Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
It's that time of year again when young men and women sit in cap and gown waiting for the speeches to be over so that they can get their diploma and move on with their lives. Everyone at some point in time has sat and listened to a speaker try to impart words of wisdom on high school or college graduates — many celebrities have taken a turn delivering such an address — and movies have frequently used a commencement speech as a plot device.
There is a lot more life lessons to be gained from high school and college movies, however, than just when a character stands up at a podium and speaks to the gathered masses. What if you could build an inspirational speech from those movies to serve as a killer send off to graduates? Let's give it a shot.
You Don't Have to Know Everything Now
Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), the hero of Say Anything…, took a unique tact in trying to figure out what to do with his life. Instead of focusing on what he wanted to do, he first eliminated all of the things that he didn't want to do. There's nothing wrong with that. Not everyone comes up with a workable life plan in high school or college… some people need more time to find their niche. That's perfectly fine, just as long as you're out of your parents' basement by 28.
Take a Stand
Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) delivered a whole bunch of lessons to Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) in The Karate Kid… but "Wax on, Wax off" doesn’t translate that well to a speech. So, we're going with his example of what happens when someone tries to go at things half-heartedly. As Miyagi so eloquently put it, "Squashed like grape."
Don't Make Excuses
Jaime Escalante, the teacher portrayed by Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver, was a real-life inspirational figure, devoting his entire life to teaching impoverished youths. When Escalante first meets his class in the movie, he tells them that he doesn't want to hear excuses because their future bosses aren't going to want to hear them. True that.
Seize the Day
Robin Williams's professor in Dead Poets Society was basically a walking speech. Hell he was a bona fide encyclopedia of lessons. But when he reminds his young charges that the pictures on the wall were once in the same position with their entire lives in front of them, audiences everywhere heard what they were whispering. Carpe diem indeed.
Don't Let the Moment Be Too Big
When the Hickory High basketball team arrives for the state finals in Hoosiers, Gene Hackman gives a demonstration to show that the court in the bigger building isn't really any larger than the one in their home gym… that just because it seems bigger doesn't mean that it is. Keeping things in perspective is always a good idea.
We Really Are All the Same
When Anna Kendrick cries at the end of a viewing of The Breakfast Club in Pitch Perfect it's a seminal moment for her character and we understand why. The realization that we are all a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal is still mighty darn powerful.
Always Remember to Have Passion
We'll let Williams' John Keating have the last word, especially since he really did do a lot of speechifying during Dead Poets Society. Life without passion is an empty vessel. Whether or not you believe, like Keating, that poetry is a necessary part of that passion is irrelevant. Having passion about something is what makes life worth living.
Irish singer Ronan Keating is the latest star to lend his voice to an upcoming film based on beloved British kids' show Postman Pat. The Boyzone singer will star alongside David Tennant, Rupert Grint and Jim Broadbent in Postman Pat: The Movie, and will provide the singing voice for the animated mailman.
Keating feels honoured to be offered the role, saying, "It's been a true honour to help bring Postman Pat's singing voice to life. I grew up watching Pat and all the great characters... so I can't wait to take my kids along to see them all on the big screen."
The show, which is based on a postman who delivers parcels in an English village, was a huge hit with youngsters in the 1980s, and the film marking its 30th anniversary is set for release next year (14).
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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