This controversial film has been mined for political meaning by both the left and the right. But whatever side you're on, the subject of this film is, without a doubt, development. Paraplegic ex-Marine Jake Sully takes part in a mission to the distant planet Pandora in exchange for surgery that will enable him to walk again. There he learns of a greedy corporate figurehead's intentions of driving off the native humanoid Na'vi in order to mine their woodland for its precious material. As Jake infiltrates the Na'vi in order to gain intelligence, he bonds with the Na'vi, falls in love with one of them, and helps them fight for their property rights. Director James Cameron told a reporter from The Times of India in 2010 that Pandora is "a fictionalized fantasy version of what our world was like, before we started to pave it and build malls, and shopping centers. So it's really an evocation of the world we used to have."
Matt King (George Clooney), a landowner in Hawaii as well as a loyal but indifferent husband and father of two girls, is forced to re-examine both his past and his future when his wife suffers a boating accident, enters a coma and dies. The event leads to a rapprochement with his daughters while Matt wrestles with the decision of whether or not to sell the family's land, which was handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Richard Dreyfuss entered with his performance as Duddy Kravitz in this film about how ambition and greed can drive someone at the expense of his own happiness. Duddy is an 18-year-old Jewish kid from Montreal whose mother is dead, and who grew up poor with a father who drives a cab and pimps on the side to send Duddy's older brother to medical school. Duddy dreams of striking it rich through real estate, and does everything from producing films of bar mitzvahs to (unknowingly) smuggling heroin in order to make it. Along the way, he hurts his girlfriend, upsets his grandfather, loses all his friends, and even paralyzes his best employee, all the while making himself more and more miserable. But somehow his ambition to own land is easy to understand, and he's a highly likable character. In the end, he gets the land he wants to develop. But then what? Watch it and find out.
Mobster Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty) arrives in California in the 1940s, assigned to oversee the L.A. rackets, and is seduced by the glamour of Hollywood as well as actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening) though he won't leave his wife and children. Siegel has a vision to transform a barren stretch of Nevada desert into an oasis of gambling and entertainment—the seeds from which Las Vegas was sown. Funded by his gangster bosses, including Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley), Siegel soars past his $6 million budget, in part because Virginia has embezzled $2 million of it. In trouble with his bosses, Siegel tells Virginia to keep the money and flies back to L.A. to go to prison. In real life, as in the film, Bugsy would not live to see his dream of Las Vegas come true.
Field of Dreams
"If you build it, they will come." That's what a mysterious voice tells newly-minted Midwestern farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), and it can't be far from the one that is apparently whispering within the minds of developers Go the Distance LLC, who want to turn the Field of Dreams movie set, which still sits on a cornfield in Dyersville, Iowa, into All-Star Ballpark Heaven complex. In Ray's case, "it" is a baseball field in place of a plowed-under cornfield, out of which emerges the long-dead Shoeless Joe Jackson, who later brings the seven other players banned along with him in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. At first, no one else can see the players but eventually, after some major stress and an adventure to Fenway Park, among other places, hundreds of people show up to watch the games. Ray's farm is saved from financial ruin and he realizes the catcher is his dad. Sappy, yes, but if only all projects came to such sweet fruition.
It's 1937 in Los Angeles. Private detective Jake Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to spy on her husband Hollis, builder of the city's water supply system. Gittes photographs Hollis Mulwray with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, discovers that he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Hollis Mulwray is found dead, Jake is warned not to pursue the case but does so anyway, plunging into a complex web of deceit as he slowly uncovers state and municipal corruption, land use and real estate, along with a case of incest and at least one murder—all of it related to the city's water supply.
Based only his surname, "Mac" MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) is chosen by his big boss, Knox Oil & Gas billionaire Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster), to travel to a remote Scottish village to secure the property rights for an oil refinery they want to build. When Mac, who isn't really Scottish, teams up with the local Knox representative Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) and starts the negotiations, the locals are keen to get their hands on some money and give up their hardscrabble life, but they feign indifference to get a better deal. However, a hermit and beach scavenger, Ben Knox, lives in a shack on the crucial beach which he also owns. Happer is more interested in the Northern Lights and Danny in a surreal girl with webbed feet, Marina. Mac is used to a Houston office with fax machines but is forced to negotiate on Ben's terms, and in doing so, adapts to the village's slow pace. When he's sent back home to Houston to set up the Happer Institute--a combination oceanographic research institute and way-offshore oil refinery, Mac is lost and lonely, changed forever. This sweet and whimsical comedy-drama turns 30 this year. Who'd have thought when it was released that it foresaw the future? Think: Donald Trump's plan to plop a golfing resort on a strip of Aberdonian coastline, which hit a glitch when the farmer living in a trailer there declined to sell up--and held out even after a personal visitation from Trump himself.
