Life-Hack To Supercharge Optimism

Guest Blog by Samuel Thompson, Television Executive 

 

Life-Hack: Re-watching films to supercharge optimism 

I have just become a father for the first time and I am also unemployed.  I’m not unemployed by choice, I didn’t plan to take time out between contracts to spend it with my newborn baby, the contract termination was swift and came without warning.  

The global pandemic is another thing… it’s not helping.

Now I’m spending more time on my devices, plugged into a continuous stream of world news. Global politics appear more cynical in this crisis and the environment continues to suffer underneath our human footprint. It is hard to be optimistic.

This chapter of my life could be my own, personal version of “long COVID”, a perennial brain fog of stress and uncertainty. I could easily say that the world today is a little less perfect than it was 18 months ago, however, given my new responsibilities pessimism is not a place I can live for very long.

I believe it’s important to be well informed but I also feel my devices deliver their fast facts on complex global issues in rapid-fire succession.

This “age of information” is terrifying right now.

When talking of updates that terrify, I think of former US President Donald Trump and his attack on climate activist Greta Thunberg. He quipped that “she should work on her anger management problem” and “go to an old-fashioned movie with a friend”. We all know that Greta is justified in her anger, but putting that aside Donald’s advice is (for once) pretty sound. Recent studies have shown re-watching movies that you love can reduce stress and anxiety and also create a sense of nostalgia in your life.  

I re-watch certain films periodically – always have. These films are uplifting or inspiring, they remind me that there is love in the world and community too. 

Along with my need for inspiration right now, I also need to feel optimistic.  I need to believe that insurmountable odds can and will be overcome. I need to feel energised about tackling problems and I also need to visualise a brighter future.

I think we all need films that lift us from time to time and remind us that good things happen and that connections between people are everywhere.  I think we could all do with an injection of inspiration and much-needed schmaltz in these frightening times… that’s right schmaltz!  

My twenty-year-old self would be less than impressed with the list I wish to share as it is crammed with sentimentality.  There is not a trace of the Arthouse here, there is no Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch either but my twenty-year-old self had more time on his hands to ponder existential dilemmas and to question the ordinary.  

Times change though and so do our needs.  Optimism is our collective need right now and so are things like collaboration and invention.  The films listed below are about all of those things.  Good things!

1. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION 

The story of wrongful imprisonment and the connection between two men- in the pen.  The cast, the scripting and the musical score are all remarkable!  IMDB give’s it 9.3/10 and I agree. 

2. 8 MILE 

Rap battles in a Detroit dive bar are viewed by Eminem as a way out of poverty.  This film builds with every act and anyone feeling the jitters the night before their big presentation should take notes. 

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3. JERRY MAGUIRE 

Tom Cruise in his portrayal of a sports agent in a moral conundrum.  Singing Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” after closing the deal that kick starts his new business after being sacked for writing a company manifesto.  Watch this! 

4. CINDERELLA MAN 

Russell Crowe playing depression-era boxer James J Braddock sailing into Manhattan to beg for change so that he can pay the meter and warm his family at home.  The score by Thomas Newman will move you while the story will teach you that life is not like a boxing match- you are never really out for the count.

5. RUDY 

The story of Rudy Ruettiger.  Too small to play football, too thick to go to college and… just too determined to listen!  The first film to feature Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn and it’s all heart.

6. HIDDEN FIGURES 

The true story of the space race and NASA’s internal race to break down divisions between black and white.  Awesome, amazing and inspiring African American women kick down doors and take their deserved place in the room and with unity the race is won.

7. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL 

Imagination and invention are employed by Guido, a Jewish bookkeeper to protect his son from fear and uncertainty in a time of horror.  Easily one of the best films ever made… its old fashioned and it’s about love.

8. ROAD TO PERDITION

The third film in this list featuring a musical score by Thomas Newman that ties an amazing cast and scripting together beautifully. Tom Hanks plays former soldier turned hitman for the Irish mob in bootlegging Kansas.  Forced to protect his family against the same mob, he goes on an epic Father & Son cross country adventure.  

9. REMEMBER THE TITANS

Racial integration is a new concept in Alexandria Virginia and Denzel Washington plays high school football coach hired to coach the first black and white team.  Based on the 1971 true story and serving as a roadmap for collaboration, unity and ultimately community.

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10. THE DAWN WALL  

Feature-length doc about a kid that doesn’t fit that becomes a teenage rock-climbing record-breaker. He defends his love against (almost) certain death, has a career-ending accident and is told he will never climb again… then climbs again and achieves many “first ascents”.  This is a study in perseverance and defiance.