Hello friends and potential trollers waiting to squat all over my latest ‘Top Ten’. Sorry it has been awhile. After two trips to the hospital totaling twelve days, plus nearly a month of bed rest combined with some powerful medications, I was left without the desire or wherewithal to write anything. Bottom line, I was sick as hell. But I am back!
This sojourn has made me realize how lucky I really am, and how unlucky others are. I usually try to make my list timely… related to a film release or some other grand entertainment industry event. But like Jaws 4, this time, it’s personal.
So here is a list of my Top Ten Movies dealing illness (I am staying away from the mental aspect of illness, since I am no dumber or crazier than usual!) Here goes:
10. Love Story (1970, Cancer) – “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Wonderful tagline. Starring Ryan O’Neal before his well-documented parental woes and the beautiful Ali McGraw with a Romeo and Juliet star-crossed theme. Great cuddle and cry film.
9. Coming Home (1978, paraplegic) – Winner of the Best Actor (Jon Voight) and Best Actress (Jane Fonda) Oscars and directed by the great Hal Ashby (Being There, The Last Detail). Jane Fonda plays a married woman whose falls in love with a paraplegic (Voight) while her husband is away fighting in Vietnam. Great film about self-discovery and healing.
8. The Barbarian Invasions (2003, liver cancer) – This film will make you think twice about the benefits of the Canadian socialized healthcare system vs. our Capitalistic system of making money off of it. Aside from the political aspects, the film is about a dying man attempting to reconcile with his estranged family and friends. Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.
7. Terms of Endearment (1983, cancer?) – Another heartbreaker (though I guess this will be the case due to the subject matter) about a mother and daughter’s tumultuous relationship starring Best Actress winner Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger. MacLaine said in a recent interview that this was the best film she has made. Just watch the “Give my daughter the shot!” scene in the hospital and you’ll agree.
6. Born on the 4th of July (1989, paraplegic) – Another Vietnam flick, this time starring the enigmatic but still entertaining Tom Cruise in his finest performance. This film is based on the true story of Ron Kovic, who went from flag-waver to war-protester based on his experiences both during and after fighting “the good fight.”
5. The Elephant Man (1980, neurofibromatosis type 1 / Proteus syndrome, disputed) – Directed by David Lynch, and in my opinion his most technically sound film. The film is a docu-drama starring John Hurt as the titular character; real name John Merrick, who is rescued from a circus sideshow by a Victorian-era surgeon, played by Anthony Hopkins. Despite being heavily disfigured, Merrick possesses an intelligence and sensitivity that comes through with the help of the good doctor.
4. Pride of the Yankees (1942, ALS) – The story of Lou Gehrig, starring Gary Cooper, who had one of the most incredible and inspiring farewell speeches next to Jim Valvano’s at the ESPY awards back in 1993. Just look up Valvano’s speech on YouTube if you ever dare to feel sorry for yourself. The film itself is imperfect, and probably should not be ranked so high. But I’m a sucker for sports movies, plus he got a disease named after him.
3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, stroke) – I have never seen a film quite like this, both thematically and visually in its originality. It is based on the true story of editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers from a stroke that leaves him totally paralyzed save his left eye. You feel as if you are there with Bauby the entire time, just, wow. No superlatives can do this film justice.
2. Brian’s Song (1971, cancer) – About the real-life relationship between Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams aka Lando) who were teammates on the Chicago Bears. Told you I was a sucker for the sports films. Just as with Lou Gehrig’s farewell and Jim Valvono’s swan song, I start sobbing like a little girl with a skinned knee whenever Gale says during his acceptance speech for the George Halas Courage award, “I’d like to say a few words about a guy I know, his name is Brian Piccolo.” Jesus, make me tear up just to write about it.
1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, amputee) – Although “All Quiet on the Western Front”(1930) did a fantastic job of edifying the horror of war, this film showed what it was like for some of these unsung heroes to come home. Starring Best Supporting Actor Harold Russell, who had actually lost his hands in a freak filming accident, plays Homer Parrish, a WWII veteran who comes back to his small town faced with harsh realities. The film also covers two other servicemen of varying degrees of anguish. I watched this film recently, and it is still timely, remembering that the number of servicemen that have committed suicide this year has risen by 50%.
Sickness sucks. But I will get over it. Again, it has made me realize how lucky I am- a strong and incredibly supporting wife, beautiful little boy, loving family and an incredible network of friends that have truly stood up and helped out with deeds and words that I will never forget or be able to repay. But I will surely try. Love and positive thinking can do much, that, and a few good films that remind you of the power of the human spirit. It’s so good to be back!