Mason Weighs in on Film Favorites

Posted: July 14, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lynn Burke

Grab your popcorn and your Junior Mints! We’re in the middle of the summer movie season, with new films opening every weekend competing for the designation “blockbuster” (and your entertainment dollars).

Ticket sales seem to be the measure of success for blockbuster films. According to Box Office Guru, the leading domestic money maker was Titanic, which grossed a little more than $600 million, followed by Star Wars at $461 million and E.T. at $435 million. But does a dollar sign translate into a different sign of success, the test of time? Will these movies still appeal to audiences long after the initial excitement dies down?

To see which movies have stood the test of time, the Daily Gazette staff conducted a very random and very unscientific survey to see what films have found their way into the hearts of George Mason faculty and staff. Their responses are as diverse as they are.

Ron Stewart, visiting associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, named as his favorites Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), “you gotta love Captain Jack”; Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), “while the sequels were good, there’s something about the first one that’s hard to duplicate”; and Saving Private Ryan (1998), “an intense movie but great acting and special effects.”

Also from Environmental Science and Policy, we heard from its chair, Chris Jones, whose favorites are Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), “because Renée Zellwegger is so human and funny”; The Station Agent (2003), “because it’s a look at the human condition, both serious and humorous through the person of a dwarf—Peter Dinklage says loads with his facial expressions”; and The Bridges of Madison County (1995) “because it is so poignant even though a bit syrupy. Meryl Streep is a great actor.” (The American Film Institute agrees with Jones’ assessment of Streep, recently awarding her its 32nd Life Achievement Award.)

Rebecca Walter, associate director of the Women’s Studies Research and Resource Center, gave top billing to three films that were all released in 1999: Office Space, Rushmore, and But I’m a Cheerleader. Carol Mattusch, the Mathy Professor of Art, named The Silence of the Lambs (1991) her all-time favorite. Creative Services’ graphic designer Joan Dall’Acqua named as favorites the perennial Wizard of Oz (1939), along with To Sir with Love (1967) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984).

College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Bill Reeder’s favorite movie, Disney’s Fantasia (1940), made a lasting impression on him. “I saw it when I was a child, and it was the starting point of my career in the arts,” he says.

Two of the shift supervisors at the Johnson Center’s Information Desk, Justin Longo, a recent Mason grad who is now studying for a second degree in economics, and Ericka Varillas, a senior psychology major, seemed to follow themes in their movie choices. Longo picked three mob films—Casino (1995), GoodFellas (1990), and The Godfather (1972). Varillas’s top two favorites are musicals, Annie (1994) and Grease (1985). The Goonies (1985) rounded out her list.

One of the favorites of Physics and Astronomy instructor Harold Geller is the 1960 version of The Time Machine, which he believes is truer to the H.G. Wells story than a later version. Next on his list are The Magnificent Seven (1960), “a classic story of standing up to the penultimate bully,” and the 1997 Jodie Foster movie Contact, in which, he says, “there is lots that is not ‘real to life,’ but it’s enjoyable and poses some deep philosophical questions about life on Earth and its purpose.”

Finally, we asked James Trefil, the Robinson Professor of Physics, what were his favorites. At the top of his list were Casablanca (1942), “the classiest movie ever made,” and When Harry Met Sally (1989), explaining, “What can I say? I’m a sucker for romantic comedies.” He adds, “When I’m lecturing, I often get a laugh by saying my third favorite is Conan the Barbarian (1982)—this usually follows a line in which I say that I seldom go to the movies and never go to films.” But if asked to pick a third, he leans toward The Day the Earth Stood Still, “one of those wonderful black-and-white science fiction films of the ’50s.”

What you won’t find on Trefil’s list of favorites is the recently released The Day After Tomorrow. He says he came away from the film with four pages of notes about scientific errors in the film. “What a disappointment! They should have called it Finding Nemo Meets Godzilla.

If we’ve whet your appetite for moviegoing, you can catch some old and new favorites at Movies under the Moon, which will run all next week on the Fairfax Campus.

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