[Originally posted on 11.3.22] To me a comfort movie is one that presents three basic things. One, semi-recognizable human behavior (i.e., bearing at least some resemblance to that which you’ve observed in your own life, including your own something-to-be-desired, occasionally less-than-noble reactions to this or that challenge). Two, some kind of half-believable story in which various behaviors are subjected to various forms of emotional or psychological stress and strain. (This should naturally include presentations of inner human psychology, of course, as most people tend to hide what they’re really thinking or scheming to attain.) And three, action that adheres to the universal laws of physics — i.e., rules that each and every life form has been forced to submit to since the beginning of time.
There are many ways of telling stories that (a) contain recognizable human behavior, (b) engaging stories and (c) adhere to basic laws of gravity, inertia and molecular density. I’m talking about tens of thousands of square miles of human territory, and movies that include Her, Solaris, Boyhood, Betrayal, Children of Men, Leviathan, Thelma and Louise, Superbad, Cold War, Across 110th Street, Shoot the Piano Player, Them!, A Separation, The Silence, Se7en, Holy Motors, Silver Linings Playbook, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Hold That Ghost, The Miracle Worker, The Wolf Man, Ikiru, Crossfire, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Duck Soup, Moonlighting, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, the better screwball comedies of the ’30s, The Blob, First Reformed, Ichi the Killer, The Equalizer 2, Adaptation, Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days, Punch Drunk Love, Out Of the Past, Danton, Some Like It Hot, The Big Sky and God knows how many hundreds or thousands of others.
Another way to explain my c.z. concept is a series of concentric-circle realms that I use to measure and calibrate. The innermost realm is my own life story, my own limitations and weaknesses, the forces and personalities that I’ve personally known and dealt with (or have run away from). The second realm is defined by the experiences of others I’ve known or have run into — friends and family, characters I’ve read about or come to know in movies or plays, anything that has crossed my radar screen and/or intruded into my turf that has seemed to make at least some kind of basic sense. The third realm is one of odd happenstance or surreal imaginings or derangements or mystical wonder — anything weird or extra-spiritual or wackjobby or beyond-rational that doesn’t “add up” but is nonetheless an aspect or outgrowth of our life on this planet (or other planets…what the hell).
Anything that comes from the fourth, fifth or sixth realms (such as the content of Everything Everywhere All At Once) may or may not work for me. I’m theoretically open to these realms, but I’m only human and am therefore partial to the first three.