Banishing the Winter Blues

I feel like winter often gets a bad rap. I guess it’s one of those seasons you either love or you hate, but living in Upstate New York, most people go with the latter. But not me. I’m a winter baby, always have been and always will be. I love the biting winds, heavy blizzards, icicles on my rooftop… I could go on. Part of it could be that I’ve just never done well in the heat: my skin gets irritated and my hair gets dry and I detest being sweaty and I don’t like the social implications it brings, HA! Call me crazy, but winter is renewing. Winter is a test. If you can’t suffer the dark and cold, how can you truly enjoy the light and heat? Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I do believe the seasons we are most drawn to can be illustrative of our characters. I love fall and winter, not because I’m a dreary individual per se, but I think it’s the most contemplative time of the year, allowing us a natural time to withdraw from the hustle and bustle, to settle in with things we enjoy or just let yourself be for a little while. I appreciate that. Plus I like crisp, cold weather, and there’s strength in the silence that comes with the dead of winter or a quiet autumn morning.

So for Winter nay-sayers out there that might be reading this, I pity you. Here are some fabulous things about this season.

How do you look chic in the wintertime, you ask? You bundle up, b*tch! There’s nothing cute about freezing your ass off. Winter is a time to be comfy, a time to grab those big sweaters that you swim around in and kick back, staying warm and safe from harsh winds. That’s not to say you can’t dress up in the winter however, just do so with caution. No bare legs! I can’t bear to see girls walking around outside in 20 degree weather bar-hopping in tiny dresses with bare legs and arms, because yes, ladies tend to do that around here as if it’s summertime. More power to them, I just fear for their health. Anyways, I personally love winter fashion. I love big hats and huge, soft scarves. Valpeak has a great selection of affordable and warm winter hats! I just bought this one recently and I’m loving it. I even still wear heels in the winter if they’re durable and thicker on the bottom, and paired with a big pair of warm socks of course. Turtlenecks are one of my favorites since they’re forgiving in every way and never go out of style. I have an affinity for cashmere ones (like this beautiful Orvis cashmere blend or this 100% cashmere sweater that’s super versatile) as well as the heavier-knit varieties, but depending on where you live, play around with the thread count. As for wool sweaters, both Carraig Donn and L.L. Bean have my heart. Both of these materials can be thrifted, too, if you’re willing to look! So get your scarves, your sweaters, your chunky heels and winter boots and in the wise words of Tim Gunn, make it work.

Honestly, what’s better than getting into bed after a long day? Maybe I’m just kind of a homebody, but I love to nest. I love hopping into bed and pulling the covers up high, ready to dream and wake up refreshed. I definitely sleep better in the winter, too. As much as I enjoy sleeping with my windows open in the warmer months, I hate the racket that the bugs make and the humid air wafting through the screen. Ugh. But winter is a time for thick sheets and fuzzy throws, and snuggling up with a partner or a pet and listening to the snow fall and the wind gust while you drift off to sleep. Perfect, isn’t it? You can score some amazing and affordable flannel sheets here, as well as cuddly faux-fur throws and down comforters to keep your abode nice and warm.

Yes, you can bake all year round, and we all do, but winter baking is the best! Holiday baking obviously takes the cake (pun intended) but there’s nothing like hiding away from the cold to whip up some of your favorite cookies or treats. My favorite winter recipes range from savory pies to pretty much anything with chocolate, but my recipe for 3-ingredient peanut butter cookies also hits the spot and its super easy to make! If you’re looking for some good recipe books to get the ball rolling, some classic cookbooks filled with foolproof recipes include The Baking Bible, Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, and the classic Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. Even though recipes are being shared so rapidly online nowadays, you can’t beat owning a tried and true cookbook.

Even in the cold weather, it’s good to stay active. I really hate working out in gyms and much prefer being outdoors. I feel too trapped and I genuinely enjoy being in nature rather than lift weights or stare into space while running on a treadmill. Thus, winter hikes are one of my favorite ways to get active in the cold months! It doesn’t even have to be too strenuous, just getting out there for a walk in the cold are can be refreshing and revitalizing. Seek out a trail near you and remember to wear good boots! Reward yourself with a delicious hot drink afterwards, that way you can have a treat and warm up at the same time.

