Whether you’re in big business or small business, we are gratefully just starting to pull out of some hard times. This doesn’t mean any of us are working any less, right? But we can all see the light, and anyway, Cinema Siren is here to help you get there. If your friends are wondering off to the beach or Bali or Rome, or whatever, or if you just need to get through a few more days before you get to go somewhere beautiful and relax, how about some super duper optimistic movies to bridge the gap? Here are ten movies with depth and substance that leave you feeling joyful and ready to take on the world, or that meeting you’re dreading. These movies remind you: YOU CAN DO IT! These are the top 10 most optimistic films. At least today. There may be a whole new list tomorrow…You’re welcome!
Now go eat a sandwich outside and be awesome.
10. HAPPY ACCIDENTS
This freaky little Indie from the turn of the century, (2000), stars Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio, (does he make any other kind?) and involves Brooklyn girl Ruby, with a history of failed relationships, who meets weirdo Sam and falls in love. Naturally that means it is time for him reveal he’s a time traveler from 2470. This is a sweet and optimistic story about changing directions and unconditional acceptance. A romance starring D’Onofrio, an actor who will attract the interest of most beaus and husbands enough for them to give it a chance, represents the sort of rare moment in his career that all fans should enjoy.
9. BILLY ELLIOT
Actor Jamie Bell should be proud of himself, or at very least should applaud his management team. There’s no question he’s always been good, but in the last few years he’s done so much great work even casual filmgoers and tv fans are taking notice. Way back in 2000, he starred in director Stephen Daldry fan favorite which later became the hit stage play. Billy struggles with the desire to be a male ballet dancer, when living in a world populated by coal miners and roughnecks. This is a great film for whenever the world seems against one’s long held dream.
This great ensemble film includes the talents of Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Leslie Caron and Johnny Depp, before the “Quirk-a-thon” that has his career crashing, when he was at his very sexiest. This sweet confection about compassion, empathy, love, and, of course, chocolate, is highly engrossing and entertaining. It is an inspiring story for those who struggle with running away or finding roots and making peace with the past. As with all director Lasse Hallstrom’s work, some find it too sentimental. This list thrives on sentimentality. If you want cynicism, look elsewhere.
7. LIFE IN A DAY
This fascinating documentary is an arranged collection of video clips from people all over the world, which were culled from 80,000 clips submitted through youtube, all showing things that happen around the world on July 24th, 2010. Produced by Ridley Scott’s production company, the movie revolves around asking the subjects three questions: What do you love? What do you fear? and What’s in your pocket? It is the most authentic of cinematic experiences showing how small the world really is, how much we have in common, and how, even with all the darkness out there, humanity is really quite beautiful.
6. DEAN SPANLEY
This 2008 New Zealand and British comedy starring Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam and Peter O’Toole is a surprisingly delightful and inventive story that takes place in Edwardian England and is based on a novella by Lord Dunsany from 1936. It explores the relationship between fathers and sons, men and their dogs, and the subject of reincarnation. Either that description attracts or repels potential viewers, but Cinema Siren highly recommends this very positive and joyful movie, not least for offering another opportunity to see O’Toole and his immense acting talent. ps. It’s trippy.
5. NATIONAL VELVET
Anyone bummed out will find an instant cinematic mood stabilizer from the first gorgeous moments of color and action presented onscreen. The tale is of a Velvet Brown, played by young Elizabeth Taylor, her love and passion for the horse Pie, and how she brings him to England’s Grand National Sweepstakes. Beyond being a visual stunner, an example of masterful editing (Best film editing Oscar) and a great chance to see Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, Angela Lansbury and Anne Revere (best supporting actress Oscar) working together, National Velvet injects a subversive and delightful element of girlpower. especially interesting it was released in 1944, while gals in the US were working in the factories a la Rosie the Riveter. National Velvet brings the innocent optimism of childhood to film so well it inspires viewers to find that in themselves.
4. THE FISHER KING
Director Terry Gilliam’s 1991 spectacular film starring Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, and featuring Mercedes Ruehl (Best supporting Actress Oscar) Amanda Plummer, and the late Michael Jeter, needs to be seen for the fantasy dance sequence in New York’s Grand Central Station alone. Cynical shock jock Bridges inadvertently causes a mass murder which lays his career to waste. He finds redemption through friendship with a delusional homeless man played by Robin Williams. While there are dark and heartbreaking elements to the story, optimism pervades, and the desire for change, compassion, and meaningful friendships represented make The Fisher King memorable to the extent that it rates on many a top ten favorites list with fans. It’s particularly poignant now that the world no longer has Williams in it, but nevertheless leaves viewers joyful at the end credits.
Director Gary Ross brought us the cast of Tobey Maguire, Reece Witherspoon, Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Jeff Daniels, in this fantasy about innocence and wisdom, passion and acceptance. Two teens are transported inside their favorite sitcom town from the 50s, and experience life as the characters they are meant to represent in the show. Arthouse film lovers are big fans of this cult hit, which uses black and white and color to express emotion and enlightenment. Copied in many ways since its release, the film remains surprisingly ageless. There is a sumptuousness to it visually, but the screenplay and performances are also key to enjoying this search and discovery of bliss and personal authenticity.
2. STRICTLY BALLROOM
Way before Baz Luhrmann became known for his flamboyant dark dramas like Moulin Rouge, he made this wonderful Australian comedy about ballroom dancing that belongs in every dance movie lover’s collection. It is based on a play Luhrmann created in the 80s, and is more or less a far quirkier and Aussie-fied Dirty Dancing, complete with awkward beginners and tragic past dance-related experiences. Filled with all the bright color and histrionics we’ve come to love from the director, it is a perfect blend of camp and sincerity. So much fun you might watch it again when it’s done.
1. SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS
Directed and written by Hollywood genius Preston Sturges, this 1941 comedic satire is about jaded director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea at his best) who longs to make meaningful dramas that influence and effect people instead of shallow comedies. He leaves to do research on the downtrodden by disguising himself as a hobo, and inadvertently takes a journey of self discovery, aided by a gorgeous failed actress played by Veronica Lake. The script, the acting, and the production design make this essential viewing any time, and not only becomes more relevant as years go by, but is a go-to for bringing back those warm, good feelings inside. It reminds us all of what’s important.