Wouldn't it be refreshing to see a special Academy Award for the movie that best reflects positive American values and role models? Or, a special Academy Award for the movie that best inspires America's young people to greatness? That's what I hope to achieve with the American Values Awards. The winners are movies that parents can share with their children. The winners are movies that every American should see. Here are my picks for the best movies of 2006!
Movies can be a valuable teaching tool: That's why I included nearly 600 movie recommendations in my history book for kids, Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame. In the book, stunning digital photography places my twelve year-old son, Anthony, in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, on the moon with Neil Armstrong, in the laboratories of Thomas Edison and Jonas Salk, and on Normandy beach on D-Day. Anthony "time-travels" into America's past to learn valuable lessons about right and wrong, choosing one's destiny, strength of will, dedication to purpose, and love of country. It's all historically accurate: Even Anthony's conversations with American heroes are based on things they really said. The 600 movies are part of a list that includes books to read, music to listen to, and places to visit: fun for kids, and a built-in teaching tool for parents and teachers. The book is recommended for readers in Grade 6 to Grade 12+.
The movies in the book - and the movies I have chosen as the best of 2006 - are movies that reflect deeply-held American values. These movies teach. These movies are inspirational. These movies remind us that the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose, and that doing the right thing always matters.
My picks for the best films of 2006 may not win on Oscar Night. But, wouldn't it be refreshing to see a special Academy Award for the movie that best reflects positive American values and role models? Or, a special Academy Award for the movie that best inspires America's young people to greatness? That's what I hope to achieve with the American Values Awards. The Award recognizes movies that reflect the traditional values that Americans hold dear: Movies that celebrate love, honor, marriage and family, discipline and commitment, personal responsibility, and the drive for excellence and achievement.
The winners for 2006 are:
1. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS: The true story of Chris Gardner, a down-and-out and sometimes homeless salesman, abandoned by his wife, and suffering from a string of bad decisions. But, Chris Gardner holds fast to the American Dream: He retains his optimism, protects and nurtures his young son, works long and hard, and never gives up. Chris Gardner is rewarded for keeping the faith.
2. GLORY ROAD: The inspiring true story of how a small school in West Texas, with an unproven coach, and an all-black starting team of basketball players changed history. It's a story of character, integrity, and overcoming prejudice. It's a story of inner strength and doing something that is bigger than yourself.
3. FLIGHT 93: The true story of the ordinary Americans who fought back against evil on 9/11 and became heroes to remember in the War on Terror. The movie makes you wonder whether or not you would have had the same strength and courage.
4. FLYBOYS: The true story of the volunteer American pilots who fought for France before America officially entered World War I. These young men volunteered because they wanted to fly airplanes, but they got more than they bargained for: a lesson in courage, heroism, sacrifice, and friendship - and the unforgiving brutality of war.
5. WORLD TRADE CENTER: The true story of John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, two New York Port Authority policemen, trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11, after they went in to rescue people. It's a story of family, love, faith, and courage - qualities that kept the two men alive. And, as you watch firemen ask strangers, "Remember my name and please tell my wife and children that I love them," before crawling deep down into the building wreckage, it's also a movie that begs the question: "Would you do the same?"
6. AKEELAH AND THE BEE: The true story of Akeelah Anderson, an 11-year-old girl who overcomes the odds to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Yes, Akeelah can spell! But, the story is really about developing the mindset to be a winner, and choosing to win only in the right way.
7. INVINCIBLE: The true story of 30-year-old Vince Papale, a bartender and part-time schoolteacher who gets the chance to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles thanks to an "open tryout" offer to Philadelphia citizens by coach Dick Vermeil in 1974. It's an inspirational underdog story that reminds us that anything is possible - if we only try.
8. JOYEUX NOEL: The true story of the World War I Christmas Truce. It's an important film because most young people today don't know very much about World War I, and because the Christmas Truce was an unbelievable and almost miraculous event. In 1914, during the first Christmas of World War I, soldiers in opposing trenches - against orders - called out to each other, shared Christmas greetings, and sang Silent Night together. Some soldiers even ventured out into No Man's Land to meet their enemies and exchange gifts.
9. CHARLOTTE'S WEB: Yes, Charlotte's Web. Why? Because, it is one of the best children's stories of all time, based on the remarkable book by E.B. White. It's a story of family, friendship, self-sacrifice, and the wonders of God's creation. You probably haven't looked at the book since you were a child, or since the last time you read the book to your children. Re-read Goodnight Moon, by Margeret Wise Brown, too. Smile.
10. ROCKY BALBOA: See the first Rocky (1976) and see this one - forget the rest. The whole story is here, and it's good! This final movie in the Rocky series has heart. Its the story of a very decent and simple man, who overcame the odds to succeed, realized fame and glory, and then fell back into obscurity. Rocky Balboa, now much older, struggles to understand his life and a world that has changed around him, though he has never changed himself. And that's good - because Rocky learns that the reward for staying true to himself and his faith all these years is that he still has something to share with others, that he still has something to give. Rocky learns that, in the simplest ways, he can still make a difference in the lives of others.
11. THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN (released December 2005): The true story of Burt Monroe, an elderly gentlemen from New Zealand who travels to America to race his antique Indian motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. Amazing everyone, Munroe sets the Under-1000 cc World Motorcycle Land Speed Record. Munroe's record still stands. Emotional impact comes from one line near the end of the movie, when Burt is lying on his back on the Bonneville Salt Flats after setting the record and crashing his motorcycle: He says, "I did it." Those three words mean a lot.
Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame was named Outstanding Book of the Year and Most Original Concept of 2006 by Independent Publisher; Reviewers Choice by Midwest Book Review; and Editor's Pick by Homefires: The Journal of Homeschooling Online. Nationally syndicated talk-show host Michael Medved calls the book "entertaining and educational." Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin says "parents and teachers will appreciate the inspiring message this unique history book holds for America's next generation. I recommend this book to all young Americans, may they take us to the stars and beyond."
Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame (hardcover, 225 pages, $25.00) is available at www.MagicPictureFrame.com, by calling toll-free 1-800-247-6553, at select bookstores, and on www.amazon.com.
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