It’s not even winter, yet, and I’m already in the mood for snow.  Even if I can’t be in the Swiss Alps on a snowboard, I can get my snow fix from the warmth of my blanket with these snow scenes.  Here are five snowy movies I recommend for fall and winter.

Snow Falling on Cedars: The whole town is engulfed in layers of powder as they submerse themselves in a local trial, and a reporter recalls his former romance and still aching heartbreak as the story unfolds.  Available on Netflix instant streaming.

Hugo: This beautiful film by Martin Scorsese follows an orphaned boy as he unravels a mystery left behind by his father, through clocks, a train station and a snowy Paris setting.  See it on Netflix instant streaming now.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Dr. Seuss’ Whoville is one of the most magical snowy settings (it is in a snowflake, after all).  Gusts of powdery snow roll over the Grinch’s mountain as he destroys and mends the holiday season.  Check it out on Amazon Instant Video.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: This creatively told movie tells a love story, backwards (as if in a dream), as Jim Carrey’s character tries to erase his girlfriend from his memory.  It’s not entirely set in snow, but the scenes where they lie on the icy lake and play in the snow by the ocean are dreamy and perfect.  See it at Netflix instantly.

Serendipity: This classic wintery romance not only features the white stuff, but also classic New York City ice skating and the now iconic frozen hot chocolate.  Of course, the movie ends with snow falling on the ice rink in Central Park as the destined lovers reunite.  Find out where to see it on Watch It.

These are just five of some of my favorite snow movies, but there are tons of others, like The Saint and The Polar Express, and I’m really looking forward to Anna Karenina.  What did I leave out?  Let me know in the comments what you recommend!

margaritaWhat better way to celebrate your margarita holiday than with a movie set in viva la Mexico?  Here are my picks for the best Mexican-inspired movies, all a bit odd yet fun.

  1. The Mexican: I love the cast in this movie, especially Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini.  Despite the shooting and chasing on Brad Pitt’s side, this is a movie about love, all centered around this folkloric Mexican pistol.  The big personalities, the twisting story, the colorful landscape, the Mexican folk music, it all creates a vibrant movie that’s a lot of fun to watch and definitely leaves you wanting your own crazy adventure south of the border.
  2. Once Upon a Time in Mexico: This is another Mexican-inspired flick with a killer celebrity cast, all in their archetypal roles, including Johnny Depp (as usual, playing an unusual, darkly humorous character), Antonio Banderas (as the romantic hero) and Salma Hayek (as the seductive, gorgeous sidekick).  Plus, there’s Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Enrique Iglesias, Willem Dafoe, and more amazing actors.  The storyline here is also chaotic, gritty, gory, corrupt, and yet still romantic (which seems to be the continuous image portrayed of our neighboring country).
  3. The Ruins: This is certainly not the ambassador movie for Mexico.  However, I love a good horror movie, and this one is original (despite the almost laughable villain), suspenseful and cringe-inducing.  As with many horror-tourism flicks, it follows four young adults who follow a fellow traveler into the Mexican jungle to climb a remote Mayan ruin.  Immediately, they are trapped by locals atop the ruin and forced to survive the mystical killers that dwell there.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

waste-landEarth Day‘s coming up soon, and while you can plant a tree or clean up your town, you can also just open up your mind to new points of view on the environment with award-winning documentaries.  My list of environmental-themed movies are multidimensional movies layered with social issues.  Plus, if you’ve got a Netflix account, these are all instant-streaming movies you can easily find.

  1. Dive!: This documentary is first and foremost about feeding everyone, more than it is about saving the environment.  They look at the issue of hunger around the world from the perspective that we already have so many resources that we waste.  So, instead of figuring out how to produce more food (and thus, draining our environment), they look at facts and figures about the food wasted daily at top grocery stores in our country.  The numbers are astonishing, and the first-person look at dumpster diving is amazing, as well (who knew you could feed your family healthy food from trash, that otherwise would be filling up landfills).  From an environmental perspective, it’s a smart move to evaluate what we already have and make simple changes to utilize it better.
  2. Encounters at the End of the World: This movie is primarily about the beauty and wonder of the icy, foreign continent of Antarctica, but any movie that reminds us of the wildlife and complicated ecosystems that we share the world with is an environmental film, too.  The narrator and director, Werner Herzog, so poetically progresses the story, complementing the wondrous setting.  You also get to know the surprisingly bohemian band of scientists and workers that make this isolated, harsh environment there home, seeing through their eyes, as well, what makes it so precious and worth protecting.
  3. Waste Land: If you only see one movie on this list, please make it this one.  This is very much a multi-layered movie, about waste and landfills, poverty, culture, second chances, art, and so much more.  The heart of the story is the Brazilians skimming the world’s largest dump for recyclables, people described as at the end of the line.  Literally tossed away to the landfill like trash, they get a second chance at motivation and inspiration when Artist Vik Muniz holds his hand out to the garbage and asks them to assist him in a new art project.  Just as they helped recycle things once disposed, they get a new outlook on life as they help Muniz create their own portraits out of trash.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

