My Ten Favorite Movies

I’ll admit it, with the summer heat and working on a new idea for a novel, I’m lazy and don’t want to write a full blown blog entry. So, I decided to do a “top ten” list.  I toyed with my top ten list of my favorite books, but I realized that there were too many and I’d never fit them into a list of ten. So, I decided to do a list of the ten movies I would want with me if was stranded on an island (and actually had a way to play and view the movies in my list). So, without any further ado and in no particular order, here is my list of the movies I’d want with me on that island.
The Searchers, released for DVD by Warner Home Video in 2007. Jeff Shannon said of this movie “A favorite film of some of the world’s greatest filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, John Ford’s The Searchers has earned its place in the legacy of great American films for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most notably, it’s the definitive role for John Wayne as an icon of the classic Western–the hero (or antihero) who must stand alone according to the unwritten code of the West. The story takes place in Texas in 1868; Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a Confederate veteran who visits his brother and sister-in-law at their ranch and is horrified when they are killed by marauding Comanches. Ethan’s search for a surviving niece (played by young Natalie Wood) becomes an all-consuming obsession. With the help of a family friend (Jeffrey Hunter) who is himself part Cherokee, Ethan hits the trail on a five-year quest for revenge. At the peak of his masterful talent, director Ford crafts this classic tale as an embittered examination of racism and blind hatred, provoking Wayne to give one of the best performances of his career. As with many of Ford’s classic Westerns, The Searchers must contend with revisionism in its stereotypical treatment of “savage” Native Americans, and the film’s visual beauty (the final shot is one of the great images in all of Western culture) is compromised by some uneven performances and stilted dialogue. Still, this is undeniably one of the greatest Westerns ever made.” They don’t make ’em like the Duke any more. More’s the pity…
Gone With The Wind, released for DVD by Warner Home Video in 2009, this is what Tom Keogh had to say about the movie: “David O. Selznick wanted Gone with the Wind to be somehow more than a movie, a film that would broaden the very idea of what a film could be and do and look like. In many respects he got what he worked so hard to achieve in this 1939 epic (and all-time box-office champ in terms of tickets sold), and in some respects he fell far short of the goal. While the first half of this Civil War drama is taut and suspenseful and nostalgic, the second is ramshackle and arbitrary. But there’s no question that the film is an enormous achievement in terms of its every resource–art direction, color, sound, cinematography–being pushed to new limits for the greater glory of telling an American story as fully as possible. Vivien Leigh is still magnificently narcissistic, Olivia de Havilland angelic and lovely, Leslie Howard reckless and aristocratic. As for Clark Gable: we’re talking one of the most vital, masculine performances ever committed to film.” Gable was definitely one of a kind.
Independence Day, released by 20th Century Fox in 2003, Tom Keogh is less than admiring of the film—but it is nothing but great fun. Keogh writes “In Independence Day, a scientist played by Jeff Goldblum once actually had a fistfight with a man (Bill Pullman) who is now president of the United States. That same president, late in the film, personally flies a jet fighter to deliver a payload of missiles against an attack by extraterrestrials. Independence Day is the kind of movie so giddy with its own outrageousness that one doesn’t even blink at such howlers in the plot. Directed by Roland Emmerich, Independence Day is a pastiche of conventions from flying-saucer movies from the 1940s and 1950s, replete with icky monsters and bizarre coincidences that create convenient shortcuts in the story. (Such as the way the girlfriend of one of the film’s heroes–played by Will Smith–just happens to run across the president’s injured wife, who are then both rescued by Smith’s character who somehow runs across them in alien-ravaged Los Angeles County.) The movie is just sheer fun, aided by a cast that knows how to balance the retro requirements of the genre with a more contemporary feel.” Besides which, who doesn’t laugh when Will Smith’s character punches out the alien and says, “Welcome to Earth.” And, it has the additional bonus of eye candy in both Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. 
(I’m cheating with the next two selections—because I can’t decide of the two series which is my favorite from the two.)
