Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Dime On: 25 Movies you have to see before you’re 25

Today, September 20, 2013, is my 25th birthday. And I had this idea a month back to do something around my own little milestone. So I’ve compiled a list here of 25 movies you have to watch before you hit 25, movies that, though they may not be the best films, or the most entertaining, teach you lessons about life that should help you along the way in figuring out where to go. Now, I’m not claiming this list to be the be-all-and-end-all of movies you have to watch. These were films that had a huge impact on me growing up, and those that I feel really changed the way I saw and did things. If you have your own ideas of movies that should be up here, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So without further ado, lets count down the 25 movies that you should see before you’re 25! Oh, by the way SPOILER ALERT!! I’m gonna try and be as un-spoiling as possible, but when it comes to talking about themes and learnings, that may be difficult to not get into some spoilers.

1. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh

As a kid, this was my introduction to the magical world of make-believe, and it was a beautiful one. This movie is light and easy enough for kids to understand, but it never treats kids as stupid. *cough*Dora the Explorer*cough* The story is heart-felt, with lessons on friendship that’ll serve you on through to adulthood. The way the story was told, with the narrator reading a book, and the animation coming alive among the paragraphs and pages is a great way to open kids animations to the potential of reading, and I’m sure this movie had a really large influence in helping me pick up my first book (way more than Pagemaster). And I’ve been picking them up ever since, if that doesn’t make this a must-see, I don’t know what else does.

2. Toy Story

Toy Story

Pixar has made movies for the whole family, and told stories that would please and entertain no matter what age you are, and it all started with Toy Story. What makes Toy Story, and most of Pixar’s movies, is their emphasis on personification. This article by Kyle Munkittrick discusses it more in detail, but basically all Pixar films have one thing in common, “personhood is not limited to humanity.” One thing we should learn from the very start is to treat our toys, pets, insects, and one day, robots as if they are more than just objects, to take care of them and value these things as more than junk. If as a kid you learn to value these characters, then maybe it’ll help teach you never to treat a person of a different race, creed or social status as something that is less than human. Well, it may be a bit of a pageant answer, but a guy can dream, right?

3. The Brave Little Toaster

Brave Little Toaster

Well, I’ve already tackled the idea of personification with regard to the Pixar movies, but its an idea that bears repeating. Inanimate objects given lives, to a child, equates that to value. As kids, we don’t understand the concepts of monetary and economic value, all we really know are the personal ones, those are the first connections we make. This movie attaches these things to electric appliances, which is great, because from an early age, it teaches kids not to just throw those things around. It also teaches a second valuable lesson.

Electric appliances can be dangerous.

In this movie, without going into too much detail, some characters practically lose their lives due to electrical shock, lightning, and getting crushed in mechanical gears etc. This movie had me wary of going near sockets with metal things, and messing with things in the kitchen. You could never have kids learn that lesson too early. At the end of the day, it was a heartwarming tale and a grand adventure, and it definitely enriched my life growing up.

4. Land Before Time

Land Before Time

Even the song alone is enough to make this a must watch for everyone. “If we hold on together, I know our dreams will never die.” The idea that a bond between friendship could lead you to achieve things you never could have alone is something we should all aspire to reach. The fact that in a land of dinosaurs, a few creatures that are small in stature, through their friendship and the ties they have bound, could go on an epic adventure, is one that shouldn’t go past us. No matter how strong we are, at some point, we’re gonna need some help and support, it doesn’t hurt to have someone to trust.

5. Fantasia

Fantasia

The ability to communicate and convey emotions without words is something that many of us are missing now. With text, and skype, youtube videos and commercials, its rare that we don’t hear someone’s voice telling us about something. Most of us like songs because of the lyrics and the message, or movies because of the dialogue. Fantasia is a work where artists collaborated, where an orchestra made music and animators and illustrators interpreted it visually. using classical music as a base, Fantasia tells a magnificent story based on visual imagery, and teaches us how valuable communication can be, even without words.

