Witch Cinema 22: DVDs for Giving and Gazing
Article ID: 11380
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 18th. 2006
Times Viewed: 8,910
Everyone loves to get DVDs as holiday gifts. From the newest box office hits to obscure arthouse raves to crazy cult favorites, it's a gist that rarely goes wrong. And I don't know about the rest of you but for me the midwinter is a time when I get a bit of time to kick back and relax after a hectic work schedule, and enjoy being cozy indoors while winter (or what passes for winter in the age of global warming) rages outside.
For pagans who have family or loved ones who exchange gifts at this time of year (okay, I will say "Christmas" just this once), a film that has pagan themes can be a wonderful way of giving pleasure and sharing your worldview. But what constitutes a movie with Yule or solstice themes? To be honest, it has been a while since I've seen a movie whose main plot was, say, the twice-yearly battle between the Oak King and the Holly King.
So don't pout, don't cry, and don't shout; it's okay to think in more general terms. Films that deal with the winter season specifically (like Eight Below, a feel-good film about a race with sled dogs!), or with nature in general (like Winged Migration, a hauntingly beautiful and exciting voyage around the globe with various species of migratory birds with drop-dead gorgeous cinematography), are more than acceptable. Other pagan themes like dreams (try Richard Linklater's hyper-intelligent and surreal mind-blower Waking Life), magic (The Illusionist is an evocative tale starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti about competing magicians), or the otherworld (If you haven't seen Miyazaki's ethereal and entertaining masterpiece of animation Spirited Away then now is the time) are bound to please thoughtful pagan or pagan-friendly pals.
Other interesting films from the last several years your pagan buds would like: Mondovino, a fascinating and quirky documentary about the world of vineyards and wine; Sideways, a hilarious and witty road trip movie about two guys who love wine and the women who, um, love them; What the (Bleep) Do We Know?, a metaphysical romp that many have found uplifting and inspiring in its bold questioning of basic truths about human existence; The Libertine, a very adult film starring Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, a lusty, irreverent, brilliant writer and ne-er-do-well with a stellar British cast; Donnie Darko (now available in a new director's cut!), a funny, clever indie hit starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled teen who tries to transcend his painful reality by looking into time travel; Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann's incredible, hugely-entertaining homage to what movie musicals ought to be but have forgotten how to be in the last fifty years (Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor sing and dance! Who knew?); the epic, stunning medieval battle film House of Flying Daggers (and its grown-up arthouse cousin, the color-drenched Hero); and Michel Gondry's dreamy, provocative look at memory, love and human fallibility, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey. Kirsten Dunst and Elijah Wood.
What about environmental activism? There's Al Gore's profound, galvanizing documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Maybe a film that approaches preserving nature within a fictional framework, like the excellent Hidalgo starring Viggo Mortensen as real life horseman Frank Hopkins who fights to save some wild mustangs after a world famous desert race. Or for a fantastical look at similar themes, Miyazaki also delivers with the wonderful Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki appeals to adults but his films are also popular with kids. Try them with the wonderful Nausicaa, about a heroic princess, or Kiki's Delivery Service about an enterprising young witch.
Speaking of movies that feature witches, well, these are always a favorite but you're probably already familiar with them. One new one is a must-see: Beowulf and Grendel is a new film about an old, old story. Filmed in Iceland and with an incredible international cast (like a Scottish Gerard Butler as Beowulf, Canadian Sarah Polley as the seductive, mysterious witch Selma, and Danish Stellan Skaarsgard as King Hrothgar), this gripping, beautiful film is an epic story full of action and emotion. Perhaps not suitable for children, but a sumptuous and satisfying feast for grown-ups with a taste for old world adventure and magic. The extra features include fascinating interviews on how the cast and crew fought life-threatening climate conditions to get the film made. Crazy Scandinavians! Can't wait to see the next Beowulf film; there are two more in the works.
For those who like to introduce their own well-loved favorite movies to friends who may not have seen them, here's a few suggestions for films that deal with witches of all sorts" old school warts-n-all witches, new-fangled neo-pagan witches, cool hippie free-love witches, evil baby-eating witches, and everything in between. If you're not looking for politically-correct "Wiccan" movies, there's something here to please those who love all lore and imagery of the witch (and with my own star rating! **** = get one for yourself! *** = they will probably thank you profusely for this! ** = maybe include a giftcard with it! * = they may think this is joke!):
Rosemary's Baby ****
The Wicker Man (original 1973)****
The Wicker Man (remake 2006) *
Bell, Book and Candle ***
Roald Dahl's The Witches ***
The Craft ****
Hocus Pocus **
The Mists of Avalon (or try giving the book which is also great!) ****
The Witches of Eastwick (or try giving the book which is MUCH better!) **
Practical Magic ***
The Blair Witch Project ****
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 **
Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages **
The Devils ****
The Crucible ****
Simon, King of the Witches *
May your Yule be filled with dreams, visions, stories, songs and wonder!
Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
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