The Five: Five Films That Define Me

It has been awhile since I had a series of posts.  I like doing series but sometimes I either finish them or run out of inspiration.  I mentioned recently how I was in a writer’s block for a time but I feel like (at least at the moment) I’ve got some more inspiration to write more often again (which is good because it helps me express myself).

One of the big trends the last couple of months on Twitter are these questions that people ask that get trending where people ask about favorite films or books or TV shows and such.  And I’ve participated in some of that on there.  And I thought, “Hey, how about I do like a series on such things on my blog?”  Hence the creation of “The Five”.

What “The Five” will be is a series where I will take a topic and give a list of five that ties into that topic.  It’s not necessarily a ranking but just a list (so in no particular order).

For this edition of “The Five” I wanted to look at the films that define me.  As in, if I was meeting someone for the first time and they asked me what films should I watch to get a definition of me, these would be the five films I would recommend.  For people that know how much I love films this is a tall order.  I will add this caveat.  For a film series, I will only pick one film in that series.  Like instead of watching the entire Lord of the Rings I could say Return of the King (that’s not one in “The Five” but just an example)  So here’s “The Five Films that Define Me”:

1) Return of the Jedi

Of course there had to be a Star Wars film in the list.  I don’t think it would be even possible to have a list without one on there.  So why Return of the Jedi?  First, it was the first Star Wars film I ever saw in the theater.  Granted it was a year after it released and I was 4 and I barely remember it then but that’s the record.  Second, as a kid I loved the Ewoks (and to be honest I still do).  But really as I’ve gotten older I’ve really resonated with the maturation that Luke has in the film.  He’s not the young farm boy he was in A New Hope.  He’s not the impetuous Jedi student he was in The Empire Strikes Back.  He is battle tested and carries scars with him.  He still struggles but he has grown.  Plus Jedi has the iconic scene in the Emperor’s Throne Room when Luke is hiding from Vader and the light catches his face in such a way that half his face is lighted and half is in darkness.  Such an iconic moment that sticks with me to this day.  If there is one Star Wars film that defines me, it’s Return of the Jedi

2) Short Circuit 2

I went back and forth between the first Short Circuit or the sequel.  Both are films that are a part of my life growing up.  But I think I would lean with Short Circuit 2 because of one particular scene (which I have blogged about before here).  That scene in and of itself merits watching (and being included in The Five) but the film as a whole is good as well.

3) The Holiday

I am a hopeless romantic.  So anytime there is a romantic film, I’m usually sucked into watching it.  Yes I’m a single guy who loves romantic films.  And out of all the romantic films, this one I connect with.  Particularly with the character of Iris (played by Kate Winslet).  Unrequited love is a dagger and it is one I have dealt with personally.  And yet, I still am hopeful that someday I will find the right one and get married.

4.) From Up on Poppy Hill

I figure to best include a film that is an anime in “The Five” because of my love of anime (especially of Studio Ghibli films).  So out of that list I would say From Up on Poppy Hill.  From the animation to the story to the music, it all comes together in a manner that just clicks.  And while in my ranking of Studio Ghibli films I had The Wind Rises ranked higher, in defining my story I would say From Up on Poppy Hill resonates more.

5.) I Can Only Imagine

My faith is a big part of my life.  I would not be who I am without Jesus Christ.  So I have to have a film that reflects my faith and to me that film is I Can Only Imagine.  Not only is it a good film that speaks on faith, love and forgiveness but that song released at a time in my life (college/grad school) when I say that I really took ownership of my faith.  So that song resonated with me then and still does and the film does the same as well.

So this is the first edition of “The Five”.  I hope to have more of these to come.  I would love to know what you would say are the films you would recommend someone to watch that define you?

Fitting In: Reflecting on Short Circuit 2

Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Short Circuit films.  I watched them all the time on VHS and loved seeing again and again the antics of Johnny 5.  And while I loved very much the original film that had the hilarity that is Steve Guttenberg and the charm of Ally Sheedy, I always related more to the second film Short Circuit 2.  I recently rewatched the film and it still holds up for me.

