List of movies I can’t watch because of The Cancer

Terms of Endearment


In the Land of Women

Love Story

Decoding Annie Parker

The Fault in Our Stars

The Family Stone

Dark Victory

Life as a House

American Splendor

Gone Girl

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Forrest Gump


Add any movies that cancer has spoiled for you in the comments.

Beth’s Classic Film Club: The Best Years of Our Lives

It’s coming up on Pearl Harbor Day again, and I’ve been thinking lately about our World War II veterans, who are getting pretty old nowadays. And so, this week seems like a good time to watch a movie that explores the lives of those veterans, and I can’t think of a better film on this subject than The Best Years of Our Lives.

This film was made in 1946, just one year after the war ended, and because of that, it’s able to express the reality of veterans coming home from the war. The plot centers around three men–an older sergeant with two mostly grown kids and a cushy job at a bank to return to; an officer who flew in B-17s as a bombardier, from a poor family who married in haste before he went off to war; and a sailor who lost both his hands on a ship in the Pacific and has come home to his family and a long-time girlfriend.

Fredric March won an Oscar for his potrayal of the sergeant, who is coping with his reentry into civilian life by drinking. A lot. Like, a LOT. It’s reminsicent of his performance in A Star Is Born (the original, not the Judy Garland version). His anger at the people who stayed behind, and their lack of compassion for those who fought, is very moving. Luckily he’s got Myrna Loy as a wife, because she is very sympathetic about why he’s drinking so much. The strength of their relationship is incredible, and the scene where he comes home to her makes me cry every time I see it.

Dana Andrews plays the bombardier, and I’ve always been fascinated by his character because his story is a lot like my grandfather’s. He was a bombardier too, and an officer, and from a non-wealthy family, and when he came home, he had trouble finding meaningful work, just like Andrews’ character. (Luckily my grandmother wasn’t at all like Andrews’ wife.) The shift from respected officer to soda jerk is not an easy one for Andrews, and on top of that, there’s the PTSD, which is explored in more detail than one would expect in a film made in the 1940’s.

Lately, though, I’m feeling a sort of kinship with the sailor, played by Harold Russell, who won two Oscars for this role. Russell actually did lose his hands during the war, in a training accident, and used the hooks you see in the film in real life. That he was not an actor before his accident is astounding to me, because he’s outstanding in this film. What gets me about his character is how frustrated he is about his loved ones not acting the way he wishes they’d act. Not that he seems to know how he’d like them to act–he just knows the way they’re acting makes him feel angry and isolated. Everything everyone says is wrong, and he doesn’t know what to say to them either. So he retreats from everyone, even though they want the best for him. It’s really easy to do that when you’re damaged, and as we see in the film, love and acceptance can help you overcome that urge and find a way to build your relationships back up again. In fact, that’s what all three characters show us–that love helps heal the wounds left by trauma. It’s a beautiful sentiment expressed in a movie filled with a huge amount raw emotion.

I’m also surprised every time I see this film at how timely it is. People who come home from war face the same struggles today that they did in 1946, and it’s important for those of us who stayed behind to understand those struggles, so we’re better able to help.

So, get some kleenex and check out The Best Years of Our Lives, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Beth’s Classic Film Club: Sunset Boulevard

You guys! Sunset Boulevard. I can’t believe we haven’t done this film yet. Like, seriously, this is one of the all-time most awesome movies ever. It’s dark and creepy and it drips with sarcasm, and it has some of the best dialogue of any film ever. How have we not done this film yet? Let’s do it now.

Basic plot: William Holden is a struggling writer who can’t make ends meet. Gloria Swanson is an aging former movie star who doesn’t realize the “former” part. He agrees to be her lover and she begins supporting him financially. The whole film is shot as a flashback, because in the opening scene, we see him dead, lying face down in a swimming pool. Dark.

Gloria Swanson is incredible in this film. She has completely lost touch with reality and believes she is still beloved by audiences the world over. Denial: not just a river in Africa. And yet, at some level, she MUST know she has aged and become irrelevant, because she is trying so desperately to hide her wrinkles, and she so desperately needs William Holden to love her, because no one else does. She is the epitome of creepy.

Let’s talk about William Holden for a minute. William Holden, so dreamy. So charming. And yet, so sarcastic. In fact, his sarcasm is so modern-feeling, you almost forget you’re watching a black and white movie. And that’s because Billy Wilder co-wrote it, and Billy Wilder was a fucking genius.