The Harry Pottermovies: Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows I & II. I mean, seriously…there is no way I can pick my favorite. Added bonus: Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. I could listen to that man read the telephone book.
The Star Warsmovies—all six of them. (I’m reserving judgment on the one forthcoming in a few years from the Disney Studios.) I was sixteen the summer Star Wars (yes, the one later renamed Star Wars IV—A New Hope) and I was such a geek, I saw the steps of The Hero’s Journey in this movie and was elated. Not to mention, there was that scruffy looking smuggler who showed up halfway through the movie. He wasn’t too hard on the eyes.
Truly, Madly, Deeplywas released by MGM for DVD in December of 2001. “Truly Madly Deeply is an intelligent, moving, and deeply funny story about love and death. Nina (Juliet Stevenson), a scatterbrained professional translator, has lost the love of her life, Jamie (Die Hard‘s Alan Rickman). As her life (and her flat) slowly falls to pieces, she’s inundated by an endless stream of repair men and eligible suitors. But rather than go on with life, Nina dwells on her dead love, slumped at her piano, endlessly playing half of a Bach duet. Then, in a truly magical sequence, his cello suddenly joins her melody … and Jamie’s back from the dead. At first it’s bliss. (Think of the superficially similar blockbuster Ghost–only with real people instead of pretty faces Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.) But Nina gradually realizes it’s a thoroughly real Jamie who’s back, complete with every annoying, argumentative fault she’d conveniently forgotten. (He might be dead, he explains, but he still attends political meetings.) Moreover, he has to hide whenever any of the living are around. And he’s constantly ice-cold. And he invites his dead pals to her place at all hours. What’s a living woman to do? Director Anthony Minghella went on to create the melodramatic period piece The English Patient–but in this film, he shows a far more sensitive, subtle touch. The photography is brilliant, capturing the simple beauties of suburban London. And the wonderfully acted characters, quirky and all too real, will keep you laughing–and always guessing what will happen next. –Grant Balfour”
How to Train Your Dragon was released for DVD by DreamWorks in 2010. And, yes, I know it’s a “kid’s movie” but I love this movie. Charles Solomon says of the movie “A winning mixture of adventure, slapstick comedy, and friendship, How to Train Your Dragon rivals Kung Fu Panda as the most engaging and satisfying film DreamWorks Animation has produced. Hiccup (voice by Jay Baruchel) is a failure as a Viking: skinny, inquisitive, and inventive, he asks questions and tries out unsuccessful contraptions when he’s supposed to be fighting the dragons that attack his village. His father, chief Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), has pretty much given up on his teenage son and apprenticed him to blacksmith Gobber (Craig Ferguson). Worse, Hiccup knows the village loser hasn’t a chance of impressing Astrid (America Ferrera), the girl of his dreams and a formidable dragon fighter in her own right. When one of Hiccup’s inventions actually works, he hasn’t the heart to kill the young dragon he’s brought down. He names it Toothless and befriends it, although he’s been taught to fear and loathe dragons. Codirectors and cowriters Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, who made Disney’s delightful Lilo and Stitch, provide plenty of action, including vertiginous flying sequences, but they balance the pyrotechnics with moments of genuine warmth that make the viewer root for Hiccup’s success. Many DreamWorks films get laughs from sitcom one-liners and topical pop culture references; as the humor in Dragon comes from the characters’ personalities, it feels less timely and more timeless. Toothless chases the spot of sunlight reflected off Hiccup’s hammer like a giant cat with a laser pointer; Hiccup uses his newly found knowledge (and an icky smoked eel) to defeat two small dragons–and impress the other kids. How to Train Your Dragon will be just as enjoyable 10 or 20 years from now as it is today.” Yeah, I think so, too.
