What we learn from movies

June 2, 2005
A newspaper columnist recently wrote an article on how movies can transform our lives. For example, she says a movie about Patsy Cline made her a lifelong fan of country music.
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When she saw that her boyfriend cries in movies and likes chick flicks, she decided he was safe to marry. Sharing the humor of a Monty Python movie helped her bond with her kids.

Other notable films having an influence on her were The Shawshank Redemption and Dead Poets Society. Also, A Beautiful Mind helped her understand mental illness, while Hotel Rwanda evoked her sympathy for abandoned African children.

I won't say that any movie had a profound impact on my life. But some memorable films stick in my mind for a variety of reasons. Airplane was exceedingly funny, with its satirical joke-a-minute pace. I especially liked the segment where the male and female announcers on the public-address system at an airport began arguing with each other over romantic issues.

Tin Men was memorably funny in its true-to-life portrayal of aluminum-siding salesmen, some of whom are entirely devoid of ethics. They try to keep up appearances while scrambling to make a dollar by any means possible. I suggest the movie be viewed by financially innocent young adults when they embark on life's journey and must negotiate a world abundantly populated by flimflam artists.

An Officer and a Gentleman is a film that should be viewed by young people thinking about enlisting in the military. It shows that basic training is tough, but that an ability to endure guff and stress for a short period of time can produce enormous rewards. That particular movie also happens to be a chick flick.

Saving Private Ryan shows why people coming of age during World War II are being called The Greatest Generation. The film also is noteworthy for how authentically it depicts the tanks and other equipment of World War II. I believe there was a bit of faking only in the scenes of fighter aircraft. The movie "Patton," in contrast, made no attempt to replicate World War II armor.

Another World War II film, Twelve O'clock High, shows that tough bosses can be effective. I especially liked the part where Gen. Savage, annoyed upon discovering that his executive officer is not on the base, sends MPs to look for him with orders to bring him back under arrest. The only thing marring the plot was the general's nervous breakdown.

Memphis Belle is a film showing that, contrary to today's perception, we don't live in an age of unprecedented stress. In one scene from the movie, a member of a World War II bomber crew learns that their next mission will be over Bremen, an especially well-defended target in Germany. When he hears the news, he tells the rest of the crew: "We're dead men! We're dead!" And he means it. With the high losses bombers were suffering over Germany, he felt certain that he and his crew wouldn't survive their next mission.

My all-time favorite movie is Being There. The plot involves an imbecile who is mistakenly assumed to be an astute economist and financial genius because he happens to come up with appropriate but vacuous platitudes at just the right moments. For those toiling in the cubicle culture, the film explains why corporate life can be so Dilbertesque. Without stretching credulity, it satirically shows how dross rises to the top in today's executive hierarchy. If you happen to view this film and think the plot is an exaggeration, I can assure you that I have known many Chauncey Gardeners in executive ranks where I've worked.

Finally, a word of caution. I had intended to see Hotel Rwanda, but by mistake I ended up at Hotel Ramada. All I saw was a dingy lobby, an indoor swimming pool smelling of chlorine, and a free breakfast of weak coffee and sticky rolls. So make sure you get the address of the theater correct.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
Send feedback to MDeditor @ penton.com

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