Favorite Movies

Morning in Iowa.

Someone asked, “What is your favorite movie and why?”

I had to think. After considering some options I answered, “The Lion King because of the music.”

I’m not sure that was completely right.

I’m also not sure which movie was the last I saw on television or in a theater. In the time of the coronavirus I watch movies on my desktop computer, either from a disk or streaming. I do keep track of what I watch. The last was on line, Public Trust: The Fight for America’s Lands.

When our daughter visited in December 2014 we watched a video cassette recording of Christmas in Connecticut together, part of a series of “dinner and a movie” events we discontinued as a regular thing. In 2017 I watched The Brainwashing of My Dad from a disk on my desktop. It was a powerful story of a family where the father got caught up in right wing media hegemony to his detriment, and then came out of it — a happy ending. I also watched The Princess Bride (for the first time) on Amazon May 31, 2013. Too many cultural references to avoid it forever. Since 2012, I watched about 20 movies, not many.

When we talk about “favorite movies” what does that mean? For me it means films seen long ago, the memory of which persists. The Lion King fits that description and I would view it again. I’d listen to the CD of the soundtrack more. There are about a dozen movies that mean something to me.

Blade Runner: We saw this at a theater the first time Jacque and I did something together outside of work where we met.

Out of Africa: Because of the cinematography. It’s a gorgeous film and I don’t use the “g” word often.

The Conformist: Few films of that era stick with me the way this one does.

The Matrix: How could someone with a Cartesian outlook not love this movie?

In a Year of 13 Moons: I was obsessed with Rainer Werner Fassbinder the way he was obsessed with subjects and themes in this movie.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy: I recall my argument with Father Harasyn as a freshman in high school about whether J.R.R. Tolkien’s books were literature. I lost the argument and was not given credit for reading them. The movie is a faithful rendering of the book.

The 400 Blows: I was enamored of Francois Truffaut during graduate school. Not as much now, but still.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs: I could easily have been one of the peasants in this film. The cinematography of Ermanno Olmi was unlike anything I’d seen.

Apocalypse Now: The first film I saw in a theater after returning stateside from Germany. It alone launched an interest in movies that persisted for the following five or six years.

Patton: The go-to film for soldiers maneuvering in the Fulda Gap. We would show it on a film projector run by a diesel generator. I knew to carry several replacement bulbs for the projector when we left garrison.

The Sound of Music: Grandmother insisted our family see this together and she paid for the tickets. She would have been the Maria Rainer character if life had been kinder to her.

There are others yet few recent ones. As the holidays draw near, and we contemplate the events of 2020, there are worse things to do than consider things we love. Movies have been part of my life in society as they are for many.

3 replies on “Favorite Movies”

When I look at my personal favorites, I see a lot of films that are about politics, and since this blog touches on politics often I thought I’d give you a long reply.
I was lucky to live in a time and place when urban areas would have “revival house” movie theaters which would show curated old movies on big screens you could experience with audiences. So a lot of my favorites are from films I saw in such showings. That I was seeing those films decades after they were made only increased my pleasure and confirmed time-tourist. Among them:
Citizen Kane. I guess I like to pick obscure movies that no one has ever praised. (grin) But dang! it’s a great movie seven ways to Sunday. It has well recognized politics and media subplots (Hearst being the Fox of his time) but it’s really not about those subjects.
Sullivan’s Travels. Any Preston Sturges movie is worth watching, but this is my favorite. Deftly works a social message into a comedy. Another Sturges film that mixes broad comedy and serious questions, and one of the better films about politics, is The Great McGinty.
Meet John Doe. My favorite Capra, maybe it’s because I’m a Barbara Stanwyck fan, but it’s another examination of political phenomena, a movie about astroturfing before it’s time.
More recent movies, though now also old movies.
Soldier of Orange. Fantastic movie about Resistance to Nazi occupation taken from the Dutch perspective. The range of reactions of a group of college age people to the quick takeover of their nation is deftly portrayed. But here’s the unusual angle under this entire story: the Dutch resistance was never tactically important in WWII The movie’s hero (portrayed against type by Rutger Hauer) is sort of a Dutch nebbish.
“The early, funnier ones…” Woody Allen’s “Take the Money and Run” and “Bananas.” Yes, Allen is controversial, but even he doesn’t think much of these movies. My take: even if the stories are largely a series of gags, they illuminate some things about humanity that only humor can show us. Bananas is the more political one. Every time I think about some foreign intervention dilemma our country faces I recall the Bananas scene with a strike force being airlifted into a foreign country and one soldier asks which side they they are intervening for, and a voice answers “The CIA’s not taking any chances this time. Some of us are for, and some of us are going to to be against it.”
“The Life of Brian” Another comedy, and the best film about radical politics ever made. George Orwell, but with funnier jokes–and you leave the theater singing song that Brecht and Weil would die for.
Folks still working (I leave Allen out of this, even if he’s technically still working). I enjoy most Coen Brothers films, though with a few exceptions, Funny thing: I have met a lot of people whose reaction to their films is exactly the opposite, liking only one or two, and greatly disliking the rest.

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Historian Michael Beschloss has been trolling president Trump on Twitter with stills of Kane and Susan at Xanadu after Kane lost the election. We watched Citizen Kane at the Marquette Street house when it was on weekend afternoons.I like it a lot.

Woody Allen was funny. I recall seeing Annie Hall at a theater in Amsterdam when it was first released. It was subtitled in Dutch and I was the only person laughing out loud during the screening. Allen’s last years are just sad. Note use of past tense above.

I consumed cinema like peanuts at a ball game in the 1980s. Not sure what happened the last twenty years, except computers, maybe. Thanks for commenting on my post.


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