The results of my poll judging what role movies play in our lives are in and the results aren’t pretty. One half of the respondents believe that movies are important; the other half disagrees. Because the survey asked the question of only two people, its results, admittedly, are probably skewed. At the very least, the results are biased and unreliable.
This leaves me with being the reluctant tiebreaker. I wholeheartedly believe that movies are not only important, but are essential to our very lives. Unlike water and air, we can survive without cinematic experiences, but who would want to?
Movies are important to society on several levels. They reflect culture(s) and have the ability to change culture(s). Cinema is a reflection of its own time. Even those so-called period pieces reflect current reflections of the past.
Besides offering entertainment to their viewers, films have inspired social change due to their ability to teach viewers about experiences outside their own perspective. They typically inspire empathy in their asking viewers to indulge the lives and actions dictated by a writer’s words, a director’s vision, and the cast’s interpretation. They inspire us to care about what a character is going through and develop the ability to care about the real life people they represent.
Movies as an art form do a few things pretty incredibly. For one, when done well, they facilitate the development of empathy. They can educate through their artistry. A family, school, church, village, culture, city, government can develop false narratives and myths about a people, place, or time period for all kinds of agendas. A fictional movie can be anything from riveting to hilarious because of the factual basis of its focus, and it can spark the imagination of millions.
Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge; movies are indispensable for developing imagination in today’s culture.
Top Ten lists of movies are remarkably the same because each of the inclusions seems, from one view to the next, to accomplish most of what is mentioned above.
My Top Ten list follows. For the sake of ease, it does not include any foreign films, silent movies, comedies, sci-fi, fantasies or musicals. Clearly, a Top Ten list could be created for each of those genres. The point is that while Happy Gilmore is a hilarious diversion, it doesn’t meet the standards of cultural reflection or empathy, unless you feel badly for Bob Barker in the fight scene.
And as might be reflected in a Top Ten list of favorite foods, a film list shows favoritism and bias. Here’s my list—in no particular order.
The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, based on Puzo’s best-selling 1969 novel of the same name. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton. The story, spanning from 1945 to 1955, chronicles the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Pacino), from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 American drama romance war film directed by Fred Zinnemann and written by Daniel Taradash, based on the 1951 novel of the same name by James Jones. The picture deals with the tribulations of three U.S. Army soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra, stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations.
Sophie’s Choice is a 1982 American drama directed and written by Alan J. Pakula, adapted from William Styron’s 1979 novel. The film stars Meryl Streep as, Sophie, a Polish immigrant to America with a dark secret from her past. She shares a boarding house in Brooklyn with her tempestuous lover and a young writer. The film received five nominations at the 55th Academy Awards, with Streep winning the award for Best Actress.
Schindler’s List is a 1993 American epic historical drama directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the 1982 non-fiction novel “Schindler’s Ark” by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. The film follows Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved more than a thousand refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II. Often considered as one of the greatest films ever made, the black-and-white film received universal critical acclaim for its tone, acting, atmosphere, and direction. It was nominated for twelve Academy Awards, and won seven.
Scent of a Woman is a 1992 American dramatic film, produced and directed by Martin Brest, that tells the story of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irritable, blind, medically retired Army lieutenant colonel. The film stars Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell, with James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gabrielle Anwar in supporting roles. Pacino won the Oscar for his performance.
On the Waterfront is a 1954 American crime drama, directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg. It stars Marlon Brando and features Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning, and Eva Marie Saint. The musical score was composed by Leonard Bernstein. The film focuses on union violence amongst longshoremen, while detailing widespread corruption, extortion, and racketeering on the waterfronts of Hoboken, New Jersey. It received twelve Academy Award nominations and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Saint, and Best Director for Kazan.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf is a 1966 a shocking black comedy, based on Edward Albee’s critically acclaimed play.The searing film exhibits a fine sense of pacing, comic timing, and gripping buildup in a series of emotional climaxes. It stars Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis in a late-night, alcohol-driven soiree. The film received thirteen Oscar nods, with each of the characters being recognized for their roles.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, and written by William Rose. It stars Spencer Tracy (in his final role), Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, and features Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton. The film was one of the few films of the time to depict an interracial marriage in a positive light, as interracial marriage historically had been illegal in many states of the United States.
Taxi Driver is a 1976 American film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Paul Schrader, and starring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Boyle, Leonard Harris. Set in a decaying and morally bankrupt New York City following the Vietnam War, the film follows Travis Bickle (De Niro), a taxi driver and veteran, and his deteriorating mental state as he works nights in the city.
The Deer Hunter is a 1978 epic war drama co-written and directed by Michael Cimino about a trio of Slavic-American steelworkers whose lives were changed forever after fighting in the Vietnam War. The three soldiers are played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage, with John Cazale (in his final role), Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza playing supporting roles. The story takes place in Clairton, Pennsylvania, a working-class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, and in Vietnam.
Photo Illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Fettuccine ala Toscana
1 lb. fettuccine
2 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced and diced
15 oz. ricotta, whole milk, drained
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. olive oil
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1 lb. fresh asparagus – trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
fresh basil, torn
salt and black pepper
Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain. Do not rinse. Reserve a cup of cooking liquid.
In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, cream, 2 tbsp. parmesan, salt, pepper, and a few scrapings of fresh nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat oil. Add the asparagus, onions, and prosciutto.
Cook while stirring often for about 5 minutes or until the asparagus is tender-crisp.
Add the hot pasta and the parmesan cheese to the pot. Toss well and top with ricotta sauce and sprinkle with torn basil.