Lassie Come Homewas released in 2004 by Warner Home Video. I cry EVERY SINGLE TIME I watch this movie. I blame this movie for my deep love of the collie and as one of the factors that contributed to my raising and showing this wonderful, magnificent breed. Amazon’s review of this movie is as follows: “is a classic for all the usual reasons: its timeless, universal appeal, its first-of-its-kind status, and its exceptional cinematography, direction, and performances. What makes this 1943 charmer especially fun for grownups who haven’t screened it since their own preteen, pet-obsessed days, though, is a couple of cute-as-a-button cast members. An adorably over-earnest Roddy McDowall stars as Joe, the mostly hapless lad whom Lassie refuses to part with despite his down-and-out family’s decision to sell her, for a paltry 15 guineas, to a wealthy duke; and Elizabeth Taylor, already stunning at around age 10, surrenders a sweet if mawkish performance as Priscilla, the Duke’s tenderhearted granddaughter, who lends a hand in Lassie’s escape from her family’s unkind kennel master and winks her way into winning the fearless pup a permanent place at her true master’s side. Beyond that, it’s no mystery why generations of dog-loving audiences have marveled at the precocious collie’s career–Lassie is a great actor. She so convincingly digs impossible trenches, leaps towering fences, swims raging rivers, knocks out bad guys, and betrays the essence of brokenheartedness with her bedraggled coat and woebegone expressions that it’s sometimes hard to shake the suspicion that she’s really an incredibly limber person in a cute dog suit. All told, Lassie Come Home delivers a lot to love, not the least of which is the deeply dramatic score–quirky sounding to the modern ear–which returns audiences to simpler, irony-free times, as does the movie’s message of loyalty at all costs. –Tammy La Gorce”
Beauty and the Beast. Disney routinely releases this classic from “the vault”. Here’s what the official review on Amazon has to say about this wonderful love story: The film that officially signaled Disney’s animation renaissance (following The Little Mermaid) and the only animated feature to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination, Beauty and the Beast remains the yardstick by which all other animated films should be measured. It relates the story of Belle, a bookworm with a dotty inventor for a father; when he inadvertently offends the Beast (a prince whose heart is too hard to love anyone besides himself), Belle boldly takes her father’s place, imprisoned in the Beast’s gloomy mansion. Naturally, Belle teaches the Beast to love. What makes this such a dazzler, besides the amazingly accomplished animation and the winning coterie of supporting characters (the Beast’s mansion is overrun by quipping, dancing household items) is the array of beautiful and hilarious songs by composer Alan Menken and the late, lamented lyricist Howard Ashman. (The title song won the 1991 Best Song Oscar, and Menken’s score scored a trophy as well.) The downright funniest song is “Gaston,” a lout’s paean to himself (including the immortal line, “I use antlers in all of my de-co-ra-ting”). “Be Our Guest” is transformed into an inspired Busby Berkeley homage. Since Ashman’s passing, animated musicals haven’t quite reached the same exhilarating level of wit, sophistication, and pure joy. –David Kronke”
And, last but not least is the Hallmark Hall of Fame Production in clay-mation of The Little Drummer Boy. I remember seeing this for the first time during the Christmas season when I was about six or seven. When I was all grown up and had kids of my own, I had to find this for them. It quickly became a favorite of theirs, as well. Amazon’s review states: “The model animation techniques in this 1968 Rankin and Bass TV chestnut are primitive by today’s standards, and picky kids may reject them out of hand. The story, however, which elaborates on the popular Christmas song about a shepherd boy who plays his drum for the baby Jesus and makes the animals dance, is a little more tough-minded than you might expect. The kid begins the story as what we’d now call a neglected child, a surly urchin who says he hates all people. He’s pulled back from the brink, first by learning to make music, and then by his encounter with the Christ child. The underlying message alone–that everybody has something worth contributing–qualifies the show for holiday-perennial status. The big-name voice performers, Jose Ferrer and Greer Garson (who narrates), may be a little too ponderous for the occasion, but the familiar cartoony tones of Paul Frees (aka Boris Badenov) and June Forey (aka Rocket J. Squirrel) help liven up the proceedings. It’s only 23 minutes long, so it’s worth a shot for younger children. –David Chute”

What are movies you’d want with you on a deserted island? Did any of mine make your list? Any gems I should reconsider for my list?
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