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Schindler's List (1993)
Great Movie, Liam Neeson at his best!
Based on a true story, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman in Poland who sees an opportunity to make money from the Nazis' rise to power. He starts a company to make cookware and utensils, using flattery and bribes to win military contracts, and brings in accountant and financier Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to help run the factory. By staffing his plant with Jews who've been herded into Krakow's ghetto by Nazi troops, Schindler has a dependable unpaid labor force. For Stern, a job in a war-related plant could mean survival for himself and the other Jews working for Schindler. However, in 1942, all of Krakow's Jews are assigned to the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp, overseen by Commandant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), an embittered alcoholic who occasionally shoots prisoners from his balcony. Schindler arranges to continue using Polish Jews in his plant, but, as he sees what is happening to his employees, he begins to develop a conscience. He realizes that his factory (now refitted to manufacture ammunition) is the only thing preventing his staff from being shipped to the death camps. Soon Schindler demands more workers and starts bribing Nazi leaders to keep Jews on his employee lists and out of the camps. By the time Germany falls to the allies, Schindler has lost his entire fortune -- and saved 1,100 people from likely death. Schindler's List was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture and a long-coveted Best Director for Spielberg, and it quickly gained praise as one of the finest American movies about the Holocaust.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Best Movie Ever
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is a kind of morality tale that is definitely one of Stephen King's more restrained kind of stories, dealing mostly with a character study of two individuals sharing imprisonment and the consequences that await them when the tale ends.
TIM ROBBINS is a man wrongly convicted of murder and serving a long prison term while MORGAN FREEMAN (who plays the narrator with great dignity) describes himself as "the only guilty man in Shawshank." The hardships of prison life are captured in brief scenes that make the viewer wish that Robbins will find a way of escape.
Along the way, he is gang raped by prisoners and treated harshly by a brutal warden and some of his spirit seems to vanish. But Robbins is quietly effective as a prisoner who makes a good adjustment when he takes charge of the prison library and sees to it that there's a wider selection of books than the kind of potboilers that King is noted for writing. A touch of irony here, no? The closing scenes are a bit of a stretch and a reminder of just who wrote this prison tale--but still, they make an impact because of all that happens before.
It's a bittersweet story, a sort of horrific fairy-tale of what might have happened, but the viewer will be caught up in the story because of the tremendously skillful story-telling magic of Stephen King and director Frank Darabont who also wrote the screenplay.