Monthly Archives: April 2016

Looking for a Superhero

I personally don’t like movies about superheroes that have extra-special powers because they came from a different planet, have special clothing or mutated genes. I like my heroes human, with their own set of human strengths and flaws.

Not too long ago I saw a movie entitled, Concussion*, which tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic scientist who, after coming to America from Nigeria, helped identify a degenerative brain disease in American football players, starting with “Iron Mike” Webster, the All-Pro center for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1974 to 1990, whose death at age 50 came after several years of mental disorder and malfunction. Dr. Omalu performed the autopsy on Mr. Webster, and discovered what he describes as killer proteins throughout his brain, a condition that became known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. He (along with other doctors) published the findings in a medical journal, and then fought with the NFL to get the league to recognize the potential large scale, long-term problem it faces: humans are not built to play football. Others have picked up where Dr. Omalu left off in helping players and parents understand the potential danger from repeated contact required in football at every level the game is played.  It is the story of courage to do something great when the world (or at least America’s favorite sport) is against you.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from the movie:


I came out of the movie thinking, why don’t I have the courage, like Dr. Omalu, to do something great? In my professional world, I am a lawyer working for the largest publicly-owned oil company in the world. I consider myself an expert lawyer when it comes to doing deals, but all I have ever done in my career is make a lot of money for the company. No one will look at my professional contributions and say, there goes a courageous man who did something great and noble for his fellow human beings.

But perhaps I am being too hard on myself (as we all have a tendency to do).

One of my all-time favorite movies is Back to the Future**. As you will recall, Marty McFly is the teenaged son of George McFly, who, at the beginning of the film is portrayed as a nerdy loser, pretty much afraid of everyone and everything. George is antagonized in particular by Biff Tannen, who, when in high school with George, is the typical bully, who ultimately becomes George McFly’s supervisor, and who continues to bully George every chance he gets. Here is a link to a YouTube clip from the movie:

Marty McFly goes back in time to when his mother and father are in high school.  Lorraine Baines (later to become Marty’s mother) starts to fall in love with Marty, instead of his father, George, when Marty is accidentally hit by a car. Marty knows, if he doesn’t get Lorraine and George together, he will never be born. In a pivotal scene, Biff starts to force himself on Lorraine, and George somehow gets the courage to face Biff – something he has never been able to do before. He punches Biff, resulting in Lorraine instantly falling in love with George. Watch it here:


But the key is what develops afterword. Marty is finally able to get back to the future (which is really the present), but because of what George was able to do in the past due to Marty’s visit, this George McFly is totally different from the George McFly we saw at the beginning of the movie. He is hip, he is successful, and now Biff works for him. The morale of the story: In the face of a crisis, George McFly was able to stand up to his rival, overcome his fear and do the right thing – and that made all the difference.

Most of us will not have the chance to potentially change the world as Dr. Bennet Omalu and others may have done, but each of us can be like George McFly, willing to do something personally great when faced with our biggest challenges – which might just be having the courage to stand up to the local bully. Doing the “right” thing during a time of crisis, rather than blaming others or sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, may not seem like a big deal at the time, but the ripple effect of such action may, over time, just change the world – if only our own.



Directed by: Peter Landesman

Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin

Written by: Peter Landesman and Jeanne Marie Laskas

Distributed by: Village Roadshow Pictures and Columbia Pictures

**Back to the Future

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Written by: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover

Distributed by: Universal

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

My favorite movie in high school was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid*. I mean, what was not to like?  Butch and the Kid were handsome, funny and just plain cool.  More importantly, as a teenage boy, I had a huge crush on Katharine Ross, who played Etta Place, Sundance’s girlfriend.  She caught my eye when she costarred in Shenandoah when I was only 12.  Those feelings grew into a crush when I saw her in The Graduate at age 14, and love bloomed after I saw her in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at age 16.  Here is a clip of one of my favorite scenes from the movie to the music of Burt Bacharach,  sung by J.B. Thomas:


After watching this scene, it’s easy to see why I fell in love with the beautiful Katharine Ross. But I digress.

Since I loved Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so much, my friend and I decided to perform the following scene from the movie in our drama class. I played Butch.


After our performance (we got an A, by the way), I asked my drama teacher, “Didn’t you love that movie? She replied that she had never seen it.  I was shocked.  One of the best movies of all time and my drama teacher had never seen it!  She explained in words that shocked me even more.  “I don’t support immoral movies.”

Immoral? Huh?  She then explained.  “I consider it immoral because it makes the viewer root for men who were robbers and murderers.  Do we really want people like them to be our heroes?”

I had never thought of it in that light before. I did root for Butch and the Kid as they spent their days robbing banks and trains, and even though, in reality, their Wild Bunch Gang was credited with more than a half dozen murders.  And I admit I felt sad when the law finally caught up with them in Bolivia and presumably killed them.

How do we usually decide whether a movie is immoral? We look at movie ratings.  If it’s R rated, we often decide its probably something we shouldn’t see, but a PG-13 rating makes a movie OK, regardless of its content, theme or message.  A great movie might be rated R simply because the “F” word is used a few times, while a PG-13 movie might contain nothing but trash (but no “F” words).   Should we really let faceless people whom we know nothing about set our moral standards for us

Don’t get me wrong. Movie ratings can be helpful when deciding what movies to see.  But our analysis should go deeper than that.  Whenever I finish watching a movie, I try to take at least a few minutes to analyze it.  What did I learn from it?  Do I care about the characters?  Why or why not?  What motivated them to do what they did? Could the characters have handled things differently and for the better? What would I do if I were in a similar situation?  I do this analysis as an adult with no kids left at home.  How much more important would it be to have these types of discussions with our children about the movies they see – hopefully, together with us.


*Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Directed by: George Roy Hill

Written by: William Goldman

Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox


Life Lessons Through Film

Welcome to Life Lessons Through Film or Everything Important in Life I Learned at the Movies. I appreciate your interest, and hope you come back many times.

All of us love good stories, especially those we can relate to. If you’re like me, I am much more moved and motivated by a story I can relate to than a sermon (church or otherwise), regardless of how adept the preacher is at delivering it. There were various times growing up where my parents – who loved me much and only wanted the best for me – would lecture me about something I did or didn’t do, and urged me to change my behavior – or else. Sometimes my parents delivered those lectures with raised voices, and sometimes not, but the result was usually the same. I often changed my behavior, if at all, only to avoid punishment. In short, nothing really changed much.

On the other hand, a good story, especially one on film, gets me thinking and often motivates me to change, whether it’s my behavior, how I feel about other people, or just to think more deeply about something in an attempt to better understand the world. After many years of this process, I came to the conclusion, everything important in life I learned at the movies.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you some things about life I have learned from watching movies. And for good measure, I will sometimes throw in something related to musical theater (my other favorite mode of entertainment). I will try not to get too preachy, but instead, let the movies speak for themselves. My real hope is the movies I talk about will get you to think a little more, maybe help change behavior for the better, or at least increase our understanding about each other. Yes, like John Lennon, you might say I’m a dreamer. But I hope I’m not the only one.

Where possible, I will try to add a movie clip or two from the movie I am talking about, keeping in mind, when it comes to technology, I’m still pretty much a luddite (maybe that’s why I’m named Ludlow).  And copyright laws might prevent me from posting all the clips I would like to, especially from new releases.

My goal is to post something twice a month on average. Since I still have a day job, the timing might be erratic at times, so I urge (and appreciate) your patience. And like all good blogs, please comment with your ideas, thoughts and suggestions, even if it is only to tell me I’m full of it. Even a Siskel and Ebert thumbs up or thumbs down will be appreciated.

See you at the movies!