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Front Page - Friday, March 25, 2016

What are your favorite movies?

The Critic's Corner movie review

David Laprad

What are your favorite movies? These are the films you stop and watch as you’re cycling through the channels on cable. You know every line of dialogue, every nuance of every shot, and you never tire of watching them, no matter how many times you’ve seen them.

Each one is like a good friend. You know them intimately, enjoy spending time with them, and feel a comforting familiarity as you sink into their embrace. Afterward, you feel emotionally satisfied, and your mood has shifted. These films might make you feel happy, or sad, or thoughtful.

The best thing about your favorite movies is they’re impervious to criticism. They have a place in your heart because they touch you in a personal way.

People who know I love movies often want to know which ones are my favorites. Even though I’ve seen more films than I can count, the answer is easy, as it should be.

“Remains of the Day” (1993) is a drama set in 1950s post-war Britain. It stars Anthony Hopkins as Mr. Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall, and Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, the housekeeper. Hopkins is known for his performance as Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” but his understated turn as Steves shows his depth and abilities as an actor in a way his iconic role does not. Beyond that, “Remains of the Day” is the most heartbreaking tale of unexpressed love I’ve seen. Every time I watch it, it sends me into a meditative tailspin in which I look back on the decisions I’ve made and contemplate how I want to spend the remains of my days.

Whatever I do with the time I have left, part of it will be spent watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). It is, to me, a perfect film, one that captures the rare lightning-in-a-bottle magic that stands the test of time. From Harrison Ford’s classic turn as Indiana Jones, to screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan’s whip-crack smart dialogue (“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage”), to Steven Spielberg’s spot on direction, there’s nothing about “Raiders” I don’t love. Filled with humor, action, and thrills, and made with a deep affection for classic cinema, I never tire of watching it.

I can watch “Blade Runner” (1992) over and over, too. If there’s one film I love that puzzles others, it’s this one. I once raved about it to a woman I was dating, and after she watched it with me, she began questioning the possibility of a future with me. “That was boring,” she said, “and the ending sucked.” In truth (i.e. my opinion), the film is a sci-fi noir masterpiece. The visuals alone make “Blade Runner” worth watching, and established an artistic style movies mimic to this day. It is slow and contemplative, but its exploration of the nature of life and the survival instinct set it apart from the popcorn munching mentality of most of the sci-fi of its time. Also, the ambiguous ending was brave, even if the film didn’t end that way until director Ridley Scott was able to recut it ten years later. No matter what other people think, I’ll always love this movie.

I’ll always love “Bambi” (1942), too. Like a child who has a favorite movie he can watch every day, again and again, I’ve seen this film more times than I can count. I love the interplay between the music and the animation during the storm scene, the humor of Flower falling in love, and the simple story about growing up to become what we were made to be. And I believe the scene in which a hunter kills Bambi’s mother is the most courageous moment in a Disney film.

Finally, when someone presses me to name my favorite film, I tell them “The Hustler” (1961). Starring Paul Newman as pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson, it crackles like a live wire. Not only is Newman at the height of his charm and charisma as the cocky Felson, the dialogue is pure poetry, and the black and white photography was the perfect choice for capturing the gritty, lonely feel of the rundown pool halls, empty bus stations, and cheap bars. Most of all, I love the showdowns between Felson and Minnesota Fats, the utter coolness of Jackie Gleason, and the way in which Felson allows the things he experiences to change him into a better person. Just writing about the movie makes me want to slap in the Blu-ray.

But enough about me. What are your favorite films? And why do you like them? Email me at the address below, and I might share your message in a future installment of this column.

David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.