Four Movies To Renew Your Gumption

Here are four movies that I watch when I need to refill my gumption or recover my sisu: The Verdict, Apollo 13, The Dish, and The World’s Fastest Indian.

Four Movies To Renew Your Gumption

The Verdict

Paul Newman’s portrays of an alcoholic plaintiff’s attorney chasing lawsuits by attending wakes and funerals, he re-discovers his moral core and perseveres in a complex medical malpractice lawsuit. Near the beginning of the film he is offered a settlement to look the other way and he says “If I take the money, I am lost.” It marks the turning point of his recovery. His closing speech to the jury contains this memorable passage:

Well…You know, so much of the time we’re just lost. We say, “Please, God, tell us what is right. Tell us what is true.”

I mean there is no justice. The rich win; the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead, a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims — and we become victims. We become weak; we doubt ourselves; we doubt our beliefs; we doubt our institutions; and we doubt the law.

But today you are the law. You are the law, not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. See, those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer, I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer.

In my religion, they say, “Act as if you had faith; faith will be given to you.”

If we are to have faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.

Apollo 13

Two scenes stand out that highlight the challenges of persevering as an engineer:

  • Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly, working in the simulator to determine a cold start sequence that will get the capsule operational without exhausting the remaining battery power.
  • A team of engineers crowd around a large table that has a copy of all of the material available in the capsule. They need to find a way to adapt carbon dioxide filters from the Command Module for use on the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) where the crew has taken refuge after an accident has disabled the Command Module.  Gesturing first with a squat square filter and a longer thinner cylindrical filter, the lead engineer says, “OK people, listen up. The people upstairs have handed us this one and we gotta come through. We gotta find a way to make this fit into the hole for this, using nothing but that.”

The Dish

This is an extremely funny movie about the team manning the Parkes radio telescope in Australia,  the dish is destined to capture the video for the Apollo 11 moonwalk. Many things go wrong (see official version) and a small team learns the value of both checklists and improvisation. Best line “Failure is never quite so frightening as regret.”

The World’s Fastest Indian

The Indian is a motorcycle driven by Bert Munro that sets a land-speed world record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. The “World’s Fastest Indian” portrays a series of challenges that Munro had to overcome to set the record, as many related to raising money and battling bureaucracy (e.g. US Customs) as engineering challenges.  The real Burt Munro was born in 1899 and 68 when he set the record, Anthony Hopkins goes a great job of portraying a tinkerer and a problem solver who continually modifies a motorcycle originally designed and manufactured in 1920 to achieve a world record.

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  1. […] “Four Movies to Renew Your Gumption“ […]

  2. […] Four Movies To Renew Your Gumption also mentions Apollo 13 and describes the “round peg / square hole” scene: A team of engineers crowd around a large table that has a copy of all of the material available in the capsule. They need to find a way to adapt carbon dioxide filters from the Command Module for use on the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) where the crew has taken refuge after an accident has disabled the Command Module.  Gesturing first with a squat square filter and a longer thinner cylindrical filter, the lead engineer says, “OK people, listen up. The people upstairs have handed us this one and we gotta come through. We gotta find a way to make this fit into the hole for this, using nothing but that.” […]

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