Out of House and Home

Together, Mr. Ben and I have been preparing to embark on the incredible journey of Home Ownership. It is a quintessentially American journey, more American than Route 66 or McDonald’s or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps — at which, by the way, apparently our people take a back seat to the Danes, Swedes, Canadians, and lots of other pinko-commies who have supposedly grown fat and lazy sucking on the government’s teat.

Over the years, we have pinched our pennies until the outline of Lincoln’s hat remained etched on our thumbs, and stretched a dollar til it was so thin you could read through it. Despite bouts of unemployment, Mr. Ben’s law school debt, and the fact that we got engaged and then married, we now have enough money for a down payment. What’s the secret, you ask? Well, for one thing, you let your parents pay for the wedding, even if it means they do everything their way and you get about as much say as the flower girl. For another, you re-use everything. Those sweatpants your mom bought you from the Limited when you were ten? Why *not* wear those to gym? So what if you look like Liz Lemon on an off day?

SIDE NOTE: I love it when people compliment Liz Lemon.

“You’re Liz Lemon, damn it. In certain lights, you’re an 8! Using East Coast, over-35 standards, excluding Miami.” –Jack

“There’s something about you lately. Make me want to put my feet in your mouth.” –Tracy

Um, I’m getting off track. The point is, I’ve been looking at apartments since late summer and discovered, as many good people have before me, that in New York, the definition of “amenities” has been broadened to include many things that residents of other places take for granted, such as “light,” “floorboards,” “non-lead paint,” etc. In order to get a whopping three (3) rooms, plus a kitchen and a bathroom, in a Stuff White People Like neighborhood, you need to produce a huge amount of money, the kind of dough that bought a prize racehorse in the Godfather

Poor Khartoum came to a sticky end, as perhaps you recall.

Anyway, we have an accepted offer on our apartment of choice, and it’s all terribly exciting. In honor of this development (and in honor of Filmspotting, which I’ve been listening to regularly now for almost a year), I thought I’d do a Top 5 list of movies about houses, and I’m soliciting suggestions. What are your favorites?

In any such endeavor, rules are crucial:

1) The house must be a character of sorts in the film and not just a backdrop (so, like, the Austen novel Mansfield Park would count, but the Austen novel Emma would not).

2) The hotel in The Shining does not count as a house. Neither does the prison in The Shawshank Redemption. We’re being strict here, people.

3) The action must take place largely in or around the house; the house must be central to the plot and even the identity of the film.

So! Recommendations? Suggestions? Let’s hear ’em.

20 thoughts on “Out of House and Home”

  1. “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”? “Poltergeist”? (too obvious?)

    off-the-top-of-my-head possiblities from literature: “The Fall of the House of Usher”? Is Thornfield Hall not enough animate by itself?

    (miss you madly, e)

    1. There are many more good literary options than cinematic ones, presumably because the British are obsessed with their ancestral homes. Yanni, how are you? I miss you too. Can we have a Skype date or something?

  2. Two more:

    Pet Sematary (sic)
    Pacific Heights

    Is it me or do these tend to be on the more negative/murderous end of the movie spectrum?

    1. Definitely, yes, and I’ve barely seen a horror movie since “Scream.” So that’s a bit of a problem for me here. I’m thinking more along the lines of the Danish film “Celebration” and, you know, “Gone With the Wind.” (It is kind of about a house! Think about it.)

  3. Monster House
    Gosford Park/Rules of the Game
    Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
    Beauty and the Beast
    Howard’s End

    Less central, but the house is important and they’re good:
    The Barbarian Invasions

    1. “Psycho” is an inspired choice. Well done. “Gosford Park,” on the other hand, I totally should have thought of — that’s one of my favorites.

  4. I know you’re allergic to the whole Israel thing, but do check out a documentary by Amos Gital called, ahem. HOUSE (1980). It was made for Israeli TV but banned in 1980. I taught it to my students a couple of weeks ago 🙂

    1. Do you have any recommendations for intense black-and-white Japanese movies? Because that would make for an allergy trifecta. 🙂

  5. On another note: I know you’re allergic to the whole Russian thing, too, but this one’s a must: THE IRONY OF FATE (1975). A classic Soviet comedy in which the chief protagonists are the typical identical apartments of Soviet citizens regardless of the city where they are in, which, in turns, enables a comic plot that Russians have been laughing at every New Years Eve for the past 36 years. Available (with subtitles!) on youtube: Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVpmZnRIMKs and Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TmGPeowN-0

  6. Congrats on your future home-ownership!

    When I was a kid, I was scarred for life by a horror film called “Pulse.” Basically a suburban house comes alive, and it works together with all the appliances to try to kill the people who live there. Freaky stuff.

    I think The Virgin Suicides might count as a house-character movie. Or Sunset Boulevard? And OH MAN have you seen the Japanese movie “House” (Hausu, 1977) yet?!

  7. My dream home is the house in My Neighbor Totoro. I wouldn’t mind having those neighbors, either, or a cat bus to take me to work.

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