Every man must decide whether he
will walk in the light of creative altruism
or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
– Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.
The sun fell with grace upon the land and
the hatred between men would scream
its last breath, defeated by the voices of reason.
– Kendall F. Person, Heroes
With so much chaos within our government, driven by what appears to be a complete sense of self-centeredness, and with so many motion pictures defined by explicit violence or technological advances, let us pay homage to the cinematic wonders whose unselfishness touches the heart and ignites our altruistic souls.
A republishing of…..
The 10 Movies that Define Our Altruistic Self
written & reviewed by Kendall F. Person
10 Pretty in Pink
Sure this movie belonged to Molly Ringwald, playing the relatively complex, coming-of-age role of Andie Walsh, a high school senior looking for love and identify, while filling the void at home, created by the abandonment of her mother. It is a fact, that James Spader loomed large as the ‘misery-loves-company’ villain, using his money for love and prestige, although, he was little more than a ‘john’ of life. It was predicted, the cowardly Blaine would get the girl in the end, why else cast Andrew McCarthy in the one dimensional role. However, it was then little known actor Jon Cryer – now a baller in Two and A Half Men – playing the role of Duckie, a high school outsider if there ever was one, whose unselfish act of humility, realism (“I came by myself”) and the belief in old-fashion romance, that brought the movie full circle. With OMD’s If You Leave playing in the background, he not only saved the day by escorting a brokenhearted Andie into the prom, but had the decency to let her go once inside.
9 Hustle & Flow
If not for the history making, Academy Award win for Best Original Song, It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp by Three 6 Mafia, this brilliantly acted and directed film about a southern hustler, determined to build a legitimate life and business, using the only tools at hand – pimping and pandering – may have completely flown under the radar. With so many characters that both gripped us and disgusted us, it was the shy, little country girl that most enveloped what the movie was really about. Nola (beautifully underplayed by Taryn Manning), reminded us through the prostitution, drug dealing, narcissism and murder, Hustle & Flow was simply about capturing the American Dream. No disrespect to Shug (a breakout performance from Taraji P. Henson), whose unyielding support of Djay (a role Terrence Howard embodied with the soul of a 1000 struggling men), infused him with the fire to go forth; but as his woman, her support was as much about her future as it was his. It was Nola who summed up every ounce of courage and dedication in her used-and-abused body, filled it with an ambition akin to dynamite, and bet it all on someone else’s dream….who was serving eleven years in prison at the time.
8 The Poseidon Adventure (the 1972 original)
As audiences watched the poetic scene of Oscar nominated Shelly Winters, portraying the plus-size Bell Rosen, swim through the water, we took it for granted that death would not take her. But when it did, it blew our minds. But not only was she swimming to save herself, it was her unhealthy lifestyle which caused her heart to explode when it did. While it was that moment, that brought tears to audiences’ eyes, it was the actions of Revered Scott (Gene Hackman), that epitomized altruism. It’s easy to discard him as a corrupt minister, simply trying to save his own soul, however, when he grabbed hold of the scorching-hot wheel of steam, his actions assured there would be survivors – without any assurances – his soul was not destined for hell.
7 The Green Mile
Stephen King, a prolific author and master storyteller, held a common theme in his myriad of books: a big finish. However, in The Green Mile, he quietly and so effectively, flipped the script on millions of loyal followers. The novel transferred, without incident, to the big screen, and as audiences watched, they readied for all hell to break loose – it never did. Instead, King utilized a giant, imposing figure, John Coffey, played with such purpose and grace by the late Michael Clarke Duncan, to weave a nearly spiritual ending from a tale of bitter hate. “I couldn’t help it, boss. I tried to take it back, but it was too late.” It was with those angelic words, audiences understood, that John Coffey lived only to relieve the world of pain – of which – he then must endure.
