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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top five movies for teen boys

By J. R. Wagner

I was a boy once.

There are many people who will argue the case that I still act like one.

My list is based upon two things. First, it was a film I saw when I was still considered a boy. Second, after the movie ended, thoughts of the film resonated with me for years -actually in all of these cases, they still resonate with me.

Here is the list:

5: Raiders of the Lost Ark

I spent my childhood seeking adventure. I would spend hours in the woods behind my home building forts, climbing trees, making zip-lines out of garden hoses 60' off the ground (yes, I realize I'm lucky to be alive).

Indiana Jones was exactly who I wanted to be.  Every time I watched, I was immersed in the world created by Stephen Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan and Phillip Kaufman.

Most importantly, I was inspired to get out of the house -to do something, anything outside where the adventures were waiting for me. It was this foundation of activity and imagination that can be credited for the man I am today -still active, still imaginative.

What boy doesn't want to be Indiana Jones?

 Great scene!

4. Ghostbusters

This may seem like an odd addition when compared to the others on the list but for me, this film was monumental for several reasons.

First, Ghostbusters is a mixture of action, humor and paranormal that most teenagers don't find in a single film -at least, not one worth sitting through. I was laughing my butt off while imagining there were ghosts waiting for me in my closet and running around the house with a black spray painted cardboard box and paper towel tube as my make-shift proton-pack.  Yes, I was bad ass.

Second, I believe the paranormal holds a special appeal for teen boys simply because it is out of the realm of possibility for most adults.  It is the nature of teens to gravitate toward things that adults find impossible, ridiculous or plain old stupid.

Finally, this is a fun movie. From start to finish it is fun.  There are no deep underlying themes. It is what it is -a great film.

One of the funniest scenes in this movie

3. Big


This movie can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike. A young Tom Hanks plays the main character who makes the wish at a carnival fortune machine called Zoltar and wakes up in Tom Hanks' body.

Big is funny from start to finish.  Most importantly, it reminds us that being a kid (or at least acting like one sometimes) is a great and powerful thing.  Getting caught up in the real world and never taking the time to have fun and enjoy yourself is a shallow life indeed.

The Zoltar machine

Hanks in his younger years

A great scene from Big

2. Rocky

I know...stop rolling your eyes because I threw a Sylvester Stallone movie in here.  FYI in 1977 Rocky won three academy awards including best picture, best director and best film editing AND Stallone himself was nominated for best actor among.  Several other actors were also nominated.

Anyway, this is not why this film is on the list at number two. It is on the list because it is a great film with a great story.  In essence, Rocky is the great American success story; if you work hard -really hard, you can see your dreams come to fruition.

Like most people, Rocky (the character) is filled with self-doubt and insecurity but, with the help of his support group who believe in him, he pushes through the doubt, works his butt off and gets his shot at the world championship. I used to watch this movie all the time.  I became interested in exercise and working out at a young age because of Rocky.  Any time I need a lift, I watch one of several training scenes from Rocky and my spirits are lifted, my determination hardened.  I know, it sounds corny...but it's true!  Below is the original training scene from Rocky.

I remember when I was a young teenager my dad pulled me aside because I wasn't doing well in school. He said, Josh, you have a choice in life -just like everyone.  You can choose to be the guys who stand on the corner singing over the trash can fire (you need to see the movie to understand who these guys are) wasting their lives away, blaming others for their situation OR you can work hard -harder than you ever thought you could, take control of your life and be like Rocky.   I've never forgotten that speech he gave me -and I don't believe I ever will.



The original Rocky Training scene

1. Glory

Glory is a great film -a superior film, for many, many reasons.  The acting is phenomenal.  This was Denzel Washington's break out role and he was absolutely superb. He won an Oscar for best supporting actor.

I gravitated toward glory for several reasons. First was the brotherhood of men that evolved throughout the course of the film.  Despite everything -the country, history, how they were raised, these men came together and united as one group -one lethal fighting force to overthrow the south.

It is a civil war film that centers around the first all black volunteer company. If follows this company through its trials and tribulations as the men resist uniting with each other until finally they come together. I didn't have a large group of friends when I was a teen.  I suppose I liked this film because it was a dream of mine to have a tight knit group of friends like the men in glory. I also felt an affinity for the cause these men were fighting for. I never stood for the maltreatment of any man and Glory personifies the beginning of a generation-long battle slaves brought to America from Africa would have to endure.  This isn't going to war for the sake of war. This is going to war for their very freedom.  This company, more than any other in the Union army at the time, had a reason to engage the enemy.   

Glory is by far the 'heaviest' of the five films because it delivers the most important message and tells the true story of brave men.  It is violent -so violent it is hard to watch in parts BUT in the same vein as Saving Private Ryan, telling the story of what these men faced while glazing over the horrors of battle wouldn't do them justice.  This isn't video game violence or violence for violence's sake. This is why I do not hesitate to recommend this film to teens.

I could write on and on about this film but I will spare you. I'll leave you with this great clip.  This is the night before the company faces their biggest battle in the war.  Enjoy.

Glory campfire scene

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