I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it in the blog here, since this has more to do with relationships than careers, but my ultimate passion would be to executive produce feature films, specifically films that inspire people to live happier, more empowered lives. I believe films are the greatest single medium for widespread personal change, because they incorporate more of the senses than any other media AND reach the most people at one time.
With that in mind, I used to host movie/discussion nights for the volunteers (and anyone else who wanted to attend) whenever I was at The Option Institute (www.option.org), and the movies I showed all fit in some way into this category. They either highlighted an empowering or happiness-generating personality trait, or had a story that would inspire discussion about how one could create a more fearless, empowered, loving, or happy existence within themselves. And MAN, we had a great time! I never knew where the discussion was going to go, because, although I had in mind the question or two that I wanted to start the discussion with, it was up to each individual group to decide where we went from there, and I loved facilitating in an environment where almost everyone was open to sharing and exploring their lives together in search of a happier and more empowered existence.
So here are a list of 10 films that are both enjoyable and useful in 1) helping you, personally, to live a more comfortable and joyful life, and 2) will lead, through open and honest discussion with your partner, future partner, friend, family member, whatever, to deeper, more open, and more wonderful life relationships. There are many, many more of these type of movies, I’m just going to list the most impactful 10 that I can think of right now (and most of these I’ve shown during movie nights at one time or another). For the most part, they are also movies that have not been widely seen, as it is fun to have a discussion when people see them for the first time, although there are a couple of exceptions you will see. Since I don’t have access to most of my movies right now, there will probably be another list in the future, but this will get you started—and feel free to watch with your partner and discuss afterward. These are in no particular order:
- 1. 50 First Dates – What are the challenges in your relationship and are you willing to overcome those if this is the person you have been looking for? Although there is a lot of humor in this movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, at it’s core, this in an inspiring drama with a tremendous supporting performance by Blake Clark as Lucy’s father. Themes: love, sacrifice, going for what you want, perseverance.
- Gattaca – Everyone has challenges that are thrown into their life that they will have to overcome in order to lead the life they want. What if these challenges were actually codefied into law from the day you were born? That in order to do what you dreamed for yourself and to find out how far you could go and what you could achieve, you would have to break the law. And what place does desire and determination play against inherent skill? These are the questions looked at in this wonderful, soft-sci-fi that plays out as a mystery and a thriller, and ultimately an inspiration for anyone who was ever told what they could and could not do. Themes: self empowerment, determination, inspiration.
- Fearless – The name pretty much says it all, and by now you have heard me talk many times about how I believe fear is the single biggest obstacle in keeping us from living happy and fulfilling lives. (look at www.option.org for more information about the fearless program, a way to change your life in an empowered way!) This movie, starring recent Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges explores some very edgy territory about beliefs and how they can actually be changed enough to not only determine physical reactions, but how our facing mortality can fundamentally alter how we want to live our lives. This is a GREAT one for discussions because there are multiple ways to view the ending, depending on what you believe about your life. Themes: fearlessness, love relationships, death, settling for less, blame.
- Don Juan DeMarco – I always laugh when I talk about this movie because I think, although it was meant to be a “deeper” movie by the filmmakers, I think it is actually DEEPER than they intended! This is a wonderful, inspiring movie with a young Johnny Deep and an old Marlon Brando, and although the story is about what makes reality, reality, and where is the line between “good” and “harmful” fantasy, I believe it goes even deeper than that. What we make up about the world is ALWAYS fantasy, because it’s always how we interpret it, so the question is, what fantasy do we WANT to make up? Themes: sanity/insanity, love, fantasy/reality, inspiration.
- Finding Neverland – Another movie dealing with how we look at and how we create our world. Hahaha, and I just noticed, another Johnny Deep movie! Sometimes we have to risk what the rest of the world sees as “good” in order to live our life in such a way that it inspires us, and in such a way that we surround ourselves with the people who fit us best. My ex-wife and I are really great friends, she still at times calls me the best friend she has ever had. Yet we were not a match as romantic partners and that’s totally okay, because our journey together eventually led us to greater personal journeys apart! Yet society as a whole (and especially the more conservative members of my family) can view divorce as a stigma and look down on it. This film explores breaking the mold to create a more beautiful one, at a time in history when it was FAR more difficult to do so. Themes: fantasy/reality, creativeness, love, friendship, breaking with status quo.
