List: Most Inspiring Movies #160-141

Here’s the 3rd installment of the most inspiring movies of all time. See #200-181 and #180-161.

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160. Persepolis (2007: Vincent Paranoud & Marjane Satrapi)

159. Ratatouille (2007: Brad Bird)

158. Breaking Away (1979: Peter Yates)

157. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962: Agnes Varda)

156. Marty (1955: Delbert Mann)

155. Joe versus the Volcano (1990: John Pattrick Shanley)

154. The Champ (1932: King Vidor)

153. The Preacher’s Wife (1996: Penny Marshall)

152. Take Shelter (2011: Jeff Nichols)

151. Nebraska (2012: Alexander Payne)

 

"The Song of Bernadette"
Jennifer Jones
1943 20th Century Fox

 

150. Lars and the Real Girl (2007: Craig Gillespie)

149. Song of Bernadette (1943: Henry King)

148. Dark Victory (1939: Edmund Goulding)

147. The Secret Life of Bees (2008: Gina Prince-Blythewood)

146. Remember the Titans (2000: Boaz Yakin)

145. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001: Peter Jackson)

144. Love & Mercy (2014: Bill Pohland)

143. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951: Robert Wise)

142. The Lion King (1994: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff)

141. I Remember Mama (1948: George Stevens)

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Paths of Glory (1957)

“Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a human being. This is one of those cases.” Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas)

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Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory is centered around a German attack against the Anthill in WWI France. But Paths of Glory isn’t a war movie. It’s a courtroom drama without a physical courtroom. Col. Dax is both a French military colonel and a highly skilled defense attorney. He is commanded to lead his men in a suicide mission that he begins to carry out but eventually hinders. This command is the first event that leads him to be ashamed of being a human.

As the highest military officials learn that many men backed out of the suicide mission and didn’t obey the orders, trials begin. Col. Dax is the center of that trial but only because he’s a lawyer, not because he did his duty of leading his men to retreat when the mission became impossible. In doing so, he was the only one who disobeyed any orders. But the political corruption and blackmail that directed the military officials wouldn’t allow a colonel to be tried for insubordination. Everybody knew that Col. Dax did what he needed to do and that his men did what they were ordered to do and that Col. Dax saved many lives. But all the officials cared about what political expediency, so they demand a court-martial where the decision of the death penalty has already been made before the trial even starts.

Through most of the movie, we watch this farce of a trial with its defendants knowing they’re condemned long before any sentence is issued. But most of all we watch Col. Dax fighting a suicide mission. He refused to let his men fight in the suicide mission he was ordered to lead, so instead, he fights a suicide mission that ends his career. Even though he knows the results of the trial just as well as the accused do, he’s more motivated by his knowledge of what’s right and wrong, by his sense of duty to preserve justice, than he is by the corruption that controls the case.

Col. Dax is completely alone in his fight for truth and justice. He is the only person with any compassion for the people wrongfully accused. Through his defense of the accused, he is punished for his own actions that caused the trial. He is punished for seeking justice while at the same time seeking more justice for the three men chosen to pay for his own actions. He even offers himself to be executed as the officer who gave his men orders that disobeyed the orders given to him. But the “court” wouldn’t hear it. They wouldn’t hear any council or any argument that presents truth or demands justice.

Col. Dax is one of the greatest movie heroes because he never backs down on his pursuit of justice no matter how impossible his situations are. The impossibilities are always caused by corruption and indifference to the lives of troops coming from the commanders over him. And they always lead him to a sense of shame about being human, because he knows what is right but being completely alone in his attempt to carry out what is right, he is never allowed to do so. But as ashamed as he is, that shame is always of those associated with him. He remains unshaken in his commitment to truth and justice, so regardless of how horribly things turn out, we are inspired and motivated by this man who cares so much about the people under his command, that he is willing to sacrifice everything of his own career and life to protect them, to grant them justice, and to stand up for what is right and what is true.

