Brokeback Mountain

  • Directors: Ang Lee
  • Producers: James Schamus, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
  • Writers: Short Story, Annie Proulx, Screenplay, Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, Western
  • Actors: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams

Brokeback Mountain is the story of ranch hand Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two young men who meet and fall in love on the fictional Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming in 1963. The film documents their complex relationship over the next twenty years.

Ennis and Jack first meet when they are hired by Joe Aguirre (Quaid) to herd his sheep through the summer. During the long months of isolation, a bond begins to develop between the two. One night, after heavy drinking, Jack makes a sexual pass at Ennis, who initially is apprehensive, but then succumbs to Jack’s advances. Although he warns Jack it was only a one-time incident, Ennis finds himself becoming involved in both a physical and a powerful emotional relationship with his partner through the rest of their tenure. Shortly after learning their summer together is being cut short unexpectedly, they briefly fight, during which each is bloodied.

After the two part ways, Ennis marries his long-time fiancée Alma Beers (Michelle Williams) and Jack ends up in Texas, where he meets and marries rodeo princess Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). The two men reunite four years later, and Alma accidentally witnesses them passionately kissing. Jack broaches the subject of creating a life together on a small ranch, but Ennis, haunted by a painful childhood memory of the torture and murder of a suspected homosexual in his hometown, fears such an arrangement could only end in tragedy. He also is unwilling to abandon his family. Unable to be open about their relationship, Ennis and Jack end up meeting only for infrequent fishing trips.

In the final scene, 19-year-old Alma Jr. (Kate Mara) arrives at her father’s trailer with the news she’s engaged. She asks Ennis for his blessings and invites him to the wedding. Ennis, finally aware of the importance of love in a relationship and marriage, asks her if her fiancé really loves her. After Alma’s departure, Ennis notices she has forgotten her sweater, which he folds and puts in the closet. Inside, hanging on a nail pounded into the door, are the two shirts with a postcard of Brokeback Mountain tacked alongside. Now, Jack’s shirt is tucked inside of Ennis’s. Ennis carefully fastens the top button of Jack’s shirt, and with tears in his eyes mutters, “Jack, I swear…” while slowly straightening the postcard.

The Birds

  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: Short story, Daphne du Maurier, Screenplay, Evan Hunter
  • Genres: Horror, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright

Beautiful and young Melanie Daniels (“Tippi” Hedren), a wealthy socialite whose father is an owner of a large newspaper, visits a San Francisco pet shop to pick up a myna bird she has ordered for her aunt. There, Melanie meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), a lawyer who is looking for a pair of lovebirds to give to his young sister. Mitch sees Melanie and then pretends to mistake her for a salesperson. Melanie acts out the role believing that she’s fooling Mitch until he reveals that he knew all along that she was not a salesperson of birds. Melanie, infuriated, inquires as to the reason for Mitch’s behavior and he then mentions a previous encounter that he had with her in court when he had first seen her.

Intrigued by him, she buys the lovebirds and finds the address for Mitch’s home in Bodega Bay, a small coastal village up the Pacific coast. Melanie drives to Bodega Bay and delivers the birds by sneaking across the small harbor in a motor boat to the Brenner residence. Melanie walks right into the house and leaves the birds on a foot stool with a note. As Melanie is heading back across the bay, Mitch observes her through a pair of binoculars, then circles around the bay in his car to meet her. Just as she is about to pull up to the dock, a seagull swoops down and gashes her head.

Melanie and Mitch’s family ultimately take refuge in Mitch’s house, boarding up the doors and windows. In the evening when everyone else is asleep, Melanie hears noises from the upper floor. She investigates a closed door only to find that the birds have broken through the roof. They attack her, sealing her in the room until Mitch comes to her rescue. Lydia and Mitch bandage Melanie’s wounds, but determine she must get to a hospital. In a surreal and apocalyptic scene, a sea of landed birds ripples menacingly around them as they leave the house, but do not attack. The car radio (the uncredited announcer is Ken Ackerman, longtime San Francisco radio personality) gives reports of several smaller attacks by birds in a few other communities in coastal California. The sea of birds parts as they slowly proceed toward the road and pick up speed. The film concludes with the four driving away from the farm, down the coast road and out of sight, as thousands of birds watch them.

It s a Wonderful Life

  • Directors: Frank Capra
  • Producers: Frank Capra
  • Writers: Screenplay, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, Frank Capra, Short Story, Philip Van Doren Stern
  • Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • Actors: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers

On Christmas Eve 1946, George Bailey (James Stewart) is deeply depressed, even suicidal. Prayers for George Bailey are heard by angels appearing as stars in the night sky. Clarence Odbody, an Angel Second Class, is sent to Earth to save him—and thereby earn his wings. Joseph, the head angel, is told to review George’s life with Clarence.

As a 12-year-old boy in 1919, George (Bobby Anderson) saved the life of his younger brother Harry from falling through ice, though George caught a cold that became an ear infection and left him hearing-impaired in one ear. Returning weeks later to his job as errand boy in a pharmacy, George stopped his boss, local druggist Mr. Gower (H.B. Warner), from accidentally filling a child’s prescription with poison while grief-stricken over the death of his son from influenza.

