If you’re anything like me (I pray that you’re not), your attention span is so bad right now that you don’t remember if you’re anything like me. It’s why I’m playing Animal Crossing and binging half-hour sitcoms, but not spending my endless isolation hours learning a second language or doing something else equally important, like watching every Best Picture winner. That’s mostly because I don’t want to see Crash again, but also: only four Best Picture winners are under 100 minutes. I can barely watch an episode of Better Call Saul without checking my phone, let alone all 183 minutes of The Deer Hunter. Not even 90 minutes of Ernest Borgnine in Marty (a great movie!) can keep my attention lately.
This list below, of nine excellent movies that are under 80 minutes (listed in alphabetical order), is for my fellow short-attention-span sufferers.
Alice in Wonderland
This list could be composed exclusively of classic animated Disney movies — especially in the early years of Walt Disney Animation Studios, when anything over 90 minutes was a massive achievement — but I’m restricting myself to only one title: Alice in Wonderland. Alice was considered a bit of a flop when it was released in 1951, but in the ensuing decades, it’s become essential viewing for fans of animation and/or stoners. Just don’t watch the other Alice in Wonderland movie on Disney+, believe me.
Where to watch: Disney+
Bride of Frankenstein
Still bummed about the dissolution of the Dark Universe? I am. I am every day. Oh, what could have been. Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde! Javier Bardem as the Frankenstein Monster! Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man! Tom Cruise as… a mummy? I’m not sure. I didn’t watch The Mummy, other than the plane video. Universal Pictures wanted to make a Bride of Frankenstein movie, too — a script was written and Bill Condon was slated to direct — with Angelina Jolie in the lead role. But it never came to be, obviously. Just as well: the original Bride of Frankenstein, starring Elsa Lanchester as the bride, is unbeatable; it’s arguably the best of all the Universal monster movies.
Duck Soup is not only a great under-80 movie — it’s also one of the funniest movies ever. It’s packed with jokes that still hold up 87 years later, from pun-perfect wordplay (“This is a gala day for you” “Well, a gal a day is enough for me. I don’t think I could handle any more”) to physical comedy bits that people still “borrow” from (the mirror bit). Groucho was never funnier than in Duck Soup, but Margaret Dumont, the so-called fifth Marx Brother, deserves acknowledgement, too. Rufus T. Firefly’s zingers wouldn’t zing without the exasperated reactions from one Mrs. Gloria Teasdale.
You know who’s taking the pandemic hard? Well, everyone, but especially Christopher Nolan. He has a new film that’s supposed to come out on July 17, emphasis on the word “supposed.” If there’s one director who values the “theatrical experience,” it’s Nolan. Warner Bros. has already pushed back Wonder Woman 1984 and In the Heights, among others, but “Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will stay firm on July 17 in anticipation the global theatrical marketplace will be well by then,” according to Deadline. In other words, it’s either theaters (even if it means in 2021) or bust; he’s not a direct-to-streaming guy. But you can currently stream his directorial debut, the low-budget crime thriller Following, for when you need a break from re-watching/still attempting to “get” Interstellar.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Just because Hot Topic has co-opted The Nightmare Before Christmas into a year-round commercial enterprise to sell, like, chain wallets doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. Actually, it’s not a good movie; it’s a great movie, a stop-motion masterpiece from Henry Selick and Tim Burton. (Looking for a good way to spend a few hours? Hire up a Zoom with your friends, and ask them to name Burton’s last quality film.) “This Is Halloween” is a year-round banger, “Oogie Boogie’s Song” is a top-tier villain song, and “Sally’s Song” is secretly the saddest song ever. How has Danny Elfman never won an Oscar?
Where to watch: Disney+
Paris Is Burning
Paris Is Burning, a documentary about New York’s queer African-American and Latinx drag ball scene in the 1980s, was inducted into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Or as Criterion put it, “Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women, Paris Is Burning brings it, celebrating the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.” It’s a must-watch.
Where to watch: Netflix
You know that scene from The Simpsons where Homer is watching Twin Peaks and says, “Brilliant! … I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.” Do I have any idea what’s happening in Primer? No. Could I explain the plot to another person? Also no. Good thing I’m/we’re stuck at home, away from other people, and can re-watch Shane Carruth’s skillful Sundance-winning film about time travel (now there’s an understatement) over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Maybe you don’t want to watch a found footage movie where a TV reporter and her cameraman are trapped in a building, along with the residents, and not allowed to go outside, out of fear that they’ll spread a deadly virus. Or maybe it’s the cathartic release you need. Don’t bother with the American remake Quarantine (it’s only a matter of time before it’s the next Contagion), but do check out the surprisingly good sequel, Rec 2.
Where to watch: Shudder
South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut
OK, OK. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut is TECHNICALLY 81 minutes long, but if you turn it off at 79:59, all you’ll miss is some credits and Michael McDonald singing “Eyes of a Child.” That’s not nothing, but at least you’ll still hear the “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” reprise. Anyway, Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, made during South Park‘s third season on Comedy Central, is one of the best show-to-movie-adaptations, and a killer Stephen Sondheim-approved musical to boot. It’s easy to watch, mmmkay?