Frank's Faves: Graduation movies

Frank's Faves: Graduation movies

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go." — Dr. Seuss

I've never been asked to deliver a commencement keynote address (I know, right? Go figure!), nor even to hand out the programs at the door, for that matter. But I was asked recently for my favorite graduation movies, and you know that's a request I can't refuse. In fact, it got me thinking: If I ever did get called upon to deliver a message to a graduating class, what would I say to the young whippersnappers of tomorrow?

My guess is I would probably recite the above quote from the late great Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, as I think he positively nailed it. Short. Sweet. True. Plain-sensical. And it rhymes. Betcha no one fell asleep during HIS commencement address!

But maybe I should add one or two (or more) thoughts, appropriate both to the occasion and to the source of such wisdom, namely myself. In that case, I would advise our future leaders to remember everything they have learned to this point — and not just in school. Remember the people who helped you get this far. Remember their faces as well as their voices. Remember the lessons they've taught you, both good and bad. You will need the strength, the wisdom and the hope of those memories to fall back on during those trials to come that life will most certainly throw at you.

And, last but not least, remember those things you treasure as favorites, for collectively, those are what make you who you are. Remember the movies you've seen, the books you've read, the songs you've heard and sung, definitely the good times as well as the bad — there are plenty of life lessons in all of those as well.

But most of all, keep in mind and close to your heart those people in your life you count as faves. In the words of an old Queen song, "Take care of those you call your own and keep good company."

Oh, and one last piece of advice — watch the following films on this faves list. One fine day, you'll thank me for:


— "The Graduate" (1967). It's hard to talk grad flicks without this one popping up, even though there's no actual graduation in it. On the other hand, director Mike Nichols' groundbreaking film starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross and William Daniels did mark a graduation of sorts for the American film industry (not to mention movie soundtracks). And the dilemma confronting the title character — seduction of the younger generation by the older generation's values and priorities — is rather universal for grads of every generation, even if the Mrs. Robinsons, hopefully, are not.

— "With Honors" (1994). This one would make my list simply by virtue of it's having been filmed in part on the University of Illinois campus using local extras (yeah, Harvard looks awful familiar, doesn't it?). Fortunately, it doesn't need such favoritism, as it turns out it's a pretty good film in its own right — even for one starring Joe Pesci as a rascally homeless man who holds grad student Brendan Fraser's thesis hostage. Still, the local appeal of the final graduation scene, filmed in front of the UI's Foellinger Auditorium, but with artificial branches and leaves stapled onto the trees to make it more springlike, is undeniable.

— "Legally Blonde" (2001). Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods aptly addresses her fellow Harvard Law School grads on the importance of passion, not only in the legal profession, but in anything they undertake in life. And then, of course, as the future Capitol Hill mover and shaker she will be, she squeals a full three octaves higher, "We did it!"

— "She's All That" (1999). The memorable graduation scene in this high school rom-com update on "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady" is also its punchline, so consider this your spoiler alert. As the previously undisclosed terms of his losing wager with Paul Walker to turn Rachael Leigh Cook into a prom queen, Freddie Prinze Jr. attends his graduation ceremony wearing only his cap and sash and carrying a strategically placed soccer ball. But believe or not, that's not the best graduation scene in this list. That distinction goes to ...

— "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (2014). Andrew Garfield as the title webslinger swoops in late to his graduation straight from a successful crime-fighting detour and plants a dramatic onstage kiss on his valedictorian girlfriend Emma Stone before accepting his diploma and high-fiving the principal ... except, BIG-TIME SPOILER ALERT, there's a lot more to the scene. Gwen's graduation speech ("What makes life valuable is that it doesn't last forever; what makes it precious is that it ends") — which Peter misses while superheroically occupied elsewhere and doesn't see until on video the day of her funeral — inspires him to go on as Spider-Man after her death. The moral? Pay attention, kids. Your graduation happens only once.

Topics (2):Film, Television