Every now and then one has to step back and take a deep breath. While Randy and I do that — it being summer right now — we’d like to revisit one of our earlier podcasts where we each talked about three movies we love and one we kind of hate. Like a lot of our topics here at the Faitheism Project, movies we love is timeless. It won’t stop being relevant tomorrow just because the news changed and went somewhere bizarre again.
A big part of what we’re attempting with The Faitheism Project is meant to be “instructive”. Randy and I want to impart something we’ve each learned. I’m didactic by nature. That’s a nice way of saying I’m an a-hole who’s read a few books and isn’t ashamed of bragging about it. Randy’s a preacher. Teaching is part of his job description.
Talking religion and politics is like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool before being confident in one’s ability to swim. One needs to build up to it. That’s why we started our podcast conversation talking about spirituality instead. That’s where we found common ground. We can all talk about these things without offending each other. We understand each others’ passions because we feel similar passions. And — best part — because the subject matter touches everyone, everyone’s willing to LISTEN.
So, today, let’s talk movies!
Randy and I have both chosen three of our favorites — and one that isn’t. Do our favorite movies reveal who we are? Maybe. Do they make for a great conversation starter? Bet on it!
Or, if you’d prefer to watch it…
NOTES & SOURCES
-The Mission: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mission_(1986_film)
Slavery, politics, the church, heroism, Richard Chamberlain, Robert DeNiro; all set in a back drop of incredible beauty…What’s not to love?
Use: Restore a commitment to fight for what is right in the world.
Key Quote: “We must work in the world. The world is thus. No, Senor Hontar, thus have we made the world.” says Cardinal Ultamirano. “Thus have I made it.”
“The light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
The Mission is a 1986 British period drama film about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in 18th-century South America. Directed by Roland Joffé and written by Robert Bolt, the film stars Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Aidan Quinn, Cherie Lunghi, and Liam Neeson.
Set in the 1740s
-The Winslow Boy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Winslow_Boy_(1999_film)
“Let right be done!” *
Justice, women’s rights, wonderful dialogue, the Bible embodied in life.
The Winslow Boy is a 1999 period drama film directed by David Mamet and starring Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam and Gemma Jones. Set in London before World War I, it depicts a family defending the honour of its young son at all cost. The screenplay was adapted by Mamet based on Terence Rattigan‘s 1946 dramatic play The Winslow Boy.
*What seems a puny affair of a schoolboy and five shillings is not puny at all but has everything to do with British rights and liberties, Morton declaims. “Once allowed through indifference, one act of injustice—by degrees, by the slow poison of indifference, by being convenient—may cripple and destroy those rights and liberties.” Something far greater than young Winslow’s guilt or innocence is at stake here. At stake is the due process of law that the 39th chapter of Magna Carta promises every Englishman. At stake “is Winslow’s right, as a common citizen of England, to be heard—to be heard in defense of his honor, so wantonly pitched into the mire.” Therefore, Morton sums up, “I will not let the government rest, until the Attorney General has endorsed Mr. Winslow’s petition with the time-honored phrase, the phrase that has always stirred an Englishman and I hope always will stir him wherever he may be—in his castle, in his backyard, or in the humblest little public house at the corner of the humblest street: ‘Let right be done.’”
Here the movie sounds the deepest chord of English jurisprudence, for Morton is paraphrasing England’s mid-eighteenth-century prime minister, William Pitt the elder, who was himself echoing the great Jacobean chief justice, Lord Coke: “The poorest man in his cottage may bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown,” Pitt had declared. “It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”
-Enchanted April: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchanted_April_(1991_film)
Use: Restoring a sense of beauty/wonder and awe.
Enchanted April is a 1991 film directed by Mike Newell. The screenplay by Peter Barnes was adapted from Elizabeth von Arnim‘s 1922 novel The Enchanted April. The film stars Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, Polly Walker, and Joan Plowright, with Alfred Molina, Michael Kitchen, and Jim Broadbent in supporting roles.
(And one movie that I can’t watch: “A Clockwork Orange“)
“Dystopian” is my problem. I don’t enjoy watching that portrayed because I already feel that deeply enough.
A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess‘s 1962 novel of the same name. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future Britain.
Having been in the film and TV business, I “see” movies a little differently than most people. I can’t ever completely separate myself from the craft that went into making them. That’s not to say I don’t get as transported as the next movie watcher to a galaxy far, far away. I just get transported with the thought “Wow, that’s a great shot — how the hell did they get it?” in my head.
I adore great movie-MAKING. I don’t need a movie to be coherent per se. I like long, obtuse foreign films with subtitles. I enjoy Terence Malick movies (he directed the beautiful “Days Of Heaven” and strange but contemplative, deep movies like “Tree Of Life”). I love great editing. Editing is where any movie or TV show happens.
