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Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin, 1990 (screen Grab)cr: 20th Century Studios

The Writer’s Room: Movies We’re Grateful For

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Thanksgiving has come and gone, but there are movies we can be grateful for all year long. Members of The Frida Cinema’s writing team have created a list of memorable films we are thankful for. Movies often bring people together, something that speaks to the power of cinema as an art form. Without further ado, let us delve into our favorites!

Marleen Apodaca, Writing Team Member

Home Alone (1990):

Home Alone is definitely one of my holiday favorites, and it is a Christmas classic. I remember watching this movie in the ’90s with my older brother as we ate Oreo cookies with milk in front of our TV. The sequel is just as amazing, but for sake of conversation, I will pick the first Home Alone movie. Macaulay Culkin (Kevin McCallister) really delivered during his time as a child actor, and I always thought it would be fun to be home alone with no adult supervision as a kid. I believe Home Alone 2: Lost in New York really took it a step further when Culkin’s character stayed in a ritzy New York City hotel. That was literally my dream!

The bandits who after Kevin – known as Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) – are hilarious. Their acting was always so animated and funny. Kevin always has tricks up his sleeves with explosives and traps. Home Alone never fell short of laughs for the entire family. My niece and nephew absolutely love Home Alone. I have watched this movie likely over a hundred times during my lifetime thanks to them because they love watching Kevin’s funny facial expressions as he causes mischief.

Bobby Thornson, Writing Team Member

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019):

Joe Talbot’s debut feature is one I will always be thankful for and one that I continue to show to others. As a Bay Area native with a father born and raised in San Francisco, The City was an important place to us, and it was difficult to watch the expedited gentrification caused by city politics and the influx of startup companies and tech bros.

Throughout cinema’s history, few films take place in specific cities of the Bay Area, even including San Francisco, whose Golden Gate Bridge and cityscape have been used as a vastly unexplored backdrop. Movies such as Vertigo, Zodiac, and Dirty Harry have also stereotyped it heavily as an extreme split between areas that are dirty and crime-filled and ones that are ultra-elitist (although the disparities of wealth are alarmingly true). Talbot’s film is a loving and warm embrace of SF as it is, mostly of the people within it, that dispels contemporary toxic masculinity to favor brotherhood and tender, self-supportive communities that push back against the long history and continued reality of the pushing of SF natives, especially the African American population, out of the city.

Isha Bhatt, Writing Team Member

Nope (2022):

Jordan Peele’s Nope is a movie that has lingered with me since first watching. I have been a horror geek for quite some time, and I have to say that no movie has stuck with me the way this film has. Peele pioneered an entirely new branch of horror with Nope. While alien movies have always existed, none have existed like this. Nope takes place on an old horse ranch run by two siblings, who soon discover that something is wrong: their ranch has been occupied by a UFO. So, they begin working on a plan.

The film surpasses its cowboy-horror mold and brilliantly shines a light on its entrancing characters, sub-plots, and scenery. Rather than frustrating his audience with typical ditzy horror movie characters, he wrote intelligent, complex ones that are both crucial to the story and entertaining to watch. There were no cheap scares in this film; it was as compelling as it was disturbing. Eyes were glued to the screen. The cast was nothing short of incredible, and Keke Palmer was rightfully titled as one of horror’s “best final girls.” Peele cleverly tackles themes of trauma, race, and capitalism in the finely wrapped gift that is Nope.

Anthony McKelroy, Writing Team Member

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010):

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a spelunking document of incredible historicity that each and every one of us should be beyond grateful for. Since its discovery in 1994, the Chauvet Cave in Ardèche, France has been home to some of the oldest cave paintings in the world. The remarkably sophisticated icons depicting scenes of daily life and spiritual worship were created by prehistoric peoples over 30,000 years ago. Completely closed to the public, the cave remains sealed off with highly regulated access. Under extreme scrutiny from the French Ministry of Culture, Herzog and his crew were allowed to archive the cave with high resolution digital cameras and Dolby 3-D – a technique meant to simulate the contours of the cave walls themselves.

The restrictive measures taken by the film’s production to preserve the cave during shooting also makes Cave of Forgotten Dreams a film about the creation of itself. A film about filmmaking. Despite the mandated limitations, the result is breathtaking. A transportive glimpse through time that would otherwise go unseen by the general public. Words can often fail us, and while the camera has the capacity to deceive, it can also unearth profound truths that simple description cannot. This is what cinema can provide. This is something to be grateful for.

Penny Folger, Writing Team Member

Cabaret (1972):

For some reason, when thinking about movies that induce a feeling of thankfulness, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret keeps coming to my mind. It’s a movie I always think of pointing to when people say they don’t like musicals, because the musical numbers in it only happen on the stage of the Kit Kat Klub, a nightclub in Berlin, where they would take place even in a non-musical universe (versus a movie where someone bursts into song in the street or in the middle of a sentence, which I think is one thing musical haters have a problem with.)

It’s got that recipe of a free-spirited lady colliding with a more buttoned-down, reserved type, which has become the thing of movie cliche, but here it feels organic and fitting for its time and place. It also has Fosse’s incredibly precise choreography, which stands out even if you’re not someone who normally thinks about dance in their everyday lives. Moreover, it has humor. Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) blurts out to shy, reserved Brian (Michael York) as they’re walking down the street, apropos of nothing, “Have you ever slept with a dwarf?” Without missing a beat, he replies, “Once, but it wasn’t a lasting relationship.” Sometimes jarring off-kilter humor can be a life raft for surviving the holidays, and for that I am thankful.

Josh Green, Writing Team Member

Army of Darkness (1992):

Army of Darkness has to be one of my essential films that I am thankful for. Sam Raimi pulled out all the stops, bringing in some of his childhood influences, when he put this movie together with his brother. Utilizing the slapstick and improv comedy antics that brought comedy groups like the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and Abbott and Castello into the limelight and flipping those tropes on their heads by splicing in horror elements, the final result makes for one hell of a wild ride. Bruce Campbell’s smug, cocky, yet still genuine hero personality as Ash makes me want to watch it again and again. The wisecracking dialogue, backed by tough as nails throwdowns Bruce has with the Deadites, makes for a rip-roaring good time.

I remember that my first time watching the film was a little bit after my parents started paying for cable TV. The AMC channel would pop up every once in a while when I would flip through the channels, looking for things to watch. I would land on AMC and see the movie playing. It fascinated me so much that every year around Halloween, which was when it was played the most on AMC, I would watch it. I ended up building my movie collection based upon Army of Darkness, and from that point on, it was an essential. It’s been on my top movie lists every time I make one, so it goes without saying that I am truly thankful for Army of Darkness.

Reggie Peralta, Content Editor

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975):

My first time watching Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest way back in middle school, I went in under the impression that it was a comedy. Perhaps it was the premise that gave me this impression: a convicted criminal pretends to be insane so he can serve the rest of his sentence in a mental hospital instead of prison. Don’t get me wrong, I did get a kick out of the sharp dialogue and funnier character interactions, but the main takeaway for my something-teen self was how stirred – how moved – I was by what I watched.

Tying the humorous conversations and moments together was a story about men who felt broken by society and safer in the sterile, sheltered world of the institution. It took the aforementioned con (brought to cheerfuly chaotic life by Jack Nicholson) to show them that life outside the walls and routine of the hospital might be unfamiliar, might even be dangerous, but that it comes with a sense of dignity that institutional life cannot give them. It’s a lesson that took a long time for me to take to heart, but one that I am very grateful to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for imparting on me all those years ago.


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