Who doesn’t want an excuse to stay in and binge watch all your favorite movies or tv shows?! Last winter my boyfriend and I went through so many movies — The Thing, the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Wild Strawberries, and The Sound of Music were some go-to’s, just to name a few. It can be fun to cuddle up on the couch and get lost in a film for a while, and winter is the perfect time to do so.

All too often I hear people complaining about winter: the snow, the cold, or maybe just the stagnation it can infer. Don’t let yourself be bogged down by winter blues! Winter can also be a great opportunity to focus on self-care: draw a bath and have an at-home spa day or just spend time hibernating with your pet and a favorite book! For those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, self care can be really beneficial. Viewing these months as a way to focus inward may soothe some of your symptoms. Also, these great therapeutic light boxes can help too! Try out some things on this list and remember, spring is only a few months away!

5 Classic Films for the Aspiring Cinephile

 

“Your taste in film is a quest. You have a palate and you must refine it to match your essence. Never settle and never follow blindly.” 

– Giullermo del Toro

What denotes a “classic” is subject to change from person to person. For example, Kevin Smith’s Mallrats is a classic in my eyes, but I know it’s not classic with a capital C, as much as I love it. The film itself doesn’t transcend time or break boundaries — in fact it’s not even a film, it’s a movie. And it’s hilarious. It’s totally of its time. It’s riddled with crass humor and comic book references. It’s one of those movies I know almost every line to; I had the poster up on my wall during my moody teenage years and I’ll just always love it. So, like most people, I know I’m guilty of throwing around the term “classic” when it doesn’t always apply.

Truly classic films are different — they’re a cut above. They’re timeless in that they’re always significant and somehow always relevant. They’re comforting in their endurance and their ever-growing importance in an increasingly digital age. Classic cinema has influenced my life in a huge way. I grew up watching old movies with my dad, who is an avid TCM viewer and lover of all things classic, all things noir, all things slapstick. As a kid, they captured my attention because they were so unlike whatever I was used to at the time (think 90s Disney and those early morning Nickelodeon shows). I saw these glamorous women in stunning floor-length gowns and pearls up to their ears, with such a refined sass that both intimidates and charms you — and men with their top hats and ten million cigarettes, talking a mile a minute. So the aesthetics definitely sparked my curiosity at first, even without knowing any background, but growing up I learned to love them even more.

In this century, with everyone having a computer in their pocket and always jonesing for the next big thing or the next newest thing, so many people dismiss classic films as some forgotten medium of bygone days. I have some friends that will literally refuse to watch anything in black & white because it doesn’t look good. It doesn’t sound good. They can’t relate to them, or they refuse to relate to them. So if you find yourself giving up on old movies because they don’t “look” as nice as the ones we see being made today (i.e. check your CGI privilege), I urge you to look closer. If the scratchy sound of years and years of restoration bothers you, I urge you to listen more carefully, because decades upon decades of film is just too much to miss out on.

Whether you’re a lover of classic movies or just want to know more, this is my curated list of The Best, sorted by earliest first.

 



Director: Robert Wiene
Written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a German silent horror film made all the way back in 1920, when movies were an art form mostly used to distract the population from the real life horrors of WWI. Silent film dominated up until the late 20s, when synchronized sound was introduced, and behold! you no longer had to read the dialogue, you could actually just hear the characters speak! Seen through the lens of German Expressionism, the film follows Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist and Cesare, his somnambulist. The “doctor” is a crazed man who aims to commit murder through Cesare, and needless to say, terror abounds. Allow yourself time for adjustment when viewing, as the pictures may move slowly or seem as if they’re lagging. They’re not. That’s just the rickety beauty of the silent film world, where you’re simply allowed more time to be amazed by the grunt work — the architecture alone will have you in its grip, making the entire atmosphere of the film reminiscent of a bad dream or a world gone wrong, or maybe just a Salvador Dalí nightmare. Nothing is straight. Nothing is correct. The buildings loom in around you, windows curve upward, slant, or curve — doors are obscenely angled voids beckoning you to enter and remain trapped inside. There’s a kind of intellectual terror that this film embodies. There’s no jump scares or cheap bloody murder shots, but it does delve deep into the inner workings of a seriously disturbed mind, so for horror lovers, it’s truly a gem. Way ahead of its time and ingeniously executed, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an art film that clearly influenced many modern directors (hello, Tim Burton, David Cronenberg, dare I say David Lynch?) with its innovative style and trailblazing imagery. You can pick up the restored version on Blu-Ray here.

