Stay-at-home remedies

The spoonful of sugar needed to sweep away the stagnation

Mary Poppins: Lambs to the laughter.
  • Mary Poppins: Lambs to the laughter.

For those too cheap to buy a ticket, but eager to learn about an umbrella-powered nanny, radioactive spider bites, and how to make money by illegally transporting drugs across state lines, we offer these three stay-at-home remedies.

Mary Poppins (1964)

Mary Poppins (1964) trailer

Before the term “comic book movie” became a boulder in the shoe of film critics everywhere, the three most dreaded words in the cinematic lexicon were “live action Disney.” (Cough hard enough and you can still relish the saccharine remains of Darby O’Gill, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Blackbeard’s Ghost.) Thanks in large part to the magic of humans artfully coexisting with their singing and dancing cartoon counterparts, Mary Poppins at times transcends the categorization. But once the rain washes away the chalk drawings, half the picture goes down the drain with it. How as children we all managed to survive the one-two punch of the dewey-eyed Feed the Birds number followed by the equally lumbering Fiduciary Fidelity sequence — one cockeyed Cockney-spouting Dick Van Dyke creation is enough — is a question I refuse to answer on the grounds that it will exasperate me. Fortunately, a chorus of flue-cleaning acrobats are the spoonful of sugar needed to sweep away the stagnation.

The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)

The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)

A doctor in mid-consultation suddenly and without explanation exits the examination room. Before he can finish his closing argument, a barrister unbars the door and bolts. A gasmask covers the face of the grandmotherly choir singer calmly exiting a bank, a smoking gun in one hand and a suitcase filled with cash in the other. These three ordinary citizens, along with seven more — all placed under the spell of a crazed extortionist (Thayer David) interfering with their thought patterns — are turned into bank robbing kamikaze zombies in this, Spider-Man’s big-screen debut. (Originally intended as a network pilot for the short-lived TV series, it received a wide release abroad and a limited run Stateside.) Flat TV lighting is far more conducive to bringing comic book panels to life, and the pre-CGI wall-walking effects are indeed special. One year before Dino De Laurentiis’s Superman showed moviegoers that a man could fly, fans of this series were equally as convinced that Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) could scale the heights of a Gotham skyscraper. With David White (Larry Tate on TV’s Bewitched), perfectly cast as J.J Jameson. Watch it on YouTube.

Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is young, she’s pregnant, and she’s desperate for work — so desperate that she’ll line her guts with grape-sized pellets of cocaine and smuggle the drugs across the Colombian border to make cash. Moreno earned a well-deserved Oscar nod for her unvarnished depiction of a woman dependent on (but not addicted to) drugs to provide for her family. Even though it predates Clint Eastwood’s latest by over a decade, this isn’t the first film about a drug mule. I’m guessing that honor belongs to Midnight Express. (Or does it only count when the drugs in your colorectal system aren’t for personal use?) My predecessor in these parts, Duncan Shepard, dubbed it Maria Full of Shit. Don’t you hate it when someone beats you to the punchline?

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