I’ve always thought a remake of this film would be cool. Like, replace Gloria Swanson with one of the many former actors whose careers were ruined by drugs or alcohol, trying to launch a comeback on the reality show circuit and peddling a shitty script that everyone is too polite to tell them is crap. And a struggling writer who wrote one good film and nothing since, and now can’t afford the rent in overpriced LA. It’s a timeless story, isn’t it? I also think it’s a film that could take on new dimensions if you mixed up the gender of the characters. A dead woman floating face down in a pool feels different than a dead man. And age is experienced differently by actors than by actresses.

Alright y’all, get your popcorn and your box wine, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Beth’s Classic Film Club: The Snake Pit

It’s been a while since we sat down with some box wine and a really classic movie, hasn’t it? So we’d better pick a really good one, huh? Well, this next one is disturbing, moving, and uplifting, all at once. From 1948, it’s The Snake Pit.

Olivia De Havilland is the genius who played the angelic Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind. In The Snake Pit, she plays a woman institutionalized because of mental illness. In the parlance of the times, they would call her particular condition a nervous breakdown, caused by some trauma in her past.

Now, as someone who worked for a disability advocacy agency that represented people in mental hospitals, what I find most disturbing about this film is how little these hospitals have changed over the years. When I last toured one in 2000, it looked exactly like the one in this film does. I’m not kidding. I would imagine there is a lot less electroshock therapy and lobotomies going on these days than in the era of this film, and the medications have gotten a lot better…but the physical living conditions, not so much.

De Havilland’s character struggles to reach mental health, and it isn’t an easy road. She moves from ward to ward, as her connection to reality alternately gets better and then worse, helped and hindered by kind and cruel medical professionals, and the film is clearly an indictment of doctors and nurses who lack compassion. At all times, she is motivated in her struggle towards wellness by a desire to get the fuck out of that hospital, and from my work, I’d say that is a pretty common for those living in mental institutions today.

The cinematography is pretty cool, with some really visually memorable scenes, but what really makes this film, of course, is the acting, especially De Havilland’s. She has a gift for playing characters who are vulnerable but with an inner strength that shines through. And Betsy Blair, who plays another patient, is equally outstanding.

So, grab your popcorn and box wine and maybe a box of Kleenex if you’re the weepy type like me, and check out The Snake Pit. And let me know what you think in the comments!

Beth’s Classic Film Club: Rushmore

One of my all-time favorite movies, hands-down, is Rushmore. I can’t even put into words how much I love it. I feel like there is so much wisdom in that film. The secret to happiness is “you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then do it for the rest of your life.” “Kids don’t like it when their parents get divorced.” “Too many extracurricular activities, Max. Not enough studying.” “Sic transit gloria. Glory fades.”

I’ve said in the past, before The Cancer, that I’m raising Max Fischer. The Boy hasn’t shown the leadership skills that Max has, but he’s shown all the distraction from studying. He’s also just as persistent when he sets his mind to something. I feel like, given the opportunity, he would attempt to procure some piranhas from a guy in South America. And the Boy feels deeply, and believes deeply in the importance of whatever his latest opus is, just like Max.

And then The Cancer happened, and of course, Max’s mom died of cancer.

The scene where we learn this is one where Max is talking to Rosemary, a teacher he is in love with, about her dead husband. He asks how the husband died, and she says he drowned. She asks how his mother died, and he says “Cancer.” Before I had The Cancer, this struck me as so romanticist, I mean, is there any way more perfectly tragic for someone to die than drowning or cancer? AIDS maybe. Rent has taken on new meaning for me lately too, especially because people with AIDS can get a very rare form of cancer.

The thing is, as fucked up as Max is, he’s actually a pretty great kid. Despite losing his mom. It gives me hope that if The Cancer takes me sooner instead of the later we all hope for, my kids are going to turn out just fine. Like Max, they have an awesome dad, and I’ve found them a good school. It won’t be easy for them, but they’ll get there.

If you haven’t seen Rushmore, seriously, go watch it. And then think about what your Rushmore is, and do it for the rest of your life.

Beth’s Classic Film Club: It Happened One Night

Get your popcorn and your box wine, it’s time for a classic film! And it’s a funny one, too, because don’t you need a laugh? I sure do!

It Happened One Night has two of my favorite actors, Clark Gable, who’s sexy as fuck, and Claudette Colbert, who’s gorgeous AND funny. Colbert’s a debutante whose dad doesn’t want her to marry a rich guy named King (no really, that’s his first name), so she runs away. Gable’s a reporter who recognizes her and decides to help her along so he can write a story on her. Hilarity ensues.

