|by Collin Souter
Mother’s Day, to me, can only mean one thing: Outback Steakhouse will start playing their annoyingly annoying Mother’s Day commercials on the radio again. That, and going to the Hallmark store, standing in line with all the other last-minute Sunday afternoon shoppers (All male. Ever notice that?), and thumbing through my pocket for all the necessary coins I need to purchase someone else’s idea of a clever love letter. Hallmark’s got us by the balls, people! They do this to us just to move some inventory. We have to buy their cards, buy their flowers, their little nick-nacks, and then we have to spend time with the parents and, if it happens to be mother’s day, sit through movies such as “Step Mom” and “Where The Heart Is!!!”
We don’t have to take it anymore!!!
Well, no actually, we do, and we shouldn’t make it into a chore, especially where the movies come in. Sure, I understand that Mother’s Day happens to fall on the nicest season of the year and most people will not be content to spending it indoors looking at a TV screen. Well, here in Chicago, it also happens to be the rainy season. You just might end up as our family often does: We sit in the living room, with great effort we plow our way through the small talk, perspire a little, glance at the television every now and again and repeat the process three times. Eventually, someone just says “Aw, to hell with it! We’re never gonna talk to each other! Gimme that stinking remote control, you damn dirty ape!” Next thing we know, the Lifetime Network has polluted our living room with “Stella,” starring Bette Midler.
“Oh! Poor you,” as Tony Soprano’s mother would say. While James L. Brooks’ “Terms Of Endearment” would be the best alternative imaginable, that movie almost seems cliché at this point in time. It may well rank as the “Citizen Kane” of mother/daughter movies, but it has become too obvious. Same with “Psycho.” So, after you peruse the Hallmark store for rosebuds and snow globes just minutes before crashing on your mother’s sofa, take this list into the video store with you so you can show your mother that you at least put some thought into the evening’s entertainment. She deserves a lot more, but a great movie can at least show that you have inherited some taste. The apple probably doesn’t fall too far from the tree, right?
(Note: I don’t consider this a list of “chick flicks,” a term I find annoying and over-used. Just because a movie’s central characters happen to be women, it doesn’t mean that it will be sappy, man-hating and devoid of entertainment for men. To me, a true “chick flick,” an EMPTY movie about women, means to say that all men on this planet rank just below the pig and I don’t believe any of these movies do that.)
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Subtitled) Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-winning love letter to mothers everywhere tells the story of a mother who loses her son in an accident then rekindles a friendship with an old friend who happens to be a transvestite. She also gets involved in a stage production featuring an actress her son deeply admired. An unexpected film from Almodovar, whom you don’t have to be a fan of to enjoy it.
ANYWHERE BUT HERE The first of two from director Wayne Wang. Unfairly over-shadowed by the similar-but-inferior “Tumbleweeds,” Wang’s film tells the story of a mother (Susan Sarandon) and daughter (Natalie Portman) who travel from Wisconsin to California to start anew. The movie basically depicts the downside of having your daughter be your best friend: Eventually, the daughter has to grow up and be on her own. The first 20 minutes alone demonstrate why Natalie Portman ranks as the finest young actress working today. She gave one of the 10 best performances of 1999 in a year loaded with greatness.
FLY AWAY HOME Yes, the movie about the girl who helped a gaggle of geese fly south for the winter. Okay, this may be reaching a bit, but think about it: The first living thing a goose sees when it opens its eyes should be its mother, only here it happens to be 12-year-old Anna Paquin. Paquin quickly assumes the role of mother to the geese by teaching them how to walk and fly. She protects them, names them, cleans up after them and looks out for their well-being.
JOY LUCK CLUB The second of two from director Wayne Wang, a terrific adaptation of Amy Tan’s novel. “Joy Luck Club” tells eight stories, half of which consist of four women who survived a harsh life in China. The other half tells the story of their daughters who have present-day problems of their own which pale in comparison. A stunning piece of work with a mostly unknown cast, save for Andrew McCarthy, but don’t let that stop you.
LITTLE WOMEN (1994) Some may find this a bit too Hallmark-ian, and, true, it does get to be a little too NICE, but the performances couldn’t be better. Arguably the best of four adaptations of Mary Louise Alcott’s classic Civil War-era novel about four sisters who have always been devoted to one another. Later in life, they move on, find love and take what they’ve learned from their mother (Susan Sarandon). Starring Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Claire Danes, Samantha Mathis, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz and Trini Alvarado.
