[Back in 2018, there was a social media challenge on Facebook in which a person posted a picture a day for 10 days of 10 films that made an impact on them. However, I went a step beyond and posted an explanation as to why they made that impact. For the sake of posterity, they're being reposted here in their entirety].
I usually don’t take up social media challenges, but this one is fun and plays into my side role as critic, so why not?
Day 1 of 10 movies that had an impact on me. 10 films that inspired you, 10 days, one image. I was nominated by this challenge by Andrew Baldwin.
For anyone who really knows me or frequents this page, #1 should come as no surprise. For a nine-year-old kid who was still optimistic enough to believe in fantasy and heroes, this film lived up to its tagline “you’ll believe a man can fly”. A film celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, it’s quixotically dated yet timeless.
It seemed that destiny wanted to ensure that all the pieces fell into place: Noted Bond franchise director Guy Hamilton was on tap to direct when his tax exile status in England precluded him from doing so, leading the Salkinds to reach out to last minute replacement Richard Donner, fresh from “The Omen”, who lived up to his credo of “verisimilitude”. Jerry Goldsmith had been first choice for score (so much so that the teaser trailer featured his music from the film “Capricorn One”), but his schedule wouldn’t allow for it. However, he did recommend his buddy John Williams, who created one of the most rousing musical scores ever produced for film. The cast, from Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Terrance Stamp, to Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, and a slew of others were, to varying degrees, believable in their roles. Ground breaking (for the time) special effects gave the illusion of reality within the fantasy.
But were it not for the person pictured here, this film would not have worked. Rarely does an actor give such a pitch-perfect performance; more so when the role he or she plays is based on a preexisting entity. Yet Christopher Reeve’s portrayal became as iconic as the part he took on and is still the standard by which all others are judged. This picture captures all that. The hope and determination of the character evidenced just in the eyes alone. The pose a study of soaring power and resoluteness. You can practically hear John Williams’ equally-iconic theme in the background. In this case, the weight upon Reeve’s shoulders to carry the day where Herculean, yet he did it as effortlessly as the Man of Steel himself.
For some, it’s a near-perfect mythological three-in-one film (science fiction, Americana coming of age bildungsroman, superhero adventure); for others, an un-ironic quaint fairy tale peppered with a smidgen of cheese. However, for a nine-year-old sitting in a theater in New Jersey across the bay from New York, living during the time of Son of Sam, rising crime rates, black outs, and protests, this movie not only showed to power any film can convey, but also reminded him that there is hope and good in the world...and that everything will be all right.
“You’ll believe a man can fly.”