As I mentioned yesterday, my favorite films list is indeed just that: films that I particularly enjoyed, not ones that I necessarily believe that the Academy will embrace. In addition, as most of you are aware by now, I’m not personally a big fan of dark, depressing films. I also know, however, that my aversion to them puts me in a distinct minority (what else is new?) with many filmgoers, a good portion of my Academy brethren, and even members of my own family who consider me a major “mush pot”. So, please add your own list, dark, light, and everything in between, and let’s have fun with this!
6. Secretariat is an inspiring story of faith, love, trust, redemption, and hope. Secretariat is also this year’s version of The Blind Side in that it is touching, poignant, uplifting, life-enhancing, and based on a true story about a determined and powerful woman. Secretariat focuses on Penny Chenery Tweedy‘s relationship with her father and a very special horse that became perhaps the greatest race horse ever.
It’s also the kind of film that the Old Hollywood used to make with regularity, the New Hollywood makes only occasionally, and the Academy usually overlooks because of its unabashed sentimentality. So grab your kids, your parents, your grandparents, and anyone else you can find, and go see Secretariat, a film that the whole family will enjoy.
7. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Never has a film been more appropriately titled. Joan Rivers‘ sheer courage and honesty is simply heroic. At 77, Ms. Rivers has been entertaining and outraging audiences for over 40 years which in and of itself speaks volumes about her talent, appeal, and perseverance. In an industry as fickle as show business, that kind of longevity happens only rarely and, when it does, it means the entertainer in question has equal doses of talent and determination. (Content warning: the language is as salty and profane as you can imagine!)
Rivers is so vulnerably honest and forthcoming about herself that it’s almost impossible not to walk away from the film with a deep sense of respect and affection for her. Near the end of the film, Rivers is walking off stage after a performance and simply says: “Look, I’m a performer. That’s all I am and all I ever want to be.” Personally, I hope she lives to be 100 and does a show that day. If she does, and I’m still ambulatory myself, I wouldn’t miss it.
8) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The devastating (and continuing) financial crisis that first exploded in 2008 is one of the seminal events of the last several decades. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is the second film on my favorites list that focuses on the effect that crisis continues to have on people’s lives. While The Company Men revolves around those who were fired, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps focuses on how the Gordon Gekko character that Michael Douglas made famous in the original 1987 Wall Street film has “evolved” after spending 8 years in jail, leaving his family in ruins. What makes the Gekko character so relevant and even more disturbing now is the eerie similarity to Bernard Madoff, a real-life Gekko on steroids, so to speak, now serving a life sentence for his crimes. In this fascinating sequel, we see how many lives were devastated by creatures such as the fictional Gekko and the real Madoff. In another chilling similarity to Madoff, Gekko’s son has committed suicide and his daughter (Carey Mulligan) won’t speak to him.
The film plays out as Gekko uses his daughter’s fiance (Shia La Beouf) to get back in his daughter’s life. Michael Douglas is, of course, brilliant as always in one of his signature roles and his performance feels particularly poignant because of the courageous battle he is now waging against throat cancer. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is an engrossing drama, played out against a compelling real life crisis that we all are still facing every day.
9) City Island is a totally charming, funny, and down-to-earth comedy about the consequences of the deceptions that families often use when they are afraid to tell each the truth. As the film plays out, and the deceptions (none of which are illegal or immoral) become harder and harder to conceal, each member of the family learns the truth of the brilliant ad line for the film: “Truth is stranger than family.”
How great is that? Who of us doesn’t have a family we consider strange in at least some way? In City Island, a wonderful cast led by Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies (star of the brilliant CBS series The Good Wife), show us how absurd we are when we tie our lives, our loved ones, and ourselves into emotional pretzels when the truth always does “set us free”. City Island is an absolute gem.
Putting a new musical and comic spin on the Rapunzel story, Tangled is a wondrous mixture of fun, adventure, romance, heroes and heroines, a charismatic horse whom you won’t soon forget, and sensational music. Special mention goes to the amazing Alan Menken who wrote the score.
Mr. Menken has been nominated for a mind-boggling 18 Oscars, won 8 of the gold statues, and also wrote the scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin. Tangled is a wonderful family film.