Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Prodigy/Genius


This is what I call fashionably late. It's still Thursday, and this is another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, but it's about twenty-three hours after I would normally post for this weekly meme hosted by the wonderful Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. The topic she has chosen for us this week is movies depicting a prodigy, or genius. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. After all, I is highly edumahcated. Um...yeah...let's just get to the movies.


Searching for Bobby Fischer
(1993)
Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc) is a little boy with a big talent for chess. He wants be a champion like his idol, the legendary Bobby Fischer. His parents do their best to help him achieve his dream. What he didn't realize is how much pressure comes with such great ability. It's based on a true story, and is a wonderful tale, wonderfully told. The cast is excellent, too, and includes the likes of Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Dan Hedaya, and William H. Macy. Oh, almost forgot, Laurence Fishburne plays a mentor, of sorts, for our hero, a guy who hustles chess games in the park.




Akeelah and the Bee
(2006)
Some kids are chess geniuses, others are spelling whizzes. One such prodigy is Akeelah (Keke Palmer). She appears to be just a regular kid in South Central, Los Angeles. She gets bitten by the spelling bug and becomes determined to win the National Spelling Bee. Of course, this doesn't always sit well with her pragmatic mother (Angela Bassett) who wants Akeelah to concentrate on the rest of her schooling. Laurence Fishburne plays a mentor, of sorts, for our hero, an English professor who decides to coach her.




21
(2008)
Some kids are chess geniuses, some spelling whizzes, others are flat out mathematicians. That's the case with Ben Campbell and a roomful of his friends. Unlike the other folks in this post, they decide to use their powers for evil...depending on your point of view. Campbell and company take their skills to Las Vegas and promptly rip off the casinos with a massive card-counting scheme. Like the first movie, this is based on a true story. White-washing aside (most of the people involved were of Asian-American descent, yet most of the cast is white), it's a film better than often given credit for thanks, in no small part, to Kevin Spacey's performance. Oh, almost forgot, Laurence Fishburne plays a mentor, of sorts, for our heroes...wait, that's not quite right. Fishburne is most certainly in the movie, but he's no mentor. He's a casino security chief desperate to shut down our heroes.




30 comments:

  1. I've only seen Searching for Bobby Fischer of these, and it's one I really need to see again. I don't know exactly what it is, but there's so much in there that I like. Such a good cast. There's that great balance between Fishburne's loose and trash talking style and the measured clinical style of Ben Kingsley. And the relationship between Josh and his father is one of my favorite parent/child film relationships.

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    1. I think you've hit on all the reasons why it's such a fantastic watch. That father-son relationship is particularly perfect.

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  2. Searching for Bobby Fisher is a film I love as it's one of those films I saw as a kid that stuck with me. Akeelah and the Bee is a very underrated film as I think read an interview with Scarlett Johansson by the man who made the film as he was asking her about directing kids for that film. 21 I don't like at all despite Laurence Fishburne who is the best thing in that film. I just didn't like the flashiness as I was disgusted by the way Vegas looked visually. It's some of the worst digital photography I've seen in a film.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed Searching for Bobby Fischer and Akeelah and the Bee. Both are wonderful films. I acknowledge fully that I like 21 a little better than most people. I don't think it was great, by any means, but I enjoyed it.

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  3. I've always wanted to watch Akeelah and the Bee, time to hunt for a copy. I've seen 21 and found it dull despite its plot.

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    1. Oh, please watch Akeelah and the Bee. It's pretty easy to love. I figured I'd get a lot of flack for 21, lol.

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  4. I like that you went with Akeelah and the Bee. I only saw that movie once, but it's something I'd like to revisit.

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    1. I've seen it several times. It's definitely worth a revisit.

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  5. I need to see Akeelah and the Bee.

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  6. First of all I LOVE that top picture! So cute. You know I love a theme within a theme and Larry Fishburne is a good one to have. He does seem to play that adviser role quite a bit come to think of it. Like the wise ol' owl!

    Searching for Bobby Fischer has popped up a few places this week. I like it quite a bit, the cast was uniformly excellent including Joe Mantegna-what's become of him? He used to be in all kinds of movies. The film does effectively show the kind of pressure that a gift such as Josh's places on a child, it's a heavy burden. In that way it reminded me of Jodie Foster's Little Man Tate.

    Just saw Akeelah and the Bee during the last year. It was highly entertaining, frustrating at times but an inspiring story at its conclusion. While I understood Angela Bassett's character's reservations she pissed me off plenty throughout the movie.

    21 is a nice unexpected choice...I just wish it was a better movie. The problem lies in the primary cast. Kevin Spacey's work is so far above the bland main cast, who were they again? Stick figures? Milquetoasts? It doesn't matter they got the job done but it would have been a more entertaining film with a more charismatic group of players.

    I initially considered picking films that starred three musically gifted prodigies, Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin and Shirley Temple, but thought that wasn't quite in the proper spirit of the theme. So instead I chose a theme within the theme this week focusing on films about musical prodigies one of which did star Miss Temple.