Other Stanley Kubrick Films I’ve Reviewed:

The Killing (1956)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

List: 200 Most Inspiring Movies #180-161

This is the second installment of my celebration of the 10th anniversary of the AFI’s list of the 100 most inspiring movies. I’ve increased it to 200 and will include non-American movies, documentaries, short films and movies that weren’t made in time for the list 10 years ago.

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180. Miss Potter (2006: Chris Noonan)

179. Room (2015: Lenny Abrahamson)

178. River of No Return (1954: Otto Preminger)

177. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980: Irvin Kershner)

176. What’s Cooking? (2000: Gurinder Chadha)

175. The Shootist (1976: Don Siegel)

174. 9 to 5 (1980: Collin Higgins)

173. A Bronx Tale (1993: Robert DeNiro)

172. Brooklyn (2015: John Crowley)

171. Angels in the Outfield (1993: William Dear)

 

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170. Bridge of Spies (2015: Steven Spielberg)

169. Stranger than Fiction (2006: Marc Forster)

168. Motorcycle Diaries (2006: Walter Salles)

167. Hoop Dreams (1994: Steve James)

166. Hacksaw Ridge (2016: Mel Gibson)

165. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967: Stanley Kramer)

164. An Officer and a Gentleman (1982: Taylor Hackford)

163. Field of Dreams (1989: Phil Alden Robinson)

162. The Salesman (2016: Asghar Farhadi)

161. Let There Be Light (1946; John Huston)

 

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Lola (1961)

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The Turtles recorded a strange song in the 60s called “Grim Reaper of Love.” The song doesn’t make much sense, but I bring it up because Jacque Demy movies always have a grim reaper of love. And Demy’s films make sense out of that character. His first movie Lola and his third (and best) movie The Umbrellas of Cherbourg share a character named Roland Cassard (played in both movies by Marc Michel, pictured above). In both films, Roland is the grim reaper of love.

Lola (Anouk Aimee, pictured above) has a grand fantasy about the man she loves but left her with their son and a dishonorable job. But she’s convinced he will come back. His despicable actions toward her their son don’t matter to her. She’s much smarter than such beliefs seem to indicate, and even though she has no good reason to believe he’s coming back, she believes it anyways. She continues to love him even though Roland comes along and tries to convince her that her first love wasn’t real and that he can love her instead.

Roland’s words and actions sound good, but by attempting to crush her dreams, he is killing her very capacity to love. Roland does the exact same thing in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in a very different situation. Since Umbrellas is far better known than Lola, most people go into the earlier film Lola already knowing quite a bit about Roland from Umbrellas. But only when the two movies are seen together can we really understand that he’s not the well-meaning romantic savior he passes himself off as.

Lola romanticizes first love just as most of us do. After years have passed, many people remember their first love with much more fondness and joy than was actually there. That is probably not a healthy thing, but Demy does a great job of both capturing that common occurrence and showing that every once in a while, that type of fantastic nostalgia may not be fantasy at all. Because Lola believes it so much, so do we, and this is what makes Roland’s attempt to destroy her dream so wrong.

Demy’s trilogy, beginning with this film and ending with The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) shows maturity in attitudes towards first love. Lola fantasizes nostalgically about it, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is willing to “believe”, as Cher sang in the 90’s in “love after love,” and The Young Girls of Rochefort is willing to simply believe in the possibility of romantic love regardless of the shape it might take. The one thing that all movies keep in common while this maturity takes place is the value for waiting. Lovers in a Jacques Demy movie become believable, fully-realized characters because their romances depend on whether or not they are willing to wait for another. I have Roland Cassard the grim reaper of love because he tries to rush relationships with women who are vulnerable at the moments of his advances but do not love him. These women are waiting, expressing real love for someone else through that waiting, and Roland always tries to get in the way of that waiting.

This theme of waiting is what I love most of the Jacque Demy’s trilogy. The relationship between love and the willingness to wait goes far beyond romantic relationships and extends into all areas of life. The willingness to wait is the willingness to put another need’s first, to put off personal gratification and even to sacrifice for the sake of the other. Lola is a character whose waiting often looks superficial and unrealistic, but as the story unfolds we know that her waiting is very real and nothing less than a great expression of her love.

