As promised a very long time ago now, here is the first post where I explore the reasons I revisit something over and over again. As was also promised, first up is the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, aka the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy.
For the uninformed, the Three Flavours trilogy is comprised of the three films directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. Each film represents another flavor of the delicious Cornetto ice cream treats. Shaun of the Dead is Red (strawberry): blood, gore, horror. Hot Fuzz is Blue (original/plain): cops. The World’s End is Green (mint, my favorite flavor of Cornetto): apparently science fiction was also referred to as green fiction at one point. Each film actually features the delicious ice cream treats, altough in the World’s End it doesn’t happen until the very end, and even then it’s only the wrapper (I was actually consciously starting to worry as the film was clearly winding down that there wouldn’t be an Cornetto reference).
The third film came out just last year, so obviously I don’t have years of revisitation for that one, but the first two films are the sort I come back to over and over. On average, I watch them a little more than once a year, and while there are times I worry I’ll get sick of them, it just never seems to happen.
This is why, as I was rewatching The World’s End recently, I couldn’t help but start wondering what it is that brings me back to these movies specifically, and to my favorite movies, shows, and books in general.
As I said in the last post introducing this idea, the reasons we love the things we love are too numerous and complex to flesh out with any certainty or finality. We can say things about this topic that are true, but that truth is never exhaustive. So, here are some true things about why I just can’t quit Edgar and Simon and Nick, at least when all three are together.
I don’t have to look very hard to see what first drew me to these films. Right on the surface, these are beautifully made movies. For all their levity and silliness, there is a technical skill at play that makes it easy to watch them again and again. Their combination of creativity/innovation and homages to the great films Wright and Pegg love is unparalleled. Here is Tony Zhou singing Wright’s virtues:
It’s so fun to watch someone do something they’re really good at. These guys are really good at making movies, and they are even better at displaying their love for the medium of film in general. It started with Spaced and has just kept on going. In this case, as with Tarantino, there is also such a deep, wide well of movies being referenced visually that as I continue to widen my exposure to the history of film I’ll catch even more of those references with each viewing.
Another reason I return to this films, as I mentioned in the intro post, is that these movies function like security blankets or comfort food. These films are familiar and comfortable. Yet, they still have the power to move me and inspire me. All the jokes still make me laugh, even though I quote them constantly in daily life. The sweetness and lovability imbued into all the characters by Wright and Pegg’s writing, as well as the acting, makes it feel like having dinner with old friends. And just like old friends, they feel safe, but still have the ability to surprise me.
These films are also nostalgic for me. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz each connect to moments outside the film entirely. So many memories are associated with these films. Brian, one time (and maybe future?) RtM writer, and I could probably communicate fairly effectively with each other using only lines from these movies. And I don’t just mean barebones communication either. We can communicate humor, frustration, distress, sadness, and most importantly affection fairly well using Cornetto dialogue, combined with the decade of layers that added on since we started watching these movies together. Fortunately we don’t have to, because we have a massive catalogue of dialogue from other movies and shows that we use in addition to those from the trilogy.
Technical skill and artistry, beloved material, and nostalgic connection to my past: just one of those would be a good enough reason to rewatch. Yet, I think the biggest reason I rewatch them, or at least the reason I am rewatching them right now, is the way they engage life in general, and my life in particular.
These movies are about zombies, or weird secret murderous cults obsessed with having the ideal village, or alien invasions, but more than that they are about growing up. Not coming of age in the traditional sense, where young folks learn about love or death or friendship or loss for the first time. These coming of age stories are about growing up in the current millennium, where a great deal of our growing up happens in our 30’s and beyond. It’s the sort of growing up that feels close to my own story, or more accurately, my own insecurities and frustrations.
Shaun of the Dead is about zombies, but it is also about moving deeper into your 30’s and still having nothing in your life figured out. It’s about fear and lethargy and how too often we live life by default instead of making choices.
Hot Fuzz is about murderous village conspiracies, but it is also about having trouble being close to people, and how an overactive brain can make connection and intimacy difficult.
The World’s End is about a robotic insurgency created by aliens, but it is also about how hard it is to be an adult who never lived up to the potential everyone thought you had when you were young, to feel like all your friends have passed you by and you are the pathetic one, the embarrassment. It’s about the need to take responsibility for ourselves.
In other words, these movies are about me, which is the amazing thing about stories, because obviously they aren’t about me at all. Wright and Pegg have never met me before, which means these connections I see to myself are a result of something else. Partly, these connections appear by coincidence, or because of ideas and feelings common to our culture and times as well as those more specific subcultures I’m a part of. More importantly however, these connections are there because of the human tendency to read ourselves into stories, and to read stories into ourselves.
This is one of the amazing abilities story has, and a huge reason why we rewatch and reread and relisten. When I revisit the Cornetto Trilogy, I feel less alone. I see I’m not the only one wondering who the hell I am, and how on earth I can become a better version of myself for me and the world and the people I care about. I find reassurance and comfort, which leaves me with at least two potential options: I can sink into that comfort and continue living the version of my life I’m disappointed with, allowing continual visits to Cornettoland to keep me pacified, or I can use that comfort and sense of connection to help me be less afraid and paralyzed, to take a new step forward and grow up a little. As I said, rewatching the Cornetto Trilogy is a bit like dinner with old friends, and just like old friends they can either shackle us to who we used to be, or inspire us to always be moving onto better things.