6. The Transformers Movie

Transformers the Movie

Before you do a double take, nope, the new ones will never be on this list. I’m talking about the 1986 animated movie. For a movie based on a toy line, this film did something that most other animated series had the balls to do, it actually killed off some beloved characters. And without any obvious “resurrection” scene like in the recent films. So yeah, that’s why its up here on this list. Everyone’s gotta learn to cope with loss, and this provides kids, who’re hitting puberty anyway, an interesting look at how to fight on when things are at their bleakest, for those of you who follow A Game of Thrones, all the way till the end of the first season, think about this as being a more-kid friendly .

7. Mean Girls

Mean Girls

I don’t think there is a more perfect depiction of the kind of social roller coaster we go through in high school than the film, Mean Girls. Tina Fey paints a picture of a girl learning to adjust to a school system she is unfamiliar with. This movie, while being supremely entertaining takes us through an experience of trying to adjust. In one narration, Cady Heron says: “I had gone from home-schooled jungle freak to shiny Plastic to most-hated person in the world to actual human being.”

Many, if not all of us, know what it feels like to be the outcast, or trying to fake it to impress people (whether we admit it or not), to feel hated. This movie takes Cady through every conceivable position in the social ladder and tells you that at the end of it, you’ll find out how to be who you are, and you’ll have an adventure full of friends, heartbreak, and most of all, fun, along the way.

8. Rocky

Rocky

If you’ve ever seen a boxing match, or a UFC event, and you hear “That kid has heart,” well, this is where that comes from. This may not be the first underdog story, but this was definitely the best. What made this amazing was that the making of Rocky itself was Stallone’s underdog story, in trying to make this movie, he lost his home, and everything he owned, he even had to give away his dog. So there was a level of truth in everything Stallone did in this movie.

This movie gave us a sympathetic lead character with a lot of faults, and though he was down on his luck, he never gave up hope that the world was better than what he’s been through. And when he finally gets a chance at the bigtime, as a last minute substitute to fight the boxing champion Apollo Creed, he takes it. He stumbles along the way, thinking that he’s not worth it, but faces it head on, and gives it everything. And that is something any sportsman must learn. It doesn’t matter if you have virtually no shot at winning, you fight hard, and you give it your best.

9. Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes

I’m talking about the one starring Charlton Heston, by the way, back in 1968. This is the epitome of what a Science Fiction film is supposed to be. By showing the apes as the dominant members of society, and the human beings as being treated as sub-species, it is able to say so much about so many difficult topics. It said something about religion vs. science, racism, the perils of technology, nuclear warfare, sexism, even adolescence and the innocence of youth. It touches upon so many issues that ring true today, and given the fact that they are using monkeys instead of people, they could go into very despicable caricatures of our problems, and yet make it alright and actually interesting to sit through. It teaches you never to take things at face value, and to always question the status quo, because what may be good for the people before you may not be what’s best for you.

10. The Godfather Pt. 1

The Godfather

To quote You’ve Got Mail (I know, weird movie to quote from), Tom Hanks, in one of his emails writes: “The Godfather is the I-ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” What day of the week is it? “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.” ” Its a little bit too much of an exaggeration, but with every single superlative, there is a grain of truth. The film has many pearls of wisdom when it comes to dealing with people in a business setting. Yes, not everyone has drugs and prostitution as their business, but a lot of the principles ring true. Things like: “Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again,” or the dialogue between Kay and Michael:

Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?

The Godfather shows us, through the gangland setting, how potentially rough and tumble the world could be, and how we have to work and fight for the way of life we all dream we could have. But that’s not the only thing it comments about.

Despite being a gangster flick, the heart of this movie is the family. It takes to an extreme level the idea of family loyalty. Granted I probably won’t have to kill anyone for my family, but the idea that I would do anything for any member of my family, and they for me, is by far the most important thing this movie could impart. Most of the members of the Corleone family, as criminal as they may be, always acted for their family clan and never just for themselves. Even in doing wrong, they rarely did it out of selfishness. The second movie is a totally different story, but then again, that’s why its not up here.

11. The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers

The story of Jake and Elwood Blues as they take their Chicago Blues band on an incredible journey to score that big gig to earn money for their old orphanage is a must-see. If you’re not entertained by the musical numbers and incredible car chases, then maybe you could get caught up in the hilarious narrative of two people who are so intent and focused on a goal, that, despite having practically nothing, could achieve so much through grit, determination and a little bit of singing talent. The movie is one of those films that tells you that the journey of following your dreams is just as good as the pay off and that if singing is in your blood, or any other talent or passion for that matter, you should follow it because even though the road may be tougher, it’ll still be more fulfilling. And did I mention the awesome car chases?

