Friday, October 05, 2007

The "There are No Easy Answers" List

Some time ago, my husband and I were chatting about movies that raised questions about culture, society, religion, destiny, the nature of courage and sacrifice, the dark side of heroism, and other interesting topics of conversation. We like movies that entertain, but we also like them to give us fodder for conversation on the way home in the car. These are movies that make us think beyond our boundaries, challenge us to see points of view from a place we might be uncomfortable standing, or just make us go "Huh," all the while showing us a good time. They didn't take the easy way out, and often asked some very interesting questions. Some of these movies are on our list because they are, in a word, different than anything that came before, though oft duplicated after. So, for your edification, here is our list, and a note or two about why we found them worth a second look.

Brazil -- bureaucracy: the new terrorism
Gattica-- "There Is No Gene For The Human Spirit"
Insomnia -- does the end justify the means?
The Matrix (1) -- what is reality?
Memento -- "Some memories are best forgotten"
Hamlet (2000) -- does perception define reality? Shakespeare revisioned
High Noon -- is courage stepping forward when others step back?
The Devil's Advocate -- "vanity: definitely my favorite sin" -- a lawyer without a soul may seem redundant, but not in this case
Broadcast News -- where Hell is defined as the lowering of our standards, bit by bit
Fearless (with Jeff Bridges) -- again, perception vs. reality: if we believe something is true, is it?
Schindler's List -- "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire"
Collateral Damage -- an everyman in extraordinary circumstances
Emperor's Club -- "An idealistic prep school teacher attempts to redeem an incorrigable student" -- but not with the ending you'd expect
Merchant of Venice (with Al Pacino) -- "the quality of mercy is not strained"; religious intolerance from the Jew's point of view
Martin Luther -- What is faith?
Unforgiven -- facing up to one's past
Notorious -- what would you be willing to do for love?

Would you add any to this list? The main criteria is that the movie be both entertaining and thought-provoking. What do you think?



Dana Belfry said...


The Red Violin (love this movie but only if you don't mind subtitles)

TJ Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TJ Bennett said...

Ooo, I haven't caught The Red Violin. I'll have to go check it out. And YES, HOW COULD I FORGET BRAVEHEART?


Cara King said...

Hi, TJ! Here are few of mine:

GLADIATOR: what makes a man a hero?

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS: if one can no longer tell the difference between a conformist and a pod person, isn't it time to worry?

STRANGER THAN FICTION: what price great art?


Anna Louise Lucia said...

Hmmmm... difficult. Too often we go to movies for pure entertainment.

(And if we're going to be talking about Braveheart, I'm going to have to stomp my foot and sulk. Unless we're just dealing with it as the pure ficiton it is. ;-) )

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - even in the midst of war, one man can matter.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE - Nothing is stronger than true love.

*g* Good mix, eh?

Anonymous said...

TJ, I'm in awe of your ability to recognize and sum up a movie's theme with one sentence. Wish I had the same talent.

I saw a very intense movie yesterday: The Kingdom. What I came away with was: Not everyone is the enemy.

I'd like to bring up The Last of the Mohicans too, but can't put it succinctly into one sentence. (Actually I was just looking for an excuse to remember Daniel Day Lewis in loin cloth! :o) LOL)
Maybe: The cost of standing on principals is worth it? See how lousy I am at this.

You fix it, okay? :)

Anonymous said...

OK, I meant "principles" not standing on principals. LOL. It's a funny image though, isn't it? I can think of a few principals I'd like to stand on, too!

where's a copy editor when you need them?


TJ Bennett said...

Cara, I forgot about Stranger than Fiction. Being a writer, I must now flog myself with my USB cable for having done so. *Ouch. Ouch.*

Anna--yes, but you're a Brit. You know the history. We Americans live in blissful ignorance of Scottish history. Who cares if William Wallace was really seven feet tall in real life? LOL! When I visited Robert the Bruce's castle in Scotland, one docent said the Scottish tourism industry loved Mel "right down to cotton socks" for all the new interest he generated in Scotland, btw, :-) but they didn't buy his version of their history either. Ah, well, he looked good in the kilt.

Lynne--I'd like to see The Kingdom. Loved Foxx in Collateral and Ray. And who can think about blurbs while thinking about Daniel Day Lewis in a loin cloth, anyway? :-)


Anonymous said...


I loved this post.

Here are a few of my suggestions:

1. The movie Ray: It showed me that no matter where you come from, you can rise to the top if you're willing to put your heart and soul into something you love. Also, I felt that movie had a good lesson about different ideas or levels of integrity. His wife handled his affairs quietly and without acknowledging it to him until years later. That was her idea of integrity, you know what I mean? I don't think I could do that. Oh, who am I kidding? I know I couldn't do what she did. But there was an element of class in how she handled it.

2. Pride and Prejudice: First impressions are not always accurate. (The initial title of the novel was First Impressions).

3. The Island: Every life is worth something. (Although some people might argue the lesson has something to do with the dangers of cloning.) This movie also showed that there is an indefinable quality that makes a human being alive. You can't just grow a human body like a cabbage. There was a spiritual message in there for me.


Anonymous said...

I agree with several of the ones you've mentioned.

My all time favorite: Casablanca, for the same reason you put for Notorious: "what would you be willing to do for love?" and also "Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes"

It's a Wonderful Life - another "what would you be willing to do for love?" including familial love.

Forrest Gump - "One man can make a difference"

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - "One man can make a difference"

All About Eve - "Ambition and betrayal"

Manchurian Candidate - "Ambition and betrayal"

Yes, I do watch, and like, current movies, but I remember watching the older ones above when I was very young and them all having an impact on me, even at a tender age, an impact that they retained when I became an adult.

Then there are movies that are just silliness and fun, while also having a message; like Fargo, the first 3 Star Wars, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arsenic and Old Lace, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, Terminator movies.

Elizabethtown - "Aamazing things happen when you least expect them" OK, this isn't a "favorite" movie, per se, especially since Kirsten Dunst was so annoying in it, and to be honest, I was only half watching, but I found myself BAWLING by the end of the movie. It's about death and loved ones, and it just hit me. Shows how much writing can have an impact on one's life, even if you don't have anything in common (or so you think) with the lead character (Orlando Bloom).


(Word Verification of the day: "eniyrn" - "Are eny of yer'n kin coming to the dance?")

Hmmm... it didn't post. OK, new WV: qeedzngq (can't do anything good with that one!)

Hmmm... trying #3 (maybe something is wrong with the blog server? I'll stop after this, just in case it posts 3 times)... new WV (a good one) "mgeawztn"; boy, the mega watts in that bulb are really bright!

TJ Bennett said...

TSJ, you crack me up with those word verifications! :-)

I haven't seen Elizabethtown, but I love your other choices. Yes, yes, It's a Wonderful Life! Capra! Stewart! At their best. I made grown military men cry at a Christmas party with that movie one year (seriously, I did. Sarge's and lieutenants, sniffling and wiping their eyes. It was a sight to behold). However, a warning to everyone who THINKS they have seen that movie. If you've seen it chopped up on TV, you haven't seen it. Rent the DVD. You'll see things you've never seen before that WILL MAKE YOU CRY.


Anonymous said...

OK, so the thing with Elizabethtown, I think, was less about the movie than about the topic. It just happens to be on right now, I'm catching the ending, and I'm thinking, "It's Susan Sarandon! *She's* the one who made me cry!" (That, and the topic was one that was still fresh in my mind on a personal level). So, don't rent the movie, just watch the end of it when it comes on cable ;-}

Anonymous said...

Contact - "So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space."
There are a ton of others as movies are sort of a hobby with me - I could be here all day . . .