Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Movies Worth Seeing…by Robert M. Katzman (Secret Movie Maven!)

by Robert M. Katzman (Secret Movie Maven)©️ Memorial Day, May 2019

I have been obsessed with the fantasy world of movies since I was a child who couldn’t escape a dangerous home. An alternative cinematic Universe seemed a safe harbor, if only for a brief time.

Sports were never an alternative. Hit a ball, catch a ball, get crushed while holding a ball, avoid being hit by a speeding ball–what is it with balls and aggression? 

Oh, wait. Not a good question.

While a lot of people revered Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, I was a long time admirer of Roger Ebert, and even got to know him for a long while. He was the only person in my one year on Amazon who bought my first book.

I’ve made a list of a number of movies, various genres, but all involving human interaction of movies worth seeing more than once or twice. I won’t list the casts or directors because younger people won’t recognize the names, but also because an existing group of famed movie stars appearing together in a film can amount to nothing without a great script and director.

There are a number of Westerns, but they tend to tell detailed moments of intense relationships in isolated areas of America where mutual dependence is essential. The fact they are “Westerns” is not essential to the overall story.

There are qualities of friendship, empathy, grit, courage and determination that sew these varied films into a celluloid quilt, but a person’s perception of pleasure is partly base on what rescued them from pain, I believe. Emotion doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

