Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Froggy's 13 Day Father's Day Film Festival

     I just can't resist these holiday film festivals.  Some of these choices are fairly obvious, some considerably less so.  Some of these films feature examples of really great fathers.  Some...well...

  1. American Beauty (1999) - Many critics have become somewhat dismissive of this twisted tale of family foibles from director Sam Mendes, but I still think its a fabulous portrait of a nuclear family in meltdown at the turn of the century.  Even the film's detractors, however, have to admit that Kevin Spacey's heartfelt performance as flawed patriarch Lester ranks among his finest work, drawing a vivid picture of a family man in mid-life crisis.

  2. The Shining (1980) - It's a lot of pressure being Dad.  If Spacey's Lester is the archetypal example of a father who bends under the pressure, then Jack Nicholson's chilling turn as Jack Torrence shows us what happens when Pop breaks.  It's hard to go wrong with any film helmed by the late, great Stanley Kubrick, and this ranks among his very best.

  3. Indiana and the Last Crusade (1989) - Spielberg's tales of the swashbuckling archaeologist may have never again hit the heights achieved in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but this third installment is easily the best of the rest.  The introduction of Indy's father Henry (played by Sean Connery at his most crusty and charming) was largely responsible.  Connery and Ford's chemistry as father and son is undeniable.

  4. The Return of the Jedi (1983) - While we are on the subject of threequels, we would be remiss not to note that one of the most popular trilogies in cinematic history culminated in the ultimate story of paternal redemption.  It would have been so easy to have ended the ultimate space opera with Vader's patricide at Luke's hands.  Instead, Luke takes a harder road for the right reasons, and it ends up making all the difference.

  5. On Golden Pond (1981) - Director Mark Rydell's take on fatherly reconciliation mirrored the real life relationship struggles of stars Henry and Jane Fonda.  It was the former's final performance and the one that earned him his posthumous Oscar.  It may be a little sentimental, but it gets me every time.

  6. Frankenstein (1931) - Some men become fathers the old fashioned way, and some need a little help from science.  The thirties were a golden age for the horror genre, and director Frank Whale's adaptation of the classic Mary Shelley novel sits on the top of the heap.  Over eighty years later, few films can match it for either chills or heart.

  7. Pinochio (1940) - If a man finds that neither nature nor pseudo-science are likely to satisfy his parental yearnings, he might try wishing on a star.  Not only is this animated classic one of the few Disney standards without a princess in sight, it should be cathartic viewing for fathers who feel like teaching children is often like talking to a block of wood.

  8. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) - Every film festival needs a moment of comedy relief, and this outrageous flick from director Harold Ramis is packed with moments and bits capable of making even this cynical Movie Frog laugh audibly.  Clark Griswold may be the role that Chevy Chase was born to play, and the frustrations of an enthusiastic but often ineffective father prove simultaneously touching and ludicrous.

  9. The Godfather, Part Two (1974) - The notion that a man's struggles to be different from his progenitor usually result in the opposite effect may be a bit of a cliche, but that is only because it is so often true in life.  Rarely has this concept been so vividly conveyed as in this Francis Ford Coppola masterwork, that uses parallel story lines in different eras to illustrate both how Michael (Al Pacino) becomes his father's mirror, and how circumstances molded Vito (Robert DeNiro) into the example that his son is helpless not to follow.

  10. Magnolia (1999) - Arguably modern master Paul Thomas Anderson's greatest film thus far, this tableau of modern life and relationships highlights a marvelous panorama of humanity.  For me, however, the most touching and painful story line of the bunch involves the non-reconciliation of callous self-help guru Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) to his dying father Earl Partridge (Jason Robards).  It is perhaps Cruise's finest performance, one that draws a complex picture of how damaged a child can become without the proper emotional nourishment.  The film's refusal to indulge in easy or simple solutions to these issues belies both Anderson's courage as a story teller and his brilliance.

  11. The Road (2009) - It may not be the most acclaimed Cormac McCarthy adaptation ever, but this survivalist nightmare from director John Hillcoat IS a shining example of fatherhood at its very best.  Viggo Mortensen's character remains nameless, and in this way he is able to more clearly stand as a symbol of determination, devotion and self-sacrifice that we would all do well to emulate.  The movie may feature one of the most desolate and bleak cinescapes ever, but the ashes of civilization do nothing to dull the luminosity of a good man's love for his son.

  12. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - Ask any ten random movie geeks who the quintessential cinematic Dad of all time is and at least a couple will name Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch without even thinking about it.  The man gives the performance of a lifetime, imbuing the character with love, quiet strength and a truly inspiring moral compass but balancing all of these strengths with an element of humanizing weariness.  Of course, the film as a whole is quite simply one of the finest adaptations ever made based on one of the greatest books ever written.  Very nearly flawless.

  13. Life Is Beautiful (1998) - This is simply one of the most unique and affecting films ever made.  It is very rare when a picture ends on a note that is both horribly tragic and gloriously hopeful.  Writer/director/star Roberto Benini portrays a father in an impossible situation who is almost superhuman in his ability to make the welfare and happiness of his son of the greatest priority.  What starts out as a dismissively silly story turns into an inspirational yet horrifying tale where the twist is truly the potential for beauty within the human soul.

     And that completes that.  I would like to dedicate this article to my own father, David Lucas Sr.  Thank you, Dad, for being wise enough to allow your me to make their own mistakes, never judging, picking me up when I fell (even when I didn't deserve it), and always seeing me for my best qualities.  Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I love you.

1 comment:

  1. Frequency and "Field of Dreams" should be on this list. "The Rookie" could also qualify.