To be completely honest, I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan because it diminishes the importance of love the remaining 364.25 days a year. We all know it’s a Hallmark holiday and the only reasons so many people participate at the high-dollar level they do are fear and peer-pressure.
Regardless, I started looking through my list of 8-, 9- and 10-star movies and it occurred to me many are about love, just not the boy-meets-girl type. Starting with my 10-star movies and going down to a point somewhere in the 9s, here are some Valentine thoughts of a different kind.
I am a sucker for teammate stories, tales of comradery, particularly fact-based examples of a unit coming together and rising above individual weaknesses to unite in a more powerful force.
One of my favorite sports movies is “Remember the Titans.” Perhaps one of the reasons it hits home with me is I grew up in that era, when blacks and whites were somewhat forced to come together. I was in the sixth grade when my East Texas school integrated and, believe me, we heard the hatred and negativity. Even as a kid, I felt time would make this work, would allow us to come together.
On sports fields, that time had to come quickly. This film documents one of the great success stories. The players and coaches – black and white – found they had to accept, trust and depend on each other to reach their goal.
The title of the movie comes from a battle cry issued by Will Patton’s character, Coach Bill Yoast: “You make sure they remember, *forever*, the night they played the Titans!”
Years before came “Brian’s Song,” a somewhat similar story boiled down to a relationship between two pro running backs – Gale Sayers (played by Billy Dee Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan). I get something in my eyes every time I see or even read the scene where Sayers is accepting the George S. Halas award while his teammate is dying from cancer.
“I love Brian Piccolo,” he said. “And I’d like all of you to love him too. And so tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”
Excuse me. I had to leave to blow my nose.
We’ll move from sports to a fantastic movie that almost slipped by me. I had heard nothing of “The Way” and literally picked it from the screen of a Redbox based on the fact it starred Martin Sheen and on its cover and tagline, “Life is too big to walk it alone.”
Tom (Sheen) is a busy and successful doctor who is totally flustered by the life choices of his son, Daniel (Sheen’s real-life son, Emilio Estevez) and the idea he won’t take life as seriously as Tom.
“You don’t choose a life, dad. You live one,” Daniel says. Shortly after that, he dies in a storm early in his trek walking the Camino de Santiago, any one of numerous lengthy pilgrimages to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
Tom, somewhat amazingly, flies to France to retrieve his son’s ashes. Much more amazingly, he makes the decision to complete the walk as a tribute. Being more than 60 years old without trekking experience and using his dead son’s gear, the trip proved incredibly arduous for him, but he finally formed a relationship with Daniel’s message, life is to be lived. And, might I say, loved.
The first two were based on true stories, the third is definitely realistic. Next, let’s move beyond that to total fiction with “Armageddon.” And, no, I’m not talking about the famous picnic scene featuring A.J. (Ben Affleck) and Grace (Liv Tyler).
Spoiler alert! The line that gets me is at the end, after Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) sacrifices himself to not only save mankind but to send A.J. back to Earth for Harry’s daughter, Grace. After the space ship makes its triumphant return, its pilot, Col. Sharp (William Fichtner) approaches Grace, introduces himself and says, “Requesting permission to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man I’ve ever met.”
Moving on, let’s go back to 1962 and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” There was no romantic storyline in this classic, but there was plenty of love.
Scout (Mary Badham) loved life. One could say Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) had a love for the kids. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) … well, he loved justice, fairness and harmless creatures such as mockingbirds.
Let’s wrap up with one of the greatest examples of love, again a true story.
In “Hotel Rwanda,” Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) made the chancy decision to exhibit love right in the middle of the Rwandan Genocide that saw the massacre of as many as a million people. He sheltered more than 1,000 refugees in the hotel he managed. That speaks for itself.
Spread the love this Valentine’s Day and every day thereafter.