DEVIN MEENAN — The Denison Film Society has conducted a trial run for what may very well become a new tradition for the group; the club’s soon-to-be-departed Seniors were able to select a film for DFS to screen. This marathon, which began last Friday evening then resumed Saturday afternoon, was attended (almost) in its entirety by yours truly.
The first film, screened on Friday, was David Lean’s epic magnum opus Lawrence Of Arabia. I relished the chance for my first full viewing of the film be on an auditorium-sized screen. While the film’s protracted runtime (over 3 & a half hours) ended up inviting audience conversation over the course of the screening, the sweeping and irreplicable beauty of Lean’s images kept me captivated regardless.
Next up for the first Friday film was Good Will Hunting; the film tells the story of Will Hunting (Damon), an underachieving prodigy living in Boston whose genius-level math skills are discovered by MIT professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård). As part of a deferred prosecution agreement for an assault charge, Will is required to both stud mathematics with Lambeau and attend therapy; he ultimately winds up seeing Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), Lambeau’s former college roommate, who pushes the closed-off Will to emotionally open up.
It’s a competently directed work but one whose success hinges much more on character, both in terms scripting and performance. Damon as the title character handles himself well, in spite of his characters’ abrasiveness wearing thin before the conclusion. However, the great, unfortunately-late Robin Williams is the cast’s stand-out, and his performance is undeniably one of his finest hours.
Following up that was arguably the most obscure film of the pack: Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical Beginners. The film features two intercut timelines, the chronological first depicting Mills’ stand-in Oliver (Ewan McGregor) living with his father Hal (Christopher Plummer) during the last years of the latter’s life; in particular, Oliver has to process his emotions about his father’s long-delayed coming out, precipitated by the death of Oliver’s mother. The second chain-of-events occurs shortly after Hal’s death and shows a grief-stricken Oliver beginning a relationship with Anna (Mélanie Laurent), a young French actress. Grounded in deeply human emotions but infused with an eccentric sense of mood, Beginners is a charming little delight of a film.
The next screening was of Fargo, a black dramedy starring William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard, a mediocre Minneapolis car salesman who hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife Jean (Kristin Rudrüd) as part of a plot to extort his wealthy, disapproving father-in-law Wade (Harve Presnell). When the kidnapping results in a triple homicide, Officer Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) begins to investigate. The only one of the films up to this point I had seen before. While after this viewing I still don’t consider the film to be one of my absolute favorites among the Coen Brothers’ directorial efforts, it’s still damn good. It’s quite a succinct package, demonstrating the Coens’ strengths, i.e. excellent framing containing thoroughly memorable characters who speak in sharp and rhythmic dialogue, all in a 90 minutes-or-so runtime.
Succeeding Fargo was the comedy classic Airplane!, another I had not previously had the privilege of seeing. A parodic take on the disaster film genre, some aspects of the film have aged less than gracefully, the gleefully absurdist humor made the watch worth it.
Speaking of absurdity, while I tapped out for the final film of the marathon, Furious 7, I
can recall that your enjoyment will mostly be contingent upon your enjoyment of previous films in the Fast & Furious franchise. I say “mostly” because Jason Statham and Kurt Russell provide entertainment to the proceedings sufficient even for franchise agnostics, while the film’s finale is a genuinely touching tribute the series’ late star Paul Walker.
All-in-all, watching these definitely wasn’t the worst way to spend a weekend; if this does indeed become a tradition for the Denison Film Society, perhaps the sparsely attended event will have more an audience next time around.