I’m a huge fan of films that inspire and allow us as viewers to think more about life in general. Sure, I like the action flick or silly comedy every now and then, but a deep character drama that is hard to get out of your mind after watching, is my favorite style of film.
The list, including links to analysis reports, is not the final say in “best dramas” by any means, but it’s a great start if you are looking for meaningful films. The films have made an impact in my own life one way or another. I have seen all ten films including the runner ups that are listed below…some dozens of times. I have watched Scent of a Woman about ten times in my life and American Beauty about eight, at least. The films, Fathers and Daughters starring Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Kylie Rogers (she plays the young character, “Katie”) I watched only a week ago. My wife and I had a very difficult time getting the film out of our minds but that’s a good thing right?
I recall interviewing actor, Michael Shannon at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. I had asked him what the underlining message was for his new film that he was promoting entitled, The Complete Unknown. He replied by saying, “Just let the viewers decide.” At first I thought his response was somewhat short and rude, but he was right. As viewers we can take away what we want from the films we watch. We just watch films and forget about what the moral is and the underlining theme, or we can dig deeper and find the writer and director’s messages.
The films below are not listed in an order. I hope you get the chance to watch at least a few of these films in your lifetime. Relax, treat yourself to a snack, and forgot about the day…
1. A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)
A Beautiful Mind is a fictional movie loosely based on true events of A Biography of John Forbes Nash Jr. by Sylvia Nasar, directed by Ron Howard. Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a mathematical genius, who develops schizophrenia in his early twenties. He overcomes schizophrenia and attains a true sense of accomplishment, and even a sense of greatness. In this movie, the theme of discrimination against mental illnesses becomes lucid. This is developed greatly by the main character and the theme also adds suspense to the film. For a more detailed analysis of this amazing film, visit the Psychology Today news article.
2. AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)
Lester and Carolyn Burnham are, on the outside, a perfect husband and wife in a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughter’s friends. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane is developing a happy friendship with a shy boy-next-door named Ricky, who lives with an abusive father. I love this film! One of the scenes that stuck in my mind for some reason was when the plastic bag was floating around in the air. If you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean. American Beauty will leave you thinking. Want a more detailed analysis?
3. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
I included this film because of its message of HOPE. Chronicles the experiences of a formerly successful banker as a prisoner in the gloomy jailhouse of Shawshank after being found guilty of a crime he did not commit. The film portrays the man’s unique way of dealing with his new, torturous life; along the way he befriends a number of fellow prisoners, most notably a wise long-term inmate named Red. A more detailed analysis can be found here.
4. FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS (2015)
This was a tough movie to watch because of the situation with my own daughter. Jake Davis (Russell Crowe), a Pulitzer-winning novelist, finds himself fighting against the world when a fatal car accident leaves him to raise his 5-year-old daughter, Katie, all on his own. Overcome with guilt from the loss of his wife, he struggles with the daily routine of raising a child compounded by his overbearing relatives intent on taking her away from him. As the narrative weaves back and forth between the 1980s, and present day, we come to learn how 30-year-old Katie (Amanda Seyfried) battles the demons that stemmed from her troubled childhood and simultaneously watch how Jake fights to hold on to the thing he loves most – his daughter, at the cost of his fortune, sanity, and ultimately even his own life. Detailed analysis and film review can be found here.
5. VIRGIN SUICIDES (1999)
This film is perhaps the least popular of the group not because it isn’t as good, it just didn’t get the publicity and promotion of a huge budget Hollywood film. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this film so I should revisit it soon. A man about forty years of age tells the story from when he was a teenager in upscale suburban Detroit of his and three of his friends’ fascination with the mysterious and doomed Lisbon sisters. In 1974, the sisters were seventeen year old Therese, sixteen year old Mary, fifteen year old Bonnie, fourteen year old Lux, and thirteen year old Cecilia. Their fascination still remains as they try to piece together the entire story. The sisters were mysteries if only because of having a strict and overprotective upbringing by their father, who taught math at the girls’ private co-ed school, and overly devout Catholic mother, who largely dictated the household rules. The story focuses primarily on two incidents and the resulting situations on the girls’ lives. The first was an action by Cecilia to deal with her emotions over her life. And the second was the relationship between Lux – the sister who pushed the boundaries of the household rules most overtly in doing what most teenagers want to. Detailed analysis.
6. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012)
I will never forget the quote that was said by the film writer, Stephen Chbosky: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Beautifully written and said. The film is about 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman), an endearing and naive outsider, coping with first love (Emma Watson), the suicide of his best friend, and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs. The introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome him to the real world. Detailed analysis can be found here.
7. I AM SAM (2001)
Here is another that is a must watch. I am definitely drawn to movies about fathers and daughters (and the legal rights of fathers) because of my own personal situation. Sam Dawson has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. He works at a Starbucks and is obsessed with the Beatles. He has a daughter with a homeless woman; she abandons them as soon as they leave the hospital. He names his daughter Lucy Diamond (after the Beatles song), and raises her. But as she reaches age 7 herself, Sam’s limitations start to become a problem at school; she’s intentionally holding back to avoid looking smarter than him. The authorities take her away, and Sam shames high-priced lawyer Rita Harrison into taking his case pro bono. In the process, he teaches her a great deal about love, and whether it’s really all you need. Detailed analysis.
8. THE JUDGE (2014)
My wife and I watched this together and again and had a hard time forgetting this film…well, we haven’t yet and it’s been months. Hank Palmer is a successful defense attorney in Chicago, who is getting a divorce. When His brother calls with the news that their mother has died, Hank returns to his childhood home to attend the funeral. Despite the brittle bond between Hank and the Judge, Hank must come to his father’s aid and defend him in court. Here, Hank discovers the truth behind the case, which binds together the dysfunctional family and reveals the struggles and secrecy of the family. A detailed analysis and article can be found here.
9. SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992)
Probably some of the most powerful movie quotes are spoken in this amazing film: “What life?!? I got no life! I’m in the dark here! You understand? I’m in the dark!”, and “If you make a mistake and get all tangled up, you just tango on.” And you can’t forget, “HoooHaaa!” In New Hampshire, Charlie Simms attends the Baird School, an all boys boarding school with rigorous classes and expensive enrollment. Yearning for cash from a part-time job so he can return to his family in Oregon for upcoming Christmas Break, the innocent Simms accepts a job for “babysitting” at a nearby household. The job is not what he expects, for he is commissioned to watch over an unlikeable, blunt behaved blind ex-colonel named Slade who has a keen ability at selecting his aides. Because of his sympathetic and integral nature, Charlie agrees to the job. Before he can even locate his level of comfort in the job, Simms is unexpectedly taken to New York City with the colonel, where the ex-military man has several agendas of his own. A detailed analysis can be found here.
10. PATCH ADAMS (1998)
One of Robin Williams’ best films! In 1969, Hunter Adams was a troubled man who voluntarily committed himself into a mental institution. Once there, he finds that helping his fellow inmates there gives him a purpose in life. Thus inspired, he leaves the asylum and vows to become a doctor to help people professionally. However, what he finds at medical school is a sickeningly callous philosophy that advocates an arms-length attitude to the patients that does not address their emotional needs or the quality of their lives. “Patch” Adams is determined to find a better way to help them, although the consequences of his defiance of the rules and the authorities are severe. Detailed analysis.
MY RUNNER UPS
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction.
The Descendants (2011)
When his wife is hospitalized, wealthy Matt King (George Clooney) and his family must adapt to sweeping changes
American History X (1998)
A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.
As filmmakers, we are always searching for powerful films that speak to the heart and soul. The films that we are searching for can come from various genres of productions including, documentaries, dramas, short films, and even music videos. With one of the largest films festivals in the world coming to Park City, Utah on January 21, 2016, the Sundance Film Festival has a massive selection of independent films that have the potential to fit in what we call the “transformative” category…in other words, films that inspire.
We are excited at Metamora Films to continue our hunt for meaningful films at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival as an official media outlet. This means we’ll be covering the red carpet, film premieres and holding interviews with actors, directors and producers! So, what films are we covering? At Metamora Films, our mission is: “transforming hearts and minds through film”, and it’s this mission that we are empathizing at the film festival.
A film that caught our eye, As You Are, directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, is a “refreshing take on the coming-of-age tale boasts a plethora of young talent with boundless potential.” Set in the early 1990s, As You Are unfolds as a series of disparate memories. Prompted by a police investigation, we witness alternating perspectives of pivotal moments in the relationship between three teenage friends: Jack, Mark, and Sarah. Bound by their aversion to the culture around them, Jack and Mark explore the limits of friendship and love until Mark’s judgmental father tears them apart. We like the sound of the film’s synopsis and the emphasis on friendship, family and the challenges of growing up.