From childhood, George’s greatest ambition has been to see the world and design bridges and skyscrapers. However, George repeatedly has to sacrifice his dreams for the well-being of the people of Bedford Falls. Four years older than Harry, he puts off going to college to help in the family business until Harry graduates from high school and can replace him at the Bailey Building & Loan Association, essential to many of the disadvantaged in town. But on Harry’s graduation night in 1928, as George discusses his future with Mary Hatch (Donna Reed) — who has had a crush on him since she was a little girl — family friends arrive after George and Mary were throwing rocks at an old house to make wishes, and break the news to George that his father has had a stroke. Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), a vicious slumlord, seizes this opportunity and tries to persuade the Board of Directors to end the “sentimental hogwash” of home loans for the working poor. George persuades the board members to reject Potter’s proposal; they agree, but only on condition that George himself run the Building and Loan. George reluctantly stays in Bedford Falls and gives his school money to his brother.

George returns to the bridge and calls upon Clarence and God to let him live again. His prayer is answered and George is returned to the moment he met Clarence. Small changes that had occurred while he didn’t exist, such as his daughter’s petals in his pocket, his crashed car, and even the weather being windy instead of snowy, are now just as they were, but George runs home filled with a new appreciation of what he has accomplished. There, he finds that his friends and family have collected a huge amount of money to save George and the Building & Loan from scandal and ruin. The newly arrived Harry proposes a toast to his brother, “the richest man in town.” Seeing how many lives he has touched, and the difference he has made to the town (and having helped Clarence earn his wings), George Bailey realizes that despite his problems, he “really has a wonderful life.”

Minority Report

  • Directors: Steven Spielberg
  • Producers: Gerald R Molen, Bonnie Curtis, Walter F Parkes, Jan de Bont
  • Writers: Screenplay, Scott Frank, Jon Cohen, Short Story, Philip K Dick, Uncredited, John August
  • Genres: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Neal McDonough

In 2054, John Anderton is a member of an experimental Washington, D.C. police force known as Precrime, which uses future visions generated by three “precogs”, mutated humans with precognition abilities, to stop murders. Though a respected member of the force, Anderton has been addicted to an illegal psychoactive drug since the disappearance of his son Sean, which also caused his wife Lara to leave him. With the Precrime concept poised to go nationwide, the system is audited by Danny Witwer, a member of the Department of Justice. During the audit, the precogs predict that Anderton will murder a man named Leo Crow in 36 hours; believing the incident to be a setup by Witwer, who is aware of Anderton’s addiction, and given his own ignorance of Leo Crow’s existence prior to this point, Anderton attempts to hide the case and quickly departs the area before Witwer begins a manhunt for him. Anderton seeks the advice of Dr. Iris Hineman, the lead researcher of the Precrime technology. She explains to Anderton that the three precogs—the children of drug addicts using experimental drugs years ago—may see different visions of the future. When this happens, the system only provides data on the two reports which agree; a “minority report”, showing the futures where the perpetrators may not have actually committed a murder, is discarded. According to Dr. Hineman, the female precog Agatha is likely the one who witnessed the minority report.

At a banquet to celebrate the success of the Precrime unit and Burgess, Anderton plays Agatha’s vision of the Lively murder for the gathered crowd, clearly showing Burgess as the murderer. As Burgess sneaks off to confront Anderton, a new precrime report is created: Anderton is the victim and Burgess is the murderer. When Burgess finds Anderton, Anderton explains the impossible situation: if Burgess kills Anderton, he proves the system works but at the cost of a life sentence, while if he does not, the system will not have worked and the Precrime division will be shut down. Burgess resolves the paradox by killing himself. The Precrime program is shut down, all those jailed as a result of Precrime are pardoned and released, and the precogs are given the chance to lead a full life. Anderton and Lara remarry and start a new family.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  • Directors: David Fincher
  • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Cean Chaffin
  • Writers: Screenplay, Eric Roth, Screen story, Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, Short story, F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P Henson, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton

The elderly Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is on her deathbed with her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches in August 2005. Daisy tells the story of a blind clockmaker named Gateau (Elias Koteas), who was commissioned to create a clock to hang in the New Orleans train station. After receiving news of his son’s death in World War I, he continued work on his clock, but intentionally designed it to run backward, in the hope that it would bring back those who died in the war. After her cryptic story, Daisy asks Caroline to read aloud from a diary containing photographs and postcards written by Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Caroline begins to read as the story transitions to Benjamin’s narration.

On November 11, 1918, just as the people of New Orleans are celebrating the end of World War I, a baby boy is born with the appearance and physical maladies of an elderly man. The mother of the baby dies shortly after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), takes the baby and abandons him on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a couple who work at the nursing home, find the baby. Queenie, who is unable to conceive, decides to take the baby in as her own, against Tizzy’s wishes. She names the baby Benjamin.

In the 2005 hospital room, the hurricane raging outside downs the electrical system. As Caroline briefly leaves the room, Daisy passes away, her wish of seeing Benjamin again seemingly answered by a hummingbird hovering outside the storm-drenched windows. Against the sounds of the city’s emergency sirens and reports of breached levees, the backwards clock is shown in a basement, still working, as floodwaters envelope the storage room where it is kept.