Friday, July 18, 2008

When the going gets tough -- go to the movies

Americans find their strength in the theater.

Presidents give speeches, John Wayne molds heroes.

Teachers guide young minds, "To Sir With Love" reaches the heart.

And when the economy is going to hell in a hand basket as my mother liked to say, we troop off to the movies.

Here in our house we've pulled out the old West Wing DVDs and are watching season after season as a way, I think, to deal with the lackluster political choices, the spiraling costs of living, the falling stock prices which drags down our retirement funds with them. We forget our concerns about health care coverage and insurance, or worries about job security. All that waits in the shadows while we watch Jeb Bartlett deal with those hostile Republicans or quell an uprising around the world or kill off a terrorist posing as a Saudi friend. Right now we're commiserating with the president over his daughter's kidnapping and lamenting that we're too quickly approaching the last two seasons, one of which we haven't purchased yet. So perhaps this type of head in the sand approach to dealing with reality will help the economy in the price of season six's DVDs.

Mom, now 96, spoke of going to the movies during the Great Depression. For ten cents admission price, the girls swooned over Valentino and forgot they hadn't bought a new dress in two or three years and their parents were losing their farms. Another outlet at that time was music. Mom has a collection of sheet music, I suppose it would compare to buying CDs today, and the hope in those songs -- Side By Side talks of "Ain't got a barrel of money, maybe we're ragged and funny, but we'll travel the road, sharing our load, side by side."

That song got my husband and I through the 70s when we were all making our own clothes, quilts and socks. We baked our own bread and preserved everything we harvested from our vegetable gardens. "Love Story" and "Towering Inferno" got us through the tough times, at least we were together and not facing a fatal illness nor trapped by a raging fire in the world's tallest building.

The 1940s, a terrible time when the good guys and bad guys were at war -- really at war -- produced a long list of amazing movies and people flocked to see them and the special features from the war. "Casablanca," "Citizen Kane," "It's a Wonderful Life," The Maltese Falcon." The list goes on and on.

Today the biggest box office draw, maybe surpassing Harry Potter movies, is a sequel featuring a dead movie star -- Heath Ledger.
Less than 24 hours after "The Dark Knight" opened to record-breaking crowds, reports that more than 1,300 performances nationwide are still sold out. This includes more than 220 in New York City and Los Angeles alone. All this, combined with a move into the Top 5 Pre-Sale List of All-Time, and sky-high approval ratings from users, combines to pack a powerful punch. -- PR Newswire
Other movies in the top five include:
1. "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"
2. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"
3. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
4. "Dark Knight"
5. "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Concert Disney Digital 3D

I'm not sure about number five, but the first four seem to have memorable villains in common. Darth Vadar and those who turned him to the dark side; Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter's nemesis; Sauron who wants to destroy man; and of course The Joker played by Heath Ledger.

Americans love a worthy opponent, adore watching good triumph over evil, and most of all we like being able to easily discern between good and evil. That last one isn't always easy to figure out in the real world.

Thank heavens for movies -- they get us through the tough times. And during these hot days of summer -- the air conditioning is a nice perk, too.

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