Movies I’m Thankful For Recap

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When I decided to write about a film I’m grateful for every day in November, I thought the difficult part would be keeping pace with the writing.

But that turned out to be easy—the difficult part was narrowing the list down to 30. 

In the end I decided to let my intuition be my guide.  I didn’t consciously try to make sure I didn’t have too many comedies, or too many movies from the 90s.  I wrote about the films I wanted to write about, and rewatched about half of them in the process.

I had thought I was writing a tribute to the films that have shaped me, but what actually came out was something more specific—a love letter to the movie theater itself.

The theaters where I saw many of these movies are gone now—Showcase Cinema in Monroeville is a Sheetz gas station, as is The Cheswick.  I’ve forgotten the name of the little movie theater behind the Monroeville Mall but it’s now a Best Buy.

But The Manor is still standing, as is The Oaks.

And the fairly new theater at the Pittsburgh Mills survived the pandemic.

But there’s no doubt the movie theater’s heyday is long behind it.  It’s not only that people would rather stay home—it’s that many of the stories people want to see are no longer made into big blockbuster films. 

Today the buzz, the creativity, and the best acting is done on television.  Novels like Big Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Game of Thrones that once might’ve been made into big films are now adapted into TV shows with award winning actors.

Remove the superhero movies and Tom Cruise, and what does the movie theater have left?

But one of my life’s mottos is that we must live in the world the way it is, not the way we wish it to be. 

I will always have a sweet nostalgia for the movie going experience of my youth, but one should never spend so much time looking over one’s shoulder at the past that they miss what’s in front of them.

Maybe you can’t just plop yourself down in the theater every Saturday night like I used to, but if you sniff around, you can always find the stories you’re most interested in.

Novels, blog posts, blockbuster films, television shows, YouTube videos.

The methods of delivery may change, but we’ll always tell each other stories.

The truth is there’s never been a better time to be alive if you want to discover or tell stories.

And that’s what I’m most thankful for.

Thanks for taking the journey with me.


The film I most enjoyed rewatchingMoulin Rouge! (2001)

The film I cut from the list after rewatchingTrue Romance (1993)

The films I already regret not including:  Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Elizabeth (1998), Clueless (1995), Miracle (2004), and Cruel Intentions (1999).

Actress with the most appearances on the list:  Nicole Kidman 4 (Moulin Rouge!, Practical Magic, The Others, Far and Away)

Actor with the most appearances on the list:  Tom Cruise 3 (Mission Impossible:  Ghost Protocol, Far and Away, Interview with the Vampire) and Brad Pitt 3 (Thelma and Louise, Interview with the Vampire, Legends of the Fall)


This is the final post of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, which ran daily through the month of November. 

Films Covered:  Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich | The Bear | Braveheart | Interview with the Vampire | Legends of the Fall | Titanic

The Movie I’m Most Thankful For:  Titanic (1997)

Titanic (1997) movie poster

It’s been twenty-five years and I can still smell the fresh paint of the movie theater.

Just kidding.  But if you get the joke, you already know that the movie I’m most thankful for is James Cameron’s Oscar-winning blockbuster Titanic.

What I miss most from today’s cinema is old-fashioned, big budget romantic melodrama. 

And my favorite melodrama plot goes something like this:  beautiful woman chooses a penniless dreamer over a black-hearted aristocrat who will provide her with a secure but stiflingly boring life.

Without intentionally meaning to, I’ve populated this month’s list with several such films—Moulin Rouge!, Far and Away, and Shakespeare In Love.  And a few more just missed the cut.

What can I say? In a world of cynics, I’m a sentimental fool.

But without a doubt, the best of these is Titanic.

I don’t need to tell you the plot of  Titanic, do I?  I mean, I already did—beautiful woman, penniless dreamer, etc.  Braid that love story through the well-known historical sinking of the Titanic and you have my absolute favorite movie—and that includes everything from the golden age of Hollywood as well.

Titanic is the standard by which I judge all other films.

I don’t remember exactly how many times I saw Titanic in the theater back in 1997, but it was well into the double-digits.  I saw it in 2017 when it returned to the big screen for its 20th anniversary.