    The Legend of 1900 (1998)-In the year 1900 Danny Boodmann, a stoker (Bill Nunn) on an American ship discovers an abandoned baby left on board. Taking him in to raise as his own he gives him a long unwieldy name eventually shortened to 1900 as the pair live their life at sea. As 1900 grows his musical genius becomes apparent and he becomes the ship’s mascot. After a tragedy befalls Danny 1900 remains on board growing to manhood (where he is played by Tim Roth) never touching dry land but continuing to hone his skill (including a fantastic sequence where he plays a waltz during a storm at sea). In time he befriends Max, a trumpeter in the ship orchestra (Taylor Pruitt Vince) and it is through his reverie we learn 1900’s story.

    Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)-Starring Shirley Temple, one of Hollywood’s premier musical prodigies (in terms of dollars & cents THE musical prodigy) as the rich girl of the title. Barbara (that would be Shirl) on her way to boarding school is left to her own devices when her nanny is killed in an accident. Barbara unaware of this but not wanting to go to the school wanders the city until she becomes acquainted with and is taken in by a pair of down on their luck performers Jimmy & Jerry Dolan (Jack Oakie & Alice Faye). Thinking she’s an orphan and realizing that she’s a musical prodigy they put Barbara in their act as their daughter. Soon they hit the big time with their own radio show overseen by ad exec Margaret Allen (Gloria Stuart of Titanic fame) where they’re heard by Barbara’s widowed father who has been searching for her frantically. One of the better Temple vehicles with a first rate supporting cast, both Oakie and Alice Faye get several chances to strut their stuff, and no matter how you feel about her Shirley was a bundle of talent.

    Amadeus (1984)-Multi Oscar winning story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) and Antonio Salieri (an Oscar winning F. Murray Abraham) and how Salieri’s jealousy of Mozart’s genius lead to great tragedy for both. Amazing music, performances, set design and direction. An essential film.

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    1. Thanks! I saw that pic and immediately fell in love with it, too.

      Searching for Bobby Fischer is an excellent film. I'm glad it was popular this week. Haven't seen Little Man Tate. I'll put that on the watchlist. I also need to see the latest chess prodigy movie, Queen of Katwe. Hopefully, I'll be watching that one pretty soon.

      Glad you enjoyed Akeelah and the Bee. I'm fairly certain Angela Bassett was supposed to piss you off, so she did her job, wonderfully.

      21 wasn't great, I know. I still liked it.

      Haven't seen any of your choices, this week. Amadeus is the saddest of these oversights, since I've been planning on seeing it, literally since 1984. Ugh. Maybe a Blind Spot entry for next year.

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    2. Don't wait for next year. Seriously, Amadeus is truly amazing.

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  7. I remember when I saw 21, I wished I knew how to count cards to get that $$$. But, then the ending told me that wasn't a good idea ;)

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  8. hehe it's okay, Dell - I posted mine later than usual this week, too!

    LOVE Searching for Bobby Fischer and Akeelah. I liked 21, it was good fun, but no more than that. LOVE the mini-Laurence Fishburne fest you've got going on here, though!

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    1. Glad someone else at least liked 21. Good fun is a perfect description. And Laurence Fishburne is the man.

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  9. You made me laugh! I'm right with you in the genus part..er....ok so I haven't seen Akeelah and the Bee but it has been on my list for years. 21 is ok and I love Kevin Spacey but just looking at Jonah Hill makes me want to smack him. I haven't seen Searching for BF but it's on my list. Such a shame what a loon Bobby Fischer became but there is that fine line between genius and madness. A line I will never be near although my hubby would say I can be close to the madness area.

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    1. Genus, nice, lol. Please see Akeelah and the Bee and Searching for Bobby Fischer. Both are wonderful films. And don't we all delve into madness every once in a while?

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  10. Dell, It was great to read about your movie picks. The only one I know by name is "Searching for Bobby Fischer". I can't say your first and second film choices would draw me in but the story plot of your last movie feature sounds enticing. The way you presented these films sorta, kinda wanna make me to see them. I'll check Netflix to see if any are available for streaming. Have a filmtastic weekend and thanks for stopping by! :D

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    1. Thanks for coming over. I must say, if picking between the two, Akeelah and the Bee is the better film despite having the less exciting premise.

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  11. I like chess and ought to watch Searching for Bobby Fischer. Nobody's mentioned Good Will Hunting here which to me is a great film about genius.

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    1. I highly recommend Searching for Bobby Fischer. No worries on Good Will Hunting. A number of the people who commented here did mention it on their own blogs for TMP.

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  12. I've always heard good things about Akeelah and the Bee. Spelling competitions have never really grabbed my attention though about from the Doc Spellbound. We don't have spelling competitions in the UK, so I'll put it down to that. Tried learning CHess, just couldn't pick it up but movies seem to have a twist on it. Haven't seen 21 but the fact its based on a true story kinda had my interest.

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    1. For Akeelah, sure there's lots of spelling, but it's more about her journey to get to the big competition. Hope you give it a shot.

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  13. I'd not heard of the first one but the last two i've seen. 21 was such a cool concept. Not the main storyline but Magnolia has a junior quiz champ and one who used to be. Some amazing acting in that movie.

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    1. I hope you get to see Searching for Bobby Fischer. It's a wonderful film.

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  14. This is one of the rare times that you picked non B movies...so this time I can say I have heard of all and seen 2 of them.

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