09 August 2020

Lucas

This blog post about LUCAS (1986) is the third of three posts that discuss unique movies about the sport of American football.

 

The romantic comedy and drama movie LUCAS stars Corey Haim as a precocious child named Lucas. Lucas appreciates nature and classical music. He is intelligent but prejudged by others because of his appearance. He is small in stature and on the surface unpretentious. Because of these qualities, aside from students in the school marching band, other teenagers do not socialize with him.

Maggie (Kerri Green) is new in town and meets Lucas during the summer break before school starts. Lucas introduces Maggie to bugs and classical music. Maggie introduces Lucas to tennis and gives him a ride in her convertible car. One-on-one these friends make a great pair, but Lucas desires more.

Eventually, Maggie meets other teenagers in the community, including Cappie (Charlie Sheen). Maggie develops feelings for Cappie, who Lucas calls “superficial,” and Cappie is attracted to Maggie, but has a cheerleader girlfriend named Alise (Courtney Thorne-Smith). When Cappie suggests Maggie become a cheerleader, Alise gets angry at him.

Lucas thinks cheerleading is as superficial as football. However, he puts energy into capturing Maggie and joins the school’s football team. He makes this decision based on observing Maggie’s admiration for football player Cappie. Ironically, Lucas focuses on football and Maggie, but does not notice his marching band classmate Rina (Winona Ryder) likes him.

The football coach (Guy Boyd) obviously does not want Lucas on the team, but Lucas shows up to practice in uniform quoting laws about how he is supposed to be given a fair opportunity. No one takes Lucas seriously and he ends up in Principal Kaiser’s (Garrett M. Brown) office, creating his own superficial circumstances by telling the principal his father is a lawyer. Truthfully, Lucas’ father is an alcoholic and he does not live in the affluent neighborhood he takes Maggie to during summer break. Rina already knows these aspects about Lucas’ life, but he does not spend time with her outside of band class. Instead he chooses to impress cheerleader Maggie whom he has no chance of romancing.

LUCAS is not just about football, but the sport does represent a fair portion of the story. In Lucas’ perspective football players and cheerleaders are superficial, yet he uses the sport to get what he wants. Unfortunately, Maggie never returns his affections, but his bravery in playing the sport, risking physical injuries garners him respect from his peers.


05 August 2020

Facing the Giants

This blog post about FACING THE GIANTS (2006) is the second of three posts that discuss unique movies about the sport of American football.

 

The drama movie FACING THE GIANTS features an extremely popular scene, even if one has not seen the entire film he or she has watched the scene of one football player carrying another player on his back all the way across a football field. This scene is shown at conferences by workshop presenters and at schools by teachers. Attendees and students are told the message that they can do whatever they put their mind to if they are willing to prepare by working hard and never giving up. FACING THE GIANTS is unique because the message is presented from a Christian perspective. In addition to preparing, working hard, and never giving up one must have faith in God because all outcomes are His will.

Alex Kendrick plays Grant Taylor, head football coach at Shiloh Christian Academy. The team consistently loses and the players’ parents want Taylor fired. In addition to coaching a non-championship team, Taylor has several other problems he is dealing with, including being the reason why his wife is unable to conceive a child.

Difficult times are often what lead people to pray. Taylor prays, reads the Bible, and is inspired by his former football coach. His faith allows him to accept winning a game or losing a game, and he encourages his players to focus on their attitudes. As a result, the team starts winning games, makes the state playoffs, and surprisingly plays in the state championship game against the three-time championship team, the Richland Giants. Furthermore, Taylor’s personal circumstances improve, and he keeps his job.

In addition to playing Taylor, Alex Kendrick is also co-writer, co-producer, and director of FACING THE GIANTS. Bob Scott, a veteran cinematographer for NFL Films, is the film’s director of photography. Rob Whitehurst, a NFL Films technician, records the movie’s sound.

