Monday, May 21, 2007

End-of-Semester Blues and Movies

My blog has lapsed while I've been finishing up the semester and grading more essays than I care to count. Two of my five classes are now over; three will be finishing this week.

With the current rise in gas prices, I am appreciative of this online life. I had been growing tired of remaining at home and not ever getting to know my students face-to-face. This absence of personal contact has sometimes made it difficult to return my students' work in a timely fashion. Getting my essays graded this semester has been a constant struggle. There were always another set or two or three awaiting my attention when I finished slogging through the ones for a cross-listed course composed of fifty students. It was much easier grading essays in first-semester classes because of the difference in the assignment. I would much prefer grading a set of profile essays over a set of critical evaluations or proposals anyday.

Despite the amount of grading that characterizes the end of the semester, I have managed to see both Spiderman 3 and Shrek the Third. Maybe I was too tired to appreciate Shrek the Third, only having had four hours of sleep the night before, but I thought the movie was boring. The ogre isn't funny anymore. The best few minutes appear at the end when Shrek and Fiona are caring for their triplets. The movie could have easily focused on raising children, and the mishaps that accompany the raising of ogre babies, instead of the plot details regarding Shrek's succession to the throne, the Prince's efforts to gain control over the kingdom, and the journey to find the deceased king's heir. Those details were excessive, I thought. Of all the computer animated movies, I have to express my preference for Happy Feet, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Toy Story 2.

The villains in the first two Spiderman movies are too unrealistic although I prefer Doc Oct over the Green Goblin. Spiderman 2 is characterized by Peter Parker's character development as the viewer discovers that the super hero struggles with the mundane, i.e., keeping a job, paying rent, attempting to maintain a relationship with a woman. Peter Parker struggles with his identity in Spiderman 3 as he wrestles with those emotions that seem alluring--like vengeance and pride. The movie is often funny as Peter adopts this inflated image of himself. Ultimately, the prideful Spiderman hurts those people he cares about. Spiderman 3 is worth the time and money.

It occurred to me recently that I miss those movies I enjoyed as a teenager, that is, ones that draw the viewer into the lives of people in a particular time and place, such as Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and those adaptations of Thomas Hardy novels (e.g., Far From the Madding Crowd). It takes at least two hours for a movie to take hold of the viewer. Too many movies now are simply an hour and a half of a situation comedy, which is easily forgotten afterwards, or a series of computer-generated special effects and explosions with a minimum amount of dialogue that usually only serves to add comic moments to violence, making it possible for the viewer to desensitize him/herself to the violence to which we are exposed in our lives and in our world. Spiderman 3 has redeeming qualities because of the emphasis on the characters. Probably the best movies that have come out in the last year or so have been adaptations of comic book heroes like Superman Returns (my view is in opposition to those critics who panned the movie), remakes like King Kong, or something relatively ignored at the box office like The Devil Wears Prada. My sister would disagree because she recently had good things to say about The Last King of Scotland, which, I admit, I haven't seen and find the descriptions of torture in that movie less than enticing.

Those of you reading this blog might let me know what movie you have enjoyed in the last year or so.