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What is a feel good film?

 
Generally when I hear these words it think of warm fuzzy feelings, life-affirming stories, and family friendly films, sometimes a touch of romance, often some singing and dancing. I like to think it's simpler than this though, more personal. Too personal, at least for critical appreciation. For me a feel good film is one that you don't have to question, or search for any deeper meaning, because it just feels good. Sure, there are plenty of quality contributions that fit the bill, but today I'm not interested in the Little Miss Sunshine’s, or the Dirty Dancing’s of this world, unless of course they are your particular go to.
 
To me a feel good movie almost has to be indulgent, almost secret, something you wouldn't want to share with everyone. Not that it's shameful or even a guilty pleasure, but because it's personal. With these kinds of films you never question why you like them. You never search beyond feeling and emotion, because the knowing is so strong that you're scared to scar it with analysis. You just know you love it, and that's all that matters. But because of this they're not always recommendable. When you reveal your unfiltered feelings and emotions, you reveal something about your true self. This can be scary, you might reveal something you'd rather not. But if you accept what you do love, this can also be liberating.
 
If you are to share that say, A Bug's Life had a profound effect on you, it's not really to have a discussion about film. It's more to share a piece of the real you (That you love insects?). to give away a personal insight. to tell someone a story about you (or about insects). This can be risky, but at the end of the day it's true and that's all that matters.
 
We’re all doing a lot of movie watching lately, our Netflix accounts are being stretched to their limits. Along with that i'm sure i'm not the only one whose found myself a bit fed up from time to time. The fact that it's so damn cold out at the moment doesn't help either. But despite the ennui, my eyes aren't yet square. I still find solace and pleasure in losing myself in a film for an hour or two.
 
Here's a selection of films that make me feel good, when i'm down. They might not be to your taste but then that's not really the point here 😊

These kinds of films, you don’t question why you like them. You don’t apply your critical eye, you just love the experience of watching them play out. You may have seen them a dozen times or more, and that never comes into question because at the end of the day you watch them to feel good!

 

Princess Mononoke

From all the incredible Studio Ghibli movies I’ve seen, this is my favourite. There’s some debate as to what the best Hayao Miyazaki film is and it’s often between this and Spirited Away. I love them both very much, but for one reason or another this one gets through to me on a more personal level. There are small moments in Mononoke that bring me back to the first time I watched it. The animation of the demon wrapping it’s tendrils around Ashitaka’s arm, the fetishization of his bowl throughout (I’m convinced there’s no better equipment for travel!). There’s something about the shift from fear to fascination with the unknown of the forest, that touches me and is something that I now see in the films of Tomm Moore. At the end of the day, I see it as an adventure film about appreciating the delicacy of nature. That is my kinda story, which nicely brings me to…
 

Into the Wild

In my graduating year at high-school, this film seemed to appear out of nowhere, and simultaneously shift the perspective of myself and many others in my peer group. Never has a film changed my way of thinking as much as this one, without it being about cinematic or narrative techniques. It just inspires something inside of me, it makes me want to quit my job, pack a bag and hit the road with no destination in mind. Which is exactly what Christopher McCandless (AKA Alexander Supertramp) did in the early 90s, what Jon Krakauer wrote about soon after and what inspired Sean Penn to make this film with Emile Hirsch as his lead. It has a great soundtrack by Eddie Vedder that evokes the sentiment of the story to a tee, but most importantly it inspired myself and others I know to think differently. Which, I believe is the greatest and most important thing a film can achieve.
 

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

When it comes to feeling good after leaving the cinema, nothing compares to the gravity defying light-saber battles and epic John Williams scores of Star Wars. Which is exactly what occupied my head for weeks after watching Episode I as a young boy.

I’m by no means a Star Wars fanatic (which might explain this inclusion) but I can happily watch this film time and time again. This is one of my earliest memories of visiting the cinema, and my mind fills with warmth and excitement whenever it comes up. Episode I was made as a way of updating the franchise to my generation. Despite its many (often valid) criticisms, to kids of my generation I believe it did just that.

At age 7 do you think I questioned the necessity of Jar-Jar Binks? Of course not. Actually, I remember fashioning a feeble tin foil breathing device so I could re-enact diving down to negotiate with the Gungan. Did I develop a hyperbolic appreciation of Ewan McGregor based on one film? Absolutely, because that’s what Star Wars can do to a young mind! And that’s why despite being a complete capitol grab by Disney (‘The negotiations where short, master.’) It does make me happy to see new films being made. It actually preserves the originals. I doubt I would have watched the original trilogy as a child without Episode I, because no authoritative older figures would have had the opportunity to tell me ‘oh you wait, that’s nothing compared to the originals.’ For that reason this film will always has its place on my shelf.
 

Here are some films that are available to stream now, that make me feel good. You might not like them, but I do and that will probably tell you a little bit about what kinda films I like!

 

Ocean’s 11

I don’t know what it is about heist films, but I just love them (most of them). The suspense, the sound of a ticking clock, or the running engine of the getaway vehicle, the finesse and subtleties of pulling of the job, the cockiness of the lead when they get away scot-free. All of this excites me, it always has. I could tell you how these kinds of tropes were firmly established in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle or talk about the subtle minimalism in Bresson’s Pickpocket or the stylish thrill-ride that is Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge. But no matter how perfectly constructed the best the genre has to offer, they don’t do it for me as much as Rusty and Danny in Ocean’s. No guilt involved here this is all pleasure.

Where to watch? Netflix
 

Chef

It’s probably not wise to judge celebrities based on their on-screen personalities, but I get the impression Jon Favreau is the nicest dude. What I do know for sure about him is one; he’s a huge nerd and two; he loves food. Chef is Favreau getting nerdy about food. It’s him living out a fantasy as a professional chef. As he’s a great filmmaker he manages to tie in a warm family story about a father reconnecting with his son. And it’s done in a really fun and enjoyable way. Actual professional chef Roy Choi (Favreau’s close pal) was made exec producer to assure the accuracy and appreciation of the food onscreen, the result; Food Porn in feature length. Incidentally the two paired up again for an accompanying tv series Chef (also on Netflix) which features just as evocative and indulgent food imagery. The pair are great together, and both movies are a real indulgence just as long as you’ve eaten!

Where to watch: Netflix
 

 

Knives Out

I think Rian Johnson is a really special director. He had the concept for Knives Out after completing Brick a superb modern take on film noir starring a young Joseph Gordon Levitt. The success of which allowed him to make Looper a punchy and original sci-fi with an older more established Joseph Gordon Levitt, before being handed the reigns to Star Wars (no Joseph Gordon Levitt here, maybe that's what was really wrong with it?). Fourteen years since his debut, Johnson returned to the clever scriptwriting that earned his repuptation, but this time he had an all-star cast snapping at his heels.  Daniel Craig, Toni Colette, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas and of course the late great Christopher Plummer all have roles in this modern Agatha Christie style whodunit that is classic enough to function smoothly, but at the same time modern and slick. Whoever says they don’t make ‘em like they used to hasn’t seen this one yet!

Where to watch: Amazon Prime
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