Another film that we plan to cover is Maya Angelou And Still I Rise, a documentary directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack. Skillfully crafted with heart and ease, this film reflects the vibrant spirit of an American legend who was determined to live her philosophies and fought for what she believed in her whole life.
The Fundamentals of Caring is a premier narrative feature starring: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson and Frederick Weller. Directed by Rob Burnett, every wrong turn is a surprise and every misadventure a new possibility in the film. In The Fundamentals of Caring, an unlikely gaggle of misfit travelers turns a personal journey into a joyride of a film.
More films we plan to cover are: Resilience, Under the Gun, Certain Woman, starring Kristen Stewart and Michelle Williams, and the film The Hollars, starring John Krasinski and Anna Kendrick. Though mostly a comedy, The Hollars looks at the importance of family. Directed by John Krasinski, this is a feature film that we don’t want to miss this year at the festival.
I’ve received emails over the past two weeks asking if we are planning to continue MetamoraTV. The answer is YES! With an overwhelming support with our YouTube channel, we’ve decided to re-design our studio set. We plan to design a simple, yet inviting studio with accent chairs and a nice, dark blue background instead of the “chroma-key” background that we used for our first several interview. We feel this new look will bring a softer and calmer look to our site allowing our guests to feel more comfortable about telling their transformative, inspiring and life changing stories for our cameras.
This brings up the question that some may have…how do I design my own TV studio? This is a great DIY project if you are interested in TV, film, or just for having fun with the family. According to The DV show, building a small basement (or other room, like a garage) studio is fairly simple:
If you want to convert any room into an inexpensive TV studio, your most important step is to select a problem-free space. A basement is a great spot, but you have to think about temperature control, it may be under a heavily traveled kitchen or corridor requiring you to insulate against the sound of footsteps, air conditioner noises, the roar of a furnace, the whine of a pump, or even the deedle-deedle of a nearby telephone or alarm can be very expensive to seal out. In short, you need to pick a quiet place with plenty of electricity and no unusual noise, heating or moisture problems.
An enormous production space isn’t necessary unless you’re setting up a Ben Hur chariot race scene. You’d be surprised at how small most broadcast news and sitcom sets are. To the viewer, what is seen on the screen is all that matters; whatever is off screen by just a foot (i.e. garden tools, clothes racks, storage shelves stacked with paint cans) doesn’t exist.
In regards to sound control (which is extremely important and sometimes overlooked), The DV Show writes:
Unwanted sound comes from two places: outside the studio and inside the studio. Let’s deal with the outside first.
Sound will enter your studio if it can find holes in the wall, cracks around doors and windows, and spaces around pipes and duct work. Somehow you need to seal the room tightly so that air cannot get in or escape.
Weatherstrip all the doors and windows. If you are not using a window, you may wish to cover it with plywood and seal it that way. Caulk any loose fitting walls or wall-to-ceiling joints and any places where pipes and wires enter the room. If a hole is too large to caulk, try stuffing fiberglass insulation into it.
Sliding glass doors and steel doors designed for exterior use are often weatherstripped and seal nicely. The same goes for exterior thermopane windows.
A simple set, a wall mural, a bookshelf and a potted plant, or a chroma key blue curtain is all that is needed to suspend reality. Big studios aren’t necessary. More information about set design can be found here.
MetamoraTV’s new look will debut in June (exact date TBA) so hold tight for more great interviews. If you or someone you know may want to be on our show, please contact us anytime.
We are proud to announce that we have released our third film, The Forgiveness Journey, a 73-minute documentary on the process of forgiveness on YouTube for everyone to watch.
The Forgiveness Journey is a feature length documentary exploring the issues of forgiveness, compassion and second chances. In the film, you’ll meet people who are struggling through their own personal forgiveness journey. Read more about the film here.
You can still purchase the DVD with exclusive bonus features through Amazon at anytime.
We wanted to make the film available to all people across the world in hopes to bring hope to people’s lives. The stories featured in the film, we believe, our powerful and speaks to all faiths, societies, and cultures. Thanks again to the brave men and woman who shared their inspirational forgiveness stories for our cameras.
Enjoy the film. Comments? We would love to hear from you.