Life has been ordinary. I had the flu, and “Yes” I did have the flu shot. We ran into snow in Minnesota and ran back to Texas and warmer weather. Halloween had its cadre of costumed candy-seekers. Thanksgiving arrived with welcome relatives and plenteous foodstuffs. The Christmas lights are up on the house, the street is alive with Santa, elves and snowpersons, and the first freeze is expected soon. Yes, life has been ordinary and busy. It has been difficult to schedule Best Picture showings and even more difficult to return to you with the results of those filmings. I apologize and I am sorry, but sometimes the ordinary can be quite extraordinary.
So here we are with the results from the Best Pictures for 1980, 1981 and 1982.
As a scene set, I will note that for each movie a survey is completed by each member of the EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy audience. As part of that survey, the viewer is requested to rank the film from 1 (low) to 10 (high) and to write out their likes and dislikes for the film. For each of these three shows, a summary sentence was prepared reflecting those likes and dislikes, and a single word was chosen for the film. In addition, the combined average ranking for the movie is tabulated and compared against the other Best Pictures viewed to date.
“Ordinary People” is not ordinary. Set in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA, in what I would call the 1970’s, the show tracks a father, mother and younger son who has made a suicide attempt after the accidental death of the older son. Though their setting is fairly well to do economically, the family members are distant and apart.
“This is a very sad movie about a teenage boy recovering from a suicide attempt; the family is emotionally disrupted and does not recover as a family; wonderfully acted by son (Timothy Hutton – Best Supporting Actor Oscar), son’s girlfriend (Elizabeth McGovern), psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch – nominee for Best Supporting Actor), father (Donald Sutherland) and mother (Mary Tyler Moore – nominee for Best Actress), everyone liked the acting and no one liked the acted character of the mother (sad hat’s off to Mary Tyler Moore); the growing relationship between son and girl friend, the recovering relationship with the father and the healing relationship of the psychiatrist are the upbeat parts of the show, but they are not enough to save the audience from an emotionally draining experience and an unresolved ending; when the final credits played, the film managed only a 7.73 average rating, placing it #34 down the list of the first 53 Best Pictures.”
That’s the summary sentence for Best Picture #53. My high school English teacher required 100-word sentences and I still have that bug. I notice no mention of the older son in these words. That bothers me. I think the show is meant to bother its viewers. The single word for the show is “suicide.”
“Chariots of Fire” centers around the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France, and follows members of the British track team as they prepare for, journey to, compete in, return from and live on after those Olympics. The Americans are there as a counterpoint to add conflict and tension, but the show is for the British and they do marvelously. The summary sentence is:
“This film was most liked for its main message: Put God first, honor Him and He will honor you; next liked were the teamwork, hard work, friendship and comradery evidenced among and between the runners — they lifted each other up even when they were racing against each other; cinematography, music and costumes followed closely as additional big likes of the audience; the major dislike was the difficult to understand English and Scottish accents of the actors while a few viewers singled out the discrimination practiced against the Jewish competitor; overall there were few dislikes, the positive, uplifting, inspiring story won out, and the average rating of 8.87 places the film tied at #12 of the first 54 Best Pictures from 1928 to 1981, a very commendable showing for a very entertaining show.”
An extraordinary show of extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances behaving in an extraordinary fashion. For all of that, there is a quite ordinary element. The single word for the show tracks that: “comradery.”
In India, there are many sayings. One of those is a single word, the name of one very ordinary extraordinary man, the name “Gandhi.” The 55th Best Picture released in 1982 attempts to tell the story of that life and opens with these words, “No man’s life can be encompassed in one telling.” From there, it attempts the telling, and “Yes” it is too long, but the telling despite its length is that of marvelous person presented by a marvelous actor in a film reflecting the momentous events of its time.
“This is Gandhi’s movie, the man and the actor; Ben Kingsley won Best Actor for his portrayal of the man, and the man presented was instrumental in securing the independence of India from the English — together they become one in the film and they were the most liked aspect of the show for the EFMO audience; curiously, this movie depicting the very successful non-violent protests instituted by its lead character was most disliked for the violence portrayed, the English who largely perpetuated that violence, and the hopelessness and helplessness of the violent ending in a divided country where one might say nothing had really changed; nevertheless, the likes won out and the movie achieved a 9.00 average ranking, placing it tied at #10 of first fifty-five Best Pictures; on top of that, everyone retrieved the person they were angry with from the cold bare hillside (only the 10th time this has happened), thereby securing the film’s high and virtuous stature among the Best Pictures screened to date.”
One of the survey questions places you angry with another person and considering leaving that individual on a cold bare hillside or retrieving the rascal to the comfort of a warm cabin. After viewing this show, it asks, which way would this movie influence you to act? To his credit, after watching Gandhi no one left that unruly personage out in the cold. Such can be the power of a single name. And, the single word for the show: “non-violence.”
Enough, there you have three films for three years in three different places. From Chicago to Paris to India, we find no one is ever really ordinary. And that is as it should be — quite extraordinary.
Thank you for reading,