Frank's Faves: Cold movies

Frank's Faves: Cold movies

"I don't care what they're going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway ..." — Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) in "Frozen" (2013)

I had only been writing this column a couple of weeks when I last used the words "cold" and "fave" in the same sentence (

There's a good reason for that. Cold weather is not one of my favorite anythings — except possibly as a favorite excuse to stay indoors, cuddle up and watch a good movie about other folks freezing their keesters off.

It's not that I'm unaccustomed to bitter cold, having lived most of my life in the Midwest. On the contrary, I find that the older I get and the more deep-freeze winters I survive, the less my body wants anything to do with this time of year in this part of the country.

It could be that's precisely because of some of the winter escapades I've lived through over the years — the number of times I've flirted with frostbite by being out in conditions that would keep a polar bear at home. Or maybe more than flirted. I recall one nasty Christmas Eve blizzard many years ago with minus-50 windchills and whiteout visibility in which I drove my heaterless Chevy Nova from Lake Forest down to my parents' home in Emden, north of Lincoln — only to find the tiny farm town completely snowed in. I kid you not — a snow plow was stuck in a roof-high drift in the middle of the only road into town. And my feet were already so numb from driving without heat for the past few hours, that I'd nearly fallen flat on my face when I'd gotten out of my car to gas up back at the Dixie Truck Stop in McLean.

So what happened? Like many, many times in my life, I got lucky. Knowing I'd never be able to trudge that last mile or so on foot, as cold as I was, I turned around, found a side road to one of the grain elevators in Emden, and revved that Nova as high as I could to plow through maybe 50 yards of drifted snow, passing within inches of buried cars on either side of me in the process, but somehow winding up at my folks' doorstep not long thereafter.

Such experiences are supposed to make us hardier, aren't they? What doesn't kill us makes us stronger? Not me. Ever since, my feet burn when they get the least bit chilly, and I shiver like a Chihuahua every time the door opens. And yet that still doesn't keep me inside no matter how ugly Old Man Winter gets. Cabin fever? I am thy posterchild.

That's the funny thing about cold weather, I guess. No matter how much I dislike it, I can still handle it better than most non-Midwesterners I know, which is at least one good thing you can say about living in a winter wonderland. It toughens us. We here can handle more of what life dumps on us — all we need is a shovel.

And strange as it may sound coming from me, having just weathered 14 straight subfreezing days to end 2017 and begin 2018, I think it's possible there may actually be something to celebrate in such frigid conditions — namely, having them behind us!

So before the next round of wintry nastiness hits, allow me to blast the noisemakers, toss the confetti and raise a toast to all of us winter-hardened Midwesterners as we warm ourselves around the big-screen television and enjoy a mittenfull of movies that might actually make Illinois in January seem balmy by comparison. With teeth a-chattering, I call them:


— "Snowpiercer" (2013). Chris Evans, Ed Harris, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton star in this sci-fi thriller set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment has frozen the planet and killed off all life except for the human passengers onboard the perpetually moving, transglobal title train. While the film seems mostly about the unjust hierarchy aboard the train that cries out for rebellion, the ultimate lesson awaiting these passengers is that however bad they have it back in economy class, they really, really don't want to get off.

— "Fargo" (1996). This crime drama from writer-directors Ethan and Joel Coen stars William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and the frozen Minnesota landscape in what adds up to a snow-white black comedy about a botched kidnapping scheme that goes about as wrong as things can in the middle of snow-covered nowhere. As McDormand's sheriff says, "And it's a beautiful day ..."

— "Misery" (1990). Like "The Shining" (1980), another snowbound movie based on a Stephen King novel, this stir-crazy thriller from director Rob Reiner is set in the middle of a nasty Colorado winter, which becomes every bit as much a crucial plot device as the story's villain, a "cockadoodie" headcase played brilliantly by Oscar-winner Kathy Bates. In fact, James Caan's snow-wrecked novelist is as much a prisoner of the Rocky Mountain blizzard that causes his fateful car crash as he is of his injuries and his sledgehammer-wielding "number one fan." Still, it isn't just the cold that makes you shiver through this one.

— "Eight Below" (2006). Paul Walker is neither fast nor furious, just cold and desperate, when the approach of an Antarctic snowstorm forces his expedition to evacuate and leave his team of sled dogs behind, chained together outside a remote research station, in this survival drama from Disney. While Walker's attempts to organize the inevitable rescue mission comprises most of the plot of the film, the real drama (not to mention screen presence) is provided by the Alaskan huskies and their struggles to survive on their own in the brutal conditions.

— "Ice Age" (2002). Sure, Disney's animated "Frozen" features a princess who can freeze an entire town and create her own palace out of ice. But she and her sister and their friends can go indoors when they're not singing about building a snowman. Not so in this nonmusical, computer-animated prehistoric comedy set at the onset of the ice age and followed by four successful sequels. Ray Romano as a woolly mammoth, John Leguizamo as a sloth and Denis Leary as a saber-toothed tiger reluctantly band together to return a human infant to its tribe and do it all out in the elements. And all while being upstaged by my personal favorite cold-weather movie character — the hapless saber-toothed squirrel, Scrat, who goes through no end of trouble — and actually triggers Earth's ice age — while trying to store a single acorn. And you thought YOUR winter was rough ...

Topics (2):Film, Television

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
dane wrote on January 11, 2018 at 9:01 am



Check your 'facts' about Fargo. It is NOT a true story. The little ditty at the begining was classic Coen brothers being the Coen brothers.  


Dan Corkery wrote on January 11, 2018 at 9:01 am
Profile Picture

Thanks, Dane.

We have edited the story to remove any hint that "Fargo" was based on actual events.

Two of the film's plot elements do appear to be based in reality — using a woodchipper to dispose of a body, and altering vehicle identification numbers — but other than that, the story is fiction.

Dan Corkery

managing editor