Archives For Movies

It is that time of year when many of us send our children back to school. It brings back great memories to me about my education. I reminds me of what I love about the learning process and the teachers who made it all worthwhile.

I was a decent student but I always needed someone to push me to become better in my studies as well as in life. I would not have made it through my education without the help of my mother who is a teacher by trade or by a handful of great teachers who inspired me along the way. Unfortunately, teachers are often some of the most hard-working, unappreciated and underpaid people in our society, so I tip my hat to them. They should be treated well because they have the power to motivate students to find greatness. This is my attempt to honor them.

Movies can be a helpful way to learn and be inspired, especially for a teacher. Here are some of my favorite inspirational movies about teaching in no particular order.

1. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

Seeing the potential in every student, no matter how distant he or she may be, is a key message of the film. In the movie, Mr. Keating played by Robin Williams does this uniquely with his students to help them understand that they are passionate, young men ready to “seize the day.”

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2. Renaissance Man (1994)

This is a movie that flew under the radar in the 1990s. It follows Danny DeVito, who is simply trying to find a job. He lands one helping out soldiers at a military base who need basic life skills, especially in the English language. He is teaching adults who should have learned many simple English reading and writing skills earlier in life and revealed in the process why it is important. My grandmother tutored English to adults and young students until the day she died at 93. This movie reminds me that there are always people who need a good teacher, no matter how young, old, rich or poor.

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3. Finding Forrester (2000)

A teacher can be a mentor in life as well. In this case, famous recluse author William Forrester spends time with a young student from a rough part of town teaching him not just about writing but about how to handle himself in life despite incredible odds. Often times, the student is also teaching the teacher like in Finding Forrester.

“You write your first draft with your heart. You re-write with your head.”

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4. Stand and Deliver (1988)

Every student is worth the investment to find their potential. Jamie, the teacher, does the unthinkable by teaching calculus to an inner-city Los Angeles school. Based on a true story, Jamie brought humor and fun into the classroom to teach a very complicated subject.

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5. School of Rock (2003)

This movie is a reminder that music education is essential to a broader renaissance education. When you bring Jack Black in to teach, it is even better. School of Rock also serves as a reminder that in order to be a great teacher, you must absolutely love the subject you teach.

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Other great movies about teaching worth watching:

Lean on Me, Good Will Hunting. Pay it Forward, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Yoda-Luke), Precious, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Karate Kid, Summer School, Dangerous Minds, and Half Nelson

 

What is your favorite movie about teaching?

 

The other day I was driving in my car and The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want was playing. It is an iconic song from the Stones but it is also the memorable opening song played during the funeral procession in the movie, The Big Chill.

I remember my parents in the 1980s sharing how much that movie meant to them and how it captured their generation and its joys and struggles. My parents were born in 1944 and 1945 so they would associate themselves with the Baby Boomer Generation but as the joke in the movie Field of Dreams went, they had two fifties and movies straight into the seventies. In other words, they didn’t fully associate themselves with the hippie movement yet they experienced the complexities of the Vietnam era. Like my parents, I have always felt like I was in a lost generation being born in 1978 and am often thrown in either the younger part of Generation X or older in Generation Y.

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Harper Lee said it best in the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird,

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Lee’s wisdom applies to how we feel about people of different generations. In my observations, it seems like the newest generation seems to be labeled as the most “selfish” when if we study history, each younger generation was judged in a similar way. For example, in life I have witnessed many people blame the Baby Boomer generation for their perceived lack of morals but as they are getting older, it has given us time to let history tell their story better. By giving them time, we are learning that they are a generation with great strengths and complexities and we can better understand their impact on the way we live today.

I believe we will be better people if we take time to learn about each other, which will minimize incomplete judgments. The past century has been defined by many things but one of them is the way movies can tell each generation’s story. I have compiled a helpful list of movies that best define each generation. The list is compiled from my personal observations, research and comparison of similar lists online and from polling friends. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this list but my hope is for this to be a way to learn more about our generations through the art of movies.

I isolate three types of movies for each generation; cultural, comedy, and war. I want to know what makes people laugh, how they live and what they fight for. I have watched all of these movies and appreciate them uniquely for what they represent. I hope you will enjoy them too.

The Greatest Generation – The “G.I. Generation” or “WWII Generation” (1925-1939))

Silent Generation / The Boomer Generation – “The Sandwich Generation” or “War Babies” Born 1939-1964

Generation X – The “Gen X’ers” or “MTV Generation” Born 1965-1979

Generation Y & Millennials The “Millennial” or “Echo Boomers” Born 1980-1991

Generation Z – The “iGeneration” Born 1991-present

Which movies do you feel best defines your generation? Why?

