There are movies. And then… there are moments. Cinematic surprises. Often the films that touch me most are the ones that I didn’t see coming. I go to the cinema or my mailbox (Netflix) looking for a bit of escapism. Entertainment. Nothing more. But, there are times when the relevance of a movie to my own life is frighteningly accurate. Sometimes a film, though not mirroring my world, carries with it a message that haunts me… residing in my mind for days, weeks or months following its viewing. Motion pictures are, quite obviously, subjective. I don’t expect all of humanity to hear and understand the same significance that I do in a film I adore. As a matter of fact, I don’t assume others will even enjoy a movie that has touched my soul. This is part of the beauty of being human. We see things differently and films are, without question, a primarily visual experience.
Here is a small sampling of a few films that have been relevant… made me sit up and pay attention… forced me to face the world for what it is… or, quite simply, changed my life in some indefinable manner. I think this entry will also serve as a springboard for a NEW BLOG where I can post my musings about film exclusively. I’ll try to do this without major spoilage. I’d hate to give something away.
Into the Wild (2007)
Tagline: Your great adventure on Alaska
There are no words for how hard this movie hit me. No words at all. It was so intense, in fact, that I have only watched it one time. I was impressed enough to write a quick blog post. I do intend to revisit it. Someday soon, perhaps. Do I want to give up everything in my life and venture into the Alaskan wilderness? In reality? No. In theory? Yes.
“The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences.”
“When you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it.”
“It should not be denied that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations. Absolute freedom. And the road has always led west.”
“Some people feel like they don’t deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past.”
Inside I’m Dancing (2004)
Tagline: Live life like you mean it.
I went through a “I’m going to watch everything in the James McAvoy filmography” phase and Inside I’m Dancing (aka: Rory O’Shea Was Here) made me laugh and made me cry and left me in awe of life. Primarily it is a tale of independence and youth and freedom and rebellion and friendship. The two main characters just happen to be disabled. More people need to see this movie.
"Parakeets don't mate with armadillos. That' the end of it."
“Oh, it's the truth you want, is it? Okay, here's some. If you want to be equal, then you have to show people the same respect that you demand of them! In the real world, if you insult some guy in a pub, you expect to get hammered! If you come home in the middle of the night, you don't expect to find the help waiting in and if a woman says no to you, you accept that maybe you're not the right man for her. You don't assume you have an automatic right to love because you're in a wheelchair!”
Hope Floats (1998)
Tagline: When life fell apart, love fell into place.
I know. This one is so hopelessly mainstream and chick flickie. Context: It came out the summer my marriage imploded (the first time) and the parallels were startling. There was infidelity involved. I moved to live with my parents… taking our child with me. I went through a sizeable depression and I desperately wished (at the time) for someone from my past to swoop in and, in essence, rescue me from my circumstances. But, as we all know, life usually does not mimic film. Still, I saw the movie probably three or four times in the theater. It drew me in like moth to flame and I kept going back.
“Once upon a time your mama knew what it meant to shine.”
“Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome. That's what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will... ”
“People fall in love. They fall right back out. It happens all the time.”
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Tagline: This is not a love story. This is a story about love.
Finally! A movie with a spot on portrayal of relationships as opposed to the happy-go-lucky crap Hollywood usually shoves in our faces. No punches are pulled and the narrator lays it out straight from the very beginning: “This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie 'The Graduate'. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent's marriage she'd only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.” There is snark. There is love. There is sarcasm. There is obsession. There is truth.
“People don't realize this, but loneliness is underrated.”
“I guess I just figured, why make something disposable, like a building, when you can make something that last forever, like a greeting card.”
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Critic: “Like a dream, Howl’s Moving Castle, enfolds the audience and carries them to a magical world beyond their imaginations.” ~Charles Solomon, Animation Critic/Historian
Who control’s your destiny? Are you bound by some unnamed curse or are you master of your own life? I can’t even begin to detail the number of common recurring themes that run through this film. Beauty is only skin deep. Be the master of your own fate. The list is rather extensive. Obviously, these are themes that we continue to need in our lives. Yes, it is an animated film. Don’t let that deter you.
“When you're old, all you want to do is stare at the scenery. It's so strange. I've never felt so peaceful before.”