Most sports films are inspirational, and it is exciting watching the underdog achieve championship status (however, the movie FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS put a spin on that idea). The Christian perspective of FACING THE GIANTS shows viewers an even deeper inspiration by not limiting Taylor’s faith to wanting to win football games. His focus on attitude makes it possible for him to live his life in an even more positive way and develop character by accepting God’s will, regardless of what may happen. This is an exceptional lesson for everyone. Lastly, it relates to the quote by Greek philosopher Epictetus: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it. Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

02 August 2020

Wildcats

Several great films are made about American football. Even if one is not a football fan, the movies are enjoyable. My next three blog posts discuss unique movies about the sport of football.

 

Goldie Hawn plays Molly McGrath in the comedy WILDCATS (1986). McGrath is a girls’ track coach at the affluent Prescott High School. She desires a position as a football coach because her father was a well-known football coach. It is significant McGrath wants to coach football because no woman had ever done it before, not even at the high school level.

In real life Jen Welter was introduced as the first woman National Football League (NFL) coach in July 2015. Just this year Katie Sowers was the first female to coach in a Super Bowl. So far only 10 women coached professional football and three coached high school football.

WILDCATS is a unique movie about football because Molly McGrath is given the opportunity to coach football at Central High School in Chicago. Unfortunately, the position is given to her as a joke by the male football coach of Prescott High School, Dan Darwell (Bruce McGill). The job offer is solid, but Darwell has no faith McGrath can truly coach football. In addition, it is noted that no one else will take the position at Central High School because of where it is located. McGrath is a white woman who will be coaching football at a school where mostly students of color attend.

At first the boys on the Wildcats team at Central High School give McGrath a difficult time. She firmly tells them no one else will take the job so they are stuck with her. Over time, McGrath grows on the team and the team grows on McGrath; a mutual respect is cultivated.

WILDCATS presents the concept of a female football coach that is 29 years ahead of its time. It is a fun comedy that does not take itself seriously, even though the idea of a woman in McGrath’s position might have inspired many young girls watching the movie. The film may have also inspired videos that were produced by real life professional football teams. The end credits of WILDCATS features the Wildcats team and McGrath performing a rap: “It’s the sport of kings, better than Diamond Rings, That’s why we’re here to sing, football…”

The most popular video was by the Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew performing “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” Other NFL teams that made videos in the 1980’s were the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Raiders (“Silver and Back Attack”), the Seattle Seahawks (“Locker Room Rock”), the Dallas Cowboys (“Livin’ the American Dream”), the Philadelphia Eagles (“Buddy’s Watching You”), the Cleveland Browns (“Masters of the Gridiron”), the Miami Dolphins (“Can’t Touch US”), and the Los Angeles Rams (“Ram It”). WILDCATS probably got the idea from one of these teams. Whether the movie inspired real life or the real teams inspired the movie, the rap during the end credits of WILDCATS is very entertaining and keeps viewers engaged.

21 July 2020

Summer School


This blog entry about the movie SUMMER SCHOOL (1987) is the fourth of four entries discussing movies about school, teachers, and education.


In the comedy film SUMMER SCHOOL Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) is a physical education (P.E.) teacher who must teach summer school when another teacher, Mr. Dearadorian (played by the film’s director Carl Reiner), at the fictional Oceanfront High School wins the lottery and quits at the last minute. Mr. Shoop is in the parking lot literally putting a suitcase in his car for a trip to Hawaii when Vice Principal Phil Gillis (Robin Thomas) approaches him about teaching remedial English for summer school. Amusingly his girlfriend, Kim (Amy Stock), goes to Hawaii without him instead of postponing the vacation until summer school ends.

SUMMER SCHOOL presents some serious issues in a humorous manner. On the first day of class it becomes apparent that the reluctant Mr. Shoop should not be teaching a group of underachieving students. They are easily distracted and one of the students is dyslexic. But reality sinks in when Vice Principal Gillis reminds Mr. Shoop he is up for tenure and can lose his job. Most jobs have a probation period. For teachers in California the probation period is two school years of satisfactory performance. On the first day of the third school year the teacher is tenured. It is difficult to fire a teacher who earns tenure.

