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Great Movies Time (Might) Forget

What great movies do you need to bring back into your life?

 

If you’re like most of movie-loving America, chances are you at least paid a bit of attention to this past weekend’s Academy Awards. The Oscars are always good for old-fashioned entertainment. Tthe fashion! The speeches! And—I nearly forgot—the movies!

My friends and family would be the first to tell you that I’m miserably ill-informed when it comes to matters of pop culture. I’m pretty sure my mom is the only mother in America who says, “Honey, you really should be watching more TV.” I’m also pretty sure my best buddies are pretty tired of explaining to me why certain people are famous.

Nevertheless, movies are my big exception, and as Ben Affleck gave giddy and heartfelt thanks last night to anyone anywhere who had anything to do with the making of Argo (including Canada), all the great movies that are passing unrecognized into history began running through my mind.

To that end, here is a completely unscientific and unofficial list of movies I think are really worth watching. Some are old. Some are newer. Most aren't big-time Academy Award-winners. They are, however, highly entertaining.

A warning: I’m not really a musical sort of gal. I also won’t watch depressing movies anymore (thanks for nothing, Million Dollar Baby). Period dramas, a la Jane Austen? It’s not happening, for the most part. There are also no obvious choices like Pulp Fiction, one of my favorite movies of all time.

So get the popcorn, light a fire, turn out the lights and enjoy!

If you liked Argo, you’ll like All the President’s Men. I saw Argo and feel it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in years, as notable for its topical restraint as well as its heart-pounding suspense. If you love suspense sans violence, bring All the President’s Men, with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, back into your life. And the ending—with the teletype machine pounding away—gets my vote for one of the most brilliant movie endings ever.

The (original) In-Laws is the funniest movie ever made. If the word “serpentine” doesn’t mean anything to you then run, do not walk, to get a copy of the original comedy classic starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. It is a brilliant blend of near-slapstick and deadpan humor. Let me emphasize original once again: Avoid the remake, starring the usually reliable Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks, like the plague. “There’s no reason to shoot at me! I’m a dentist!”

If you liked Lean on Me, try Stand and Deliver. Math geeks and underdog lovers alike will love Stand and Deliver, the true inspiring story of an unlikely classroom of students in a disadvantaged L.A. neighborhood who study calculus, take the AP exam and perform so well that they are accused of cheating. A wonderful, not-to-be-missed performance by Edward James Olmos.

If you like music, but musicals make you cringe, try these. Although not deserving of a “best ever” superlative, Rock Star's Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston are extremely likeable as a newbie rock star and girlfriend who experience overnight fame and fortune. Not appropriate for the under-13 crowd, by the way. Other near-musical choices: Walk the Line, This Is Spinal Tap and Victor/Victoria.

Don’t overlook mystery and horror in the pursuit of quality entertainment. For every 80 downright terrible horror movies, there is roughly one high-quality production, although the quality productions stand the test of time, as any fan of The Shining will tell you. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford give nuanced and natural performances in the face of the incredibly unnatural in What Lies Beneath. And if you don't know who Keyser Soze is, watch The Usual Suspects.

Movies for kids. Remember Stand by Me, the classic coming of age tale narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and based on Stephen King’s novella The Body? Sportif lasses will love A League of Their Own. Adventure-oriented families will enjoy Chasing Mavericks and Soul Surfer, two newer movies featuring true-to-life tales. And The Color Purple is a must.

Classic films that aren’t Casablanca or Gone With the Wind.  I live in perpetual awe of Elizabeth Taylor, whose beauty is matched only by her range as an actress. Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf demonstrate both. Too long and/or heavy? For something totally different try After the Thin Man, the black and white classic that was the basis (I think) for the popular 80s television show Moonlighting. And don’t forget Bogart and Bacall in The African Queen, the classic movie lover’s classic. 

Chick flicks. Sofia Coppola’s somewhat-controversial Marie Antoinette is brilliant simply for its use of music, its incredible imagery and for the fact that she filmed it right in Versailles, the first filmmaker to have permission to do so. And I will always have a soft spot for the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, as well as Sixteen Candles, home of the best ever Hot Guy with a Heart of Gold (and a Porsche).

Boys Night Out. Courtesy of my husband and his friends: Blackhawk Down. Trading Places. Stripes. Glengarry Glen Ross. Braveheart. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Predator. And anything with Charles Bronson.

