Hollywood Ethics: The Top 19 Movie And TV Clips Used On Ethics Alarms [Updated 2/23/21]

Here are the iconic movie clips (and one TV clip) that I turn most frequently to when the circumstances demand. The list will grow over time.

1. To illustrate the folly of suspending or violating the rule of law, the Constitution, or due process for “the greater good” as it appears to some to be at the time.

From “A Man For All Seasons”:

2. To comment on a strikingly incompetent argument, theory or proposal:

From “Murder by Death”:

3. When I feel I should resist the impulse to attack an ethics miscreant with special vigor, but decide to go ahead anyway…

From “McClintock!”

4.  To explain the conduct of some individuals or organizations that cannot be justified by facts, principles of logic, or any other valid motivation:

From “Blazing Saddles”:

5.  To illustrate the impulse to respond to injustice and the abuse of power by resorting to symbolic acts of pure defiance, even when they are likely to fail…

From “Animal House”:

6. When a individual abandons integrity or other ethical values for a non-ethical consideration…

From “A Man For All Seasons”:

7. When an individual feigns indignation and disapproval of conduct that he or she has either participated in or enabled:

From : “Casablanca”:

8. Used to signal that a politician, journalist or scholar has intentionally or negligently used such impenetrable rhetoric as to be completely incomprehensible.

From “Blazing Saddles”:

9. When an incident or argument makes no sense whatsoever, or that drives me to the edge of insanity:

From: “The Bridge Over The River Kwai” :

10. When a politician, a pundit or someone else  uses a term or word incorrectly to support an unethical action or argument:

From “The Princess Bride” :

11. Warning that a likely event or revelation will contribute to an Ethics Train Wreck already in progress or about to get rolling:

From “Jurassic Park”:

12. Commenting on a particularly incompetent, irresponsible, or otherwise unethical decision with disastrous consequences:

From: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”:

13. To make the point that deciding who are the “good guys” is often hopelessly subjective.

From “The Professionals”:

14. To suggest, often in jest, that things are rapidly spinning out of control.

From “Poltergeist”:

15. When the news media or politicians shrug off, ignore, bury or minimize the importance of a development they find inconvenient to their agendas or interests.

From “The Naked Gun”:

16. When someone demonstrates the Dunning-Kruger effect or extreme life incompetence:

From “The Godfather, Part 2”:

17. To make the point that an emotional position, act or argument is futile or embarrassing…

From “Moonstruck”:

18. When an individual seems oddly unaware that anyone would find his or her words or conduct unethical…

From “Seinfeld” (TV):

19. Used when someone’s response to a challenge or a situation where character requires opposition, confrontation, or the good fight, is to give up or flee..

From “Monty Python and The Holy Grail”…

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/6/19: Goose Shit!

Good morning!

My best friend of long standing’s  favorite singer is Nat King Cole. He really doesn’t sound like anyone else, does he? I wonder how many millennials have heard his amazing voice, or would have the perspective to appreciate it.

Speaking of listening, I was prompted this morning to reflect on what a vital life-competence skill listening is. It is really an acquired skill: various Facebook discussions make it clear that most of the Facebook Borg warriors are no longer listening (or otherwise paying attention) to any information that doesn’t bolster their confirmation bias.

What made me think about this today was happening upon an early morning showing of “Casablanca” on Turner Movie Classics. I must have seen the classic a hundred or more times since  first watched the whole movie in college, and yet today was the first time I heard what “Rick” Blaine’s real first name was. All the other times I watched the movie, this passed by my consciousness without leaving a trace, but his real name is used three times. (Hint: it’s not Richard, though that’s what Ingrid Bergman calls him…)

1. A great President in many ways, but also a terrible human being. Watch the culture and the news media bury this. “The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust,” a new book (published in September) reveals new archival evidence that shows FDR’s callous and bigoted treatment of European Jews prior to and during the Holocaust. I know the author, Dr. Rafael Medoff of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, as a result of his assisting The American Century Theater with several productions that involved the Jews and Israel.

The book’s revelations are not shocking to anyone who had looked at the evidence objectively even before this new material, but Roosevelt is a hallowed Democrat Party icon, and it has been, and I assume will continue to be, resistant to any effort to inform the public of this horrific moral and ethical failing, one of  many FDR was guilty of inflicting.  From a review: Continue reading

KABOOM! Diane Feinstein’s Statement Before The Judiciary Committee This Morning

Well, thanks, Senator Feinstein: having my head explode was is such a wonderful way to begin the day.

This was not the first post I intended this morning, but I made the mistake of listening to the Senator’s brazen, dishonest, self-contradictory, hypocritical ,cynical and insulting statement. It’s amazing her own head didn’t explode out of embarrassment at being used this way. It was in defiance of logic and awareness. It was, in fact, like an intentional imitation of Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” which would have been very funny if it didn’t signal tthe end of any doubts that a major political party had abandoned decency.

