Tuesday, March 20, 2007

HALF NELSON


Movie of the week:
HALF NELSON

What the hell’s the matter with the guys that run the theaters?

A quick look at the marquee at my town’s cinema today showed the following:

  • 300 – a pretty good movie, but it goes down very quickly from here.
  • Zodiac – don’t know, haven’t seen it.
  • Ghost Rider - Oh
  • Norbit - my
  • Premonition - god
  • Wild Hogs - what
  • Music and Lyrics - crappy
  • The Number 23 - movies!

Please don’t take offense if you really liked any of these movies. A movie doesn’t necessarily have to be good to enjoy it. The point is, all these movies play for weeks at the multiplex, and yet this week’s movie, HALF NELSON, never made it there. Not in my town. Not even for a day. I mean, it’s an independent film for goodness sake – how much could it have cost them? Even though Ryan Gosling was nominated for a best actor Oscar for this film, they totally ignored it. Theater owners have absolutely no faith in you, the film go-er. They apparently think you aren’t smart enough or refined enough to be able to appreciate a drama that’s layered and textured and profound enough to make you think, past your time in the theater. I’d complain if I were you. But I know better. I believe that you (that most people, in fact) can appreciate the difference between a well made film and a cookie-cutter B-movie. This one is the first kind.

I try not to know too much before I watch a movie, but sometimes that’s hard. You just hear things. For example, the buzz about this film was that the acting performances were extraordinary strong and powerful. When people say stuff like that, I like to think just the opposite, because it’s often just hype and promotion. But, god damn it, they were right! This is a really good film. Ryan Gosling was robbed at the Oscars.

Gosling plays a young idealistic inner city junior high school teacher. He’s good at it. He's the kind of teacher you would wish for your own children. He’s the kind about which you would say, “the world needs more teachers like him.” He's the kind that wins awards. He's the sort that movies get made about, and who get written up in the NEA union magazine. He knows how to grab the kids’ attention and hold it, and mold it. He makes kids want to come to school because maybe, just maybe, they could make something of themselves and maybe be a little more like him.

Except that he’s a drug addict.

A teacher like him, has a lot of stress. He feels responsible for the future of his students. After all, if you can change just one child, you change the future. It’s all him. It’s all on his shoulders. He needs a little something to even himself out – take the edge off. Yes, he’s a drug addict and one of his students knows it. "Just because you know this one thing about me .....", he says. "One thing doesn't make a man."

This story is about his downward spiral, and about the unusual friendship that develops between him and that one student – you know – the one that he can change – for the future’s sake. I think you’ll like this one. It’s deep and textured, has many levels, is inspiring and moving, and it’ll make you feel good. Does it all turn out good in the end? But that would be telling now – wouldn’t it?

So here are 10 ways you’re thinking that this could possible turn out – but would be wrong!

  1. He wins the “Teacher of the Year” award and is presented the keys to the city by the mayor. At the award ceremony, he passes out from an overdose of heroin.
  2. He organizes the students to put on a presentation for their parents who are mostly moved to tears in pride for their accomplishments, ......... during which he passes out from an overdose of heroin.
  3. He takes the students on a field trip to the Museum of Science. But instead takes them to a field trip to the street to score dope. Students learn important lessons on how to “eyeball” dime bags and judge purity by color and taste. He doesn’t pass out from an overdose of heroin, but three students do.
  4. He passes out from an overdose of heroin during an exceptionally strange orgy of sex and drugs and is later found by student who says, “WTF? Why wasn’t I invited?”
  5. He travels home to visit his parents, and remembers why he started taking drugs in the first place. Passes out from an overdose of heroin before dessert – damn!
  6. He gets fired from his job. Goes into rehab and gives up heroin. Passes out from an overdose of crack cocaine instead, considered by many NOT to be a big improvement.
  7. Students organize an “intervention” to get him to turn his life around. As a teacher, it’s important for him to relate to them, to understand them, and to inspire them. They succeed in getting him to give up drugs in favor of getting high on “life”. At the prom he passes out from an overdose of life.
  8. He has an epiphany when certain incidents start to bother him, like that time he was on the bus, and the guy with the big hunk of deli meat was cutting pieces off and asked him if he wanted some, probably because he looked hungry, which of course he was, because he was homeless, even though he wasn't technically a widow. ……. but then takes drugs to push that out of his head.
  9. He doesn’t win “Teacher of the Year” award, instead, wins the Irish Sweepstakes so he waits until spring vacation and books passage to Ireland, then he goes from village to village, pub to pub, inquiring as to where he can claim his winnings but nobody has a clue what he’s talking about, so he tries looking up the Irish Sweepstakes office in the phone book – but no go, until finally and old woman in a bar tells him that there hasn’t been an Irish Sweepstakes for 20 years or more but before he can register his disappointment, he passes out from an overdose of Guinness.
  10. Bueller? Bueller?

I lied before. One of these outcomes is actually true (hint: not #10).

Warnings for the meek: Although it’s the kind of movie that everyone should see, it may be unsuitable for young children. It features language, and drug use (lots of drug use), and sex. But despite that, it’s really kind of, I don’t know - nice? Listen, don’t listen to me. Watch the film for yourself and make up your own mind. (BTW: It scored a 91% on the tomatometer)

HALF NELSON
Enjoy.

2 Comments:

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent suggestion. I'm kinda hoping some hopped up junkie gets to teach my kids some important lessons in life, like to not be a hopped up super-teacher junkie.

Thanks for returning the ten list. And that thing on the bus really happened, but it was on a Greyhound, you know, not some scuzzy inner-city bus.

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger FranksFilms said...

I hope you didn't mind that I snagged the "bus" bit, but it sounded so "me".

 

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