Thomas Paine February 26, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Lisa - Some great films mentioned. I concur on the original "The In-Laws". I can highly recommend the Thin Man series of movies with Bill Powell, Myrna Loy and Asta the dog. You mention After the Thin Man which is either the second or third in the series. Start with the 1934 "The Thin Man" and then go through the series. These gems are glances into a time that many forgot and the murder mysteries are great fun. And the drinking! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025878/ "African Queen" is another classic and I would add "Key Largo" to the Bogie list. Spacey was great in "The Usual Suspects"! But if you want to see that movie, never discuss it with anyone who has seen it or they might spoil the ending. Hepburn and Cary Grant in "Bringing Up Baby" is a hoot. Hepburn also in "Guess Whose Coming to Dinner" and "Adam's Rib", both with Spencer Tracy. On a different beat, one of my scifi favs is "Silent Running" with Bruce Dern and the cutest little robots this side of R2D2 and Wall-E. I shed a tear or two at the end. The original "Predator" and the second Alien movie "Aliens" are still the best in each of those series, IMLTHO. For some reason I want to mention "Summer of '42" as a great coming-of-age movie but I have not seen it in over 20 years so not sure how well it has held up.
Lisa Bigelow February 27, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Thanks! I've also seen "The Thin Man" but recommended AFTM because I think it's funnier! And I love, love Asta! A big reason to watch. One additional movie I thought of too late: "Excalibur", a must for King Arthur fans. And if you like sci-fi, try "Altered States" and the James Cameron film about the deep ocean...I think called "The Deep" -- but I can't remember. Stars Ed Harris. "Altered States" not really sci-fi but riveting nevertheless! Finally, what's not to love about "The In-Laws"? The Guacamole Act of 1017? Red tape in the bush? You're just projecting like crazy? That crazy general at the end with the 6-week marinated chicken and the hand puppet? Hilarious! Lisa
Lisa Bigelow February 27, 2013 at 02:34 PM
whoops! 1917! Guac Act of 1917!
Donald Borsch Jr. February 27, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Lisa, "The Deep" was based on a Peter Benchley novel (of Jaws fame), and starred Nick Nolte, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Shaw, and Louis Gossett, Jr. It centered on a lost sunken cache of drugs that had been located by a local diver and then the bad guys came to get them. Oh, and one very ornery Moray Eel. Throw in some voodoo and some great on-location scenery of the Caribbean, and boom.
Thomas Paine February 27, 2013 at 03:30 PM
I agree about ATTM being more entertaining but I personally think seeing the first one first sets up the personalities better. They are great fun and my wife and I whipped through three of them in a single long rainy afternoon & evening. Your mention of "Altered States" made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. In 1979, I was at URI and was a paid participant in some Psych department studies of people's reactions to sensory deprivation chambers. The first two in a series of five sessions went fine but something in my head during the third session caused me to blurt out the "safe word" and call that session to a premature end. I did not return for the balance because the $25/session was not worth it. Needless to say, seeing that movie when it was first released was "interesting" to say the least. Thankfully, I did not transmute into anything non-human though I am sure a few commenters around here might be convinced I have horns. ;-) The Cameron/Harris movie was "The Abyss" and was a standard bearer in its day for seeing how good your home surround sound system was. The moving column of water with the face was an amazing effect for its day. And yes, the mouse did indeed breath the oxygenated liquid in the bag. The hand puppet! Bahahahahahaha....
Thomas Paine February 27, 2013 at 03:38 PM
For some reason, an image of a pre-NRA Charleton Heston just popped into my head which leads me to mention: Planet of the Apes (original from the late 1960s) Omega Man (based on the same story that gave us "I Am Legend") Soylent Green And as far as early classics from no legendary film makers, how about John Carpenter's: Attack on Precint 13 (the original one from the mid-1970s) The Thing (Carpenter's 1982 version, not the remake) Apart from that, the young Dustin Hoffman may never have been better than in "The Marathon Man".
Donald Borsch Jr. February 27, 2013 at 03:52 PM
"Soy latte is people! Soy latte is people!" Heh. (h/t to Liam Heller for that one) Carpenter's version of The Thing freaked me out a bit. Great over-the-top isolation horror flick.
Sheldon February 27, 2013 at 07:24 PM
IN LAWS --YES Or the scene where Alan Arkin reads the inscription on a picture of JFK that hangs in Peter Falks office: Alan A :"You can't win em all JFK...what does that mean" Peter F; "The Bay of Pigs". Alan A : You were involved with the bay of Pigs !!?? Peter Falk: "It was my idea"

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