Celluloid Dreams: Movies I Would Like To Live In

In the comments section to Dan’s post on Cary Grant, I said that I wanted to live in the world of Only Angels Have Wings. Dan suggested that would be a good idea for a post: Movies you would like to live in.

What do I mean by the fact that I want to live at that airport in South America somewhere, portrayed in Only Angels Have Wings? Well, first of all … here’s a still from the movie which kind of describes everything.

I mean, what else do I have to say?

No, but seriously. The world of that movie comes across as so vivid, so interesting … I just want to slip inside the television screen and hang out there with those people. I want to have a drink with Dutchie, the owner of the bar who walks around with a parrot on his shoulder. I want to have the pilots fight over who gets to buy me a drink. I want to play the piano. I want to stand in the fog and watch the planes fly in and out. I want to sleep in a small room with Venetian blinds, and live out of a small battered suitcase. I could go on and on. I just love the world of that movie.

Other movies I want to live in:

Notting Hill. I want to be friends with that entire cast of characters. I want to stroll along at the open-air market, and then go hang out with my group of friends and drink wine. I want to have romantic dramas, and have everyone gossip about me in a good-natured way. I just love the world in that movie, even if it is just a fantasy.

Fargo. I know it’s bleak and snowy and the mornings are dark and cold. I love it. I want to go to the all-you-can-eat buffet with those people, and talk about my life, or not talk about my life. Whatever. I want to have a cup of coffee with Marge Gunderson and her kindly husband. They’re such good people. I want to stand at my window and look out at the whited-out world, with a roaring fire behind me. But mainly, it’s the people I want to meet.

The Big Easy. Sure all those cops are corrupt, but they’re sexy! I LOVE that movie. It’s got a typical plot, but what makes the film special is how it completely evokes an entire world (not to mention what is, perhaps, the steamiest sex scene EVER – it’s steamy because it is emotional. Those two specific characters, with all their emotional baggage, are trying to come together. There’s no nudity, nothing like that. But … God, almighty.) Anyway, it could be just your typical corrupt-cop fights-his-own-corruption story – except that the world outside of the police station is portrayed with such detail. You can feel the heaviness of the air, you can see how the light is soft and mellow, you can tell that an ice-cold beer would taste so good. I want to go to those parties where people play banjos, and I want to get tipsy at juke joints, and I want to take a run in the muggy evening air. And then go make out in a crumpled-up bed with a corrupt cop.

Contact. I don’t know what it is. That movie GETS to me. I want to live in the entire thing. I love all those people. I love all the guys who work at the telescope installations or whatever you call them – I want to hang out with those people. Staring up at the night sky. Talking about “little green men”. I want to live that ENTIRE MOVIE. Being close to enormous events, almost being able to touch them, squinting up into the darkness at what we do not know … I think every scene in that film has such specificity: her room in South America, for example. It seemed like such a real place. The map with all the push-pins on it, the blinds drawn, the bed that looks so slept in – like she never makes the bed – she always just leaps awake and races out to go to the telescope, the abundant greenery outside. Good movies create entire worlds.

To Have and Have Not. Again with the evocation of an entire world. And you know that they did it with re-used movie sets!! They weren’t on Martinique or wherever they were supposed to be, they were in Hollywood! But still – there is an end-of-the-world sensibility to the film, and I would love to be there to partake in it. Strolling through the nightclubs, maybe dancing with someone, maybe not. Befriending a piano player. Drinking whiskey and singing along around the piano, with all of the other stranded misfits, waiting for the end of the world to come. And I LOVE the hotel they were staying in. I want to stay in a hotel like that. Especially if Bogart was across the hall.

Ball of Fire. Oh please. Let me step into that movie. I will be the floozy kind-hearted showgirl, and I will hang out in that CAVERNOUS mansion with all the scholars. I love that mansion. You can almost smell the dust in the rooms. But it’s expansive, it’s filled with books, and globes, and heavy dark wood furniture. Not to mention Gary Cooper on the scene. But I love all of those people, and I also love the bed she gets to sleep in. I would love to spend some time in the world of Ball of Fire. Oh, and FUGGEDABOUT the nightclub scene: what I would not give for a time machine to go back to the era of nightclubs like THAT. With Gene Krupa and his orchestra playing?? Are you KIDDING ME?? Oh, man … To be there! It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from a Nancy Lemann novel: “She had a nostalgia for a life she never led.” I have never led the life of a 1940s showgirl, but I have a nostalgia for it anyway.

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27 Responses to Celluloid Dreams: Movies I Would Like To Live In

  1. Mitchell says:

    I want to live in Moonstruck..the aunt and uncle could adopt me! Id like to live in the world of Easter Parade as well.

