If April is the cruellest month then January is certainly the most depressing- just as cold and grey as December but with none of the twinkly lights or seasonal goodwill. We’re all porkier, poorer and more puritanical than we were mere days ago and the lunacy of Dry January has swept the nation- not that you can afford to go for drinks anyway given all that Christmas shopping and endless rounds of drinks bought at festive get-togethers (thanks a lot, aforementioned seasonal goodwill).
Combine the extra weight, lack of funds, and vile weather with the deeply troubling self-reflection that seems to come with a new year- plus the fact that 2018 might be the year of actual literal nuclear war- and you have a perfect recipe for a small but not insignificant nervous breakdown.
The only good news is everyone else is probably having one too- which is why there’s never been a better time to stay on the sofa with enough cheerful movies with films to beat the January blues to keep you safe in hibernation until February. Here are some to get you started on this first horrible weekend of the year.
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Bear with me here- I am well aware that this is not widely considered to be a cheery film, but the reason you need to watch it in January is for the colour alone. Look out the window right now and what do you see- wind? rain? Storm Eleanor or whatever she’s called? general grey gloom? Baz Luhrman strikes me as someone who took rather too much acid in his youth, saw some great things and then tried to insert these kaleidoscopic hallucinations into every subsequent film- and thank god because we all need a wash of colour in these bleak, dark days. There is also a slight Schadenfreude element to this choice: things might be bleak in January but man alive, they’re so much worse for Nicole Kidman’s Satine. Unless something goes really quite off- course this month you probably won’t turn into a high class hooker and die of consumption. So, chin up.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Consistently voted as the all-time funniest film by the American Film Institute, it’s probably one of the only comedies to begin with a brutal massacre. Two jobbing musicians, Joe and Gerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) are witnesses to this crime and need to flee Chicago asap, but the only musician jobs available are within an all-female band. Undeterred, the two men go undercover as (fairly unconvincing) women and join the band, where they meet lead singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and a whole host of other brilliant Billy Wilder character creations. After test screenings, one of Jack Lemmon’s scenes had to be completely re-shot- the audience were laughing so hard that entire lines of dialogue went unheard. Endlessly quotable, and with arguably the best closing line in cinema history, this is 121 minutes of sheer joy- if you’ve never seen it then know that I am truly jealous you get to experience it for the first time.
Quite apart from having the most touching movie montage of all time, Up is an excellent watch for anyone who thinks they’re too set in their ways to bother setting any New Year’s resolutions/ goals. If 78 year old, grumpy, bereaved Carl Fredricksen can set out on the voyage of a lifetime to South America, with only the help of a boy scout and several hundred helium balloons then the least you can do is finally learn Spanish, quit smoking, or go vegan (except don’t go vegan).
This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Director Rob Reiner has several classics to his name, and The Princess Bride or When Harry Met Sally are equally worthy choices, but Spinal Tapis the one that seems to get funnier with every re watch. Reiner was an early adopter of the mockumentary format and this one charts the rise and fall (and rise) of ‘England’s loudest band’: Spinal Tap. Leads Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer (best known to an entire generation as a voice talent heavyweight on the Simpsons) are kings of improvisation- and the songs have stood the test of time, with ‘Sex Farm’ being a personal favourite (‘Scratching in your henhouse/ Sniffing at your feedbag/ Slipping out your back door/ I’m leaving my spray’). Watch out for the famous “these go to eleven” scene aka the reason your BBC iPlayer volume controls are set to a maximum of eleven- well played, BBC.
Alcohol famously damages your brain cells, so after over indulging mulled wine, mulled cider (why does everything have to be mulled?) it’s a wonder anyone can function at all by the time January rolls around. Enter Zoolander, a film that requires little to no brain power. It’s a scathing satire on the fashion industry- and not unlike reading a back issue of Heat magazine from the early aughts as it features lots of pleather and a crucial cameo from Paris Hilton. If the orange mocha Frappuccino fight or the image of Ben Stiller as a merman fail to make you laugh then I’m afraid to tell you the mulled liquids have done their devils work and there is no way back for your brain cells. Sophisticated it is not, but then it’s not trying to be- and let’s face it, in your pyjamas on the sofa, neither are you. As unsophisticated screen companions go you could do a lot worse than Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
Groundhog Day (1993)
I confess that I only saw Groundhog Day for the first time last year- throughout that first viewing I kept stopping it to tell my viewing companion how much I loved it, even before it had finished. I could watch Bill Murray do almost anything and he was predictably superb- but I was pleasantly surprised by Andie MacDowell’s performance. A severe dislike of Four Weddings and a Funeral and all the bumbling twee English stereotypes it helped to solidify, combined with the complete and utter what-the-fuckery of the famous “Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed” has meant that I’ve never had much time for Andie MacDowell. Yet she is utterly charming here as the sweet natured news producer, the perfect foil to Murray’s terminally pessimistic weather man.
The Producers (1960)
Though the Nathan Lane/ Matthew Broderick musical version from 2005 is a sterling reboot, for the real laughs you need to go all the way back to 1967, where Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder take the lead roles of two Broadway producers who realise they could make more money with a flop than with a hit. At a slim 88 minutes long, it’s hardly any longer than an episode of Black Mirror- although completely unlike it in every other way. I’m running low on tenuous ways to link this to January, suffice it to say I don’t think anyone could watch this version and not feel enormously cheered.
Happy New Year everyone. And sit tight: it’ll be February before you know it!