Today is my 39th birthday. Last year, I posted a film for every year I’d been alive, so this year I will present a collection of movies where birthdays play a crucial role in the plot. I’m quite excited about next year, where I will be starting a series on my 40 Favorite Films of All-Time. For now, there are some pictures where getting a year old causes some complications.
Harold and Maude (1971, directed by Hal Ashby)
Harold and Maude is a beautiful film about embracing life and death. Harold is a forlorn young man being offered a queue of women his mother has found for him via a computerized dating service. He feigns suicide to drive them away and try and shock his annoyed mother. One day, Harold meets Maude, a 79-year-old woman full of the joy of life Harold is seeking. They fall in love. Eventually, Maude’s 80th birthday rolls around, and this beautiful, heartbreaking scene brings all the themes of the picture together, helping to teach Harold to hold on to & savor every moment he has.
Logan’s Run (1976, directed by Michael Anderson)
In the future year of 2274, Logan 5 is a Sandman, an elite officer of the law whose job is to track down Runners, citizens who refuse to participate in Carousel. This annual event is when all those who have turned thirty years of age are ritually killed under the guise of having their souls renewed. As it so happens, Logan 5 has turned 30, the crystal embedded in his palm at birth changing color to alert others of this fact. He now becomes the one on the run, former allies chasing him through their underground metropolis. Logan’s Run took the potent youth culture that came out of the 1960s and posited one dark path it could go down. It’s a movie that plays into the fear of adults about their kids coming for them one day. It’s also a damn well-made science fiction picture that got eclipsed by Star Wars the following year.
The Jerk (1979, directed by Carl Reiner)
The Jerk was a childhood favorite of mine and still acts like comfort food for the soul to this day. Steve Martin stars as Navin Johnson, the adopted son of Black sharecroppers who has grown up unaware that he’s white. It’s on his birthday that Navin learns he’s not the natural-born son of his parents. He’s served his favorite meal: tuna fish salad on white bread with mayonnaise, a Tab, and two Twinkies. Navin doesn’t seem to notice the difference in his taste for food from his family, and it takes his mother sitting him down to explain the truth. Navin’s tearful response is, “You mean I’m going to stay this color?!”
The Game (1997, directed by David Fincher)
David Fincher was new on the film scene, having directed some music videos and Alien 3. This was two years before Fight Club was not a picture that did well at the box office, though it did garner significant critical praise. The Game is about traumatized banker Nick Van Orton (Michael Douglas), who witnessed his father’s suicide on the older man’s 48th birthday. Nick is turning 48 and feels the anxiety building. His estranged brother (Sean Penn) has purchased an unusual gift, a voucher for “The Game,” an immersive experience that analyzes your fears and physical aptitude and then throws you into a thrilling & possibly deadly scenario. Nick becomes unsure if the Game has begun or if it’s even real and is thrown into a night of peril.
A Town Called Panic (2009, directed by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar)
Finishing out our list is this madcap French stop-motion film. Cowboy and Indian live together in a little house. They realize they have forgotten Horse’s birthday, and they decide to build him a brick barbeque in the backyard. They have to get Horse out of the house, so they convince him to go pick up the other farm animals who are taking music lessons. They accidentally order 50 million bricks rather than the intended fifty, and this sets off a series of increasingly ludicrous and hilarious misadventures. A Town Called Panic comes from the same roots as the best Looney Tunes shorts, just fun and silly.