 

 

Director: Victor Heerman

Enter the Marx Brothers. The real-life brothers Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo got their start on Broadway but released 13 films from 1920-1957. Though there were comedians in the silent era, the Marx brothers pioneered comedy as we know it today. Their humor was almost entirely based in words and language, making every Marx brothers film extremely dense in dialogue and action… meaning pay attention! These films are fast paced, absurd, and witty above all else. Personally, Animal Crackers (1930) is my favorite Marx Brothers film (which is why I included it on this list), but a collection of their most well-known and well-loved films (including this one) was just recently released on Blu-Ray this past year, so watch them all and pick a favorite of your own 🙂 I think what defines this film as a classic to me is that it’s simply unapologetic in its absurdity of premise — literally everything these men put out was just zany, for lack of a better term. The Animal Crackers premise focuses on Groucho as Captain Spaulding, who attends a party in his honor and complicates an investigation of a stolen painting. Needless to say, hilarity ensues. Despite this film being released in 1930, I do think the humor transcends the era, as the skits are timeless, the one-liners are worthy of both smirks and eye-rolls, and musical numbers are just too catchy. And if you don’t crack a smile, I’m convinced you’re cold-hearted!

 

 

Director: W. S. Van Dyke

This was one of the most popular films that came out in 1934 — it was nominated for 4 Oscars and even inspired 5 sequels. William Powell and Myrna Loy play Nick and Nora Charles, a retired detective and his wealthy and beautiful wife. The formula is one that’s been duplicated throughout time: the smug couple involved with dirty dealings, playfully in love and always half drunk, but to this day I still think it’s the most successful execution of the model — the true prototype, even. Loy and Powell have an undeniable chemistry that almost makes you forget you’re watching a murder mystery; they’re just so funny and charming and you get swept away in the dialogue. It’s essentially a comedy film only with dead bodies. The plot follows the couple as they return to New York with their dog, Asta, and Nick reconnects with old pals, many of whom are eccentric characters. Eventually, Nick is approached by Dorothy Wynant, whose father Clyde is suspected of murdering his former secretary, who also happens to be his mistress. Both egged-on by Nora and perhaps guilted into it, Nick agrees to help out in the investigation — if only for old time’s sake. The entire DVD collection is available here — with all 5 sequels included.

 



Director: Alfred Hitchcock

This is not only one of the best classic films in my opinion, but just one of the best films. Released in 1959 by one of the most influential directors Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest is an action film starring celebs such as Cary Grant, James Mason, and the beautiful Eva Marie Saint, seen in both flowing gowns and some career-woman duds. It follows a suave and confident New York City ad-man (Grant) as he gets caught up in something he never expected: a stolen identity first, and a murder mystery later. Also, with every Hitchcock film: keep your eyes peeled for the director himself as he is known to make an appearance in each one of his films.


Director: Robert Aldrich

Another one for the horror fans! Starring Bette Davis (pictured above) and Joan Crawford, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) is one of those movies you’ll watch once and never be able to get out of your head. A trip in suspense, paranoia, and general feelings of malaise, this film follows two aging ex-child stars living together who also happen to be sisters. The usually glamorous Hollywood stars trade in their pulchritude for the grotesque in this film: think pancake-powdered faces and overlined eyes, babydoll curls so perfectly imperfect Davis looks like a doll that’s come to life herself, all to conceal the exhaustion of aging on top of some serious emotional issues (if you could call it that). The real torment begins when Jane (Davis) finds out her sister Blanche (Crawford) is selling the mansion, though one could say the torment was there all along for Jane, who is seen in the film either shrilly singing a nerve-cinching old hit or wickedly serving her sister a dead rat for lunch. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were actually rivals in real life, as well, so perhaps that’s why their rivalry on screen was so well executed.