  1. Shane, (1954), a western in which a wandering gunslinger who fought for the Confederacy seeks to change his fate, yet has to choose between that goal of possibly extending his life, or to saving a particular family and community he’s become integrated into, none of whom don’t know what he’s capable of doing with a gun. The book and film were told from the point-of-view of a hero worshiping nine-year-old boy.  The relationship between the soft-spoken gunfighter and the boy is the heart of the film. Only the boy actually knows the “secret identity” Shane seeks to conceal. This famed 1954 movie was remade almost exactly, except years later in the character Shane’s life, in a very obscure film titled “Gunfighter’s Moon” (1995). I love the remake, because it shows the totally unromantic and horrible consequences of being “The Fastest Gun”.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Hard Times, (1975), a movie about bare-knuckle boxing during the Depression where the main character is perceived by others, gamblers, to their regret, to be over-the-hill. He is homeless, gentle with strangers, steely-firm without raising his voice and though not explicitly stated, likely a veteran of World War One. The story takes place in Louisiana and consists of three contests.  The details of time and place, and the silent strength of the central characters make this a classic movie for me.
  3. Sleepless in Seattle, (1993), a love story initially between a young widowed father and his relationship with his young son, and eventually with a woman on the opposite side of the country who can’t find the right man to fall in love with.  Like Shane, in a way, the movie pivots on the initial phone call between the child and a radio station call-in program that establishes the father’s situation, his ambivalence about, to him, the impossibility of finding a new woman, the boy’s desire to help him, and gives the movie it’s title.                                                                                                                         
  4. Baby Boom, (1987), an extremely talented and perceptive, thought not-so-young unmarried career woman in New York City who puts her careers ascendency in her marketing company above any other aspect of her life, discovers everything she’s overlooked when unperceived circumstances suddenly place her in a deteriorating old house in a very small New England town. Love and success await her, when she realizes what she really cares about in life.
  5. Groundhog Day, (1993), written about endlessly, yet known less every day as younger viewers have never seen it and older viewers die, it centers on the evolution of a self-centered and coldly selfish weatherman who becomes trapped reliving the exact same day in a small Pennsylvania town on the title’s holiday–seemingly forever–until he figures out how to be kinder to other people and less concerned with himself. Sounds simple, but in the complicated telling of what happens, he becomes integrated into the lives of dozens of the town’s citizens. In Philosophy classes over the decades since the film first appeared who have studied the inner meaning of the main character’s rigidity and selfishness, some have speculated he relives the same day for 10,000 years. That very hellish idea has captivated me all these years.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  6. Lilies of the Field, (1963), an independent post World War Two veteran’s life who happened to be skilled in every aspect of building a structure, and who is black which is essential to the plot, is traveling across America to the new promised land of California when he becomes side-tracked into building a church, a “chapel”, for a group of impoverished East European nuns who have escaped over the Berlin Wall and are now essentially stranded in the southwest USA, evidently waiting for the story’s hero. The number of the film’s smaller and varied ethnic character’s illuminated moments is what adds up to the movie’s eventual and overwhelming emotional impact.                  
  7. Kinky Boots, (2006), another film where race is essential to the plot, this is a movie about a failing giant shoe factory which is a main source of employment in a very white Northern England town, a large muscular and unusually perceptive black drag queen nearing the end of his career, his determination to discover a way to find a durable “woman’s style of boot” built more sturdily for a man’s foot’s size and much heavier weight.  But also about the conflict between the university-educated son who unexpectedly inherits the factory, his ambivalence to keeping it going, to the drag queen’s quest and to a working-class woman from the factory’s attraction to him. The movie’s story centers on the evolution of the son and his awakening to his role in everyone’s life in the story.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  8. A History of Violence, (2005), is about a popular Midwest small town, soft-spoken family man, his busy local diner, his hidden past life in a crime family located a thousand miles east of his present home, and his incredible skills of self-preservation with or without a weapon. The movie is much more concerned, at first, with his erotic relationship with his beautiful wife, his conflicted relationship with his bullied teenaged son in high school and his very young daughter. But also with a determined deputy mobster sent to come out to verify who he really is and bring him back East to be killed by the Mob family run by his older brother as revenge for what his younger brother did to harm his older brother’s career aspiration within a larger East-Coast organized crime family.  To me, the movie is not about violence as a man’s desire to bury his past and invent a new life. Like Shane.                                                                              
  9. Family Man, (2000), Not so much a Time-travel movie as an alternative-kind-of-life movie, if one choice had been made over another in a man’s past. Some similarity to Groundhog Day (1987) in which the central character believes he is superior to everyone else he encounters, as well as unable to believe he is trapped in this “lesser life” he never imagined, except it is not a very long time living it. He alone knows who he used to be and at the end of the film, he is the same age as when the story started. His awakening to what is truly important in life beyond status symbols is the heart of the story, as well as his new-found love affair with the woman he let get away from him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  10. Gentlemen’s Agreement, (1947), a post-World War Two film about anti-Semitism where a writer who in real life is actor Gregory Peck, long celebrated as the embodiment of decency, honesty and the classic typical American ideal man.                                                                                                                                   In the movie, he agrees with a liberal and progressive major magazine publisher’s idea to pretend he is a Jew in order to ferret out quietly unspoken situations where Jews are unable to rent or buy homes, or go to many hotels and other situations. I have always wondered how the very tall, pale Anglo-Saxon appearing person of Gregory Peck was chosen to play this part because in the film, his best friend, a World War Two veteran still in uniform is portrayed by a well known and actually Jewish actor who is about 5’8′, darker-complected and with features more commonly associated with East-European Jews, much like my own family. But without Major Movie Star Gregory Peck’s involvement and his commercial appeal to the public, the movie about this highly controversial topic, then and even now, might never have been made.                                                                                                                                                                              