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But came Down a Mountain
Here's an obscure but winning film from 1995 that's reminiscent of 1950s British comedies. Hugh Grant stars as a pompous cartographer who arrives in a Welsh village to survey its mountain. When he finds that it measures under 1,000 ft. and therefore, technically only a hill, the village's identity is at stake. What follows are hilarious and hair-brained schemes to build an earth cairn on top of the hill to "grow" it back into a mountain.
Manon of the Spring
Jean de Florette and its sequel, Manon of the Spring, based on two novels of the same titles by French novelist Marcel Pagnol, celebrate the nobility of farming. In the first, Jean (Gerard Depardieu) is an educated city dweller, a hunchback who has always dreamed of farming. But when he sinks his life savings into a parcel of land in arid Provence, he and his family spiral into ruin. Ruthless neighbor Le Patet (Yves Montand) knows there is a spring hidden on Jean's property that could save the de Florette family, and secretly blocks it. The struggle to haul enough water to keep the farm going kills Jean in the end. In the sequel, Jean's beautiful daughter Manon takes her rightful revenge on Le Patet—and how.
A band of pre-teens living in the "Goon Docks" neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon, are spending their last weekend together before their families depart in the face of foreclosure and certain home demolition in order to expand the Astoria Country Club. They are called to adventure when they stumble upon an old Spanish map that leads them on an adventure to unearth the long-lost fortune of One-Eyed Willie, a legendary 17th-century pirate. The Goonies pursue Willie's antique ship in an underground cave while being chased by the town's crime family, but everything ends well. As the Astoria Country Club demands one Goonie's father to sign over the deed to his property, another Goonie discovers that his marble bag contains a large handful of jewels taken from the ship. And guess what? The jewels' value is more than enough to save everyone's homes. If only the housing crisis could have been resolved as artfully.
It's a Wonderful Life
There is much to be found in It's A Wonderful Life, not least of which is its theme of savings & loan vs. big bank. When the S&L's chief, George Bailey, faces certain ruin from the local big bank president and slum lord, Old Man Potter, he feels so badly about having let down the townspeople that he jumps off a bridge—only to be guided by a rather hapless guardian angel on a tour of what the town would be like if he let it fall into Potter's hands. It's a feel-good movie that can be read into deeply. Hmmm...Fannie and Freddie vs. Wall Street?
Promised Land has been criticized for being implausible and overly politicized, but whatever your take on fracking, this film is undoubtedly a product of our times. Corporate salesman Steve Butler (Matt Damon) arrives in a rural town with his sales partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand). With the town having been hit hard by the Great Recession, the two outsiders believe the locals will be all too happy to accept their company's offer to pay them big-time for drilling rights to their properties. But their job is complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by a stoner (John Krasinski) who also vies with Steve over his local love interest. In the end, Steve gets fired and gets the girl, the town doesn't get fracked, and the stoner turns out to be a phony.
A young Carl Fredrickson meets a young adventure-spirited girl named Ellie. They both dream of going to a lost land in South America, but instead marry and make a happy home together. They promise each other to travel together to Paradise Falls and build a house there. Many years later, Ellie dies and Carl, who's lonely, refuses to move from their house despite being pressured to give up his house to developers. When he accidentally hits the construction worker who damaged his mailbox, he is sentenced to move to a retirement home. But before they can take him, he ties hundreds of balloons to his house and flies it away to Paradise Falls.
You Can't Take It With You
The whimsical, eccentric Sycamore household is run by Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), a former businessman who's turned his back on commerce to enjoy life, but everyone does just what he or she pleases. Penny Sycamore, Grandpa's daughter, is a novelist because someone delivered a typewriter to her by mistake. Her husband makes firecrackers in his basement with the help of Mr. DePinna, an iceman who showed up at the Sycamore doorstep one day and never left. Their daughter, Essie (Ann Miller), imagines that she's a prima ballerina, even though her teacher, Boris, says that, "confidentially," her work "stinks!" Essie's husband, Ed, sell Essie's candy, wrapping each package in paper from a used printing press that dispenses anarchistic slogans. The one normal member of the household is Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur), who's in love with wealthy Tony Kirby (James Stewart). Of course, when the aristocratic Kirbys come to dinner, the event is a disaster after which everyone gets arrested. Tony Kirby's father, Kirby Sr. (Edward Arnold) is transformed from a stock stuffed shirt into a ruthless, grasping tycoon, eager to buy up every house on the Sycamores' block to make room for a munitions plant. But thanks to the whimsical Sycamores, Kirby undergoes a rebirth as a free spirit.