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Home » Culture and Criticism

Poppy-Fields Movies: The Couch Of Fame

Submitted by on September 28, 2014 – 4:23 AM101 Comments

poppyfields

9/28/14: Please welcome our newest Couch Of Famer, Clueless.

What is a poppy-fields movie?

I first mentioned the concept in a very old piece from the "Tomato Nation? It's a web journal" days, but I don't remember when I started pairing it with the poppy fields from The Wizard of Oz. In any case: it's a film you can't not watch when it comes on, whether it's cycling through on HBO or cut up in a hundred pieces on Sunday-afternoon basic cable. You know what happens. You could recite what happens from memory. Sometimes, the memory isn't even that good, because a poppy-fields movie doesn't rely on quality to becalm you, one boot laced up and the other resting patiently on its side, as you get ready to go out or sit down for a TV break between chores.

What does it rely on? Familiarity, partly; a handful of performances in The Godfather get worse with each viewing, but it's a worse I can sing along with. Length helps too, at least for me — many of the films on my all-time poppy-fields list clock in at three hours with commercials. Often there's a moment or scene at the end that I have some Pavlovian need to rewatch, some victory or reunion that gives me a thrill. Sometimes it's straight-ahead quotable fun. Sometimes it's all of those things. Sometimes I own it on DVD/iTunes and I STILL can't pry myself away from a 3 PM showing on TBS.

So, let's review the criteria so far:

  • lengthy
  • familiar/frequent
  • classic/award-winner
  • "Greetings, Professor Falken" (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)
  • "Wanna have a catch?" (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)
  • quote-fest
  • I'd add caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie to my personal list
  • "forget you, melon farmer" (you own it, but will still watch it chopped up with ads/bunged up with fake curse words)

Rarely will a movie score on all of those. It does seem like you need at least three to land a cushion on the PFM Couch Of Fame, but it's no guarantee; Gone With The Wind is endless, rerun frequently, won awards, and owns the AFI top-quotes list — and I find it unbearable.

The Couch Of Fame so far:
A Few Good Men, 9/16/14 (Lis and Esther)
Back To The Future, 9/9/14 (NJ)
Clueless, 9/28/14 (Jody)
Diner, 4/24/14 (SDB)
The Fifth Element, 6/13/14 (Kat)
The Fugitive, 8/25/14 (Bill)
The Hunt For Red October, 5/6/14 (Craig)
The Magnificent Seven, 5/23/14 (Jan)
Sex & The City, 7/17/14 (SDB)

To nominate your own PFM, email bunting at tomatonation dot com with a rundown of the criteria and your argument for why it deserves a cushion. You can win stuff!

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101 Comments »

  • Geoff says:

    The Hunt For Red October and A League of Their Own instantly jump to the top of my leader board.

  • katie says:

    The Breakfast Club & Beetlejuice.

  • Craig says:

    Concur on The Hunt for Red October

    *lengthy
    Yep, 2 hours, 14 minutes

    *familiar/frequent
    A staple of basic cable in the 1990s

    *classic/award-winner
    Hey, it actually did win an Oscar for best Sound Editing

    "Greetings, Professor Falken" (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)
    "Combat tactics Mr. Ryan…"

    *"Wanna have a catch?" (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)
    OK, not a lot here, but the quiet scene at the end where Ryan welcomes Ramius to the New World is a wonderful coda.

    *quote-fest
    I use at least 15 quotes from this movie a month, easy.

    *and I'd add caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie to my personal list
    Well, they are trying to steal a nuclear submarine when you come right down to it.

    Bonus Great, top flight cast, (Baldwin, Connery, Glenn, Neill, James Earl Jones) and great character actors (Fred Dalton Thompson as the Admiral, for one.)

  • Alison says:

    I second A League of Their Own and add Coal Miner's Daughter.

  • Kari says:

    Dirty Dancing is mine. It seems like it only meets two or maybe three criteria but I have to watch it every time.

  • KB says:

    Oooh, A Few Good Men is my #1. Shawshank Redemption and Apollo 13 are up there too as is Die Hard but perhaps that's a different category.

  • Faux McCoy says:

    "Goodfellas" and "Terminator"

  • Courtney says:

    I've always referred to them as "meatloaf movies"! I can't stop watching Contact when it comes on. Because of John Hurt's "Wanna take a riiiide." And the deliciously evil Tom Skerritt.

  • Liz says:

    Last of the Mohicans. "Stay Alive! I will find you!" Swoon…

  • ct says:

    I second A League of Their Own!

    Saving Private Ryan and Titanic are my tops.

    A rainy afternoon, a bag of chips and either of those movies…
    It's the simple things.

  • Barb says:

    ALL ABOUT EVE

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Courtney thank God someone else is going to feel me on the Contact nomination.

  • Craig says:

    I will totally second (or third) Contact. I always forget how much I enjoyed it when it came out and then I see it again and I'm like, oh, yes, this work.

    Also, given the way that FX has been running it in cross-promotion for The Winter Soldier, I can tell you that Captain America: The First Avenger, with a little time, will make it.

