Author's Top 5 favourite moviesMy favorite film of all time is Casablanca, a great romance set in Vichy Morocco during World War II and filmed on a modest budget during the spring and summer of 1942 before it was even known who the victor would be. Featuring legendary performances from Humphrey Bogart as the unflappable, but at heart romantic, Rick Blaine, Ingrid Bergman as the dramatic beauty, Ilsa Lund, Paul Henreid as the inspirational resistance leader, Victor Laszlo, and Claude Rains as the masterfully unpredictable Captain Renault as well as mesmerizing piano playing by the Rick’s loyal sidekick, Sam, played with realistic flair by Dooley Wilson. Incidentally, “As Time Goes By” is one of my favorite cinema pieces, and I mastered it on our home piano in high school after falling in love with the movie.
The Chariots of Fire soundtrack is a tribute to the extraordinary feat that Liddell accomplished and how he accomplished it. Surpassed in pure 400-meter running talent by a number of his 1924 Olympic competitors, Liddell simply honored God and God honored him back, defeating heavily favored American champion, Horatio Fitch, in the 400-meter final, a much longer than optimal distance for him. Astonishing the audibly gasping crowd, Liddell took over a 3 second lead within the first 200 meters and then sprinted the remaining 200 meters in spirited, ungainly form to set a world record and shatter his personal best by an astounding 2 seconds.
As an adult, I was mesmerized by Alex Honnold’s incredible mental fortitude and dexterous freeclimb up the massive granite face of El Capitan in Free Solo. Completed in 3 hours and 56 minutes, his death-defying ascent marked the first free solo ascent of El Capitan, one of the most technically challenging free climbs in the world that has ever been attained. His feat, heralded as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever", was documented by climber and photographer Jimmy Chin, who feared that Alex would perish during the shoot.Despite my heritage being 50% Italian and The Godfather’s generally negative stereotyping of its Italian-American characters, I savor Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful film direction and the defining performances of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and James Caan in this timeless classic, which I have never gotten tired of watching for the umpteenth time over the years. It is a brilliant coming of age tale of Michael Corleone’s rise to power, by the film’s end succeeding his ailing father and poised to avenge the treacherous slaying of his older brother, Sonny.
Another film that I found both haunting and riveting was Legends of the Fall, set on a remote Montana ranch, and the near supernatural connections between bears, Indians and the character of Tristan Ludlow in the film. I was riveted by the hot-blooded but sympathetic character of Tristan played by a youthful and commanding Brad Pitt and the devastatingly plausible portrayal of his loving but heartbroken father, Colonel William Ludlow, played by Anthony Hopkins. Part of my inspiration for my novel, The Year of the Bear, was derived from almost mystical scenes with Native Americans, the Ludlow family and bears. This includes its unforgettable ending, where an aged Tristan is fatally mauled in an almost supernatural attack by a grizzly bear towering over an animal carcass that is narrated by a Cree elder and close family friend. Old Stab tingled my spine when he described how Tristan had lived his life with honor and concluded: “It was a good death.”