Friday, April 01, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Awakening

Can the forgotten ill breathe new life? Can captives of technology recognize the real world when it confronts them? How does childhood cope upon opening its eyes to the dark side of human society?

“A boy raised a question, a man answered, and the whole world paid attention.”

1. Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987, USA)
Joshua Zuehlke, William Peterson, Alex English, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gregory Peck

NBA all-star Alex English makes his acting debut as fictional Celtic Amazing Grace Smith with a low-key performance in a gentle, understated yet ultimately powerful movie. Described by some as a sort of fairy tale, it suggests something that is wonderful to ponder which stems from the question: Can a regular person change the world just because they care? And the simple fact is: nothing happens in this film that isn’t actually possible.

I first saw this movie when I was barely out of my teens and I still find the concept fascinating to contemplate. And the central idea of the film is now more relevant than ever. Never has so much in this world needed to change and so fast.

I like what these guys had to say about it:

President: “The constitution gives you the freedom of speech but that doesn't mean you can walk into a crowded movie theater and yell fire."

Chuck: “But sir, what if there really is a fire?”

Writer: David Field (Passion of Mind)
Director: Mike Newell (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 5.9

“There is no such thing as a simple miracle.”

2. Awakenings (1990, USA)
Robin Williams, Robert De Niro, Julie Kavner

This is simply a magnificent emotional ride made all the more intense by the knowledge that it’s based on actual events. In my opinion, De Niro’s best ever performance, and Williams is delightful as always; convincing as the socially awkward Oliver Sacks (fictionalized as researcher Malcolm Sayer M.D.) They were nominated for best actor Oscar and Golden Globe respectively and the project also received academy award nominations for best picture and best adapted screenplay (Zaillian). Roger Ebert gave it four stars out of four. Keep the kleenex tissues handy.

Beth: “Miriam! I have to take your blood pressure!” 

Miriam: “I was sitting still for twenty five years. You missed your chance.” 

Writers: Dr. Oliver Sacks, Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List)
Director: Penny Marshall (A League of Their Own)
Budget: $31,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.8

3. Disconnect (2012, USA)
Jason Bateman, Jonah Bobo, Alexander SkarsgÄrd, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough, Max Thieriot, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo

This movie is an emotional firestorm of ever-increasing tension in which a great number of interconnected characters are strongly developed and very real; a feat that is rare with such a wide cast.

Does the title refer to a space? A disconnect between circumstances?  Or is it an imperative? We must disconnect or else! It is surely a cautionary tale and while the lessons in this film are derived from seemingly uncommon circumstances, they are a caution to us all. We are all in jeopardy, both internally and socially, when we attempt to engage through phones and laptops devoid of expression, sound, touch and accountability;  when we sift our identities through the filters of the wired world. For we are human. We are not ones and zeros. I believe this film should be required viewing for every first-world citizen. I cannot understate its importance!

The picture’s climax is nothing short of stunning; unforgettable.

The film scored four stars out of four from Richard Roeper  (Chicago Sun-Times) who wrote:

 "Even when the dramatic stakes are raised to the point of pounding music accompanying super-slow motion, potentially tragic violence, "Disconnect" struck a chord with me in a way few films have in recent years. I believed the lives of these people. I believed they'd do the drastic things they do in the face of crisis. I ached for them when things went terribly wrong and rooted for them when there were glimmers of hope. You should see this movie. Please...There wasn't a moment during this movie when I thought about anything other than this movie."

Writer: Andrew Stern
Director:  Henry Alex Rubin
Budget: $10,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.6

4. The Hounds of Notre Dame (1980, Canada)
Thomas Peacocke, Frances Hyland, Barry Morse, David Ferry

Father Athol “Pere” Murray was a Catholic priest, well educated in Ontario and Quebec, who was “loaned” to a Regina Diocese where he immediately formed a boys athletic club. In 1927 fifteen of those boys followed Murray to his appointment at the then-seven-year-old Notre Dame of the Prairies Convent and co-ed residential elementary/high school in rural Saskatchewan.  Those boys immediately became the original Hounds, the school’s junior ice-hockey team.

Pere was an atypical priest, fond of tobacco, hard drink, and anti-socialist political activism, but doubly fond of his students and staff, just as they were of him. He once said, "I love God, Canada and hockey -- not always in that order." Until his death at age 83 he remained at the school where he is widely credited for building “…one of the finest colleges and hockey programs out of nothing.”

The film portrays life at the little school over two days in the harsh winter of 1940. The characters are charming. The good guys and bad guys are all, deep down, good. The scenery and tones are somehow both austere and idyllic, the story laced with humour, economic struggle and small town solidarity. The immediate conflict involves a new student; a city boy with a hostile attitude, but the greater threat looms in the background: world war two has already taken the lives of some of the school’s alumni and cast its long shadow over their present boys.

The film captures Murray’s penchant for charity and strong paternal leadership as those around him embrace his life-long motto: “struggle and emerge” (translated to “triumph over adversity” in the film).

In the film, Murray fondly refers to his charges as “little muckers” and one has to wonder whether this too, is the result of translation!

The war eventually took the lives of 67 Notre Dame graduates, while more than a hundred have gone on to play in the NHL, including some of pro-hockey’s hardest working stars. Murray has been awarded the Order of Canada and was posthumously inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame as a hockey builder.

He was here portrayed by actor Thomas Peacocke whose inspired performance earned him the 1981 Genie award for best actor. The film garnered eight other nominations including best picture and best original screenplay. This was a delightful movie about a beloved historic Canadian, and thanks to eternal Hollywood extortionism, probably one of the finest movies you’ll never get to see.

Writer: Ken Mitchell
Director: Zale Dalen
Budget: $1,200,000
IMDB rating: 7.6
Trailer: Harder to find than the city of Atlantis

Short List:
V For Vandetta (2005, USA) Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman


Melanie Schulz said...

Awakenings was such a great movie--all the better because it was based on reality.

Alyssa Cormier said...

Looking forward to your posts. Don't think I've seen any of these movies. Definitely looking for watching a few. :)

Li said...

I LOVED Awakenings. Disconnect looks interesting, and I believe that I might even be able to get a copy at the local library. Great reviews!

Leslie Moon said...

Not only good movies but you present ideas that are crucial - like caring.
Happy A to Zing.
I'm A to Zing from: Fill the Cracks and Moondustwriter's Blog

Nilanjana Bose said...

I am looking forward to fill the gaps in my film education with your posts. Really liked the Brad Pitt quotes you put up for the B post - going off to kiss :) no secrets indeed.


Natasha Duncan-Drake said...

Awakenings makes me cry every single time I watch it. Such an amazing film.
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