  • S says:

    Fourthing or fifthing "A League of Their Own." Since ther eare so many fans here, did Dottie drop the ball on purpose? I think the movie is telling me she did, but it would be a better movie if Kit won legitimately.

    Also, "Groundhog Day." It SHOULD be unbearable treacly sap, but it works.

    And Clerks. Don't judge me. "But I wasn't supposed to BE here today" is applicable in so many situations.

  • Colleen says:

    They don't really meet the length requirement, but Goonies, the Sandlot, and Mary Poppins get me every time.

  • Ann says:

    The Best Years of Our Lives & Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

  • Lily says:

    Oh DEFINITELY Contact and Shawshank, those were the first two that came to mind. Also Office Space.

  • Paula says:

    Goodfellas. Top Gun. The Godfather. Die Hard. An Affair to Remember. The King and I. From Here to Eternity. In Harm's Way.

    I'll be adding to this list all day in my head.

  • Katie says:

    Mine are actually Bring It On and Mean Girls…

  • Dan says:

    Has no-one mentioned The Great Escape yet?

    Let's see how it shapes up:

    Lengthy: 2 hours 45, check.

    Familiar/Frequent: It's a staple of bank-holiday viewing in the UK, check.

    Classic/award-winner: Nominated for Oscars and golden globes, has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Check.

    big payoff/long-shot victory: Change the course of the war by getting so many men out of Stalag Luft III that the German army divert men from the front? Check.

    Pavlovian tear-jerk: "This film is dedicated to the fifty." A million times, check.

    Quote-fest: "It looks, after all, as if you will see Berlin before I do." Check.

    Caper-ish: Hells yeah. Tunneling out of an escape-proof Nazi prison camp? Check.

  • Missicat says:

    The Princess Bride. Too many quotes to list.
    Young Frankenstein. Still one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.
    Don't think either one of them are award winners but I am compelled to watch them every time I happen upon them.

  • Lindsay says:

    Probably I'm strange, but my 2 entries on this list would be:
    Real Genius and Scavenger Hunt. Both movies are impossible for me to resist, and chock-full of quotable lines. Real Genius is now popping up on basic cable, and I'm not sure Scavenger Hunt ever resided anywhere other than TBS…

  • Heather C. says:

    @Lindsay – OMG SCAVENGER HUNT!!!!!! I thought for the longest time I was the only person in the world to have seen this movie, because when I described it to others, they looked at me like I had three heads. With the wonders of the Internet, I realized it was a real movie, and I wasn't hallucinating that time when I was about 8 and our family was staying over my dad's friend's house.

    I didn't live with cable till I was 25 (and have had it off and on since then), so I don't have those sorts of movies, but I know that for my husband, it's The Right Stuff, every time.

  • Jack says:

    @Lindsay: I was going to say Real Genius myself. It's not lengthy and has no particular tear-jerker moments, but I think it ticks every other box (YMMV of course, on whether it qualifies as "classic"; for me it obviously does), especially quotability. I find myself quoting lines from that movie all the time. Most importantly, if I'm channel surfing and see it on TV, if I have no other pressing matters you're damn right I'm watching it to the end.

  • attica says:

    Rounders: "Meester sonova beeetch!" is my jam.

    Stage Beauty. It's ridic that a Restoration actor invents method acting, I know. Still: I watch it whenever it's on.

  • Sharon says:

    Steel Magnolias – I know, it's bad and completely over the top, but as God is my witness, I have to watch it to see Sally Fields in the scene after Julia Roberts' funeral. Plus I love me some Dolly Parton.

  • Jenn says:

    Yes, yes, yes to A League of Their Own. I was just watching it the other day.

    I would add Moulin Rouge. I always have to watch until at least "Roxanne."

  • Lisa says:

    I had this conversation with my dad two days ago! Mine are Mallrats and for unknown reasons, The Day After Tomorrow.

  • holly says:

    The Princess Bride
    The Blues Brothers
    And the Band Played On (what, sometimes I need a good cry….)

  • Dayna says:

    LA Confidential is the movie I always stop for. There may be others but this is all I can come up with right now. The cast, the story, the dialogue, including one of my all-time favorite movie lines.
    Capt. Dudley Smith is having his goons beat up a Mob thug and tells him "Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven't got any wings." Ha! Perfect!
    It's that movie that I think I can recite all the dialogue and know what happens but there's always something more that I missed or have forgotten. Such a great movie.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Dayna, LA Confy is a great one. Long, won a ton of shit, fantastic performance from Spacey, and of course "…that IS Lana Turner."

  • JenV says:

    I pretty much can't not watch The Departed if it's on.

    I concur with Shawshank Redemption, League of Their Own, and Moulin Rouge. I love all of those.

  • Kim says:

    Some of mine have already been mentioned so I'll add:

    Cutting Edge and Center Stage

  • Karen says:

    So many, but at the top of the list are Princess Bride, Fifth Element, and Bring It On.

  • Dayna says:

    @Sarah "Rollo Tomasi." Hee!

  • Jody says:

    Several of mine have already been mentioned:
    Goonies
    The Departed
    Titanic

    Right now I can't stop watching Walk the Line.

