The Most Spiritually Nourishing Movies I Know
Maybe I need a good cry. Maybe it’s funny, weird stuff to do with faith and religion. Maybe I even want to get serious about the who-am-I-why-am-I-here type questions. Or ponder the omnipresent, uh-who’s-in-charge-here dilemma.
When I’m in one of those moods I trot out one of these movies and they lift me up and settle me down. See what you think.
The Milagro Beanfield War
Quick plot: New Mexico town is threatened by big developer. Angels (of a sort) intervene.
What’s to love: Music. Quirky characters. Ruben Blades as the slightly paunchy, rueful Sheriff.
Wisest words: “I knew Jose Mondragon couldn’t go through his entire life without attempting one great thing.”
Quick plot: Thirty-eight-year-old Brooklyn widow gives up on unlucky love, decides to marry for practicality. Ha!
What’s to love: Cher’s Oscar-winning transformation from mouse to passionista. Terrific ensemble. New York at dawn.
Wisest words: “We're not here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts and love the wrong people and die!”
The Sound of Music
Quick plot: Austrian singing family narrowly escapes the clutches of the Nazis.
What’s to love: Those von Trapps escape every single time. Belting out every one of the Rogers and Hammerstein tunes, every time, no matter who’s around.
Wisest words: “Follow every rainbow until you find your dream.”
Quick plot: New York journalist-cynics encounter a real Christmas angel and come to believe despite themselves.
What’s to love: John Travolta’s crotch-scratching, ciggy-smoking, woman-attracting, sugar-smacking angel-self. Jean Stapleton’s flawlessness.
Wisest words: “You gotta learn to laugh, it’s the way to true love.”
Quick plot: Arrogant, soulless weatherman Bill Murray does the same day over and over until he gets it right.
What’s to love: Metaphor for getting everything but life out of your life.
Wisest words: “You're not a god. You can take my word for it; this is twelve years of Catholic school talking.”
Quick plot: Caterpillar FBI agent turns into beauty pageant butterfly, cracking wise all the way.
What’s to love: Michael Caine doing the beauty queen strut down the boulevard, an incredulous but resigned Sandra Bullock mimicking.
Wisest words: “I really do care about world peace.”
Little Miss Sunshine
Quick plot: Pint-sized beauty pageant aspirant races with her whole quirky family to make the contest on time.
What’s to love: Alan Arkin’s over-sexed, coked-up grandpa. Toni Collette as the beleaguered spiritual mom-center of the family. Awesome cast.
Wisest words: “Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don't even try.”
An American President
Quick plot: Killer lobbyist meets widower, single-parent US president. Love, and some wild politicking, follow.
What’s to love: Annette Benning does not miss a single beat. Not a wasted moment in the whole film.
Wisest words: “I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now.”
Quick plot: Disappointed wife and mom breaks out of bitterness and remembers who she was when she was just herself.
What’s to love: Dry British humor. Sunny Greece.
Wisest words: “Dreams. They are never in the place you expect them to be.”
To Kill a Mockingbird
Quick plot: Widower Gregory Peck stays ethical in race-torn, early 60’s corrupt southern town while his two children watch and learn.
What’s to love: When Gregory Peck hears bad news and, his back to the camera, wordlessly communicates a world of pain.
Wisest words: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
When she isn’t blogging for ThirdAge, Gay Norton Edelman writes about spirituality, relationships and balanced living for publications such as Beliefnet, "Family Circle," "Guideposts," "Parents," "Parenting," "Prevention" and others. A wife of 33 years, she lives suburban New Jersey where her hobbies include gardening, reading novels and napping. She is at work on her first book, "The Hungry Ghost," a self-help memoir about her 100-pound weight loss 17 years ago. You can read more of her work at www.gayedelman.com.