Monday, March 15, 2010

A Cinephile's Film Recommendations For Spring Break

At the Teams of Our Lady meeting last Friday, I discussed movies with several of the other members. This conversation made me realize that Jennifer and I really are cinephiles. No, we aren’t lovers of sin, though it does sound an awful lot like that, doesn’t it? We are lovers of cinema. We always enjoyed taking in a good flick during our courtship and first years of marriage, but after Anna was born it became next to impossible to get out much. So, with good investments (sound system, PS3, Roku player) and a little bit of luck (my brother gave us his 40 in. HD TV when he went to Iraq), we had a nice entertainment system and a steady supply of films through Netflix’s streaming video collection. Several of the team members asked me if I might make some recommendations, so here is a list of twelve films from across the globe and across time that you may not have seen, but might find captivating for a variety of reasons. I will provide a brief description of each to help you discern which ones you might like to view. I would also recommend that in the future you consult Rotten Tomatoes when considering whether or not to watch a movie. It isn't foolproof, but it comes close!

Babette’s Feast (1987)- A Danish film about the power of food to revive not only the body, but the heart and soul as well. Yum, yum…

The Painted Veil (2006)- An Ed Norton period piece about a marriage on the rocks that rebounds after a purgatorial experience in rural China in the 1920s. Bring your tissues. Perfect flick for a T.O.O.L. discussion or an interesting sit-down conversation.

I Confess (1954)- Classic Hitchcock film with a Catholic twist. This handsome story is set in beautiful Quebec and deals with a priest who becomes the prime suspect in a murder trial . Unfortunately, the real culprit confesses to the same priest, so there is no way for the priest to vindicate himself without breaking the seal of the confessional. This is definitely a curious take on the innocent man wrongfully accused and the dilemma that ensues.

Big Fish (2003) Tim Burton tends to be hit or miss for me, but this story really captured my attention and my imagination. If you are in the mood for a fantastical father-son tale with Burton’s hallmark gothic touches, this is the one for you.

The Seven Samurai (1954)- Splendid introduction to the work of Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa. As the title probably suggests, this is one of the first modern action films that features seven samurai who come to the aid of a village beset by bandits. Great stuff!

Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring (1987) Companion French films about greed and its tragic consequences in picturesque Provence. Cathartic tragedies well worth your time!

Finding Neverland (2004) A magical tearjerker for the family of how the Peter Pan story was born. All-star performances by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet really set this one apart.

On the Waterfont (1954) Vintage Marlon Brando in this powerful tale of one man’s struggle to stand up to the mob-controlled unions. Great priest role in this one, too!

Life is Beautiful (1998)- A tragicomic Italian film about the lengths one father will go to shield his son from the gruesome reality of the Holocaust. Roberto Benigni is something else in this one.

Dr. Zhivago (1965) Passion and the Russian Revolution. Heady stuff, but my favorite song of all time is the eternal score of this romantic narrative.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)- A spiritual gem. Don’t be thrown off by the date of the film. By far, the best film ever made about St. Joan of Arc and probably one of the most powerful religious films that I have ever seen. I personally found this film on par with The Passion of the Christ, if not better. The close-up shots are something else. Highly recommended for Lent if you’ve never seen this one!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)- Charlie Kaufman writes some of the weirdest, yet most memorable, scripts. This is a quirky love story about destiny and memory with a decidedly surreal approach. Jim Carrey’s best role ever. He is great opposite Kate Winslet in this one.

The Orphanage (2007) Fresh off his success with Pan’s Labyrinth, another great pic to watch, Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro produced this haunting thriller/horror film. I don’t generally recommend scary movies, but this one is chilling without blood and violence. It strikes fear in the heart through psychology rather than the usual gimmicks you expect from these sorts of movies. For something different…

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