As I reviewed my Netflix queue the other day, I realized that I have a serious movie habit. Then I noticed a pattern: I really like to watch movies about hotels. (After eight years in the hotel business, have I not had my fill? Obviously not. I have to interject it into my leisure life, as well.) Many of these movies are really great films that I would recommend to anyone, not just fellow hotel employees.
What are my criteria for the nominees for Best Hotel Movies Ever? They must have a great story or be very entertaining, and they must feature a hotel or hotel employees. And the winners are:
"Hotel Rwanda." This isn't merely one of the best hotel movies ever -- it's one of the best movies ever, period. "Hotel Rwanda" is the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, the temporary manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines, in Kigali, Rwanda. During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Rusesabagina used his hotel to shelter thousands of people and used his connections to save their lives. Ever the ultimate host, he personally saw to the survival of his guests, whether it was using the pool as a drinking water supply or bribing officials with his stock of alcohol. I don't know many people who haven't completely broken down and sobbed while watching this movie. It is not for the faint of heart. But there's a reason "Hotel Rwanda" was nominated for three Oscars and won numerous other awards. And there's a reason Paul Rusesabagina is one of the world's greatest heroes. Do not miss out on the chance to see his gripping, devastating and moving story. Rusesabagina can teach everyone a thing or two about true hospitality.
"Dirty Pretty Things." OK, so it's a foreign film, but it doesn't have subtitles! Remember those fictitious kidney thieves I mentioned in my last column? Well "Dirty Pretty Things" starts with the premise that organ removals just might really happen in hotel rooms. But it's much deeper than that. Screenwriter Steven Knight uses the hotel setting as a background for his brilliant commentary on the invisibility of those who serve others for a living and the desperation and dignity of illegal immigrants struggling to make better lives for themselves. As Knight says in an interview (one of the DVD's bonus features), "The people who work in the hotel have much more interesting lives than the people who visit the hotel. And it never seems to happen that you see a film that features these people." The evil boss in this picture sums up my industry perfectly: "In the hotel business, it is about strangers. And strangers always surprise you, you know? They come to hotels in the night to do dirty things. And in the morning, it's our job to make things look pretty again."
"Dirty Pretty Things" is part love story, part comedy, part docudrama and part murder mystery -- and all that makes for a very entertaining film. Plus, it features Sergi Lopez, one of my favorite actors, who has somehow managed to fly beneath Hollywood's radar. I highly recommend this little-known but superb film.
"Pretty Woman." Sure, this movie isn't technically about hotels, but the beautiful Regent Beverly Wilshire (now a Four Seasons property) plays a starring role as the setting for parts of the film. Maybe we don't all want to be prostitutes, but c'mon, who wouldn't want to get paid to stay in one of the world's most fabulous suites? And every hotel manager wants to be as cool as Barney Franks, the formal executive with a heart of gold who helps a prostitute become a lady. (In fact, Hector Elizondo was so great in this role that he received a Golden Globe for his performance, even though he appeared on screen for only a few minutes!) If you're one of the few people out there who hasn't seen this movie, go rent it now. It's pure fun.
"Holiday Inn." A little trivia for you: This movie introduced the song "White Christmas." And did you know that it won Irving Berlin the Academy Award for Best Song, and that it was the only Academy Award he ever received?
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire do what they do best in this film: sing and dance and chase the gal. The plot is simply that Crosby's character wants to open a nightclub and inn that's only open on holidays. And honestly, that's about as far as the plot goes. There's also a little controversy about whether this movie contains some racist undertones. But it's a fun flick about holidays and hospitality, and it lets its two stars showcase their amazing talents. If you're a fan of old-fashioned comedy-musicals, you should see "Holiday Inn." Be sure to catch it the next time those holiday films start taking over the television channels. (That's what, like, October these days?)
The "Fawlty Towers" series. It's not a movie, but it's an awfully funny take on the hotel business. "Fawlty Towers" was a 70s British comedy series starring John Cleese that, regrettably, ran for only two seasons of six episodes each. Twelve episodes are not enough -- this show was genius! In a short amount of time, "Fawlty Towers" managed to skewer clueless, impertinent hotel employees and clueless, annoying guests alike. The series played upon the "typical tourist" stereotypes and poked fun at people of all nationalities, and its ability to offend everyone was a huge part of its charm. If you love John Cleese and dry British humor, you cannot go another day without seeing the entire series.
And my nominee for the Worst Hotel Movie Ever: "The Shining." Thanks to this movie, I freak out whenever I stay at a quiet, semi-deserted property. Show me a lonely hallway, and all I see is a creepy little kid riding a tricycle while whispering, "Redrum." I will go no further so as not to spoil the plot, but if you love horror films, this one, based on a novel by Stephen King, is a must-see.
If you watch one of these movies based on my recommendation, let me know how you liked it. And if you have any of your own recommendations for me to add to my queue, please e-mail me!
Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties -- from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. or on Tripso.com!