Seven films to watch while you’re laid up with the cold, the flu, or whatever else gets you down.
Welcome once again to cold and flu season! Every year who knows how many millions of people get the common cold, the flu, the stomach flu, and a variety of other painful and discomforting illnesses. Some people (we think they’re the smart ones) cope by parking themselves on the couch and in front of the DVD player , creating some prime movie-viewing time.
Watching a favorite movie is pretty much the best way to spend a sick day. You don’t have to move around, you don’t have to think that much about the plot (since it’s your favorite, you’ve seen it before already) and you can pause the film for trips to the bathroom, kitchen, or medicine chest. For those of you who don’t have a “favorite” movie to help get you through the long, queasy recuperation hours, consider these classics. We’ve tried to include a variety of stuff, representing several genres.
Office Space – If you’re not going in to work you owe it to yourself to laugh at American office culture. Mike Judge’s (Idiocracy) comedy, in which Ron Livingston gets hypnotized into not giving a damn about anything his boss or company wants, remains the perfect way to laugh at all the healthy worker drones spending the day at their jobs. Bonus sick day activity: Drawl like office middle manager Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) to everyone you speak with, as in: “Hello, pharmacy? I’m gonna need you to go ahead and refill my prescription. Yeah, that’d be great.”
In The Good Old Summertime – A favorite among Judy Garland’s legions of fans, this romantic comedy/musical puts her at professional odds with fellow music shop salesman Van Johnson, even while the two fall in love as pen pals when off the clock. Proudly warm and nostalgic for its soundstage-perfect Victorian Era setting, the film features Garland as irresistable as ever and Johnson well-cast as a suitor so straight-laced he seems almost quaint by modern standards. And if store owner Mr. Oberkugen seems familiar, you probably also saw S. Z. Sakall play Carl, the maitre d’ at Rick’s Cafe Americain, in Casablanca. Bonus sick day activity: Sing along with Garland, especially during the showstopping “I Don’t Care.”
The Dirty Dozen - Twelve Army convicts are offered full pardons if they follow a bitter commando (Lee Marvin) on a suicide mission deep into Nazi-occupied France. The epitome of classic Hollywood cinema that doesn’t ask too much of the brain, director Robert Aldrich’s fast-paced adventure stays enthralling right up until the last, disappointing final scene. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to see while you’re watching it. Bonus sick day activity: Devise your own resolution to the Dozen’s raid on the Nazi castle, one that doesn’t uphold the Establishment status quo but instead lets Posey (Clint Walker) and Jefferson (Jim Brown) survive.
High Noon - Speaking of guy films, this high-water mark of the Western genre has everything a good Western should: an iconic good guy (Gary Cooper), a ferocious antagonist (Ian MacDonald) and a whole town up for grabs. Director Fred Zinnermann (From Here To Eternity) films the story in real-time, ratcheting the suspense up even further. Not for nothing, but it’s also probably got the coolest theme song of any Western ever made (shown in the fan video below). Bonus sick day activity: Count off the townspeople running from outlaw Frank Miller (MacDonald) on their big clay feet; come up with your own argument to give the sheriff’s wife (Grace Kelly) that yes, sometimes violence is the answer.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Especially topical this time of year, John Hughes’ masterwork tells the hilarious story of an uptight yuppie (Steve Martin, giving probably his best performance) and an uncouth shower curtain ring salesman (John Candy, definitely giving his) stuck with each other while trying to get home for Thanksgiving. The ending is amazingly touching without falling into hokum, a rare feat in most Hollywood films. Bonus sick day activity: Follow Del Griffith’s (Candy) suggestion and play pickup sticks with your butt cheeks; alternately, wash all your pillowcases.
Stripes - Ivan Reitman’s spoof of basic training and army operations works from such an episodic script you can basically watch the film in ten and fifteen minutes doses. Nevertheless, stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis put in some sublime comic acting, bolstered by a wide ensemble cast including Candy, Judge Reinhold, Sean Young, Warren Oates and John Larroquette. Fans of the Canadian series SCTV should look for cameos by alumni Dave “Doug McKenzie” Thomas and Joe “Count Floyd” Flaherty. Bonus sick day activity: Teach yourself to march and drill the John Winger (Murray) way, by shouting songs at the top of your lungs while making goofy faces.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy – Probably best if you’re going to be laid up all weekend (or for several days, anyway) the monumental LOTR saga has everything you could want from a film series – adventure, intrigue, romance, a metric ton of action – while still remaining approachable and reasonably episodic. The plotlines start to drag a bit at times, and director Peter Jackson’s (King Kong) sense of restraint gets out from under him in the third chapter. Nevertheless, taken as a whole the trilogy delivers hours and hours of riveting viewing, especially the epic Battle of Helm’s Deep. Bonus sick day activity: Take a shot of Vitamin C every time Frodo (Elijah Wood) or Legolas (Orlando Bloom) stare at something in close-up. You’ll be up and moving around in no time.
Take it easy and we hope you feel better.
- Michael Kabel
(This article was orginally published November 3, 2009.)