Life Lessons from Movies

Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Rigged 2016

In Documentary, Movies on October 15, 2016 at 7:05 PM


Rigged 2016 (2016) is a documentary directed by Bobby Sheehan, Jeremy Warner and Chris Schmutz (Dead Abe Lincoln) about the 2016 United States presidential election that featured two of the most divisive and mistrusted figures in American politics – Democrat Hillary Clinton, a career politician known for selling government favors (Marc Rich) and lying to the public, and Republican Donald Trump, a vulgar crook and bigot with multiple failed businesses – whose parties conspired to keep Libertarian Gary Johnson, the only third party candidate to be listed in all 50 state ballots, and Washington, D.C., out of the debates and thus marginalized by the media, effectively preventing his proposals from reaching the American public.

Life Lesson:

In a country where 307,000 veterans died waiting for their government provided healthcare, and where during the height of the Veterans Affairs scandal the VA gave themselves $142 million in bonuses, where the residents of Flint Michigan were subjected to lead-poisoned water, where multiple health insurance companies that were funded by tax payers have failed, raising insurance premiums for people already being taxed for healthcare, where mass incarceration and the police state have devastated whole communities, where poor kids are trapped in failing schools and put in the school to prison pipeline, where political donors like Trump get special tax loopholes from bought politicians like Clinton, which hurts honest businesses, competition, consumers, the economy and the poor – the only candidate offering solutions to these problems, Gary Johnson, was ignored. The two party system is killing the U.S. Democracy and the ability to elect honest leaders. In a 3 person race, a third party candidate only needs 35% of the votes, a little over 1/3, to win the presidency.

Movie Scene:

Glenn Beck: “We’re fighting over the lesser of two evils because that’s what the parties have done to us.”

Ashley Green: “When you’re worried about poisoned water, couple that with all the terrorist attacks and homicides within each other in our own communities, it makes you wonder, are we really one of the most developed countries in the world? Do we really have a government that is fighting to move us forward?”

Bill Stifford: “What happened to our Democracy? What happened to my sacrifice as a veteran? […] For those guys to lay down their lives and to see what happened in Philadelphia [DNC convention], to our democratic process, it just really angers me. I thought we were going to have a better future, but here we are sending these kids over to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Syria, and they’re not fighting for the freedom of the Iraqi democracy or Syrian people, they’re fighting for the oil companies.”



In Documentary, Movies on December 7, 2015 at 6:40 PM

SlingShot (2014) is a documentary directed by Paul Lazarus about the life and work of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway Personal Transporter, the founder of FIRST engineering competitions, the developer of Slingshot, a portable water purification system, and the founder of DEKA, a research and development corporation.

Life Lesson:

“Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.”

– Javier Pascual Salcedo

Movie Scene:

Dean Kamen: “I made a machine that I thought would help people with healthcare. That’s my day job. So I went to my medical company clients. They can help. [But] They pretty much said, ‘We can’t help you. We’d love to support it. We’ll help you with money. But, Dean, we can’t get this stuff to these places, either. We’ll see what we can do.’ I went to governments. Maybe that’s what they’re for. When capitalism doesn’t work, aid organizations, NGOs. Well, they like to deal with big-scale stuff. They also might help with funding, they told me, but these big organizations don’t have people that go out to these little villages. They don’t have an efficient distribution channel. I went to the United Nations, said ‘I’ve got this box. Let’s figure out how to help get it out there.’ Their basic answer was, ‘good for you, we’re rooting for you. But we don’t do that. We don’t distribute products. We don’t build sustainable micro-economic systems. We don’t lend people money, we don’t make entrepreneurs. That’s not what we do.’ I was somewhat disappointed.  […] I’ve been given the opportunity to talk to the entire board of directors of the Coca-Cola Company about using our vapor compression distiller to solve the major global health problem: bad water. […] The Coca-Cola Company has bottling operations in 206 countries, which is more than the number of countries that are admitted into the United Nations.”


In Documentary, Movies on August 3, 2015 at 7:35 PM

Salinger (2013) is a documentary directed by Shane Salerno about J.D. Salinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye (1951), an influential novel that had a significant impact on American culture.

Life Lesson:

Be driven by making your work great, not by the reactions of others.

Movie Scene:

Eberhard Alsen [author]: “Salinger’s religion was the central concern in his writing. He’s championing the ideas of Vedanta Hinduism in his Glass stories, the so-called Karma yoga concept that comes from the Bhagavad Gita, that you should do your work as perfectly as you possibly can with no thought of rewards, and only that way can you be a really happy person.”

