So, we are now in the middle of a near-lockdown situation in the US. Which means, God forbid, you are now trapped in a house either by yourself, or, possibly worse, with your family (your preference in that probably depends on whether you’re more of a Jack Torrance or Donny/Marie Osmond type). There are multiple pre-made itineraries for families and people at a much lower risk of infection, from the ludicrous:
To the alternately ludicrous:
It’s at this point that I feel obligated to point out that alcohol does suppress the immune system; so, you might not be giving up whisky for Lent, but you certainly should for the Pandemic of 2020 (I’m actually not being too snide; the projected death rate is twice the Spanish Flu Epidemic, so we might as well start capitalising it now, and treating it with the respect and caution it warrants). Good news, if you want all fun and inebriation of casual day drinking with less risk, I can suggest a convenient alternative (https://medium.com/@patrickkmc10/yr-guide-to-medical-marijuana-8d819e7362a7?source=friends_link&sk=ffb71b57fcfd576760f3c162347c9ce0), and some light, breezy entertainment. Those of you who know me can probably see where I’m headed.
After you get lightly buzzed (enough to make Simpsons reruns interesting, not enough to make your bad side wobbly), you, dear reader, might experience a strong impulse to go to a Robert Earl Keen concert. Which you should not do, if you’re avoiding crowds. Also, he tested positive for Covid 19. Fortunately, there is an entire genre of movies dedicated to the themes of pestilence, deprivation, quarantine and inevitable civil chaos! Yr correspondent would like you to know that he has a soft spot for bad movies and B movies, which is good, because that summarizes every film on this list. In no real particular order, and with running off-colour commentary, roll film!
Zombieland (2009) — Even though it’s about a zombie pandemic and not people just collapsing from respiratory distress, this film (and its sequel) nicely encapsulate the American mentality for dealing with disasters: “Kill everyone in the vicinity, steal their toilet paper, and flee to your bunker to wait out the Russian ICBMs.” Certainly, that’ll be the narrative that’s pressed on you, because it’s more entertaining than, “Remain calm, keep a week’s-worth of supplies on-hand if at all possible, do not interact with other people, don’t shake hands, wash your hands every hour, stop touching your face, be careful, and you might do okay.” No, shooting your former-neighbors-now-plague-carriers in the face is much better television, and while I do not support the neighbor-shooting policy or paranoia, I am always in favor of better entertainment. Seriously, there are a few snooze-fests on this one. That’s an hour and a half killed, if not the virus. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can not shoot the virus (lookin’ at you, Florida Man). The sequel is also great. Also, this is an extremely violent, scary movie, so, it’s probably only suitable for the ten-years-and-up crowd (let’s be honest, that is the time most people in my generation started watching R-rated movies), although, it’s not like this film is more harrowing than some of the news coverage I’ve seen (and it’s certainly far more soothing than anything coming out of the White House).
Contagion (2011) — This is not exactly the most-gripping film out there, but it’s surprisingly accurate in its predictions, including bungled governmental responses, fake news that financially benefits a few individuals, and a weird, tropical disease that starts in China. Okay, it’s eerily prescient, and it’s mostly-family-friendly (although you would have to explain difficult concepts like rioting, martial law, and quarantine procedures)(hey, if you don’t engage your children on this subject, CNN will in the next few weeks). It follows an outbreak of a disease for three-ish months from “Day 2” of the epidemic to “Day 144,” when a vaccine becomes widely available. More-cynical audiences might have to keep themselves from screaming at Gwyneth Paltrow’s character, “Wouldn’t your jade yonni eggs fix that?!” Also, special mention in this film for actually making an extra ask, at one point, “Who’s footing the bill for [emergency quarantine tents]?” Americans should be aware that disease and overcoming it are not cheap (as any cancer survivor can attest), and we should expect to feel some more economic pinch and pull as more people are infected by Covid 19.
Outbreak (1995) — Most of the male actors have been accused of being sexual predators, which is problematic, so I recommend you steal this film, and buy The Thomas Crown Affair, so Rene Russo gets a residual check, and the rapists don’t. Or just buy the film; whatever your conscience, convenience, and bank account dictate. So, remember my admission of a fondness for bad films? Yeah, this film starts with a massive explosion and monkeys (I’m not making this up, and it makes a little more sense in the context of the film, but not enough to delve into here). The fifty-words-or-less summary is that Robert DeNiro and ex-wife Rene Russo have marital problems while grappling with an outbreak of a disease that’s totally not based on Ebola which somehow makes it to the US via illegally-imported monkeys (that’s not a racist, xenophobic statement, the fictional virus is literally carried by monkeys)(who are smuggled in)(this is not the most-ludicrous thing in this film). Astute readers may recall my warning that you can’t shoot a pathogen in the face from a few paragraphs ago. This is exactly what the Army tries to do in this film. It also features helicopter dog fights, somehow magically using monkey blood as a cure, and the military obsessing about biological weapons before we knew how important cyber security was. It’s a seriously weird, action-packed movie that’s less realistic than Lord of the Rings, but it’s two hours long. It’s probably about as family-friendly as your average generic action film (which it is). Also, as long as I’m admitting that this is an entertainingly bad film, I’d like to draw attention to every one of the cast members, who are not just acting, but Acting! Even the normally fairly-staid Russo never actually speaks; she shouts, sighs, purrs, whispers — the sets and backdrops of this film look cheap and unconvincing because the cast undoubtedly devoured the original sets during rehearsals.
The Andromeda Strain (1971) — I have not seen this film, but if, “I have no personal experience or expertise here” were a disqualification for discussing Covid 19, the White House would stop broadcasting. Anyway, this is Michael Crichton’s first blockbuster novel about a deadly disease from space, and it’s two hours long. There was also a 2008 version that I can’t speak to. This one made the list largely because it is the only time when “increasing the body’s pH” is a good thing, and the premise is still fictional.
John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) — I could write an entire book about how great this film is. However, you should absolutely not watch it with anyone who can’t see a seriously terrifying horror movie. The film features an alien organism that invades and perfectly copies its host in a remote research station in Antarctica. The staff and faculty decide, instead of risking exposing the rest of the world to the alien menace, to self-isolate. Go find the blood test scene on Youtube for a taste of what this film holds. In addition to being a great, gripping, scary film that’ll keep you indoors, there’s an entire sub-culture of fandom dedicated to it, with enough associated urban legends to keep you indoors for weeks. Supposedly, test audiences thought the film was too gory and upsetting, so the studio pressured Carpenter reduce the squick factor. Carpenter responded — may Alan Moore’s crazy snake god bless him — by changing nothing. Yes, you may be trapped indoors with the kids, but at least you’re not with a bunch of dysfunctional horror movie characters and a murderous, shape-shifting alien. Also, if you get a fever or cough, be like MacReady, go to your shack, and play video games until it passes.