And if the rumors are true that they’re bringing it back to the big screen next summer for its 25th anniversary, well, I’ll be there too.

We were all so enamored with the plight of Jack and Rose that my friends and family and I would make quizzes for one another to determine who knew the movie best.  By this time it was out on VHS, and we’d all watched it dozens of times, so we all kept getting all the questions correct.

The questions escalated in difficulty until we were asking each other insane things like “how many goldfish were in Old Rose’s fishbowl?”

And if you’re thinking “what fishbowl?” then you, my friend, are not a Titanic superfan.


Author’s Note:  If anyone cracks a joke in the comments about Rose not letting Jack onto the piece of driftwood at the end of the film, I’ll permanently ban you from my site.

Don’t test me. Examples of the kind of thing I’d better not see:

Jack and Rose - Titanic - Meme

Jack and Rose - Titanic - Meme

Jack and Rose - Titanic - Meme


Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997)

This is the final entry of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

The Full List: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich | The Bear | Braveheart | Interview with the Vampire | Legends of the Fall |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Legends of the Fall (1994)

Legends of the Fall (1994) poster

Man, 1994 was a good year for Brad Pitt.  He followed up Louis in Interview with the Vampire by playing another self-loathing hottie in Legends of the Fall.

Along with Pitt, Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas play the Ludlow brothers Tristan, Alfred, and Samuel.  The boys were raised by their father, Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), in the wilds of Montana at the start of the 20th century.

Tristan is wild and more at home with the Cree Native Americans than in civilized society.  Alfred, the eldest, follows all the rules.  And Samuel is the baby, doted on by his older brothers.

Against their father’s wishes—who disavows the government he once served over its treatment of Native Americans—Samuel and Alfred enlist to fight in World War I.  Tristan has no interest in the war, but goes along after promising both his father and Samuel’s fiancé Susannah (Julia Ormond) that he would protect Samuel.

When Samuel is brutally killed in front of Tristan’s eyes, the Ludlow family is never the same.

Tristan blames himself, and for many years nothing can soothe his torment.  Not his slaughter of the German soldiers who killed his brother, or long voyages on ships, or dangerous hunting trips in far off lands. 

Not coming home.

And not the love of Susannah, who had sincere feelings for Samuel but a desperate desire for Tristan.

The tragedy of the film is that everyone acts in good faith—the Colonel loves his sons, Susannah cannot help loving Tristan even after she marries Alfred, and Alfred tries to do everything right but can never measure up to Tristan in the eyes of his father or his wife.

No one can hurt you like the ones you love the most, even when—especially when—they don’t mean to.

It’s got beautiful cinematography of Montana, unforgettable characters, and it illuminates the primal nature of the sibling relationship—its love, jealousy, protectiveness, competition, resentment, and playfulness.

But above all the unbreakable bond of blood.

It is still one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Alfred (Quinn), Tristan (Pitt), Samuel (Thomas), and Susannah (Ormond) in happier times.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich | The Bear | Braveheart | Interview with the Vampire |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Though many great vampire movies preceded it, Interview with the Vampire was my first foray with the undead.

Long before Edward Cullen sparkled his way into my heart, I was enthralled with another guilt-ridden vegetarian vampire—Louis, perfectly played by long-haired heartthrob Brad Pitt.

A girl who sat behind me in junior high English class wore a black Brad Pitt as Louis t-shirt to school one day.

I’ve never been so jealous in all my life.

Interview is an embarrassment of riches, because in addition to the brooding Louis, we have Tom Cruise as the dangerously seductive Lestat, a singularly unique character in vampire lore who turned the beautiful Louis into his vampire companion.

The plot thickens when Lestat—worried that Louis is about to leave him—turns young girl Claudia (an excellent Kirsten Dunst) into a child vampire, knowing Louis would never abandon a child.

Interview follows the members of this warped little family through decades of lust, love, betrayal, solitude, and heartbreak.

Louis is tormented by guilt, Lestat is a narcissistic dictator, but Claudia suffers the worst fate of all—her mind matures and she becomes a woman forever trapped in the unchanging body of a child.

