Several movies have really caught my attention in this past year, including the films Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love. The Shakespeare film was an enjoyable movie, with beautiful scenery and costumes, witty dialogue, and of course, romance. However, the general theme that permeated the entire film seemed to me to be, “marriage is just a pain that gets in the way of ‘true love.'” The Bard is shown having left his wife and committing adultery with several women. In fact, the movie’s central romance involves Shakespeare himself and a woman who is pledged to be married (against her will, of course)—not exactly the most wholesome of relationships!
Saving Private Ryan, which was certainly not as entertaining (calling such a movie “entertaining” would be grossly disrespectful) as the Shakespeare film, was probably the most wonderful movie I have ever seen. Of course, the terrifying battle scenes will remain imprinted in my mind for the rest of my life; however, what really moved me was the overriding theme that the movie built up to and finally presented in the most dramatic scene I have ever witnessed in any film. Tom Hanks and his men have spent most of the movie struggling to find and rescue one man, Private Ryan. Finally, when most have died and Tom Hanks himself is on the brink of death, he tells Ryan with his last words, “Earn it.” That was where the whole movie unfolded for me. It helped me to realize my own obligation to these soldiers who laid down their lives so that I could live comfortably and free. We all should “earn it” by trying to be worthy of the solders’ sacrifice. We can do this by living the kind of lives that are worth preserving; learning about and honoring their sacrifices; and recognizing that self-sacrificing people are a gift from God. Most of all, we should not take lightly the liberty that comes at such a high price by failing to preserve it for future generations. Later in the film an older Ryan is shown standing at the grave of the man who had saved his life. He turns crying to his wife and asks, “Am I a good man?” That’s a question we should all ask ourselves.
Of course, I thought that Saving Private Ryan was guaranteed an Oscar this year for “Best Picture.” Imagine my surprise when the award went to none other than Shakespeare in Love! I’d say that this is a sadly accurate representation of the values held by Hollywood nowadays. Adultery is much more of a “fun” theme than that presented by Saving Private Ryan. People are less inclined to spend time thinking about what they owe others than to think about “true love” (“true lust” seems a more accurate description in this case). The results of the Oscars also made me think back to an article I read several months ago, in which I discovered to my great chagrin that the perversely “funny” There’s Something About Mary beat out Saving Private Ryan in ticket sales. This shows that it is the majority of the movie-going public, not just the people behind the movies, who have a warped sense of morality. Is it really more of an accomplishment for someone to dredge up a handful of the nastiest trash in the human mind than for someone to help show us what we owe to men who have fought and died so that we might live? I think not, and I hope and pray that we’ll see this country’s morality make a change for the better in years to come.