Christine M. Flowers: When Oscar meets real life
THIS WEEK, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards telecast, I mounted my own personal Oscars Film Festival. With the help of Netflix, Jiffy Pop and the only non-flat TV screen left in captivity, I spent hours admiring the type of performances that lead people to say, "We like you, we really like you!" Ironically, I managed to pick films that provided
THIS WEEK, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards telecast, I mounted my own personal Oscars Film Festival.
With the help of Netflix, Jiffy Pop and the only non-flat TV screen left in captivity, I spent hours admiring the type of performances that lead people to say, "We like you, we really like you!" Ironically, I managed to pick films that provided eerie parallels with current events. It got to the point that I realized that Hollywood is just better- quality reality programming (better scripts, cleaner women, smarter men).
So here for your consideration are my celluloid selections and their real-life counterparts.
'Norma Rae' goes
As I watched perky Sally Field hop up on that table and flash her well-toned biceps along with that "Union" sign, I was reminded of those valiant public workers in Madison, marching for the right to screw up some kids' educations. (Not, of course, that this mattered to said kids, who were perfectly happy to hang out at the mall while their elders acted like spoiled brats.)
In a union town like Philadelphia, this "The people, united, will never be defeated" nonsense evokes sympathy. But for a lot of Americans who don't get Cadillac benefits and believe in the right to work, it just looks like blackmail. Frankly, if we were to remake "Norma Rae" today, Gov. Walker and his fiscal pragmatism cuts a more heroic figure than Gidget.
'The Cider House Rules' in West Philly
Michael Caine deserved that Oscar he won.
Caine swayed academy voters by showing that a man who aborts the babies of poor, unwed mothers is a philanthropist, not a criminal. Unfortunately, Kermit Gosnell was more Sweeney Todd than Albert Schweitzer and showed that in real (as opposed to reel) life, killing babies is not the prescription for a happy ending.
Moscow and the Mideast,
"Dr. Zhivago" is, quite simply, the most exquisite movie ever filmed, with its Snow Queen landscapes and music-box soundtrack.
But it is also a horror film, showing just how dangerous ideals can be in the hands of true believers. The Bolsheviks started out as intelligent young reformers who seized their country from a tyrant. But before you could say "Trotsky," they became the evil they beheld, while naive liberals in the West cheered them on.
It's important to remember that not every "People's Revolution" ends with a few minutes of tidy Hollywood credits. Some end in bloodshed.
When priests were
role models for boys
Spencer Tracy is my all-time favorite cinema priest, followed closely by Bing Crosby. Tracy's star turn in "Boys Town" showed that, once upon a time, the clergy earned respectful treatment in the court of public opinion.
Tracy was so good as the real-life hero of "Boys Town" that he almost made being a destitute orphan look like fun. Now, mention boys in the same breath as priests and you get snickers and grand-jury indictments. Watching this black-and-white classic reminds me that for every Bernard Law, there are a hundred Mother Teresas (and Father Flanagans).
'Goodbye, Mr. Chips,'
Hello, Mrs. %$@#!
Stories about self-sacrificing teachers always make me cry.
The one that really causes me to morph into a human sprinkler is "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," the original 1939 version with Robert Donat. The Brit's performance was so brilliant, he did the impossible: Beat out Clark Gable for the best-actor Oscar the year "Gone With the Wind" swept the awards.
The reason he was so achingly wonderful was that he personified the type of teacher that, let's be honest, doesn't exist anymore: the one who lives for his students, and doesn't make fun of them at the keyboard. It's a shame Natalie Munroe from Central Bucks didn't watch the movie before she demonized her students on a blog. Sure, it was supposed to be anonymous, but when she started making fun of special-needs students, she gave up her right to be in a classroom.
Gary Cooper epitomized all that's bright and good about being an American, portraying the honest Mr. Deeds, the stalwart Pride of the Yankees, the stoic sheriff in "High Noon" and, most movingly, humble soldier Alvin York.
Watching a pacifist become one of the greatest war heroes of all time still brings a lump to my throat. But then I hear about the amputee Iraq veteran heckled the other day by Columbia students who oppose the ROTC. And that lump becomes bile for our "antiwar" hypocrites.
I'd say most of those Ivy League kids have no idea what it is to sacrifice for your country.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. E-mail
email@example.com. She blogs at philly.com/philly/blogs/flowersshow.