Music of the Heart, 1999

Wes Craven directed this touching film about a teacher who wants to teach violin to kids in an East Harlem school, but has to fight for her students as the school board tries to close down her music program due to budget limitations. It was a severe departure from the usual fare by director Wes Craven, who is known for A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream movies.

Meryl Streep’s performance as Roberta Guaspari was inspiring. Roberta’s story was told in a memorable way, including scenes filmed in Carnegie Hall. Sandra Park not only performed as herself, but also taught Meryl Streep violin lessons for this film. Also performing as themselves were: Arnold Steinhardt, Isaac Stern, Mark O’Connor, Michael Tree, Charles Veal Jr., Karen Briggs, Itzhak Perlman, Diane Monroe, Joshua Bell, and Jonathan Feldman.

The many child actors performed with spunk and delighted me with their talents. How amazing it would’ve been as a child violinist to be on the Carnegie Hall stage with the above list of mega-violinists.

Cloris Leachman played Roberta’s mother, Assunta Guaspari. I’ve enjoyed Cloris Leachman’s acting for many years. She’s won more Emmy awards than any other actor. Beautiful Angela Bassett gave me no surprises. She played Principal Janet Williams with directness and energy.

Mr. Holland's Opus, 1995

I loved watching this film about teacher/composer Glenn Holland, played by Richard Dreyfuss. His Best Actor Oscar nomination was well deserved. Glenne Headly actually studied American Sign Language in preparation for the role of his wife Iris Holland.

Olympia Dukakis as Principal Jacobs, William Macy as Vice Principal Wolters, and Jay Thomas as Bill Meister the football coach kept me interested in their characters. They’re good actors in interesting roles. I was satisfied with Jean Louisa Kelly’s performance as high school student Rowena Morgan when she sang “Someone To Watch Over Me” as well as other songs, even though she was 23 years old at the time. The writing was responsible for some of my delight. Patrick Sheane Duncan was nominated for a Golden Globe award for writing the screenplay.

In this film, Richard Dreyfuss shows the many changes Mr. Holland went through over the years. Holland’s high aspirations of being a composer dwindle while he teaches music at a high school where he gives much more to the students than he realizes. This inspirational movie about music is also a nod to those who give many hours teaching deaf students. I loved the humor, and I always look forward to the emotional ending.

Freedom Writers, 2007

Erin Gruwell is the new teacher of a class of kids who are full of hate and distrust. They’ve grown up with people looking at their race and not their face. She has to show these kids who have taken sides against each other that they have more in common than they think. So she plays a line game where they have to step on the line of tape in the middle of the room if they have experienced specific things like having been shot at or having been to jail or juvie.

Patrick Dempsey plays a relatively small role as husband and additional conflict for Ms Gruwell. His part of the film shows how some people want to persevere and others allow disappointment to overwhelm them.

The department head, Imelda Staunton played by Margaret Campbell, tries to explain to Ms Gruwell that she should give up trying to make students want an education. However, that’s not the kind of teacher Ms Gruwell wants to be. She has a passion to help these kids, and she’ll do whatever it takes.

The kids visit a Holocaust museum and then meet Holocaust survivors at the hotel dinner afterward. According to the cast list on, four real Holocaust survivors played themselves in the film.

I thought this movie did a good job of making an emotional plea for people to take a second look at their own situation and do the right thing. It showed people rising up to meet challenges instead of living in revenge and hatred.

Jesus and Hilary Swank

This weekend, I’ll review the 2007 movie Freedom Writers. In that movie, Hilary Swank plays Erin Gruwell, a teacher who was able to get through to the kids in her class because of her tenacity, passion, and creativity. She allowed the kids to be who they were, but challenged them to be better students.

Today on Seek God With Me, I’m showing how Jesus taught. You can check out his tenacity, passion, and creativity from a section of scripture in the book of Luke.

I’ll see you there.

Stand and Deliver, 1988

Edward James Olmos stars as Jaime Escalante, a new teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. After the kids get used to him, they nickname him Kemo, short for Kemo Sabe which was used by Tonto for his friend and leader in The Lone Ranger.

Kemo must have felt like the Lone Ranger when he was battling against apathy, low morale, and low expectations. But he refused to give up on the kids. He wanted to raise everyone’s expectations so that the kids would accept the opportunity given to them. Some saw him as a relentless teacher, and some saw him as a hero. As he challenged his students, attitudes and perspectives changed. The kids could see their futures changing before their eyes – until they were accused of cheating.