12. The Graduate

The Graduate 2

Ah, the Graduate, this is the movie that started me on the idea of this list. This is, for me is to the college graduate what Catcher in the Rye was to sappy teenagers, and I talked about it extensively in my article on The Graduate. To sum up the whole thing, its a movie about a person who finds himself at a crossroads, unsure of the path to take after college. He then proceeds to have an affair with his dad’s partner’s wife, and it takes his life into a whole new direction. I’m not saying that all of you find a middle-aged person to teach you the ways of the world in the bedroom, but I do say that after college, when we’re removed from all the boundaries, we struggle to find our identities like water that used to be in a pitcher and was poured onto the floor. That’s what this movie is about, and that’s something we should all be aware of as we go up to get our diplomas.

13. It’s a Wonderful Life

Its a Wonderful Life

There is a reason why this movie is still shown every year at Christmas. It is probably one of the most emotional, gut-wrenching films you’ll ever see in your lifetime. The movie follows George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), a little shop owner who’s had a less-than-eventful life. He’s had dreams to travel, but was never able to do so, because he gave his life to the people of his hometown of Bedford Falls. His struggling business is all that stops the rich magnate Mr. Potter from buying up the whole block and replacing the old mom-and-pop shops with *insert big money-making evil corporate thing here*. When his uncle loses a payment of $8,000, and it sinks in that he could go to jail for the loss, and everything he fought for would have been for nothing, he wishes he was never born and contemplates suicide.

An angel hears his pleas and offers to show him what that would be like, and it is just sadder. The film ends with one of the most touching realizations ever captured on film, and it tells you that no matter how bad things may get for you, you are worth something to someone, and even if you think the world is better off without you, the truth will always remain that someone was better off for having you in their lives. A timeless classic, with a lesson that is just as important today as the day the film first aired.

14. Almost Famous

Almost Famous

This tale of friendship, family and bonding is one you have to see. The exploits of the fictional band Stillwater, and William Miller, the teen-aged journalist from Rolling Stone, captures moments of heartfelt hangouts that remind you how important good friends are. In our journey through life, we will meet awesome people we’ll want to share our lives with, because it makes our lives even better. This movie tells us that, though our friends may not be with us forever, the moments we’ve shared would make a lasting impact on us, and that alone would have made the companionship worth it.

In one scene, the entire group is leaving on their tour bus. At this point in the film, they’ve all had beef with one another for one point or another, and then a song comes in…

This, for me, sums up the whole experience.

15. Superbad

Superbad

There are few coming-of-age stories quite like Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s Superbad. This sleeper hit follows two high school kids, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), friends since they were toddlers who were facing their last years of high school. This movie, apart from being freakin’ hilarious, is a great story of friendship… and the frustrations of potentially heading to College as virgins. I’d recommend this movie much in the same way as I recommend Almost Famous, except where that is heartwarming, this is nasty, which is what the best friendships are made of. (refer to the following picture)

True Friendship indeed!

True Friendship indeed!

More than anything, it tells us that yeah, we’ve done some crazy stuff, we’ve looked like idiots, we’ve been idiots in the past, but those moments made the story that much more awesome. And for all the faults our friends may have had, no matter how far apart they end up drifting, we’ll always remember the crazy times, and they’ll mean something.

16. The Social Network

Social Network

Okay, I’ll be the first to say I’m not a fan of this movie. I tried to like it, but I really don’t. The narrative style that worked so well in Fight Club didn’t work for me here. But I will say that in today’s technology driven world, one thing most of us aren’t educated on is technology, and how it helps us interact in business and socially as well. Sure we still have computer classes, but in relation to everything else, these classes are very few and carry little weight from grade school through high school. This movie is a must see for everyone in the digital age, because it talks about how conventional business practices have not caught up to the internet, and also to be careful when it comes to who you trust, especially online.

