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It’s a moviegoers’ nightmare before Christmas; the spooky season is over, the festivities are imminent, so what do you watch in November?
For 31 days, horror hounds revelled in a month of the macabre. With ‘Yes! Ha Ha Ha…!’ sickos energy swirling around them and mountains of popcorn flung in fright, pumpkin-heads have made their friends, families and significant others endure their favourite scary movies throughout October, all in the name of Halloween.
The grotesqueries are past now. With the commencement of November, the soft jingling of the holidays (and Mariah Carey) can be heard on the horizon. While it may be beginning to look a lot like Christmas, it’s still too early for your reliable library of December re-watchables. The question remains: what should you be watching until then?
November is peak autumn; crunchy leaves, rainier days, heartier soups and jacket weather in full force. For movies, for the most part, we need chilly, seasonal vibes with nary a boo! nor cheer – introducing the ‘fall movie’.
There’s an immediate frontrunner for the ultimate November movie. No, it’s not The November Man, although it does star Pierce Brosnan, so one to consider. It’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles, easily among the funniest comedies of all time, and despite its constant addition to ‘best of’ Christmas lists, it’s firmly a Thanksgiving feature.
The month feels incomplete without Steve Martin’s unforgettable potty-mouthed tirade, or the late John Candy saying, ‘Those aren’t pillows’, or more heartwarmingly, the state-crossed pair carrying the suitcase home. There’s an argument to be made for it being John Hughes’ best work.
As Roger Ebert wrote, ‘It not only contained a universal theme, but also matched it with the right actors and story, so that it shrugged off the other movies of its kind and stood above them in a kind of perfection. This is the only movie our family watches as a custom, most every Thanksgiving.’
Thanksgiving is a great source of inspiration for your movie nights, whether they’re based around food, football or celebrations. There’s Tower Heist, Ben Stiller’s ensemble comedy about a revenge plot against a corrupt financier during New York’s parade; The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock’s inspiring football story; Remember the Titans, featuring Denzel Washington in galvanising coach mode; and Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve’s intense thriller about two missing girls.
It doesn’t even need to play into the holiday all that much. The slightest nod to Thanksgiving may make it an eligible selection, but it’s more how the movie feels than the actual story itself. Furthermore, November could and should also be seen as Meg Ryan season.
If you’re telling me you don’t instantly think of Billy Crystal’s cream jumper and grey joggies as he reads Misery, or Ryan’s red jumper as the burgeoning pals stroll around New York, as we move into autumn, you’re either heartless, unfashionable or haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally. It’s one of the best, truest movies about love, set against a dreamy backdrop of browns and yellows.
Almost 10 years later, Ryan was reunited with Tom Hanks for You’ve Got Mail after their initial pairing in Sleepless in Seattle. It’s far more schmaltzy, infuriating and somehow adorable – however, he shut down ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and she still fancied him? Not on my nelly.
That AOL dial-up sound is enough of a nostalgia blast to warm your cockles, but Nora Ephron (who wrote When Harry Met Sally) has always been at home with crowd-pleasing romantic comedy, something somewhat lost in today’s movies. For context, it grossed more than $250 million at the box office.
More generally, the rom-com lends itself to the comfort of November. St. Elmos Fire, equipped with impeccable knitwear and an enduring familiarity, is a great example. Sweet Home Alabama, with Reese Witherspoon returning to her hometown to divorce her high school sweetheart, is another. Silver Linings Playbook, altogether more bittersweet but still affecting, has fall vibes all over it. Really, they’re well-needed precursors to the yuletide’s sickly sweet romps.
You can also play it by DVD covers: Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, The Village, October Sky, Sweet November, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Edge of Seventeen, adorned with artwork woven with amber and roaring gold, all carry that autumnal essence.
A more recent addition to the fall line-up, Knives Out boasts a niftily-scripted caper from Rian Johnson, ripe performances and crucially, crisp weather with Chris Evans in the white wickie jumper to rule them all – maybe the true answer as to what makes a perfect November movie is snug clothing.
Just look at The Goonies; its eponymous squad of treasure hunters face blustering winds and rain by the coast, wearing puffy red jackets, yellow ponchos and woolly hats. Nothing in its plot nods to the season specifically, but it feels one and the same with the others – spiritually, at least.
At the end of the day, when all’s said and done, it comes down to comfort. As night and day draw closer, cosiness is paramount. October was for the mad; in November, we all deserve to feel a little good sometimes.
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