Fred Fogo [author]: “We have to remember, the things we produce – symbolically and in language, we have no control over what happens to them once we let them go.”

Betty Eppes [journalist]: “We shook hands and he said, ‘If you’re a writer, you need to quit that newspaper. Newspapers serve no purpose’. And he said publishing was the worst thing a person could do. He insisted that he was working; that every writer should write for their own reasons, but it should be for themselves alone. The only important thing was the writing – according to J.D. Salinger.”

Breaking the Maya Code

In Documentary, Movies on July 31, 2015 at 11:15 AM

Breaking the Maya Code (2008) is a documentary written and directed by David Lebrun, based on the book by Michael Coe, about the researchers – including Constantine Rafinesque, Ernst Förstemann, Eric ThompsonTatiana Proskouriakoff, Heinrich Berlin, Cyrus Thomas, Yuri Valentinovich Knorosov, Merle Greene Robertson, Linda Schele, Peter Mathews, Floyd Lounsbury, Alberto Ruz, Elizabeth Benson, David H. Kelley, David Stuart and Justin Kerr – who were involved in a 200 year struggle to decipher the writing system of the Ancient Maya, a 4,000 year-old Mesoamerican civilization.

Life Lesson:

It takes many different kinds of people to solve a complex problem.

Movie Scene:

Michael Coe: “Ernst Förstemann is a perfect example of how somebody does not have to put on a pith helmet and carry a machete to make great discoveries. Förstemann did this sitting in a dusty office in a dusty library. He traveled in his mind and managed to reach the mind of the Maya.”

Narrator: “The Maya had invented the concept of zero, and they arranged their numbers in columns to designate place notation. Our decimal system counts by tens and powers of ten. Förstemann realized that the Maya used a base 20 system, counting by 20s and powers of 20. With this system, they could express and manipulate extremely large numbers. Having grasped their mathematics, Förstemann discovered Maya astronomy. He proved that one section of the Dresden [codex] is an incredibly precise record and prediction table of eclipses, accurate to within 7 minutes over 32 years. Another section he identified as tables tracking the cycles of the planet Venus, with an error of only 2 hours over 400 years.”

With Great Power

In Documentary, Movies on December 24, 2014 at 1:45 PM

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (2010) is a documentary co-written and co-directed by Nikki Frakes and Will Hess about Stan Lee, the co-creator, along with Jack Kirby, of a number of comic book heroes including the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men and Iron Man, and with Steve DitkoSpider-Man.

Life Lesson:

“I faced it all, and I stood tall, and did it my way.”

Frank Sinatra

Movie Scene:

Stan Lee: “Doing comics was like, you were on the bottom rung of the creative totem pole, so to speak. Here I am, a grown man. I was in my 30s, and I’m doing juvenile things. Most of my neighbors: they were stockbrokers, they were bankers, they were businessmen, they were doctors, they were lawyers. They didn’t take me seriously. What kind of reference was the fact that you had been writing comics? So I kept staying there, because I had a wife and a baby, a child. I didn’t know where else to go. But finally, I was ready to quit by about 1960 or ’61. I had been doing it for 20 years. And I said to my wife, ‘look, I’m sure there’s something I can do. I’ll try to write a novel or something.’ And she said, ‘Stan, if you want to quit, why don’t you first do one comic book the way you’d like to do it for a slightly older audience? Write it the way you feel like writing it. Get it out of your system. The worst that can happen is you’ll be fired, but you want to quit anyway.’ When Joan finally said, ‘why don’t you do one book the way you’d like to do it?’ It was like a lightbulb exploded over my head.”


In Documentary, Movies on December 19, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010) is a documentary co-written and co-directed by Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen about a Canadian rock band renowned for the expert musicianship of its three members: Geddy Lee (vocals, bass guitar, keyboard), Alex Lifeson (guitar, synthesizers) and Neil Peart (drums, lyrics).

Life Lesson:

Never stop learning.

Movie Scene:

Neil Peart: “I didn’t have the looseness that I wanted to hear out of my own playing.”

Jason McGerr: “After so many years of being an amazing player, Neil could have clearly just decided not to play drums until it was time to go play a Rush show. But instead, he cared enough about what he did to try and break down his current technique and work with Freddie Gruber, and sort of, reinvent his playing style. ”

Peart: ” […] I asked myself, can I really do this? Will I have the discipline? It’s a huge commitment. […] Freddie is all about the motion, and it was all about the motion of the hands and feet that contributed to a dance. And one of the first things he did was stand up and do a little soft-shoe dance for me and saying, ‘when you’re doing that, is that dance happening on the floor? No, it’s happening in the air’. So these were revelations to me, to start thinking about not just the hit, but the motions between.”

McGerr: “[…] It takes a lot of courage being a drummer of the stature that Neil Peart is to be able to say ‘I can improve’ and when he came back out and made his appearances after working with Freddie and he turned his grip around, his traditional grip, and had a different approach, he was so much more relaxed. That was the most refreshing thing you could have seen, is that your hero could also still learn, that they weren’t just done.”

Warren Buffett

In Documentary, Movies on June 27, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Warren Buffett: Bloomberg Game Changers (2013) is a documentary from Bloomberg Television about Warren Buffet, a billionaire investor who became the world’s wealthiest person by buying stocks from companies, and later companies, that were: easy to understand, well managed, competitive, enduring and profitable businesses, such as See’s CandiesGEIKO insurance, and Fruit of the Loom clothing – all of which became subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway, his investment company.

Life Lesson:

One path to obtaining wealth is investing long term in the stock market, which has an S&P 500’s historical average return of 10% per year: Buy stocks when the market goes down/stock prices drop, keep those stocks for multiple years/decades, and “know what you buy, and buy what you know.” — Motley Fool

Movie Scene:

Buffett: “Many people take their cues as to what to do from what the market itself is doing, but [Benjamin] Graham would tell you that the market is there to serve you, not to inform you. And basically he was saying the market will be wrong… sometimes the market is very, very wrong and if you look at the prices of stocks as buying pieces of businesses, you will be able to recognize when the market is very wrong.”

Narrator: “He was picking stocks that others were ignoring, and his stocks kept going up.”

Roger Lowenstein: “He’s devouring every annual report, and they stayed devoured. He remembers them and he’s got these balance sheets in his mind, so that if a stock gets cheap, you know, three years later, he remembers what the fundamentals of the company are. This is a ‘buy now’.”

Alice Schroeder: “Warren has always quoted Gus Levy, who said, ‘be greedy when others are fearful; be fearful when others are greedy’.”

March of the Penguins

In Documentary, Movies on May 8, 2014 at 7:20 PM

March of the Penguins (2005) is a documentary co-written and directed by Luc Jacquet about the annual back and forth 70-mile walk Emperor penguins take in order to find a mate and raise a baby chick in the harsh climate of Antarctica, where the average temperature is 58 degrees below 0.

Life Lesson:

Life is a beautiful struggle: splendor and sadness co-exist for us all.

Movie Scene:

Narrator (Morgan Freeman): “With the wind’s return, the temperature drops. This year, winter’s going out with a bang. This is the first storm for the new chicks, and many of them will not survive it. When the winds stop, the search for lost chicks begins. Some have kept warm by huddling together. Others have not been so lucky. The loss is unbearable. Every year, some bereft mother will respond to her agony in an unimaginable way. Having lost her own chick, she will attempt to steal another’s. But the group will not allow it. Back in it’s mother’s care, the chick is not eager to leave again. Despite having known each other only a few days, the bond between mother and child is surprisingly strong. In the next few weeks, it will only grow stronger. Winter’s grip slowly weakens, and the chicks begin to run free. Some need a little encouragement, but eventually, they all find their way.”

God Grew Tired of Us

In Documentary, Movies on April 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

God Grew Tired of Us (2006) is a documentary written and directed by Christopher Dillon Quinn and narrated by Nicole Kidman about a group of about 25,000 boys who escaped the violent civil war in Sudan by walking 1,000 miles to Ethiopia and then Kenya, where they were housed in refugee camps, from which about 3,800 “Lost Boys” were then allowed to immigrate to the United States through the efforts of the International Rescue Committee.

Life Lesson:

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Winston Churchill

Movie Scene:

John Bul Dau: “When we run away from Sudan, despite of me being 13, I was taller than the others. So I had to be select out, that ‘please, you are big now, so please go and, and do this job.’ So I had to, to take care of them. I was in charge of one group, 1,200 and something person. That was the time I learned how to bury the dead bodies. That was my, part of, my job. I have to go and bury my fellow brothers. Imagine, at the age of 13, can bury. It was so difficult. It was so bad. But because of situation and our time, what do we do? We have to do that. It was as if maybe the day, the last day, as people say in the Bible, that there will be a last day, that Jesus Christ will come, and whatever on Earth will be judged. That was my imagination. I thought that God felt tired of people on Earth here, felt tired of the bad deed, the bad thing that we are doing, yet God is watching on us. I think God, I thought God got tired of us, and he want to finish us. When I think of it back, it was so bad anyway. You can even think of, can even regret why you were born. Why you were born. Now I wonder, I’m now again wearing clothes, and feeling very happy, and so anyway, everything has an end. Has an end. Even if there’s problem in Sudan still, maybe one time, one day, one minute — it will come to an end.”

