I am mostly into older films and find myself always going back to a staple of films that I grew up with and still hold some truths for me, though most are not your major films. I will add newer ones too as I grow this list. I hope you enjoy discovering some of these. Please note that, they are not in any specific order, with the exception of the first one, Ikiru. Also, I am not a film critic and simply stating how I felt about them with a little trivia about the movies. Some of these reviews are old writings by me, so I thought I bring them into one place.
Many of these movies I am listing are not for the light at heart, though I am including light action and comedy too. They sometimes attack painful topics and go about them very slowly and possibly painfully for some viewers. Many of these movies are an examination of lives and don’t necessarily have an answer. The closer you get to them, the more depressing it can get but sometimes in finding that element that you relate to, it can be a perfect bait that will forever have you searching for such depth. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action movie or comedy too, but this site is not about that and more for the thinking person’s taste, hence why more such movies on the list. I don’t want to categorize them in any special way, because I think its more fun finding something randomly instead of really fine tuning it.
With that said, here is the list:
The meaning of this word is “To Live”. Most believe that Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece is the Seven Samurai, but for me, it’s this one. Its been a while since I’ve seen it and have to watch it again but it holds a special place for me because it goes back to that famous Socrates quote “An unexamined life is not worth living”. Kurosawa turns that quote into a masterpiece film making that is, like many Japanese films of that era subdued. This period of film making in Japan produced some of the most brilliant movies mankind has made. These are movies like Ugestu, Tokyo Story, Sansho the Bailiff, The Burmese Harp, Fires on the Plain, The Hidden Fortress, Rashomon, Samurai, Drunken Angel, etc etc. Its been years since I’ve seen some, but by just writing this, it has made me realize that its time again to return to them and examine them more closely.
Ikiru is the story of a man who discovers impeding death and realizing too late that he has not really done anything valuable with his life and even his offspring looks at him as a resource. He has a lot of soul searching and catching up to do with a very limited amount of time. The mastery of this movie is the ending that even thinking about it, sends chills down my spine because it is so beautifully executed and so poignant. The truth of this story holds today and goes as far as showing up the politics of our time too. It is my favorite film and it will take a great deal to overcome the number 1 position on my list, though as you will see below, some come very close.
Should you decide to watch it, I would be interested to see how it affected you.
Now I understand why Netflix suggested Ikiru when I pulled up this movie. Ikiru meaning “To Live” and this documentary is about a human being who was awake to life and lived. He did not place labels on himself and lived solely for the joy of creating. Not Art, but creating. I think it is a very important show for any parent to watch and realize what you can teach your children about the joy of creation and how this joy can last the rest of yours and their life…even leaving more for the next generation. Even if you are not a parent and need to start looking at life with a new joy, then this is for you. Find the inner child and play. Let Calder show you how.
Movies like this and Cinema Paradiso don’t leave you for long. They are like old friends who you can call upon at anytime. They remind you of why we are alive and how swift life passes. They remind you of choices and how dedication and paying attention to them, mixed with a general love for life can leads you to magical places. Has it happened for me, not by design but it has organically. I have hope though in this and the older I get, the more I believe in this story. Actor/Director, Massimo Troisi died a day after completing the movie and most believe he dedicated his last days to this film as he had prospered the surgery and was sick all through the shooting. He believed in the story and the message. If you haven’t seen it, I am not going to spell out the story and leave this magical film for your viewing. My only advise is to watch it when you need something and don’t binge watch it with anything else. The man gave his life for it, there was a reason. Also, don’t watch the trailer as it is a bit misleading in the emotional content, listening to this soundtrack might be a better choice.
I might be wrong, but I think I remember it was nominated for the best movie oscar and not the best foreign film. Also remember, they have sadly stopped making movies like this as we seem to be going through an era of superheroes and end of world scenarios meshed together with the other wordy creatures that teach you very little about real life. Hope this stage doesn’t last long.
The one thing that I will never forget is how I was surprised at crying at the end of this movie. I can’t believe its been that many years since I saw it in the theater. Every time I watch it, I see something else in the story. The relationship between the boy and the theater projectionist is magical and hilarious. The boy “Toto” is the cutest boy ever filmed on the screen. Not only the way he looks but the way he acts. IMDB can tell you what the movie is about, but the soul of the movie is about being free and I think that is why I cried at the end back then in 1988. Its being free of yourself and the long hand of life.
What I love about this and Il Postino is the lack of formulation. The organic story telling that doesn’t make me want to be ahead of the story but in the story and breathing with them. Sometimes I watch it, just to see if I can yet understand part of the story I didn’t get back then, such as the story Alfredo tells the grown up Toto about love…the one about the boy who waits underneath the window for days but then…well… I will not spoil it for you! Small things like that have held me connected to movies like this.
Like Il Postino, give this movie time and your love, it will reciprocate. Enjoy.
I usually read the plays of movies I watch, but in this case, I’ve hesitated for some odd reason and recently discovered that Tennessee Williams who wrote the play actually hated it so much he went to theaters trying to convince moviegoers from watching it! The main reason is due to the fact that Paul Newman’s character, Brick, was changed from being gay to straight, which totally throws off his play.