17. Network

Network

Network provides another media lesson that we should all learn. Don’t just passively accept what’s being told on television. You have to think, you have to get mad, you have to let your voice be heard. In this modern age, we are shown videos of bombing and gun fights, and all we do is shake our heads and let out a couple of ‘tsk’s. We’ve become desensitized to violence and gore. What do we do about it? The movie doesn’t pretend it knows enough to give you an answer, but it will open your mind to the possibilities, and sometimes that’s all the push we need.

18. Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai

If the sword-fighting and awesome Japanese moments aren’t enough, Seven Samurai also is a great case study of how skill, planning, and determination can get you past almost insurmountable odds, in this case, seven swordsmen would take down forty bandits. Now, I know that that might not seem like a lot, I mean, in Commando alone, Arnold kills over a hundred people singlehandedly. But Seven Samurai’s realism and the protagonists lack of bombs and bullets makes the need for them to be smart and skilled all that more important.

These seven guys had to trust each other and work together to stop an otherwise unstoppable force. And whether or not in battle, business, or personal relationships, these are values that would be valuable to anyone. If you want to read more, check out my review of it!

19. Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog

This is definitely one to catch. Wag the Dog is the story of a spin-doctor (Robert De Niro) who is hired by the President of the United States in order to cover up a sex scandal. He hires a movie producer (Dustin Hoffman) and together, through the use of news programs, radio, and print, they create a fake war in Albania and paint the president as a patriot defending another country’s rights. This movie is an interesting behind-the-curtains look of how people who work in media can manipulate information to draw out a certain sentiment.

This movie builds a whole campaign, from fabricating news footage, to creating pro-war music and even starting a protest movement in order to tell an elaborate lie, and shows people how it is possible that what is shown to you through the lens of the camera may not be the whole picture.

20. American History X

American History X

Enough of the good stuff and happy times. There comes a time when you have to learn that the world has a dark side, that there are people out there who are racists, bigots, even to the point of violence. This movie tells you that there are bad people out there. But they can turn over a new leaf. BUT even if they do, the repercussions of their actions may still haunt them. This movie about racism in America is a hard look at the racially motivated violence that is all-too-real in this world, and it is something that you should be aware of.

This movie tells you that bad or good aren’t mutually exclusive, that a person is never just evil or good, but can be both, given the circumstances, that dire actions sometimes have dire consequences, and that bad deeds perpetuate a certain bias that leads to more bad deeds. American History X will shock you with its brutality, and the fact is, it happens, and turning a blind eye to things such as these are what allows these atrocities to continue.

21. Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Of all the Woody Allen movies I’ve ever seen, this one is one of my favorites. I’ve already reviewed this one previously, so I’m gonna be brief. Midnight in Paris tells the story of a writer, Gil, who, in one of his walks along the streets of Paris, dreaming of the “Golden Age” of literature in the 1920’s, hops in a car and is suddenly transported back in time, to when the city was the greatest cultural hub in the world. He would meet his writing idols the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, even have a run-in with Salvadore Dali, and  he would find himself pining to be back in that time, among the greats, when writing was respected.

This film tackles that cognitive bias of rosy retrospection, or seeing that the past was better. I for one have often said: “I wish I were born in the 60’s.” I thought, oh it would have been great growing up witnessing the Beatles rise up the music charts, see films like Singin’ in the Rain as they came out, and spend time in a place with less people, less pollution and less chemical concoctions they call “fast food”. How many times have you said you missed high school, or heard older people say, these cities are getting worse.

The fact is, and this movie tells you, that most people have thought that same way. When Gil goes back, he finds that people there too look even further back for their “Golden Age”. Its a film that tells you that you’ll never know you’re in an amazing time until its already passed, and that the shine comes in a bit later. So enjoy your world today, because it may be the best age the world has ever seen, you just don’t know it yet. If you want to read more, I wrote a review about this movie too!

22. Swimming With Sharks

Swimming with Sharks

I’ve read many things about the “Generation Y” Workforce, and as a young guy working, I’m familiar with this feeling. Years of being told I was special, and being celebrated for my grades and work at school, only to find that the dream salary I want and the job becoming of my college degree is much further away that anticipated. Swimming with Sharks, starring Kevin Spacey, is a little-known movie that tackles this subject.

