Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
The Best Years of Our Lives
Three wonderful loves in the best picture of the year!
The Best Years of Our Lives is a classic film from director Williams Wyler about three war veterans. The film earned seven Oscars in 1946.
The other day, I found myself watching a lovely episode of China Beach entitled "The Thanks of a Grateful Nation". The story follows Dodger as he returns home from Vietnam and struggles to reintegrate into everyday life. It reminded me that we have a lot of Vietnam-centric films on this topic. And it occurred to me I had never seen the granddaddy of all 'coming home' films; I decided it was time to fix that oversight.
Best Years of Our Lives is not the first 'coming home' film. (See the John Gilbert silent classic "The Big Parade" for a heartbreaking example from World War I.) But it's this film that to this day is one of the top 100 moneymakers…
I'm struggling to think of what a contemporary equivalent of this would look like.... Something from Hollywood with A-list actors that confronts the emotional and psychological toll of war on fully realized characters while still working as masterfully filmed melodrama... How mentally malnourished are people who hold the (demonstrably false) opinion that new Hollywood movies are somehow more sophisticated than "old ones?" We've been at war for over a decade and we get a few Lone Survivors a year, but where are the stories about soldiers at home? Too uncomfortable to confront, I suppose.
I came upon this film from my wife and she came upon it by reading about it in a Paul Auster book. Backstory!
Color me pleasantly surprised because I was immensely entertained and awestruck for the better part of 172 minutes, that's even with little droplets of melodrama sprinkled throughout, although not enough melodrama that the refreshingly natural and humanistic aspects couldn't overcome.
All the performances are fantastic while every character seems effortlessly multi-dimensional as Wyler brilliantly balances the three separate storylines that are both distinct yet comparable all at once. This 1946 gem is a perfect blend of emotional heart-wrenching, playful camaraderie, quick witted one liners, and above all honest, sincere depictions of the tribulations faced by all those…
Mark Harris wrote a great book about the Hollywood filmmakers who went to WWII and shot all the footage we now know today. And then they had to come back to a Hollywood that had in many ways forgotten them. One of them, William Wyler, made this fantastic film, so I talked to him about his book and this masterpiece.
I responded more to Homer’s story – one that tiptoes its way toward a new life that is clearly going to be fraught with more difficulty – than I did Al and Fred’s, both of which have a tidiness that isn’t quite true to the roiling reality the movie mostly means to capture.
Full review here.
It's hard today to try to imagine the kind of things returning servicemen had to endure returning to civilian life. The story helps set that tone with the men attempting to get back into the work force. I found it to be quite a disparity for Fred to be employed as a soda fountain clerk at $32.50 a week, while Al goes back to his bank with a promotion and a raise to twelve thousand a year, roughly two hundred fifty dollars a week. When Al took sympathy and a chance on a loan for a deserving veteran, it leads to some wonderful dialog about the kind of collateral a man brings to the table, the kind that can't be…
Use of deep focus throughout, many scenes where the important part of the scene is in the focused background, on a very small part of the screen.
There was also a really interesting shot when Fred is in the broken down plane, where the camera swings underneath the nose of the plane and pans up, making it feel like the plane is flying. It is an interesting manipulation of cinematography that is actually gives the viewer less freedom to decide what is going on.
One of the most striking scenes in "The Best Years of Our Lives" takes place early in the film. The three main characters are cramped inside the nose of a B-52 bomber watching America roll by below. Later in the film I began to think that this "bubble" represented a world that only the returning veterans could understand. Inside the bomber was the world they had come know, while down below existed a frightening new reality. This becomes more apparent as the movie plays out and the veterans struggle to adjust to an America that has moved on without them. Fred seeks to return to his bubble by climbing back into a bomber towards the end of the film. A…
This film is a classic. End of, some great acting and a great story about veterans coming back to civilian life.
I didnt really like it, personally. It was a little boring to begin with. My low rating is really just reflective of my personal taste rather than the quality of the film making itself. Didn't pull me in quite as well as I expected it to.
William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives is a cinematic gem that I'm proud to call one of my favorite films of all time. This post-World War II melodrama is a masterpiece of great emotional sincerity and intensity. It's almost three hours long but it could be longer, and it'd still be an absolute wonder. Its length is far from a problem since the beautifully constructed characters are all so down-to-earth and relatable that the film also succeeds at creating a strong bond between them and the audience, therefore making every minute memorable. Partly a tribute to WWII veterans and a compelling family drama, this is one of the greatest films from the 1940s.
Featuring a splendid cast led…
So unbelievably good. Perhaps the most powerfully emotional movie I've ever seen (it's a masterclass for filmmakers in this regard). It's 3 hours, but it feels like 90 minutes because every scene is engaging and you WANT to be watching. It's only that long because it has 2 and a half protagonists, and all of their stories require that much screen time. It is an incredibly satiating watching experience. It is everything a movie should be: engrossing plot-wise, emotionally stirring, satisfying, and even funny.
The aspect I most admired this time around was how it employed emotion. My definition of emotion is: the feeling that occurs when you face a prize or price of life. Life can only be two…
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