 

 

List: 200 Most Inspiring Movies #200-181

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of the American Film Institutes 100 Years 100 Cheers, listing the most inspiring American movies from 1915-2004. To commemorate their list, I will give my own lists. But unlike the AFI, movies can be from any country, of any length. I will also consider documentaries and movies after 2004, and I will double the number of movies, spreading the list out over these 10 weeks. So here’s the first installment.

 

200. The Great Escape (1960: John Sturges)

199. The General (1926: Buster Keaton)

198. The Magnificent Seven (1960: John Sturges)

197. Oliver (1968: Carol Reed)

196. Stagecoach (1939: John Ford)

195. Wings (1927: William A. Wellman)

194. Gorillas in the Mist (1988: Michael Apted)

193. Batman Begins (2005: Christopher Nolan)

192. Lady for a Day (1933: Frank Capra)

191. Seven Samurai (1954: Akira Kurosawa)

 

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190. The Hurricane (1998: Norman Jewison)

189. Exodus (1960: Otto Preminger)

188. Star Wars Episode VII: The Return of the Jedi (1983: Richard Marquand)

187. Bend It like Beckham (2003: Gurinda Chadha)

186. The Phantom of the Opera (2004: Joel Schumacher)

185. The Insider (1999: Michael Mann)

184. A Thousand Clowns (1965: Fred Coe)

183. The Snake Pit (1948: Anatole Litvak)

182. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938: Michael Curtiz & William Keighley)

181. A Man Called Ove (2015; Hannes Holm)

 

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Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu is the version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula ever filmed and very possibly the scariest movie ever made. But it’s not scary because the vampire is after his victim’s blood. It’s not even scary because Max Schreck gives such a brilliant physical performance with eyes, hands, and teeth that all look ready to kill, although his performance is so brilliant that the makers of the film Shadow of the Vampire about the making fo this film concluded that Max Schreck was so great in this role because he really was a vampire. No. Nosferatu is possibly the scariest movie ever made because it plays with the basic human truth that fear is valuable.

As a Christian, I hear people all the time tell others not to be afraid of anything because the Bible says not to fear. What they don’t understand is that those commands are about being controlled by fear. Of course being controlled by fear is dangerous and unhealthy, but fear in and of itself is life-saving. It’s what keeps us from doing stupid things that could kill us all the time. This distinction is exactly what Nosferatu is about.

Hutter meets Count Orlak just thinking he’s a weird old man. Hutter (Gustav van Wagenheim) has every reason to be afraid, but because he’s not afraid he gives into everything the Count wants. The Count doesn’t start with blood. He starts with Hutter’s mind. Because Hutter’s not scared, he’s gullible, he’s willing to believe the Count and willing to let the Count brainwash him until the plague takes hold. Once the Count has won Hutter’s mind, his blood is easy to get.

Hutter temporarily left his wife Ellen (Greta Schröder) to work to get what he thought they both wanted, what he could only get through the Count. But Ellen felt the fear that Hutter didn’t. She was consumed by fear and kept at such a distance. Those two things meant that she had no power over the circumstances. She was paralyzed by fear. But assuming that we all know the story of Dracula, I can safely say that it’s when she finally decides to act, she acts out of fear instead of remaining inactive because of the fear. When she acts out of fear, she does exactly what her husband told her not to do since she valued fear and he didn’t. In acting out of that value for fear, she saves them both.

Fear and respect go hand in hand. If we don’t respect what someone or something is capable of, we have no reason to fear it. If we don’t fear things worth fearing, it can literally mean death. Nosferatu gives a terrifying yet beautiful image of why fear is valuable and what the road of death that the lack of respect for fear can lead to.

List: The Best Horror Movies

Happy Halloween (almost)! A few days before Halloween, here are my picks for the best horror movies ever made. And look back here on Halloween day for a review of the movie I put at number 1 on this list.

 

10. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1932)

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9. Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

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8. Them (1954)

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7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

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6. House of Wax (1953)

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5. King Kong (1933)

"King Kong" 1933 RKO **  I.V.

 

4. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

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3. The Birds (1963)

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2. Frankenstein (1931)

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1. Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens