Movies are a popular form of entertainment, but they also influence and educate audiences for better or worse. As dreams reflect personal fantasies, desires, and subconscious feelings and thoughts, in many ways movies reveal collective fantasies, dreams, desires, nightmares, and subconscious experiences of society. Not only do movies tell us much about our culture, they also can influence cultural values and personal behavior. Just as we can learn about ourselves by studying the symbols in our dreams, we can gain greater understanding of social values and customs by learning from the conscious and subconscious messages conveyed in the movies we watch. Just as repression may cause unacceptable tendencies to be expressed unconsciously in dream symbols, so too social censorship may alter the form of films while the conflicts still appear metaphorically.
Watching and understanding movies can be an important part of one's emotional education in developing what Daniel Goleman has called "emotional intelligence" in developing spiritual maturity. They often play an important role in modern socialization. Romantic stories and themes are common, because attending movies is often a courtship ritual in our society. Thus theater movies have been increasingly geared to young audiences. We also learn about various aspects of life by vicarious observation of adventures too risky to experience in person. By observing how people act and respond to the actions, communication, and feelings of others, we are able to witness objectively (while not being personally involved in a live inter-action) the affects and consequences these have on other people.
These MOVIE MIRRORS attempt to reflect the stories and elucidate significant meaning from the best movies. In this work I hope to probe the philosophy, psychology, social, and political implications in this prevalent medium of communication. I have chosen to write about only what I consider the better movies, because I assume that others will be most interested in reading about the movies that are more worth seeing. Of course what is revealed in these movies can also often be found in worse movies too. One purpose here is to help people discover the movies that would not only be most entertaining to see but also the ones that are most beneficial. Many movies that are successful in entertaining also convey messages that may be harmful, and too often these movies are much imitated by other bad movies and television programs.
The focus here is not to review the technical quality of the movie-making such as the direction, acting, editing, and so on, though I may comment on these occasionally. My emphasis is on analyzing and understanding the ethical implications and psychology of what is conveyed in the movies as experienced by the movie-watcher. I hope to enlighten as well as inform so that our society can come to a greater understanding of its dangerous tendencies and find healing that will lead to greater peace and justice in this world. Naturally moral values vary, but I endeavor to apply a universal system of ethics as described by the divine principles in my book LIFE AS A WHOLE and in the "Ethics" chapter of my ETHICS OF CIVILIZATION. As applied to the movies, this means that I value life, love, truth, justice, responsibility, goodness, beauty, harmony, etc. To further indicate my predilections, which will surely become obvious to readers, I am much more concerned about the portrayal of irresponsible violence than I am with sexuality or nudity. Many social and psychological issues will be discussed. I am not expecting all readers to agree with me, but I hope that my writing will stimulate you to think for yourself with greater clarity and understanding.
The ethics of drama is a challenging area because of their natural tension. In real life we are urged by our inner spiritual intelligence and outward experiences with others to behave ethically - being loving, honest, fair, self-restrained, and nonviolent. However in drama the consequences of unethical actions are not real. In other words the actors do not really experience being murdered, cheated, etc. Also drama is usually made more interesting and plots are furthered and made more complicated by unethical and extreme behaviors that are more dramatic. Violence and sex are exciting; the more extreme they are, the more dramatic they are. Yet ethical conscience usually restrains them - thus the natural tension between ethics and drama. Also in actual experience being truthful usually works best and simplifies one's life, while lying and deceit tend to cause problems and complicate things. In drama such deceptions are often used to complicate the plot and add irony to the story. Certainly killing, stealing, cheating, lying, and other violations still occur frequently in the world; so the movies are only portraying what does happen. Even though these things may not happen as often in real life as they do in the movies, they do provide vicarious lessons.
After the title, in parentheses will be found the year, either b for black-and-white or c for color, and the length of the movie in minutes. If the movie is in a language other than English, that will also be indicated. The first paragraph gives a very brief summary of what the movie is about, and the last paragraph gives my commentary. In between is a concise summary of the story written in the vivid present tense in order to bring out the main psychological, social, and ethical implications. Those readers who do not want to know the story before seeing the movie the first time may want to refrain from reading my article until after seeing the movie. Others may find that reading my summaries before does not spoil but rather may enhance their viewing experience.
The ratings in the index may prove helpful in selecting movies. The index for each year also lists the evaluative ratings from Steven Scheuer's Movies on TV and Videocassette (S), Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide (M), Halliwell's Film Guide (H), Mick Martin and Marsha Porter's Video Movie Guide (P), and Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever (V). I have listed them in this order as roughly chronological since Scheuer began publishing his ratings in 1958, Maltin in 1969, Halliwell in 1977, Martin & Porter in the 1980s, and Videohound in 1991. This will give the viewer some idea who is following who, though occasionally reviewers alter their ratings in subsequent editions of their guides. Maltin, Scheuer, and Videohound use the four-star rating system with halves, and I have converted their ratings to one digit by doubling them. Since Halliwell rates about half the movies listed with no stars at all and because he uses no halves, I have converted Halliwell's ratings as follows: 0=4, 1=5, 2=6, 3=7, and 4=8. Martin and Porter rate from one to five using halves; I have doubled their ratings and subtracted one so that their 1-5 range stretches from 1 to 9.
I have evaluated each movie in two ways: for entertainment
value and for educational value on the same scale, adding nine
as equivalent to four-and-a-half stars. Thus the entertainment
rating is a single-digit number from 0 to 9 after En, and the
education rating likewise follows Ed. By entertainment value I
mean how well the film holds one's interest, whether it is enjoyable,
amusing, or absorbing. I use educational in a very broad sense
to mean what gives knowledge, emotional and mental understanding
and healing, and spiritual awareness. Artistic and aesthetic values
are involved in both ratings, but the more intellectual artistic
elements tend to be more educational than entertaining. I have
only included those movies that I have rated five or more on at
least one of the two scales.