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Revisiting Films Through the Pandemic's Lens

by on April 21, 2020 4:45 AM


Last Saturday we passed the three-week anniversary of Centre County being placed on a stay-at-home order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While out on my weekly grocery-store runs – I’m the designated shopper in our family – it appears to me that the order is working. There are a lot less cars on the streets of Happy Valley. Many parking lots are empty, storefronts are dark and the county has added only one new confirmed virus case in the last eight days.

If there is a bright spot to this pandemic – other than gas for $1.51 a gallon at Sam’s, or free parking downtown to access the Target that’s closer to us – I see it on my jogs around the area. I average about 15 miles per week and in the last three weeks I have passed more people walking, running and biking by themselves or with their families than I would normally see in an entire year. Our great little network of asphalt biking trails in the borough and townships has been getting a lot of use, and my experience is everyone is very conscious of maintaining social distance. It gives me an uplifting feeling to see folks getting fresh air, exercise and doing what they can to stay healthy in this time of crisis.

But since a statewide "stay-at-home" order means just that – that many of us are spending almost all our time at home – we have had to make some serious lifestyle adjustments. Work, school and leisure time have all changed.

Something I find myself doing a bit more of during this pandemic is watching movies. And I am acutely aware of how lucky I am that I am at a place in life where this is one of the “consequences” of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I’ve watched a number of what I consider classics, found a few I’ve never seen before, and re-watched some of the newer action movies because the speed at which they move almost guarantees I miss dialogue or nuance the first few times through.

Except as I watch these movies now, I’m doing so within the context of a global pandemic where tens of millions of people are out of work in this country and a hundred million or more are under stay at home orders. An unprecedented global pandemic that is difficult to forget even as one attempts to lose oneself in entertainment. Because, as William Hurt’s character in The Big Chill says, “Sometimes you just have to let art flow over you.”

And some of the dialogue in these movies, especially given the context of that dialogue within the movies themselves, now seems very different from when it was first heard. Now the dialogue is particularly timely, ironic, sarcastic, enlightening, shocking, inspiring or depressing depending on your viewpoint. I’ve created a list of the more memorable lines I’ve heard and offer them for you below. I’ve included the name of the character in the movie who gives the line as well as the movie. There is only one movie that is represented twice, and that is a result of my absolute conviction that Aaron Sorkin is the best person alive at writing words for other people to say.

I hope you find them thought-provoking.

“You know and I know that we can't tell you what to print or what not to. We hope the press will act responsibly, but when you don't, there ain't a lot we can do about it.
- James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Absence of Malice

“It's not about you.”
- The Ancient One, Doctor Strange

“It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh...

The needs of the few.

Or the one.”
-Spock and Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.”
- Agent K, Men in Black

“Do you think he plans it all out, or just makes it up as he goes along?”
- Officer Theodore Groves, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 

“Little one, it's a simple calculus. This universe is finite, its resources, finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correcting.”
- Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War 

“All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!
- Howard Beale, Network 

“I know you probably believe that.”
-Dorothy Vaughan, Hidden Figures

“Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade.”
-Rick Blaine, Casablanca

“If I'm wrong, nothing happens! We go to jail - peacefully, quietly. We'll enjoy it! But if I'm right, and we can stop this thing... Lenny, you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters.”
- Dr. Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

“HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security.”
- Dr. Arnim Zola, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

“What's good for M & M Enterprises will be good for the country.”
- 1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder, Catch-22

“Ignorance is bliss.”
- Cypher, The Matrix

“As something of an expert in diseases, I believe more people die from visitors than diseases.”
- Edward Cole, The Bucket List

“What difference does it make if it's true? If it's a story and it breaks, they're gonna run with it.”
- Conrad Brean, Wag the Dog

“You're wrong, Hopper. Ants are not meant to serve grasshoppers. I've seen these ants do great things, and year after year they somehow manage to pick food for themselves and you. So who is the weaker species? Ants don't serve grasshoppers! It's you who need us! We're a lot stronger than you say we are... And you know it, don't you?
- Flik, A Bug's Life

“We have top men working on it right now.” 
- Major Eaton, Raiders of the Lost Ark

“Lewis, we've had presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight.”
- President Andrew Shepherd, The American President 

“America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”
- President Andrew Shepherd, The American President 

And lastly, a few decades from now as we look back on this critical time in history…

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
- Maxwell Scott, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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