The movie follows the story of a young man named Guy, who wants to move to Hollywood to make movies. He gets a job as an assistant to film producer Buddy Ackerman (played by Spacey), who puts him through hell. He works and works with no end to the suffering in sight, to the point where be breaks. Its not a blockbuster, and the budget is kind of on the low side, but the commentary on the asshole boss and the young disillusioned yuppie is something no one entering the working world should pass up. The film asks a very important question, “What do you want?”.

But it doesn’t stop there. It tells you that to get what you want takes sacrifice, and that the “quicker” way takes a bigger sacrifice. I’m sure many people would disagree with how the movie ends, but it doesn’t change the fact that many yuppies see the greener pastures though a telescope and lose perspective of the crap they’d have to wade through to get there. This movie is a big slap on the face to remind you that the real world isn’t always gonna be that nice.

23. The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada

If Swimming With Sharks asks you “What do you want?”, and tells you that sacrifices have to be made to get there, The Devil Wears Prada shows you what kind of sacrifice it takes, and what they do to you. In order to be the best at something, you have to be hard, strong, and implacable, especially in the high world of fashion, as Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) would find out.

After taking a job under the Editor-in-Chief of Runway Magazine, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), Andy finds that her job is thankless, tough, and in her mind, unnecessarily brutal. She gets into the swing of things, and eventually becomes very good at it. But she then realizes that the changes she made for her job had changed her personally as well, and she wasn’t the same woman she had been when she started.

This movie shows you another side to building your career. You may have an asshole boss, and you would have a crappy job, but the truth is, there is a chance that you would end up being like them in the future, because they are the kind of people needed to get the job done. This movie, along with Swimming with Sharks postulates that these bosses are our dreams fully realized. They are people who expected everything to be perfect by the time they got up there, but realized there’s still more work. And if we’re not careful, we could end up being the assholes ourselves one day.

24. Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross

We’ve all heard the famous speech. If not…

Now you have.

This movie talks about selling, and that at the end of the day, selling is about the result. No matter what you do, you’re selling. If you’re a musician, you’re selling your music. If you’re a priest, your selling what you preach, if you go to a job interview, you’re selling yourself. I can think of fewer basic skills you need to survive than to be able to sell something. This movie follow four real estate salesmen as they try to keep their jobs, and is a whirlwind drama that takes place almost solely in that little office. But it does tell you how tough you have to work to get to a good place, and that you, in fact, have to make your own breaks.

The fact is that we have a limited amount of resources, and companies won’t shell out their best resources on mediocre talent. This is a truth that many of us don’t quite grasp. We are all at the bottom, and we have to fight our way out, only AFTER we prove ourselves do we really get the best opportunities, to make the big bucks, to get that big name, to score that big job. Working for a company, it’ll be rare to just be GIVEN a leadership role, you’ll have to prove that you earn it. And the only way to do that is to sell yourself, your skills, your talent, your potential. That is what that speech is about, and the movie tells you that the “easy” way out is never all that easy.

25. A Christmas Carol (any of them)

Christmas Carol

There’s something about A Christmas Carol, each one of them, even the not so great ones, that strikes a chord. We’re all familiar with the story, and frankly, it plays so damned often, and is remade so many times, that if you haven’t seen it yet, then there is probably something very weird about your childhood.

The Dickens classic follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who shares no Christmas spirit. He is visited by ghosts that show him Christmas Past, Present and Future, and in the journey, learns to love and be generous. The thing is, even if you’ve seen it, people still forget the values it espouses. Maybe the side-effect of being exposed to it so often is that we just don’t care anymore. We do have selfless moments but, we still see people with Scrooge-like stinginess walking around. This movie shows Scrooge that the penny pinching hasn’t made him any more fulfilled, and that though there are others with less, they seem to have more because they share their gifts with others, and at the end of the day, you won’t have any possessions left, so why fight until your dying breath to earn, earn and earn.

Money, wealth, riches. They are a means to an end, never an end in themselves. You don’t earn money just to have it, but because it makes you feel more valuable, makes you feel more secure. This movie, as a child helped me to understand that there is more to life than money, and every kid, even the kid that lives in my 25 year old mind, needs to be reminded of that once in a while.

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