Normally, war and post-war films are seriously depressing. Think The Deerhunter. Oy. But we were pleasantly surprised by The Best Years of Our Lives, which is #37 on the AFI list. Winner of 7 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for William Wyler, the film follows three soldiers as they return home after World War II. Portrayed by Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell, the three men struggle to re-assimilate themselves into normal society and their personal lives. All three give impressive performances, with March and Russell both winning Oscars. Russell in particular is affecting as a young man who has lost both arms below the elbow. He really did lose both arms, and so was selected for the film to provide a realistic perspective on veterans with disabilities. As a whole, the film is amazingly perceptive (and still relevant) in its views on the amount (or lack) of concern shown to returning veterans. Hollywood has long had a “liberal” slant, and The Best Years of Our Lives definitely showcases that. Despite a “happy” ending, the film still manages to be affecting and sincere, and is even a little bit controversial in addressing concepts like divorce and extra-marital affairs. Co-starring Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright, The Best Years of Our Lives is totally worth a watch, even if you’re normally afraid of post-war films like we are.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Oh, Wes Anderson. So quirky and charming. I think I tend to enjoy his films despite myself, and it’s possible that Moonrise Kingdom might be my favorite so far. This is due almost entirely to a crack cast that includes Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton (SWINTON). These are all seasoned professionals, and you can count on them to be perfect. Still, the movie is not about the adults, but rather about a pair of young misfits, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) who find love and understanding with each other. Both of these young actors played their parts perfectly (keep an eye out for Hayward. I’m predicting big things from her), and their romance was so refreshing when compared to most rom-coms these days, which seem to focus mainly on sex and neuroses. For Sam and Suzy, their feelings are based upon finding someone who sees and accepts them as they really are. They’re actually the sane ones in the equation when compared with their adult counterparts. Great love story, great performances, the usual fantastic look and feel of an Anderson film…I might venture so far as to call this one a “must-see.”