Weekly Video Picks

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Chinese movies are currently on the cutting edge of world cinema, providing artistically innovative entertainment that elevates the human spirit. This one, directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Karwai (Chungking Express), is a romantic drama of melancholy and regret. It uses lush visuals to highlight a potentially adulterous liaison that's never consummated. A journalist (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and an executive secretary (Maggie Cheung Man-yuh) live in adjoining apartments in a cramped Hong Kong building in 1962. When they discover that their respective spouses are having an affair, they lean on each other for comfort and support. A mutual attraction blossoms, but they don't give in to it.

Unlike the characters in most Hollywood films today, these aren't conditioned to yield to instant gratification. This denial causes them great pain, but they're able to move on without self-destructing. Because of family ties and cultural customs, moral relativism doesn't seem to be an option. This gives the characters, despite their flaws, a dignity and strength rare in cinemas today.

Red Dawn (1984)

To many at the time, the Cold War was a struggle between the freedom-loving West and the “evil empire” of Soviet communism. Nowadays, our media and college-campus elites are working overtime to convince us that there was a moral equivalency between the two sides. Red Dawn, written and directed by John Milius (Conan the Barbarian), is a well-made, melodramatic throw-back to the hard line of the Reagan era. The premise is a fantasy scenario in which Russia and its Cuban ally invade the United States. A band of teen-agers (Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey) in a small Colorado town go underground and organize a guerilla-style resistance force in the mountains.

Most of the townsfolk are bullied into submission by the communist firing squads and interrogation camps. A sympathetic parent (Harry Dean Stanton) and a downed F-15 pilot (Powers Boothe) try to help the kids. America's youth is shown to have the right stuff under pressure. Patriotism and honor prove to be more important than material comfort.

Knute Rockne, All American(1940)

Speaking of Reagan, “Win just one for the Gipper” was one of his most famous lines as an actor. He was playing George Gipp, an All-American football star at Notre Dame who supposedly uttered those words to his coach as he lay dying of pneumonia in 1920. The movie is Knute Rockne, All American, whose old-fashioned sentimentality still works its magic.

A Norwegian immigrant, Rockne (Pat O'Brien) abandons a promising career as a research chemist for football. During his 13 years as Notre Dame's head coach, he wins almost 90% of his games and three national championships. Known for his ability to inspire his players, his quotation of Gipp's deathbed words at halftime is shown motivating his team to come from behind to defeat Army. Rockne is also the first coach to use the forward pass, and unlike many of his counterparts today, he never intervenes to get higher grades for his players. Notre Dame is presented as an unapologetic Catholic institution, and its officials are treated with reverence.