The Reel Dad revisits epic films from home
Some days I just need to revisit an epic.
And, with extra time at home, I have more time to savor those really long movies that Hollywood loves to make.
After all, finding three or four hours to watch a film can be challenging to find. But this week, with more time on my hands, I plan to revisit Hollywood extravaganzas from the safety of home.
Here are seven of my favorites.
Cleopatra (1963, 251 minutes)
Movie fans love to be mean to this epic from director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Yes, the movie takes a long time to tell a complex story and, yes, we would love to have seen what was happening off-screen between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. But Rex Harrison does deliver a captivating portrayal of Julius Caesar and the Oscar-winning production design astounds. Watch it today to recall a film industry so obsessed with scope that it could forget to tell a story. Available on Amazon.
Gone with the Wind (1939, 238 minutes)
No one ever seems to complain about the length of this classic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the old South before, during and after the Civil War. Before filming began, producer David O. Selznick created a national stir with his search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara (ultimately played by Oscar-winner Vivien Leigh). And, when the film premiered in Atlanta, critics and audiences celebrated the nuance used to tell such a compelling American story. Available on Amazon.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962, 227 minutes)
David Lean relives every lesson of his rich career to make film sense of T.E. Lawrence, a controversial man at the center of some of the most meaningful moments in the history of what we now call the Middle East. The director puts us in the middle of this fascinating part of the world at its most defining time and teaches us, more than he could have imagined, the fundamentals that continue to define the conflicts in this part of the world. Available on Amazon.
Giant (1956, 201 minutes)
Anyone who has visited the vast landscapes of West Texas will immediately appreciate the truth in this telling of Edna Ferber’s story about families navigating new territories. While Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson capitalize on their charisma, the real performance in the film comes from James Dean as a loner who desperately hopes to be a part of the family he watches from a distance. Sadly, the actor died soon after the film was completed. Available on Amazon.
The Godfather Part II (1974, 200 minutes)
Two years after delivering what many considered the ultimate epic about the underworld - the Oscar-winning “The Godfather” - Francis Ford Coppola dared to expand the story in this most unusual sequel. Rather than simply pick up where the first film ended, Coppola created a new backstory for the initial installment, enabling this sequel to actually function as movie bookends. And the film became the first movie sequel to be named Best Picture. Available on Amazon.
Schindler’s List (1993, 195 minutes)
Steven Spielberg takes us into the extravagant life of businessman Oscar Schindler’s, dining at lovely restaurants, drinking fine champagne, enjoying the company of beautiful people. He may be, actually, the last person anyone would consider likely to stick out his neck to save others. But as he learns about the horrific atrocities being committed during World War II, he realizes he can’t stand idly by. This powerful film remains as strong as when it was first released. Available on Hulu.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, 172 minutes)
This Oscar winner takes us into the lives of three returning veterans of what was considered a popular war, World War II, where the soldier was beloved. But no degree of adoration can prepare a returning veteran for what reality may be. War changes soldiers, and the people who wait at home for them to return, and no degree of love can make the hurt go away when people simply disconnect. No matter the war, the lessons are forever relevant. Available on Amazon.
Yes, Hollywood loves to make long movies.
And, when we have the time, they can be delicious to savor.
Enjoy the movies and stay safe.