Sunday, February 19, 2012

If You Only Had Three...

Whenever I would start dating someone, by the third date I’d always ask this question: If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have three movies to watch over and over again for the rest of your life, what would they be?

The answer to this question can tell you quite a lot about a person.

Usually the first two choices come easily but the third, that is the tough one; when you realize it’s your last choice  then it’s a struggle.

My number one has stayed the same for as many years as I’ve asked the question.
There is no competition:  The Best Years of Our Lives.

Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it.   Black &White, 1946, with Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy and a host of other familiar faces. It’s the story of three guys thrown together on a military plane returning home after the war and how they adjust to life back in their Middle-America hometown. They span the socioeconomic gamut:  Al (right), the upper class banker married with two kids; the solidly middle-class high-school football hero Homer (left in the photo) 

who was poised  to marry Wilma-the-girl-next-door; and Fred (center), the working-class-poor guy from the wrong side of the tracks who met and married a blonde bombshell in basic training just before he shipped off for  years.  It is beautifully shot,  beautifully scored (Hugo Friedhofer won the Oscar for it) and tremendously acted by everyone in it, including Harold Russell, a real-life veteran who lost both hands in the war and whose role portrays how Homer’s life and future is forever changed.

Choice number two: Reds, an epic story that takes us through the rollercoaster love affair of American bohemians Louise Bryant and journalist Jack Reed.  Their passion for one another is at odds with the causes that entangle them in “isms” and world events from Manhattan to Moscow. Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty play the pair that are caught in the extraordinary events that became the Russian Revolution of 1919 (and the material for his book, Ten Days That Shook the World). Interspersed with their story (and the poignancy of their struggle against middle class norms of love and marriage that draw them together), are real-life characters Eugene O’Neill, Emma Goldman, and Trotsky.  Warren Beatty pulled an Orson-Welles by writing, producing, directing, and starring in the film.  I know, for this kind of film, I suppose most people would pick Dr Zhivago, but for me, it’s Reds.

And now to the tough one, the last I’ll get, movie number three.  For ever so long it was Splendor in the Grass (ironically Warren Beatty again, in his first film) for so many reasons.  It was William Inge, a sensitive writer. It was a story of tortured first love.  It was hauntingly and beautifully scored by David Amram.  And it was Natalie Wood, my favorite.  [For my sister, it was Elizabeth Taylor. For my sister-in-law, it’s Audrey Hepburn. For me, it’s Natalie Wood   forever.]

But recently when I watched it for the umpteenth time, and sad to say, it felt a bit dated and a bit forced and remember  this a film you’d have to watch over and over and over again. SO reluctantly I have abandoned  my teenage angst for another.  But which?

There are some movies that no matter when, where, or how many times I have seen them, if I see them on TV, I am drawn to watching them.

It surprises me to say this but, Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen (of MI-5 fame).  In spite of the fact that these roles have been played over and over by so many others, they each do such a touching job that they make the story feel new. And the musical score by Dario Marianelli is enchanting.

Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale as star-crossed protagonists with Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon as their quirky best friends who are along for the ride.  This charming film keeps them (and us) tripping past each other until years later they finally end up together  another one of those happily-ever-afters.

If I were cheating, I'd pick The Godfather: Part I and Part II, but perhaps I’d better pick a comedy  something that will make me laugh and laugh and that could be Tootsie or The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. 

So, as predicted, I'm struggling over my final choice.  Get me off the hook here  if you only had three, what’re your three movies?


  1. I'm with you on the Best Years of Our Lives, one of my all time fav's, it just never gets "old"....

  2. Predator, Alien, and Rambo.

    1. hey Bob! NO surprise there!

    2. How long are we on this island? Like you, Denise, there are some movies that capture me whenever they turn up (the Bourne and Diehard franchises. 'Unfaithful' with Diane Lane, Tootsie . . . ) But if we're talking forever, I would need more philosphical heft: The Seven Samurai and 'M' for sure.

  3. "Pride and Prejudice" is rising on my list as well. The music and cinematography are outstanding. But the reason I think I like it so much is that the main characters seem to know themselves and their relationship so well and then they are completely surprised. My daughter says she doesn't enjoy it because she can't relate to the social norms of the setting but I notice she can't leave the room when it is on.

    Another movie rising on my list, but not yet on top, is "Forrest Gump". Watching it with the family is such a shared experience. At this stage we don't have a lot of those movies that we can all enjoy and recount over and over.

    Also in that vein is "Castaway". It is outstanding even when watched over and over again. But not on a deserted island. That would be a little much.

    1. Well I have to say, Castaway is pretty incredible but alas, would be TOO ironic and in that situation, probably psychologically damaging to watch over & over again. I will give Forrest Gump its due.