Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009

Life Changing Movies

By David Luhrssen
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Movies were never just entertainment. Even if a filmmaker doesn’t aspire to great art, his work often has the power to suggest not only new ways of looking at the world but new ways of being in it. In 2007 Variety magazine asked a series of celebrities, many of them from outside the film industry, “What is the movie that changed your life?”

The answers are collected in Robert Hofler’s book Variety’s The Movie That Changed My Life (published by Da Capo). The magazine missed a good bet by omitting Barack Obama (probably considered a nobody at the time). But his opponent John McCain turns out to be an avid movie fan. His choice for life-changing movie was almost startling: TheManchurian Candidate (1962), John Frankenheimer’s paranoid masterpiece of political manipulation. After all, during the 2008 election the wing nuts on the fringe right thought McCain might have been programed by his North Vietnamese captors during his time as a prisoner of war.

Most picks are less surprising. Jesse Jackson chose Imitation of Life (1959), the Douglas Sirk melodrama of a black girl passing for white in a racially repressive society. And MoveOn.org’s director Eli Pariser was moved by Michael Moore’s Roger and Me (1989).

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