“After the war, they won't recall they ever were human.”
“I feel terrible, like there's a weight on my chest. A heart's a heavy burden.”
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Tagline: He's Expecting You.
I’m not even a big Brad Pitt fan, but this movie… It. Gets. To. Me. The film was far from successful at the box office. In fact, most people scoff when they discover that I love it. True, it is not cinematic brilliance. It is, however, a story that I’m glad someone decided to tell.
“Love is passion, obsession, someone you can't live without. If you don't start with that, what are you going to end up with? Fall head over heels. I say find someone you can love like crazy and who'll love you the same way back. And how do you find him? Forget your head and listen to your heart. I'm not hearing any heart. Run the risk, if you get hurt, you'll come back. Because, the truth is there is no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love - well, you haven't lived a life at all. You have to try. Because if you haven't tried, you haven't lived.”
“I want you to sing with rapture and dance like a dervish.”
“Don't blow smoke up my ass, it will ruin my autopsy.”
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Tagline: Before they could stand together, they had to stand alone.
Ah, John Hughes… you captured moody teen angst so well. Pretty in Pink? Not for me. Sixteen Candles? Meh. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Genius. Weird Science? Weird. The Breakfast Club? Poignant. But this… Some Kind of Wonderful was my movie. “Why?” you ask. Simple. In 1987 I was in junior high and I had a terrible crush on a boy one grade ahead. He wanted nothing to do with me. I know because I asked him out on one of our lame boarding school weekend movie nights. I was short and painfully skinny and I was teased for many a thing including my stringy, straw-like hair. It was also a well-known fact that I was scrappy and could probably take on any boy close to my age… and win. I was a tomboy. And in this movie the tomboy gets the guy. THE TOMBOY! It was, though silly, a life-altering concept for me. For the record, four years later… I got that boy I’d crushed on in junior high and he was far hotter than Eric Stoltz, believe you me.
“Well, I like art. I work in a gas station. My best friend is a tomboy. These things don't fly too well in the American high school.”
“Keith: You can't tell a book by its cover. Watts: No, but you can tell how much it's gonna cost you.”
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Tagline: No ordinary love story...
It was ninth grade English class. It was the first time I had read a play. It was the first time I had read Shakespeare. I was enamored and I strongly felt that I was being gypped by only seeing the words on the page. Oh, our teacher had made us read aloud certain passages but we were ill-equipped. It was so inadequate. And then, when we were finished reading the play, she brought out the VCR. I’ll never forget it. It was strongly edited for my super-conservative Christian boarding school, but that didn’t matter to me. The Bard and I began a love affair that is still going strong. Thank you, Franco Zeffirelli. Thank you, Mrs. Bowers.
“Love give me strength.”
“Thus with a kiss I die.”
[I thought I’d keep the quotes simple on that one.]
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Tagline: He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary.
Carpe Diem! Seize the Day! You know you wanted John Keating as your teacher. Well, maybe not, but I certainly did. I was only fifteen, but I desperately wanted an educator so immersed in the written word that he/she lived it and breathed it and felt its power. This film celebrates art, literature and meaningful living. It teaches that going against the grain is a beautiful thing.
"Sucking all the marrow out of life doesn't mean choking on the bone."
“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
The Lake House (2006)
Tagline: How do you hold on to someone you’ve never met?
This is a love story. The tale is told through the correspondence between two people who occupy two different times. A key prop (so to speak) is a copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion which is my favorite of her novels. It, too, is a story of two people separated by circumstances beyond their control. I have spent a lot of my life separated from those I love and care about. It is part and parcel of the whole ‘Third Culture Kid’ (Google it.) gig though I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything. Something about this film and the way the story was told… the actors narrating the hand written letters they are writing to one another… I can’t describe it.
“Life is not a book, Alex. It can be over in a second.”
“One man I can never meet. Him, I would like to give my whole heart to.”
I could continue. There are more: Gladiator, Casablanca, Out of Africa, My Fair Lady, The Shawshank Redemption, The Phantom of the Opera, etc. What about you? Which film has touched your soul? It doesn’t have to be an award winning movie. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be good. Look at my list. I promise not to laugh. Please, share.
“Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.” ~Steven Spielberg