The movie is based on Anne Rice’s novel of the same name, written in the aftermath of the death of her five-year-old daughter.  At its heart is a gloomy tale of never-ending grief and loneliness, which is not usually the kind of thing I go for, but I’ve never been able to turn my eyes away from the tale of Louis, Lestat, and Claudia.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich | The Bear | Braveheart

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Braveheart (1995)

Braveheart (1995) poster

Braveheart blew me away.

Mel Gibson directed, produced, and starred in this biography of William Wallace, a 13th-century farmer who becomes the leader of a Scottish rebellion after English soldiers executed his wife.

At first, Wallace fights for vengeance, but as he gains followers, his mission grows into securing a Scotland free from English rule.  He fights, he inspires, he has an affair with the king’s daughter-in-law, and in the end he submits to death rather than beg his enemy for mercy.

The story was violent, romantic, and adventurous. 

I had to know more.

Back in 1995, you couldn’t just pull out your phone and google “Is Braveheart historically accurate?”  You had to go to the library, check out a biography on William Wallace, and figure it out for yourself.  My reading revealed that Mel Gibson had taken quite a few liberties with the historical record.  This didn’t bother me then, and it doesn’t bother me now:  I’ll always take an entertaining film over an accurate one.

I just want to know what’s true and what isn’t.

Thus began my ongoing love affair with the intersection of history, books, and movies.  If I love a movie, I want to know everything about it.  I’ll read the book it’s based on, and fact-check it like I once did Braveheart.  That morphed into wanting to know everything about the people who directed and starred in the films as well.

It’s that same impulse that drove me to start this Golden Age of Hollywood blog nearly three years ago as a place to talk about the history of movies with people who love them as much as I do.

And it all began with Braveheart.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich | The Bear

Movies I’m Thankful For:  The Bear (1988)

The Bear 1988 Poster

As a kid, I saw lots of movies that were technically age-inappropriateIn 1991 alone, my parents vouched for ten-year-old me to get into R rated movies like Thelma and Louise and Terminator 2.

Shootings, stabbings, and beatings?  Didn’t faze me.

And the traumatic scene in The Man in the Moon?  Please.  That was only PG-13, practically made for babies.

But The Bear scarred me for life.

It probably seemed like a good idea to take a seven-year-old to a PG-rated nature film about a cute little orphan bear cub who learns how to make his way in the world.

The film opens on the bear cub and his mother rooting around on a mountaintop for honeycomb.  The mother knocks too many rocks loose and a boulder falls on her, killing her instantly.  The now orphaned cub is first confused, then bereft, whimpering as he spends the night sleeping against his dead mother’s body.

I squirmed in my seat.

But things were about to get so much worse.

Over on the other side of the forest, two hunters are tracking a giant Kodiak bear.  One takes a shot, and the bear roars with pain, and blood appears on his shoulder.

They zoomed in on the blood.

So much blood.

I started screaming at the top of my seven-year-old lungs.

My dad carried me out of the theater, with my mom right behind.

I stood, hysterical and inconsolable, in the lobby of the theater.

“It’s just ketchup,” my dad kept saying, referring to the blood.  Ketchup, ketchup, ketchup, I repeated to myself.

“It’s pretend,” my mother said.  “None of the bears got hurt.”

Pretend, pretend, pretend.

I’ve never had the guts to go back and see what happens after the first twenty minutes.

I hope the little guy made it, and the big Kodiak too.

Give me Louise blowing away Thelma’s wannabe rapist any day.

Just leave the animals out of it.

The Bear
Never saw this part….


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love | Erin Brockovich |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich is the ultimate underdog.

She’s a broke single mother with three kids and no skills, but she guilts her lawyer Ed into an office job after he loses her traffic accident case.

Soon she’s stumbled upon a massive corporate coverup about how the Pacific Gas and Electric Company are knowingly dumping cancer-causing poisons into the groundwater in Hinkley, California.  Erin attacks the case—and PG&E—with a foul-mouthed ferocity that shows just how far tenacity and ingenuity can take you.

My favorite scene is when she meets with Charles Embry, a former employee who may have documents that tie the local branch to the main corporation.  Proving that the corporate headquarters knew about the poisoning is the key to their class action lawsuit.

Erin, who spends most of the movie charging around like a bull in a China shop, suddenly goes quiet.  She knows how important this is; she knows she has one chance, and that if she blows it, the people of Hinkley will never get justice.

