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To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Horton Foote is a National Treasure!
There are simply not enough good things to say about "To Kill a Mockingbird," but for my money it is Horton Foote's screenplay that truly holds everything together in this beautiful work of art. In fact to this day whenever Gregory Peck encounters Horton Foote, he always says "Thanks for the Oscar Horton!" After viewing this film, it is easy to see why.
Few great novels have ever made great films. Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a masterpiece, and in the hands of a lesser craftsman its translation from page to screen could have proven disastrous. However, in my view, "To Kill a Mockingbird" the movie is every bit as excellent as "To Kill a Mockingbird" the book.
Mr. Foote, you're a national treasure and our world is certainly better because of people like you!
I'll Fly Away (1991)
Television At Its Finest
"I'll Fly Away" was and always will be my favorite show. Intelligent, well written, and beautifully acted, the show was much more than prime time entertainment and I was absolutely heartbroken when it was cancelled. I was ten when the series premiered, and my mother and I would watch it (and cry) every week. Though it has been years since I have seen an episode, I still never fail to feel a huge lump in the back of my throat at the thoughts of Lily registering to vote, or John Morgan telling his friends that his mother is a famous cowgirl. Each episode was like a small Horton Foote play, and to watch its characters grow over a long period of time was the show's greatest asset.
Though an enormous critical success, I find it tragic that the show has become such a forgotten treasure. In today's cynical world of post-O.J. Simpson, I will always remember "I'll Fly Away" for its shear hope, optimism, and unabashed honesty.
It is high time for this show to be brought back for reruns!!!
Forrest Bedford is an extremely flawed and conflicted character, and his relationship with Lily is deeply strained. Morally, he understands that segregation is wrong and that integration is inevitable, however he worries about the changes Civil Rights will bring as he is bound up with tradition. He beautifully illustrates the mindset of several white southerners as his dilemma is representative of the struggle of tradition vs. change that STILL plagues the modern south.
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
One of the Greatest Drawing Room Comedies EVER!
There are not enough good things to say about this charming film! Monty Wooly is divine, Billie Burke is adorable, and what could be said about Bette Davis? Witty, and amusing, this film has it all: A hilarious plotline with many twists and turns, a catalog of wacky characters, and enough one liners to keep you laughing until next Christmas! If you don't love this movie, you obviously don't know a good time.
The Shining (1980)
In Defense of Duvall
Having read several negative comments regarding the performance of Shelley Duvall, I took it upon myself to defend the actress. You see, I simply cannot envision anyone else in the role of Wendy as Duvall has a quality of innocent quirkiness and weakness that lends itself beautifully to the character. She also proves highly effective in conveying a state of shear terror, and emotional devastation in her scenes with Jack Nicholson, which never fails to curdle my blood. In addition, I feel her character is not supposed to be necessarily likeable as her behavior is often blind and irrational. However, at the same time, the viewer roots for her to escape, as she is human, and does not deserve to be a victim of Jack's insanity. I feel that many may mistake their feelings of frustration with Duvall's character for Duvall's performance, which I happen to find pitch perfect.
One of the most moving films I've ever seen
I saw this movie for the first time at the age of thirteen, and just cried. At the time I couldn't figure out exactly why I had such a tremendous emotional response to the film, but have now come to realize that the shear beauty of "Nashville" is simply overpowering.
You see, "Nashville" is a movie about America, and its people. The themes studied are as broad and varied as its story's twenty-four main characters. However, as the result of Robert Altman's brilliant direction, the picture never becomes didactic or unfocused in any ways. Instead, it is the most realistic depiction of our nation captured on film.
I cannot put into words the tidal wave of emotion the viewer experiences in the movie's final scene when all the story's characters are united for a single moment in song. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. No, I never lived through Watergate, Vietnam, or Kennedy's assasination, but I don't think that could matter any less. I believe "Nashville" is as relevant to America today as it was twenty-five years ago.
