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There’s nothing like an underdog who comes from behind to win the big day, but what if that underdog was actually four underdogs and they had almost no chance to win? Welcome to Breaking Away, the story of an avid road cyclist named Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) who dreams of racing against the best in the world, the Italians, even going so far as to learn the language. But being stuck in Bloomington, Indiana isn’t making it easy, especially when he and his pals Mike (Dennis Quaid), Cyril (Daniel Stern), and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) are destined to be like their fathers, ‘cutters’ at the local quarry. But when a chance comes along to show that they have the stuff to be champions, the guys pull together to try and win a local bike race all the while learning about themselves and their place in the world. Sensational and uplifting, this is a touching and funny gem of movie.
What is about a Robin Williams drama that just seems to work? As much of a national treasure as he was being a comedian, his work in a beard (his signature for most dramatic films) were exceptional, and with director Penny Marshall‘s awe-inspiring Awakenings, he plum dos his best dramatic work ever (okay, Good Will Hunting was terrific, too). Based loosely on real events, he plays Dr. Malcolm Sayer in 1969, a doctor working with catatonic patients, discovering certain stimuli mixed with a drug called L-Dopa revives them and takes to treating a handful in tests, including Leonard (Robert De Niro) who’s been in this state since being a child. A sometimes heartbreaking story with great emotional depth, the film is also tremendously inspiring as these two men bond as more than doctor and patient but as true friends. It’s a life-altering experience that will move you profoundly.
War films are almost alway a sure bet to get you filled with inspiration and many have become iconic for just that, with titles like Saving Private Ryan and When We Were Soldiers. Rescue Dawn is a smaller film and not nearly as well-known but is nonetheless and paralyzing story of the human spirit. It follows the harrowing story of Lt. Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a U.S. Navy pilot in squadron VA-145 flying missions over Laos during the Vietnam War shot down and taken prisoner after refusing to denouncing America. What follows is months of torture and isolation with a small group of equally abused prisoners. What he does to survive is nothing short of miraculous, an odyssey of horrifying inhumanity and sorrow elevated by the sheer will of a man’s desperate need to see tomorrow. A gripping and inspiring true story.
Your knee-jerk reaction might be, “hold on, this is a Jim Carrey movie. How is this supposed to motivate me?” Well the answer to that is, easy. Watch it. You will witness a remarkable story of a man trapped by walls he doesn’t even know are there – manipulated at every turn of his life – finding a way to beat the system and make his destiny. It follows Truman Burbank (Carrey), a man born and raised within an actual bubble, but one many miles across that houses an entire community of actors playing the part of a seaside village all for the largest television audience in history. And it’s been going on for 30 years. Trouble is, Truman is starting to suspect something isn’t right, and even though he is married (to an actress playing his wife), he pines for a girl he really loves who has moves to Fiji. Or has she? Tremendously uplifting, this fable is one of Carrey’s best performances and will get you right up and out of your seat by the end.
And finally we have a Will Ferrell movie, but not a typical Ferrell film, oh no. This one is far removed from his absurd comedies, a tale so ingeniously written and performed, your whole body will ache with joy. It tells of an IRS auditor named Harold Crick (Ferrell) who lives life by the numbers, literally. He sees and feels them wherever he looks and lives a highly-structured existence. That is until the voice in his head changes everything. And not just some random voice but a woman’s voice (Emma Thompson) who is narrating his every waking step. That’s all hard enough to accept, but when she proclaims he is soon to die, well, things take a turn and Crick tries to figure out who is calling the shots. All the while, he’s falling in love with a beautiful bakery chef named Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and that has him even further frazzled. So much for routines. Do yourself and favor and watch this movie. It will move you, make you laugh and have you pondering your own life.