Inspiration at the movies can brighten dark times

It's a Wonderful Life.jpg

As President Barack Obama noted in his speech to the nation on Friday, “This past week was a tough one.” 

As President Barack Obama noted in his speech to the nation on Friday, “This past week was a tough one.” 

On Monday, dark shadows fell over the Boston Marathon when bomb blasts turned finish line victory into chaos. Later in the week a violent explosion rocked the small town of West Texas, killing many more than in Boston. As the news reached the nation, we all grieved for our fellow American, but like 9-11, goodness overcame evil as heroic bystanders and first responders rushed into harm’s way to help those in need. They put others before themselves which is the mark of a true hero.

In times of trouble people reach out to one another, seeking comfort from family and friends. They also find peace and release by attending sporting events, listening to music or watching a good movie or DVD.

Frank Capra may not be a name young people recognize, but if you have ever watched Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life” at Christmas, you know him. He was the director, and that movie tops the AFI (American Film Institute) list of the 100 most inspirational American movies. Another Capra film on the list is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” also starring Jimmy Stewart. That movie could and should inspire all of our currents Congressional leaders.

Years ago I interviewed Frank Capra at his home, It was a dream come true for me because my family and I watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” every Christmas. For Capra the true hero in his films was always the little guy who, like Harry Bailey (James Stewart in “Wonderful Life”), makes a difference in the lives of others.

Inspirational films often have dark themes or are about dark times like Steven Spielberg’s moving “Schindler’s List,” starring Liam Neeson as Otto Schindler. Otto was a flawed German who nevertheless made a difference. As a result of his actions, which could have cost him his life, he saved thousands of Jews during Hitler’s Holocaust,         

 Many sports films like “Field of Dreams,” “Rocky” and “The Spirit of Saint Louis” inspire and are available on DVD. You can also check out “42,” which was just released this month. “42” is a true story about Jackie Robinson, a remarkable man who overcame insurmountable odds on his path to baseball glory.

Animals also inspire us, even a little pig like “Babe.” Babe believed that anything is possible and his story is also on the AFI list. As a baby, Babe is raised by a sheep dog when his real mother is taken away. He aspires to herd sheep just like his beloved new Mom, but every creature scoffs at Babe’s dreams, especially the cat.

 In the end Babe proves to all that kindness and perseverance will prevail. James Cromwell received a Supporting Actor nomination for his performance as the stoic farmer who loved this heroic little porker.

You will be pleased to know that all 48 piglets that played Babe in the movie were spared from ever becoming pork chops. In payment for their fine performances, they have all lived happily ever after on a farm.

This fact alone is inspirational.

Here are a few more ideas from the AFI list, “To Kill a Mocking Bird, “ starring Gregory Peck, is No. 2 on the list and is based on the novel of the same name. Also high on the AFI list, coming in at 26, is ”The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland and the delightful Ray Bolger as the scarecrow. Just hearing the young Judy sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is enough to lift one’s spirits. An all time favorite, starring Julie Andrews, is “The Sound of Music.”

This too is inspirational as well as musical and the songs will make your heart sing. The same applies to “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Animal lovers will enjoy “Seabiscuit” and “The Black Stallion” and sci-fi folk will get a lift from “Close Encounters“ and the oldie, but goodie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”