Not All Academic

I just have to say…Slumdog Millionaire is indeed a fantastic film. In case you were wondering if you should go…. just go. It is well written, acted, and beautifully photographed and directed. I’m pleasantly surprised that Danny Boyle could make a film that feels quite so authentic (while at the same time being essentially a fairy tale) as an Indian film. Quite splendid.

Speaking of excellent films of 2008, and turning to a more academic context, I’d like to urge you to take a second look at The Visitor, if you’ve not yet seen it. It’s nice, from time to time, to see films where the principal characters are academics, and this one does a very good job at having a good feel to it – in the sense that the lead (played wonderfully by Richard Jenkins) felt believable as a professor going through a strange time in his life, and then finding himself increasingly falling into an unfamiliar world. It is one of my favourite films of the year, and it seems that few people I know have even heard of it.

While on the subject of 2008 films featuring academics, I’d like to mention Smart People. I really did not like it at all. It is not that most of the principal characters are all utterly obnoxious people who are convinced that they are super-smart and witty (that would be just fine) but are in fact self-centred and petty (and not so smart), but rather that one suspects that the filmmakers are projecting those traits onto all academics. The whole thing is marketed along the lines of “they think they’re so smart but look they have problems with relationships too”. Not a bad thing to make drama about (and I think we need to have more work bringing academics into the mainstream of life drama), but I felt that this one went a bit far to make the academics unlikeably (and perhaps predictably?) arrogant in order to make the point. Maybe I was also put off my Ellen Page coming on and playing essentially the same character she seems to play all the time now (precocious, feisty, wise-cracking teenager with a heart of gold – yawn), and Thomas Hayden Church plays the same character he is known for too (irresponsible but lovable buddy/sibling – yawn). Perhaps you’ll like it (or liked it), but I think that they basically over-egged the pudding.

Oh! There was another 2008 film about an academic that I saw, Elegy. Gosh, have you noticed that all three I’ve mentioned were released within a week of each other (two on 18th April, one on 11th)? I found it engaging as a film, and tad disturbing, but not annoying (as I found Smart People). Ben Kingsley’s character is convincing (and repulsive) in a way that is worth watching. Penelope Cruz is very good too – I was delighted to see her displaying another aspect of her range (she was hiliarious and over the top in Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona, another film I liked from last year) as an actress.

Well, that’s it from me on movie thoughts for now. I’m off to explore a bit the bone-chillingly cold landscape I’m seeing out of my window. (I’m not in LA for a few days.)

More later.

-cvj

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