Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day

A very happy Independence Day to all my American readers.  It's a day of celebration filled with parades, barbecue parties, ice cream cones, patriotic songs and fireworks displays.  Today, I decided to show my contribution to this national holiday by compiling a special offering of my own.  What follows is a short list of my personal recommendations of films ideal for a 4th of July movie night.  So, let your star spangled banners wave and show your national pride by viewing at least one of the following films.


1. Ben and Me- Okay, this isn't really a movie but an animated short, but it still is well-worth seeing, particularly for families with small children, as it might spark an interest for history in their young minds.  In this 20 minute feature based on a book written by Robert Lawson, a brand-new twist is placed on the story of America when English-speaking church mouse named Amos meets and befriends Benjamin Franklin.  Throughout the story, it’s revealed that many of Benjamin Franklin’s largest contributions to Early America, such as bifocals and the Franklin Stove, were really thought up by Amos the mouse.  In fact, Amos was even the secret reporter for Benjamin’s newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette.  The friendship between Amos and Ben becomes severed when Ben’s experiments with electricity nearly gets Amos killed, but when the tension between the American colonies and England starts to build, Ben approaches Amos, requesting his help once again.  Amos agrees, on the condition that Ben signs a contract that states Amos’ terms.  Just when Ben is about to sign Amos’ contract, they receive a surprise visit from Thomas Jefferson, who is having difficulty in writing the opening to the Declaration of Independence.  When Ben, at Amos’ urging, starts to read through Amos’ contract, Jefferson finds his much-needed inspiration, which is identical to Amos’ contract, word-for-word.  

 2. Independence Day- Say what you will about director Roland Emmerich and his style of movies, this summer flick has always been a staple of my 4th of July celebration.  As the movie opens on July 2nd, the whole world marvels at the sudden arrival of extraterrestrial spacecraft, with each of the spacecraft positioning themselves above the world’s major cities.  However, wonder quickly turns into terror when the spacecrafts simultaneously fire off directed energy weapons at the targeted cities, thus completely destroying the metropolises.  As the film progresses, a handful of survivors, including American President Whitmore, Captain Steven Hiller of the U.S. Marine Corps, and David Levinson, an MIT-graduate-turned-cable man, band together to devise a way to strike back against the invading aliens.  As fate would have it, a plan is made on July 4th, and, with the use of Morse code, survivors from all over the world are able to coordinate a global counterstrike.  While I will not deny that this movie does have a few problems here and there, I still think the spirit behind the story more than makes up for it.  And I defy anyone not to be enthralled at President Whitmore’s epic speech towards the end of the film.

                  

3. An American Tail- Once again, mice are used to give us a quasi-history lesson of another point in America’s history, this time of the Ellis Island immigrants of the 19th century.  In this story, the main focus is on a young mouse named Fievel who is journeying to America with his Russian Jewish family, the Mousekewitzes, along with many other immigrant families.  During the journey on board the boat, Fievel’s foolish curiosity leads to him falling overboard, and he only survives by climbing into an empty bottle that he happened to find, which just happens to get washed up on shore at the base of Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is still being built.  Fievel sets out in the hopes of locating his family, but while he finds a good number of friends, including the street-smart Italian immigrant, Tony, Irish activist Bridget, the French Pigeon Henri, and Tiger, an orange-furred vegetarian alleycat, he starts to lose hope as he discovers America isn’t the great cat-free paradise they had believed it to be.  Like many other movies released under the iconic Don Bluth’s name, this movie, despite being classified as a kid’s film, does not sugarcoat things, and there are some legitimately dark and gritty moments, from the inhospitable conditions on the boats bringing immigrants to Ellis Island to showing how hard the immigrants had to work upon reaching America.  There is even a scene when Fievel is sold to a sweatshop.  In the end however, things do end happily for Fievel, who is later brought to the dedication of the Statue of Liberty by his old friend, Henri the pigeon.  It could be debated that this ending symbolizes how the immigrants eventually managed to rise above their difficult start in America and became full-fledged Americans.  No matter how you interpret it, this is a wonderful film that everyone should see at least once.

4. National Treasure- This is one of those movies that has a little something for everyone: history, action, mystery, comedy and even a      little romance thrown in for good measure.  As a boy, Benjamin Gates was told an old family legend by his grandfather about a fabled treasure hidden by the American Founding Fathers.  Despite his father’s discouragement, Ben never gave up hope and, upon reaching adulthood, he made it his life’s mission to find the fabled treasure.  With the help of computer expert, Riley Poole, and National Archives employee, Dr. Abigail Chase, Ben follows a series of cleverly hidden clues that leads them to various American landmarks, including Independence Hall and the Trinity Church in NYC.  In one of the most iconic scenes of the film, Ben, realizing that there’s an invisible map to the fabled treasure printed on the back of the Declaration of Independence, concocts an elaborate plan to steal the document during a gala event.  However, the intrepid team of treasure hunters have to watch their step as they continue on their adventure, because they also have to avoid a second team led by Ian Howe, who desires the treasure for dishonorable reasons, as well as Agent Sadusky and his FBI squadron, who are hot on Ben’s trail.

5. Glory- In this 1989 film with a cast of well-known actors, Matthew Broderick portrays Colonel Robert Gould Shaw during the time of the Civil War.  After being told that President Lincoln is about to pass the Emancipation Proclamation, Colonel Shaw accepts command of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first regiment in American history to consist entirely of blacks. Despite the institutional racism, Colonel Shaw ensures that his regiment receives effective training and are properly equipped, which earns him his men’s respect.  Even though it soon becomes clear that the higher-ups in the army have no intention of allowing the 54th to enter into the actual fighting, Colonel Shaw ensures that the 54th regiment receives the same treatment and opportunity as any other full-white regiment.  With its highly poignant ending, this film is a must see for everyone, as it is not only based on actual events in America’s history, it’s a testament to the strength and courage that exists within
all true American soldiers.

Once again, have a happy Independence Day.  And God bless the U.S.A.!