Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Today's holiday is a time to take pause and think about everything for which we are thankful. As we celebrate with family and friends, I thought I'd take a look and see what films I was most thankful for. While I'm sure I could come up with dozens of films that I love just as much as the ones in the following list, I think these are the ten films I'm most thankful have been made over the years. So while you sit back, eat turkey and watch football, give this list a view. Once again, happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
The 400 Blows
This French film (originally titled Les quatre cents coup) was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I think it's one of those films that everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime, but it's only going to have an emotional impact if you watch it at just the right time in your life. Fortunately for me, I watched it at exactly the right moment in my life's journey. The story tells of a boy who's looking to find meaning in his own life, and after a series of trials and tribulations, he is able to break away from conformity only to find himself wondering where to turn next. I was in a similar situation when I watched this film, and the boy's inner turmoil reflected my own almost exactly. While it didn't offer any explanation or advice, just seeing my own conflict portrayed so beautifully was enough to leave me in tears.
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey is not a film to be enjoyed. It is a film to be watched and admired and thought about for ages. Every time I watch this film, I always get the urge to spend a month watching the movie over and over again. While I'm sure there's been countless interpretation of Stanley Kubrick's film, we may never know if any of them are actually correct. And I think that's what makes this film so brilliant. You can sit down and watch it a dozen times, and you could easily have a dozen different ideas and interpretations. It's definitely not a film for everyone; if you can't find a way to get into it, it's going to be a long, drawn-out experience for you. But for those of you who are able to see the beauty in the film, you'll realize that it isn't just a movie: it is an experience that should be taken by any true fan of film.
There's actually a fundamental and personal reason for me to be thankful for Brokeback Mountain, and I think the story will suffice as explanation. I was raised in a strict conservative household, and although I don't remember any overt concessions or statements against the homosexual community, I immediately opposed this film upon its release, claiming it was just a "gay cowboy" movie. I went so far as to cheer against it at that year's Academy Awards despite having not seen the film. It took me three more years to sit down and watch the film, and I found it to be one of the most beautiful romances I have ever seen on-screen. It may not have been the only driving force, but it completely changed my views on love and who should be allowed to love one another. In a way, I have this film to thank for my overall tolerance, and for that, I think we can all be thankful.
Much in the way Brokeback Mountain opened my eyes to the world, The Cove did the same in terms of animal cruelty. I had not been much for documentaries until a few years ago, and when I heard about The Cove and its subject matter, I have to admit I was a little hesitant to give it a watch. I knew exactly what I was going to see, and that alone would be enough to keep a lot of people from watching this film. However, I will take the stance right now and say that every person - man, woman and (maybe) child - needs to see The Cove. It needs to be universally known exactly what's happening around the world in terms of animal cruelty, and even though this film only focuses on one specific happening, it talks about how prevalent such cruelty has become around the world. It made me want to rise to action, and the best way I know how to do that is to draw attention to this film's existence.
Gone with the Wind
This is the classic film to top all classic films, and it's also the first film to use "foul" language (although by today's standards, the use of the word "damn" isn't all that shocking). While it blazed that particular trail, it also set the standard in terms of romantic dramas, and I have yet to see a film that surpasses it in its magnitude and sheer force. It's a long film, so there may not be many people who have the patience to sit through it nowadays, but true film aficionados will know this to be one of the greatest films ever to grace the silver screen. Even seventy-two years later, it's still one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, and it ranks very highly among my favorites.
One particular friend is going to scoff at the fact that I've included this film on this list. She claims it's one of the grossest movies she's ever seen, but I can see where she's coming from with her statement. However, the dark comedy and sarcasm in which the subject matter is portrayed is so brilliantly done that I can't begin to hate this film in any regards. The reason I'm thankful for Happiness, however, is it's the first film to show me that there really are no boundaries in the film medium. In a day and age where so much is controlled by the Motion Picture Assocation of America, it's refreshing to see a film that pushes the taboos aside and just lets it all go. (Disclaimer: this film definitely isn't for everyone; it deals with a lot of sexual content that shouldn't be viewed by younger audiences, so be forewarned.)
How could I possibly leave my favorite film of all time off this list? You can read my post about the film itself linked above if you want to get all my insight about the film (it's a longer post, just so you know), but at a very basic level, I think everyone has to be thankful for their favorite movie. It's a film I can come back to any day and be able to sit down and watch it in its entirety and be thoroughly entertained. What makes this movie so great for me is that it is so thoroughly entertaining, and it always finds a way to make me re-fall in love with it. It's simple yet so perfectly brilliant in its methods of filmmaking that it's hard not to like. But most importantly, Jaws reminds me that film is supposed to be about entertainment. While I can go on for ages nit-picking films in my reviews, it really comes down to whether or not a movie is entertaining. Jaws will always find a way to keep me engaged, and for that, I am thankful.
No Country for Old Men
When No Country for Old Men was released in 2007, I was living in Santa Cruz, California, and it was playing at my favorite particular theater. I remember the experience vividly: the moment the film ended, I and the eight other people sitting in the theater sat silently through the final credits. The moment the lights returned in the theater, I ran out to buy the original novel in order to understand it. The reason I'm thankful for this film is the fact that it's the movie that made me want to start writing reviews. The amount of thought I put into No Country for Old Men and exactly what it meant spurred me towards this blog, which I ultimately started three years later after I had finished my undergraduate schooling. So, for all of you who enjoy my reviews and this blog in general, you should also thank No Country for Old Men for getting me started down that path.
Much in the way I couldn't leave Jaws (my favorite film) off this list, there was no way I could leave Psycho (the best film I've ever seen) off this list either. (To get the whole story behind my viewing of Psycho, check out the link given above because it's a doozy of a story.) Alfred Hitchcock's most iconic film set the tone for the rest of cinematic history. Without this film, who knows where the evolution of movies would have taken us. There are so many movie "firsts" in Psycho that it's a little bit overwhelming. It broke through taboos that filmmakers had refused to break previously. I honestly believe that the face of the cinematic landscape would be drastically different had Hitchcock not released this film back in 1960. Solely based on that, I think there's enough reason to be thankful for this film. The fact that it's also brilliant is just one more plus.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
There's two reasons I'm thankful for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. First, it was the first feature-length animated film ever created. Had the film proven to be terrible, there's a chance that animation might never had made much of an impact on the cinematic landscape. Fortunately, it was met by rave reviews, and only three years later, Pinocchio was released to similar reviews, forever stamping the presence of animated films The second reason I'm thankful for Snow White is that it stamped Walt Disney as a legitimate presence on the feature-film stage. While he'd had success with his short films, the success of Snow White put him at the forefront of animation - a place he, as well as the Disney company, have managed to stay until this day.