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January 30, 2014
Here are some great movie picks to get through bleak mid-winter

Go outside. Look up. Know what those flakes mean?

It means we don’t need some temperamental rodent to tell us we’ve still got more winter.

When I was a kid, around this time of year, when the weather is cruddy and you’re kind of between holidays, my family used to cope with movies. Sometimes we’d get through by watching movies that took place on a beach, so for a minute we could forget about the snow blowing outside. Other times we’d watch shows that take place in the thickest blizzards, which would make us glad we only had to deal with inches, not feet, of the stuff.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions for your own efforts to plow through the bleak midwinter.

The Dillusional

When you want to pretend you’re choosing to stay in instead of getting a tan and sand in every crevice, rather than huddling in blankets to try to stay warm, try these.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

The makers of this movie took the book it’s “based on,” scrapped virtually all of it and dreamed up what they thought would make a perfect desert island movie, and handed the list over to the screenwriter instead. It’s got a shipwreck, pirates, a wicked-cool treehouse, wild animal races and bombs made of coconuts. What more could you want?

Hidalgo (2004)

If a desert island isn’t hot and sandy enough for you, try the Arabian Desert. Based on a true story of an American cowboy competing in possibly the toughest horse race in the world, “Hidalgo” has international intrigue, sports-movie tension and Western charm — plus Viggo Mortensen riding a mighty fine-looking horse. You cannot go wrong.

The Gods Must be Crazy II (1989)

I personally prefer the sequel to the 1980 original, but both have miles of desert, a blazing hot African sun overhead and quirky, low-key humor mixed with slapstick gags.

The Masochist

Yeah, it’s cold and snowy outside, but it could always be worse…much worse.

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood are both in top form in this very tense film about a daring mission to free an American general from a Nazi castle. Whenever I hear anyone say “broadsword” or “Danny Boy,” I can’t help but shiver.

Batman Begins (2005)

When training with Raz al-Gul, Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne falls through the ice, and it doesn’t warm up much from there.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I know, I know, there’s more Degobah and Cloud City than there is Hoth, but I still always associate it with wampas and ice caves. If you do have to go outside, just think: At least you don’t have to hide in a tauntaun to stay warm.

The Tear-Jerker

Pick your friends carefully when you watch these, and bring a box of tissues.

Up (2009)

The beginning sequence gets me every time. I’m secure enough to admit it. Also when he leaves the house. Oh, gosh. Excuse me.

Secondhand Lions (2004)

This movie will sneak up on you. It draws you in with family drama and funny old guys and sage wisdom and rollicking adventure and wild animals in a coming-of-age tale and then BAM! What just happened here and why are my eyes leaking?

Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

This is another sly one. I’ve read the book, so I knew what was coming. Heck, I cried at the end of the book, so I knew exactly how sad it was going to be. Nope, still got me.

The Edge of the Seat

You can’t focus on how cold you are when you’re trying to remember to breathe.

The Third Man (1949)

Shady, post-World War II is at the heart of this Orson Wells classic. Come for the close-up look at late-40s Vienna, stay for the mystery about who the third man really is. Bonus: look for Wells’ iconic “cuckoo clock speech,” which he made up on the spot.

North by Northwest (1959)

Carey Grant, mistaken identities and an accidental discovery of a spy plot help this thriller clear the immensely high Hitchcock bar.

Gravity (2013)

One of the most immersive — and stressful — movies ever made. It’s an hour and a half long, but somehow you’ll manage to hold your breath virtually the entire time.

Tis the Season

Not every show with snow in it is necessarily seasonal, and you can have holiday movies not about Christmas.

Cool Runnings (1993)

OK, half of this takes place in the sunshine, but the upcoming Olympics makes this extra appropriate. Sure, it’s 21 years old now, but it’s still current — watch for Jamaica’s bobsled team compete at this year’s races in Sochi.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

It might help winter go by faster if you had to defeat a girl’s seven evil exes.

Groundhog Day (1993)

Like Phil Connors, celebrating Groundhog Day with this movie makes them all kind of seem the same. But this is possibly Bill Murray’s finest role, and it has some of the funniest moments ever besides managing to feel strangely genuine.

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