In case you missed it: earlier this week, New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd traveled to Denver in order to try the newly legal temptation of a marijuana candy bar. The reputed result for the first-time user was…well, not exactly mellow. Dowd’s piece on the regulation issues faced by marijuana legalization may have set Twitter ablaze, but here at the Best Films of Our Lives it got us thinking about some other bad trips – ones that don’t require flying to Colorado. Here are three films that might help you dare to just say no.
Voice Cast: Edward Brophy, Cliff Edwards, Verna Felton, Sterling Holloway
Now streaming on Netflix (get it before it goes back in the vault!), or for rent from Amazon Instant, iTunes
The most famous—and effective—scene from “Dumbo” is when our beloved baby elephant goes to see his imprisoned mother at her cell, and she rocks him with her trunk through the bars. But it’s the scene immediately following that one that interests us here, when Dumbo and his companion, Timothy Q. Mouse, drink from a bucket of water that, unbeknownst to them, is laced with “champagne.” This leads to a terrifying sequence of hallucinations, including pyramids, pink elephants playing their trunks as trumpets, and a monster mega-elephant made up of multicolored elephant heads. It’s an impressive, if disturbing, piece of animation, but perhaps we should focus on some more important questions: why does champagne make you see those things, and why do Timothy and Dumbo have the same hallucination? Maybe Maureen Dowd would know.
“Easy Rider” (1969)
Cast: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Available streaming on Netflix, for purchase on Amazon Instant and iTunes
It’s the defining film of the 60s/70s counterculture for a reason – “Easy Rider” is heavy on recreational drug use and low on respect for the man. In this case, though, the man wasn’t just a straight-edged 1950’s father figure, but an entire generation of classical Hollywood studio filmmaking; Hopper’s rough-and-tumble, New Wave-inspired shooting and editing style provided fuel to the growing “New Hollywood” fire dominated by Scorsese, Altman, Ashby, Bogdanovich, De Palma, Peckinpah, Cimino and others. On a freewheeling road trip to get to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras, hippie outliers Wyatt (Hopper) and Billy (Fonda) encounter a strange slice of Southern life – perhaps most memorably, Nicholson’s endearing, wayward drunk. But their increasingly unwelcoming journey doesn’t end exactly how they planned, with a horrifying psychedelic LSD trip in a New Orleans cemetery foreshadowing the pair’s harsh fate.
“A Scanner Darkly” (2006)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane
Available to rent streaming from Amazon Instant, iTunes, on disc from Netflix
If you’re talking drug-abuse-enduced paranoia, no one was more concerned with the bleak collision of altered states and authoritarian power than Philip K. Dick, one of the masters of 20th century sci-fi. Richard Linklater brought Dick’s dystopian novel to terrifying life in this under-appreciated, off-the-wall mind-bender, a unique blend of indie drama and experimental animation. Using digital rotoscoping techniques, Linklater casually blends recognizable actors and a familiar suburban Los Angeles setting with disquieting hallucinations, brought on by the addiction of his protagonist, undercover police agent Bob Arctor (Reeves), to the mysterious and powerful “Substance D.” A harrowing and haunting story that goes beyond the self-destruction of drug culture into the existential dread of surveillance and split identity, “A Scanner Darkly” stays true to the idiosyncratic vision of its source.