The Improv

In Documentary, Movies on April 22, 2014 at 10:10 PM

The Improv: 50 Years Behind the Brick Wall (2013) is an EPIX documentary narrated by Adam Sandler about the stand-up comedy stage founded in 1963 by producer Budd Friedman and actress Silver Saunders in New York City, and later in Los Angeles in 1975, that launched the career of a number of successful comics, including Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Jay Leno, Larry David, Lewis Black, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Judd Apatow and Jimmy Fallon.

Life Lesson:

If you want to succeed in a field, you have to endure long hours of hard work for no or low pay while you hone the necessary skills.

Movie Scene:

Jay Leno: “I used to sleep in the alley around the corner. I remember waking up and I would see Dyke’s Lumber Yard across the street. I didn’t have any place to live. […] And I thought, ‘oh, really, is this my life now? Is this what show business is? Sleeping in an alley?’ But just to get on at The Improv, it was worth it.”

Judd Apatow: “The person that I, you know, inspired me in a lot of ways was Larry Miller because Larry Miller had this incredible polished act. He could do two and a half hours. […] He would say, ‘you know how I do that? I write. I write all day. Most comedians are at the mall. I write.'”

Jerry Seinfeld: “Why are there not more giant comedians breaking more than once every 13 god-damned years? ‘Cause they don’t put the work in. That’s why. They have a million others things they can do. And that’s a handicap.”

Jimmy Fallon: “I would work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays, whatever I could do. And you would get a check for $8.25 per set.”

Ray Romano: “I remember Leno saying, it takes six years to really find out who you are on stage.”


In Documentary, Movies on February 26, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Evolution: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (2001) is a documentary co-written and co-directed by David Espar and Susan K. Lewis about naturalist Charles Robert Darwin and his theory of evolution, published in 1859, that established that all forms of life on Earth are related because they descended from a common ancestor via natural selection, a process whereby individuals better suited to their environment survive and reproduce while those that aren’t well suited perish, thus creating genetic changes in populations which overtime can become so great that a split from the original population occurs, leading to the formation of new species.

Life Lesson:

Biological evolution (genetic change over time in populations via descent with modification through genetic inheritance) is caused by four mechanisms: natural selection (individuals better adapted to their environment tend to survive and reproduce, thus passing their genes to their offspring), mutation (a change in the structure of a gene), migration (gene flow from one population to another) and genetic drift (a change in the frequency of a gene in a population due to random chance).

Movie Scene:

David Page: “In the 19th century, in Darwin’s time, it was audacious to claim that humans and chimps were closely related. There wasn’t that much scientific evidence. But since that time, the evidence has become strong. First, we saw the fossil record appear. Evidence of human ancestors that had apelike features established the plausibility of the idea that humans and chimps had common ancestors. And then in the last twenty years, we’ve seen the emergence of a whole new type of data that’s established a close relationship between chimps and humans. And that comes from the analysis of DNA. This is DNA. We’ve got DNA. Chimps have got DNA. Bacteria have got DNA. Petunias have got DNA. Crabs have got DNA. Every living animal, plant, fish, frog has got DNA, and if we compare the DNAs of any two species, we can establish how closely related they are one to another. […] Here we’re looking at the DNA sequences of one particular gene that’s found in human and chimp and what’s immediately evident is that humans and chimps have DNAs that are 98% identical. They’re basically the same, there are just a couple of spelling changes. Why are there only a couple of spelling changes? Because we and chimps had a common ancestor only a few million years ago. And these few spelling differences have accumulated during the propagation of this DNA during those few million years. If more time had passed since we had our last common ancestor, more spelling changes would have accumulated.

Narrator: “If the same gene from a rat is compared, many more spelling differences are seen.”

David Page: “That’s because our common ancestor with the rat lived about 80 or 100 million years ago, and there’s been much more time for spelling differences to accumulate.”

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing

In Documentary, Movies on February 12, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (2011) is a documentary directed by Sarah Hunt and Mimi O’Connor about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that covers his work with Steve Wozniak, another co-founder and the inventor of the Apple I and Apple II computers; his work with Dean Hovey on the design of the one button mouse; his influence on the design of computer fonts; his envisioning of the iPad; his founding of NeXT with funding from Ross Perot; his buying of Pixar; and his remaking of Apple with the iMac, the iPodiTunes and the iPhone.

Life Lesson:

You don’t have to be just a consumer, you can be a creator.

