Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
One of the reasons America so dominates the global economy is that it treats its entrepreneurs with a semi-mythic respect. We're the only society that turns them into culture heroes. Pirates of Silicon Valley, originally a TNT movie of the week, is a well-crafted examination of our latest romance with bare-knuckles capitalism. Computer billion-aires Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall) and Steve Jobs (Noah Wyle) are depicted as counterculture mavericks — high-tech Davids who slay the corporate Goliaths that get in their way.
Even though this re-creation of the early days of Microsoft and Apple is at times more myth than fact, it does show how these ambitious nerds cut corners and ripped each other off. Their success is shown to be more inspiring than their moral codes, but that doesn't seem to have impeded the growth of their legends — to which this movie, of course, contributes.
Jane Eyre (1996)
When romantic love overcomes suffering and expands to include forgiveness, it sets down deep roots that can survive bad fortune. C h a r l o t t e Bronte's 19th-century novel has been adapted to the screen three times. The most recent version, directed by Franco Zeffirelli (Jesus of Nazareth), downplays the dark, gothic atmosphere to better explore the moral dimensions of an unusual romance.
After spending her formative years in a cruel orphanage, the young Jane (Charlotte Gainsbourg) finds a position as a governess on a large country estate. Its master, the brooding, sarcastic Edward Rochester (William Hurt), is usually absent. But when in residence, he treats her with an intellectual and emotional respect she's never encountered. Her heart is touched, and even when nasty secrets from his past seem to doom their relationship, she responds to all those who wrong her with compassion and charity. Her quiet dignity is deeply moving.
Lean on Me (1989)
Everybody knows our public-school system is a mess and that the poorest students, often minorities, suffer the most. But few are willing to take the drasticaction required to set things right. Lean on Me is the real-life story of principal Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman). In 1967, the New Jersey high school where he taught became an academic success story. After a 20-year absence, he returns as principal to find drugs openly peddled, teachers bullied, and students in fear for their lives. Only a third of the kids have basic skills in reading, writing and math.
Wielding a baseball bat and shouting orders through a bullhorn, he uses a take-no-prisoners discipline to put the school back on top. This makes him enemies in high places. But Clark understands that learning and character formation must go hand in hand — a lesson many public schools still seem determined to ignore.
High Noon (1952)
All of us hope we will have the courage to stand up to evil when we encounter it. Equally important is the ability to discern when to draw the line in the sand and when to back down in hopes of making a better fight at another time.
Like many classic Westerns, the Oscar-winning High Noon dramatizes these issues in easy-to-understand terms. Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is everyone's idea of a hero. As marshal, he cleaned up a small frontier town so that decent folk could raise their families and prosper. But, on his wedding day, an outlaw he'd once locked up returns, seeking vengeance, and none of the townspeople, including his bride (Grace Kelly), will come to his aid. Kane must decide whether to turn tail or face the bad guys alone. Tightly constructed and well-paced, the movie mixes exciting action with a carefully thought-out message.