I hope you get the idea from reading this blog that I love movies.  I am developing multiple lists of movies to share with my children someday.  When I was a kid I remember being exposed to several powerful movies for the first time.  I was inspired by some of them and some of them haunt me until this day.  My mother and I joke now but when I was eight years old I first watched Platoon (1986).  Although a fantastic Oscar worthy film, most would agree it’s hardly one to introduce to an eight year old.  To this day mom keeps apologizing about that, which makes me laugh and I then remind her that I turned out just fine.  As that semi-innocent eight year old, I dreamed of being a soldier. I think she felt that me watching Platoon would provide some perspective about what the military could look like. Yep, after a couple of hours of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam, that was enough for me to abandon that ambition. (Thanks mom?)

Like anything in culture, each person has their own filter in what they are able to absorb.  We can be molded by the world so I have become quite self-conscious on how my worldview is formed.  It is a reminder that the world can be scary. I’m a parent now and my wife and I are trying to figure out what our kids should absorb when it comes to education and entertainment.  Recently my kids (2 and 3) and I were watching Aladdin and it is one of the darkest kids movies I’ve seen. In fact, most Disney movies are like that I’ve noticed. I recently read about The Top 26 Most Disturbing Kids Movies by Babble.com.  Is your young child watching one of these?  My wife has usually been the wise one to ask the question,

“Should the kids be watching this?”

In your mind you think that it is a great movie about heroes, villains, and a family uniting to save the world.  What is wrong with that? Wait…but they hit and the even (gulp), kill the villain.

The tension is strong because we don’t just want to expose our kids to just fairy tales.  We want them to be inspired but also see what real life looks like.  One of my favorite Christian thinkers and commentators of culture is Phil Cooke.  In his recent blog, The Change Revolution he noted,

After all, if we filmed the Bible, much of it would be R-rated, and occasionally worse. The Bible doesn’t gloss over real life and God apparently wasn’t afraid to tell real, authentic stories. I think the culture would respect our message much more if we stopped producing just cheesy, G-rated films and started telling gritty stories about real life.

Should we sugar coat life?

My check as a parent now is questioning “what, when, and why” I should introduce when it comes to entertainment, learning, etc.  Most parents would agree that the book To Kill a Mockingbird has a life-changing message that every child should read.  But I’m challenged to rethink when the girls are ready for such an important message.  Most importantly, I am are challenged to pray for the wisdom to figure this out on a daily basis. Romans 12:2 cautions us to never forget that we must go ultimately to God for this discernment.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What was the most disturbing movie you first watched as a kid? 

If you are a parent, how do you filter what you share with your kids? 

Your Top 5 Comedy Movies…

November 21, 2011 — 24 Comments

A warning to any person who interviews to work with me.

I ask a lot of questions but to be honest assuming I have done my research on you and know your work ethic, I want to a few simple things.

I will learn more about you from asking this question than fifty others.

What are your top fives movie comedies?

Over the years I love asking people what their Top 5 (fill in the blank) as it keeps great conversation and I do learn more about that person in the process.  If you have read the book or watched the movie High Fidelity (2000), you will get the glimpse of the power of identifying your  “Top 5″ of anything; your top 5 breakup songs, Top 5 places to live, Top 5 embarrassments in life, Top 5 songs about death, Top 5 _____.  There is a great line in High Fidelity and I don’t completely agree with it but the idea always amuses me.

“I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the (expletive) truth.”

Ultimately I do care “who” you are but this sometimes can be more fun.

So let’s have fun.

Here is my rule for identifying your top 5 comedies:  The comedy must be at least 5 years old so you can test if it has “staying power.”  If you don’t understand, there is a possibility for The Hangover to eclipse this list.  You will notice that all of these movies are incredibly quotable.

Tommy Boy: Pure dumb and clean humor.

“Brothers don’t shake hands. Brothers gotta hug.”

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The finest of English “humour” to hit this side of the pond.

“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

Wedding Crashers: The classic buddy movie…never leave your brother behind.
“Never walk away from a crasher in a funny jacket! Rule #115!”
The Big Lebowski: Crass it may be but it is the most quotable movie…ever.
“At least I’m housebroken.”
Caddyshack: I grew up on this movie and being a golfer, it makes that much more special.
“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”
The Fringe list: The Hangover, Airplane, Anchorman, Old School, Animal House, Strange Brew, Top Secret, High Fidelity, and National Lampoon’s Vacation (and Christmas Vacation of course).

When I need the best laugh, I simply press play to watch The Big Lebowksi. Any Lebowski fan will love this line,

“Obviously you’re not a golfer.”

So have you thought about your top 5?

Would you believe there is a “help” website to find your top five?  Check it out here.

Comedy likes are so personal and can have tremendous variety.  Take a look at these.

College Humor’s Top 100 Comedies

Only these guys would come up with a countdown to awesomeness like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Anchorman, The Hangover, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Glorious top 5.  I want these guys running the country. No wait…the world.

Time Out London’s Top 100 Comedies

How typical that the English would come up with two Monty Pythons in the top 5 and This is Spinal Tap.  I guess they need to represent their homeland best.  I do appreciate their Zucker brother humor by keeping Airplane as #2.