  2. Linus says:

    I’d overlap with a couple of yours: Contact is a brilliant choice, one I never would have concocted but one that is a perfect pick (it was the movie that made me fall irrevocably in love with Jodie Foster, for one thing). To Have and Have Not is a perfect film in just about every way, evoking a spectacular world.

    Star Wars is one I’ll have to call: the squeaky worth of it outstrips the cornball hyuk of the trappings. It’s about Believing in the Good, and its conception of the universe as a big huge vast place where everyone you might need to know knows everyone else you might want to meet is a telltale for the young age of the director but it sure is charming. Besides, I want to bring The Force to a crowded bar some weekend night. “Yo, hello, bartender — oh never mind, I’ll pour it myself from over here.” That, and I want an X-wing fighter of my own.

    Perhaps more later…

  3. Scott says:

    Since my teens, (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ) I’ve been completely and totally overwhelmed by the world of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

    Schmaltzy, over the top and sanctimonious though it may be, I want to believe in the world of George Bailey and the universe in which he ultimately triumphs.

    The love that saves George, (in the persona of Donna Reed) and the community that rallies behind him. The realization on George’s part that his family is his heaven on earth. I know I’m an old fashioned romantic, but this is the movie I want to be in. We all know who the bad guy is and despite his attempts to control our lives, we have meaning and purpose in those lives he will never understand.

    Capra captured emotionally on film the idealized version of small town America that Disney attempted to create physically in the early days of the Magic Kingdom. It is in many ways a world that never existed, but it is how our memories would like it to have been.

  4. peteb says:

    Looks like we’ll all be crowding into the observatory in Contact.. there’s just so much positivity[sp?/word?] in that movie.. how could anyone not want to be there?

    Continuing the sci-fi theme.. I’ll go for what might seem an unusual choice, Alien. Not, obviously, as in being on the ship itself, but there’s something about a universe in which ships like the Nostradamus are travelling across the galaxy that definitely appeals to me.. we never see Earth, and I’m not saying that is where I’d want to be in that particular movie universe.

    Back down to earth again.. Bringing Up Baby.. not that I would like to be Dr Huxley.. hmmm.. but if only every conversation could be as funny as the dialogue in that movie.(that’s maybe not as well-defined as it should be)

    Actually I’m finding this a difficult choice.. too much of the ‘other’ of each movie’s world is crowding in on my decision.. for example, the aftermath of The Day the Earth Stood Still would be a very interesting time.

  5. j swift says:

    A movie universe that I would like to be in is “13th Warrior”. The book sucked and was based on Beowulf. I do not remember the movie ever being out in the theaters but I watch it whenever it is on the tube. The movie touched on a lot of cultural life and interaction themes. I would not have wanted to live permanently in that time though.

  6. Big Dan says:

    Love, Actually.

    I’d kill to live in the small town in Doc Hollywood.

    Good call on Notting Hill.

    Big Fish.

    Meet Me In St. Louis.

  7. CW says:

    We’re on the same page, or in the same world, Red.

    Only Angels Have Wings and To Have and Have Not would be my picks as well.

    The world of Only Angels Have Wings really existed and it was REALLY close to the movie. In the late 20s and early 30s, when Pan Am was competing with NYRBA to establish the South American routes, it was JUST LIKE THAT – same airplanes, same risks, same romance. And the guys who started out flying Pan Am’s trimotors and S-38s in South America later flew the big flying boats in World War II, opened up the rest of the world after the war in the Connies and Stratocruisers, then flew the 707s and 747s before the end of their careers.

    Today what can a pilot expect? $25k a year flying angry, hostile passengers between huge concrete airports infested with angry, hostile TSA thugs who will jail the pilot for trying to bring his nail clippers on the plane. No flying with your six-shooter like Cary Grant!

    It just seems so unfair to have been born 50 years too late.

    //Rant off//

  8. dorkafork says:

    –The early Bond films. Love the set designs and exotic locales.
    –I’d like to live in some superhero movie. As a superhero, naturally. I don’t think being Jimmy Olsen would be fun.

  9. dorkafork says:

    You know, now that I think about it, I think the first 3 Bond films had quite a few scenes set in Miami/the Florida coast. So maybe not that exotic, but neat anyway.

  10. red says:

    CW –

    I’m not sure about reincarnation and all that – but it seems to me that you might have actually been there, if you know what I mean. Your passion for it seems more like a recovered memory than an interest acquired in this lifetime.