The second film centers around Johnny 5 and Ben Javari (played by Fisher Stevens).  They are the only two characters to return from the first film (though Sheedy’s character Stephanie Speck makes an audio cameo).  Ben also has a character change (in the first film he’s an American citizen but in this film he is trying to get his citizenship).  He’s now in New York City trying to make his way in the world after losing his job at NOVA.  He builds toy replicas of Johnny 5 which gets the attention of toy buyer Sandy Banatoni.  She loves them and wants a bunch for the department store to sell.  This brings Johnny 5 to NYC to help out his friend Ben.

Along with trying to help Ben (and Ben’s new ‘friend’ Fred Ritter), Johnny 5 is about his usual getting of “input”.  This of course leads to some interesting encounters in the city.  These encounters lead to Johnny 5 struggling to find out what it means to be accepted as alive by those around him.  This also mirrors Ben’s attempts to have Sandy see him as a person and not just a producer of robot toys.

Probably the scene that really reflects this for me the most is set up by the following: Johnny 5 is on his own after trying to be sold by Fred.  He spends time in a sculpture garden and is mistaken for art and called “repulsive”. He then grabs some clothes (trenchcoat and beanie hat) in order to fit in with He goes into a church looking for answers and gets run out by priest thinking someone is controlling him.  He then gets arrested for “trashing the book store” with the officers thinking someone is controlling him.  When he gets to the police station, he is sent down to stolen goods because jail is for “humans”.

The scene finds Johnny standing in the impound area chained to two poles.  He is reading one of the two books he got from the bookstore.  There is a kind of melancholic music playing as he’s slowly reading (the only time he ever reads slowly by the way).  Ben finds out that he’s there in the impound and goes to pick him up.  Ben rushes up to and asks Johnny to say something.  Johnny’s response is four words “Hubcaps, corn dogs, soul.”

Johnny 5 and Ben

After scolding the officers for chaining Johnny up like they did, Ben tells him it’s okay to break the chains which Johnny promptly does.  Ben asks Johnny why he’s dressed up that “ridiculous garb”, Johnny responds as he slowly rolls away “Attempt to look human, fit in, belong.  Unsuccessful.”  Ben is left standing there with Johnny’s beanie hat and two books.  The two books?  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.  Ben looks up from seeing the two books as Johnny is rolling to the door.

I could relate to how Johnny 5 felt.  No, I wasn’t a robot come to life.  But i understood what it felt like to want to fit in and belong.  Growing up, I wasn’t very popular.  I didn’t fit in with the cool crowd.  I grew up in one town and went to school in another.  I was the younger brother who was kinda nerdy.  I wanted to belong.  I wanted to feel like that I fit in but I didn’t.  So when I would watch this film, that scene always got to me, because I knew what that feeling was like.  To want to be seen, to want to be known, to want to belong.

Deep down that’s what we all want.  And that’s why even to this day, that scene still gets to me.  Because that pain is real.  That is something that we all struggle with all through our lives. God knows this.  He made each one of us to be in community with Him and with others.  We were never meant to be alone, in isolation.  Sin separates us from others and sin separates us from God.  But the good thing is Jesus restore those relationships paying the penalty for our sins.  We don’t have to feel in solitude or alone.  We belong to God if we are willing to repent and turn to Him.

Short Circuit 2 will always have a special place in my heart as a film.  Not just for the goofy lovable Ben Javari and wise cracking hero Johnny 5, but for the broken hearted Ben who longs to be known by Sandy and the lonely Johnny 5 who simply wants to belong and fit in.  In the end, Ben and Sandy are together and in love and Johnny 5 finds out he does belong and has people that do care for him.  May we find that place and those people (and hopefully it is found with God and with the church).