Feinstein was shocked–shocked!—that Judge Kavanaugh would call the Democrats’ political hit job a political hit job. Shocked–shocked!–that Kavanaugh would say the the process of advise and consent had been turned into “search and destroy,” which is exactly what the Democrats did, and were not even sly about doing so. Shocked–shocked!–that Kavanaugh would express anger at being subjected to mass humiliation as he was denigrated in public as a sexual predator based on the completely unsubstantiated accusation of 35-year-old high school misconduct. Senator Feinstein had never seen anything like it in all her years in the Senate, and was shocked–shocked!

Never mind that no human being had ever had rumors, insults, innuendos and unsupported accusations heaped on him in a hearing like Judge Kavanaugh, who was Borked, and when that didn’t work, was Anita Hilled. If Kavanaugh had not expressed anger, outrage and indignation toward Feinstein and her thugs, I would have lost any respect for him. He not only had every right to go on the offensive in his own defense, he had an obligation to do so. But men, in the era of #MeToo being weaponized to ruin careers without evidence, are supposed to meekly submit to their new feminist masters, and withdraw into shame and ignominy, grovelling and submissive. Feinstein was shocked—shocked!— that Kavanaugh didn’t know his place.

“Incredible!” said Feinstein. Then, incredibly, she went on to apppeal to emotion, jerking at the heartstrings by quoting the most intense sections of Dr. Ford’s testimony, concluding that her intensity and emotion was enough, in the absence of any evidence or corroboration at all, to prove to Feinstein’s satisfaction that her accusation was true.

Oh, Feinstein was shocked–shocked!—at so many things. How could anyone accuse her of deliberately withholding Ford’s letter for two months so she could leak it after the hearings and demand an FBI investigation that would just coincidentally delay the vote on the nomination until after the election when her party has been demanding for months that the vote be until after the election? I’m trying to think of an analogous scene in a move where the pathetic villain expresses hilarious outrage at being suspected of wrongdoing as smoking gun after smoking gun is revealed. I could, I’m sure, if my head were intact. But it’s not.

The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck has become both an integrity and an IQ test for progressives and Democrats, but with a surprising easy final challenge. Anyone who isn’t insulted or mordantly amused by Feinstein’s channeling of Captain Renault is either completely corrupted or an idiot.

Holiday Ethics Assigment: Quick! Watch These 25 Great Old Ethics Movies Again Before You Go Bonkers Too!

movie-theater

I am compiling a new list of great ethics movies to help those troubled by the recently completed Presidential campaign, the election and its aftermath. I haven’t decided whether to reveal it piecemeal, or collectively as I have before, but I do need to begin by presenting the previous list of 25, actually the combination of several previous posts. Ethics films I have covered individually since those lists debuted, like Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, will eventually be added.

For now, here’s the top 25. Don’t pay attention to the order.

1Spartacus (196o)

The raw history is inspiring enough: an escaped gladiator led an army of slaves to multiple victories over the Roman legions in one of the greatest underdog triumphs ever recorded. Stanley Kubrick’s sword-and-sandal classic has many inspiring sequences, none more so than the moment when Spartacus’s defeated army chooses death rather than to allow him to identify himself to their Roman captors (“I am Spartacus!”)

Ethical issues highlighted: Liberty, slavery, sacrifice, trust, politics, courage, determination, the duty to resist abusive power, revolution, love, loyalty.

Favorite quote: “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” [Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)]

2.  Hoosiers (1986)

“Hoosiers” is loosely based on true story, but its strength is the way it combines classic sports movie clichés—the win-at-all-costs coach down on his luck, the remote superstar, over-achieving team—into a powerful lesson: it isn’t the final victory that matters most, but the journey to achieving it.

Ethical issues highlighted: Forgiveness, generosity, leadership, kindness, courage, loyalty, diligence, redemption.

Favorite quote: “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” [ Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman)]

3. Babe (1995)

A wonderful movie about the virtues of being nice, the greatest civility film of all time. Second place: “Harvey.”

Ethical issues highlighted: Civility, kindness, reciprocity, loyalty, courage, love, friendship, bigotry, bias.

Favorite quote: “Fly decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that sheep were stupid, and there was nothing that could convince her otherwise…The sheep decided to speak very slowly, for it was a cold fact of nature that wolves were ignorant, and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise”  The Narrator (Roscoe Lee Browne) Continue reading

Republicans Leaders Are Shocked…Shocked!…That Donald Trump Is Donald Trump

Cynical, principle-free morons, every single one.

Everyone knew that Donald Trump was a low-life, belonging in the political genus containing human leaches and anthropomorphic pond scum, long before he even announced his candidacy. They knew or should have known, to apply a common legal standard. I’m no genius, but the millisecond his joke candidacy for President began smelling viable back in August 0f 2015, I wrote here what GOP leaders with any sense or integrity should have known without me having to write a word. They needed to tell Trump to go haunt a casino somewhere, because he wasn’t fit to represent the Republican party as a candidate—not as President, not as dogcatcher, not as a gag on a Saturday Night Live skit.

