Sunday, September 7, 2014

15 Movies that Influenced Me

Today I woke up to being tagged to participate in a Facebook exercise. The rules were thus:

Without thinking, list 15 movies that influenced you.

I chose to interpret that as meaning I should rattle off the first 15 movies that came to mind that I believe influenced who I am today. So, after 15 minutes of racking my brain I came up with the following list:

  1. The Wind Rises
  2. Moscow on the Hudson
  3. Star Wars
  4. The Shawshank Redemption
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird
  6. Good Will Hunting
  7. Clerks
  8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  9. The Producers
  10. Kiki's Delivery Service
  11. Good Morning Vietnam
  12. Samson and Sally
  13. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  14. Child's Play
  15. 12 Angry Men
I made this list as quickly as I could, discarding any movies that came to mind that I felt didn't influence me in any lasting, meaningful way. There are likely other movies that have influenced me more than these, but these were the ones that came up first.

Now, I'll briefly summarize their influence on me:

Interestingly, the list is bookended with movies I've actually watched within the past year: both The Wind Rises and 12 Angry Men have been reviewed by me in this blog. Their influence on me is not yet proven to be lasting, yet I hope I can retain some part of Jiro's vision and dedication to perfecting a craft or what I learned about consensus making from 12 Angry Men. This remains to be seen, however.

Moscow on the Hudson is a strange one for this list. I've only seen this movie once after waking up in my room after one of my first D&D nights, surrounded by most of my other players. We woke up, turned on the TV, and watched this whole movie. Somehow it stuck with me, informing a lot of my thoughts about immigration and survival in a strange place while also reinforcing my belief that a good-natured disposition can carry you a long way.

Star Wars likely influenced my ongoing fascination with knighthood more than any fantasy book. I'm not sure the movies really go into this very much, but somehow I walked away from that movie having learned the power of restraint; having large amounts of power, yet not using it unless called for. Obi-Wan Kenobi showed great restraint, up to and including his final battle.

The Shawshank Redemption is still one of my favorite movies ever. Like many of my favorites, it involves a character showing dedication over a long time to accomplish something incredible. This is a valuable lesson, which flies in the face of many movies in which a character can learn a valuable skill over the course of a montage. I have no plans to go to prison, though.

To Kill a Mockingbird showed me how screwed up race relations are (still are, see Ferguson), but that wasn't news to me. Rather, the character of Atticus Finch is one of my role models, both as a reasonable, kind person and as a great father. I plan to keep him in mind if I ever achieve fatherhood.

Good Will Hunting is a movie I keep coming back to. I'm neither a genius nor a therapist, yet there are lessons in that movie that everyone needs to learn. The biggest one, which sticks with me the most, is the speech about relationships and taking risks. I could spend an entire blog post talking about what I've learned from that monologue.

Clerks taught me to appreciate what I have and to make decisions to avoid stagnation.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory taught me some very direct life lessons about gluttony, chewing gum, and being a spoiled brat (heh), but more importantly it taught me to take the things I imagine and make them real in one way or another. Most notably in D&D, where my imagination may not be tangible but other people get to explore it nonetheless.

The Producers taught me that when you've got it, flaunt it. I'm bad at this, though.

Kiki's Delivery Service influenced me more than most Ghibli films, since I can often relate to Kiki's apparent loss of ability in the face of a lack of inspiration. It's difficult to create when you lack something to believe in, a muse that drives you to convey an idea.

As I noted in my Robin Williams post, I watched Good Morning, Vietnam many times.

Samson and Sally was a strange Norwegian animated film about whales. I watched it when i was very young, and it opened my eyes to a completely alien form of existence, as well as informing my approach to dealing with celebrities much later in life.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit reinforced my appreciation for the power of comedy. "A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Sometimes, in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Child's Play instilled an aversion to horror in me from a very young age. I still don't enjoy horror movies.

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