The Best Years of Our Lives

Got a lot done today, although I didn't feel like it. I was so excited because at Whole Foods, when I was picking up some food, I saw that they now have veggie shrimps and tuna! I wish I could even describe how awesome this as. I know it sounds stupid and lots of people hate that sort of thing, but I think they're fun. They're different, and I'm excited to have something new to throw on the grill or on top of a salad. I got a new rack for my DVDs at Target, as well, so I could make room for my ever-expanding collection of Blu-rays. Anthony worked on organizing everything for me, even alphabetizing them. Awesome!

We had some great sushi and spring rolls with sake for dinner, and watched The Best Years of Our Lives, directed by William Wyler in 1946. It won a huge amount of Academy Awards - eight - and even had the same amazing cinematographer who did Citizen Kane. I was sort of dreading watching it, because it's so long and it sounded boring. Of course, I was so wrong. It was a great movie. I can't even get over how amazing it was. It had such a great story, and wasn't dated at all.

 An IMDB summary, because, uh, True Blood: "The story concentrates on the social re-adjustment of three World War II servicemen, each from a different station of society. Al Stephenson returns to an influential banking position, but finds it hard to reconcile his loyalties to ex-servicemen with new commercial realities. Fred Derry is an ordinary working man who finds it difficult to hold down a job or pick up the threads of his marriage. Having had both hands burnt off during the war, Homer Parrish is unsure that his fiancée's feelings are still those of love and not those of pity. Each of the veterans faces a crisis upon his arrival, and each crisis is a microcosm of the experiences of many American warriors who found an alien world awaiting them when they came marching home." This is a great summary. There are a lot of plot lines, but they all work really well.

I felt so attached to all the characters. I loved that Homer was played by a guy who really wore prosthetics, and his performance was so compelling.  It was hard to not think that the feelings his character struggled with, like feelings of helplessness, were really his own personal feelings as well. It made it so easy to feel for him, because everything was saying was really from the heart. It was so meaningful. I was worried when the film began that it would be hard to get really involved with all the characters, but it was so easy. It was so realistic and intimate, and each storyline got so much care and attention.

I was just so shocked by the plot. I did not expect a movie made so soon after the war would be so realistic and show the struggles that returning soldiers faced. It felt so current and modern, in that respect. Ebert writes in his essay that as long as we have wars and vets coming back from them, this movie will always feel relevant. I'm used to dramas from this time period feeling pretty dated, so this was just so surprising. I'm so glad I was able to watch it. All the characters were so fascinating, and I loved that the plot was something that was still a current issue and easy to relate to.

I sort of thought, wrongly, that this movie wouldn't have been popular. It can be scary and frustrating to be confronted with how difficult returning to civilian life can be. I know a lot of people don't really want to see those images, especially right after the end of a war. I just assumed that movies would have been more patriotic. I was really pleasantly surprised to read that it was one of the most successful movies, grossing about 20.4 million dollars. Yes! I couldn't believe that it was so popular, but that is amazing. It's an important movie for people to have seen, and still see!

In his essay, Ebert writes about the sloppy DVD release of this film, and I agree with his thoughts. It's really sad to see such an obviously well-loved movie not have any nice, recent edition. It's something that a lot of people would like to see now, especially remastered on Blu-ray with lots of special features. After Anthony and I watched the DVD, we wanted to see if there were special features, assuming there would at least be something about the actor that played Homer. Of course, there was nothing, which is terrible. It's a shame that a movie this good isn't easier for people to own, and since it's so well-liked, a lot of people would want to own a nice special edition. Ugh, frustrating.

This was just a great movie, aside from the shoddy DVD release. The plot was so modern and interesting, something that was so meaningful and emotionally engaging. The characters were so well-written and acted, and all their unique storylines were given so much care and attention. The cinematography was great as well, using lots of great deep focus and subtlety. Sometimes important action took place in the background, and I loved that the film trusted viewers to be smart enough to figure out what to look at. I want to own this movie, I loved it so much. It was just great, and I hope that if you haven't seen it, you give it a chance and check it out.

Have any thoughts on The Best Years of Our Lives? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Best Years of Our Lives
Buy it on Amazon

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