My Love of Old Movies… The Essentials

In my Meet Kendra page as well as my list of favorite Christmas movies, I have professed my love of old movies. John is well aware of this and for Christmas he gifted me The TCM (Turner Classic Movies) books The Essentials 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter and the The Essentials Vol. 2 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter.

In 2001, TCM began a weekly show called The Essentials featuring the movies that found their way into these books. They are quick to point out that these do not represent a list of “the best” movies, rather that each one has had an “unmistakable impact in some way.”

The movies that they present are covered in 3-5 pages that include their vital statistics, a synopsis, photos, and what makes them Essential. So far, I have read the first few and I hadn’t previously seen any of them. The descriptions are full of really interesting information that makes me want to watch all of them! I’m not sure I will accomplish that goal, but John and I did watch All Quiet on the Western Front produced in 1930 based on the book by Erich Maria Remarque.

All Quiet on the Western Front 1930

All Quiet on the Western Front movie 1930

I remember reading the book, published in 1929, when I was in high school and being really affected by it. The book was an international bestseller and the movie was made the following year. Overall, the movie has been made three times… 1930, 1979, and 2022. John and I saw the 2022 adaptation and thought it was very well done. I had never really given any thought to the fact that it might have been made before, nor that I might to want to watch any other version. I have to admit that 1930 is early, even for me. 😉

The movie (spoiler alert) follows the experiences of a young German soldier, Paul Baumer, during World War I, beginning with his youthful exuberance at going forth to serve and protect the Fatherland, his experience of the horrors of war, including his profound regret at killing a French soldier, and finally, his death. Watching it, I really connected with Paul and felt like I was right there with him as he progressed through the storyline.

Why is This an Essential?

The first thing that makes this movie special is that it tells the story of war without glamorizing it and it projects an anti-war sentiment from start to finish. The trench scenes are shot at a remarkably low angle, given the limitations of the equipment they were using. This, and the use of closely timed dynamite explosions, gave it a certain grittiness that has influenced the making of other such films right up to this day. The film went on to win two Oscars and propelled it’s relatively unknown lead, Lew Ayres, to stardom.

Would I Recommend It?

I am not good at rating things because if I like them, they automatically get 5 stars and if I don’t like them, they don’t get any stars. 😜 Suffice it to say that I give All Quiet on the Western Front 5 stars. I would highly recommend it. It maintains its relevance even 93 years later. Enjoy! 💜


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