So you say your DVD player is suffering from a touch of cabin fever and could use a taste of spring? And you say you’ve already seen Ki-duk Kim’s beautiful 2003 meditation Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ? and Spring, and already sung along with “Springtime for Hitler” (in either the 1968 or 2005 version of The Producers)? What cinematic rites of spring are left?
How about commemorating March Madness with a mini-festival of flicks about basketball? Start with Hoosiers, the 1986 film about an Indiana high school team and the unlikely coach (Gene Hackman) and alcoholic assistant (Dennis Hopper, who received an Oscar nomination) who lead the team to glory. For a more harrowing look at teenagers who play ball, try 1995’s The Basketball Diaries, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in his first leading role as a kid who descends from a promising life on the court to one of crime and drug addiction. Or O, from 2001, which is Shakespeare’s Othello set in the world of ultracompetitive high-school hoops; you haven’t experienced the brutality of adolescence until you see this film. Kids will get a kick out of 1997’s Air Bud, about a ball-playing pooch. Documentary fans should check out the already classic Hoop Dreams, from 1994, and the more recent Through the Fire: The Sebastian Telfair Story (2005), about the pressure star high-school players are under to make the NBA draft.
Passover begins April 2 this year, so mark the holiday with screenings of Fiddler on the Roof, 1971’s joyous celebration of Jewish life in pre-revolutionary Russia, or Gentleman’s Agreement, 1947’s Oscar Best Picture about anti-Semitism in post-World War II America. Smack in the midst of Passover are Easter and Orthodox Easter, falling on the same day this year. Easter Parade, from 1948, is the obvious selection: The delightful Irving Berlin musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire is the best-known movie connected to the holiday. But adventurous viewers should check out Martin Scorsese’s controversial The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), a fever dream of a movie that occurs on Good Friday as Jesus hangs from the cross. And the whole family will enjoy the holiday TV special It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, in which the egg-delivering bunny turns out to look rather suspiciously like Snoopy.
April kicks off, of course, with April Fool’s Day, and unsurprisingly, there is a horror movie set on that day: 1986’s April Fool’s Day. It’s from director Fred Walton, who’s mostly “known” for made-for-TV movies with titles like When a Stranger Calls Back and The Stepford Husbands; you have been warned. Less-foolish foolish films include Nobody’s Fool (1994), a touching drama with a wonderful cast including Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Dylan Walsh and Philip Seymour Hoffman; and Robert Altman’s 1985 film Fool for Love, based on Sam Shepard’s play about the dangers presented by old flames and starring Shepard, Kim Basinger and Randy Quaid.
If you’re looking for April showers, try Black Rain, Purple Rain, Singin’ in the Rain or Rain Man. And be sure to check out Rain Phoenix, Joaquin’s big sister, in the B-ball flick O mentioned above. And, since we all know that April showers bring May flowers, and Mayflowers bring pilgrims, you can mark the ending of spring in a metaphoric way with 1952’s Plymouth Adventure, starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney and featuring romantic intrigue onboard the ship that brought the first European colonists to the Americas. Less melodramatic is Terrence Malick’s 2005 masterpiece The New World and its magnificent reverie on the romance between Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. If you want reality, the History Channel is offering on DVD Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower, featuring a cast of Royal Shakespeare Company performers.
But perhaps the loveliest evocation of the time of rebirth that is spring is the “Rite of Spring” sequence in Disney’s 1940 Fantasia, which pairs Stravinsky’s eponymous music with a glorious depiction of the birth of our solar system. Talk about a new beginning ...