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Mr. Bair's Film Favorites

热度 4已有 2850 次阅读2013-6-14 01:34

Good movies entertain but also make you think. Good art is visually attractive as well. Black and white is not a foreign language. Orson Welles said, "Black and white is the actor's friend." Good acting always looks better in black and white. Except for the first three, in no particular order.

Casablanca. Arguably the best film ever made. It has everything--action, war, mystery, love story, and many classic lines. Famous for its many minor roles and making a certain song a classic.

The Godfather. I saw this when it came out in the early seventies, and never saw it again until 2007 when I watched it on video. I remembered vividly this film better than many movies I had seen in the past week. Very well constructed. There is a scary aspect--you begin to realize that you are identifying with mobsters. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (I John 1). An intelligent novel adaptation.

Gone with the Wind. Once in a class I said something to the effect that Casablanca was the best film ever made. A student asked, "What about Gone with the Wind?" My reply, "If you think Gone with the Wind is better, I won't quibble." Like a lot of "epics," this is better viewed in a theater or on a big screen. Ordinary TV does not do it justice. Another good novel adaptation.

Seven Samaurai. Since I was a kid, one of my all-time favorites was The Magnificent Seven. That is still one of the best westerns ever made. But when I saw Seven Samaurai, the film The Magnificent Seven was based on, the original is superior. It has been imitated many times (even in A Bug's Life), but never quite duplicated.

Ran. One of the best films ever made. It is a film adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear done in a medieval Japanese samaurai setting. Powerful story with spectacular cinematography. Directed by the same man who didSeven Samaurai. There are many other films based on Shakespeare plots that retell his stories in different ways. See the "Documents" link above for a pretty complete list.

Cool Hand Luke. This is the quintessential existential "guy movie." Memorable characters make the parts better than the whole. "What we got here is failure to communicate..."

Chariots of Fire. As a former cross-country runner, I was hooked from the great opening scene. A fascinating analysis of human motivation with a significant Christian theme as well. Loosely based on real events. Title, of course, is from the Bible by way of William Blake.

Tender Mercies. Like Chariots of Fire, an Academy Award winner with serious Christian themes. A very honest look at troubled relationships and the possibility of Christ's redemption. It is not necessarily "happy ever after," but it is real. Robert Duvall also played a troubled Christian in The Apostle. Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.

Jesus of Nazareth. There are a lot of films out there on the life of Christ. This one is by far the best. There are a few fictional characters thrown in (we see a bit of the story from the point of view of a devout Pharisee), but when Jesus or the disciples are in the scene, it is faithful to the Bible. It is very well-filmed and makes Jesus look like a real human being. The Passion of the Christ is a pretty accurate account of Jesus' arrest, trial, and execution. The director of Jesus of Nazareth directed Mel Gibson in Hamlet, and brought him to reconsider his belief in God which led to Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Ben-Hur. The fifties were the golden age of the historical epic--sometimes called "sword and sandals" films. One of the best was this one based on General Wallace's classic novel. Takes us through a lot of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus and ultimately to the Cross, the place where we all need to stop. Famous for both its chariot race and galley fight. The other great fifties "s & s" epic was The Ten Commandments. Both pictures are a regular on TV at Easter/Passover time, but if you can see them on a big screen, they are much more effective. At the time, the crossing of the Red Sea was a technical marvel.

2001: A Space Odyssey. I am actually going to talk about three films here. When 2001 came out in 1968, it was like nothing ever seen. I saw it at a Cinerama theater. Cinerama was like a 3-D Imax. It required an extra-large screen and three projectors to give it a 3-D effect. The space scenes with the Strauss waltz were magical. The plot was shaky, but nobody cared because of all the cool effects. 2001 would be an achievement that would stand alone for ten years until...

Star Wars. This one brought up the special effects pioneered in 2001 to another level. And without Cinerama. Yes, there were lots of sci-fi space films, but nothing like this. But it also had really cool characters and a pretty decent plot. It brought us into another world--long ago on a galaxy far, far away. Like a lot of young guys in 1977, I think I was in love with Princess Leia, too, in spite of her weird hairdo. It also was filmed in a very different way: There was a scene change or camera angle change approximately every 20 seconds which gave the impression of fast action. Now most films do that, many even quicker, but this was a notable change at the time. Star Wars was a special effects breakthrough until...

Avatar. This had a lame plot--Flash Gordon meets Dances with Wolves--but it took the special effects to a new imaginative level, especially the airborne islands.

I should note that the plot of Star Wars was largely taken from the classic western The Searchers. Many considerThe Searchers John Wayne's best film. Similarly, Avatar borrows from the movie Broken Arrow. I guess you could say Dances with Wolves was also taken from Broken Arrow, though it is based on a novel. (In the novel, the tribe is Comanche, not Sioux, but that change was a reflection of Hollywood's ability to get native speakers. There are only about 200 native Comanche speakers left, and they are all older.)

