If love… then what? (2)
(A Movie Review – 2nd of 3 parts)
It might be surprising to some that a review of a movie about how a dictionary was created would bear the title “If love… then what?”
No… it’s not an attempt to romanticize the love for words of the lexicographers who dedicated their lives to create a comprehensive compilation of all known English words. I choose that title because of that very interesting twist in the biopic involving Eliza and William.
The Professor and the Madman is based on a book with the same title featuring the true story of Sir James Murray, a Scottish lexicographer and first editor of what is now known as The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon and lexicographer researcher who contributed significantly to the creation of the said dictionary. The latter suffered from paranoid delusions and he killed a man (Eliza’s husband in the story) whom he accused of breaking into his room. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital and it was while undergoing treatment that he (reportedly) made his contributions to the OED.
Given all the aforementioned you wouldn’t think that this would be an interesting movie. How in the world would a movie about creating a dictionary generate excitement?
Well… I trust in the imagination and creativity of the scriptwriters
While obviously, the main plot revolves around the events that led to the creation of the OED, as I expected, the creative minds behind the movie injected subplots to make the flick more literary and cinematic.
Those subplots were stitched together using as threads the literary themes friendship, redemption, forgiveness, and love.
The main plot is centered upon diligence as the source of its theme. Ada, James’ wife, defined diligence to the members of the Oxford University Press. She said the following to the gentlemen deliberating the ouster of her husband from the OED project – “Diligence. I looked it up in your dictionary. Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken. Persistence. Application. But also, toil… and pain.”
Those words encapsulate the kind of efforts James and William exerted to create the OED. The persistence they have shown in the pursuit of such a daunting endeavor is worthy of emulation and it is perhaps the most important value viewers could learn from the movie.
But as expected, James and Williams should meet an opposition to satisfy one very important requirement in story writing – conflict. Without it, the movie would turn into just a plain documentary. That opposition came from Ben and Phillip, the one whom Ada addressed as Mr. Gell when she gatecrashed into that meeting of the OED project’s oversight committee to speak on behalf (and in defense) of William and her husband.
Ben and Phillip, along with Dr. Richard Brayne (supervisor of the psychiatric hospital where William was undergoing treatment… or is it where he was incarcerated), are the story’s villains.
The maneuverings Ben and Phillip do to make things hard for James and William represents what I think is the main conflict of the story – Will Ben and Phillip succeed in diminishing the role of James in the creation of the OED and in striking out William as a contributor?
The main plot revolves around the conflict aforementioned. But the story has another conflict, one that, in my opinion, overshadowed the main conflict. It is the one that involves William and Eliza.
As previously mentioned, Eliza is the wife of the man whom William killed while having a fit of delusion. This represents the other conflict in the story – Will Eliza forgive William?
If love… then what? (1)
(A Movie Review – 1st of 3 parts)
Just recently I watched the movie “The Professor and the Madman.” The said biographical drama drew my interest because of this line in an advertisement – “It’s [produced] to teach you an important lesson in the history of the English language.” That tickler ignited the student (and the teacher) of history and language in me.
What made me more interested to watch the movie is it having Mel Gibson and Sean Penn leading the cast. I have watched many of the movies of the said actors and I was curious how the two would fare in this one.
Before watching the movie, I tried to read on the Internet some more information about it. I chanced upon an article summarizing what the critics said about the biopic. I don’t usually read reviews before watching a particular movie but because this is not a new one, it was actually released in 2019, I decided to read the article and two more after it. Majority of the reviews thumbed down the movie. The comments I read were bad. Of those comments, none could be worse than this – “It is the latest fiasco in bad movie history.” The critics were also not so kind with what they said about the performance of the lead actors.
Other people might not bother to watch the movie at all anymore after reading such negative reviews… but not me.
As far as I am concerned, there is more to a story (or a movie) than what critics say about it. I consider reviews as opinions that could possibly be subjective. And if the negative reviews would discourage me from watching it, I would never know what I might be missing.
The subjects I taught in the Philippines before I came here to South Korea include Literary Criticism and Stylistics. I could wear the hat of a movie critic if I choose to. But whenever I watch movies, I put my feet in the shoes of an ordinary movie fan. I put aside all those literary and linguistic devices I was trained to use when dealing with stories. I would always switch off all those literary theories and schools of criticism when the movie starts. All I want to do is enjoy what I am about to see.