- Harold & Maude – Trivia note: this is the film that inspired me to change from someone who loved watching and talking about movies to someone who wanted to MAKE movies, when I watched it for my Intro to Film class as a general education requirement in college. Set to the backdrop of wonderful Cat Stevens music (heck there’s a whole discussion there about what you think of Cat Stevens later saying he condoned killing the writer Salman Rushdie after converting to Islam), this dark comedy, or funny drama, however you want to look at it, pushes the envelope when it comes to how we view the acceptable limits of romantic love—if there are any. Not just a beautiful story, an amazingly filmed movie that includes one of my 3 favorite scenes ever laid down on celluloid. Themes: love, alienation, acceptance, empowerment.
- Short Time – At first this looks like a straight comedy, and in fact, that was how it was marketed when it came out in theaters. But look underneath and you find a true heart in how shallow we tend to live our lives when we think we have all the time in the world to live them. A delightful film starring Dabney Coleman and a young Matt Frewer as cop partners, and with Terri Garr as Dabney’s wife, it questions why we live on this shallow level. What are we afraid of? Don’t get me wrong, for all it’s inspiration, this is also a hilarious, laugh-out-loud movie. Themes: death, fear, love (in many aspects), letting go of others’ expectations.
- Peaceful Warrior – This film is a more directive look at the aspects that can add joy, comfort, love, serenity to your life. A neat and underviewed film with Nick Nolte in the role of “Socrates”, the guide to a young man with a lot of fears who lives to win, but doesn’t have a clue as to what that actually means. I loved the book, but this movie hits a home run as it brings continuity, brevity, and balance to the story. Themes: being present, enjoying the journey, self-love, serenity, joy.(all tools to reach this can be found in several programs of the Option Institute www.option.org)
- Creator – A host of young stars before their time (Vincent Spano, Mariel Hemingway, Virginia Madsen) and a couple after their big days (David Ogden Stiers and Peter O’Toole) fuel this overlooked gem of a film that tackles big issues within the context of the relationships of two friends (O’Toole and Spano). What is love and if you find the love of a lifetime, when is it time to let it go? How old is too old to love again, and what impact does love really have on the world around us? What part does chance play? My favorite love story of all time (so far!). Themes: love, death, god, letting go, friendship, the line between insanity and genius.
- Signs – Yes, THAT Signs! Why must alien invasions be precluded from a list of inspiring movies? Go and see the original Day The Earth Stood Still or Journey Into Space (if you can find it, LOL!). Where’s the inspiration in this one, you may ask? What does it have to do with relationships? Go back and watch it again in the context of what you know from reading this blog and see if you can answer that question for yourself. Also something to note: the one time I showed this film for movie night, I watch a very interesting reaction of two people in the audience. One would start to cover her face and kick her legs when it started to get suspenseful, but when the actual JUMP moment arrived, she didn’t jump. Another one had no fear in the lead up to the JUMP moment, but when it arrived she SCREAMED. I brought this up in the discussion and it led into a very interesting interaction about how we do fear. Themes: faith, empowerment, beliefs, fear, love. In this context I can suggest a real good book called ” Happiness is a Choice!” Written by Barry Neil Kaufman, co-founder of the Option institute. This book is life changing, empowering and teaches you the options you can have in life. Mary told me she recommends this book daily in her practice in Holland! Many people feel so much happier after reading the book and are able to let go of stress, fear etc. all because of letting go of beliefs that were not really theirs. And there is so much more to experience reading this book….One of the best books ever!
When I did movie nights, most films lent themselves to me asking a simple question before the movie (I didn’t want people thinking TOO much while they were watching, just to enjoy it), which was: as you watch this movie, think about which character you most see yourself like and why? Then afterwards I would usually start the discussion with that question. But many times people would already be wanting to share something that struck them during the movie so we might never even get to that. I hope you enjoy these films as much as I do! I would LOVE to have you 1) come back and post what happened if you watched these and had a discussion afterwards and 2) I would LOVE to have you suggest additional inspirational movies for me to see!!! More to come later….
(So much for “knocking out a short blog”, lol!)