rango-movieYou can now see “Rango” on Netflix’s instant streaming.  This 2011 animated flick stars Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher as desert animals in search of water for their Old West town.

Here are just three reasons why you’ll want to watch this fun flick:

  1. Animated Depth: The CGI animation colorfully portrays the sandy, gritty, dirty town and critters, making it fun to spot the different weathered, whiskered, scaly animals peering from underneath torn hats and pacing through the town.
  2. Critic-Approved: Critics generally gave this movie the thumbs up for the interesting change of scenery, oddball characters, mature humor, and well-done animation.  Even my favorite critic, Roger Ebert, gave it four stars for the developed character profiles, as well as the authentic homage to and creative take on classic Western films.
  3. LOLs: It’s got humor for everyone, one of those great animated movies that obviously caters to children but also sneaks in witty, sarcastic lines geared towards adults, too.

I also love the southwestern Tex-Mex flavor, too, from the mariachi band of owls narrating the film to the soundtrack featuring bands like Los Lobos.  This is the perfect movie to watch right now on Netflix as we anxiously await the sunny summer ahead.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

the-lorax

Dr. Suess' The Lorax

Ah, “The Lorax” is a refreshing, fun and playful film that renews your optimism and your fight.  The genius of this film really resonates from the originator of this tale, Dr. Seuss.  From the exciting scenery to the relevant themes, this movie is something you should support for our younger generations to see, and something you should see for yourself, too.

My movie theater was filled with children, small ones at that, who were actually very well-behaved, captivated by this colorful movie.  Although I was hesitant to share the theater with such noisy patrons at first, in the end, I walked out of the theater proud at what we’re teaching these generations and hopeful at what they’ll accomplish one day.

“The Lorax” obviously looks at environmentalism and the loss of trees, but it also spotlights activism and speaking up for yourself.  It uses the metaphors of “planting a seed” and “busting down walls” to talk about planting ideas and getting people out of their bubbles.

Smiling forest animals, fluffy marshmallows and musical numbers aside, the film gets serious just enough when it matters.  The darkest part of the movie is when a tree is cut, when a dangerous axe tears through the old tree trunk, collapsing it to the ground like a building.  The Lorax comes down to mourn the first tree cut, honoring its life with a memorial of rocks.

Following this dark descent (well, dark for a Dr. Seuss movie), greed takes over the main character (the Once-ler, voiced by Ed Helms) as his business swells and the forest of trees dies.  All of the swirling, soft, colorful treetops churn into some kind of “thneed,” a completely useless product that locals hungrily consume.

The silly thneed is a perfect metaphor for the endless new things that we all think we need, and yet instead, what we really need is to conserve and respect the natural resources we already have.

There’s a strong anti-corporation sentiment here, as everyone that creates an out-of-control, monster of a business does so out of one motivation – money.  They crunch up the trees and bottle the air all to make the citizens of Thneedville dependent on their products, which ironically were once all free.

This ugly cycle of greed and destroying the earth returns to one of the important themes in “The Lorax” – speaking up.  From the Lorax who “speaks for the trees” to the boy that planted the seed in the middle of town, all it takes is one person to begin the ripples.

As the Once-ler said, “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, things aren’t going to get better. They’re not.”

See the movie trailer for “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.”

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” also stars the voices of Danny DeVito as The Lorax (protector of the trees), Zac Efron as Ted (the boy who plants the seed…for a girl), Taylor Swift as Audrey (the girl Ted pines after and who wants to see a live tree in Thneedville again), Betty White as Grammy Norma (Ted’s wise, feisty grandmother who directs him to The Once-ler to find a tree), and Rob Riggle as Mr. O’Hare (the corporate mogul who sells bottled clean air after The Once-ler destroyed the trees and air in creating the thneed).