In this case, the Founding Fathers of the United States said, “Yes, we want a revolution.”
To prove it, rebels dumped tea in the Boston Harbor, protested the Stamp Act and wrote a “Declaration of Independence.” The citizens of the 13 colonies were just getting started.
Reading books about two important figures in history from opposing sides gives a reader a view into the minds of these figures and why certain decisions were made.
The books, Revolutionary: George Washington at War and The Kings and Queens of England offer two opposing views and offer some insight as to why Washington chose the revolutionary path and why King George the III preferred the hard-line approach in dealing with the colonials.
For George Washington, the author points out that London’s military elite refused to grant him a full commission after serving courageously during the French and Indian War. This caused GW to simmer with a hatred towards Britain’s establishment that drove him towards risking it all in a long revolutionary gambit that succeeded but not without gambling with his life, property and wealth.
The Kings and Queens of England cover all the Kings and Queens of England from Alfred The Great who succeeded to the throne in 871 to the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth the II, who succeeded to the throne in 1952. The author, Ian Crofton, has planned this book in sections so each monarch has a timeline of accomplishment or milestones, a biography and a description of their reigns for further explanation.
The section on King George III, who came to the throne in 1760 and lasted until 1820, describes his royal family and his mindset toward the colonies. His parents and grandparents, from the Hanoverian royalty tree, were more German than English and spoke German and spent more time in their Hanoverian Estates than in England.
The succession moved to Hanover, now modern-day Germany, due to the Church of England Protestants and the Vatican Catholic troubles that began with King Henry VIII’s fight with the Pope over divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. With the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and the Stuart house, the House of Hanover began with King George I who spoke German and preferred living in his homeland rather than London.
By the time King George III ascended to the throne, he considered himself an Englishman and spoke the language rather than German. In fact, he was born in London in 1738.
The section on King George III outlines why he lost the colonies. It came down to bad advice from his inner circle and backing his ministers to a fault. The book on George Washington gives a scenario that might have prevented the American Revolution. If King George had visited the colonies on a goodwill tour, he might have been able to meet with a few of the Founding Fathers in Virginia, Philadelphia, and Boston and negotiated a settlement. King George was not about to travel to the United States because of the societal class ladder and ruling due to the divine right of God. That would have meant capitulating to the revolutionary element and showing weakness from the Crown.
The Washington book by author Robert. L. O’Connell describes the first days of the revolution after the British warships docked and invaded Boston and New York. He illustrates that the British commanders knew the terrain better than the Continental Army leaders. That bit of information is surprising since the reader would have thought it would have been the opposite. The defenders should know their own territory.
Revolutionary: George Washington at War and its author, O’Connell, research a specific time period in the Founding Father’s life. He researches Washington, the ambitious youth, the soldier, and how he was selected for the top military position. The book also covers how he made decisions, how he chose his staff and how he fought and strategized in battle. The one trait that comes forward throughout is that Washington listened to his commanders and subordinates. Many times, Washington wanted to attack but held back and regrouped to fight another day based on his war counsel’s advice.
Both books are worth the time spent for a good weekend read. Looking at leaders from both sides of the pond can shed light on how the colonies were lost and why the Founding Fathers pushed the issue.
Films released in the early days of Hollywood, specifically from the 40s, 50s and later give the audience a snapshot from the past. Films that are set in the era when they were filmed, show us cars, clothes, storefronts, street signs and everything retro that people like. Granted, many people from the buying public prefer cutting edge electronics, cars, and technological breakthroughs. Some consumers choose the past and everything associated with it such as classic cars, vintage houses, timeless music, and furniture from the 19th and 20th Centuries. It’s like looking at old photographs of your grandparents and seeing all of the old stuff in the pictures.
The classic Film Noir movie gives you all that. Presented to us for our viewing pleasure are old cars, small-town street fronts, New York City in the 1950s, classic furniture, street lingo as it was uttered back then, and one more thing. That would be the feature that is difficult to find in today’s movies–black and white photography shot to perfection in the best contrast shots ever seen on film.
With this in mind, here are some of the best Film Noir movies and why they are still popular today.
Gun Crazy is one of the best of all time. The movie title may not be politically correct for today’s politically charged environment, but it perfectly sums up the film. It’s about Guns, Guns, Guns, and Guns–and not the kind of gun show you see at the gym. This is about people who like guns, what people do with guns, people who like people who like guns and obsessiveness. The kind of obsession that makes you love crazy. The title characters portrayed by John Dall and Peggy Cummins, who is considered an all-time favorite Femme Fatale, demonstrate this so well you almost wish a psychiatrist was handy so they could see one in the middle of the movie. Cummins is sensational in this movie to the point that until her passing recently, she was invited to many seminars and Film Noir retrospectives to talk about the role. That’s saying something considering there are many brilliant actresses in the Film Noir genre.