In one scene, Gable undresses and it is revealed he isn’t wearing an undershirt. Supposedly, undershirt sales in America immediately plummeted. Literally, Gable was that hot.

Part of what I love about this movie, and a lot of movies from the 30’s, is that its theme of poverty contrasted with wealth rings so true today. And the movie isn’t strident about it, it’s clearly a comedy, and nobody triumphs over their poverty like you usually see in movies today. Poverty just is, and wealth just is, and everyone knows it’s unfair, and nobody knows how to fix it. They just know how to survive. I really feel like a lot of the movies of the 30’s, and especially this one, are ripe for a remake during the Great Recession.

I could also give some background on the studio system, and how these two stars wound up in this film, and how nobody thought it would be a hit, but it was, because it’s amazing. But whatever, you can look it up on Wikipedia and that backstory isn’t really important. What’s important is how great Gable and Colbert are in this film. It’s funny and poignant and fantastic. Just, go watch it, would you? And tell me what you think in the comments!

Beth’s Classic Film Club: Roman Holiday

Get out your popcorn and box wine, it’s time for Beth’s Classic Film Club! Today I bring you one of my favorite actresses, because she’s so vulnerable and yet strong: Audrey Hepburn. It’s crazy looking at this film to realize it was her first big break. I mean, she NAILS this performance. It’s like the invented the phrase “like a boss” to describe how well she plays this role. Which explains why she won an Oscar.

OK, basic plot: Audrey is a princess on the edge of a nervous breakdown in the middle of some kind of a goodwill tour through Europe, so she sneaks out of her villa in Rome to have an adventure. She winds up with the handsome Gregory Peck, a newspaperman who figures out that she’s a princess. He recruits his photographer friend to take pictures of them all over town, so he can write an expose on the princess. Hilarity and romance ensue and the movie has a wonderful bittersweet ending that takes this film from “yeah, that was charming” to “I wish I knew what happened next after the picture ends!” Which explains why this film also won an Oscar for writing. And, which I think makes this a perfect film to watch with your girlfriends because you all may have different reactions to how things played out and what the future holds for the characters.

Not only is the acting outstanding, but the cinematography is great too, and so are the costumes. In fact, this picture won a costume design Oscar too.

I know when people think Audrey Hepburn, they think Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is Fine if you can get past the horrifically racist yellow-face of Mickey Rooney as the landlord (sweet baby Jesus, is THAT awful). But Roman Holiday is just…just so much more. Just, give it a watch, you’ll be glad you did!

Beth’s Classic Film Club: Postcards from the Edge

OK, so this one isn’t strictly a classic–I mean, it’s not from the golden age of cinema, it’s from 1990. But it references the golden age of cinema, and also it’s an awesome movie, and one that’s been speaking to me a lot lately. I think it’s because Shirley Maclaine wears a head scarf in a scene at the end and has to paint her eyebrows back on. (In her case, it’s because of a car accident, not cancer.) But also, it’s about getting through a rough time and coming out on the other side of it, which also speaks to me.

Speaking of Shirley Maclaine, I love her. I don’t care if she thinks aliens are real or whatever, that woman can act. And nobody plays the overbearing mother like her. Her character is SO AWFUL and yet so lovable, it’s amazing. And she’s so awful for the reason that all of us moms are so awful–because it’s really really really hard for us to make the transition from parenting a helpless infant, to parenting an adult. Even though we have years and years to get used to the idea, we all have trouble taking a step back and watching our baby birds take flight. She also completely fucked up as a parent, and although she blew it bigger than I hope most of us ever will, she tried her best and she wanted the best for her daughter. We all try our best, and sometimes it isn’t good enough. How do we make it right when, not if, we make a mistake? Also, I love every time Shirley Maclaine talks about Mr. Mayer and the studio system, and when she performs “I’m Still Here.” It makes me want to stand up and cheer.

One of the things that makes this movie so relatable for me these days is how everyone tiptoes around Meryl Streep’s character after she comes out of rehab. I feel like that a lot since The Cancer. When you’re sick, or you’ve been sick, it makes people uncomfortable and it’s hard to talk about the sickness. I mean, everyone wants you to be well, wants to help you, but they don’t know how. And there’s a lot of talking about you to each other, that once in a while you get to overhear, but otherwise everyone is putting on a brave face about the illness, even  you. I love how this movie captures that so perfectly, and how good it makes Meryl Streep’s character feel when someone talks to her straight, like Gene Hackman’s character at the end.

I’ve talked about this movie so seriously, but man is it funny too. Annette Bening’s character is hilarious, and the grandparents are fantastic. And who knew Meryl Streep could be so funny?

