Chicago is my home town, so I have a soft spot for Brian’s Song, one of the cryingist movies of all time, the true story of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, with Billy Dee Williams and James Caan.
Or you could try The Game Plan, featuring real-life former college football player Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson in a more family-friendly story about a selfish quarterback who discovers he has a ballet-loving daughter:
I’m a big fan of the silly but fun Keanu Reeves movie, The Replacements, with Gene Hackman as the coach, a kind of Dirty Dozen of football. Catch “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau on the team.
You can see Favreau in another crying football movie based on a true story, Rudy.
The Express is the true story of the first Black winner of the Heisman trophy, Ernie Davis.
Today we pay tribute to workers, especially those who worked for better conditions for everyone.
Sally Field won an Oscar for “Norma Rae,” a real-life story about a courageous woman who helped mill workers form a union. It was inspired by Crystal Lee Sutton, a courageous advocate for workers’ rights.
Doris Day plays a union worker who falls for a new guy in management but doesn’t lose sight of the seven and a half cent raise the workers are bargaining for in the rollicking musical, “The Pajama Game.”
Movies to lift the heart and possibly inspire some exercise! Some of my favorite movie dance numbers:
Bye Bye Birdie: When a pop idol is drafted, the teenagers go crazy in this classic musical starring Dick van Dyke and Ann-Margret. Two teenagers trying to make each other jealous make this dance number one of the all-time best.
The Step Up movies have some sensational dance numbers. Here’s one of my favorites from Step Up 3, to a song originally from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Choreographer Michael Kidd was famous for his wildly energetic dances and this is one of the best. At a barn-raising the mountain Pontipee brothers compete with the men from the town for the hands of the ladies.
It’s Always Fair Weather: Kidd appeared on screen in this film, featuring the remarkable garbage can lid dance with Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey.
Kiss Me Kate: Speaking of choreographers on screen, Bob Fosse dances along with Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Ann Miller, Carol Haney, and Jeanne Coyne (later Gene Kelly’s wife) in this merry musical based Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” with music by Cole Porter.
And here is Fosse with his wife, Gwen Verdon, in “Who’s Got the Pain” from “Damn Yankees.”
He Named Me Malala: She risked everything to be allowed to learn. And now she is a world leader in advocating for other girls to have the same chance.
How to Survive a Plague: Extraordinary archival footage of the early days of AIDS activism makes this documentary especially vital and compelling. As writer/director David France told me, ““This isn’t a movie about what AIDS did to us. This is a movie about what we did to AIDS.” the people in this movie changed the way the medical and research communities interact with patients and their families who are coping with all diseases and conditions.
Mission Blue: World-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle travels the globe on an urgent mission to shed light on the dire condition of Earth’s oceans.
Dolores: One of the most powerful activists on behalf of migrant workers is Dolores Huerta, who had to fight sexism as well as racism.
Amazing Grace: The first ever citizen-led movement leading to peaceful social change was the British anti-slavery movement led by William Wilberforce, movingly depicted in this film. You can see the origins of the kinds of tactics and arguments that have formed the basis for every social movement since.
Made in Dagenham: Sally Hawkins stars in this fact-based story about women fighting for equal pay at a car company. It is a stirring and inspirational story and has a nuanced look at the political challenges as well as the professional ones.
1971: Before the Pentagon Papers, Edward Snowden, the Panama Papers, Wikileaks, and Chelsea Manning there was the first-ever leak of government documents. A group of activists broke into an FBI office and released documents showing abuse by law enforcement in a program called COINTELPRO. It was decades before anyone discovered who was responsible and we are just beginning to understand the impact of these revelations in loss of trust for government and changes of policy in the press.
Mighty Times: The Children’s March: This Oscar-winning documentary is the story of how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963 to demand justice.
It’s a very different Memorial Day this year, much quieter, with no parades or community picnics. But now more than ever we have reason to show our appreciation for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Some movies to help us pay our respects:
Black Hawk Down: Elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.
Glory: The story of the first black regiment to fight in the Civil War, with an Oscar-winning performance by Denzel Washington.
American Sniper Bradley Cooper plays real-life army sniper Chris Kyle, who found his return home a different kind of challenge.
We Were Soldiers: The earliest US involvement in the Vietnam War has Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) preparing for one of the most violent battles in U.S. history, making a promise to his soldiers and their families: “I will leave no man behind dead or alive. We will all come home together.”
Red Tails: George Lucas directed this story of the multiple medal-awarded Tuskegee Airmen.
Midway: The story of the first major Allied victory of WWII.
The Longest Day: An all-star cast tells the story of the Normandy landing that changed the course of WWII.