Your favorite film can say a lot about your personality
March 05, 2006|By Mark Jacob, the Tribune's foreign/national news editor
If "The Godfather" is your favorite film, these may be difficult days. That's because it's also the favorite movie of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the secretive North Korean leader. Outside the "axis of evil," lesser pariahs also are fans of the film, including disgraced and convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
As Hollywood prepares to honor another year of cinema at the Academy Awards on Sunday, it is fitting to look at what the movies say about our time and whether favorite films reflect the personalities of their admirers.
Consider: One candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II last year was Belgium's Cardinal Godfried Danneels. His favorite film reportedly was "The Silence of the Lambs."
Michael Jackson's best-loved movie is a children-in-peril drama, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
In other instances, favorite films tend to reinforce the public images of politicians and celebrities.
It's easy to imagine Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher enjoying the hard-hitting war drama "Saving Private Ryan." It seems almost logical that wife murderer Scott Peterson likes "The Shining." There's no surprise that Dick Cheney likes the 1948 shoot-'em-up "Red River."
And we'd likely be disappointed if John Paul II didn't love "Life Is Beautiful." On the other hand, baseball star Barry Bonds cites "The Ten Commandments."
A top pick for President Bush, once an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, is the baseball movie "Field of Dreams."
Favorites such as these can be amusing, but do they mean anything? Bernard Luskin thinks so. The director of the Media Psychology Program at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif., Luskin says people's favorite movies are noteworthy because "you always go in the direction of your own beliefs and your own ethics." Luskin isn't surprised Hussein and Kim enjoy "The Godfather."
"They see themselves as benevolent dictators. It's about power," he said. And he believes Bush's admiration for "Field of Dreams" is laudable: "I think that speaks well of him, in the sense that he has a vision of positive outcomes and goodness."
Jerrold Post, a former CIA analyst who is director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., also believes movies are valid character indicators.
"What a person watches is telling," he said. "Kim and Saddam's taste in movies may provide insights in their concepts of leadership."
North Korea's leader is especially influenced by films, Post said, and has a collection of 15,000 to 20,000 movies.
"At times it seems as if he has modeled his foreign policy postures after movies, such as `High Noon' or `Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,'" he said. "The way he confronts the West with nuclear threats in order to extract financial and other concessions reminds me of the Peter Sellers movie `The Mouse That Roared,' in which a tiny country invades the United States so it will get foreign aid."
Luskin and Post aren't the only ones taking the movies seriously. After all, films have influenced fashion, language, even matters of life and death. "Taxi Driver" inspired John Hinckley to shoot President Ronald Reagan. Former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass admitted that he was such a fan of Italian film star Gina Lollobrigida that he asked his Lebanese allies in 1983 not to attack Italian peacekeeping troops "so that not a single tear may fall from Gina Lollobrigida's eyes."
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas so enjoys his favorite film that he likes to show it to his law clerks. That movie is "The Fountainhead," based on the Ayn Rand novel about an architect who blows up a housing complex that he designed because the builder compromised on his vision.
"The Godfather," however, is one movie that pervades American life. At DePaul University, a business course analyzes the film as a study in "organizational design." In North Carolina, a popular rock band is named The Moe Greens, after a character in the movie.
As Post puts it: "Many of us enjoy `The Godfather.' That doesn't make us psychopathic killers."
Among the movie's fans: perky actress Kate Hudson.
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Like `High Noon'? So do ...
... Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and former President Bill Clinton, who named this western their favorite movie. Other moviegoing parties who share a favorite film are listed below. Can you guess which group picked which film? (P.S. One group couldn't agree.)
1. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
2. Soccer star Freddy Adu and former Senate candidate Alan Keyes
3. Basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming, convicted Enron exec Andrew Fastow
4. Tribune film critic Michael Wilmington; Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert
5. Wife murderer Scott Peterson, Washington-area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler
6. Chef Paul Prudhomme, child actress Dakota Fanning, country singer Lee Ann Womack, television mogul Ted Turner, former CNN anchor Judy Woodruff
A. "Lord of the Rings"
C. "Gone With The Wind"
D. "Star Wars"
E. "Citizen Kane"
F. Couldn't agree
THE ANSWERS 1. B; 2. A; 3. D; 4. E; 5. F; 6. C
(Peterson likes "The Shining," Malvo "The Matrix," Dahmer "The Exorcist III" and Hitler "King Kong." There is no evidence whether the popcorn ordered was buttered.)