When you’re doing stuff around the house
1 My Dinner with Andre (1981, Home Vision, unrated)
A freewheeling chat between starry-eyed theater director Andre Gregory and curmudgeonish actor-writer Wallace Shawn explores philosophy and society and food; just listening to this Louis Malle movie is nourishing.
2 Puppy Love! (1994, ABC, unrated)
Frolicking. Chasing. Getting tired. Making friends with other puppies. All this pointless canine cuteness — and no extra dog hair to sweep up — may well make this tape your best friend.
3 The Mind’s Eye (1991, Miramar laserdisc)
A collection of remarkable computer animation — some experimental, some commercial, some whimsical, some abstract — all with that uncanny sheen that only gazillions of megabytes of memory can provide. Terrific eye candy; ideal for when you’re vacuuming.
4 The Planets (1992, RCA Victor Red Seal laserdisc, unrated)
Like many of Ken Russell’s works, his video-effects-laden visualization of Gustav Holst’s popular tone poem is pretty silly at heart and wilts under examination. So don’t examine. Tie up those newspapers while ”Mars, the Bringer of War” thunders through your speakers.
5 Grok Gazer (1991, LandyVision)
Todd Rundgren’s psychedelic computer adapted his screensaver for your TV. Shifting shapes and soothing colors make this one of the first ambient videos, so if you sit down to watch it, your work ethic may melt. But it won’t jolt you while you’re rearranging the crystal.
6 Pink Floyd at Pompeii(1974, Music Video Distributors, unrated)
Seen out of the corner of one’s eye, this concert video with trippy effects and moody music — concocted before the Floyd was the monolith it is today — will transport you from the fuzzy end of the toilet brush to the dark side of the moon.
7 Swing, Swing, Swing! (1994, MGM/UA laserdisc boxed set, unrated)
This collection of jazz shorts from the ’30s and ’40s is fascinating, often disquieting history, highlighting some legendary performers (Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway) and a few peculiar novelty acts. As background, it’ll have you bopping around your bedroom.
8 Fantasia (1940, Disney, G)
The first compilation of music videos — and they’re animated, to boot. Fantasia’s perfect for the short attention span: no plot to follow, plenty of familiar classical pieces played with brio to spare, and a special appearance by Mickey Mouse that’ll make you put down the broom.
9 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, MGM/UA, G)
It may seem almost sacrilegious to recommend a classic movie as video wallpaper. Still, this eclectically scored and visually inventive movie delivers music and images at a languorous pace that will cool down your room even if you’re cooking.
10 The Tales of Hoffmann (1951, Criterion laserdisc, unrated)
Every frame of this opera is suitable for, um, framing. Its sparkling Offenbach score is rousing, chore-friendly stuff, and those images will cast dazzling shadows all around your room.
By Jason Cochran, Steve Daly, Glenn Kenny, Lois Alter Mark, Chris Nashawaty, Tim Purtell, Michael Sauter, and J.R. Taylor