  • Rebecca U says:

    Twister – "cow"

    Ever After

    My Cousin Vinnie

    also nthing Princess Bride, Ferris

  • Krissa says:

    A Christmas Story – I don't even like this movie and I can't for the life of me turn away if it's on TV.

    Shawshank Redemption, every time.

    My personal one that doesn't exactly fit your criteria is Miss Congeniality.

  • Danielle says:

    2nding The Day After Tomorrow (@Lisa – I have no idea why this one sucks me in either)

    nthing Contact and Shawshank Redemption

    also – Cloud Atlas

  • Kristin says:

    I'm seconding Apollo 13, and adding Silence of the Lambs. That's like movie crack to me – I've seen it a gazillion times, own it, and will still sit down and watch it every. single. time.

    Also, big wave to Ann on The Best Years of Our Lives. Awesome movie!

  • Cara says:

    @Karen, good call on all of those, especially Fifth Element, which I would have forgotten about despite once sitting through an entire airing on the semi-Christian channel that crammed in so many ads that it was well over an hour longer than the usual running time.

    @Sharon, I always watch Steel Magnolias, too.

    @Lindsay, I might own Real Genius on DVD.

    Otherwise, I'm generally a sucker for musicals and sports movies, although oddly not Damn Yankees.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    Yikes–I agree with so many mentioned! Gotta throw in a few of my favorite UK/Aussie films: Strictly Ballroom ("I've got my happy face on!" and "No new steps!"), Kinky Boots ("hand me my boobs, luv") and Blow Dry (Alan Rickman and that scene where you see the flame tattoo on the sole of his foot!). I don't think any really meet the length requirement but I will always stop and watch and I can pretty much recite all the dialogue.

  • Still Another Kate says:

    OK, can't believe it hasn't been mentioned but Oceans 11. I can recite that movie from memory. And it is the definition of a caper movie.

    "You scared" "You suicidal?" "Only in the morning."

    "We go way back and I owe from that thing with the guy in the place."
    "That was our pleasure."
    "I'd never been to Belize."

    But I am also going to nominate Cry Freedom. I don't know why, but when that movie comes on TBS at 1AM I've always like "Guess I'm not going to sleep for a couple of hours."

    And Sleepers. I just flat out love that movie. I had to go to IMDB to get it right but this is the money quote for me:

    Detective: Hey, do me a favor, would you?
    Lorenzo: What's that?
    Detective: If I ever make it onto your shit list, give me a call. Give me a chance to apologize.

    And I second – or third or fourth – previously mentioned like Princess Bride, Shawshank, Great Escape, Real Genius.

  • Emily says:

    Apparently bad movies are my catnip: Bad Boys (I or II, I will stop for them both), Armageddon, and Talladega Nights.

    The Godfather II is probably the one I am most guilty of re-watching on network TV when I own it on both DVD and BluRay (drives my boyfriend crazy).

  • bristlesage says:

    A few more:

    Galaxy Quest
    I agree with Paula and KB upthread on Die Hard (or Die Hard with a Vengeance, but not the second one)
    Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but of course not Crystal Skull or Temple of Doom (though I can be temporarily poppy-fielded until Kate Capshaw starts screeching again)
    Also agreeing with KB on Apollo 13 (KB and I could have a lovely afternoon of doing nothing)
    Singin' in the Rain
    Back to the Future

    From the "Judge Me All You Want" Division:
    Dodgeball
    Anchorman

  • Tyliag says:

    I always refer to these movies as Popcorn movies. Not that I eat popcorn while watching them, but because of the movie Real Genius. I keep catching that one on cable and i have the same conversation with myself every single time. "oh just a few minutes, kent's car is about to make it into his room, okay I should go but they are about to shoot the laser, you know what screw it, I'm watching until the Popcorn scene. Fucking Hathaway."

    So yeah, Real Genius. Second, thirded, fourthed. To inifinity.

    On the tearjerker front; I might be in the minority on this one, but Mask. Tears. Every single time tears. Also, Power of One. The reason I had a huge crush on Stephen Dorff for most of my formative years. And I know I'm the only one who saw this movie, but Spitfire Grill.

    On the 90s nostalgia front. Empire Records 4eva! I don't need to explain my art to you warren. Also, Can't Hardly Wait, and Clueless.

  • Amy says:

    Bring It On (can't turn it off)
    The Fifth Element (it's on a whole lot and oh yes, I will watch it every time.)
    Christmas Vacation (can recite from beginning to end)

    Also … although it's only just a Lifetime movie: Mother May I Sleep With Danger. Can. Not. Resist. Come on, Donna Martin Shacks Up With A Maniacal Murderer!?

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    National Treasure (but NOT the sequel) The Mummy (but NOT The Mummy Returns), A Few Good Men, Dirty Dancing.

    I love National Treasure. I just adore it. Nicholas Cage is great in it and his sidekick shoulda had a much bigger career.

  • Sarah says:

    The Rock.

    …What?

  • DriverB says:

    A lot of great ones already mentioned! But I'll add these:

    Zoolander
    Coming to America

    and especially for this native Bostonian,

    GOOD WILL HUNTING

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