Given the themes, maybe this one isn’t so much about box winebut definitely grab some popcorn and check out this film, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Beth’s Classic Film Club: Cleopatra

It’s been all down and depressing around here lately, hasn’t it? Let’s cheer things up a bit with a little movie night, shall we? I bet you could use some box wine and popcorn, amiright?

OK, so Cleopatra. I fucking LOVE this movie. I know people thing it’s overdone schlock, but I don’t give a shit. Elizabeth Taylor was a fucking goddess AND a damn fine actor. And the incredible and yet totally fucked up sexual energy between her and Richard Burton in this movie practically lights your television on fire.

Besides that, there’s the sets and costumes, which cost a fortune. That’s not costume jewelry, my dears, that’s actual gold. And that is why if you watch this movie on a tiny TV in pan and scan instead of letterbox, I will come to your house and I will smash your TV in. I mean it. If you have a shitty little. TV, get yourself to a friend’s house so you can actually see the props and the sets and the costumes as they were meant to be seen.

And as if Richard Burton wasn’t enough, this film has Rex Harrison in it too. I mean, there’s like two whole movies in this movie, you don’t even get to the Richard Burton part until the second half. Is this movie long? Yes. Is it overproduced? Yes. THAT IS THE FUCKING POINT. When we say they don’t make movies like they used to, we mean a studio can’t afford to make movies like Cleopatra anymore. It’s incredible, you will literally never see anything like it ever again.

Look, I’m not saying you should watch Cleopatra as if it’s some perfect, serious movie. This is not Schindler’s List. It’s Cleopatra. Imagine how much fun Liz and Dick had on the set–how much booze and how much fighting and how much sex. And just watch it ooze out onto the screen.

I love this movie so much. Just, watch it, and maybe even upgrade from box wine to the hard stuff, and I bet you’ll love it too.

Beth’s Classic Film Club: All About Eve

Is Mean Girls one of your favorite movies? Well, how about if instead of being a comedy, it was a serious film? And instead of Lindsey Lohan being a well-meaning kid who learns her lesson and apologizes, she was a lying, manipulative actress who would do anything to get ahead, including stabbing her friends in the back and trying to steal their husbands, and only fake-apologize for it? And how about if there were dudes in the movie who were just as mean as the mean girls? DARK. And that is why The Hubs, who will watch any horror movie and not wince once, is terrified by our next film club selection: All About Eve. And when you ask him why, he says, “Because horror movies aren’t real.”

All About Eve won 6 Oscars and a Golden Globe–let’s talk about why.

OK, first off, Betty Davis. BETTY FUCKING DAVIS. Now there’s a woman who could act. Her character in this movie is so deeply flawed, and yet, you want her to be happy. You can’t help but love her even as she’s being a horrible spoiled brat who shits on everyone around her. She delivers some amazing lines in this film that would be cheesy if anyone else said them, I mean, anykne, even Kate Hepburn. At several points in this movie, I begin to wonder if flames are actually going to shoot out of her eyeballs. She’s vulnerable and powerful all at once and it’s amazing.

Then there’s my favorite character of the film, Addison DeWitt, played by George Sanders, a hell of an actor (he was great in Ivanhoe, too) who won an Oscar for this part. DeWitt may be the most viscous, consciously self-serving jerk in the history of film. I believe he may have invented snark. He disdains everyone and everything, including himself. He says things like “While you wait, you can read my column. It will the make minutes fly like hours.” He is a character I love to hate.

The supporting cast is wonderful. A young Marilyn Monroe (who was virtually unknown at the time) plays a night club dancer trying to break into theater. Thelma Ritter is sassy, as she is in every role she plays. And Gregory Ratoff is fantastic as Max the hapless producer. Oh Max, if I were you, I’d need some Bromo Fizz too.

And then there’s Eve, played by Anne Baxter. I’m afraid to say anything, because I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but…yeah. Eve. I think we’ve all probably known a few Eves in our lives. Or perhaps we’ve been Eve ourselves. Ponder that as you watch the film.

And also ponder the film from a feminist perspective. Think about women supporting each other in their careers, or not. Think about today’s discussions of supermoms, and what we know about what roles there are for women in film as they age. What is this film saying about all that, and is it right? Could you remake this film today or wouldn’t feel dated? Who would you cast as Eve? Leave me your thoughts in the comments.

I am fascinated by All About Eve and I find something new in it every time I watch it. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do, and I hope it doesn’t give you too many nightmares!