I’ve been fortunate to work in TV most of my career. Whereas features are almost completely director-driven, in TV, the writer-producer is god.
I’ve gotten to physically produce most of what I’ve ever written. I didn’t have to watch other people destroy it. No, I got to do that all by myself.
In a sense, editing the “film” (it’s the rare filmmaker who uses actual film anymore) is like writing it a second time except this time using sounds and images instead of words.
My bottom line is great characters and great writing. I don’t need explosions. That said, if an explosion happens to take out a bridge? That’s different…
My three (in no particular order) — with explanations & thoughts following:
- THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
- BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID
The movie I DON’T like — I’ll even use the word “HATE” (it’s a movie I MADE!) —
- BORDELLO OF BLOOD
The Movies I Love —
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
A classic. It’s loosely (very loosely) based on a true WWII story about British prisoners of war who were forced to build a railroad bridge for the Japanese army in Burma — and the allied mission to destroy the bridge before the Japanese could use it. It’s really a character study about three nationalities — Japanese, British and American as embodied in the story by three men: Colonel Saito (the Japanese prison camp commandant), Colonel Nickerson (the English officer in command of the prisoners) and Major Shears (the American former prisoner of the camp now sent back into the jungle to help lead the mission to destroy the bridge).
Sesue Hayakawa plays Saito. Alec Guinness plays Nickerson and William Holden plays Shears. They’re all perfect in it. Saito needs to get the bridge built. Those are his orders. Nickerson wants to keep his men sane; he sees building the bridge as a way to occupy his men but, also, prove their superiority over the Japanese. Shears, well — he’s a bit of a fraud. Holden’s character was a sailor who, after his ship was sunk, found one of his commanding officer’s dog tags floating near him. He took them and “became” Shears. He’s an opportunist who couldn’t color inside the lines if his life depended on it. He doesn’t volunteer to return to Kwai, he’s coerced.
Spoiler alert — here’s the ending. It’s one of the best in all movie-dom.
Paddy Chayefsky — Network’s author (he deserves that credit) — saw the future. He saw the Foxification of TV news — its bastardization by entertainment. Network is about a struggling 4th network (up against ABC, CBS & NBC back when THAT was pretty much “television”) and its struggling news division. When news anchor Howard Beale flips out on the air one night (“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”), news executive Max Schumacher is made his keeper. Meanwhile Diana Christensen, an aggressive female executive from the entertainment division, guns for Beale herself: she envisions merging news and entertainment into a format she believes will take over both news and entertainment. Sidney Lumet directs it all masterfully.
Peter Finch died before collecting his Oscar for playing Howard Beale. William Holden (he’s in yet another movie that almost made my list — “Sunset Blvd”) plays Schumacher and Faye Dunaway plays Diana.
There are lots of amazing moments and brilliant scenes. One of my favorites is “the boardroom scene” where Chairman of the Board Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) explains “how life really is” to Howard Beale —
Everything about that scene is perfect. Love, love, LOVE how Lumet stays in the wide shot for the early part of Beatty’s money speech.
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
I was never into westerns as a kid. But then, Butch Cassidy isn’t a western. It’s an “anti-western”. Actually, the movie’s pretty much one long chase scene as Butch and Sundance (Newman and Redford) try to outrun the mercenaries sent to hunt them down and kill them.
All the characters stand ever-so-slightly outside their time. They seem to sense the grander themes. Early in the movie, as Butch and Sundance head to Hole In The Wall (where their gang hangs out in safety from the law), Butch tells Sundance his new idea: Bolivia. Sundance laughs at Butch. Tells him to Keep thinking. “That’s what you’re good at,” Sundance chuckles.
“Boy,” Butch replies, “I got twenty-twenty vision while the rest of the world wears bi-focals”.
One flaw — While the characters seem to stand a little apart from their time (Sundance’s relationship with Etta Place — Katherine Ross — is fairly modern and Butch himself is a completely post-modern character, the music is totally out of place and overly 70’s.
Aside from that, it’s simply one of the best scripts ever written. Newman and Redford are iconic. Scene after scene is quotable.
And then there’s the knife fight scene…
The movie I DON’T love — BORDELLO OF BLOOD
Most people don’t see Bordello the way I do. They can’t. For me, Bordello was a personal Waterloo. Every day we spent making that movie was stupider than the day before it. Considering the experience of the assorted filmmakers, it’s mind-boggling that we made just about every stupid mistake filmmakers could make. The movie’s perfectly watchable.
It has no right to be.
I will save my Bordello stories for the podcast…