It’s the best role of Julia Roberts’s career, and she was rightly awarded an Oscar for it.

About a year after the film, I saw the real Erin Brockovich speak when I was a student at Penn State.  Julia Roberts had captured her mannerisms, her defiance, and her sense of justice perfectly. 

We loved her.

During the Q&A, people asked her about the film.  She said it was accurate, and had only one complaint about it.

There’s a scene when Erin is arguing with her boyfriend—he’s tired of taking care of her kids all the time and wants her to quit the job.  In the film, she says she doesn’t want to quit because she finally had people respecting her.

With colorful profanity, the real Erin said she didn’t do any of  it to gain respect.  She did it for the people of Hinkley, and only for the people of Hinkley.

And you know what?

I believe her.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Shakespeare In Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love poster (1998)

Winning the Oscar for Best Picture is the worst thing that ever happened to Shakespeare In Love.

Because instead of celebrating this quick-witted fictional tale of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write Romeo and Juliet, all any movie buff ever talks about is how (now convicted dirt bag) Harvey Weinstein’s full court press campaign for Shakespeare robbed the award from its rightful owner, Saving Private Ryan.

I’m not here to bag on Saving Private Ryan—without question it would’ve been a worthy winner.  But the Academy did itself no shame by awarding its top honor to a film that smartly threads together romance, comedy, and drama in its Shakespearian love letter to the creative process.

Young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) has no money and a case of intense writer’s block.  He’s getting nowhere on his new play—a comedy he calls Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter. 

Meanwhile, Lady Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow—whose Best Actress win had the haters blowing a second gasket) is desperate to star in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  As women were not allowed on stage in the Elizabethan era, she disguises herself as a man and wins the role of Romeo.

When Will discovers her true identity, the two embark on a passionate affair that ignites his muse.  Everything Will hears, does, and sees becomes grist for the play.  Anyone who writes (or does anything creative) can appreciate that elusive zone when everything you take in is giving you new ideas and driving your latest work.

As it becomes clear that Will and Viola have no future—he’s married, and she’s promised to marry Lord Wessex and move to Virginia—his play turns from comedy to tragedy.

But in the end, their love will live on through Shakespeare’s pen, and when Queen Elizabeth commands that his next play be a comedy, Will knows just what the plot will be—a beautiful woman survives a shipwreck on a journey to a foreign land.

She disguises herself as a man for protection as she explores a strange new world.

Her name?

Viola, of course.

And thus begins Shakespeare’s next play, Twelfth Night.

Shakespeare in Love


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years

Movies I’m Thankful For:  The Last 5 Years (2014)

The Last Five Years (2015) film poster

The Last 5 Years charts the relationship of young lovers Cathy and Jamie.  It’s based on a two-person play I saw in 2015 at the intimate 300 seat Front Porch Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. 

As in the play, the film opens on Cathy (Anna Kendrick) alone in their apartment, lamenting in song that Jamie (Jeremey Jordan) has left her.  The next scene jumps without warning to Jamie’s point of view, where he and Cathy are laughing and about to sleep with one another for the first time.

This clever musical switches back and forth from Cathy to Jamie…she starts their story at the end and works her way backward, while Jamie starts at the beginning and progresses forward.

They begin with a whirlwind courtship in New York City.  She’s an aspiring theater actress pounding the pavement and doing summer stock theater, while he’s trying to write the Great American Novel.  But they grow apart as Jamie’s career soars and Cathy’s never gets off the ground.

Is it Jamie’s growing ego or Cathy’s jealousy that tears them apart?

Is Cathy grieving Jamie or the loss of her dreams?

It depends on who’s telling the story.

Their heady early days are tinged with melancholy because we’ve already seen how it will end with bitterness on both sides.

In the play, the two lead characters only interact with one another once, when their stories meet in the middle on their wedding day.  The film has them together throughout but still manages to convey the idea that these two were never truly on the same page.

The acting is top notch, and you may find yourself (as I did) downloading the soundtrack onto your phone.

Anyone who loved Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect (ie; everyone) should give this overlooked little gem a shot.

The Last Five Years


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat |