Someone on Facebook asked what movies made people cry. The length of my list nearly brought tears to my eyes.
I’m not talking about balls-on bawling. Just, you know, that choked-up feeling that might cause a guy to reach under his glasses and fake like he’s scratching his cheek.
The list does not include “Brian’s Song.” Or “Bambi.” Or any part of any movie where the audience is supposed to think, “It’s so sad—these two are made for each other, but they’ll never be together.” They’re always going to be together. Except in “Ghost.”
Here’s what the list does include:
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” when George Bailey comes home on Christmas Eve after searching for the building and loan’s “lost” money and kicks over his model bridges. His youthful dreams are dead, and it looks like the thing he’s doing instead is about to end very badly. How can you not shed a tear?
“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” when Linus steps to center stage and says, “Lights, please.” His subsequent recitation of the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke is, as far as I’m concerned, the finest 33 seconds of TV ever. But just those first two words get my waterworks flowing, because I remember my son, Gus, imitating that line when he was five.
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” when Lucy fishes Linus out of the pumpkin patch, carries him home and tucks him into bed. Lucy’s a bitch and Linus has been a blockhead, but how much Lucy cares about her little brother is as touching as it gets.
“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” when Magoo, as Scrooge, sings “Alone in the World” after the Ghost of Christmas Past takes him back to a childhood holiday spent apart from family. A little kid lamenting being alone at Christmas, with his grownup self providing sorrowful harmonies. If that doesn’t water your eyelids, you’re a Grinch with a heart two sizes too small.
“The Full Monty,” when the unemployed boss, played by Tom Wilkinson, confronts unemployed workers who’d punk’d him into blowing an interview for a job that would have left him underemployed and underpaid. “Why did you do it?” he says, breaking down. “That job was mine.” Why does he want the job if it’s so crummy? He’s been faking going to work for weeks because he thinks losing his position will diminish him in the eyes of his wife.
I added a new one to the list last week, when Mary Jo and I watched “Up.” It’s not when Carl’s wife, Ellie, dies that got me. It was just before that, when Carl realizes they had never fulfilled her dream of traveling to the wilds of South America. He’s a cartoon, for Pete’s sake, but you can see the mix of emotions on his face: Regret. Inadequacy. Shame. He’s thinking, “She could have lived her dream, but instead she was stuck all these years with a schlub like me.”
Yeah, guys can get to thinking stuff like that. Way down deep there’s a mushy core made of sentimental goo that sometimes gushes forth with empathy, heartache and love.
Even if it only looks like we have itchy cheeks.