John Dall loves guns, is a crackerjack shot and also loves the Peggy Cummins’ character, Annie Starr, who also can handle the iron with the best of them. You can see within the first few minutes after the film credits scroll away that Annie’s gunplay is top-notch and hits her targets whether it is a man or a cigarette in someone’s mouth. Annie Starr loves guns, worships money. Annie Starr should have a stop sign draped around her neck but Dall would run through it anyway without tapping the breaks. As the movie races along, the movie’s finish line doesn’t disappoint.
It has Barbara Stanwyck in it. Enough said. Well, it also starts out like many Film Noir classics with the audience realizing that something didn’t go well. From the moment Fred MacMurray walks in the door and sees Barbara Stanwyck at the top of the staircase, the audience knows he’s in trouble. You also know that because of the narration MacMurray provides when he starts dictating within the first few moments of the movie. The movie’s dialogue is classic for the double entendre back and forth between Stanwyck and MacMurray. I never saw speed signs the same way afterward. The toxic relationship between the two principle characters is just one part of the movie. The other significant character is Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of the insurance investigator. It’s a classic story in several ways and worth seeing just for Stanwyck and MacMurray’s relationship.
Starring Robert Mitchum, who could be called one of the kings of the genre, and Jane Greer, another actress revered by the Film Noir community. Just to make sure it’s a classic, the movie also has Kirk Douglas as a major figure in the storyline. The movie has a strong supporting cast including Dickie Moore who doesn’t say a word in the movie but through his relationship with Mitchum’s character and his acting ability tells the audience all it needs to know. Jane Greer, known as The Queen of Film Noir, works her magic (incredible eyes even in black and white) on Mitchum and he tosses aside his job of finding Jane Greer and the money. Mitchum’s decisions catch up to him with the past interloping on his present good fortune.
An early Stanley Kubrick directorial effort starring another Film Noir favorite, Sterling Hayden. This is an example of meticulous planning gone wrong due to unforeseen circumstances. Compartmentalizing responsibilities and parsing out information for those who need to know is one way of planning a heist. It makes you wonder if there is a perfect crime and how much planning should be involved if human nature is unpredictable. The story takes the audience on a ride and you find yourself rooting for Sterling Hayden all the way.
I AM big…It’s the pictures that got small–Norma Desmond
Another Sterling Hayden Film Noir classic. This one is another heist gone wrong but also involves a lawyer who is cash strapped due to his infidelities and other choices. This film is also remembered for Marilyn Monroe’s early screen performance as the “other” woman. Sterling Hayden portrays Dix Handley, the muscle behind the crime caper. Louis Calhern is the lawyer who finances the operation with an intent to double-cross. Like most film Noir classics, it all goes bad but the way it goes wrong for everyone is the fun part of watching the movie. The best acting turn is Sam Jaffe as the brains of the whole operation with one weakness that gets him at the end.
A Sam Fuller film, this would be higher on the list if not for the many outstanding films in the genre. Thelma Ritter as Moe Williams is a character in the movie that many can identify with as someone living a day to day existence trying to get one more paycheck to survive. She remarks at one point in the movie how tired she is, looking at her performance you believe every word she is saying. She was nominated for an Academy Award four straight times including this role and you understand why. She almost steals the film like she almost did in the James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock vehicle, Rear Window. Richard Widmark’s main character light’s the firecracker at the beginning of the movie by pickpocketing the wrong victim’s purse on the subway. The events unfold with Widmark not yielding to any intimidation from both sides of the law enforcement aisle. He straddles both sides and gets some revenge so that, in the end, the anti-hero can call his own shots with help from Jean Peters, the girl he pickpockets on the subway at the beginning.
The movie opens not in the gritty city, but on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere with a lady in distress trying flag a car down for a ride. Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer sees her and stops and that’s where it all begins. Hammer wakes up two weeks later in a hospital room and must figure out what happened, why and who is responsible. Strother Martin with his eccentric one of a kind delivery is in the movie. Strother Martin as in the same Strother Martin from “Cool Hand Luke” and “what we have here is failure to communicate” movie fame.
Another Orson Welles classic, this film is a class in photography work, tracking shots, and how to use natural sound. The whole story of how they produced one of the longest tracking shots in movie history. The customs agent guard at the gate kept blowing his lines and they had to do the whole thing over again and again. Finally, the tracking shot was finished just before sunrise because Marlene Dietrich plays a memorable character and says the famous line about Welles’ character, “He was some kind of man…what does it matter what you say about people.” The film is legendary just because of the backstories associated with the production and editing process after the film was in the can. The film is confusing in some places because of a couple of reasons, Welles wanted it to be confusing and because of the studio executives butchering the editing process.
Adapted from a short story by Ernest Hemingway, this is the movie that catapulted Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster to stardom. It also has Edmund O’Brien in it to keep the story flowing as the insurance investigator Jim Reardon. William Conrad shows up at a diner and eats up the screen in a bad guy portrayal that is memorable. Conrad and Charles McGraw, another Film Noir mainstay, show up at the diner and start harassing everyone in the place and even give the guy behind the counter a hard time just for good measure. They are looking for Swede Anderson played by Burt Lancaster. They want to find him and they are not going to ask questions first.