Movie Scene:

Steve Jobs: “When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and your —  your life is just to live your life inside the world: try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Who Killed the Electric Car?

In Documentary, Movies on October 3, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) is a documentary written and directed by Chris Paine about the GM EV1, an electric vehicle made available to California consumers for lease, with no buy option, after the state passed the Zero-Emissions Vehicle mandate in 1990. However, after lawsuits from car companies, the federal government, and forceful lobbying from oil companies, California dropped the mandate on April 24, 2003, and GM, along with other American automakers, repossessed all electric cars and destroyed them.

Life Lesson:

If you want to change the world for the better (reduce war, reduce pollution, protect wildlife, beaches and rainforests), buy a car that doesn’t use gasoline, or uses very little gasoline: an electric car, a plug-in hybrid, or a hybrid — e.g. Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi i MiEV, Renault Fluence Z.E., Toyota Plug-in Prius.

Movie Scene:

Joseph J. Romm: “Just as General Motors 40, 50 years ago bought up the trolley systems and shut them down, the oil companies have opposed the creation of an electric infrastructure. […] Our average vehicle, average car on the road, is less efficient than it was 20 years ago, and this is just a complete abdication of leadership, political leadership really, because it’s impossible to get fuel economy standards passed through the U.S. Congress.”

Wally E. Rippel: “There’s still roughly a trillion barrels worth of oil in the Earth’s crust. And if you figure that the average price of that subsequent oil will be $100 a barrel, that’s a $100 trillion dollars worth of business yet to be done. However, at some point when the alternative is good enough, people will snap over, and that’s what the oil companies fear the most. […] We’re using our military to insure the flow of oil, we’re using tax dollars to support the car companies in different ways, and we’re not using our tax money to do the things that we really need to do to prepare for the future.”

R. James Woolsey: “The fact that 2/3 of the world’s proven reserves of oil are in the Middle East, and we’re so dependent on that part of the world, is a very big national security question.”

Note by Note

In Documentary, Movies on August 19, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 (2007) is a documentary directed by Ben Niles about the process involved in handcrafting a Steinway concert grand piano, that also includes interviews with musicians Harry Connick Jr., Hank JonesHélène Grimaud, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and Lang Lang.

Life Lesson:

There is joy in working with your hands.

Movie Scene:

Prenta Ljucovic (Case Maker): “I enjoyed building the piano. If I don’t work, if I don’t work physically, then I get nervous. I want to work physically. I want to — I like to work hard, put it this way.”

Eddy Salvodon (Plate Fitter): “When you work with your hands, you know what to do, you know what you’re touching. Any mistake, any problem, you know. You touch with your hand, you know what the problem is.”

Tales From The Script

In Documentary, Movies on July 4, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Tales from the Script (2009) is a documentary written and directed by Peter Hanson, who interviews 46 successful Hollywood screenwriters and asks them to share their career insights. They include Frank Darabont (“The Green Mile,” “The Shawshank Redemption”), William Goldman (“All the President’s Men,” “The Princess Bride”), and Jose Rivera (“Letters to Juliet,” “The Motorcycle Diaries”).

Life Lesson:

If you want to be a Hollywood screenwriter, you must understand that: 1) your scripts will be changed, 2) you will have to find your own path, 3) there will be constant rejection, 4) it’s a business that responds to market pressures and your reputation as a moneymaker, 5) you have to pitch and sell your own script, which may take five years, 6) you can sell a script for a lot of money ($300,000 – $1,750,000), 7) you will have to start the whole process again after your first success; previous success does not guarantee future success, 8) you need perseverance, 9) you will need to build multiple personal relationships to get ahead, 10) if you really want your voice and your idea turned into a movie, without any compromises, you have to direct, produce and write it yourself, 11) you can get fired at any time, 12) you should not define your identity solely on your work, 13) screenwriting is a full-time job, 14) you will likely have to write multiple drafts of the same thing, e.g. 46 for “Amadeus,” 15) you truly have to love writing, love movies, and love storytelling, otherwise you will not survive.

Movie Scene:

Dennis Palumbo (“My Favorite Year”): “Part of the kind of surrealistic experience in Hollywood is that the originator of the material, from the moment everyone else claims to love it, is then the subject of an attempt to remove them from the material as much as possible.”

Joe Forte (“Firewall”): “The price of getting into the film business, and probably a lot of other businesses that have a lot of competition, is figuring out your, you know, path. If there is a brick wall in front of you, are you going to ram your head against it, are you going to build a ladder […] how are you gonna get over that wall?”

