1. Henry and June
It was reading Anaïs Nin‘s diaries in my teenage years that gave me hope that my self-absorbed scribblings might one day be magically transformed into literature. Nin elevated narcissism to an art form.
2. Wonder Boys
My favorite movie about writing, ever. For two hours I get to imagine what it would have been like if I had gone to some fancy-shmancy east coast liberal arts college. This movie also cures me of my dream to teach writing when I get hit with the “Wouldn’t it be great to teach writing at Sarah Lawrence” fantasy. The soundtrack is also really good.
Yes, Woody Allen, for all his psychoanalysis is still a messed up and very talented guy. I like movies best when he plays a writer who goes to a psychoanalyst and there are a lot of them: “Manhattan”, “Deconstructing Harry”, “Annie Hall”, and “Everyone Says I Love You” to name a few.
From “Everyone Says I Love You”:
Stefi:You couldn’t figure out whether you wanted to be a psychoanalyst or a writer!
Joe: So I compromised, I became a writer and a patient.
4. Spalding Grey’s Monster in a Box
I love all of Spalding’s monologues but there is something about this one that feels the most poignant, personal, and bittersweet of all of them. In this long monologue Grey tells of the trials and tribulations of writing his novel,”Impossible Vacation”, which was based on his mother, her suicide and his resulting depression. This piece was funnier when he was alive and now, after his suicide, it seems unsurprisingly sadder.
This film is the one I relate to most to in the difficulties I am encountering in writing about my relationship with my mother. It isn’t easy to tell the truth. And, my monster lives in my MacBook and not in a box.
I LOVE the beginning of this film in which we get to hear Charlie Kaufman’s inner voice. LOVE-LOVE-LOVE it. I totally relate to his inner monologue only mine sounds more upbeat and more confidently masochistic.
6. The Philadelphia Story
There are so many great things to love about this movie: Cary Grant, Cary Grant and Cary Grant. But, once gets past the magic of Cary there is Jimmy Stewart who plays a writer who wrote a book that sits unread in libraries and is forced to work as a journalist at a US weekly/People magazine of the 1940′s. It is a cautionary side story in this otherwise romantic comedy that warns that literary greatness does not necessarily keep body and soul together and it certainly doesn’t bring in the kind of dough that allows one to build boats for one’s wife.
When I think of Truman Capote I think of my year living in Gothenberg, Sweden when I read everything by Capote and Maugham. The tenderness and honesty of Capote’s literary voice is so very much at odds with his elfin, slurred and drug induced drawl of later years. I do wish that someone would turn the story of his writing “Answered Prayers” into a film. But, as Truman was fond of saying, “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones” and since there isn’t such a film I recommend Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of a slightly less self destructive Capote.
8. The World According to Garp.
This was a wonderful book and a great movie about a writer desperate to get out of the large shadow of his famous mother. Robin Williams in this film is the most quiet, contained and restrained I have ever seen him. He is so convincingly preppy in the film that it is hard to imagine that is the same guy who years later would be an extremely hairy and hyper comedian.
9. Stranger than Fiction
I love this film for how it takes the ordinary and document it in a way that it made the mundane seem magical. I feel sure it is the only movie with Will Ferrell I may ever own.
10. Sylvia Plath and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
I put these two movies in the #10 position as they are both half a good movie and together they make one decent film about two of my favorite writers. Both women where great writers who had a serious depressive streak, a knack for picking the wrong man and serious suicidal tendencies. Dorothy Parker made four unsuccessful suicide attempts and Sylvia Plath sadly succeeded.
I have put all of these films on my Netflix list as I haven’t been able to write a word of my novel for the last two weeks. Here is a joke to explain why: Three Jewish mothers are talking about their sons. First one says: “my son, oh, he loves me so much, he bought me this car.” Second one scoffs and says:”you don’t know what a son’s love really is. My son is the best son a mother can have. He loves me so much, he bought me a house!”
The third one, grinning: “That’s nothing. You think you know what a son’s love is? You don’t know what a son’s love is. My son, he’s such a good son. He loves me so much that every week, he pays a psychoanalyst $200. And what does he talk about? Me.” I am spending $200 an hour to talk to Igor about my mother and then for a 1000 words a day I write about what we have talked about which is usually my mother and I have to be honest that I would rather not love my mother quite so much.