Sunset Boulevard is memorable for two reasons: the audience knows how it will end because of the first shot and because of William Holden’s narration and the other is Gloria Swanson and her portrayal of Norma Desmond. Many actresses turned down the role before Gloria Swanson accepted it. Swanson portrays the character to the max as a fading star trying to hold on to her last bit of fame and dignity. This movie threw some rocks directly at the whole Hollywood glass menagerie. The script took a magnifying glass to how people are used and then thrown out like trash at the end of their careers. As Norma Desmond retorts to Holden in one scene, “I AM big…It’s the pictures that got small.” The film has Buster Keaton, Jack Webb and Eric Von Stroheim in it as well as other stars from the silent era who didn’t have a place in talkies. The director Billy Wilder enjoyed poking the movie industry with his script he co-wrote with Charles Brackett and D.J. Marshman. To give the movie an even more surreal feel, Cecille B. DeMille shows up in a cameo to throw out some needling remarks about Norma Desmond.
Film Noir showed up in American movie theaters after World War II. With two World Wars behind them, the Korean War in progress and the Cold War about to heat up, the late 1940s and 1950s movie-going public wanted darker, gritty, realistic stories with even darker personalities. Positive, delightful story conclusions were still being made but audiences also wanted stories without cheerful conclusions. The audience preferred to take a walk down a dark alley and because of that some of the best movies of that time period were produced.
Honorable Mentions: Detour, Sweet Smell of Success, Criss Cross, They Live by Night, The Maltese Falcon.
Two of the best examples of this are from the year 2000 and 2015. They are Cast Away starring Tom Hanks and The Martian starring Matt Damon. One is a FedEx Manager while the other is an Astronaut and Botanist.
In the digital color projection of these movies, the script carries a message that the audience can use long after the credits have rolled past as they file out of the theater.
Both stories involve some form of flight. The Martian’s Matt Damon character is left behind when the crew must initiate an emergency lift-off from the Mars’ surface. The other begins with a plane. with Tom Hanks aboard, crashing into the Pacific Ocean far from civilization. Hanks drifts exhausted in his life raft until hitting an Island.
Both barely escape death at the beginning of each movie. From there, life and the movie really begin. The theme is clear to the audience—survival.
Another Tom Hanks movie comes to mind when thinking about these characters. In Apollo 13, the Ed Harris character portraying actual Flight Director Gene Krantz shouts to the Apollo ground crew, “Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make things any worse by guessing.”
Hanks and Damon spend almost the entire movie deciphering, untangling—literally, and solving their challenges to remain alive.
“You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”–Mark Watney.
FOOD-A critical obstacle to hurdle was finding food, or in the case of Damon, figure out how to increase the food supply to last for many more Sols until mission control could figure out a rescue plan. For Hanks in Cast Away, he needed to find food that would sustain life for months and years. Living on coconuts was not going to cut it for very long. Hanks needed fish and fire. He figured out how to create both.
SHELTER-The other Hierarchy of needs involves making, finding or moving your shelter. For Hanks, it meant first using the life raft as a lean-to tent and then moving into a cave by the ocean. Damon had shelter at first and then a disaster forced him to rethink his shelter plans and move into the Mars rover vehicle. Each one adapted to his circumstances as the movie move along.
MOVEMENT and TRAVELLING-Transportation moved both movies along. For Hanks, it was the plane, then the life raft, then building a raft out of logs and manufactured rope by the end of the movie so he could be picked up by a freighter, then flown home and then get his old Jeep vehicle from the beginning of movie. Damon’s character had the rover, but he also had to figure out how to sustain the battery life over long distances. This needed to be done to reach the spacecraft he would use to carry him to safety. He had to adapt the spacecraft to lighten the load so he could reach the recovery spacecraft waiting for him. This and he still had to get creative at the end.
COMMUNICATION MODES-Communication was a significant part of each movie also. Damon’s character solved the communications issue by finding a communications satellite, digging it out of the sand, bring it back, then assembling it and turning it on. From there, remembered that he could communicate by computer language ASCI table, using the hexadecimal and character columns and transmitted pictures until they could get the rover communications altered to send out messages.
Hanks’ issue involved more than just communicating with his rescuers. First, he tried to alert any rescue planes by making a help sign in the sand and then by using sticks. When he realized that “help” would not arrive any time soon, his next problem was loneliness, evolving into suicidal craziness from not talking to anyone. He used the trick of making an inanimate object his best friend so he could talk to her and then bounce off ideas to see if they were valid. I use bounce because the object was a ball named Wilson and could have been a replacement for his girlfriend Kelly Friers, played Helen Hunt. His next communication was equally important, talking to the lady whose package he saved from the very beginning. He was at a crossroads literally and figuratively in life and the director left it up to you to complete the story.
TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL-Tools and how to use them played an important part for both characters. Damon used the tools he had to start planting crops and to save himself with duct tape. Hanks used netting from a dress to catch seafood and used the blades on a set of skates for a sharp instrument. In the end, the most important tool was a left-over damaged port-a-potty for a sail to get him out to sea. He also used tree bark for rope.
Resiliency and Determination-Both Damon and Hanks had the intestinal fortitude to overcome circumstances put in their paths. They also had the ability to recognize when they needed to take a chance. For Damon, exiting the spaceship at the right time to meet with the tethered rescuer proved opportunity combined with preparation can yield a fortuitous outcome. For Hanks, his decision rested on building a raft with a makeshift sail so he could have a chance of reaching a sea vessel.
Movies are chiefly for entertainment purposes but some of them can teach us life lessons. If life puts a rock in front of you, it doesn’t mean you can’t work the problem and solve it, and then move the rock out of the way and get on with your life. Nothing is permanent–except traffic, death, and taxes. Everything else is temporary and can be overcome, even taxes if you have the right accountant.
Matt Damon said it for everyone again at the end of his movie. “You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”
In life, if you solve enough problems, you get to continue because you just never know what the tide may bring in.
Comedian and commentator on the human condition, George Carlin, in an interview not long before his passing, was asked to assess the state of politics, and in a larger sense, society’s issues.
Paraphrasing his statement, he said that the competitiveness between people is way out of balance to the cooperation we all must exercise in order to get things done in our lives.
This observation by the master wordsmith himself strikes at the core of today’s news cycle.
This statement can be applied to the individual or to the larger political arena. You can see it every day when politicians from both parties reverse 180 degrees on issues. They change their opinions just so the other side, the perceived enemy, won’t win.
Today political parties and individuals on social media want an ideological fistfight. If an opponent can’t win the political argument, then the dispute turns to the philosophical, moral, then religious battlegrounds. All the while nothing really gets solved.
Instead of discussing the issue and how to solve it, let’s just debate until a logjam occurs and nothing is moved down the river.
History has proven that winning sometimes means losing. For example, the Treaty of Versailles after the Armistice to end World War I forced draconian economic measure on Germany which sent their economy into a free fall. The treaty included territorial changes, mandates that required them to renounce sovereignty over colonies, a reparation that amounts to billions in US dollars, and military restrictions reducing the number of officers, military strength and hardware. These terms sowed the seeds of resentment and discontent in the German population. German WWI veterans Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering felt humiliated by the terms and felt that Germany was not defeated. They formed the Nazi party years later, gradually building the party numbers, then taking power by the voting polls and building up the military for aggression later, thus initiating World War II that caused destruction, devastation, famine, and murder on a global scale.
The Allies won the first World War but did society win as a whole? When taking into account the millions of lives that were lost in World War II, there were losers all the way around. When considering how World War I began with an assassination and how the family of Monarch’s leading the countries involved couldn’t solve their differences, it’s all the more shameful.
Today, with constitutional governments and bi-cameral legislatures, winning is also more important than accomplishing noble endeavors by working together. The recent government shutdown over the border wall is, unfortunately, an example for many generations to study later in the century.
What is more unfortunate is that the immigration debate can be summed up into a simple statement.
Let the good people in who want to contribute to society in a positive manner and keep the violent offenders out who want to add to the criminal element of our country.Treat people with dignity and decency.
It’s as simple as that.
If anyone disagrees with those statements, then they are just being contrarian for the sake of not giving any consideration to the other side of an issue.
Our law enforcement has enough to do without adding to the criminal group. In addition, no one wants terrorists crossing into our country so that they can strategize another 9/11 tragedy. At the same time, let’s be noble, respectful and magnanimous to those who need it and deserve it.
In his statement, Carlin didn’t say competitiveness is all bad, he just said it is out of balance. It is rewarding to be competitive in business and other professions. However, some professions like politicians and other jobs within government, need to cooperate to move the process along.
There are some issues where an issue clearly has a right and wrong side. For instance, civil rights legislation and the right to vote. The simple fact that it took until 1919 to give everyone the right to vote and until 1965 to give everyone a fair shake when it came to employment and other areas of life should give everyone pause for thought. The good news is that we all live in a country where mistakes are corrected and that eventually, we can elect a President Barack Obama.
Despite your political views, President Obama did a good job. Remember, for much of his two terms he had a Congress controlled by the other party. He made decisions he thought were best for the country.
The recent Dr. Martin Luther King Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on what he accomplished. It is also a perfect time to look over his speech at the Washington Mall. The “I Have a Dream” speech is a symphony in words summing up an idea for the whole world to act on, regardless of race, gender, country of origin or religious practice.
Unless a person is intent on creating evil and misery in the world, most everyone can agree on many issues and ideas. No one wants war, violence, murder, terrorism, religious persecution, gender harassment or all the other unfortunate elements of life many of us deal with during a day.