Frank Darabont (“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”): “Even if it takes you ten years, or nine years, like it took me to start working as a professional, develop and hone your skills.”

Billy Ray (“Breach”): “This is a last laugh business. And if you can survive as people are kicking you in the head, eventually their leg will get tired. They will want to start kicking someone else. If you are still there and can pull yourself up to your feet, you get the last laugh.”


In Documentary, Movies on June 7, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Crude (2009) is a documentary directed by Joe Berlinger about the people, a lawyer of Cofán descent, Pablo Fajardo, and an American lawyer, Steven Donziger, who are behind the 20 year old lawsuit against Chevron/Texaco over environmental contamination in Ecuador that devastated and displaced multiple indigenous communities.

Life Lesson:

“Sin hacer nada, no sirve para nada. Hay que siempre hacer algo.”

If you do nothing, you’re a good for nothing. You always have to do something.

— Pablo Fajardo, quoting a saying from his mother

Movie Scene:

Pablo Fajardo: “I live in the Ecuadorian Amazon. I am from Shushufindi. When I was 14 years old, I started working in the oil fields. At that time Texaco was still operating. During that time, I witnessed many acts of injustice, of environmental disasters, of environmental contamination, of the denigration of the workers and farmers. I witnessed everything they did to this region. I lived that reality. I saw gigantic smoke clouds coming out of the station. I saw the spills. I saw how they threw crude oil on the roads. I saw all of that. But I couldn’t do anything. That was my motivation to keep studying.”

Woody Allen

In Documentary, Movies on May 6, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Woody Allen (2012) is a documentary written and directed by Robert B. Weide about comedian, filmmaker, and writer Woody Allen (Allan Stewart Konigsberg), a man who has made a movie every year for 40 years, including Annie Hall (1977), which won four Academy Awards; Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Midnight in Paris (2011), both of which won for Best Original Screenplay; and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture.

Life Lesson:

Nurture whatever talent or skill you have, in the future someone might pay you for it.

Movie Scene:

Eric Lax (Biographer): “There was a press agent, a public relations man named David Alber and his job was to come up with funny lines to put in the mouths of his clients. And he hired Woody to come at $25 week after school to write jokes … By the time he was 16 or 17, he was making more than his parents and has been regularly employed everyday of his life since.”

Woody: “And I was doing about 50 jokes a day for a long time. It was not hard. .. From there I was asked to write some jokes for the Arthur Godfrey Program, for Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy — they did a radio program. And that eventually got to Herb Shriner, who was a wonderful comedian, and I wrote for him. And I never really stopped. I was never out of work. […] If you’re a joke-maker, it’s hard not to make jokes… I can’t draw a horse or anything else, but I can write jokes, and it’s hard not to write them. I mean, if I walk down the street, it’s almost — it’s like my normal conversation. You know, it just comes out that way.”

Air Guitar Nation

In Documentary, Movies on April 8, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Air Guitar Nation (2006) is a documentary directed by Alexandra Lipsitz about the first U.S. competitors, C-Diddy (David S. Jung) and Björn Türoque (Dan Crane), entering the World Air Guitar Championship in Oulu, Finland, where one of them wins.

Life Lesson:

Follow your passion even if others disapprove or don’t understand it. They will come around when you demonstrate skill.

Movie Scene:

David: “My parents totally, totally, got C-Diddy. They won’t ever say that he’s their son, but I think they like him. … Because of the air guitar, I think my parents have definitely become much more accepting of my decision to become an actor. I think they understand why I wanted to do this.”

Nirvana – Nevermind

In Documentary, Movies on March 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Classic Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind (2005) is a documentary directed by Bob Smeaton about the making of “Nevermind,” a landmark record by the band Nirvana because of its successful introduction of grunge/alternative rock to the mainstream, reaching #1 on the Billboard charts, and eventually selling over 30 million copies worldwide. It features the surviving members of the band, Krist Novoselic and David Grohl, the producer, Butch Vig, and footage of Kurt Cobain.

Life Lesson:

Whatever you do, do it well; you might create something great.

Movie Scene:

Krist Novoselic: “We were very disciplined, and we took rehearsals and playing music seriously. There really was no messing around; no partying, or having girls over, or anything. It was very serious. And we played the songs over, and over again, until we felt they sounded right, and you know, worked out all the bugs. At that point, we’d go in the studio and we’d just do our thing.”

Kurt Cobain (re: the success of Nevermind): “We weren’t prepared for it, and it’s never been a main goal of ours. You know, we really don’t care about anything like that. We just wanted to put out a good record. Hopefully the people who liked our first album would like this one also.”

