39: Buzzfeed made me do it. #LifeWideLearning16

I’m pretty sure this question has been answered in a Buzzfeed article or two. It is so perfectly positioned to be a “listicle” that I feel as though I would be doing it an injustice to stray from the format. So, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Lessons Ben Wilkoff Learned from the Movies: You won’t believe what made it to #1!

5. Everything is beautiful, especially when you are in high school: I learned this from American Beauty. I saw this film no fewer than five times in the theater, and scene with the plastic bag flowing in the wind resonated with me for years. I am well aware that it was ridiculed and parodies mercilessly, but I found it to be just the right flavor of optimism for my uninitiated high school self.

4. Sincerity is the most sincere form of flattery: I learned this from Waiting for Guffman, a film with no hint of irony or sarcasm. Everyone is all in, and that is what I love about it. By being so sincere, the characters are human in a way that hipster sensibilities will never be able to touch. When the characters are real with one another, they are investing in the moment. It is what I try to do as often as I possibly can.

3. Your story is bigger than you. I learned this from Good Will Hunting. I still consider the moments between Matt Damon and Robin Williams to be some of the best in all of cinema, but they taught me that our stories are not entirely up to us, but rather exist in the moments between the decisions we make and those that are made for us.

2. You are both the child and the father. I learned this from Juno. As it turns out, getting older means that you can no longer see coming of age stories from the young and boundless protagonists points of view. Sadly, you must consider what the older generation knows and believes. I say “sadly” because it is so much easier to only learn things for the first time rather than seeing the regret that comes from learning them again and again. It is more complex, but ultimately more satisfying to see both.

1. We don’t always recognize that the race we are in is a race to the bottom. I learned this from City of God. When the children in the movie end up killing one another for what seems to be very little, there is no other conclusion to find other than we have reached the very lowest depths of society. Even thought trajectory is not always known, the compromises of conscience inevitably end in the lowest level of intelligence winning out. When there is no one who has come before, we will only ever have a series of first time efforts. We must listen to one another and learn what can be learned. Otherwise, we kill off our future even if we aren’t doing it literally with guns in the streets.

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