So originally, I had wanted to write about Classic Film/TV Moms for Mother’s Day. Then I was going to write about why I think there are so many Mother’s Day TV specials. But ultimately, I decided to do something completely different. This Mother’s Day, my mom was kind enough to talk to me about her favorite movies. (And now I know what I’ll be doing for Father’s Day!)
So, full disclosure, I currently have 3-4 moms: my biological mother, two step-mothers, and my future mother-in-law. This year, I am just focusing on my biological mother.
When I asked what my mother’s favorite movie was, two immediately came to mind:
1. Clue (1985): Stars include Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), and Martin Mull (Sabrina the Teenage Witch). Based off the classic boardgame, this film takes place in 1954 when a group of strangers are invited to a secluded New England mansion. Once there, they learn they’ve all been brought there for a specific reason and when other people begin dying, they need to find out who-dunnit, and where, and with what.
My mom said: “This movie still makes me snort out laughing.” This is still her favorite comedy nearly 34 years after it’s initial release. Although it didn’t do well at the box office, it has since become a cult classic. At the time of its release, each movie theater received a different ending, however all three are available in the home release, and Tim Curry shines in every one of them.
2. Life of Pi (2012): Directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel. In both the book and the movie, Pi survives a shipwreck on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger in the Pacific Ocean. It is a story of survival against some really impossible odds.
My mom: “The prettiest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s also intellectual. It’s a movie that is visually pretty and makes you think.” I have not seen this movie or read the book, but my understanding is that it is a very philosophical movie. My mom said this is her favorite movie that makes her think.
3. Recent releases: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), A Star Is Born (2018), The Post (2017).
My mom loved Bohemian Rhapsody, but said that she felt like that had a lot to do with the music, since she loves Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody is a bio-pic starring Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) as Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Since it’s release it has been nominated for 57 awards and won 21 of them, including Oscars for Best Actor, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.
She felt that A Star is Born was great, really well-acted, and was really impressed with Lady Gaga’s performance. Star is the third remake of a 1937 film of the same name and stars Lady Gaga (American Horror Story: Hotel) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), who also made his directorial debut here. It too received several accolades including 218 award nominations and 65 wins. The film depicts a musician struggling with addiction who falls in love with and helps launch the career of a young woman.
The Post is a film my mother really enjoyed due in part to the fact that she actually remembers when the Pentagon Papers were released and the accompanying scandal. The film stars Meryl Streep (Kramer vs. Kramer) and Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) and directed by Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark). It was nominated for a number of awards, including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actress. The film follows the first female publisher of a major American newspaper and The Washington Post‘s attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, classified government documents regarding the Vietnam War.
4. Groundbreaking films: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), The Wizard of Oz (1939)
She described both of these movies as films she could watch again and again. She remembers when A New Hope was first released. At the time, it was unlike anything she’d ever seen before and began what is now a major media franchise and saga that has spawned movies, books, TV shows, video games, and more. The first film depicts Luke Skywalker after he encounters a message for help from a princess inside a robot. That is the most basic summary of the first film and any Star Wars fan will tell you that if you’ve never seen any of the movies before, that’s the one you want to start with.
The Wizard of Oz was already a classic when my mom was born, but at the time it’s use of color film was unprecedented. She described it as a movie she could sit down and watch any time.
5. Old Classics: My mom also listed a series of classic movies that she still loves: Gone with the Wind (1939), old musicals such Holiday Inn (1942), The Sound of Music (1965), and Fred Astaire classics such as Shall We Dance (1937) and Top Hat (1935).
Gone with the Wind to this day remains the most successful movie in box office history (when adjusted for inflation). It is a whopping 221 minutes long or 3.7 hours long (without overture, intermission, exit music, etc.). It’s based on a 1936 novel by the same name and takes place in the south during the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction era.
Holiday Inn is considered a holiday classic and is best known for its original song “White Christmas”, which won an Oscar. It stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
The Sound of Music is an adaptation of a musical by the same name, composed and written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (Rodgers & Hammerstein), which is based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers written by Maria von Trapp about her family in Salzburg, Austria and their escape from Nazi-invaded Europe. It stars Christopher Plummer (The Insider) and Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), the latter of whom was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the film.
Fred Astaire was an American singer, actor, dancer, and choreographer. From 1934-1938 he made a series films with Ginger Rogers, who was an American actress, singer, and dancer: The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). The films featured revolutionary choreography and were big money makers for RKO. They were also responsible for a number of classic songs including “The Way You Look Tonight”, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1936.
My mother described a lot of these movies as “comfort food movies, like mac & cheese”. This is an idea I think worth exploring. Everyone has that food that you eat when you want to feel good/better. There are movies (and in the age of streaming, I’d argue TV too) that do the same.