In honor of this week’s release of “Horton Hears a Who,” the best movie for the family in a long time, Entertainment Weekly has put together a list of the 20 all-time best movies for kids. These are not movies to toss in the DVD in the back of the minivan or to give to the babysitter on the parents’ night out. These are movies that need to be shared, movies that create and strengthen connections, as all truly great movies do.
The obvious classics are there, of course, The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial. A list of 20 only has room for one Harry Potter but squeezes all three The Lord of the Rings into one spot. I could quibble with them about their choice of a Disney animated classic — they choose The Lion King while I would have gone with Pinocchio, for me the best-ever hand-animation, story, and soundtrack. And for a Disney live-action classic, for me, the wonderful The Parent Trap is edged out by the even more wonderful Pollyanna .
With only 20 choices Entertainment Weekly had to bypass some of my favorites like Finding Nemo, Yellow Submarine, and The Black Stallion. But there is no question that every movie on EW’s list is one that the whole family should take time to watch together. And then watch again.
Once again a politician is in disgrace and once again his wife appears at his side at the press conference. While he admits his mistakes, she stands there in silent support. What is she thinking? Of the sacrifices she made over the years, the time spent smiling, shaking hands, pretending to be interested, wishing she was alone with her family or pursuing her own interests? Of the humiliation of seeing her family’s most personal information dissected by pundits and cackled over by people who have never contributed to the public good?
An excellent BBC miniseries starring Juliet Stevenson explores what might be on the mind of one such woman. It is called, of course, “The Politician’s Wife.”
The anniversary of the shrine at Lourdes is a good reminder of the lovely performance of Jennifer Jones in “Song of Bernadette,” the story of the young girl who saw “a beautiful lady” and became Saint Bernadette Soubirous.
A 1940 film starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable and set in a penal colony is an improbable candidate for Biblical allegory, but Strange Cargo is a moving film that draws its power from an inspiring, Christ-like figure and its echoes of Biblical themes, spiritual without being preachy. Gable was Crawford’s all-time favorite co-star, and this was their eighth and last film together. Their strong chemistry and the way their characters interact with the mysterious prisoner who gives them a glimpse of their best selves is part of what makes this movie work on many levels. It is beautifully directed by Frank Borzage, who was a master of mood and symbolism. For the first time, the movie is available on DVD, as a part of a new boxed set, The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2, and it is well worth adding to your Netflix queue.
Why have there been no great films about George Washington? And why are there so many films featuring Abraham Lincoln? From the John Ford classic Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda, to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, there is something about the tall man with the wry sense of humor that is very cinematic.
Five great movies for President’s Day:
1. Young Mr. Lincoln Long before he ran for President, we see Abe Lincoln mourn his first love and defend his first clients.
2. Independence Day Bill Pullman is a former fighter pilot who leads America and the world after an alien attack.
3. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb This cold-war farce has Peter Sellers in three roles, including President of the United States. His conversation with his counterpart in the USSR is a masterpiece. (Some mature material).
4. “Kisses for My President” Not available on DVD or video, this all-but forgotten 1964 film features Polly Bergan as the nation’s first female President, but in this pre-feminist era its focus is on the problems faced by her husband, played by Fred McMurray. It is every bit as silly as its title suggests and you will never believe how it all gets resolved. (Guesses welcome)
5. Air Force One Harrison Ford is the President as action hero. When Air Force One is captured by terrorists, it’s a good thing that the man who played Han Solo and Indiana Jones is on hand.