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A Few Favorite Films

September 19, 2011 - Mike Donahey
A recent trip to watch “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” prompted me to think about some of my all time favorite films. While the final “Harry Potter” was entertaining and well done, it didn’t crack my all-time list. 

Below are just a few of my favorite movies alphabetically with year released and a brief commentary or description.

They are:

“Chariots of Fire" (1981) Not just a movie about runners. This British film tackles anti-Semitism, class distinctions and examines one man’s struggle to uphold tenets of his Christian faith against tough odds. Won four Oscars, including Best Picture. Vangelis’ dynamic score makes the film a stand out.

"Chinatown" (1974) Jack Nicholson gave one of his best performances here. Set in pre-World War II Los Angeles, director Roman Polanski took viewers on a roller-coaster ride of corruption, intrigue, murder and mystery. Nicholson's work is highly complimented with similar efforts by Faye Dunaway and John Huston. Musical score perfectly captured the mood and Robert Towne's screenplay was a gem.

"Good Night and Good Luck” (2005)  George Clooney starred in and directed this black and white film, which earned David Strathairn an Oscar nomination for the portrayal of legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow. Central is Murrow's successful challenge of the seemingly invincible Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy. Also examined — how advertisers directly and indirectly impacted news content. Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr. and Frank Langella (exemplary as CBS Chairman Bill Paley) appear.

“High Plains Drifter” (1973)  Not as well known as other Eastwood films, which is a shame. Eastwood directed and starred, playing a ghost-like drifter in town for revenge. He gets it and more.

"On the Waterfront" (1954) An American classic, with dynamic performances by Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger. Director Elia Kazan expertly portrayed the tough, bare-knuckle world of life on the docks with a no holds barred look at union tactics and violence.

“Sling Blade” (2006) Billy Bob Thornton directed, wrote and starred in this drama set in rural Arkansas. Thornton portrayed a mentally impaired man who is released from a psychiatric hospital after years of confinement for a crime. Upon return to society he befriends a boy, longing for his late father. Thornton won an Oscar for writing and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Country recording artist Dwight Yoakam and late actors J.T. Walsh and John Ritter were joined by Robert Duvall and Lucas Black.

“The Wild Bunch” (1969) Director Sam Peckingpah's best film. Extremely controversial when released due to violent content. However, today's jaded viewers and critics wouldn't think twice about such scenes now. Aging outlaws come to terms with a changing west set against a bank heist goes bad. Ernest Borgnine, William Holden and Robert Ryan star.

Others: "Fargo," Ghost Writer" "Saving Private Ryan,” "The Aviator," "The Departed," “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” “The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

I'll see you at the popcorn stand. 


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