Never one to shy from the odd or ugly, Leonardo DiCaprio has grown out of his dreamboat phase and into some surprising incarnations. As the years go by, an avid viewer (such as myself and every heterosexual woman born between 1980 and 1992ish) can suss out a few consistent themes that have emerged: relationship troubles, psychological illnesses, and sometimes just being a huge ass-hat.
If you have any self-respect, you spent the last week sprawled across your parents’ living room sofa in a state of regressed adolescence, and champagne-hangover ennui. That’s how one does the holidays, properly. But it’s January now—time to get up and start adulting again. For some reason, we as a culture have decided this means making unreasonable promises to ourselves about how we’re going to change completely as human beings in the coming year. I’m talking, of course, about resolutions.
When you get into the meat of August: Osage County, you find a dark, relentless story of people wielding weapons of cruelty and indifference upon their nearest and dearest relatives. If it’s not the perfect holiday film, then surely it’s the perfect film to watch during the holidays. What I’m saying is that your family is the worst. If you are currently mired in a morass of angst and uncles, then take heart.
For all their not-realness, I understand the allure of the fake friend. No muss, no fuss—they’re there when you need them, and when you don’t they make themselves scarce. Just ask Spike Jonze, whose new film Her depicts an achingly tender romance between man and machine. In honor of Joaquin Phoenix’s special relationship with an operating system, we study the allure of the fake friend.
This time of year, we’re asked to bring our A-game, to navigate an onslaught of family bonding and constant, mandatory merrymaking. It’s not for sissies. My personal approach is to carve out a few nights to fake being sick, stay home with my television, and enjoy the company of no one. Not only is me-time a necessary sanity-saver, it gives me a chance to indulge in holiday movies that just won’t feel appropriate come January.
However. If you and your family observe the more contemporary practice of escalated rage and Pinot-fueled ass-hattery, highlighted by interludes of tearful binge-eating, then I suggest you hunker down and remember what you really have to be thankful for: fiction. To that end, I present a list of films I’m thankful for this year—films defined by their joyful unreality or distracting absurdity, or by the fact that they’re just really, really good.
We’ve all been raised on fairytales of perfect, shiny, perpetually blown-out princesses (which Kate Middleton and her perma-grin aren’t exactly helping to debunk), but they have their issues too. This week I’m taking out the world’s tiniest violin and playing a tune for these Princess Problems. It could be as minor as showing up in the same tiara as someone else, or as major as being threatened with a beheading. A lot can happen in a reign.
Here’s how it’s going to go down: I will spend the next three weeks rolling my eyes with all my cool friends and scoffing about how I would sooner die in a helicopter crash than see About Time. Then one day I’ll have a few glasses of wine and suggest we see it, “As a total hate-watch, obviously obviously obviously.” And then we’ll go see it, and I will pretend like I’m hate-watching but really I will be loving-it-so-much-I-hate-myself-watching.
Claire Denis’ latest film Bastards (or Les Salauds, if you’re like that) is filthy with family, money, and inappropriate sex. Sounds like holiday fun for the whole family, not to mention a recipe for my favorite cinematic motivation: vengeance. Seeing as life is filled with so few opportunities to rain wrath down upon one’s enemies, it’s important to do the raining-down right. Revenge is a dish best served crazy.