Image courtesy of Florida State University

Bwog’s Official Cinephile Mark Hay uses the silver screen for some Spring Break pointers.

This week’s movie list could be about anything–intrigue, crisis, existential inertia, curb stomping. But, just like you, the only thing Bwog can concentrate on right now is the imminent salvation of spring break, and these films reflect our monomania. O Valhalla of rest, O promise of change, save us! O save us from the ruts into which we have fallen and from these God-damned midterms from which escape seems inconceivable!

Proudly (and slightly prematurely) we present the answer to your prayers (if what you prayed for was a list of three movies relating to your spring break):  there’s one about what you wish you could do, one about what you should do, and one what you inevitably will do if (when!) you return home.

What You Wish You Could Do

The Graduate (1967)

As evidenced by its continued popularity and the inability of modern-day imitators to supplant it, director Mike Nichols’s opus is absolutely anthemic for our culture. Benjamin (Dustan Hoffman), upon returning home from college, is confronted with the incessant buzz and urgent pressure from family (and, even worse, family friends) to make something of himself–to continue his life as the all-American boy. Benjamin, however, just like you or me, wants nothing more than to sit for a while and adjust to the shock of being pitched from the educational bubble into the real, and really scary, world.  

His escapades encompass our deepest desires: to indulge in ourselves, to satisfy our ego and escape our destinies (in this case by gettin’ some in an affair with the emblematic Mrs. Robinson), to escape and defy the pressures of our families and our obligations, to eschew sense for self and still somehow find everything in its right place in the end. Sure, over spring break you may not have an affair with a MILF, nor devote yourself to your libido, ego or any other Freudian force, nor find true love in the process of wild self-gratification, but you know you want to. And watching the innocent and relatable Benjamin wander through this meandering and searching farcical epic is possibly the most realistic and harmless way of realizing such a desire.


What You Should Do

American History X (1998)

On the topic of director Tony Kaye’s one flirtation with everlasting glory, many are too quick to attack the film for its shortcomings.  Some have gone so far as to say the film feels too much like a loosely tied series of powerful scenes, focusing too much on the always somewhat undeveloped Derek (Edward Norton), an ex-neo-Nazi on the path to redemption. But that’s exactly it: Derek doesn’t fully click until his journey begins and never feels fully transformed until the very last scene of the film. Only the entire process of the movie, the fragmentation, the isolated moments of poignancy (often shown through a rich black and white filter, accenting contrasts and highlighting poignant features of the shot) can fully convey the power of the sudden thrusts of revelation that drive the slow process of change. 

Kaye’s film revolves around this change, the catalyst for its clear and meaningful discussion of racism and violence. Peace and reconciliation, the realization of our ideals and all our idle talk:  wouldn’t life be so much better if we could just push ourselves to become that which we know we should be? The character of Derek is a promise that no matter how far we fall, no matter what we believe, we can always return to grace, though the price may be terrible. And at the very least, it is compelling to watch the journey in someone else; go ahead, watch the change. 


What You Most Likely Will Do

American Graffiti (1973)

Director George Lucas has taken us to many a strange and wonderful world, flown us around a galaxy (far far away) and back, but he has only once shown us something so strange and so fascinating as the innocence of home.   

Something about the simplicity of the world of Lucas’s American Graffiti makes it understandable that the aimless drives along the main drag–the long night of wandering–is somehow more fascinating than the occasional breaks from the journey. Always, the characters are in search of something, of the elusive blonde in the T-bird, of Wolfman Jack, of the thrill of the race, but always they reach out for some beauty in their lives, some divinity, and fall back to the meandering drive. The big race, the monumental climax, ends as quickly as it begins, with a tire blow-out a few feet down the road, and even the extremity of the explosion of the car is muted by the focus on the people climbing out and falling right back into the normalcy of their lives. Though long and slow, the film has a gripping and profoundly reminiscent innocence, and the journey–its path and its conclusion–is ultimately cathartic. Just as, undoubtably, your trips home will also be. 

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