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May 28, 2006

Five "Inspiring" Films


Run for your lives! The American Film Institute has posted yet another absurd and somewhat abitrary list of films. The linked list of 300 films includes some expected titles as well as titles that are truly puzzling. I have no problem with Lillies of the Field or Edison the Man. Since my birthday is on November 11, for a couple of years seeing Sergeant York on television was part of my way of celebrating. Seeing two versions of Ben Hur, King of Kings and Pollyanna is amusing. I am glad that John Ford's version of Stagecoach was considered sufficient. The inclusion of Go, Man, Go may be the most inspired choice of films on this list that is to be whittled down to 100 finalists.

Conversely, while Jesus is well represented, Buddhism gets the shaft. No Kundun, no Little Buddha, not even Seven Years in Tibet. Rollerball? Cop Land?
Ferris Bueller's Day Off? If I'm missing something here, please tell me, but some of these titles are not what I would think of given AFI's context of giving the audience a sense of hope and empowerment. I should confess that I was inspired after seeing The Longest Yard to grow a mustache like Burt Reynold's. As the AFI has allowed five write-in votes for films not list, below is my list of of five films overlooked " with characters of vision and conviction who face adversity and often make a personal sacrifice for the greater good."

1. America, America. In this time of debate over immigration, this is a film to see again. Many of us have had parents and grandparents who came to the U.S. for a better life. Elia Kazan recreated one man's struggle to come to this country, both personal and universal.

2. Give Us this Day. Before he renounced his former political convictions, Edward Dmytryk made one true masterpiece. In some ways this could be seen as a sort of companion piece to America, America, about the corruption of the American Dream for an immigrant and his family. The American title, Christ in Concrete is quite appropriate.

3. Hell to Eternity. About twenty years ago Phil Karlson's film was a cable staple. This is one of the handful of films that acknowledges the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. One of the most astounding scenes is of Jeffrey Hunter's anger when he learns that his patriotic brothers, who attempt to enlist immediately after Pearl Harbor, are refused due to their Japanese heritage.

4. A Man's Castle. Frank Borzage is poorly represented on video and DVD. Those of us who have seen a good number of his films may seem puzzling to those unfamiliar with this two time Oscar winning director in that some may argue that many of Borzage's films are "inspirational". This film about two people with dreams in spite of the Depression is my favorite.

5. Saint Joan. If there is room for only one film about Joan of Arc, I choose Jean Seberg over Ingrid Bergman. I also choose the wit of Preminger, Graham Greene and G.B. Shaw over the bombast of Victor Fleming and Maxwell Anderson. Nothing inspires me more than a film that is not afraid to be smart.

Posted by peter at May 28, 2006 10:56 AM


What a peculiar idea for a list. If we're looking for inspiration, what about Birth of a Nation, or The Green Berets? Politically rancid, sure, but I'm sure they inspired lots of people.

And Chariots of Fire is an American movie? Uh, does no-one at the AFI remember Colin Welland's Oscar speech?

Posted by: Cultural Snow at May 29, 2006 01:11 AM