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MOVIES: Capturing America’s spirit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — Many movies portraying the true spirit of America are notable this July 4th as we commemorate our independence and our nation’s character.

The most endearing films, like biblical parables, nourish the spirit as well as entertain and, in the case of the following films, they provide an insight into the character and diversity of Americans.

These are worth viewing:

“America’s Heart and Soul” (2004) — Filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg packed his camera and hit the road with the goal of capturing both the unparalleled beauty of the U.S. and the incomparable spirit of its people. Schwartzberg’s gift is his ability to connect with people, honestly capturing their values, dreams and passion. America’s Heart and Soul is a celebration of a nation told through the voices of its people. PG

“In America” (2003) — An Irish couple and their two adolescent daughters begin a new life in the U.S. To 11-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) and her younger sister (real-life sibling Emma), America is a place of magic where anything is possible. To their parents, it represents a place to begin anew. PG-13

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) — Jimmy Stewart reminds us of what American politicians should aspire to achieve. Freshman Sen. Jefferson Smith finds himself fighting for the ordinary guy in a very moving and perceptive film from director Frank Capra. Unrated

“Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945) — This charming look at rural life during the beginning of WWII stars Edward G. Robinson (outstanding) and little Margaret O’Brien. It contains a respect for Christianity and reveals the price paid for freedom. Keep Kleenex handy for Margaret’s sacrifice toward the end of the film. Unrated

“In the Shadow of the Moon” (2007) — This incisive documentary features accounts of survivors of the Apollo teams who walked on the moon. At one point we hear Charles Duke from Apollo 9 give his testimony. I couldn’t believe my ears; a man was declaring his faith in Jesus Christ and there were no snickers from audience members. Indeed, my fellow moviegoers were moved, realizing that there is something far bigger than man, or even space itself. PG

“For All Mankind” (1989) — A beautifully made examination of Neil Armstrong’s flight to the moon, this film brings to mind the word “wondrous.” The flight was a moment of glory all of America shared. G

“The Fighting Sullivans” (1944) –- A true account of five close-knit brothers killed in WWII, this film deals mainly with the family’s daily life, replete with folksy life lessons and gentle humor. Today’s generation may cringe at some of the dated dialogue, including the expression, “That’s swell,” but I would remind under-20-somethings that, in their future, the idiom “dude” will also cause ridicule. The movie stars Thomas Mitchell, Ward Bond, Bobby Driscoll and Anne Baxter. Unrated

“Friendly Persuasion” (1956) — Unforgettable Gary Cooper tour de force, this charming portrayal of a Quaker family caught in the Civil War conflict is witty, touching and brimming with character. Unrated

“1776” (1972) — William Daniels stars as John Adams in this inspiring historical musical/drama depicting the beginning of the American Revolution. Caution, this film contains a few expletives and the phrase “by God” is used several times; but the film is evidence that many of the Founding Fathers respected our Creator. PG

“To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) — Horton Foote’s screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl helped Gregory Peck win a deserved Best Actor Oscar as Atticus Finch. Beautifully photographed in black and white with a haunting score by Elmer Bernstein, it offers a vivid portrait of Southern life in the 1950s. Unrated

“I Remember Mama” (1948) — Irene Dunne and Barbara Bel Geddes star. Dunne portrays the matriarch of a Norwegian immigrant family struggling with life’s problems in the family’s new homeland, the U.S. Unrated

“42” (2013) — Chadwick Boseman stars as Jackie Robinson in this powerful indictment against prejudice and bigotry. The film exemplifies courage and faith in man’s potential for good and reminds us that one man, backed by another, can turn our world around. Despite the reenactment of injustice and the evil of bigotry, 42 offers hope and goodwill. PG-13

“Sounder” (1972) –- Featuring Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson and Kevin Hooks, this is a stirring story of a black sharecropper’s family during the Depression. It was nominated it for Best Picture and its leading actors for Oscars in 1972. Truly marvelous. G

“Places in the Heart” (1984) — A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the 1930s Depression. This film contains perhaps the greatest movie ending I’ve ever seen. PG

“One Foot in Heaven” (1941) Fredric March stars in this entertaining story of a minister and his family as they deal with church difficulties at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s a funny and often moving drama, with a great scene where the pastor attends a movie the first time in his life. Unrated
In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Phil Boatwright