HBO has been showing one of my favorite films—perhaps my most favorite film—Saving Private Ryan. When I like a movie a lot, I usually buy the DVD. I have a copy of this particular movie but, oddly enough, I’ve never watched it. In fact, I’ve seen Saving Private Ryan only once, in the theater during its original run. Now, if it is my favorite movie, how come I’ve only seen it once? Good question. The answer is, I have a hard time watching this movie because it is so intense. Every time I take the disk out of the package to play it, I put it back and choose something else…weird, huh?
Maybe to get a handle on this, you have to browse the rest of my DVD collection. This won’t take long; I don’t have many. I am not a movie maniac. In fact, I rarely go to the movies and I don’t watch many on TV or on line.
Now, first of all, you won’t find anything scary or gory in my DVD library. I steer away from violence and I don’t like a lot of anxiety when I watch a movie. It’s probably because I really get into a movie, even a bad one. I have a hard time distancing myself and saying “hey, it’s only a movie; it’s not real.” When I watch a movie, it’s happening right there on the screen and right there in my mind…and sometimes in my stomach. I don’t need to pay to be traumatized. My real life provides me with plenty of that—for free! That is why I tend to favor “calm” movies like comedies, adventure and good drama. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order, so you’ll get an idea of exactly what kind of movie wuss I am.
You’ve Got Mail – maybe it’s the great script I like; the screenplay is excellent, and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan make good chemistry, better now that Tom is in New York and not stranded out in Seattle like before.
As Good As It Gets – There are so many “sharp” lines delivered in this movie I almost keep a pencil and paper nearby so I can write them down. And there is no denying, in this movie, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt are, indeed, as good as it gets
Pride and Prejudice – the Keira Knightley version. Okay, I am not ashamed to admit it. I have probably watched this film more times than any other movie I’ve ever seen—ever. I do not know exactly why. I find the story “soothing,” the characters compelling and the countryside scenery foggy, dewy and serene. I even noticed the score, something I usually find obscure and pay little attention to. I actually bought the CD. P&P is a great mood piece, a great period piece and a perfect “escape” movie when you need to “get away.”
Juno – What I consider Ellen Page’s “one-hit wonder.” I can’t believe she followed this brilliant performance with that God-awful roller derby movie. But again, with Juno, it’s all about the writing and Page’s spot-on interpretation.
(500) Days of Summer – Can’t get any more “chickier” than this flick. It’s a bit trite, but Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt go great together. The script is smart and it’s a good story that takes unwelcomed turns, but ends with a smile. Plus, it’s hard to dislike a film narrated by Morgan Freeman. The scene in Ikea is priceless.
So there you have it, enough examples to convince you that I’m just not the Fright Night/Halloween/Fargo/Last House on the Left kind of movie guy. I am simply not entertained by viewing violence or having my pulse run full throttle.
Now, let’s get back to Saving Private Ryan. It’s a paradox for me…sort of. No other movie has impacted me like this one. It is totally NOT a chick flick–no romance, no kissing, no he/she paraphernalia. On the other hand, it is a movie that has some horrific killing scenes; it can leave you thoroughly exhausted and depressed after seeing it. Just the kind of movie I usually stay away from; it’s a tough watch for me…but it is great history and presented so well. The message, unfortunately, is one that is lost on many of today’s younger generation that has never had to sacrifice, has never been left wanting for much of anything and has no true understanding of what one’s last full measure of devotion is really all about. That is why I really believe that this movie should be a mandatory viewing in every high school history class in America. In fact, I’ll take that even further. You know how obsessed we are in this country with the movie, A Christmas Story? Every Christmas day this movie is run in marathon fashion, non-stop throughout the entire day…and most of us watch it at one point or another! So here is my recommendation: some gutsy television channel should do the same with Saving Private Ryan every Memorial Day. That alone would return much of the respect this holiday was set aside for. When I’m President I’ll make that happen.
As many movies as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have made, this is the one they should feel most proud of. It is a profound gift to all Americans that tells about an incredibly sad episode in our country’s history while illustrating the sacrifice we have been capable of when our principles are challenged. It is good that there are reminders like books and movies that come along to keep us mindful of where we’ve been, what we’ve done and what’s been done to us. Best to take more than only one look. I think I’ll make time this week to watch Saving Private Ryan a second time.
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