Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cozy and Inspiring Campus Movies for September

Wonder Boys
Grady is a rumpled professor and a novelist who teaches creative writing at a Pittsburgh university. He third wife has just left him and he is having an affair with his department head's wife. His current novel is over 2,500 pages long "and the ending keeps getting further away." His agent, a transvestite, a James Brown look-a-like, lots of writers, smart people, and Frances McDormand round out the cast. I love that this film takes place over the course of one weekend. The weekend serves as a microcosm of Grady's life and the seedier side of academia without being mean-spirited. Grady is a mess, he is a magnet to messy situations, but he is a good man filled with good intentions.
Mona Lisa Smile
Set in 1953 Wellsely College this movie is about the choices educated young women had at the time. A new art history professor arrives on campus to inspire some and come into conflict with others. I always find a large female cast inspiring and I think Julia Roberts is at her best in this film. She is very authentic in this role, she doesn't over play the bohemian aspects of her character's lifestyle, nor does she get cutesy or sentimental with the character. The debates she initiates with the young women about social issues, family, career, and the art history are alone worth watching the movie.

Dead Poet Society
Love poetry, seize the day, find your own voice, view the world from different perspectives, and on and on this movie goes with the inspiration. This film posses it in spade! Smart, curious and sensitive boys on a beautiful New England campus come of age in 1959. This movie is funny, heartbreaking and a classic.

Educating Rita
A charming British movie from 1983 is about a young hairdresser and wife who decides to find herself by taking an open university course. Michael Cain plays the burned-out alcoholic Ph.D. that opens a whole new world to Rita through education. Rita opens his eyes to a fresh new perspective that he has been craving. We watch Rita grow and blossom intellectually. She transforms herself and her life and it's a thing of beauty to watch. Five stars for inspiration!

Based on the play by David Mamet, this two-character movie is completely dialogue driven. The two characters are John, a male college professor, and Carol, his female student. Carol first approaches John about failing his class, later she accuses him of sexual harassment. John is desperate to have the charges dropped, his tenure, promotion and family all hang in the balance. This is an intriguing look at the power struggle between the two. This is a movie where a lot happens emotionally, but where there is very little physical action. I understand this is a turn off for a lot of people but I just get lulled into the rhythm of the dialogue.

A Beautiful Mind
A romanticized and cleaned up version of real life Noble Prize winner John Nash. Nash attended and later taught at Princeton University. Many scenes take place on this beautiful campus. Russell Crowe plays the mathematical genius who suffered from schizophrenia and Jennifer Connelly plays his long suffering wife. It's a bit sentimental but well made and well acted.


Real Genius inspiring in the sense that humor always inspires a good mood. If you don't laugh at the jokes you'll laugh at the goofiness of a very young Val Kilmer and the 1980's sensibility and fashion. A good watch for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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