This post was originally published on August 3 2009
Hi, Karen here, picking up where Doug left off with my five films to love. To be honest, I don’t have a top 10 list or anything like that. It would be difficult for me to narrow down my favorites in any kind of list, as I find my tastes seem to change like my moods. But there are many films that I will, as Doug says, stop and watch when I see them, regardless of how many times I may have seen them before. So without any further ado, here are five films that I have enjoyed and would recommend to anyone.
1. The Great Escape, 1963.
So much has been said about this film already, I don’t know what I can add to it. It features wonderful actors, like Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, and Charles Bronson. It has an involving, suspenseful plot, and exciting action sequences.
My thoughts on the film are always colored by my initial viewing, which was with my father. I was in my late teens and we sat up one Saturday night and watched it together. I went in to it dubious about whether I would like it or not. But I came out loving it. I think part of the appeal is the fact that while some of the soldiers do escape from the German camp, many do not, and this realism, this honesty, was appreciated.
When I first saw this film, I thought it was a mess. I still do, but now it is an entertaining mess. It’s funny as hell, chock full of people you will recognize, and filled with wonderful music. And did I mention car crashes? It has lines that I’ve never forgotten, like “I hate Illinois Nazis”. It’s also one of the best films John Belushi did in his unfortunately short life.
It’s hard to explain to younger people now what Belushi meant to those of us who grew up with him. Sure, he was a comedian, but even more, he was a symbol of rebelliousness and anarchy that teenagers always gravitate towards. The other thing about Belushi was that he was not a good-looking movie star type – in fact he was a fat slob. But he was still cool. That gave all of us a little hope.
3. The Thing, 1982.
I have to preface this by saying that I love the original Howard Hawks film. However, John Carpenter’s version had more staying power for me because of the ability of the alien to assume, or even take over, the identity of others. This results in Carpenter’s version topping out on the paranoia-meter. Kurt Russell and a small army of character actors (including loveable ol’ curmudgeon Wilford Brimley) give very realistic performances. Probably my favorite scene is when Russell’s character tests the humanity of his fellows by putting a hot wire in samples of their blood. When we finally get to the camouflaged alien, the ensuing chaos is truly frightening. Adding to that are the special effects, which even today I find disturbing.
This is just a flat-out fun movie, directed by Richard Lester of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” fame. The film succeeds as both a rousing adventure and a slapstick comedy, with more than a hint of bawdiness thrown in. I think I see something new every time I watch it. It has wonderful stars as well: the dashing Michael York, gorgeous Raquel Welch, grim Oliver Reed, the delightful Frank Finlay, as well as Christopher Lee, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston, and Spike Milligan as Welch’s poor husband. Truly a pleasure to watch – just don’t worry about the plot too much.
This is another mess of a film, yet one that I find irresistible. Before this film came out, every depiction I had seen or read of King Arthur and his knights was one that showed them as gleaming, pristine saints. This film takes Arthur and company and throws them in the mud. It’s full of lust, violence, betrayal, and pettiness – and yet, we still see in Arthur (and also Percival) the very best in mankind. There’s also a distinctly other-worldly feel to it, particularly in the sequences with Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, and “the Dragon’s breath”. As Merlin states, the old world, the world of magic, is fading away as “the one god” grows in strength. Yet Merlin accepts this, as Arthur and his men represent a necessary change. Still, one can’t help but feel a bit sad for the loss of that world.
Another pleasure of viewing this film is seeing both Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson before they hit the big time. And Carmina Burana never sounded better.