However, I have to say that regardless of this, the movie has held up quite well and anyone with a family can find something in there to relate to. Elizabeth Taylor is so damn beautiful in this movie, you just melt in your seat and Paul Newman is as brilliant, even though I think he did his best work later, specially in The Hustler but still it doesn’t take away anything from his performance or for that matter anyone else. This is just good acting with a brilliant supporting team. Burl Ives though is just something else, he pulls you in hard and he makes you pay attention. The reason I watch the movie again and again is because of the scene in the cellar near the end. Its just masterful writing, acting and directing and for me holds many truths. Everything about that scene is memorable and heartfelt. Its one of those movies that you learn to appreciate more as you age and probably relate to a different character as a result of getting older too.
Should you decide to watch it, I hope you get something out of it and feel free to share.
I had watched this years ago and it stayed with me. Then a few years back, there was a great documentary on Eugene O’Neill by PBS American Experience that was very touching. The little trivia about this play is that he didn’t write it to be published in his life time or something like fifty years after his death and that all through writing it, he cried and was consoled by his last wife. This is related to his own life and to finally spill it out on paper must have been a painful experience, that leaves a masterpiece of a family’s struggle with addiction and choices, but really relatable to many who struggle in their own families and why this play has lasted the test of time.
The only problem I had with this movie, though nothing to really dissuade me from watching it again is Ralph Richardson. He is a fine actor, but I don’t think he fits the part perfectly. In the documentary, they have actors doing different characters of this play and Christopher Plummer so finely hits this part, you have to stand up and applause as the man is a master and I have learned way too late, how fine an actor. It’s on youtube and you can watch by clicking on on this link. However Jason Robards, who had played it already on Broadway owns the character as does Katherine Hepburn and to a certain extent Dean Stockwell.
The movie, directed by the great master himself, Sidney Lumet, deals with a accidental addiction of the mother due to the father’s poor choice during child birth years ago and how that choice, together with other calamities has devastated the small family. It’s an examination of that choice and the choices the other characters have made as a result or independently. They each have their own crouch and within each there is some truth and beauty hidden deep down inside that only surface with contention and at times with love. Its not a feel good movie by any stretch of the imagination and the ending can leave you a bit down, though non one dies. Its just that this will leave you thinking about your own struggles and possibly understand others in your family a little better. My advise though would be to read the play first as it will help a great deal, since this doesn’t really digress from it.
This is a mesmerizing account of a talented and connected creature. I say creature, because as he would agree, being a human is not exactly the apex of creation. He has weaknesses, triumphs and failures like the rest of us and heart aches that would probably leave many emotionally paralyzed. At times, even he is amazed at how he can go on. His stand against slavery is probably the ultimate Twain signature. The interview with Aunt Rachael would make a grown man cry, even though it is not his creativeness but his eye to the importance of the story that must be shared. I learned through him that being right is not even close to getting it right. It’s about getting it out there with your own unique voice. Here is a voice we need today. Clarification of the absurd with the Twain humor. One of the best documentaries that I have watched.
Greed, Motivation and Genius. These three factors inherent in three people, Sarnoff, De Forest and Armstrong respectively make for a very timely story. The corporate ideology of the past century that has weaved it’s way into the 21st and in the past years has made it’s presence more known to the general public is very clearly represented here through the story of these three people. I did not know that FM was invented in the 1930s and even though superior to AM, was resisted against due to power and greed and some realities. Although the inventor’s own personal style did not help the process either; even though as viewers we might side with him. This fact alone tells you much about how the wheel turns in our world and why something like the electric car or even the hybrid is not already in most households.
It’s a perfect balance of comedy/drama. Some of the characters such as the Hospital Lady “Linda” and the beauty contest judge are so realistic that you would think you know them or someone close to them. The main characters are pretty much described to you visually in the first minutes of the movie. There is a desire/need that drives all of the characters and has either destroyed them or is about to. The message is to enjoy life rather than constantly be in it’s pursuit. To let loose a bit. However, I didn’t think about that until after the movie as the story and the characters are very enjoyable to watch. I have always loved Alan Arkin and he just reaffirms his freshness in this movie. Well worth the time.
The Network (1976)
This is a small little movie that frankly might find some readers surprised for being listed here. But again, its about intellectual growth and there are some facets of this film, mostly related to personal acceptance and being present that drew me to this film over and over again. The acting is not the best but its not bad and I am not a huge fan of Laurence Harvey, though I don’t dislike him. I sill remember the Night Gallery episode from my childhood, not to mention, the great film Manchurian candidate.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
(Funny how so many of the 60s poster have that similar design)
Another one of my favorite movies which is way ahead of its time. We are now discussing the 1% and who controls the media and the money and this movie deals with the 99% in a very unique way and not only is it educational, its entertaining and at times very funny. A gem of a film and I think Capra’s masterpiece.
Another great Frank Capra movie, guaranteed to make you laugh. One of those movies that you just don’t want to end.
A love story without one kiss. It took me several times of watching this until I realized this little fact.