The Thing (1982): The forbidding desolation of the Antarctic landscape proves scarier than any Rob Bottin gore effects in John Carpenter’s awesome remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks classic. Sure, Kurt Russell, you’ve thus far managed to survive untold nightmares of dismemberment, but now where do you think you’re going in this fucking weather?
Out of Sight (1998): A bit of a cheat, as half the film takes place in scalding, color-coded Florida, but dig the fakey, fist-sized potato-flakes falling from the sky when George Clooney finally hooks up with J. Lo in Detroit. It’s a love scene set inside of a toy snow-globe, and ironically I don’t think I’ve seen a hotter moment in any movie since.
Batman Returns (1992): To capture the inverse cheer of the most dyspeptic Christmas movie until Bad Santa came along, director Tim Burton famously forced his cast to work on soundstages dialed down to meat-locker temperatures so the camera could capture their breath. Nowadays such stuff could be done via computer, but would everybody look so convincingly miserable?
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971): Robert Altman was always finding new ways to muffle sound, and never more so than the poetic climax of his brilliant anti-Western, cradling Warren Beatty’s ill-fated would-be pimp in a doomsday blanket that all but absorbs the final sequence into fluffy pillows of whiteness. The eerie optical effects give the snowfall the same plastered-on, extradimensional look as the animation of A Charlie Brown Christmas , but with a decidedly different effect.
Wonder Boys (2000): Director Curtis Hanson flouted every accepted rule of comedy lighting by staging his wacky stoner romp in a shadowy Pittsburgh winter, granting even the most absurd sequences an air of bleak, snow-drifted melancholy. Perhaps the all-time saddest morning-after-a-party image arrives as a closeup on a lonely piece of uneaten pizza, abandoned on a porch railing, pelted by freezing rain.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980): “Your Tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker.” Well, then I’ll see you in hell.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely