Five Films to Restore Faith in Humanity

I was going to write an article about the new Thor and Captain America but… there’s been a lot going on this week (both personally and with the world at large) that I feel it is important to write an uplifting post, and not just more sarcasm about how Marvel will use a woman and a black man to sell comic books. Life throws us moments of doubt and despair, where peace dissolves and innocent people get hurt. Sometimes, when we’re looking at everything going on out there… it’s easy to get depressed. Someone once told me: “life sucks and then you die.” Below are five examples of films dedicated to showing that, yeah while life can truly suck sometimes – there’s a lot more than misery to get out of it.

5. Good Will Hunting

I feel like I have to include this one since I’m from the Boston area. This is an inspirational movie for two types of people: 1) for the person who feels trapped by where they were born – who doesn’t know any other type of life than the harshness of growing up – and 2)for anyone who has ever known someone like that. Matt Damon plays Will Hunting, a genius with issues (to put it mildly). Throughout the movie, the audience watches as he drives away anyone and everyone who tries to care about him. His girlfriend, his friends, even his psychiatrist (played by Robin Williams) have to overcome the barriers that Will throws up. The story highlights that good people can come from nothing, and great people can escape it. This scene here, the famous “it’s not your fault” scene, is one of the best acted sequences I’ve ever watched. It is one line over and over again, and what makes it work is the level of the performances. Who hasn’t wanted to hear these words right after something terrible has happened?

4. Secondhand Lions

Not the best movie ever made, but one of the most poignant when it comes to believing in human nature. Haley Joel Osment (“I see dead people”) is a kid with a crappy mom. She drags him around everwhere – not for his benefit but solely for her own. It is one of the more subtle forms of abuse out there. Anyway, she leaves him with his two great uncles (played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) and, well, it turns out that they’re just fantastic. Both men are proof that strength of character can win out over life’s misfortunes. There is a speech that I have included below that may be one of the best things I have ever heard. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant, this is something that it feels good to believe in:

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Hands down the best thing that Jim Carrey has ever done (outside Dumb and Dumber) and one of the perfect movies for anyone suffering from heartbreak. This may be THE film for the complex nature of relationships. It showcases the duality of emotions (loving someone vs missing someone) associated with attraction and all the joys and sorrows therein. We all have someone we’d like to forget – but it helps to remember why we’re trying so hard.

2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Wait – what? Yes, I understand this must come as an odd pick but I will defend it. The movie features two main characters: Nemo (James Mason) and Ned Land (Kirk Douglas). I find that these two characters perfectly represent the strengths and weaknesses of humanity. Nemo is brilliant and careful but also distant and cruel. Ned is thoughtless and brash while being loyal and brave. The whole film represents a struggle between the various aspects of human nature, and personally, I feel it ends on a very uplifting message. Sadly, I cannot really find a youtube clip to prove my point so…. here’s “whale of a tale!”

1. Ikiru

Now here’s the one you’ve never heard of. Watch it – that’s all I can say. There are few films that left the impact that this one did. Ikiru is Japanese – roughly translated “to live,” and the movie is about just that. The main character is a middle-aged bureaucrat who learns of his imminent death and seeks to find meaning in his final months. Akira Kurosawa was one of the most visionary minds the world has ever seen. There really are no words, it is a film that must be seen to be understood.


So there you have them. Five slices of inspiration. I know, I know. There were plenty of other movies I could have included. To be clear – I do not necessarily feel that these are the five best. These were simply the first five films that popped into my head.

Why Aren't We Getting David Fincher's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?

The year: 1954, the movies: awesome. Seriously, so many of my favorite films came out in that year, it’s not even funny. While Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea may not make my top ten list, it was still one of my favorite movies to watch as a kid. Before I was old enough to appreciate the characters or the themes, I had the giant squid scene – and boy did I have fun with that.

I used to fast forward my VHS copy to just watch this scene. I think I saw the giant squid sequence at least 50 times before I ever watched the full movie.
I used to fast forward my VHS copy to just watch this scene. I think I saw the giant squid sequence at least 50 times before I ever watched the full movie.

Anyway, as time passed, I began to appreciate the more mature values of Richard Fleischer’s film. The bitter determination of Captain Nemo stuck out to me and I found a fascination with the character that encouraged me to read Verne’s novels (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and its quasi-sequel, Mysterious Island). Captain Nemo is still one of my favorite literary figures of all time. However, when I read the novel, one thing became clear to me: there are big differences between the page and the film treatment. Verne’s novel reads more like a fantastical scientific journal while the Walt Disney production is an action-adventure epic with anti nuclear war undertones. It makes sense, as with any good adaptation the film version was adapted to fit its time (things change between 1870 and 1954).

Still, that version was 70 years ago and I for one am ready to see Disney try again… too bad it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

The original is a classic in its own right but time has taken it out of the public perception.
The original is a classic in its own right but time has taken it out of the public perception.

Well, scratch that. We’ll probably get one soon but I don’t know what kind of quality we can expect. After months of trying, an update came today that none other than David Fincher (Se7en, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fight Club, Alien  3 (can’t resist putting that one in there)) has left the project. As a movie fan, that sucks to hear.

Fincher is a filmmaker known for creating dark, moving atmosphere with smart scripts and talented actors... pretty good fit for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Fincher is a filmmaker known for creating dark, moving atmosphere with smart scripts and talented actors… pretty good fit for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

While I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Fincher’s work – I personally would rate Se7en as one of the most overrated films I’ve ever seen – I cannot deny his ability. He’s just a good fit for the project, anyone familiar with the original source material would attest to that. There’s certain combinations that just sound like a good fit. Remember when Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) was going to do a Bioshock movie? Well, that was also a good fit that didn’t happen.

Anyway, the question then becomes: why? David Fincher is a critically successful director who produces commercial success. Even a big budget (and apparently he planned a big budget) shouldn’t frighten Disney away from the idea of a remake. It didn’t, it was a casting problem.

I know what you’re thinking: Nemo. Of course, the iconic character. One of the greatest creations ever given birth by the pen. Yes, who would play Nemo? Clearly Disney and Fincher must have had some debate over which way to go with the most important piece of the puzzle. Well, fact is they never got to Nemo. Couldn’t get past replacing this guy:

Kirk Douglas as Ned Land.
Kirk Douglas as Ned Land.

Ned Land marked the biggest change between the book and the original Disney movie. In the novel, he’s a fairly minor character who doesn’t make much of an splash (I’ll stop) on the plot. In the movie… well, he was Kirk Douglas. The fact that the casting of Ned Land was the first priority is telling. Clearly this remake intended to follow closer to the film original than to the book. This was not necessarily a bad thing.

Here’s what happened: initially David Fincher intended Brad Pitt to play the role. Again this fits as Pitt has a similar acting style to Douglas. However, Pitt wasn’t interested (for some reason or other) and the role went to both Daniel Craig and Matt Damon for consideration. While both were interested in the part, neither wanted to abandon their families for a 140 day shoot in Australia (the proposed location for the film). Good news about approaching veteran actors – they’re mostly good. Bad news – they mostly have families they don’t want to leave for long periods of time. So three great ideas for a replacement Ned Land, come and gone. Fincher decided to change tactics and proposed the much longer Channing Tatum for the role. Disney was… not on board with this.

Remember that big budget I mentioned? Well, David Fincher may be a good director name but Disney felt it needed a dynamite actor name to guarantee big box office money. They were fine with Pitt, Craig or Damon, but Tatum? In his (much shorter) career, he has not had the commercial success of the other three. So they said no and instead offered the idea of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) for the role. It was at this point that David Fincher left the project.

Personally I don't see much difference in acting ability between the two actors but Fincher evidently does.
Personally I don’t see much difference in acting ability between the two actors but Fincher evidently does.

So that’s it. Forget Nemo, the studio couldn’t even agree on a Ned Land. This marks yet another dismal chapter in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake development. Oh yeah, Disney’s been trying to make this film for a while. Several directors have been either rumored (Sam Raimi) or attached (McG… thank god that one didn’t happen) to the project. Will 20,000 Leagues ever see the light of day? Of course, there is money to be made. However, it might not be good. Films that exist for long stretches in the dubbed “developmental hell” stage of production rarely turn out to be gems (other films on the list include The Wolfman, Prometheus and Alien vs Predator).

Regardless, the film will one day see the light of day. Who knows, Fincher may even return to the project in the future (unlikely but possible). But whether it is Fincher or (shudder) McG, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is too good a story to remain dead in the water for long.


Sources: 1, 2, 3