Prizer's Picks

Shadowlands (1993)

“I'm not sure God wants to make us happy,” British professor and writer C.S. Lewis tells a 1950s audience of admirers. “Pain is God's megaphone to wake a dead world.” But these words of spiritual reflection are just cold, intellectual concepts to Lewis. He doesn't walk the talk. Played by Anthony Hopkins, the solitary Oxford don lives in an all-male universe surrounded by professorial colleagues.

American poet Joy Gresham (Debra Winger) is a longtime fan and, socially, everything he's not. Gregarious, boisterous and emotionally demanding, she breaks through his defenses and captures his heart.

Many know from Lewis’ popular writings that an unexpected illness struck Joy, and Lewis’ faith was put to the test. The film follows him as he experiences firsthand the states of mind and soul about which he's been writing. He begins to understand the connections between love, suffering and sacrifice on a visceral level. Shadowlands is an inspiring, romantic tale that's intelligent and deeply moving.

Great Expectations (1946)

Unexpected good fortune often comes with a price attached, and how a person deals with both sides of this equation can become the measure of their moral worth. The poor but good-hearted Pip (Anthony Wager) falls in love with the beautiful Estella (Jean Simmons).

However, her rich, eccentric guardian, Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), considers him socially inferior. A mysterious benefactor underwrites an education which makes him a 19th-century English gentleman and her equal. But the mature Pip (John Mills) labors under false assumptions as to the source of his good fortune.

This version of Great Expectations is the best cinematic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel. Director David Lean (The Bridge on The River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia) reproduces the colorful characters and events of the original with a visual style similar to horror films of the period. You root for Pip both to succeed and to do the right thing.

Amadeus (1984)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri were composers in 18th-century Vienna, vying for commissions from the Holy Roman Emperor and the Catholic Church. The Oscar-winning Amadeus, based on Peter Shaffer's hit play, dramatizes their rivalry around issues of morality, God's will and aesthetic achievement. Salieri (F.

Murray Abraham) is correctly presented as the more successful of the two. But, in an inspired flight of fancy, he's also depicted as the only person among their contemporaries to recognize Mozart (Tom Hulce) as the greater genius.

Salieri calls Mozart's music “the very voice of God.” Once a devout believer, he destroys his crucifix and directly challenges his creator. “From now on you and I are enemies because you have chosen for your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty infantile boy,” he says to God in a jealous rage. His conscious embrace of evil has horrendous effects on both him and Mozart. This melancholy film is filled with glorious music.