To be realistic, evil exists in the world. As much as we would like to believe people are good, there are many who want to damage individuals and work against the greater good. Society has nurtured governments and elected people to decide where to compromise and cooperate. Government officials should set an example. Statements from government officials such as “He or she has learned a lesson” or “we’ve shown the other side of the aisle how tough we are” make the goal of cooperation harder to achieve. Elected officials represent their constituents, but they have a greater responsibility to work together rather than against the country, which is what they are doing now.
George Carlin was a brilliant comedian but he also observed humanity on a higher level.
The Library of Congress released its annual list of 25 films worthy of preserving for film students and movie aficionados for generations.
Included this year are: My Fair Lady, The Informer, Bad Day at Black Rock, Broadcast News, Days of Wine and Roses, Hud, and Brokeback Mountain.
What is interesting to note is that some films are just now being included in the National Film Registry, like My Fair Lady. Movie buffs would have thought a movie based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion would be on the list already. Some of the exclusions have to do with the process. A group of film professors, scholars, critics and columnists get in a room and argue and debate which 25 films from more than 100 years of producing them should be included. Some people in the room champion their causes. They all can’t be the most popular because some of them are educational and serve a higher purpose other than entertainment like this year’s inclusion, Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984). It is an entertaining and highly informative animated film about the social and personal issues black women and their hair. The following link gives an example of the eclectic nature of year’s choices.
The Library of Congress and the Film Registry committee has selected 25 films for the last 30 years that inform, entertain, educate, and represent the past so that people will take a second look or watch for the first time and maybe, just maybe, learn something in the process.
If you consider film and cinema a modern art form worthy on the same level of literature and art masterpieces such as Leonardo Da Vince’s Mona Lisa and Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, then The National Film Registry is doing all of us a favor by saving and preserving the films on the list for posterity.
Films selected the past 29 years include: Gentlemen’s Agreement, about anti-Semitism; Field of Dreams, about Baseball and father/son relationships; Being There, Starring Peter Sellers, giving the performance of his career; Thelma and Louis, with maybe the best final shot of any movie; Saving Private Ryan and the Right Stuff, two movies about sacrifice; The Best Years of Our Lives, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Modern Times and Singin’ in the Rain, all selected in the first year.
Some of the films that are included are documentaries and merge disciplines like the inclusion of the Monterey Pop (1968) this year. As the description on the National Film Registry states,
“This seminal music-festival film captures the culture of the time and performances from iconic musical talent. “Monterey Pop” also established the template for multi-camera documentary productions of this kind, predating both “Woodstock” and “Gimme Shelter.” In addition to director D. A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles and others provided the superb camerawork. Performers include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Hugh Masekela, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garfunkel, and Ravi Shankar. “
The National Film Registry and the Library of Congress websites are worth checking out for a variety of reasons, including the wealth of information that is featured on each site.
For movie historians and movie buffs who want to take a deep dive into the craft of movie making and editing there are two books that deliver that and more.
One is authored by Russian and Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein and is titled, The Film Sense. It covers how the cinema master Eisenstein edits film frames to illicit an emotional and psychological response when the audience watches.
His master pieces of film include Strike and Potemkin, with the Odessa Steps sequence that many modern film directors have studied and used. It includes the technique of collision editing and features the baby carriage rolling down the steps scene. This was used effectively in the movie “The Untouchables” with Sean Connery and Kevin Costner.
Another movie book comes from another master craftsman that studied Eisenstein. It is The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures. The book covers Hitchcock and his film all the way to the last, Family Plot. This one shows us how Hitchcock was able to tap into everyone’s fear and horror. If nothing else, he made the movie public think twice about stepping into a shower.
Every two years the voting public absorbs the wave of political commercials, email voting reminders, and US Postal Service flyers about getting to the polls to do their civic duty. After election day is over and we all come up for air, we can only hope that we did not make a mistake that we can’t correct for another 2, 4 or 6 years, whichever the case may be.
Why should the movie industry be any different? The cinema has its collective lenses on all the social issues including politics. Among the movie industry’s favorite genres is the political or election themed movie. What follows is a list of political movies that make you think. The Founding Fathers certainly did the movie industry a favor when they gathered in Philadelphia and engineered our representative government. So here’s my vote for a few of the best.
1. The Candidate- 1972-Starring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, and Melvyn Douglas
Robert Redford portrays Bill McKay, a somewhat naive political candidate, that gets in the race for a California Senate seat for noble reasons. He starts out the campaign without any chance of unseating the incumbent but soon momentum grows. His political handlers want to control him, but he fights to be his own person. Melvyn Douglas, who plays Redford’s father, a former governor of California, is a favorite character. He is cynical, politically savvy, and opportunistic. He is not fully involved with his son’s campaign until he determines he has a viable chance to win the thing.
In a televised debate near the end of the campaign, he breaks away from the predetermined closing statement, stunning his staff, and delivers his own message. It’s a brilliant movie about the trajectory of a campaign and of a candidate as the election cycle moves fast towards election day. It’s has one of the best closing lines in movie ever put on screen. After winning the election and beating the incumbent, Redford is with Peter Boyle, in a small room as he is ready to meet the adoring crowd. Redford says to Boyle, his campaign manager, “What do we do now.”
