Getting in the spirit of the (fall) season

A handful of movies to get you in the leaf-changing, crisp air joy of autumn!

“To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962)

This film is not only great for its story about coming of age in Depression-era Alabama, but also exemplifies the beautiful cinematography possible in black and white films.  The story examines the effects of Jim Crow laws and the way in which white southerners reacted to the treatment of African–Americans. Since the film is viewed through the eyes of children, the camera picks up the nuances of every season, yet the most significant season is autumn.

“Moonstruck” (1987)

Fact: Cher stars in this 1980s classic! But so does Nicolas Cage. His penchant for over-acting (aka terrible acting) seems to mesh well with his character: a bitter New York baker, who has lost his hand and apparently his ability to love, all while being obsessed with opera.  It’s really very funny, though! Stereotypical Italian-American parents try to run their adult children’s lives. Why is it such a great film to watch in autumn? The whole movie seems to be shot during some chilly, yet sans-snow season in New York. The trees are bare, so we know it’s not spring, plus warm colors abound. This could be to exude sex and romance, rather than fall, but who knows? It’s great, and you feel like moving to Brooklyn afterwards—but only for a few months.

“Patriot Games” (1992)

Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel comes to life, with Harrison Ford. The film is super action packed, but it’s also really informative about U.S. counterterrorism pre-9/11.  It’s great movie to watch in October or November because we get to see Annapolis, Md. during those months. Everything is falling leaves, crisp air and the blustery Atlantic coast. Add in Irish terrorists and CIA operatives, you have a great weekend watch!

“Elmer Gantry” (1960)

The lower Midwest in autumn can only be described as unique.  This film takes place in Oklahoma and some surrounding states.  The story concerns one Elmer Gantry, a fiery salesman who soon takes up with tent-revivalists Sharon Falconer. He cons his way to wealth through church offerings and saintly handouts. As the pseudo-pious roadshow travels through the countryside and Gantry plays his charade, we see that pride truly does come before the fallout. It’s seems so apropos for viewing in the months leading up to cold, stark wintertime.

“Major League” (1989)

This is basically one of best baseball movies you will ever watch. And baseball is a fall sport. It might not be for the judgy feminist as it’s pretty male-centric, but there is some underlying tenderness to the characters. And how can we blame them for their aggressive egos? They’re baseball players on the brink of failure, who are being manipulated by their owner. Again, baseball. Basically synonymous with autumn.

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”         (1987)

One of the greatest comedies ever written and filmed, this movie stars Steve Martin and John Candy. They’re comedy superstars. It’s comparable to Elvis and Michael Jackson cutting a single. This movie leads up to a Thanksgiving dinner in the suburbs of Chicago. Steve Martin’s character is trying to get home for said holiday, when he happens to get mixed up with John Candy, who plays a jolly, if not totally annoying travelling salesman.  Both men learn how to be kind and selfless. It’s hilarious and bittersweet, you laugh-cry the whole time and get to into the Thanksgiving spirit!

“Uncle Buck” (1989)

Another John Candy classic. In this one, Candy plays an irresponsible, gambling uncle who is left in charge of his nephew and nieces for a short number of weeks.  The little ones fall in love with him, but his high school-aged niece fumes over his strict and seemingly hypocritical rules. Again, this film takes place in the cold, un-snowy season in the upper Midwest. In one scene, Uncle Buck makes incredibly frightening verbal threats to a young man dating his older niece. The scene is sort of a take on Halloween horror films involving axes, forests and smiling murderous, sociopaths. But, it’s all in good fun!

“Sleepy Hollow” (1999)

It’s not so much scary as it is a creepy depiction of post-colonial United States.  Aside from the Halloween-ness of the story — headless horseman murders townspeople — the director, Tim Burton, makes the forests and hills of Sleepy Hollow seem particularly misty and dark. Something we don’t often get during autumn, here in sunny California.

“Far From Heaven” (2002)

If you watch ten minutes of this and turn it off, I understand.  It’s a very good, but sad story about racism in 1950s New England (in the North?! Gasp!). Plus, the dialogue is bit cerebral. Nevertheless, the film becomes a deeply moving and beautiful tapestry of autumn in New England. The film’s texture flows in colors red, gold, orange and brown with touches of blue.

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