Perhaps I have mentioned before that I love movies. For years Joshua and I would go to a movie every weekend. We saw it all – the good, the bad, the ugly – and with very few exceptions, I enjoyed it all. (One of the exceptions? The Thin Red Line. With all due respect to Terence Malick, someone should have smacked him up side the head and screamed ‘No more panning into the trees with voiceover! Show a little restraint!!’ Never have so many great actors been in such a bad movie.) This summer due to Joshua’s unreliable work schedule, we’ve fallen woefully behind in our weekly trips to the movies.
But because I’ve been thinking of all the movies I want to see – Fall and early Winter being the best time of the year to go to the theater as the studios bring out the big guns in the search for Oscar gold – I thought I would take a break from my normal blog topics. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of some of my favorite movies. I won’t say they’re my Top 10, because that’s as impossible as trying to figure out what six people I’d invite to dinner if I could invite anyone in the world. I wind up with at least 30 every time. Let’s just say these are some of the best I could think of right now. (And that leaves the door open for updates down the road.)
1) “Dr. Zhivago”: Ok, so you kind of need to be in the right mood for this movie. Don’t watch it if you’re feeling depressed and need a pick me up. No matter how many times I see it, I am weeping by the time Alec Guinness says, “Ah, then it’s a gift,” as Lara & Yuri’s daughter walks away from him, balalaika slung over her back. (If you’ve never seen this movie, sorry to give away the end. But it doesn’t matter. You’ll love it anyway.) AND it has the bonus of one of the best villains ever. Who’s better than Rod Steiger as Komarovsky? No one, that’s who.
2) “The Shawshank Redemption”: Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in a movie based on a short story by Stephen King. Great acting, great screenplay, very satisfying end. (Which I won’t give away)
3) “Mr. Holland’s Opus”: Possibly a strange choice for a family of unschoolers, but Richard Dreyfuss is so brilliant as this reluctant school teacher that it is practically impossible not to wish you’d been one of his students. Movies that span 30+ years sometimes get lost in the long arc of time. Not this one. It reminds us how much music can define a whole generation, for good and bad. I defy you not to cry at the end.
4) “Author! Author!”: My favorite Al Pacino role of all time. Including the Godfather. Playwright and father of 5 kids (only one of which is his biologically) in 1970’s New York City. I love Al in a (for him) understated role, and there are a couple of bit parts that almost steal the movie. New York City is gritty and so much fun to look at that it is a character unto itself. Go get this movie and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.
5) “Becoming Jane” & “Pride & Prejudice”: In the, ‘oh my god that’s so romantic I want to die’ category. “Becoming Jane” oozes chemistry between Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen and James McAvoy as her lover (can’t remember the characters name at the moment). Actually, if you want to enjoy yourself for several weeks, go on a James McAvoy movie marathon. You won’t be disappointed. He can do anything. And the “Pride & Prejudice” to which I am referring is the most recent, with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and the amazing Matthew MacFadyn as Mr. Darcy. Just watch it.
6) ” Lost in Austen”: Brilliant BBC miniseries available on DVD as a movie. This is what would happen if a modern day fan of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice found herself transported into the pages of the book, while Elizabeth Bennett made herself at home in modern day London. Great fun, with Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Bennett and Alex Kingston as the hilarious Mrs. Bennett.
7) “Erin Brockovich”: This is a fantastic movie for many reasons. Julia Roberts is perfection as Erin, and the fact that this is a true story makes it even better. Just goes to show you that it’s not always the ‘most educated’ people who make the greatest difference in the world.
8) ” An Unfinished Life”: Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez in a highly underrated film by Lasse Hallstrom. Redford and Freeman are so in sync you’d think they really had known each other all their lives. It’s a beautiful movie, and Jennifer Lopez is fantastic as the battered woman trying to make amends with the past.
9) Brokeback Mountain: Yes it was controversial and everyone got sick of hearing about it. It was also the most brilliant acting by two young actors that I’ve seen, possibly ever. Heath Ledger was devastating, and should have won every award Hollywood could scrape up for this role.
10) The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. Need I really say more? (As a bonus, go get Big Night, in which Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub play chefs in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. Wonderful.)
Already to ten?! We’ve barely scratched the surface…. ok, really quick. If you need a few movies to watch with the kids around and you don’t want to wind up in a coma or banging your head against the wall, try these: “Bedtime Stories” with Adam Sandler (but not a stupid Happy Gilmore Adam Sandler, but the great, real guy he’s started to play more and more often); “Penelope” with Christina Ricci and James McAvoy; “Nanny McPhee Returns” with Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maggie Smith, AND Ralph Fiennes and Ewan McGregor…this movie has something for everyone; “Up”, which really should have been in the list above. In fact, move it to the top. “Up” was the movie of the year last year, in my opinion. Oh, and “Finding Neverland” with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.
And finally (I promise) if you like documentaries, go get “Babies” and watch it with the whole family. Then get “Long Way Down” and be prepared to have a sudden very strong urge to travel the world on a motorcycle after seeing it.
Gotta stop now. Don’t want to cause movie overload. So many movies, so little time!