Admittedly though, there’s one “ism” that’s not completely switched off while I watch the movie – Appreciative Inquiry. And if you’re familiar with this philosophical model, you know it would not prevent me from enjoying the movie.
I leave the critiquing to the people paid (or whose hobby is) to find faults in movies. I watch films for entertainment and for the possibility of learning a lesson or two about life. I always bear in mind that the stories we read or watch in movies do inform, instruct, and somehow prepare us for life if we choose to internalize the morals the story presents to us.
And I was glad I decided to watch the movie despite the negative reviews I read because at the end, I did not only gain more insights about the English language. The movie also broadened my perspectives on fourvcommon themes in literature – friendship, redemption, forgiveness, and love. It wasn’t just the student (and the teacher) of history and language in me that experienced satisfaction after watching the movie, the student (and teacher) of literature that I am was also delighted.
The Thanos Effect
It was surprising that nobody moved from their seats when the movie AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ended. I wasn’t sure if they just wanted to see the post-credits scene which Marvel has been using as teasers or they could not believe how easily Thanos defeated the team of Avengers that stood on his way and turned many of them into dust after merely snapping his fingers.
I’m used to seeing a few people beginning to move to the exits of the movie theatre when the post-credits start rolling. But that time it was different. It was like Thanos applied his reality-bending power on us and welded our a – – es where we were seated.
Nobody stood. Like me, they were glued on their seats perhaps with jaws dropped and eyes wide open not believing what just happened. They probably didn’t expect it to end the way it did. Spoilers have already warned the movie goers (who do not mind reading them) that Avengers would die trying to prevent Thanos from getting all the infinity stones. However, they and I never thought it would be that many.
It seemed that just like me, the moviegoers stayed for they were hoping that instead of a teaser what Marvel designed for the post-credit scene is to have everything Thanos did getting undone. Perhaps the gods and goddesses (creators) of the Marvel “movieverse” could have possibly used it as an opportunity to introduce time-travelling LORD IMMORTUS who would have moved back everything to the time that Thor attacked Thanos, tell Thor in the process to change his aim and make him target, not the titan’s chest but his arm with the gauntlet so he would not be able to put his thumb on his middle finger and do that infamous finger snap.
The post-credit scene which Marvel cruelly put at the very end was not something I hoped for though. There was no LORD IMMORTUS, not even one of the TIME-KEEPERS who may have possibly not approved of Thanos’ intentions. What we saw instead was a confirmation that Gamora’s stepfather succeeded in “murdering half of all life in the universe.”
At least those among us in the theatre that time who previously read spoilers had the idea that certain Avengers would die. But the spoiler-phobic movie fans there who may have intentionally shut themselves off any information about the movie, and might perhaps avoided watching the trailers (which I sometimes do), were gravely disappointed for perhaps they were expecting an ending similar to the first two installments of the Avengers’ series where all of their favorite characters survived (except for Quicksilver in THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON) and emerged victorious.
It was possible that not a single one of us in the theatre was heartbroken when Loki died. Moviegoers dislike him anyway. That’s the unfortunate role of bad dudes like him in stories – to be hated. None probably minded when after killing the Trickster Thanos said, “There would be no resurrection this time.” But I was thinking if everyone of us went back to that line and started wondering if that applies to all of the super, mighty and seemingly invincible Avengers who disappeared in thin air after Thanos made that murderous snap of his fingers.
The Winter Soldier was the first to flake into nothing. I, possibly the other moviegoers also, waited with bated breath who would go next after him.
Then one by one the other Avengers disintegrated – the Black Panther, the Scarlet Witch, and the Falcon. Those whom Thanos defeated in Titan were not spared. Dr. Strange, the Guardians – Star-Lord, Groot, Drax and Mantis were also reduced to dust.
Also killed by Thanos, aside from Loki, were Gamora, Heimdall, and the Vision.
The silence that engulfed the movie theatre after the post-credit scene reminds me of a funeral.
I am not sure If anyone of us cried. I didn’t. I was just a little bit moved when Peter Parker sobbed unabashedly clinging to dear life when it became obvious to him that he was randomly chosen in Thanos’ selective slaughter.
But the post-credit scene offered a glimmer of hope. Before Nick Fury disappeared, he successfully sent what appeared to be a distress signal to Captain Marvel paving the way for “AVENGERS 4.”
Of course, some of the Avengers, if not all, will be resurrected in the next Avengers movie. As to who among them will be brought back to life is anybody’s guess.