Why you should care
Because you need to watch these before you die.
Growing up in Miami, I was guilty of loving movies, trying to stay up a little bit later, whenever possible, to watch just one more. My early tastes, which included Bogie and Bacall, have evolved over the years. With the Academy Awards upon us, I offer up five favorites from Oscars past that you may have missed.
Y Tu Mamá También
Do you know what that means? “And your mother too.” No, this 2002 film from Mexico is not some put-down game in Spanish. Rather, it is a powerful and surprising look at friendship — how close, how jealous, how … unexpected we can be as humans. Gael García Bernal burns and delights as the handsome young star. The film was so hot — NC-17, really — that they simply listed it as “not rated.” Miss at your own peril, because this brainchild of the Cuarón brothers is simply terrific.
“You must remember this.” Casablanca — a powerful story of love, history and derring-do, with memorable, quotable lines — remains my favorite movie of all time. No, Bogie never said, “Play it again, Sam,” but he did say, “I never make plans that far ahead,” “Here’s looking at you, kid” and a whole lot more. A World War II drama and forbidden love story loaded with powerful subthemes, it truly is a movie for the ages, underscored by the great love song pulled throughout the narrative: “It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a tale of do or die.…” Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are at their best, and the film is even better, especially when you know that it almost wasn’t made.
Te Doy Mis Ojos
OK, this one wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but it did win seven Goya Awards (Spain’s version of the Oscars). I stumbled upon this beautiful film (Take My Eyes in English, or, literally, I Give You My Eyes), which tells the tragic story of several couples and siblings straining to be who they are. It’s a gripping tale, told through multiple angles and perspectives, à la Crash, complicating any moral simplicity in the process. Watch this tough film and learn something.
12 Angry Men
Most people reading this won’t remember Henry Fonda, arguably one of the greatest actors ever. He shone brightly in films like The Grapes of Wrath, Advise & Consent and, later, On Golden Pond. But in 1957, he turned in perhaps his best performance as a conflicted juror wrestling with a murder case. Poignant, powerful, political — this is must-watch cinema. Long before A Few Good Men and …And Justice for All made courtroom dramas dramatic, Sidney Lumet’s big-screen directorial debut burned up the screen and raised the question of “reasonable doubt” in a whole new way. And, oh dear, does the movie have one of the great scenes of all time: a weary Fonda saying to an angry juror about a third man, “He can’t hear you,” even though all three men stand just feet apart. Spectacular — a nail-biter, a treat.
City of God
If you are a cinema fan, you know this film, so I apologize for including it. But then again, I would have had to apologize if I didn’t include it — it is simply that divine. Set in Rio de Janeiro, it tells the story of a boy growing up in Brazil’s slums. Beautifully shot, filled with powerful themes and spectacular characters (Lil Zé, Knockout Ned, Carrot and more), loaded with twists and drama, it is (once again) a film for the ages. If there is one movie to rival Casablanca, this might be it.