It's been a few days, so I figured it's time to come out with another Happy Birthday... You Should Watch! We got a few interesting February 6th birthdays, but only two I'm going to focus on/recommend a movie for. Those two birthdays are Rip Torn and Kathy Najimy. I'd also like to tip the hat to fellow birthday celebrators Ronald Reagan and Francois Truffaut.
I must admit one of my cinephile shames is I'm pretty undereducated on the French New Wave so I wouldn't feel confident recommending a Truffaut film against his entire filmography. I mean, I can say The 400 Blows is pretty great, but that'd just be me recommending the big one of his I've seen, so let's avoid that.
And as far as Ronald Reagan is concerned, he's been in some good movies (like The Killers and Dark Victory), but the only movie of his you can really bring up is Bedtime for Bonzo since it'll never stop being funny that the guy that starred alongside a chimp in a silly kids movie was a two-term President of the United States.
So, happy birthday to everybody, but let's look at two movies starring these two special people!
Defending Your Life (1991) – I love this movie. It's one of those silly, high concept romantic comedies that just works for me. It's about a lovable fuck up (Albert Brooks) who dies and then moves on to purgatory where a trial is held to determine whether or not he deserves to move on to heaven or is sent back to be reincarnated and have another go at being an overall good person.
It's not a sure thing. He was a flawed man. Not bad, not evil, but a little bit of an asshole. The problem is while he's in purgatory he falls in love with Meryl Streep and she's pretty much guaranteed to get into heaven, so if he isn't deemed worthy then he'll never see the love of his (after)life again.
Rip Torn plays Brooks' lawyer and he pretty much steals the show. It was a big moment for him as an actor because it opened up a whole new world for him. You see he was always known as the very serious, gruff, mean type and this movie showed the world just how great he was at comedy. Turns out that tough exterior was a perfect for delivering dry comedy.
He followed this film up with his perhaps career-defining work on HBO's The Larry Sanders Show, again tapping into that hard-ass who also happens to be hilarious persona and that was the trend setter for the rest of his career, which saw him mostly in comedic parts. Men in Black, Dodgeball, Freddy Got Fingered, Down Periscope, etc.
It all started with this role in this very, very good movie, which is available to rent on all major streaming services.
Hocus Pocus (1993) – Hocus Pocus has had a bit of a nostalgia-driven resurgence in recent years. I was 12 when it came out and remember it fondly myself, but it's interesting to see just how much people seem to love it because when it was released I don't remember it having much of a social impact. I don't remember kids talking about it at school or super hyped up on it.
I was drawn to it for a couple reasons. First at that age I watched literally every movie that came out. I was old enough to ride my bike to the mall (miles away) by myself, through traffic... it was a different time! So I'd just go every weekend and see whatever was playing at the four screen mall theater. If it was the same movies as last week I'd watch my favorite a second time.
Naturally I was always drawn to anything genre, too, so you better believe I saw this one a couple times. It's also of note that one of the stars of this film was the kid who starred in one of my favorite shows at the time: Eerie, Indiana.
Anyway, I saw this a lot as a kid and haven't revisited it since, but it's come back in a big way thanks in large part to Disney embracing it at their theme parks every Halloween. They have big special event nights where they bring out people dressed as the Sanderson Sisters and they do a big musical review, which in turn inspires a whole new generation to seek out this movie.
Kathy Najimy gets to be more at the forefront here than she was in the Sister Act films (another childhood favorite of mine) and plays goofy very well. I like how she bounces off Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker. That chemistry alongside the film's bizarre tone is one of the reasons this flick is enjoying a second life. Available for rent on all major streaming platforms.
Anyway, that's it for this edition of HBYSW. Let me know what you think of these films, especially if you haven't seen them before and decide to give either a watch. See ya' on the next one!
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