Fever, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Silver Linings Playbook

Why? This one was challenging, because if I’m alone in my thoughts I’m more prone to lying in bed, driving, or listening to music than watching a movie. Most of the time I get lost in my thoughts (or feel alone) because I feel disappointed in myself or I’m trying to define who I wish I could be. I’ve always been drawn to kid protagonists in animated movies from my youth because I felt like Pinocchio, Fievel, or Littlefoots of the world sometimes. I was this good-hearted kid that was terrified of screwing up. 2001 was my favorite movie for a long time because it represented that the universe was vast and we’re small and that dynamic comforted me in a way. Movies like Dogfight or Saturday Night Fever helped me face the lie of what “being a man” really is and taught me instead to lead with my heart and not spend time trying to impress other men in a power structure. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the main movie from the most defining romantic relationship I’ve had thus far in life. It didn’t work out and I wish I could go back to that moment, but with a person who was a better match. My Big Fat Greek Wedding resonates for me because it’s about creating a family of your own as well as being a part of the one you’re already in. This got deep.

Mood/Moment #5: Your Family Wants to Watch Something and They Ask You to Pick Because You’re “A Movie Person”
Rob: The Devil Wears Prada, (500) Days of Summer, Mean Girls, Ghostbusters, A League of Their Own, Apollo 13, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Guardians of the Galaxy, Men in Black, That Thing You Do!, The Princess Bride.

Why? This is more or less what it says on the tin. Sometimes you’re at your parents’ or in-laws or some other situation where you’re tasked with finding something crowd pleasing and inoffensive. It’s a real four-quadrant situation, and it’s always tougher for me than I initially expect. You want them safe, but not boring. Funny, but not crass or too offbeat. Action-packed, but not too violent. Romantic, but not explicitly sexual. Thrilling, but not bloody. No politics. No philosophy. Kids in the room? How old? Are f-bombs off the table? Will older or black & white movies alienate the younger crowd? You have to consider everything.

Adam: N/A but with a caveat

Why? Even though I’m the movie person of my immediate and extended family, I tend to wince at the “movie person” title. Part of it is because I have other interests and in some weird way I refuse to let my family only define me by movies. Second, I don’t want to risk recommending something that I love which someone might come back saying later that they hate. I’d rather have us all live our separate film journeys when it comes to films I feel are standards. The twist is that my answer is always “Let’s watch something neither of us has seen,” because I would rather discover a movie with a family member than recommend one. I remember a few years ago when my mom, dad, and I sat and watched Gone with the Wind for the first time together and it was a great, special movie night. Same thing with The Shop Around the Corner. I think in this way I’m still living up to the “movie person” title.

Rob: I really respect this perspective. You and I talked about this a bit when you visited in the summer, and I’d like to start letting some of that weird responsibility go. I’d like to feel more multifaceted in group dynamics than just “a movie person.” Sometimes I rely on that crutch too much because it’s the way many people choose to engage with me, and I think I owe it to them to be on top of things. Makes me feel useful. It shouldn’t though, right? I shouldn’t have to feel that way. I’ll work on it.

Man, this IS getting really deep.

Mood/Moment #6 - New Year’s Eve
Adam: Star Trek Generations and episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Why? New Year’s Eve is a weird night for me because I work in an industry that is quarterly-based. December 31st is “End of Year,” so often I am at home and available in case I’m needed for a last-minute deal. I usually work during the day so my normal routine on NYE is to have dinner with my folks (usually nicer take-out), drive home, watch a Star Trek movie and then tune in for NYE coverage on the local news. I’ve always associated NYE with science-fiction in large part because of the Twilight Zone marathon that runs annually on television. I cherry pick my favorite episodes and re-watch the same ones every year. In recent years, I’ve started watching a lot more Star Trek as well, in large part because of Star Trek (2009) and the criminally underrated Star Trek Beyond. I find the Next Generation output the most comforting (mainly because it’s what I grew up with), so I go to Star Trek Generations or First Contact much of the time. They kind of represent this “let’s go boldly into the unknown -- but with close friends and at a measured pace” attitude that I hope to emulate each new year. New Year’s Eve gives the (maybe corny) illusion of renewal and Star Trek represents our best intentions. This combination is not a mistake.

Rob: Blade Runner, Moonrise Kingdom, The Apartment, Big Trouble in Little China, The Philadelphia Story, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Die Hard, GoldenEye, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Hugo, Magnolia, Scent of a Woman, The NeverEnding Story.

Why? I really like this theme and the way you approach it from the perspective of renewal and optimism. Since I can’t really top that, I’ll keep this short: I went with movies that make me feel “reborn,” in a way, or at least make me reflect on who I am and have been without getting too negative or regretful. I also loved your Star Trek analogy so much that I had to steal one for my list. I love me some space whales.

This was fun! What are we doing next week? We have some time to kill before Creed II.

Adam: We’re doing something a bit like this week, but this time we’re matching movies and food. What movie goes best with a hot dog (Answer: The Crow)? What should you eat during Days of Thunder (Answer: Chili)? Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.

Your turn!
1. What are your picks?
2. Got a different mood or moment you want to ask about? Ask in the comments and we’ll give you a movie-paring recommendation.


  1. Sameee, I wince when people ask me to choose the movie because I really hate being responsible for 2 hours of someone's misery if they don't like it (especially if its one of my favorites). I'm much better at pretending to like something I don't.

    I think the only mood I watch movies in recently is the "zoning out - need something quick" mode. So, I need pretty boys because they're easy to digest like empty carbs. Like once a week in a moment of exhaustion I check when the new Cillian Murphy movie, The Delinquent Season, comes available, but it never does. God help a woman here.

  2. Very interesting picks guys. Much like Adam's Street Fighter reasoning, I think I have the same relationship with Brosnan's Bond movies on New Years. Watched Tomorrow Never Dies on New Years when I was maybe 12, now I'm always compelled to watch one every January 1st.

  3. Well, I had my wisdom teeth out this morning because they were trying to kill me, so I watched Argento all day.