Nahh! GOP Chair Reince Priebus —Fun Fact: Did you know that “Reince” means “spineless tool”? Well, it does now!-–apparently thought Trump would bring a little pizzazz, publicity and new voters to the GOP primary campaign. Well, it sure did that, didn’t it, Reince, you pathetic failure as a leader, manager, Republican and an American? Continue reading

My 15 Hollywood Cures For A Paterno-Penn State-Sandusky Hangover, Part 1

For this hangover, movies work better.

The past week, as much as any week within memory, has caused me to despair about the culture, the state of ethical values in America, and my own futile efforts to try to bring some light to the darkness. My mood was not only ravaged by the Penn State scandal (and Penn State’s students’ scandalous reaction to it), but also the continued drift and incompetence in our government and the lack of any apparent leadership or courage to address the problems of our economic system, other than to complain about them.

In such times—there have been others, though happily not many—my spirit urgently needs an infusion of inspiration and hope, and fast: as Al Pacino reminds us in “Scent of a Woman,” there is no prosthesis for an amputated spirit. This is when I turn to the movies that speak to me of courage, redemption, and ethical virtues validated. They are my lifeline; I can’t write or think about ethics from the bottom of a pit. I’ve got only a few days before Thanksgiving, after all. This is no time to be cynical and dubious about the course of humanity and the United States of America, a nation I love and admire.

Thus I am going to take a brief detour from the usual format of Ethics Alarms, with your leave and forgiveness, and share with you the fifteen movies that I will turn to as I try to recharge my enthusiasm, inspiration, and hope. Here are 1 though 7; the rest will be along shortly:

1. A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Hardly the most upbeat film to start the list, but probably the greatest ethics movie ever made.

Ethical issues highlighted: Integrity, honesty, courage, leadership, corruption, abuse of power.

Favorite quote: “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?” [Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield)] Continue reading

The Attack of the Grievance Bullies Continues…on “Napoleon Dynamite”???

So...I guess "Tropic Thunder" is out of the question, right?

A bulletin from the Austin (Texas) Parks Foundation:

“The Austin Parks Foundation is canceling tonight’s (Wed, 5/25) showing of Napoleon Dynamite at Republic Square. A new movie will be shown next month. A number of people contacted us objecting to a word used by actors in the movie. We didn’t recall that this word was used and we did not mean to offend anyone. Our apologies for this as well as for the last minute cancellation.”

The PG movie, you see, about a maladroit teen, upset advocates and defenders of the mentally challenged, or whatever code words are deemed politically correct these days–I haven’t checked my “Offense-O-Meter” in the last couple days—because one of the characters uses the word “retarded” exactly once…not to describe someone who is actually laboring with a disability, mind you, but to insult his friend, as teenagers are wont to due, and as they were especially wont to do in the Eighties, when “retarded” was used the way my generation used “spaz.” In other words, there was no justification whatsoever for either the complaint or the movie’s cancellation. Continue reading

“True Grit” Ethics

I haven’t seen the remake of “True Grit,” but I know I will, and like many other fans of the original 1969 version, I’m trying to conquer my biases. The latest effort by the usually brilliant Coen brothers creates ethical conflicts for me, and I am hoping I can resolve them right now. Can I be fair to their work, while being loyal to a film that is important to me for many reasons?

The original, 1969 “True Grit” won John Wayne his only Oscar for his self-mocking portrayal of fat, seedy law man Rooster Cogburn, 

who is hired by a young girl to track down her father’s murderer. I love the film; I saw it on the big screen nine times, in fact. Remaking it with anyone else in the starring role feels like an insult, somehow, as if the Duke’s version was somehow inadequate.

Intellectually, I know that’s nonsense. Artists have a right to revisit classic stories and put their personal stamp on them, and they should be encouraged to do it. Every new version of a good story, if done well, will discover some unmined treasure in the material. Why discourage the exploration? Continue reading

Landrieu’s Pay-off: Ethical and Playing by the Rules

[Like you, I am thoroughly tired of seeing Claude Rains’ Capt. Renault quoted in these situations, but sometimes his famous “Casablanca” line is too apt to resist. This is such a time.]

Pundits are “shocked—shocked!” that Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu traded her vote to allow debate on the health care bill for $100 million dollars of earmarked funds for Medicaid subsidies in her state. Fox demagogue/clown Glenn Beck called Landrieu a prostitute and a hooker. Time Magazine columnist Mark Halperin accompanied his condemnation of Landrieu with a disgusting photoshopped picture of the Senator sporting the infamous semen-hair gel ‘do from the raunchy comedy, “What About Mary?” The deal was widely called a bribe by indignant bloggers, angry conservatives, and even some liberals. Continue reading