MOTHER A movie that gets better and better with each viewing. Albert Brooks’ film stars himself (of course) and Debbie Reynolds as his mother, whom you will most likely recognize as your own. Brooks plays a recently-divorced writer who decides to try an “experiment” by moving back in with his mother in order to figure out why she doesn’t seem to love him as much as his brother. A hilarious and touching movie that shows the role a mother can often play to a son later in life. Reynolds gives a pitch-perfect performance as a mother who puts her son through many an awkward moment while at the same time having the favor returned to her.
NEW YORK STORIES: OEDIPUS WRECKS This may require a bit of effort on the part of your VCR, as this movie tells three stories, all of which take place in New York. I recommend watching Martin Scorsese’s “Life Lessons” before going to your mother’s house, fast-forwarding through Francis Coppoloa’s awful “Life Without Zoe” segment, and putting on Woody Allen’s ½-hour “Oedipus Wrecks” installment before watching a full-length movie. Allen plays his usual self, but with mother problems. He takes his insufferable nag of a mother to a magic show and, well, she disappears. Or did she? I wouldn’t dream of giving away the punchline.
PLEASANTVILLE This movie tells the story of two teenage siblings (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) who get trapped in a 50’s TV sitcom not unlike “Leave It To Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.” Slowly, the town goes from black and white to color as the townsfolk lose their inhibitions and start to wake up socially, artistically and sexually. What does this movie have to do with motherhood? The character who undergoes the most dramatic change happens to be the mother, played by the always-great Joan Allen. The teens spend quite a bit of time transforming her from a plastic, emotion-less mother figure into a real woman. Meanwhile, in real life, the teenager’s mother, played by “Malcolm In The Middle”’s Jane Kaczmarek, tries to cope with life during a divorce and only has her children to comfort her.
SAFE PASSAGE The third starring Susan Sarandon, the actress who has been known to say “Once you play a mother, your career is over.” Only an actress of Sarandon’s stature could prove that wrong. Here she plays a single mother of seven kids, one of whom may have been killed fighting in the Gulf War. Her other six sons join her at home as they wait to find out if he has in fact died. For any mother who has ever had a son join the military and fight in a war, and one of Susan Sarandon’s best performances.
UNSTRUNG HEROES My favorite film of 1995. It tells the story of a young boy named Steven who has always been raised by his scientific father (John Turturro) to be an atheist. Once Steven learns of his mother’s (Andie MacDowell) life-threatening illness, he moves in with his eccentric and somewhat paranoid Jewish uncles, played by Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin. Under their influence, Steven changes his name to Franz and converts to Judaism so that his mother will have an afterlife. It sounds like a downer, but it has plenty of laughs along the way and you’d be a fool to cheat yourself out of seeing the most beautiful depiction of love between a mother and her son.
…AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WILL NEED SOME SORT OF DARK ANTEDOTE FROM “LITTLE WOMEN,” I SUGGEST THESE…
BOOGIE NIGHTS Julianne Moore plays a mother figure to a bunch of young porn stars. Only a director such as Paul Thomas Anderson can bring us to tears right in the middle of a fast and furious montage of life going down the toilet, as Heather Graham’s character asks Julianne Moore if she will be her mother figure.
BLUE VELVET Oh, what a mother will endure in insure the safety of her child! Isabella Rossilini plays an object of abuse for the deranged Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper in a legendary performance), a man who kidnapped her son and who likes to eat, as well as listen to, Blue Velvet.
DANCER IN THE DARK What would you do to keep your son from going blind? What would you do if you suddenly lost your job due to having one too many daydreams of being in a Hollywood musical? What would you do if you suddenly found yourself on death row? Well, you’d die, I guess, but what if you didn’t have to? Go back to the first question. Bjork plays the titular character who wants nothing more than to keep her son from going blind.
DEAD-ALIVE The second best Oedipus-themed horror movie of all time. A young man tries to cope with a new girlfriend, a mystical curse and a slew of zombies who just invaded his house, one of which happens to be his mother. A brilliant comedic gore-fest from Peter Jackson, director of the upcoming “Lord Of The Rings.”
TRACK 29 Just plain weird. Nichola Roeg’s surreal odyssey tells the story of a drifter (another wacked-out performance from Gary Oldman) who meets Theresa Russell. He might be her son, he might not be. See for yourself. Also starring Christopher Lloyd as a model train fanatic and Sandra Bernhardt as his mistress. I only remember this movie as being…well…really, really weird.
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originally posted: 05/11/01 20:13:08
last updated: 05/11/01 20:15:11