AFI’s 100 Years, a Hundred Laughs

The irony of their top two is that Some Like It Hot and Tootsie both feature cross dressing.  Although I love AFI and these two movies are they the top two comedies of all times?  Hmm…

So…

What are your top 5 comedies and why? 

Who hasn’t asked this question,“Will they remember me when I’m gone?”

The question haunts all of us.  I often feel like I am surrounded by people constantly bothered by that question so they are frightened and fighting incredibly hard for relevance.  I am one of them I must confess.  The question implies that we should have “worth” if we are to be remembered.  There is great truth to that feeling.

When watching the movie Troy (2004), the cheesiest line but perhaps the most important one is the war call from Achilles,

“Do you know what’s there, waiting beyond that beach? Immortality, take it, it’s yours!”

Achilles knows well that the battle he fights is not about that day but for ages to be told.  Odysseus in the movie goes further,

 “Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?”-Odysseus

*Disclaimer folks, these are great sensationalized Hollywood lines and not pulled from Homer’s The Odyssey. Be nice to me because we can still learn from them. 

My father recently took our family to go visit our grandfather’s tombstone at Jefferson Barracks outside of St. Louis.  It was Memorial Day so we were honoring his life and service for our country.  It is safe to say that hundreds of years from now that tombstone will continue to be there.  I’m sure my grandfather would be proud knowing that we continue to visit his grave to remember his sacrifice.  I imagine also that my other deceased relatives appreciate us remembering their lives.

There is a deeper part of this question we must examine.  It isn’t just being remembered on a tombstone, a memorial, or in a biography.

It hit me about 10 years ago when I was a Young Life leader and I was talking to one of my students who just accepted Christ.  He told me, “Chi Chi (my nickname), I just love that my name is now written in God’s book.”  I learned more from him about eternity than a thousand theologians.  This Psalm sums it up,

“your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

We may be haunted by the vastness of eternity but be confident that according to this above promise, we are written permanently into His book. 

Be Ferris Bueller

May 18, 2011 — 9 Comments

Lately I’ve been thinking about one of the finest and most amusing movies to come out of the 1980’s.  I wish I could give the director John Hughes a big hug for the movies he wrote and directed during that period  But the one that always makes me smile the most is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Who else growing up didn’t want to be Ferris Bueller?  

He has great friends with cool names like Cameron and Sloane.  He gets the girl.  He wears a classic beret  driving a vintage 1961 Ferrari  250 GT California.  He knows the city of Chicago inside and out.  I’m from St. Louis and would even consider naming my son “Ferris”, one of the finest Chicago names of course.  He is pure awesome.

Here is what we all can learn from Ferris.

1.  Be spontaneous: High school,  like our lives can provide a sense of monotony full with meeting everyone elses expectations.  Sure, it is important to go to school, work, and go through your routine.  They are all noble things.  But from my experience there is nothing better than a good spontaneous adventure.  Wherever you live, wake up one day with your family, friend or loved one and just do something totally outside of what feels “normal.”  I’m not advocating stealing a Ferrari or skipping school but you get the idea. Odds are there are some amazing things to do where you live so go for it.  “Save Ferris.”

2.  Avoid the Dean Rooneys: Dean Rooney represents the crazy person in your life who thinks they know everything about anything and feels the need to go out of their way to tell you that you aren’t doing something right.  He is the Pharisee judging us and preventing us from living life to its fullest.  They may do this in good intention but a pure legalist gives you no room for joy. Oh and also don’t let a French cuisine Matre D’ stop you from having a good time either.

3.  Appreciate the finer things:  Yes, even a 17-year-old Ferris with his friends visited an art museum and ate at a nice French restaurant.  Unfortunately, we are in a media culture full of so many “entertainment” distractions.  Slow down your pace and read some classic literature and visit that free museum.  Next time you just want to eat a burger and fries, go wild and try some new international cuisine.  None of these things have to be expensive either so be creative.

4.  Drive a Ferrari with great friends: Ferris would never go on an adventure alone.  Many people unfortunately view themselves as an “island” especially men.   Not Ferris. He saw life as an adventure to be shared.  Plus, think of how you can help the “Camerons” in your life get out of their shell.

5.  Join a parade.  In Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he describes how his friend Bob Goff would arrange for flash parades on his street.  How cool is that?  Why not join one?   You can sing Twist & Shout, Danke Schoen, or whatever else floats your boat.  Just get out there and be a little crazy.

Bonus: If you can help some kid get out of summer school, he or she will be eternally grateful and you’ll never be without friends.

Last but not least, our friend Charlie Sheen delivers his most #winning performance of his career in the movie.  Don’t miss it.

I could go on and on with the  lessons I’m learning from Ferris even as an adult but I’ll leave you with his wisdom.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. -Ferris

What do you love and learn most about Ferris?

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.