Those Beloved, Perfect-Enough Movies
There are no perfect movies, despite the Twitter debate going on around it. Nothing is perfect, but you have to ship it at some point, and hopefully you get close enough to the mark. Perfect doesn’t always mean commercially successful, but if the stars align and word of mouth lifts a movie’s profile, it sells enough tickets. Anyway, I’m not Roger Ebert, but I know a great movie when I see one. Sure, I could pick the big ones that I love, like The Godfather or North By Northwest or Casablanca, but what’s the fun in that? Let’s go one layer deeper and find some other gems. Here are five perfect-enough movies – movies that I’d see over and over. Like a near-perfect song or poem, there’s magic woven into each. Some may be very familiar to you, some may be completely foreign, but they all have cast a spell on me in their own way.
The Shawshank Rebellion
The ending is just about perfect and what everyone remembers in this film. That scene is set up by the one I linked to, where Andy and Ellis have this conversation:
Ellis: “I don’t think I can make it on the outside, Andy. I been in here most of my life. I’m an institutional man now. Just like Brooks was.
Andy: “Well, you underestimate yourself.”
and later in this scene: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
No shock for readers of this blog, as this remains my favorite movie. Is it perfect? Of course not! Parts of the soundtrack are charmingly locked in the 1980’s (while most of it is stunningly beautiful and timeless). Watch the scene in this link, as the band starts to play Mist Covered Mountains and Gordon walks up to join them, he places his glass of scotch on the snare drum and Rikki the drummer gives him a WTF glance. Gordon gives his own glance soon after as Mac dances with his romantic partner Stella. Small examples of the magic woven into this movie.
This one is an outlier on this list, I know. But this movie about the Battle of Gettysburg stays with me just as the other movies do. And this scene with Sam Elliot is the highlight of the movie. I was never a soldier, but I know the value of the high ground in a battle. As a New Englander I tend to focus on the contributions of Joshua Chamberlain to holding the line, but the reason he had high ground to hold in the first place was because General John Buford held the high ground long enough for the Union forces to arrive. That ultimately determined who would be victorious at Gettysburg, and this scene captures the moment when he decides to hold off the Rebel army long enough for the infantry to arrive.
When Martin Scorsese created this movie he said in an interview that he wanted to make a movie his grandchildren could watch with him. I use the word magic too frequently (indeed), but this movie about an orphaned Hugo Cabret living secretly in a train station in 1930’s Paris is truly magical. This scene, where Hugo and Isabelle talk about their purpose is a lovely moment in the film, and set up a scheme to help Isabelle’s godfather re-find his own purpose. I’ve watched Hugo with my daughter many times, it inspires her to create her own magic in this world. And it just might do that for her father too.
The Princess Bride
Another Mark Knopfler soundtrack that I can’t stop listening to. And another movie that casts a spell on you. The characters of Inigo Montoya and Fezzik are the MVP’s of this film, with dialog sprinkled in fairy dust. As a parent, I can think of no better movie to watch with your children. As an adult, The Princess Bride is a welcome step into a world of wonder. I wish it were longer, but there’s a lesson in it’s brevity too. Nothing nearly perfect lasts forever, so enjoy every moment of it while you have it. Want to watch it again? As you wish.
Recently saw the 1932 Chaplin Classic ‘City Lights’. Just bumped near the top of my list. Timeless, innocent, feel-good, captivating. Enjoy!