DEVIN MEENAN, Arts & Life Editor — One of the myriad social institutions that has vanished from our lives during the era of Covid-19 is movie theaters; with the film industry’s biggest studios having recently once again pushed back their blockbuster productions to next year, it’s clear this theater-less world is the status quo for the time being. At least, for those of us not here on the Hill, where the Denison Film Society (DFS) is back to offering socially-distanced screenings in, as always, Slayter Auditorium.
In the past two weeks, DFS has screened four films, three of which I had the pleasure of attending – if you want my take, keep reading.
The first screening was “42” (2013), a biopic focused on the Brooklyn Dodgers player who wore the titular number, Jackie Robinson – the first black man to play Major League Baseball. If I had a more personal connection to the subject matter I might’ve gotten more out of “42,” for once the film ended my main thought was how it seemed of a different era, and not just because it’s a 1940s period piece.
Viewed seven years on from its release, “42” feels like a nostalgia capsule for more recent yet still distant eras, between star Chadwick Boseman’s tragic early passing and the Obama-era optimism of improving American race relations that underlies the film. Boseman’s unfairly premature passing means “42” is now one of the limited cases of display for his considerable skill as a leading man – this means my feelings for the film can’t settle on “lukewarm” like they would otherwise.“42” is best enjoyed as a tribute to not just Jackie Robinson, but Chadwick Boseman as well.
Next up was “Dear White People” (2014), an ensemble story set at the fictional, prestigious Winchester University. Using university life as a microcosm for America, “Dear White People” confronts how black people who dwell within white conformed spaces are molded into white-enforced stereotypes, even in reaction against those spaces. The film even examines how such social pressure can go both ways, with Sam (Tessa Thompson, excellent as always), the ensemble’s lynchpin and host of the radio show that gives the film its title, feeling compelled to match her personality and interests to her radical politics.
The final screening struck a more lighthearted – “School Of Rock” (2003). When middle-aged aspiring rock star Dewey Finn (Jack Black) impersonates his substitute teacher roommate to score some rent money, Finn surreptitiously recruits his new pupils for an upcoming Battle of the Bands.
A classic comedy of the current crop of Denisonians’ generation, I knew every beat of “School Of Rock” when I took my seat , but just because the movie had no surprises left to offer me doesn’t mean it had no entertainment value left either. Every comedy beat, even the ones I can recite by heart, scored a bullseye, earning, at absolute worst, an amused chuckle from yours truly. Some films earn their classic status on quality alone, and “School Of Rock” is one them – but, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.