Lawrence of Arabia. A great historical epic. Neat story. One of the best war movies ever made. Also some interesting insights into the Near East and its interaction with the West. One of the best photographed films ever made. Better on a big screen. The scene where Ali (Omar Sharif) appears out of a mirage is one of the most spectacular scenes ever filmed. Exploding trains! Thank you to the anonymous donor who gave me a copy of the DVD in 2009. The book the film is based on, Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is a must for any Westerner trying to make sense of the Near East.

Henry V. The best film version of a Shakespeare play. Kenneth Branagh starred in it and directed it. Shows what Shakespeare was up to and what can be done with Shakespeare. A 1940's version with Olivier is good, but this is better. Check out Christian Bale when just a lad. Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing is a lot of fun, but Henry V is an epic. I saw this the first time on a school field trip. The kids were cheering and even jumping up and down.

Patton. A great war movie about one of the heroes of World War II. My uncle fought in North Africa and Italy in the war, and Patton rang true with him. America was ill-equipped to fight with a scaled-down military and obsolete technology; it was their highly motivated men and leaders that made the difference. My uncle would maintain that the United States never learned the lesson that Patton (and Wainwright) demonstrated and tried to communicate to others.

A Tale of Two Cities. The 1935 version with Ronald Colman is an excellent adaptation which keeps us aware of Dickens' themes. Often people say "I liked the book better" because films leave out a lot of stuff. If you want the whole thing, watch a PBS miniseries. This version, however, does justice to the story, and Colman is wonderful as Sidney Carton. Most film adaptations of novels are inferior to the book, so the exceptions (see Gone with the Wind and The Godfather above) are notable.

Gettysburg. This is one screenplay that is actually better than the novel it is based on--and the novel is very good. This historically faithful retelling of the pivotal battle of the Civil War has everything. We get a sense of both sides as we see the story from the point of view of a number of different soldiers, but especially Robert E. Lee and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The sequel, Gods and Generals, is also very good--I was weeping during the opening credits. It focuses much more on Stonewall Jackson.

The Dead. If you really want to see a scrupulously faithful adaptation of story in a film, you have to pick a short story because it can fit better into the 1 and a half to 3 hour format of a movie. The Dead, one of James Joyce's best stories, was adapted to the screen nearly word for word in dialogue. It also used Joyce family photos and other early 20th century sources on Dublin to make it visually accurate. The acting is great, and the overall effect is quite moving. John Huston's last film; the cast included his daughter Angelica who had been living in Ireland for ten years and had the Galway accent down cold. The 1967 film version of Joyce's Ulysses is also very effective (watch with parental permission) especially considering it is based on a long novel.

Fantasia. Still probably the best animated feature ever made. Wonderfully imaginative. Great music. Better on a large screen.

The Lion King. Another film best watched in a theater or on a very large screen. The opening scene, sunrise with the "African" music is a stunner. Another great work of animation.

Z. A political action film that does not preach. Very effective. One of the strongest anti-totalitatian, anti-Communist films. If the government owns all property, then there cannot be freedom of speech or press because guess who owns all the "means of production"? You know it is going to be different when the leading character (Yves Montand) is killed in the first minutes. The director was a Communist: Go figure.

Blade Runner. A thrilling adaptation of a relatively short sci-fi novel that is an effective work in its own right.

The Matrix. Video game action seems overdone in places, but this is a film that makes you think. Meaningful references to Christ, the Bible, and postmodern authors. The sequels were disappointing, though the third one "explains" some things at the end--if anyone still cares by then.

The Lord of the Rings. This 3-film trilogy was an effective film adaptation of the novel/novels. Done very well. Of course, things were left out, and the battle scenes expanded, but that is what movies do.

A Prarie Home Companion. Next to Lord of the Rings, probably the best film from the first decade of the 21st century. Just beautiful.

Spiderman. A big disappointment to me is how few times Hollywood does a good job with comic book adaptations. When I was a kid I loved Superman comics. At some point I switched to Marvel comics. I have been universally disappointed with Superman films (the TV show Smallville is far more faithful to the comics). Most of the Marvel comic adaptations have been a little better, but Spiderman is the only one that really got the comic characters right--and told a pretty entertaining story. When I saw it in a theater, the sound track was louder than a rock concert. I was especially a fan of The Silver Surfer (the second Fantastic Four film with him was so-so) and Thor. I did recently see the Thor movie. The parts where things were not blowing up reminded me of why I liked Thor comics--a misfit on earth whose mission is to do his father's will. Sounds like someone else whose father was a god, doesn't it? Very generally, Aristotle wrote 2400 years ago that dramas that depend on spectacle can be entertaining, but they leave the audience dissatisfied. Hollywwod adapters of comics ought to take this into consideration.

The In-Laws. I have to include some films that made me laugh. The original is very funny. Mel Brooks made a lot of supposedly funny movies. This one is a hit. Some were misses. There was a lame re-make done of this--make sure you see the original with Alan Arkin. Another very funny Brooks film is The Producers. Part of the humor is that you know you should not be laughing--a musical comedy about Hitler?--but you cannot help it.