Dave Grohl: “We had that sort of do-it-yourself punk-rock ethic that we all shared. I don’t think it would have worked if one person didn’t have that. I mean honestly, there was hardly any career ambition at all. We knew there was no way we could be the biggest band in the world, we just wanted to play … We weren’t on a mission; we just wanted to make a great record.”

I Ain’t Scared of You

In Documentary, Movies on March 8, 2013 at 5:55 AM

I Ain’t Scared of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac (2011) is a humorous documentary directed by Robert Small about comedian Bernie Mac, a man who embodied rugged individualism and achieved the quintessential American Dream despite numerous obstacles and personal tragedies.

Life Lesson:

Love yourself enough to be the person you want to become.

Movie Scene:

Comedian D. L. Hughley, speaking at the funeral service: “It is true that only the good die young. Fifty years is not enough time. The thing that I can say about Bernie is this: The hardest thing for a black man to do is to be an individual, is to stand on your own and to say what you mean and to not be influenced by anybody, to make your own mind up and your own way. And Bernie Mac was a man, believe me when I tell you. He stood on his own. He said what he believed. He used to always say, ‘I don’t care if you like me, I like me.'”

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

In Documentary, Movies on January 31, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (2010) is a documentary by directors Joe Cross and Kurt Engfehr about two men, Joe Cross and Phil Riverstone, who undertake a nutrition program to lose weight that consists in large part of consuming juiced fruits and vegetables.

Life Lesson:

You will be healthier if your diet consists mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables. The foods highest in nutrients per calorie are: 1) green vegetables, 2) raw vegetables, 3) beans/legumes, 4) eggplant, mushrooms, 5) tomatoes, peppers, 6) fresh fruit. The most nutrient rich foods are: kale, collards, spinach and bok choy.

Movie Scene:

Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, LDN: “Why are fruits and vegetables good for me? Micronutrients are essentially your vitamins and minerals. Where do we get these micronutrients? They are predominantly found in plant foods. All plant foods are beneficial and essential for human health, everything from building muscle to immune function.”

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.: “This study was done with Barbara Sarter, a Ph.D. at the University of Southern California and with Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University on people undergoing weight loss who were diabetic or [had] high blood pressure or heart disease … where they followed what we call a vegetable-based diet … that resulted in the most weight loss of any study ever recorded in medical history. The average person lost 53 pounds and they kept it off.”

Mind Over Money: Nova

In Documentary, Movies on January 14, 2013 at 9:07 PM

Mind Over Money: Nova (2010) is a documentary by director/producer Malcolm Clark about the latest research studies on behavioral economics. Scholars discuss their findings, which are often at odds with established economic models, and a number of experts are interviewed. It features Leo Melamed from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Richard Rosenblatt from the New York Stock Exchange, Joe Mazzella from Knight Capital Group, Dan Mathisson from Credit Suisse and Jeremy Grantham from Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo.

Life Lesson:

Emotion may lead you to make bad financial decisions. For example, people who feel sad will pay more, sometimes four times more, for a consumer product than those who do not feel sad.

Movie Scene:

Dan Mathisson (Credit Suisse): “The market is an aggregation of what thousands of people think the future is going to be like. And if these people are optimistic about the future, the market goes up, and if people are pessimistic about the future, the market goes down. But at the end of the day, the question the market answers is, ‘Are people optimistic or are they pessimistic?’ And that’s a psychological question. Emotion still drives the markets.”

Narrator: “Grantham believes [economic] bubbles are inevitable and have a predictable rhythm.”

Jeremy  Grantham (GMO): “It’s euphoria causing the price to go up and realism causing it to fall back, and then, eventually, unrealistic panic, as it begins to feed on itself, and the lemmings head in the opposite direction.”

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

In Documentary, Movies on January 8, 2013 at 5:38 AM

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (2012) is a documentary directed by Paul Sen and hosted by Robert Cringely containing the full 1995 interview, thought lost, of Steve Jobs that was done for the television series Triumph of the Nerds.

Life Lesson:

“Expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you are doing.”

Steve Jobs

Movie Scene:

When he was twelve, Steve Jobs called Bill Hewlett, of Hewlett-Packard (HP), and asked him for spare parts for a frequency counter. That summer, Bill gave Steve a job at HP. A few years later, he and Steve Wozniak went to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center to read an AT&T technical journal that explained how the phone system worked, from which they figured out how to build a machine to make free phone calls.

Steve: “What’s so interesting is that we were young. And what we learned was that we could build something ourselves that could control billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure in the world. That was what we learned. Was that us two, you know we didn’t know much, we could build a little thing that could control a giant thing. And that was an incredible lesson. I don’t think there would have ever been an Apple Computer had there not been blue boxing.”


