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The Witches (1990)
Enchanting, magical, and darkly humorous
The Witches has always been one of my favorite movies ever since I was a small child. Everything about this movie has a bizarre yet very amusing charm about it, and there is an unexplainable feeling that seems to 'bewitch' me every time I watch it. Jasen Fisher plays Luke, a young boy who is vacationing with his grandmother Helga (played wonderfully by Swedish actress Mai Zetterling) in Norway. There, she tells him stories about 'real' witches. In a very chilling scene, she talks about her childhood friend Erica, who was taken by a witch and trapped in a painting until she grew old and passed on.
Luke's parents die in a tragic car accident, leaving Helga to take care of him. Soon after their death, Helga goes on holiday with him to a quaint, English seaside resort... This is where Luke overhears a plot to kill the children of England at a meeting of witches, led by the Grand High Witch. Now, Luke must try to join with his grandmother and stop the wretched hags before they carry out the wicked plan.
Anjelica Huston is absolutely marvelous as the Grand High Witch. She is one of my favorite actresses and I consider this to be her most outstanding role. Rowan Atkinson is very comical as the hotel manager, Mr. Stringer, and Brenda Blethyn and Bill Paterson are excellent as Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, the parents of a greedy boy who is turned into a mouse. The film is based on a novel by the superb author Roald Dahl, who I would venture to say is the greatest children's author of all time. Stanley Myers delivers a stupendous musical score, and Nicolas Roeg does a great job with directing.
The Witches is a pure delight from the beginning to the very end. It is strangely underrated and extremely overlooked. Over the years, this film has not gotten the proper treatment it deserves (disgraceful DVD release, never aired on TV, etc.). It is quite a shame that more people haven't seen this wonderful movie and introduced it to their children. 'The Witches' will always be a classic gem in my mind.
Harold and Maude (1971)
One of the most beautiful films I have ever seen
Harold and Maude has been one of my favorite films for a very, very long time. Everything about this movie is just so wonderful and uplifting that I have not one bad word to say about it. It is a beautiful film on so many levels that I cannot even use words to describe how much it has touched my life.
Bud Cort is amazing in the role of Harold Chasen, a bored and wealthy young man who spends his time driving around in a hearse, attending numerous funerals, and committing fake suicides in front of his overbearing mother (hilariously played by Vivian Pickles). One day, Harold meets an eccentric yet sweet older woman by the name of Maude. She expresses a very rich and powerful passion for life and living things. Soon, they become very friendly and begin to escort each other on small adventures such as transplanting a tree into the forest and playing a trick to get Harold out of being forced to join the army. By the end of the film, Harold's obsession with death has slowly faded away and blossomed into a beautiful love for life, just like Maude. Ruth Gordon is my absolute favorite actress and she is simply brilliant as Maude. Her words of wisdom and her zest for different kinds of things never cease to make me smile. Everyone should know a Maude in real life. Hal Ashby (who could very well be the most underrated and forgotten director of all time) does an incredible job of bringing Colin Higgins' story to the screen. Cat Stevens provides an outstanding soundtrack that goes along excellently with the overall flavor of the film. Harold and Maude is the movie that first introduced me to his music, and I am now a big fan of his songs.
Harold and Maude is definitely not a film for everyone. It requires an open mind and a certain taste for films with a peculiar way about them. Dark, zany, yet lovable humor abounds in this film. There are certain scenes that always have me howling with laughter, regardless of how many times I've seen them. It is a very touching and romantic love story about two unlikely people falling for each other.
This film is timeless, and so is it's heartwarming message. I will never grow tired of this movie, and it will always have a very special place in my heart.