- What makes a movie great is its dialogue. When the characters are having a conversation that you'd like to join, then it's a great movie.
- Movies should make us better people. There are too many lessons in a good film to regularly hit the "Eject" button on our DVD players and keep making the same mistakes in life.
Wow, I couldn't agree more. Here then is my own take on those two points.
Dialolgue is certainly a differentator between an OK movie and a classic. It takes great writing, great acting and some sort of magic chemistry to really pull of great conversations on the screen. Here's a list of my recent views that I think did it right:
- Junebug -- The plot summary would make you think, "Boooring." But every character feels genuine, and says just what you think they should.
- The Station Agent -- Sweet, funny film with poignant moments throughout. Again, no huge plot twists. Just good conversations.
- 25th Hour -- Reminds me that even 30-year-olds are still growing up, everybody needs good friends, and bad choices always come with consequences.
- V for Vendetta -- The pen is mightier than the sword, and the tongue is mightier than the greatest bomb. Alliteration galore.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang -- This country is a crazy melting pot. And humor (especially in the form of sarcasm) is a great survival tool.
- What's Eating Gilbert Grape -- We all have our burdens, some more than others. But there's still room for us to lead a life that is solely ours. Small towns don't always mean small minds.
How I Apply It
When I say that I want to use film to make me a better human being, I really mean it. Sure, there's a time for pure entertainment, and I enjoy those types of movies too. But I acknowledge it, while also striving to watch other things that will challenge me. You won't find me renting "Underworld" and then claiming it was to learn from the despairing existentialism of immortals. No, I rented that see Kate Beckinsale in a leather outfit, shooting guns and taking on werewolves and vampires. And it delivered.
Most of the time, though, I'm looking for something more. Here's an example.
A few weeks ago Jamie and I watched "Monster", for which Charlize Theron won the Oscar for portraying a prostitute who kills seven of her clients. Sounds fun, huh? It's based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, who was executed by lethal injection in 2002.
This movie was not fun. Not at all. But two things really struck me as I watched it. First, I have no idea what kind of person I would be if I grew up in the same family as Aileen. She never knew her father (a blessing, since he was an insane child molester who commited suicide), was abandoned by her mother, and finally abused by her adoptive grandparents. That is some seriously messed up stuff, enough to scar anybody. Given that background, I may not have turned to hooking, but drug dealing would have probably seemed like a good career. I realized I have it very, very good, and that I basically hit the jackpot when I was born. Unfortunately life ain't always fair, and not everybody is given the same chance. All men are created equal, but they sure aren't created the same.
The second takeaway hit me like a body blow when watching Aileen try to interview for a real job (legal secretary, I think). Of course it goes horribly, and minutes later she's at the bar, ranting and raving to everyone around her about those stupid, useless f@$ckin' lawyers, and how she is better than them anyway.
Last fall I was pushing for a promotion to Director at my company. I felt I had the experience, credentials and proven results to qualify, and that it was just my time. For a while things were looking good and everything was falling into place, but eventually it didn't work out and I made a sideways move in the company, to a job with more responsibility and the same pay.
I reacted exactly like Aileen. Maybe I didn't get drunk, and maybe I chose different words, but that doesn't really matter. For weeks (okay, months), I inwardly belittled and criticized the upper management of my company, basically saying "Who needs you anyway?". Eventually the bitterness subsided, I gained some momentum in the new role, and things are now going very well. But it was a truly humbling and sobering experience to see my character traits in a withered, angry, drunken prostitute and murderer.
Next time I feel slighted by someone, maybe I won't immediately try to tear them down to make me feel better. If I'm able to do that, it will be somewhat due to Aileen Wuornos, and to the people who recorded, filmed and acted out her story.
That's why I love movies.