If you have never seen this, go out and rent it NOW! It is only the greatest film of the 1970's, and still is the most important movie since "Citizen Kane"
A Great American Tragedy
If there is a picture in this world that proves film is as great an art form as the novel, it is "Hud." Intricate, well layered, and ultimately heartbreaking, "Hud" is an American tragedy that easily merits comparison with Eugene O' Neil's New England dramas as it is a simple, yet profound contemplation of human nature. Though a tale of morality, "Hud" is at its core a eulogy to a bygone era of America's past, and devastating portrait of modern degeneration. The performances are nothing less than fantastic as the characters presented in "Hud" are all so well realized that their presences will haunt the viewer long after the screen fades to black. Paul Newman is at his best as the despicable title character, while Patricia Neal gives her most legendary performance as a rangy housekeeper. Equally brilliant are Melvyn Douglas whose character functions as the film's moral center, and the young Brandon de Wilde whose character serves as the innocent spectator to the story's tragedy.
Though the deserved winner of several Academy Awards, "Hud" has become somewhat of a forgotten masterpiece. If you have never seen this beautiful movie, go out and rent it now! I guarantee it will move you to tears!
My Dog Skip (2000)
Sentimental? So what! I still love it!
Maybe I'm just a sentimental old fool, or perhaps it's because I just lost my childhood dog, but I flat out loved this movie. Sure, you might think the "boy and his dog" thing has been done to death, but "Skip" dares to go into such emotional territory that if its simple story fails to move you, I simply don't know what will. You see, this movie is not so much about Skip, as it is about childhood in general, and oh what I wouldn't give to have those days back once more!
No, "My Dog Skip" will never be nominated for any oscars, and it probably will not appear on any critics top ten lists, but I give this movie a ten because it is a touching gem of good wholesome fun.
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
A Visual Masterpiece
I make no apologies for saying that Busby Berkeley's incredible sequence to "The Lullaby of Broadway" is one of the most beautiful, chilling, and exuberant moments in the history of American cinema. Not only is the number amazing from a visual standpoint, but is a fantastic illustration of urban isolationism, and attitudes of "The Great Depression." Dreamlike and hypnotic, the song easily seduces the moviegoer as its short character study takes flight, then leaves its viewers in a bizarre state of discomfort as its story takes an abrupt and disturbing turn. I know it's cliched, but they really don't make 'em quite like this anymore!
King of the Hill (1993)
A Beautiful Gem of a Film
I watched this film for the first time as a freshman in high school, and found myself simply captivated by its utter beauty and humanity. Over the course of the picture I came to truly identify with the character of Aaron, and his story struck a chord within my soul that I never kew existed.
As the years have passed, I have come back to this movie time and time again, and I find that "King of the Hill" only grows better with each viewing. Undoubtedly this film has a tremendous amount to say about endurance, triumph, love, and adversity, and Soderbergh tackles such themes with great eloquence and ease. But what is most striking about this beautiful picture are the endless number of images that appear throughout the course of its story. I will never forget the tragic dance scene in which the character of Ella experiences a random seizure, the brilliant exchanges between Spalding Gray and Elizabeth McGovern, or the touching final interaction between Aaron and an elevator operator. But for me, the most incredible sequence comes at the story's very beginning when Aaron stands before his class and reads a report on Charles Lindbergh as it offers fantastic insight into Aaron Kurlander's strong spirit.
Beautifully acted, and brilliantly written, this film is an underrated jewel. I recommend "King of the Hill" to anyone, and make no apologies for saying that this is my very favorite film.
Intelligent, Powerful, and Joyous
I probably watch this film every two years, yet like fine wine, it grows even better after time. This picture is a beautiful, thought provoking, and highly effective meditation on how love, death, god, joy, and pain all coexist in the strange universe that is life. With subject matter as complex as this, the viewer can see where one could easily become lost in C.S. Lewis's story, but "Shadowlands" never falters. The film remains quiet, simple, and highly effective through Attenborough's understated direction, and its cast's uniformly excellent performances.
However, what sits at the very core of "Shadowlands" beauty is its ultimate truth. There are moments in this film so full of genuine, unflynching emotion that its power practically hits the audience member in the gut. Yes, the film's magnificently depicted scenes of death and grieving never fail to jerk tears from my eyes, but Lewis's closing lines regarding the choices he made as a boy and a man make me sob.
"Shadowlands" is undoubtedly representative of filmaking at its very best. I recommend this film without reservation to anyone!