Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Three movies

Astonishingly, I've seen three movies over the last few days. Two in a theatre, even. And, even more surprisingly, all were good--in very different ways.

I probably shouldn't have watched Etre et Avoir while knitting. After all, I don't speak French, and you need to be watching the screen pretty consistently for subtitles to be truly useful. Nonetheless I enjoyed the movie: a slow-moving documentary about a one-room schoolhouse in rural France. The film begins in the winter and ends in early summer, so we take the kids (some 12-15 of them) through about half the school year with their teacher, Monsieur Gomez, who is a year from retirement. I had thought maybe there'd be some drama about his upcoming retirement, or about the multi-cultural makeup of the classroom (one child is Chinese or Korean, another may be of Arab descent--or may not), but really, it's just about going to school and the kind of relationship a teacher can have with a small group of students. I was sad to learn there's some controversy about the film, but it's still worth seeing: a quiet gem.

Then, Happy Feet: the antithesis, maybe, of Etre et Avoir, but still a lot of fun. Too much plot right at the end--suddenly it's all about not only the environment, but immigration, fundamentalism, and freedom--but it all works out eventually. And the soundtrack, especially for viewers from my generation, is hilarious, including the best rendition of "Somebody to Love" ever.

Finally, Stranger than Fiction, which Mark and I went to see last night. (Two adults! Who have children! At the movies! By themselves!) I didn't think I liked Will Ferrell, but this is one funny, and smart, movie. I'm not sure I really have anything smart to say about it, but I think it says some interesting things about literature and free will. Are we bound by the conventions of the genres we (think we) inhabit? Can plots go wherever they want? Can I have Queen Latifah as my assistant?

Oh, and can I have Dustin Hoffman's version of the English professor's job, where you teach five classes a term but are free to meet with random folks off the street any time, and have plenty of time left over to write books and serve as the "faculty life guard"? That's one great job.

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