    //newage philosophizing off

  11. Chai-rista says:

    The Mummy – I love the library in the early scenes, the dusty treasures that pop up everywhere with their intricate gears and secret compartments, and the gorgeous dresses the love interest (whats’er name) gets to wear.

  12. red says:

    chai-rista – Oh, I love that library too!! Where she knocks over all the bookshelves, right? Yup. I love it.

  13. Dan says:

    Very well done; I’ll have to post about my own choices. But for now…
    -Blade Runnner
    -Master and Commander
    -The Lord of the Rings

  14. Dan says:

    I almost forgot this one: Faith Rewarded.

  15. popskull says:

    In “Star Wars” I’d like to be in that hangar aftert they got back from blowing up the Death Star.

    In Rohan or Gondor or best of all The Shire.

    On that roadside in “Close Encounters” when the kid says, “Ice cream!”

  16. Brilliant question!

    I’d love to live inside Fargo, for the exact same reasons you cited.

    Love Actually would be great because it’s the most realistic love story I’ve seen. I can actually imagine myself in that story.

    The Misfits. Marilyn was luminous, Clark Gable was as wry and manly as ever. I’d make a good sister to somebody, or a waitress in a dusty cowboy bar.

    Gone With The Wind. Just to be anywhere near that love story would be a blessing.

  17. red says:

    Big Dan: Excellent call on that cute little town in Doc Hollywood – I love the atmosphere of that movie. Even the sunshine seems kind.

  18. Big Dan says:


    I love the way everybody knows everybody. “You can’t poop in this town without everyone knowing what color it is.”

    And the night of the festival, walking up the street with the mayor on a warm night, helping the locals with their cookout grills and stopping in from place to place.

    It’s like what the small town I grew up in would have been if it were just a little more perfect.

  19. DBW says:

    Interesting post. I thought of three off the top of my head:

    Stealing Beauty–I love Tuscany. The farm in the movie, and the surrounding terrain, is beautiful. The kitchen, with its big wooden table, is great. I like all the characters, and the meals/parties they have, full of attractive, interesting people–and lots of Italian wine–look like heaven to me. In addition, Liv Tyler is lovable in the movie–You just breathe her in. The movie makes me remember what it felt like to be seventeen again.

    Siddartha–I haven’t seen this movie for many years, and my memories may be inaccurate. I find India very appealing and exotic, and this movie captures the feel of the place very well–if a bit idealized.

    Round Midnight–I love jazz, especially of the late 50s/early 60s variety. Short of hanging out with Miles, Cannonball, Bill Evans, Thelonious, Bird, Coltrane, et.al., this movie takes you to a very similar place. My idea of musical heaven–plus the heroin was cheap…just kidding.

  20. Ken Hall says:

    I’d give that little town in Chocolat a try.

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension. I was born to be a Hong Kong Cavalier.

    The Empire Strikes Back. Also to be a Jedi was I born.

    Lord of the Rings. Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he would not want to live in Middle-Earth? Of course there does, but screw ‘im. It’s a problem, but it’s not my problem.

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If I can’t be a Jedi, I’ll settle for Starfleet officer.

    Amadeus. Live from the Age of Reason in Vienna and Salzburg (two of my favorite cities in the world)–no more need be said.

    Harry Potter (any). So long as I didn’t have to be a great Muggle.

    The Right Stuff. It would take two hours’ explanation, or none. I choose none.

  21. skinnydan says:

    I’m going to cheat and use a couple of TV series. While I don’t really want to be in the army or the middle of a war, I think I’d want to live in both Band of Brothers and the Sharpe’s series. There’s something about the cameraderie and the bravery demonstrated by the groups of men in these series that I envy. Reminds me of the Crispin’s Day speech in Henry V.

    If I had to pick a film, I think I’d go with Local Hero. Life in a quirky little town in Scotland where people are happy with the quieter pace of life appeals to me. Plus having a Mark Knopfler soundtrack is really I ever wanted for myself.

  22. DBW says:


  23. Obscurorant says:

    Alternate Lives

    So: from my comments, to Sheila’s blog, and back here again. The topic? Movies you’d like to live in; here are my choices…

  24. Rosemary says:

    I want to live in Richard Hannay’s apt in London in the “39 Steps”.
    I want to make a drink from the side table and pull down the shades after I look out the window and see the men under the streetlight.
    I want to take a haddock out of my icebox and flip it around in flour and cook it up and sit down and eat it while its hot with a knife and fork.
    I want to sleep in his bed and come down the stairs in the morning and see my name on the building occupant list in huge letters. But mostly I want that haddock!

  25. Chai-rista says:

    I thought of another one – the house in North By Northwest where the criminals are living. It looks a bit like a FL Wright design. I want to live in that house!

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