  11. The Frisco Kid (1979) and, 12.Witness, (1985) both starring Harrison Ford six years later in very different roles, are extremely similar to me because while both involve interacting with the Amish communities, though in Witness that is the location for virtually whole movie, the main concept for both films is “fish-out-of-water” themes where the main character is put into situations where he is out of his comfort zone. In Frisco Kid, Gene Wilder portrays an initially foolish comical Rabbi in Poland who is sent across the sea and then across America to be the first Rabbi of a newly established Jewish community in frontier San Francisco. Wilder’s Rabbi encounters numerous barriers, sometimes comic, but also both violent and halluciagenic on his quest to travel West to be the new Rabbi and where is also promised a wife. He encounters the multi-talented cowboy Harrison Ford as both a train and bank robber. The rest of the movie displays their developing empathy for each other, and Ford’s growing respect for the weaponless Rabbi’s determination to be religiously observant no matter how much danger that places both of them in. Eventually, we see Wilder’s realization of Ford’s importance in his life as possibly a “Protective Angel” sent by God to look after him, and Ford’s role as his best and only friend in America. Their encounter with an ostensibly hostile Western Indian tribe goes a long way to explain the extent of the Rabbi’s courage and faith, Ford’s devotion to the Rabbi, what the Torah represents both to the extraordinarily sophisticated and culturally curious Indian Chief (played by an Italian actor) and also to the movie’s audience, because if no one knows what the San Francisco-bound Torah scroll represents, the movie has no central meaning. That Ford is partially (and in his own publically stated perception of his own identity during an interview) Jewish also adds a myth-destroying aspect to the mistaken objectification of a bumbling nebbishy Jew and the physically daunting and courageous Christian sent to protect him, when both men are simply different physical aspects of the same group. The end of the movie highlights this perception in a role-reversal moment when the Rabbi and the outlaw switch clothing and identities before the Rabbi finds his voice, his love and his courage in a Solomon-esque moment at the end of the film. In Witness, Ford is a Philadelphia investigative cop who is sent to interview two Amish witnesses, a mother and her child, in a main train station murder, then Ford learns that his boss and a fellow cop are involved in the murder and drug selling. After an assassination attempt on Ford’s life where he is badly wounded, he escapes with the two witnesses to their rural Amish community where he and his damaged car are hidden. Then he is dressed as one of them as he very slowly recovers, and gradually falls in love with the widowed mother of the boy. The movie leisurely displays Amish life in beautifully framed moments of humor and appreciation of a very different way of life to Ford and the audience. There is a scene of an actual barn-raising where Ford takes part assembling the barn along with dozens of other Amish men, who are fed by scores of women during breaks in the work. The wink at some more enlightened members of the movie’s audience, like me for example, is that before finding success in Hollywood, Ford did work as an actual carpenter to support himself, building different things for other more successful actors. There is a moment of confrontation in a town near where the Amish farms are located, where several punks ridicule and physically assault mild-mannered Amish men who are used to this and refuse to respond. But Ford, not realizing what his uncontrollable, characteristic and violent response to the punk’s behavior will costs him, returns the assault while still dressed as one of the Amish, and breaks one of the astonished punk’s noses. The movie advances to a confrontation between three shotgun-carrying killers who track Ford down to where he is in the Amish countryside, and how he initially on his own and without any weapon kills two of them and eventually engages the entire Amish community to aid in his defense and to defeat the last killer, his former boss in the Philadelphia police department. The best moment in the film for me is when Ford attempts to start his dead battery in his car hidden in an Amish barn with the boy’s beautiful mother there with him, then the radio goes on playing a rock ‘n roll song “Don’t Know Much About History”, Ford breaks into a nostalgic smile and mood, then begins comically dancing with the mother who has no idea what is going on, nor how to dance either. Moments like this one make the film unique to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

Shipping by air to most of Europe, due to the weight of my books is $99.00

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.  My hour-long story reading at WGTD 91.1 NPR Kenosha, Wis is now a podcast. The interview and story can be heard here: 

Speaking of Our Words – June 30th, 2017 With special guest star and featured writer Bob Katzman. Bob reads his memoir, “Audrey, Pink Bunny Slippers, Her Cat and the God’s Eye” and talks about his w…   Your comments are welcome, below, and please tell others I can be found here as a writer. I can also be hired as a speaker for organizations, etc, both here and in Europe. Seeking an agent.robertmkatzman@gmail.com Poet & Storyteller for hire for organizations, schools or private events   www.DifferentSlants.com to view recent and older examples of my work   

Preview YouTube video Speaking of Our Words – June 30th, 2017

Speaking of Our Words – June 30th, 2017  

1 Comment »

Comment by Don Larson

May 25, 2019 @ 11:29 am

Hi Bob,

Movies fill many voids in life or time.

For couple of hours a movie can provide insights that otherwise may take a lifetime to obtain.


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