In Documentary, Movies on December 31, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Trekkies (1997) is a humorous documentary by director Roger Nygard about fans of Star Trek, a long-running, multi-generational, science-fiction, television series.

Life Lesson:

If you love something, there are others out there just like you.

Movie Scene:

On Screen: “‘Trekkies’ are the only fans listed by name in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Nurse Chapel): “If you go someplace, like into a convention, and you don’t have any friends there, you don’t know anybody there — you really do because they’re all thinking, somewhere along the line, they’re thinking like you are.”

Convention Attendee: “My family thinks I’m the odd one of the family. They think I’m totally weird, but I found this club, and I found out I’m not the only one. So I guess I’m not so weird after all.”

Indie Game: The Movie

In Documentary, Movies on December 28, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Indie Game: The Movie (2012) is a documentary by directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky about the struggles and triumphs of four independent game developers: Jonathan Blow (Braid), Phil Fish (FEZ), Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy).

Life Lesson:

If you want to blaze your own trail, do what you really want and not answer to anybody — you can do it, but it will likely be a long, hard road with a lot of sacrifice. If you succeed, the personal and financial rewards will be huge.

Movie Scene:

A successful video game can make millions of dollars in revenue, but it also takes multiple years to design and program.

Tommy: “Me and Ed are handling like a lot of stuff for two people. But we’re right there at the end … so we just sort of do it … We’re tired, not so much from work, but from not being able to sleep because of thinking about work.”

Ed: “If you can’t get the work done, then the past two years are basically worth nothing … There were at least five times, a good five times, where I totally broke down and I just didn’t want to do it anymore … I was actually really worried that either Tommy or I would die in the process of making this.”

Their game, Super Meat Boy, went on to become the 4th highest rated Xbox game of 2010 and had sold over 1,000,000 copies when the movie was released.

Kings of Pastry

In Documentary, Movies on December 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Kings of Pastry (2009) is a documentary by directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker about the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) pastry competition, which is held every four years. Winners earn the title “Best craftsman of France in Pastry”.

Life Lesson:

Don’t let adversity — difficulties, misfortune — stop you. Finish a task you set out to do. Finishing is its own reward, and only those who finish are eligible to win.

Movie Scene:

On the last day of the three day competition, the towering sugar sculpture that Chef Philippe Rigollot was working on topples over as he places it on the kitchen table. Only the base remains intact while the rest falls to the floor and shatters completely.

Chef Philippe Rigollot: “I couldn’t believe it. I left because I needed to breathe. Do I stop? Do I give up? Then I remembered what Gerard had told me: ‘No matter what happens see it through to the end.'”

He starts working on a replacement sugar sculpture and goes on to become one of five medal recipients of the MOF.


In Documentary, Movies on December 22, 2012 at 6:39 AM

Happy (2011) is a documentary by director Roko Belic about the latest research studies on happiness. Experts discuss their findings while everyday people talk about their experiences. It features Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who explains his theory of Flow, what athletes call “being in the zone,” a state of fulfillment during demanding physical activity.

Life Lesson:

People find happiness when they are: engaging in play, having new experiences, feeling connected to a community through friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, and appreciating what they have.

Movie Scene:

Narrator: “Any discussion of happiness centers a lot on dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain called a neurotransmitter that’s necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness.”

Professor Gregory Berns, M.D., Ph.D.: “Pretty much as you age from about teenage years onward, you’re slowly losing dopamine synapses … As far as we know, no one’s observed those regenerating … The body adapts to what it needs to do. So ‘use it or lose it’ … And so the idea would be to seek out experiences that release dopamine or you need dopamine to do. The things that are best at doing that, interestingly, involve physical activity.”

First Position

In Documentary, Movies on December 19, 2012 at 11:39 PM

First Position (2011) is a documentary by director Bess Kargman about ballet students training for and competing in the Youth America Grand Prix, where winners can get full scholarships and job contracts.

Life Lesson:

To become the best, push yourself harder than the rest.

Movie Scene:

Aran Bell, age 11, (demonstrating a foot strengthening exercise): “You’re supposed to do it as much as possible, and then do five more after you absolutely can’t do it anymore … Youth America grand Prix is coming up and I’ve been training really hard for it. Hopefully it will pay off. It feels good to be worked that hard and to be in that sort of mindset, and then have everything hurting when you come home.”

[He won “Best Overall Performance,” an award “to the dancer whose potential has been estimated as the highest in the age division.”]