6 The Color Purple and Native Son
At first glance, the roles played by Oprah Winfrey in these two films, appear as mirror images. Poor, African-American women, raising families during Americas’ dark and shameful Jim Crow era, where tragedy, for so many, was imminent. But in ideology, they were polar opposites. Sofia, in The Color Purple, was a lioness. Mrs. Thomas, from Native Son, was a lamb. Had they lived in the same generation, Sofia would have followed the teachings of Malcolm X, whereas Mrs. Thomas, would have stood with Dr. King. But where the characters do meet, was within their over-my-dead-body willingness to give their lives for their children. Mrs. Thomas abandoned every last shred of dignity, as she dropped to her knees and begged ‘the man’ for her sons’ life. Sofia, in true to form, balled up her fist and literally fought to hang on to hers. One rotted in prison, the other languished inside the empty vesicle of her mind. But, there is no doubt, that these two very different women, would have unquestionably, given their lives to save their young.
In the argument of nurture verses nature, Aliens gives the nurture argument a convincing win if not an outright knock out blow. Not only, was Newt (Carrie Hen) a new acquaintance, and of absolutely no relation to Ripley (a groundbreaking performance by Sigourney Weaver), but – through no fault of her own – the little girl was not all that likeable. But did any of that stop Ripley from forging straight into the Alien’s den, rescuing the kid, and killing all of the queen’s eggs in the process? A resounding NO! When the rescue ship finally arrived, audiences all but headed for the exits, relieved that this heart-stomping thrill ride was over. But those who did leave, missed the battle royale. And again, it was Ripley saving a child she barely knew. “Leave her alone, you bitch!”
4 The Blind Side
Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, an upper class, tough as nails, southern Republican. Lee Anne saw each person as a human being. The tough guys were not tougher because they were poor and black, and the upper crust wasn’t inherently good because they were rich and white. She measured each person by their own merits and issued no judgments, even when she could have been forgiven for doing so. Her anticipated meeting with Michael Oher’s mother (hauntingly played by Andriane Lenox) was so respectful, so Christlike – let he who is without sin cast the first stone – no words were needed for audiences to understand, at the moment, we knew, he was a child of them both.
3 Leaving Las Vegas
Even this movie, one that scrapes life’s bottom barrel, demonstrated to audiences, that regardless of our socio-economic or emotional standing in the hierarchy of society, – as human beings – we always have something left inside. Elizabeth Shue was astounding in her sympathetic portrayal of Sera, a lonely, street hooker that the good life forgot. She falls in love with Ben Sanderson, a suicidal alcoholic who moves to Las Vegas to die (Nicolas Cage in an Academy Award winning performance). These two empty souls, somehow, found each other and a reason to laugh again; to love again. But Ben was not simply suicidal, he was in the act of committing suicide the entire movie. Even after Ben makes it painfully clear of his intentions, Sera – perhaps the ultimate altruistic chick – remains with him, stays beside him and even makes love to him, till the heart-crushing, soul-searching bitter end.
2 Imitation of Life (the 1959 remake)
If Altruism were to be an official classification as a movie genre, Juanita Moore as Annie Johnson, in the powerful Imitation of Life, would be the standard-bearer. Being a parent to a troubled child, tests the limits of love and devotion. But being the parent of Sarah Jane, Annie’s emotionally wrecked, self-centered and disrespectful daughter, pushes those limits to the breaking point. Yet, Annie would never stop loving her daughter, never stop trying to give Sarah Jane the best life she could. Nor would she ever allow, her strict moral compass to succumb, even when Sarah Jane’s vicious rhetoric, felt as if she had spat in the face of Motherhood, itself. Annie’s love would not diminished…one…single…iota.
1 Schindler’s List
Liam Neeson’s brilliant performance as a German who devotes, not just his life, but his very existence to fighting evil and injustice, personifies the spirit of altruism. Certainly, during the many atrocities the human race has wrought, there lived an ‘Oskar Schindler’ in every one (Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma K. Gandhi, to name so very few). The notion should ring deep, that as a human being, Oskar Schindler, did all he could, and all that could have been expected. But alas, the expectations of man can only run so deep. His state of depleted emotions for not doing more, dives past the consciousness and jumps head first, into the spiritual soul we pray to keep.
– a movie review