The Absent-Minded Professor. I never laughed so hard as I did when I saw this. Of course, I was only nine years old at the time. Another fond film from my childhood memories is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

The Out of Towners. Another hilarious movie. Sandy Dennis (a great actress) and her husband are from Ohio and visiting New York City for the first time. Everything you can imagine that typifies the big bad city happens to them. Right to the very end. Again, someone else did a poor remake.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This is a great, great film version of a powerful play. It is so effective because of the chemistry between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Both are good actors, but put them together at this moment in their tabloid lives, and the result is dynamite, literally. There are only four actors, but they are top-rate. Sandy Dennis is in this one, too. (Ask your parents first.)

Rebecca. Alfred Hitchcock did a number of classics. This one has some great acting (Laurence Olivier) and is a real gothic mystery. Back when the school had mini-courses, I showed this and everyone loved it.

The Wages of Fear. This film will keep you on the edge of your seat. Few movies have delivered such tension. A truck driver has to deliver dynamite to put out an oil well fire by driving over unstable mountain roads infested with guerillas. This is a product of France, not Hollywood. I showed this one once at a mini-course, and the students watching it enjoyed it, though some were expecting more of a Hollywood finish. Two other films I recommend because of the the suspense are Wait Until Dark (really scary) and Escape from Alcatraz (with Clint Eastwood). Once there was a group of students at the school who got together weekly to watch horror movies. I challenged them with Wait Until Dark; I told them it had no blood, no monsters, nothing supernatural, but I guaranteed it would scare them. It did.

High Plains Drifter. Clint Eastwood made a bunch of elemental westerns. Many are still popular, but this is my favorite. It is really a Christian allegory. No kidding.

You've Got Mail. I am not a huge fan of formulaic romantic comedies. (Because I am the only male in my house, I have seen more than my share of them.) This one is cool, though, because it has numerous references to The Godfather. The original, called The Shop Around the Corner, is also good. Both use the technique of mistaken identity for comic effect.

West Side Story. A musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that rocks. Most film vesions of musicals are not so great, but some work. This one does. Bernardo (the Tybalt character) is one of the coolest characters in the history of film. I think Pacino's Scarface (ask your parents) borrows from Bernardo. Of course, Scarface is a retelling of another Shakespeare play, Richard III. Another decent musical film is Singing in the Rain. Mr. Cullen, who used to teach history here, always wondered how Gene Kelly danced on the walls and ceiling in that one.

Cabaret. My all-time favorite musical; and it has a message. The film, I believe, is actually better than the stage version, which is unusual. Based on a collection of short stories, Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood ("Brian Roberts" in the film), it really illustrates the decadence that led to fascist Germany. Powerful. Liza Minelli's Sally Bowles and Joel Gray's emcee are completely detached from reality, but we still find ourselves attracted and repelled at the same time. Goodbye to Berlin? Exactly. Ask your parents first.

The Endless Summer. Probably the best documentary film ever made. Some surfers travel literally around the world to find the perfect wave. Lovely. Done in the 1960s so the surfing music of the era works well; parts are shot in South Africa so we are aware of the effects of apartheid. We can be thankful that part is a little dated.

Winged Migration. A remarkable documentary showing us the scope of avian migration. Another good wildlife documentary is March of the Penguins. I also got a kick out of two English-teacher type documentaries:Spellbound (about the top finishers in the national spelling bee) and Word Wars (about professional Scrabble players--yes, they exist).

Big Fish. I can't explain it, but I do like it. Definitely Post-Modern. Another cool "PoMo" film is Magnolia. This has potential for greatness--though it probably needed more editing. Even though life appears strangely random and even twisted, the priniciples of reaping and sowing apply forever. Warning--strong language, ask your parents. Tom Cruise in his weirdest, and arguably his best, role.

Midnight in Paris. A recent film that was fun for English teachers and English students. This could be considered PoMo also, or maybe Sci-Fi. We meet a lot of the Lost Generation writers here--perhaps caricatures, but fun nevertheless. Hemingway in the film talks the way he writes. Fitzgerald calls everyone, "Old sport." Yeah, we get it. PG-13 for grownups.

Moonrise Kingdom. I had a lot of fun with this one, but I included it because my nephew worked on it and is in the credits as the Storyboard Artist. For my "review" of this film see the link to the right. It was set in 1965, and back then I was about the same age as the protagonists. I camped out with the Boy Scouts back then on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia instead of Maine, but I could relate. My nephew also had a credit for Rio.

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发表评论 评论 (4 个评论)

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flicker 彩虹炫 | flicker 显身卡 | 匿名2020-2-20 22:32
get a life lol
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flicker 彩虹炫 | flicker 显身卡 | 匿名2020-2-20 22:32
sss
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flicker 彩虹炫 | flicker 显身卡 | 匿名2020-12-22 06:30
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flicker 彩虹炫 | flicker 显身卡 | 匿名2020-12-22 06:30
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