Movies with Meaning – Education is Everything

Weekly series. Please send in your movies via email, twitter etc. Our format  :

  • Three movies with meaning (and movies you love and recommend!)
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

WARNING : Spoilers often included, so if you haven’t seen the movies…

Despite the usual opening preamble above, this week a different kind of Wednesday post for me, an impassioned stream of consciousness !

You see, it is 11pm and I just came out of the cinema from the new movie (Molly’s Game) by one of the all time masters of screenwriting, Aaron Sorkin.

I love movies, I love smart movies, I love movies that treat the audience as adults (to paraphrase my favourite movie critic, Mark Kermode). Christopher Nolan does that with plot, yet Aaron Sorkin does that with his pen and the power of words alone.

Aaron Sorkin tells stories, Aaron Sorkin makes literary, historical and philosophical references, heck, even references to roman and greek mythology. You know what, that’s more than ok, that is magnificent !

I love it, I get it. You see, I LOVE learning, always have. I’m absolutely curious, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I love being educated, I honour and respect education and educators. In the words of Aaron Sorkin :

Education is the silver bullet

Hear, hear ! And, as Sorkin’s word live so much more powerfully when said on screen, here are those words said by Sam Seaborn in the West Wing :

Ok, I’m on a roll now !

These Wednesday posts are called “Movies with Meaning”, but sometimes I veer away, such as a few weeks ago when I shared a few of my favourite commencement speeches (go watch them, they are SO powerful!).

This week I give a primer on Aaron Sorkin. Not exhaustive, I simply want to lead up to the one gift he has given us that I have and will watch again, and again, and again.

So, three clips, each with introduction. Each written by Sorkin, each absolutely, definitively, defiantly unapologetic about being smart, erudite, educated.

First, and this may make educated Americans weep given the state of politics in their country, I give you the opening scene from the magnificent “The Newsroom”. After standing up for who he truly was, Wil McAvoy leads his news team for several seasons to speak truth, to reason, to not dumb down the news.

The Newsroom (2012 – 2014)

“…We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior….”


The American President (1995)

Next, a wonderful and too forgotten movie. Yes, a romantic comedy, but it is so much more. Watch President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), stand up for his girlfriend, Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening).


Now, The Newsroom I love and have watched right through all seasons twice. The American President I have watched several times.

I give particular tribute to The American President, as it led to what is, to me, the greatest television series of all time.

If there was only one movie or TV show I could take to a desert island for the rest of my life, it would be ?….

The West Wing (1999-2006)

This first clip is of President Bartlet deploying his full theological understanding. Given how often politicans seem to lie these days, this is now called “fact checking”. Just imagine if the USA had a politician with the education and guts to truly display their education without checking with focus groups and multiple pollsters first ?

Unapologetic and educated !

Next, what does a President who is Nobel prize winner (in Economics, no less!) and past  University professor say when confronted with a “ten word answer” in a Presidential campaign debate ? Well, win the election in one fell swoop. “Boom!” you might say :

“…there aren’t very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for ten words. I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me…”

“the President just reminded us that complexity isn’t a vice”

Ten words. Isn’t that close to 140 characters, or a Tweet ?

Finally, and it had to be this. The best episode in all seven seasons of The West Wing, “Two Cathedrals”, which closes the second season.

To really feel the impact, watch the whole episode and the one prior, yet the closing scene truly stands beautifully without the preamble.

Oh heck, plot spoilers ahoy ! THREE clips below.

These two episodes take us through the history of Jed and Mrs Landingham, who was first his father’s secretary as principal of the prep school Jed went to, then later his secretary as President. In this episode, Mrs Landingham has just died in a car crash.

In our first clip, Jed rants at God, in Latin no less, with no subtitles !

Next, in the second to last scene, on a stormy night he talks to an imaginary Mrs Landingham, and we all suddenly realise that, after a season of “will he, won’t he” that Jed Barlet WILL stand for re-election despite having hidden that he has MS.

Finally, Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” starts, and we are presented with the final scene of that episode and season. #goosebumps

The first two scenes are Sorkin at his best with words, the second at his best with screenwriting, with no words at all from his leading man. Truly majestic.

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