PLACES IN THE HEART – 1984
Robert Benton’s deeply religious film won Sally Field her second Oscar in one of the greatest film performances in history.
LILIES OF THE FILED – 1963
Ralph Nelson’s film starring Sidney Poitier in his Oscar winning performances is simply one the most enjoyable films ever made. It’s hard to believe this film was shot in fourteen days on a $200,000.00 budget, proving that a short time frame and limited budget are no indicators of a film’s true greatness.
THE WIZARD OF OZ – 1939
Victor Fleming’s film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel has simply no comparison in execution and simplicity of spirit. Its special effects are outstanding in an age before CGI was even heard of and stands up beautifully in today’s modern age of cinema. Though Shirley Temple was originally sought out for the role of Dorothy (and would have been excellent), it’s hard to imagine this film without the luminous Judy Garland. Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan and Margaret Hamilton round out the perfect cast in a perfect film.
OLIVER! – 1968
Carol Reed’s film adaptation of a musical play by Lionel Bart was based on a novel by Charles Dickens
that was in large part responsible for amending Britain’s child labor laws of the 19th Century. With a sparkling score, wild coincidences and the triumph of the human spirit, this is one of the greatest film musicals ever made. Ron Moody as Fagin, Mark Lester as Oliver, Shani Wallis as Nancy, Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes and Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger prove again that great casting, directing and overall execution (including a Special Oscar to Onna White for her extraordinary choreography) produced an extraordinary entertainment.
FAR FROM HEAVEN – 2002
Todd Haynes’ film tribute to the films of Douglas Sirk surpassed his inspiration by actually involving topics that really mattered and would have been taboo in 1950’s Hollywood. Julianne Moore giving one of the greatest film performances of all time was supported by a sterling cast that included Patricia Clarkson, Dennis Haysbert, and Dennis Quaid. Not since MY FAIR LADY had the melding of visuals (shot in the glorious fall of New England/New Jersey) and a truly glorious score by Elmer Bernstein (he should have won the Oscar) been brought together so beautifully.
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY – 2002
Douglas McGrath’s glorious adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel is a wonder to behold with a glorious cast headed by Charlie Hunnam and a beautiful score by Rachel Portman. Again a beautiful adaptation of a very lengthy book with appropriate edits.
MONSOON WEDDING – 2001
Mira Nair’s beautiful film of a family and its servants in the days leading to a grand, celebratory wedding. Naseeru Shah and Shefali Shah lead an extraordinary cast in a grand, life affirming film with beautiful music, is a must see for any film enthusiast.
THE NAMESAKE – 2006
Mira Nair’s incredible film starring Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Kal Penn is simply a great film of family loyalty, heritage and the meaning of love.
LILY – 1953
Charles Walters musical film starring Leslie Caron is one of the great MGM musicals of all time. It broke my heart as a child and continues to move me today.
THE PAINTED VEIL – 2006
John Curran’s film adaptation of a novel by W. Somerset Maugham stars Edward Norton and Naomi Watts in an extraordinary story of forgiveness and true love in 1920’s China. Diana Rigg gives one of the great film performances of all time in this picture as a Catholic missionary nun.
SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA – 1993
Tran Ahn Hung’s film of life in an upper class Vietnamese family is a beauty to behold, especially when you come to realize that the entire thing was actually shot in Paris, France. A stunning visual experience of a time and place that many of us will never experience, but proving again that the human experience is pretty much the same anywhere that you go.
IKIRU – 1952
Akira Kurosawa’s stunning film of a last days of an elderly Japanese man and the relationships he holds with family and friends. A beautiful film performance by Takashi Shimura and sensitive direction makes this film mesmerizing from start to finish.
EL NORTE – 1983
Gregory Nava’s heartbreaking film of the immigrant’s experience is as true today as when first it was released. Zaida Silvia Gutierrez and David Villalpando round out a cast that defies that fact that these people were actually acting in front of a camera and not a documentary film crew.
CHILDREN OF PARADISE (LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS) – 1945
Marcel Carne’s beautiful film classic stars Jean Louis Barrault in a film performance that has influenced scores of actors (Jack Lemmon to name one) and a story to break your heart.
GRAND ILLUSION (LA GRANDE ILLUSION) – 1937
Jean Renior’s film of the effects of war on a prisoner of war camp during World War I stars Jean Gabin in one of the greatest film performances of all time. Erich von Stroheim also lends support as the Captain in charge of the camp. Grand film making in every sense of the word.
Many of these films I first saw as a child and when I revisited them years later have found that they have held up in the truest sense of the word. I have always said that it is the mark of great filmmaking when a picture can have a profound effect on both the very young and the very old (or mature, which ever you prefer). I trust my suggestions may help some of you to have some extraordinary film experiences while enlightening you to the many universal cultures that surround and unite us.