2. Ghandi-1982-Starring Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Rohini Hattangadi, Roshan Seth
When thinking of this movie, a viewer might say, “well this is a good autobiography of Ghandi.” This is an incisive, penetrating study on the politics of getting what you want through public opinion. Ghandi’s struggle for independence from British control over India and what is now Pakistan glued the biopic together. Ghandi’s tactic, played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley, of fighting bad laws and oppression with non-violence, boycotts and media outrage was adopted by Martin Luther King to fight racism in the 1960s. Ghandi studied law in England and practiced law in South Africa before returning to London and then British controlled India in in the early 1900s.
Ghandi’s ability, through out the movie, to understand the British ruling group, with their class mentality and preconceived notions of intellectual aptitude, enabled him to outmaneuver authorities. His nonviolent strategy and willingness to sacrifice prison time made the ruling government impatient. This led to many mistakes that turned public opinion.
3. Being There-1979-Peter Sellers, Shirley MacClaine and Melvyn Douglas
Melvyn Douglas seems to be in the most perceptive movies about politics. Sellers’ character is a an intellectually challenged gardener whose rich boss has died and he doesn’t have anywhere to go when the lawyers kick him out of the house. He walks around until he is taken in eventually by Shirley MacClaine’s character Eve Rand. She is married to Melvyn Douglas’ character, Benjamin Rand, who knows the President of the United States. Sellers answers questions in terms of gardening or what he has seen on television.
For example, when the President, played by Jack Warden, asks Sellers a question about the economy and temporary incentives he responds.
“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well in the garden. And all will be well in the garden.”
“In the Garden,” says the President.
Sellers responds with, “ Yes. In the garden, growth has its seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”
The President looks puzzled but Melvyn Douglas steps in and interprets the statement in economic terms. After the meeting, everyone thinks Sellers’ character Chance the Gardener is a genius.
It’s a statement about how simplistic someone can make an issue and the political environment, in their zeal to find a new idea, accepts it. Sellers is brilliant because he plays his character in calm, tightly controlled manner so it keeps everyone guessing. But as soon as gets confirmation from the President and other political leaders, he is accepted. The movie is also interesting in how people communicate and interpret messages and words into a deeper meaning.
4. The Contender-2000-Starring Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges and Advise and Consent-1962-Starring Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon and Henry Fonda
In today’s heated political world, these two movies capture the vendetta climate perfectly. Both movies involve a President’s selecting a choice for public office and then the political process of trying to destroy the candidate’s reputation by his opposing political group. Joan Allen is the target in the Contender while Henry Fonda receives the smear campaign in the form of a communist sympathizer in Advise and Consent. Both Presidents dig in and back their choice through the process but both outcomes at the end are less than satisfying. Each movie analyzes how far the process will go toward achieving their goal of ousting a candidate for office. In today’s climate, both movies dive into themes the public should be rethinking. How much is enough and how far will we go to win against the other side. Will both political parties work with each other or will there always be a chasm from now on, with the in-power pendulum swinging back and forth between the left and the right.
5. All the Kings Men-1949-Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru and Mercedes McCambridge
Based on the Robert Penn Warren book, “All The Kings Men”, the movie and the book is based on Louisiana 1920s and 1930s politician Huey P. Long’s rise to power and ultimate death. He was the state’s governor and later a US Senator who was shot in Baton Rouge, LA, on September 8, 1935, and died two days later. The movie’s title refers to Huey Long’s share-the-wealth motto, “Every Man A King.” Broderick Crawford delivers an award winning performance as a populist, fighter for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of Louisiana. He quickly falls into a power trap of intimidating enemies, with plenty of corruption and blackmail to achieve his goals. It asks the question are Machiavellian ways justified as long as the outcome is righteous. Crawford’s performance hit all the personality traits that first endears someone to the people and then how absolute power poisons the relationships close to a person. This movie mirrors another that explores the idea that power reveals a personality deep within a soul. Power doesn’t change a person but reveals the true self. That movie starred Andy Griffith in the movie that predicted the future titled, “ A Face in the Crowd.”
6. Lincoln-2012-Starring Daniel Day-Lewis——-Abe Lincoln in Illinois-1940-Starring Raymond Massey and Ruth Gordon——Young Mr. Lincoln-1939-Starring Henry Fonda and Marjorie Weaver
These 3 movies together capture the substance of our 16th President. What they all capture with performances by Daniel Day Lewis, Raymond Massey and Henry Fonda is his ability to understand people and react to the moment. His gift for moving people to his side on a political issue aided him as he moved through the political ladder. The earlier movies with Massey and Fonda gives the audience a window into how his personality worked for him. Massey’s interpretation of Lincoln reflects Lincoln’s moodiness in addition to his sense of humor. Fonda’s portrayal highlights his sense of humor but also his intellectual ability to handle professional challenges with poise.
In Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis shows the President’s ability to command a room and work with people. In fact, most of his cabinet was composed of people who ran against him for the Republican nomination for President, Secretary of State William Seward being one who ended up being a strong support and friend after the 1960 election.
Website about Lincoln’s personality and other aspects of his life
7. The Manchurian Candidate-1962-Starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Lawrence Harvey and Janet Leigh
This is a film noir thriller about McCarthyism, communist sympathizers, assassinations, and brainwashing and psychological control. The most politically motivated and strategically ruthless personality jumping off the screen is Angela Lansbury’s portrayal of the controlling mother to Lawrence Harvey. The movie is released during the height of the cold war when espionage, the nuclear arms race and the domino theory concerning Vietnam, North Korea, China, Cuba, the Soviet Union and their motivations to spread Marxist and Communist ideology.
8. All the President’s Men-1976=Starring Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards, and Hal Holbrook
No movie list about politics is legitimate without the inclusion of this movie based on the Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward book of he same name. In addition to the Watergate break in and the election slush funds and cover up, the movie is an excellent demonstration about how journalist work and the decisions that lead to printing a story. The scenes where Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman put in the leg work to confirm facts and get additional sources for the details make the movie authentic. The movies shows the audience is behind the front page story and headline so when government officials denounce the story, the newspaper or television news program can fight back.
Story about the source behind the Watergate story and why he became a source
9. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-1939-Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Claude Rains
Stewart’s Mr. Smith fills a US Senate position and gets an education in how some of Washington’s power players work the system. His reality check sours him on the whole system but Jean Arthur coaches him parliamentary procedures as he fights his way toward a dramatic conclusion. This is another movie that is required for any movie list about the nature of politics.
Article about the making of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
10. The Mortal Storm-1940-Starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, and Robert Young
Another movie with James Stewart that is not at top of most James Stewart movie lists, This is a story about politics dividing a family and the slow disintegration of civility and rational thought. The Roth family is caught up in the pre-war Nazi hype. Nazi policies and propaganda divide the family as the country moves toward inevitable war. James Stewart is against the Nazi ideology and it pits him against his former Roth family friends. The movie is a study in how a cult of personality can poison a whole country and divide a family living in a small village in the Alps. It leads to a heartbreaking conclusion.
Article on the rise of Nazism and the power of propaganda
Let’s face it. People love stuff that makes their lives simpler, easier and efficient. These gadgets and other products have gotten the mistaken reputation of making all of us lazier. It’s time to champion these universal monuments make the world safe again for inventions that keep us bolted to our lounge chair.
Back in the day of cheap gas, people controlled their televisions in two ways–leg power, or children power as in “Ricky, please change the channel from 7 to 4 for Daddy and Mommy.” The other way was a tethered remote control that traveled from your seat in the corner of the living room to the television, creating a booby trap for anyone entering the room, . The tethered remote was invented in 1950, which is a surprise to the baby boomer generation because our parents could have saved us several low crawls across the living room to change channels. Managers in the Zenith organization thought there was a better way. Time for Eugene Polly, an electronics engineer, to bring his awesomeness.
Eugene Polly-Zenith Electronics-1955-He used light beams transmitted from the remote to receptors on the TV to change channels or mute the sound. This worked most of the time but it had its drawbacks due to the receptors misreading other light sources like the sunset or sunrise. However, Mr. Polly, because he got the whole thing started, deserves a big five from every sports fan on earth.
The remote was perfected by Robert Adler-Zenith Electronics Physicist-1956-Adler’s remote used hammers striking metal rods that produced ultrasonic waves to change channels and control the TV. This was the standard until infrared technology became the new way to control a TV more than 25 years later.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Back in the day of cheap gas, drivers had to multitask in the worst way. Forget about texting and driving, try reading a map while driving. It was doing that, or pulling over to the side of the road, getting the map out of the glove compartment where no gloves were kept and try to determine your current location and how to get your destination. Now, it was easier if you had a passenger, like a spouse, to look at the map and navigate while driving but often this just created arguments and shouts of, “You’ve got the map, can’t you read a map!” if you were driving alone and had enough forethought, you could list your highway and road numbers and the exits and turns you had to take so you didn’t have to look at the map. Later on, drivers could print it out on MapQuest or some other navigation site but that didn’t come along until the 1990s.
Roger Easton-Naval Research Laboratory-1964– Easton called it the Timation for Time Navigation-He developed the technology to track satellites orbiting the earth, specifically ones the Soviet Union Launched during the space race. He was granted a patent 10 years later and in the 1970s the Department of Defense took certain features and developed and renamed it the Global Positioning System. That steered the technology (See what I did there) to what we use today in automobiles. We can all thank Mr. Easton for getting us back home and preventing millions of arguments among friends and spouses.
