Movie Mom

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If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Release Date:
May 2, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

When the Game Stands Tall
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for thematic material, a scene of violence, and brief smoking
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

 

Need for Speed
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Release Date:
March 14, 2014

List: Great Movie Professors

posted by Nell Minow

about-indiana-jones-1.jpgAnn Hornaday’s excellent Washington Post essay on college professors in movies included some of my favorites. I especially liked the comments from first-time screenwriter Mark Jude Poirier, the son of a college professor, who has spent time teaching himself. His new movie, “Smart People,” stars Dennis Quaid (who was also a college professor in D.O.A.) as a scruffy Victorian literature scholar with an “unpublishable” new book called The Price of Postmodernism: Epistemology, Hermeneutics and the Literary Canon.

One advantage to making his protagonist a literature professor, he says, was that he could endow the character with eloquence and self-awareness without straining credulity. At a pivotal point, for instance, Wetherhold tells another character that he hasn’t had any “great epiphanies” or made “sweeping changes” to his personality. “That’s something a professor would say,” Poirier says. “They’re living in a world of literature, a world where they’re thinking about epiphanies and character changes all the time. So it seems natural that they’d apply that to themselves.”

In other ways, the bored or blocked professor — teaching the same texts in the same rooms to the same if interchangeable students, day in, day out, semester after semester — perfectly embodies the ennui of any job. But in this case, that job brings the added value of involving performance. Thus the professor is the ideal personification of inertia without inert ness, suggests Poirier. “He’s onstage every day.”

Certainly, the overly introspective professor who has given up caring about much of anything appears frequently in movies. But we also see the expert who provides exposition for the audience and guidance for the hero/heroine with some expertise about arcane subjects ranging from anthropology to chemistry, history, literature, even the the occult. Sometimes they are there as a romantic interest. Then there are the absent-minded professors who create potions and machines that either result in chase scenes or comedy, occasionally both. And sometimes professors lead the action — remember, Indiana Jones teaches archeology when he isn’t out tracking down the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail.

Even future President Ronald Reagan played a psychology professor in Bedtime for Bonzo. Not his best role, but still a very cute little movie with a lovely performance by Diana Lynn as his wife.

Here are some movie professors who get A’s from me.

1. Wonder Boys Michael Douglas spends much of the movie in a ratty old bathrobe, trying to stop writing a book that has reached 2000 pages and is still going, and juggling a highly talented but depressed student, several ex-wives and a pregnant mistress who is inconveniently married to the dean, and Marilyn Monroe’s sweater. A beautifully literate script, beautifully performed and directed, with an outstanding soundtrack.

2. Monkey Business The ever-elegant, ever debonair Cary Grant is not a likely candidate to play an absent-minded professor but his impeccable timing is just right for this role, especially after the professor and his wife (Ginger Rogers) accidentally try out a youth serum that have them reverting to childhood. Watch for a very young Marilyn Monroe in a small part.

3. The Absent-Minded Professor Fred MacMurray appears in this Disney classic about “flubber” — flying rubber — that can make cars fly and basketball players jump like pole vaulters.

4. A Beautiful Mind Russell Crowe was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as John Nash, a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who struggled with mental illness.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark Harrison Ford does not spend much time in the classroom or the library in one of the most exciting — and popular — adventure films ever made, a loving salute to movie serials from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

6. Educating Rita Another scruffy, bearded, burnout, this time it is Michael Caine as a professor of literature who learns as much from his student (Julie Walters) as she does from him.

7. Stranger Than Fiction Will Ferrell has to consult an expert in literature to try to figure out why someone seems to be narrating his life “accurately, and with a better vocabulary.” He finds Dustin Hoffman, who explains that he wrote a whole paper on “had he but known” and teaches him how to tell whether he is in a comedy or a tragedy.

8. Holiday This time, Cary Grant is befriended by a married couple, both professors, played by Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon as the Potters (frequently called Porter by the snooty relatives of Grant’s fiancee).

9. ShadowlandsThe author of the Narnia books, C.S. Lewis, is played by Anthony Hopkins in this tender story about his late-life romance with an outspoken American (Debra Winger). There is also a very fine made-for-British-television version by the same name starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom.

drumline_007.jpg 10. Drumline Sometimes the job of the professor in a movie is to teach the main character some important lessons about responsibility, integrity, and goals. That’s what Orlando Jones does for Nick Cannon in this delightfully engaging movie about a talented but undisciplined drummer on a marching band scholarship.

Coming soon….Great Movie teachers in elementary, middle, and high school. Stay tuned.

Can a movie change the world? Pangea Day Wants to Try.

posted by Nell Minow

Pangea Day is an ambitious effort to bring the entire world together in one conversation about connection and unity through the power of film. On May 10, for four hours, people all over the world will gather to share their stories. There will be films, speakers, and live music. Queen Noor of Jordan, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, musician/activist Bob Geldof and Iranian rockers Hypernova will appear. The website has information about how to participate.

Here is an invitation:

Here are two from a remarkably moving series of films showing countries saluting each other by singing their national anthems. France sings America’s:

And Japan sings Turkey’s:

Juno

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language.
Movie Release Date:December 5, 2007
DVD Release Date:April 15, 2008

Juno%20poster.jpg
It’s time for the q-word again. Every year, it seems, there is some audience-favorite-quirky-little-indy — that category is now a genre of its own, like thriller and romantic comedy. 2006′s Little Miss Sunshine was called “this year’s Napoleon Dynamite. And in 2007, ever since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Juno” has been called this year’s Little Miss Sunshine. All three films are modest little independent films, though the two most recent have, if not A-list superstars, certainly established A-list actors. All three are small stories about people who are not glossy, air-brushed, homogenized, safe, and stories that are not formulaic or easily classified. The movies are filled with telling details and some intriguing messiness in character and plot. Hollywood’s word for this is “quirky.” When it’s done right, it is endearing, engaging, and unforgettable, filled with people we want in our lives.

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The Miracle Worker

posted by Nell Minow
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:NR
Movie Release Date:May 23, 1962

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the birth of one of the most extraordinary teachers in American history, Annie Sullivan, who gave a little blind and deaf girl the power of language. William Gibson, who wrote two plays about the teacher and her student, says that when people refer to “The Miracle Worker” as “the play about Helen Keller,” he replies, “If it was about her, it would be called ‘The Miracle Workee.’” Sullivan, herself visually impaired, was first in her class at the Perkins School for the Blind. When she went to work for the Keller family she was just 21 years old. And Keller, who was blind and deaf due to an illness when she was 19 months old. When Sullivan arrived, Keller was almost completely wild, without any ability to communicate or any understanding that communication beyond grabbing and hitting was possible.

Every family should watch the extraordinary film about what happened next, and read more about Keller, who, with Sullivan’s help, graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude and became an author and a world figure.

Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke won Oscars for their performances as Sullivan and Keller, repeating their Broadway roles and Duke later played Sullivan in a made-for-television adaptation. In this scene, after months of teaching Keller to fingerspell words, Sullivan is finally able to show her that language will give her the ability to communicate, with a new world of relationships, feelings, and learning. No teacher ever bestowed a greater gift.

Monday After the Miracle is Gibson’s sequel to the play, and Keller’s own book is called The Story of My Life. There is a photobiography of Sullivan called Helen’s Eyes.

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If I Stay
Hamlet asked it best. "To be, or not to be: That is the question." We struggle through, worrying about whether someone likes us or whether we will be accepted at the school of our choice

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