Since Mr. Shoop is forced to teach, he realizes he does not know how to teach. He receives help from Robin Bishop (Kirstie Alley), a teacher who instructs an honors class. Today at many schools students can only attend summer school if they, like Mr. Shoop’s students, fail a course. This is due to budgetary reasons; however, in the 1980’s students were certainly able to attend summer school for enrichment.

The only way Mr. Shoop gets his students to study is by negotiating with them: Denise (Kelly Jo Minter) needs driving lessons so Mr. Shoop becomes her driving instructor. Rhonda (Shawnee Smith) is pregnant so Mr. Shoop becomes her Lamaze partner. Kevin (Patrick Labyorteaux) plays football so Mr. Shoop gives him lessons. Pam (Courtney Thorne-Smith) needs a place to live so Mr. Shoop lets her move in with him. Dave (Gary Riley) has a party at Mr. Shoop’s house with Mr. Shoop’s permission. Larry (Ken Olandt) sleeps in class so Mr. Shoop has a bed in the classroom. Chainsaw (Dean Cameron) gets to arrange a screening of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE in class.

Despite the wackiness, the students improve academically. SUMMER SCHOOL is a fun movie that serves as an escape because no school would allow much of what happens in the story. If you need to laugh SUMMER SCHOOL may be a good movie to put on your watchlist, even if you have seen it before.

17 July 2020

The Breakfast Club

This blog entry about the movie THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985) is the third of four entries discussing movies about school, teachers, and education.


THE BREAKFAST CLUB is a comedy-drama film that showcases high school very well. The writer, producer, and director John Hughes chooses to focus on one non-school day with five students in a confined space: Saturday detention in the school library. The audience does not see regular school days and students sitting inside classrooms. Instead the focus is on how five students are affected by the high school experience.

The story takes place at fictional Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois, which is supposed to be a suburb of Chicago. The suburban setting is apparent, as the cast is not racially diverse. It would be interesting to watch how the Saturday detention experience could differ in an urban setting or if Hughes had created one or two characters of color out of the five.

The five characters are Brian Johnson, the brain (Anthony Michael Hall); Allison Reynolds, the basket case (Ally Sheedy); John Bender, the criminal (Judd Nelson); Claire Standish, the princess (Molly Ringwald); and Andrew Clark, the athlete (Emilio Estevez). The character development is exemplary. Hughes does not stop at the stereotypes; he provides depth to each character.

The enduring themes of peer pressure and parent pressure are revealed as what the five characters have in common. On the surface they all seem so different, but it turns out teen angst does not discriminate. Today teenagers still struggle with these same concerns. Therefore, for many years teenagers will relate to THE BREAKFAST CLUB. They will even associate the displeasure of being disciplined by a school administrator like Assistant Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason) with their own experiences.

Consequently, the relatable themes are what make THE BREAKFAST CLUB the ultimate high school movie for its audience. Teenagers connect. School faculty and staff are made aware of what students are managing in addition to their studies and why they behave the way they do. Moreover, parents are given a realistic perspective of their teen’s life and admit to a keen understanding.

14 July 2020

Teachers


This blog entry about the movie TEACHERS (1984) is the second of four entries discussing movies about school, teachers, and education.


TEACHERS is a comedy-drama film about John F. Kennedy High School, an urban school in Columbus, Ohio that is being sued by a recent graduate who claims he is unable to read or write, yet he received a diploma. JoBeth Williams plays Lisa Hammond, the lawyer in charge of taking depositions, and who also happens to be a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School. The film realistically displays the superintendent (Lee Grant) and school lawyer (Morgan Freeman) trying to avoid bad publicity from the lawsuit.

Nick Nolte plays Alex Jurel, a well-liked Social Studies teacher who serves as an example of teacher burn out. Alex, like most teachers, brings energy and optimism to the position. But after many years of working with unruly students and dealing with the demands of the administration, he becomes cynical. However, TEACHERS shows how a teacher like Jurel is able to reach students and how they trust him with personal issues they go through, such as when a student named Diane Warren (Laura Dern) becomes pregnant and confides in him. He also mentors a reticent student named Eddie Pilikian (Ralph Macchio).

John F. Kennedy High School has a few teachers who are peculiar characters. In one class students know to walk in, pick up a handout from the teacher’s desk, quietly go to their seats to complete the worksheets, and when the bell rings they get up, put the handout on the teacher’s desk and leave the classroom. During the entire class period, the teacher holds up a newspaper and falls asleep. Students sit with their backs to him and do not observe his slumber. One day unbeknown to everyone, the teacher dies. Even though he has expired, when the bell rings students get up, turn in the worksheets, and leave the classroom. A full day goes by before anyone notices the teacher is not sleeping, but dead. This scenario supports the point of the lawsuit the school is facing from the graduate who claims he attended the school but is illiterate. This teacher does not teach. Instead he gives students busy work.

On the other hand, Richard Mulligan plays Herbert Gower, a mental institution outpatient who wanders into someone’s home and answers the telephone. A school secretary mistakes him for a substitute teacher, so he goes to the school. He becomes students’ favorite U.S. History teacher because he dresses in period clothing and acts out historical scenes. It takes the school a while to realize he is not the correct substitute teacher. This is hilarious and, surprisingly, could probably happen.

The balance of comedy and drama in TEACHERS works well. The comedic situations help ease the audience for bearing with the serious lawsuit storyline. Overall, the film, which is set in the 1980’s, makes the valid point that schools should be reorganized. By the early 1990’s, state education standards were created in the United States, which provide teachers and schools with structured curricula guidelines. Now there are Common Core State Standards, which were launched in 2009.

12 July 2020

Lean on Me


This blog entry about the movie LEAN ON ME (1989) is the first of four entries discussing movies about school, teachers, and education. In addition to being a writer, I am a school administrator and teacher. When I first watched these films, I was not an educator, so my perspective of certain aspects in them has evolved.



LEAN ON ME is a biographical drama based on Joe Louis Clark who was a principal at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey. Morgan Freeman plays the controversial disciplinarian. One of the unconventional methods he uses in the movie is putting chains and padlocks on all the doors to keep gangs and drug dealers out of the school. Eastside High School is in an urban community and, unfortunately, certain activities that take place outside the school are brought inside. Students, faculty, and staff are happy about the chains and padlocks on the doors, but a parent, Leonna Barrett (Lynne Thigpen), is distressed by the approach and that her son is expelled, so she resolves to get Mr. Clark fired.

The school also grapples with students receiving low scores on a basic skills test and is in danger of the state taking control of it, which is why school district superintendent Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume) suggested hiring Mr. Clark, a former teacher at Eastside High School. Since students realize Mr. Clark cares about their well-being and education, they are motivated to study, learn, and raise the school’s basic skills test scores. One student, Thomas Sams (Jermaine Hopkins) who is expelled because of drug use, even begs Mr. Clark to allow him to return to school.

LEAN ON ME shows what several schools throughout the United States struggle with, but not all of them are in urban areas. There are also rural and suburban schools that have issues with gangs and/or drugs and receive low scores on state exams. This becomes clear once one has worked in schools and the movie takes on a different meaning. Most viewers see Mr. Clark as an inspirational figure who makes a positive impact on a school. Educators recognize that, but also take away from the story that certain tactics may or may not work at their schools for administering student discipline and teaching academic standards for a state exam.


A similar movie to LEAN ON ME is the biographical made for television movie, THE GEORGE MCKENNA STORY (1986) starring Denzel Washington. For the video release the title is HARD LESSONS. The movie is based on McKenna, who was a principal at George Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles, California.


26 May 2020

Movie-Watching and COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, movie theatres are closed. As a result, I have not written about movies. I am considering going to a drive-in theatre, but unsure whether independent films are screened or not.

Lately, I have been watching movies on satellite television and video on demand (VOD). Maybe I will blog about those films. They are not new releases, but film is timeless.

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites are located in Victoria, B.C. in the Colwood community. They are two miles (th...