Automobile and All Things Travel Oriented
Back in the day when there were no gas stations anywhere let alone cheap gas, people traveled by horseback, carriage, ships crossing the ocean and moving down the rivers. Then trains and locomotives entered the culture, followed by the motor carriage or automobile and then passenger airplanes crossing continents and the oceans. We can all thanks several people for saving us time and creating a mobile society where we can see people thousands of miles away in a matter of hours. It also enables us to receive food products and other consumables in our stores and restaurants faster by truck, train, and air freight. When we want our pizza, we want our pizza.
The Light Bulb
Back in the day there were only candles and the light by the fire place or, later, using oil burning lamps that you had to carry around. Then electricity was harnessed and then Thomas Edison and his team perfected the light bulb and got his patent in 1979. Inventors and scientists first experimented with electricity properties producing light as far back as 1800. The issues they faced included finding an inexpensive filament and making it burn for several hours.
Thomas Edison-Inventor-1879-As with any important development that is life changing, it takes someone who takes what is already been tried and perfecting it from there. This is what Edison did. He also hire intelligent and hard working people to work in his laboratory. One of these was a scientist named Francis Upton from Princeton University. We can all thank Thomas Edison and his staff for bumping into the furniture at night and being able to read a book anywhere in the house.
Benjamin Franklin-You know, the Kite flying thing-You can argue about Benjamin Franklin’s experiment just establishing a connection between lightning and static electricity. You could also point out that many inventors developed electricity to the point when it could be managed and used for greater purposes. Benjamin Franklin must be given his recognition though. Nicolas Tesla’s experiments with Alternating Current was a game changer despite Thomas Edison’s propaganda against AC in favor of his Direct Current technology. The game changer for society was the ability to send electric current through wires to homes and businesses in a fashion that used electricity only when a person needs it-Turning lights on and off in a room when you need it.
Isaiah Rogers-Architect-1829-The first modern case of indoor plumbing occurred in 1829 when Isaiah Rogers planned indoor plumbing for 8 water closets at the Tremont Hotel in Boston, Mass. Before that, historical records proved the existence of several plumbing systems going back several hundred if not thousands of years. The flush toilet appeared in 1851 but was first invented in 1596. The whole human race thanks everyone involved for this one.
Johannes Gutenberg-1439-Before Gutenberg’s movable type printing press, books and documents were hand written or printed using wood block letters with ink covering the raised letters. This was pressed against paper to create a word, a tedious process at best for both techniques. It would be nice to think that Gutenberg invented the movable machine type printing press for the betterment of mankind but, as with most inventions, he was interested in producing mass amounts of a product in a short period of time to make the most money. Now in the digital age with downloading books to your laptop or mobile device, it’s all done with binary computer instructions and data centers that send pages and pages over the internet.
All Things IT related–The First Microchip
Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce- Texas Instruments-1959- The invention and the development of the Microchip began the revolution. The Microchip let computers do what they do like logic gates and controlling instruction sets. This ushered in the future of smaller chips and faster computer memory for today’s computers. Everything from garage door openers, mobile phones, software for fixing pictures you take on your smart phone, digital music playback devices that keep your entire music collection in a shirt pocket, gaming devices, streaming devices for television, credit card hardware at the store for purchases to all of the information technology that makes your car run, these are all due to many engineers and inventors constantly thinking of ways to change the way we live all due to the original microchip.
Martin Cooper Motorola-1973-Everyone carries around a small computer to be accessed when we need it, it’s the mobile or smart phone. We carry around the ability to ping data centers placed around the world in strategic places for answers to any question. You don’t even have to type it anymore, just ask Siri. Using satellite technology and the power of the microprocessor and application development, we use the power of our search terms to buy, read, navigate and find a good restaurant. We can thank Mr. Cooper for making that first mobile phone call.
Sometimes the simple developments are the most satisfying. Cutting a bagel can be hazardous. While researching, the term BRI came up. It’s a Bagel Related Incident. One wrong move with a knife, or a distraction in any way, you could hurt yourself all in the name of preparing the perfect bagel Several designs are on the market but one of the best is the Bagel Guillotine. The name gives you the picture of what it looks like. Some one hit a home run on this one.
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Combination
Harry Burnett Reese-1928-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups-If a choice had to be made between one of these on the list and peanut butter cups, most people would probably remove something else and keep the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. People have to have their priorities. In fact, anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate makes the whole world a better place. If more people ate Peanut Butter Cups there would be less arguments and the two parties in US Congress would be able to get along and get more done.
NASA-July 20th, 1968-This moon landing was significant because it forced the space agency and its subcontractors to step up their game. One of which was the way computer language was processed. The Apollo Guidance Computer had to process instructions differently. MIT hardware and software developers developed restart protection and priority task scheduling where the most important systems like attitude control and landing guidance get the highest priority compared to other instructions that are not life threatening. The computer core systems told the AGC that this task is more important that that task so ignore the one that is not as important right now. This was different than previous computers where computers were batch scheduled where each instruction was given the same priority in a round robin fashion. This became important in the development in home computers in the 70s. The world of computer hardware and software development was pushed forward because NASA had a goal of reaching the moon before the end of decade.