Usually, this blog is pretty heavy, isn’t it? It’s an opportunity for me to share some insights on disability, culture, family, the world we live in right now, and the Kingdom to Come. But fall is a good time to watch movies, so I thought I would take a break from the usual and share with you some of my favorite films.
- JOE VS. THE VOLCANO — Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Directed by John Patrick Shanley. 1990. Rated PG… Suddenly diagnosed with a terminal disease, Joe Banks abandons his boring 9-to-5 life to rescue a little island from complete annihilation.
My favorite movie of all time! In fact, for years, I’ve been trying to convince my friend—fellow author and Joe fan, S.D. Smith, to co-write with me a book of essays about this movie (feel free to send him an email, encouraging him to do it).
The characters are odd, almost cartoonish, and yet poignantly relatable, not necessarily to you as a whole but some very specific part of you deep down inside. The story is a bizarre epic that masterfully toes the line of being unique and still somehow archetypal. And through the silliness of it all, themes of love, courage, and honesty shine through and cut you to the core.
- QUIZ SHOW — Starring John Turturro, Rob Morrow, and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Directed by Robert Redford. 1994. Rated PG-13… The “no, I’m not kidding” true story of when television was put on trial for fixing game shows, and it went all the way to the Supreme Court.
I try to watch this movie at least once a year, usually in the fall. It’s kind of a weird premise because most courtroom David and Goliath dramas carry a sense of gravity with the outcome, but this one is really just about principles. We aren’t surprised when it’s revealed that game shows were rigged, and we know how the story will ultimately play out because game shows are still rigged.
What we’re really watching are two men of high moral character setting off on divergent paths as one compromises for success and the other stands firm in what’s right. I’m thankful a movie like this exists.
- INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE — Starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. Directed by Steven Spielberg. 1989. Rated PG-13… In this third installment to the classic series, Indy teams up with his estranged father to find the Holy Grail before it falls into Nazi hands.
I’d like to throw out the possibility that this is actually a perfectly crafted film. It’s got everything you could ever want in a movie, and it does all of it beautifully. The pacing, the tone, the balance of adventure, romance, comedy, drama, and heartfelt character development. It’s all there. And it’s fun, too!
- THE ROCKETEER — Starring Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, and Timothy Dalton. Directed by Joe Johnston. 1991. Rated PG… When a young stunt pilot straps on a mysterious jetpack, he finds himself in the crossfire between Nazis, gangsters, and the US government.
What a thrill ride! Similar to Indiana Jones, this movie’s got it all. I feel like a kid again every time I step into the world, soaring like Peter Pan over cornfields, barely escaping bone-crushing hitmen, and rescuing the girl of my dreams from really, really bad dudes. I get lost in there, and love every minute of it.
- THE PRESTIGE — Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Directed by Christopher Nolan. 2006. Rated PG-13… Two magicians go head-to-head in their life-long ambitions to be the best.
Rarely have I found a movie that can strike the balance so well as this one between being fantastic and grounded at the same time. Most others I can think of that come close to it are also directed by Christopher Nolan. The man is a master at building and bending worlds in such a way that we can accept them and even believe them. And while he has made several movies before and after this one, I feel like this has been (so far) his magnum opus, where he did it best in every respect.
The plot is simple at its roots and the characters are solid to convey it, leaving him a lot of room to play with exactly how we should experience the story unfold, and he nails it. Definitely a must see for any true story-lover.
A few honorable mentions. I really enjoy movies from directors Edgar Wright, the Coen Brothers, Joe Cornish, Tom McCarthy, and J.C. Chandor. Most of these are rated R, so not necessarily suggested for everyone. Some family movies that I can’t recommend enough are Hook, Sandlot, Son of Rambow, Real Steel, Iron Giant, Disney's Robin Hood, and Fievel Goes West.
If you didn’t know before, now you do: I like movies! Maybe you like these too, or maybe they are new to you and you can check them out.