Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Movie Simplicity

I've always been amazed by the role movies have played in my life. Sure, I generally enjoy watching movies purely for their entertainment value. After all, who doesn’t love being transported to another time and another place where laughter, happiness, sadness and every other emotion under the sun is explored.

But there have been times when watching a movie has been a bona fide transformative experience for me. There have been times when, facing the deepest, darkest depressions of my life, a movie has brought a smile to my face. At other times, movies have completely changed my perception of the world. The bottom line is that if I really think about it, certain movies have actually been catalysts in my current quest for simplicity.

Thinking about this today I figured I would put together a short list of some of the movies that have pushed me into accepting the challenge of simplifying my life. Call them “inspirational simplicity films.”

A couple of things to note about the list below. First, this list is not meant to be comprehensive. I could probably come up with at least 20 movies under this category. Second, while I have found some kernel of knowledge in each and every one of these movies it’s not clear that everyone else will. People are different. Tastes differ. Having said that, feel free to tear me apart for watching a movie you feel truly sucks and/or is somehow unworthy of mention. Finally, including a movie in this list does not mean that I endorse a particular political point of view. A person can find genuine truth even in the most unexpected places:

Motorcycle Diaries

Born Into Brothels

Shawshank Redemption



The Straight Story

Wrestling Earnest Hemingway


Anonymous said...

Great list! Shawshank Redemption is at the top of my faves list.

Anonymous said...

Hey again Jack,

Good list. I have not seen all of these yet, but I love movies (aka films).

Shawshank - yeah baby. The search for justice, the quest for truth, tunneling through all the crap to get it done, and actually succeeding despite the odds; that's a great story. And to boot, helping someone else along the way.

Bleu - one of my all time favorites. Could she possibly be more beautiful? But the story, I almost wish it were a male lead, since I can relate so much to the lead's story. I just wish I could keep everything as simple as she does.

Internal complexity is going to happen, and I am fairly complex to begin with. I've always gone for simplicity, but as you know, sometimes one must work overtime to get there, or to get back there.

Hey man thanks for the shout back in the comments. I appreciate it as well.


Elizabeth Halt said...

bleu and born into brothels - 2 of my all time favorites (actually, I love/have the entire trilogy - red/white/blue)

gattica - meh, didn't love

motorcycle diaries - on my list to watch

shawshank redemption - can't remember, it's been a while; I think I have a hard time watching parts of it so skip around

haven't seen the others ..

if you liked Born Into Brothels, btw, check out War Dance - also incredible

Jolyn said...

Harold and Maude??! Can't believe that didn't make your list...

Sharon J said...

Shawshank Redemption is the only one of the those I've seen but I'm putting 'Born into Brothels' on my wishlist. I only budget for 1 dvd rental a month though so it may be a while before I see it though.

Carolyn said...

I added a few of these to my Netflix list.

Anonymous said...

They look good. I haven't seen any of them, but I'm visiting my sister and she has a teevee, so I'll try to check them out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list. I've only seen Shawshank Reemption, but I'm adding the others to my list.

Anonymous said...


Interesting thoughts. I love Shawshank Redemption, dosent everyone?? Oh and Gattaca was great as well, I learned from that movie to be born taller next time around, im a little under the perfect 6'1 height.

Check out "Into the wild" you too hobo stripper, since you are in Alaska I believe??

I agree movies have a great way of reminding us whats important in life. I have walked out of a theater many a time into the light and felt like conquering the world or changing something in my life. I'm thinking about starting a blog myself to chronicle my own journey into simplicity.

- Lone Gunman

Anonymous said...

BTW, I really like how you have links to other blogs on your page, most dealing with simple lifes or simplifying life.. I have been checking them out and enjoying..

- Lone Gunman

Jack said...


Yeah, Shawshank has always been up there. It's one of those simple hollywood movies that definitely gets better and better as time goes on.


Nope, she was stunning in that movie. She could convey all sorts of emotions with just her face. Wow.


Have to check out War Dance. It makes me so happy that there are other people out there that were touched by BIB. Not ashamed that I actually shed a tear or two the first time I saw it...

Jack said...


You know, I was going to add it (it's probably number 1 or 2 for this list) but I figured I had already mentioned it in that earlier post. You must love that movie. :)


Do you guys across the pond have something like Netflix? It's an internet service that allows you to watch movies nonstop for a flat rate. You could probably watch a lot more than just one dvd that way.


let me know what you think. I would start with born into brothels, then motorcycle diaries...

Jack said...


As I mentioned to carolyn, start with born into brothels. Now that I think about it, I would love to get your input given all the people you know in the sex industry. Then go for motorcycle diaries.


Let me know what you think.

Lone Gunman,

THAT was a movie I was hoping to add. But, as I mention in the post, there are so many movies that can get in here. definitely let me know when you start your blog.

Anonymous said...


Interesting concept. Have not thought of simplicity in this area. Great list. I am going to make sure that I see all of these. I love the posters. Some are very Andy Warhol-like.

Anonymous said...

Shawshank Redemption is an all time fave of mine.

I watch a lot of documentaries and I think I was sort of becoming desensitized to their message somewhat and would find myself just moving onto whatever else was on my agenda after watching them.You know...learning and understanding but not really getting the impact of what the film was supposed to be conveying. But then one night, I had Born Into Brothels to watch. That film stuck with me for days. No - weeks. It just was constantly in my head.It was truly a profound movie for me.

Peter Dodson said...

Hi Jack,

First time reader :)

Shawshank is one of my all-time favorites as well. I wonder what it is about that film that so many people love. Is it Andy and Red finding real freedom after being locked up so long?

If you haven't seen these movies, they are great in terms of having an anti-consumer, anti-civ. message: About Schmidt, Office Space, American Beauty.

Jae Jagger said...

Good choice with Gattaca, few people even know that movie exists. It wasn't a big renter.

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Hi Jack (and others reading)~

I love your list as well. I haven't seen all of those. Your list makes me want to sign up for Netflix again. We have been Redboxing it lately. I love Redbox since it is $1 a day. But I don't think any of those movies listed are at Redbox now. Thanks for the ideas.

One of my favorite Netflixed movie was "Parrots of Telegraph Hill."

Thanks for the shout out on my blog, by the way! It was an awesome weekend. It's nice to know a high priced lawyer gives a shit about getting a life! Good luck on your pursuits.

~Heather ;)

Jack said...


Thanks. I may do a similar list for music and books at some point in the future. :)


Ditto on BIB. I couldn't shake it for weeks. It sounds a bit strange but I have this intense desire of heading out there just to see where it was shot. I wonder where those kids are these days...


Shoot! Yeah, American Beauty should be in there. I totally forgot about that movie. Saw it only once but there was definitely a great message in there.

Jack said...


Yeah, people could quibble about Gattaca, but there was something about going up against expectations and convention that is so liberating...

Heather's moving castle,

Thanks Heather, will check it out!

Jae Jagger said...

Jack, you should watch "Equilibrium" with Christian Bale.

I loved it. I loved the satirical look at our society's dependence on antidepressants and/or psycho-drugs.

The scene with the puppy? I cry every time.

Jack said...


Never hear of it. Will need to check it out.


Anonymous said...

Into the Wild is one of the best VS films I've seen. He takes it a bit far, but the concept and motivation are the same.

Anonymous said...

What about "Into the Wild"????