Chaz Ebert Picks 13 Films (and Franchises) to Cure Hollywood's Post-Trump Stress Disorder

10:00 AM 1/19/2017

by Chaz Ebert

From Frank Capra's holiday classic 'It's a Wonderful Life' to stories of a galaxy far, far away, movies offer blueprints for hope and needed lessons in empathy for a president-elect, suggests the widow of revered critic Roger Ebert.

Warner Bros./Photofest; Paramount Pictures; New Line Cinema/Photofest; Fox Searchlight Pictures/Photofest

My husband, Roger Ebert, said that movies, at their finest, generate empathy. The films I would recommend to people feeling despondent about President Trump also inspire compassion, kindness, forgiveness and joy. I am hoping these are watchwords for the next four years, and I implore not just movie lovers, but also Donald Trump himself, to take them to heart.

  • 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Life Itself'

    RKO Radio Pictures/Photofest

    Frank Capra's beloved 1946 film is a go-to for a good cry. It's also timelier than ever, since many people these days are feeling as if we've entered the movie's alternate universe of Pottersville, in which corruption and greed reign supreme. But what the classic continues to affirm is the impact our selfless acts of kindness can have and how goodness will forever triumph over evil — as long as we come together as one human family. A great companion piece to watch is Steve James' 2014 documentary about one of my heroes, my late husband, who also fought for the underdog and who believed in empathy, inclusion and standing up to those who would do us harm.

  • Singin' in the Rain

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Tears were shed on election night — understandably, given some of the hateful rhetoric we heard during the campaign. One of the surest means of escapism, and of putting a smile back on your face, is to watch — or rewatch — this most cherished of screen musicals. Its enduring magic was evident in the outpouring of emotion at Debbie Reynolds' death, as well as the Gene Kelly-esque quality to Ryan Gosling's moonlit song-and-dance in Damien Chazelle's La La Land.

  • 'A Face in the Crowd'

    Warner Bros./Photofest

    Some have called Elia Kazan's astonishing 1957 satire prophetic. It's about an Arkansas drifter, Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith in his best big-screen role), who becomes a media sensation via his manipulative courtship of the working class. Fueled purely by a narcissistic need for power and exposure, Rhodes ultimately is done in by his big mouth.

  • 'He Named Me Malala'

    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

    One of the most appalling aspects of 2016's election season was the shocking misogyny, from menstruation jokes to "Trump That Bitch" signs. Films showing young women embodying strength and resilience, working to guide this world to a more enlightened place, are more crucial than ever now. A key figure of empowerment is the heroine of Davis Guggenheim's 2015 documentary: Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a vicious attack by the Taliban designed to silence her advocacy for women's education. The stirring film fills you with hope.

  • 'Selma'

    Paramount Pictures/Photofest

    Ava DuVernay's 2015 film about the historic civil rights march organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (played brilliantly by David Oyelowo) reminds us of where the country came from in terms of race relations — and what we don't want to go back to. It also shows us not just what a true leader looks like, but also how an electorate dissatisfied with the way things are can force change.

  • 'Love Jones' and 'Southside With You'

    New Line/Photofest; Miramax/Roadside Attractions

    What the world needs now is love, sweet love, and here's a perfect double bill: Start with the hip, upwardly mobile canvas of poetry slams, coffee shops and slow kisses between Nia Long and Larenz Tate in Theodore Witcher's 1997 Love Jones; then proceed to the mesmerizing (fictional) courtly, intellectual mating calls of our very own outgoing president and first lady Obama in Richard Tanne's Southside With You.

  • 'Zootopia'

    Courtesy of Disney

    Disney's animated comedy skewers everything from businesses refusing service to customers because of their sexual orientation to the notion that all Muslim Americans have a natural tendency toward radicalization. It's amazing that one of the most profitable studios of all time managed to produce something this timely, vital and subversive.

  • 'Sidewalk Stories'

    Courtesy of Carlotta Films

    Charles Lane's delightful low-budget 1989 variation on Charlie Chaplin's The Kid centers around a homeless African-American who ends up with an abandoned child and proceeds to make the best of the situation, creating a family and home life for them. It will warm your heart.

  • 'The Tree of Life'

    Photofest

    When something catastrophic occurs and upends any sense of normalcy, our first response often is, "How did we get here?" Terrence Malick tackles this question in mind-boggling fashion, cutting from the origins of the universe to a Texas family in the 1950s to a vision of the afterlife. What an extraordinary, and yet ultimately redemptive, way to visualize the spiritual crises that befall us all — particularly in the wake of trauma.

  • The 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' Franchises

    Lucasfilm Ltd./Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp./Photofest; Paramount Pictures

    When Gene Roddenberry's TV series Star Trek first launched in 1966, he probably didn't guess the franchise would be going strong half a century later. The same likely was true of George Lucas, who nearly collapsed from the stress of making 1977's Star Wars, only to see it change the industry forever. Star Trek and Star Wars continue to engage audiences because of their themes of solidarity, diversity and working together to achieve success. Heroic figures of different genders, nationalities and languages uniting against forces of evil fills us with hope that good wins in the end.

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