"Which movies would you direct me to as 'MUST WATCH'??"
A friend, on learning that Grandma B and I own over 2000 movies on VHS or DVD recently asked me that question. I guess their assumption is that anyone who has so many movies must know something about them. Never assume. It did occur to me that knowing something of my taste in movies might help you, my grandchildren, to know me a little better. This would be in keeping with your Dad’s initial request that inspired this blog. So here is my answer to the must watch question.
I have an answer, but I must protest that the question is a little vague. Movies come in all shapes and sizes and there are a variety of reasons why different ones should be on your viewing list. Do you want warm and inspiring, with beloved Hollywood stars in the lead roles? “It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be at the top of the list. A three hanky tear jerker, “Love Story” or “An Affair to Remember.” Big adventure movies litter the landscape, but you can’t go wrong with “Star Wars,” “Jaws” or just about any of the “franchise“ movies that have spawned multiple sequels. Horror movies are not my thing but if you must have one the original “Halloween” would be my choice.
Comedies offer a whole subset of choices. If you would have a rounded exposure, some of the classic oldies where the stars were the reason to see them are important (and they are classics because they are so good). I’m talking about the Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, and others whose name on the marquee was all that was needed to sell tickets. Modern romantic comedies or “rom coms” provide a glut of forgettable movies, but a few stand out. “While You Were Sleeping” is one we have watched many times. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan teamed up for some really good ones. “When Harry Met Sally” is marvelous. My personal favorite comedy across all the subsets is “Young Frankenstein” but it probably helps to see the original “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” first (They are worth seeing anyway, even though they are “horror” movies).
The Western movie at the top of my list would have to be, “The Magnificent Seven.” Favorite war movie, “The Enemy Below” (not the best, whatever that means, just my favorite).
Musicals are not to everyone’s taste, but if you like them or just want to give one a try, “Singin’ In the Rain” would be my first choice. It’s fun and funny, and great dancing and songs you will find yourself humming the next day. Most musicals are adaptations from Broadway shows so if you want a taste of the Great White Way without going to New York and dropping a week’s pay on a ticket these can give you that. “Camelot,” “West Side Story” and “My Fair Lady” are timeless and wonderful. Some others are kind of dated and may seem to promote social attitudes that are no longer acceptable.
Dramas, dramatic movies, are a whole different thing. They move us emotionally and at their best help us grow as human beings. They can help us see the world differently, through other people’s eyes. They teach us. Sharing the triumphs and tragedies of screen characters is why we go to these movies. Some allow us, for a few hours, to vicariously live lives that seem bigger than our own, and they don’t get any bigger than “Gone With The Wind.”
Now I will end this essay by actually answering the question. There is one movie that I believe everyone on Earth SHOULD see. I only watched it once, and can’t bring myself to watch it again, but I will never forget it. The movie is Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler List.” It shows us the darkest side of humanity in a way that can’t be forgotten, but also lets us aspire to be good men as Oskar Schindler was a good man. I don’t suppose many people would call it the best picture of all time, but it has my vote for most important.
So there are some of my thoughts on movies. I love romantic movies and romcoms (aka chick flicks). I don’t care for 99% of what are called horror. I think movies can be socially important, but first and foremost they are entertainment. Silly comedies and mindless action movies also deserve to be made and should not make us feel guilty for watching them. Enjoy the movies, and as Siskel and Ebert used to say, “Save me the aisle seat.”