From the onset my Father told me that "unlike [my] Mother" he didn't need movies that taught a moral in their story. He goes to movies as a form of escape or to re-live a memory of a time gone by. This difference between my folks may be best exemplified in their polarizing reactions to "Life is Beautiful." It was #3 on my Mother's list. My Father despises the film because of what happens and it's far-from-happy denouement. "Maybe I'm not mature enough," my Dad confessed, "Life is hard enough - I don't want to add to my stress." I wondered out load as to how him and I were related, let alone father and son. I like a good entertaining, home-in-one-piece jog as much as the next person, but my favorites (or what I'd have topping my list - be it of all-time or any given year) might be melancholy, depressing, ambiguous, bizarre or even depraved. My Father also doesn't know why we're so different.
5. The Ten Commandments (1956)
The miracles on display in Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 remake of his own silent film from the '20s are my Father's favorite part of the picture. He likes that God is portrayed as a God of miracles. He hasn't seen the film in years (nor have I and I doubt I watched the whole 4-hour affair as a kid anyway), but he remembers it being so extravagant and dramatic. This is one I'll have to eventually sit down and experience, but it's one of those films you have to plan your whole day around.
"I was too young when I was taken to it," my Father remembers. He was a nine-year-old boy taken along with the adults to see Audrey Hepburn starring in the big screen adaptation of Frederick Knott's play. I too saw the film in my younger years and I've been unable to forget it. This film must be to my father what M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" was to me (read about that experience here), though he was even younger than me. Nostalgia is potent when it comes to movies that leave lasting impressions and oft times it's the ones that leave scars we remember most. "It scared the bejeebees out of me!" my Father exclaimed. (And that led into an interesting rabbit hole on the internet as to where that term, "beejeebees," may have come from in my Dad's vocabulary. As with all thought-provoking matters in the Internet age it was somewhat satisfyingly settled thanks to Yahoo! Answers.)
3. Groundhog Day (1993)
Besides just being entertaining "Groundhog Day" taught my Dad a valuable lesson: "Every day is a new day and you have a new, fresh page to write on." "You have to live your life right," he surmised Wait, I though he didn't care for morals!
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This ranked so high on my Dad's list mainly because he feels we all need an adventure and a goal in our lives. In "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Indy (and us) is confronted with many stressful moments but you always know he's going to get out of it. He compared Indy to the likes of the Dirk Pitt character in the Clive Cussler novels. Had my Dad been a product of one generation earlier he probably would have been at the theater each week to see how the cliff-hanging serials would continue each week, those narratives are what inspired Spielberg and Lucas for this character's adventures in the first place. "Unlike in life the good guy always comes out on top in 'Raiders.'"
1. The Princess Bride (1987)
I'm certain that my Dad loves this movie more than anyone on the planet - and that's saying something for a classic that is as widely seen and beloved as this one. This is the "escape" he was referring to in my quoting of him at the start. Based off my father's previous picks "The Princess Bride" is a holy culmination of all his tenants: Miracles and spectacles, hairy and scary situations, a clear message that today is the today to right your course, and of course, the good guys prevailing by the end - on horses into the sunset no less. "A classic fairy tale, with swordplay, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, and yes, some kissing," as the Grandfather advertises at the story's start. What else could you ask for? As far as my Father is concerned, nothing.
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Between "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music" my Dad would have to go with "Mary Poppins." His sister-in-law took him to see it in the theater when he was 6. He had such a magical time watching it that when the credits rolled she asked if he wanted to see it again. YES! So they stayed in their seats and caught the very next showing of it. "You guys didn't pay for another ticket?" I asked. "Oh, it didn't matter in those days!"
A Stephen King adaption or a Hitchock movie were also considerations: "'Rear Window' or 'Misery,' one of those." I especially approved of these honorable mentions.
Once my Dad had listed all his favorites I asked, "What about 'The Gods Must Be Crazy' or 'The Shawshank Redemption.'" His reaction was immediate. "Awww! I forgot!" After some brief discussion he declared, "'The Shawshank Redmeption' probably bumps off 'The Ten Commandments.'"
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My Dad will tell you he's only in it for escape and/or entertainment reasons, but I sense it's much more complicated than that. Complex, dark and far-from-"Mary Poppins" narratives like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" have completely enraptured him in recent years. We never know what types of stories, filmed or otherwise, will work their effect on us unless we try them. I feel that part of a healthy consumption of movies includes both fantastical Blockbusters and independent dramas (and a good smattering of everything in-between and around). In any case, these are the movies that my Dad loves most and that in turn makes them special to me.
Do you know your Father's favorite film(s)? I'd be interested in hearing what those are, make the known in the comments below.
Happy Father's Day!