Several young actors stood out as key figures in this fictional account of a true story. Lou Diamond Phillips played one of the students who had the courage to change his future. Phillips had just played Ritchie Valens in La Bamba in 1987 and would play Jose in Young Guns after Stand and Deliver.

The happy ending was enhanced by the testimonial statistics at the end that showed how the success started by Escalante and his students wasn’t a one-time fluke.

Jesus and Edward James Olmos

Did Jesus teach like the religious leaders of his day?

No. He did things differently and got the attention of his target audience. He also got the attention of his “competitors” and their crowd.

Did Jesus teach his disciples in such a way as to encourage them to do things they’d never dreamed of doing?

Yes. Just like in the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver, Edward James Olmos’s character, Jaime Escalante, and Jesus try to get their students or disciples to change the way they’ve been thinking. I’ll review Stand and Deliver on my blog this weekend.

But right now, go to Seek God With Me and find out what Jesus taught and where he taught it. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John agree that Jesus taught with authority and courage. He made a difference in the lives of his students. Join me and find out why.

Blackboard Jungle, 1955

Glenn Ford is Richard Dadier, a teacher who won’t back down from a challenge. He is challenged by the faculty and the students, but he sees this job as more than a paycheck. This is his golden opportunity.

Sidney Poitier is Gregory Miller, a student who is mixed up in a classroom of trouble-makers. The whole school has a discipline problem. It takes guts to stand up for what you know is right and decent. The students who believe they can do the right thing are able to learn from a teacher who believes in them.

Also in the classroom is Jamie Farr (credited as Jameel Farah) in his debut Hollywood film. His role as Santini made him stand out among the other boys in the class. He later became famous for his role as Max Klinger in M*A*S*H*.

This story was based on a novel by Evan Hunter. After the success of this movie, Hunter went on to write more novels, some screenplays, and TV episodes for shows like Mike Hammer in the 1950s and Colombo in the 1990s.

One of the four Academy Award nominations for Blackboard Jungle went to Richard Brooks for the screenplay. The other three nominations were for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration in a Black and White, Best Cinematography in a Black and White, and Best Film Editing.

Jesus and Glenn Ford

This weekend, look for a review of a classic movie from the 1950s, starring Glenn Ford. It was the first of its kind. Several teacher-themed movies came out in the following decades that showed the danger and the commitment faced by a teacher who had the guts to show up.

One of the ideas in this movie is doing the wrong thing because you believe the wrong thing. Or because it’s hard for you to believe the right thing. In the days when Jesus taught his disciples along with the crowds, Jesus had to face the same kinds of people.

Today on Seek God With Me, I’m sharing the story of what happened when Jesus taught by the edge of the shore. The disciples followed Jesus and listened, but they didn’t always understand everything he taught. Join me and find out why.

Captain January, 1936

Star is a little girl who lives in a lighthouse with Captain January, the man who rescued her when her parents drowned. Trouble comes in the form of a truant officer who wants to separate the young girl from the man who has taken care of her.

Guy Kibbee is Captain January and works well with Shirley Temple, who plays Star. The pair have some great scenes together and set up the ending well.

Buddy Ebsen dances with Shirley in front of a small crowd. He reminded me of how much I liked him as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. His dancing style was unusual. According to, he was asked in the 1930s to dance in front of a grid so Disney animators could film him and use the dance steps for the Silly Symphony cartoons.

At the age of 93, Ebsen became a best-selling author of a romance novel called Kelly’s Quest. One of the things he said about his writing experiences, according to, was, “Writing fiction, there are no limits to what you write as long as it increases the value of the paper you are writing on.”

Jesus and Shirley Temple

Welcome to September, the back to school month.

This month, I plan to share movies I’ve enjoyed that have a school theme. I’ve chosen several that were released between 1936 and 2007. I’m sure you’ve seen at least a couple of my favorites.

This weekend, I’ll review a Shirley Temple movie. One of the things kids have to do while they’re growing up is learn how to adjust to new things. If they don’t learn how to adjust while they’re young, they’ll have a harder time adjusting as an adult.

I’m reminded about adults adjusting to new things when I read in the Bible about the twelve disciples who followed Jesus around and listened to his teachings. Some of the concepts Jesus taught were difficult for them to understand.

Today at Seek God With Me, I’m taking a look at Jesus teaching on the mountainside. All kinds of people gathered there. I believe every generation of that day was represented in the crowd. Jesus drew crowds of deep-thinking adults as well as innocent children with open hearts.

So join me and find out what Jesus was teaching.