My Mother told me she favors films that leave a lasting impression on you, ones you also want to revisit but after time has passed to see it anew. While she enjoys the likes of "The Princess Bride," "Galaxy Quest," and "The Gods Are Crazy," they would ever make her Top 5. She holds edification above mere entertainment. A sentiment such as this makes me all the more proud to be her son. Without further ado, I present My Mother's Top 5 Films of All-Time:
5. Amazing Grace (2006)
My Mother didn't know the history of the man who wrote the beloved hymn, besides a well-told history lesson she loves stories of people who try so hard to do the right thing and have the integrity to stand up to any who oppose. (You'll notice this theme in my Mother's other picks.) Fun Fact: Terrence Malick was a producer on this widely overlooked biography of William Wilberforce. I've seen it a couple times and still marvel at the cast for this powerful lesson in time!
4. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
My Mother thinks Gregory Peck and Mary Badham (as Atticus and Scout respectively) are nothing short of amazing actors. It's set in the South, a good while before my Mother's time, but the same grounds she would later stomp around. Ultimately, it's the portrayal of a father, who is "just such a good person," striving to teach his children good values that makes this film a treasure in time for my Mother.
3. Life is Beautiful (1997)
My Mother knew nothing about this movie going in - great things can happen under these few-and-far-between circumstances. She respects books and movies (including several also about the holocaust, "Man's Search for Meaning" and "Schindler's List" to name one of each) where people go through a horrible ordeal yet make it through. The father who protected his son through a concentration camp is one such shining example for her. "Dad hated it," she remembered. It's true; it often comes up in my conversations with Father. This film also made the aforementioned father-son relationship list.
2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
The simplicity of this film set in small town Americana "back in the day" is one of Mother's favorites. She commented on the refreshing fact of no "first-world problems," like we have today, plague the characters. Mother feels it's one she should watch each year as a Christmas ritual and if she misses it feels like she's missed some of the spirit of the season.
1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
"They don't make movies like that anymore!" It also tells the story of the place she grew up. When Mother was younger she would visit mansions like those in the films and walk down streets with names from the book/film. Thus, she felt part of history of that movie. "I feel at home when I watch it even though I didn't live during the period," Mother explained. Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh fit their parts so well, she admires the hope and the "keep trying" attitude found at the end of film. What's more? My Mother named her first child, Tara, after the cotton plantation the O'Hara family lives on. Also, Tara's middle-name, Leigh, comes from Vivian Leigh who played Scarlett O'Hara. Talk about hard-core fandom! Looking forward perhaps I should name my future children Totoro and HAL 9000? This film made my list of 10 Films I Can't Believe I Haven't Seen a couple years back, but I quickly rectified that. Nancy and I watched it with Mother and it was as sweeping as I've heard. There's a reason I have a still from it in the header of The Film Tome.
* * *
There you have it, folks. My Mother's Top 5 Films of All-Time! Send all your feedback to email@example.com! (Not really.) While none of her picks surprised me - anyone this close to me has already revealed their favorite films to me - I must say it's pretty impressive, even from a cinephile's perspective: Her picks all come from different decades of cinema (including as recent as last decade), two are black and white and one is a "foreign" film. "No Herzog?" I teased during our conversation. I have subjected her to a few of my favorite filmmaker's designs, but they're not quite up her alley.
Just as the auteur theory gives you insight into a filmmaker's psyche, anybody's favorites give you a glimpse inside their head and/or life. My Mother has a rooted nostalgia for the American South and films set in a close communities. War and other horrors of humanity often appear, but are merely the backdrop for strong moral characters. These facets are also part of who my Mother is. Does one's life attract similar art or does art influence one's choices in life? Surely both are possible. We all come from different walks of life and there are stories and experiences that form special bonds with each of us - and some are still waiting to be made. What can we learn about our Mothers by discussing their favorite films with them? Do you know your Mother's favorite film(s)? Feel free to share in the comments below or over on The Film Tome Facebook page.
To all you mothers out there, a very happy Mother's Day to you, especially to the one that I call "Mother."