This summer In All Things is light-heartedly including recommendations, tips, and joys that we would love to share with you, readers, in the format of Top 5 Fridays, switching up our themes each week. Share a comment if there is a “Top 5 Friday” topic you’d like us to explore.
I once had an old philosopher tell me that if they stopped making movies today, we’d have enough great movies to watch for a lifetime.
Even though I hope they will keep making movies forever, he’s right. You could’ve said that in 1960, for the past contains an unfathomable treasure-trove.
All of the movies in this list were released before that year, and they are all rewatchable, entertaining, and inspiring.
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is about two people who may or may not be in love, along with global spy networks and contemporary, post-WW2 fears of lingering Nazism. Cary Grant plays an American government agent who tries to get a woman, played by Ingrid Bergman, to spy on her father. She’s morally compromised in every way, yet maybe she’s falling for Grant’s character? Few directors besides Hitchcock could pull off a suspenseful movie with no action scene, including one of the most famous shots in film history, as well as one of the most notorious endings.
Everybody probably knows the classic movie line, “I coulda been a contender!”, which comes from this film. It is a social drama by the great director Elia Kazan, and features Marlon Brando in one of his early powerhouse roles. The film weaves together labor-union concerns, Catholic social-justice themes, and Christian iconography. Brando plays a not-so-bright longshoreman who must decide to keep a secret about a murder, or risk himself by telling the truth about what he saw. In this case, the movie with a classic line is itself a classic still worth watching.
This mid-war screwball comedy is about an acting company staging “Hamlet” while being embroiled in an espionage saga. Directed by Hollywood great Ernst Lubistch, the second half of the film is both insane and potent, as one of the actors repeatedly pretends to be Hitler in front of Nazi officers. (In general, the great screwball comedies are among the great films. For more in this vein, check out directors Howard Hawks and Preston Struges as well.)
Another WW2-era film, this one’s by the great British team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A young Englishwoman travels north to an island in the Hebrides to marry a chemical-plant tycoon. She meets, however, a handsome native to the island, a WW2 officer on leave. This movie is thoroughly Scottish, pro-UK, very smartly written, and romantic through and through. An ideal date-night movie, if you and yours both tolerate older movies well.
The premise of this movie seems mundane: a small-time government bureaucrat in Japan has to decide whether he’ll give over the funds to open a children’s park in a city. Yet this film is known as being among the most engaging works of philosophical introspection, on the nature of life and death, in the 20th century. That’s because the bureaucrat is diagnosed with a terminal illness, about which he decides to tell no one. The movie has two unique halves, and it’s among the strongest movies on the question of why we should live and how we should live.