Let’s Go to the Movies

The first time I watched the Academy Awards was 1984 and Terms of Endearment was nominated for Best Picture. I hadn’t seen any of the movies at the time, but I loved watching the clips, trying to predict the winners and hearing the acceptance speeches. My mom and I always admired all the beautiful dresses and commented on the ones that should have been left at home.

I soon became a huge movie fan, always wanting to see the latest releases and summer blockbusters and I always looked forward to tuning in to the Oscars. As I got older, I made it a point to see every Best Picture nominee. The year Titanic swept the categories, I’d seen everything nominated and won the office Oscar pool.

Over the years I’ve watched fewer movies in the theater; a result of less free time and expensive ticket prices. And the cliche about parents only seeing the movies nominated in “Best Animated Picture” category does ring true for me. But I still love tuning in to the Academy Awards. It’s a tradition that started when I was 8 years old, and one that will continue when the Oscars are on this Sunday.

When I think about my favorite movie, there’s just no way I can pick one. There are so many that I love for different reasons. (Although after reflecting on my choices, I can see themes and commonalities among all the movies and why they resonate with me.) So in celebration of the Academy Awards, here are my favorite movies that I will watch anytime, over and over again.

All The President’s Men – All reporters or journalism majors (including me) wished, at one time, they were Woodward and Bernstein. I love the true investigative journalism in this movie; how these young reporters changed history through their honest research, writing, and hard work. This movie always keeps me on the edge of my seat, which says a lot considering it’s a true story about politics.

Almost Famous – Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiography resonates with me so much. I love Crowe’s tribute to his favorite music bands (The Eagles and Glenn Frey are so much present) and his journey to be a journalist. I’ve always identified with William Miller, trying to be the writer he knows he can become. And no matter how much he wanted to be cool, as Lester Bangs said, “Guys like us … we’re not cool.” Such great performances in that movie, especially by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand.

Saving Mr. Banks – This story of Disney’s making of Mary Poppins has become one of my new favorites. Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney give such great performances. I love seeing the magic of the Sherman Brothers and how they create all those memorable Disney songs we still sing today. And while this movie is certainly entertaining, it’s also a somber story of how very sad circumstances can truly inspire greatness in writing.

War Games – My Dad showed me this movie the day we bought our first Apple IIE home computer. I loved War Games then, and I still love it today. It’s now more than 30 years old, and the themes of man versus machine – and who really knows best – still hit home.

Reality Bites – This movie is my Generation X’s anthem movie. I remember seeing this movie (for the first of many times) my freshmen year of college and I was blown away thinking this movie was written for me. It was exactly what I was going through at that moment in my life.

The Departed – Hands down, my favorite Martin Scorsese movie. Tragic, compelling, thrilling … all the makings of a classic Scorsese story. Brilliant acting by Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. While there’s not a happy ending, you do finish the film feeling satisfied there’s justice.

The English Patient – This goes up there with my love of World War II movies. The story is amazing. The writing is like poetry (a compliment to Michael Ondaatje who wrote the novel). And the scenery, cinematography and music are beautiful. You feel as if you’re watching art.

Zodiac – This movie is masterful in the way the story is written. I loved how it takes the work of the police, a journalist and a cartoonist to try to make sense of a situation that just doesn’t make sense. And how the theme of “obsession” runs through all the main characters. I also love how this movie was filmed. The authenticity of the 1970s set-up isn’t hokey or gimmicky; you feel like you’re actually watching the events taking place during the time.

Broadcast News – The characters and dialogue, and James Brooks’ writing, are incredible. My favorite line is when Albert Brooks’ character says, “I feel like I’m slipping. But do people who are actually slipping feel that way? Or is it only the really good people who are moving up who invariably think they’re slipping because their standards are so high?” Brilliance!

The Sound of Music – Who doesn’t love the von Trapp family? The scenery. The story. The music. The children. The Captain and Maria. What an amazing musical. And Julie Andrews voice is just magical. Anytime I feel down, I listen to the soundtrack.

Terms of Endearment – I’ve seen this movie dozens of times and it never resonated with me until after I became a mother to a daughter. Shirley McLaine and Deborah Winger are brilliant at portraying the struggles, the tension, the expectations and disappointments, and the love that can only go with the mother-daughter relationship. And I cry every single time.

Perks of Being a Wallflower – I watched Perks only a few years ago, and I was blown away by how much I could relate to Charlie as a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines. I felt so much like that during high school in the early 1990s, never knowing where I fit in or if I’d ever find true friends. This is such a beautiful story of struggling to fit in, loneliness, happiness and growing up.

Your turn! What are your favorite movies? What will you watch hundreds of times?

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