Great movies are far and few between, but when you’ve seen one, you know it. The first time I was blown away by the big screen was in the first grade at Sharon Elementary School in Orem, Utah. The screen came out of the ceiling and I sat on the first row on a hard wooden chair. It was there I fell in love with Haley Mills as Pollyanna. But even then as young as I was, the movie stirred a sense of wanting to be a little nicer, if even a little bit. Movies can do that.
The next movie I remember having a profound effect on me was when I was only nine or ten years old. The move was “Shenandoah” with Jimmy Stewart. Nearly every Saturday I got to go to the Scera Movie Theatre, a grand building and see a movie, the way they were meant to be experienced. Everything from Disney, to musicals, John Wayne westerns, Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, and epics like Lawrence of Arabia. My parents usually dropped me off with friends and we often walked home if it was good weather. The day I saw Shenandoah I just sat there afterward, numb with grief and the stirring that I might not ever be the same—that terrible tragedies happen and people can die. Jimmy Stewart became my favorite actor from the day on.
When I saw “The Diary of Anne Frank” the first time, my dad had to explain to me that there would be no uniformed men pounding on our door and dragging us to prison camp, still I worried that it could happen, I hoped that Dad would build a hiding place behind our bookcase in the living room—just in case.
The first time I saw The Sound of Music, my friend Geri and I thought it was fantastic. We ran home singing the songs and when we got home, my mom wondered why we'd gotten home so early, the movie wasn’t even out yet. It was then, she told us must've left in the middle of the show—during the intermission. Still I saw enough of the movie, that I wanted to be a nun. I’m not sure I understood the difficulty of becoming a nun if you’re a Mormon. When I saw “Born Free” I wanted to raise lions in the wild. When I saw Oliver, I wanted to be a pick-pocket and live on the streets of London, but then it also made me want to be as kind as the woman in the red dress who rescues Oliver and is killed because of it. A good movie can change how we think.
One of the most moving films of my life, I saw at thirteen in an amazing theatre in Salt Lake. My dad was known for his thriftiness, yet he splurged and took us to see “Fiddler on the Roof” even before it came to Scera theatre in Orem. He wanted us to see it in seats that rocked comfortably, with surround stereo sound and a curved screen so that we could not just see the movie, but experience it. We did. Not only did I wish to be Jewish, I was spiritually uplifted. This is one movie that although it’s beautiful on television, the experience never matches that first time seeing it the way a movie like that should be watched, felt, heard, and absorbed.
Seeing “Les Miserables” was like that for me. It was spiritual—more spiritual that the finest sermon I’ve even heard. The theatre was not like the theatre my father took us to as a family, but it was still a big screen and at the end when the credits rolled, the audience clapped. I left with the desire to make 2013 a better year than 2012 was for me personally—to be just a little bit more like Jean Valjean. Earlier I made Christmas cards for my family that quoted an unknown author and was later made popular in the Mormon church by Pres. Hunter: "This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again." Experiencing “Les Miserables” made me want to take this in and do a little better. I’ll start with forgoing a grudge.