Movie Project #43: A Beautiful Mind [2001]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

A Beautiful Mind [2001]

A Beautiful Mind [2001]
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Sylvia Nasar (book)
Country: USA
Genre: Biography/Drama
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany
Running Time: 135 minutes

(This post contains spoilers.)

The evolution of John Nash (Russell Crowe) in A Beautiful Mind is nothing short of remarkable.

In 1947, as a graduate student at Princeton University, Nash is a bold, cocky young man. He is confident in his mathematical talent, but his social skills are lacking. A flamboyant roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), helps bring him out of his shell, and eventually he fits in with a new circle of friends.

A Beautiful Mind [2001]

Nash’s personal growth is even more successful after college, as he gets a job as a professor at MIT, and he begins dating (and later marries) one of his very attractive students, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). And just as he starts to grow tired of his day-to-day work, he gets a top-secret offer from a high-ranking Pentagon official, William Parcher (Ed Harris). Nash is confidentially hired on as a codebreaker, with his assignment being to find and decode hidden messages that the Russians placed into newspapers and magazines.

There’s just one problem. Parcher isn’t real.

Nash suffers from schizophrenia, and he is constantly imagining people and situations that don’t exist. Because he believes he is part of a classified government assignment, he becomes increasingly paranoid that the Russians are after him, and this begins to greatly impact his personal and professional life. Eventually, he is taken in by a psychiatrist, Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer), though the treatment at this time was only shock therapy.

A Beautiful Mind [2001]

The middle years of Nash’s life finds him struggling with his mental illness, unable to take care of his young son and also unable to work. The film’s big Hollywood moment arrives later on when Nash begins visiting MIT daily, eventually coming to terms with his hallucinations and getting his job back as a result. And, to make his story even more inspirational, the man earns a Nobel Peace Prize.

It’s a beautiful story, even if it does get a bit too schmaltzy at times. Russell Crowe does a phenomenal job as the very real (and still alive) Nash, and his mental illness is treated tactfully. Some bits of Nash’s actual life aren’t mentioned in the film, such as his bisexuality and his child out of wedlock, but director Ron Howard has claimed that this is not meant to be a literal representation. The rest of the performances, particularly that of Connelly and Harris, are excellent, and the acting as a whole helps elevate this film.

8/10

Movie Project #11: Y Tu Mamá También [2001]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Y Tu Mamá También [2001]

Y Tu Mamá También [2001]
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón, Carlos Cuarón
Country: Mexico
Genre: Drama
Starring: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna
Running Time: 106 minutes

Reason for inclusion: I can’t remember where I first heard about this film, but it caught my attention years ago. Since then, I have seen it pop up in many “best of” lists, which has made me want to see it even more.

Accolades: New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film, One Oscar nomination (Best Original Screenplay), two BAFTA nominations, one Golden Globe nomination

It seems only fitting that I follow up Luis Buñuel’s fantastic erotica, Belle de Jour, a film that showed little in the way of nudity, with Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, a film that revels in its sexual freedom.

Here is a film that takes pieces from many cinematic themes — a coming of age story, a road movie, a tale of best friends, and the seduction of an older woman to a much younger male — and ties them altogether into something very unique. I can’t say I have ever seen a film like it, even though it still feels familiar.

Y Tu Mamá También [2001]

Julio (Gael García Bernal, a recognizable face from Amores Perros) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are two teenage boys that are also best friends. They seem inseparable, especially when their girlfriends go away for the summer. Now free to do whatever they like, they party, drink, do drugs and try to get laid whenever possible. At a wedding, they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), the Spanish wife of one of Tenoch’s cousins. Both teens are instantly smitten with her and, in jest, they invite her on a road trip to a secluded beach that no one knows about. She finds their gesture flattering — and amusing — but politely declines. Later, when it appears her marriage has hit a rough patch, she decides to take them up on their offer, much to their surprise.

Y tu mamá también [2002]

Julio, Tenoch and Luisa all hit the road together and drive through the Mexican countryside in search of this mysterious beach. This gives everyone involved — us included — to learn something new. For us, this trip provides a glimpse through rural Mexico, showing economic disparity while also beautifully evoking its many different cultures. For the characters, they are all discovering new things about themselves and each other, for better or for worse. It goes without saying that things will not be the same by the time they come back.

Y Tu Mamá También is frank with its subject matter, and full-frontal nudity is a common occurrence. However, there is nothing sleazy about this film, and in fact, it should be commended for not concealing anything. This is a wonderfully told story that feels raw and authentic. Best yet, it is honest, and by the end of the film I felt like I really knew these characters. All three grow up, just not perhaps in the way you might expect.

9/10

Poll Results: Favorite Film from Roger Ebert’s Top 10 List

This one was a nail-biter, but we have a winner:

2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]

THE RESULTS:
– 2001: A Space Odyssey: 6 votes
– Apocalypse Now: 5 votes
– Citizen Kane: 5 votes
– Vertigo: 3 votes
– The Tree of Life: 2 votes
– The General: 1 vote
– La Dolce Vita: 1 vote
– Raging Bull: 1 vote
– Aguirre, Wrath of God: 0 votes
– Tokyo Story: 0 votes

Consider me biased, but I am *very* pleased with these results. 2001: A Space Odyssey may very well be my favorite film of all time, so it’s great to see it end up on top against some amazing competition. A little surprised that Ebert’s #1 film, Aguirre, Wrath of God, didn’t get a single vote though.

This Week’s Poll: This weekend saw the new Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, finish first at the box office. Harrison Ford is one of the stars of this film, and it got me thinking about his long and prolific career. This week’s poll is a pick two: what is Harrison Ford’s best film? Will this come down to Star Wars vs. Indiana Jones? If so, which ones? Perhaps Blade Runner or The Fugitive can push their way to the top? Let us know what you think!

happy-birthday

Also, today is my birthday! While I will be busy working through the night, I plan on taking the day off tomorrow to celebrate. My plan? Spend the day at the movies! I will be seeing at least three films tomorrow, with the tentative lineup being Spring Breakers, Trance and The Place Beyond the Pines. If I’m up for it, I might squeeze in either Evil Dead or 42 later. Should be a fun and rewarding day after the madness that has been the last week!

Have a great week, folks!