8:00 PM, 19th October, 2012
I'll be honest with you. I am not really a fan of the movies of either Ferrell or Galifianakis. But I have been a fan of their political parodies of American politics over the past decade. Ferrell does a lovely impersonation of George Bush Jr, being confused about nearly everything. Galifianakis has become one of the most famous Karl Marx impersonators in history, but his public particularly enjoy his character of Marty Huggins - a very closeted Southerner who can't resist the limelight.
In The Campaign, Ferrell's George Bush transforms into Cam Brady, a very successful politician who is particularly skilled at sounding like he agrees with everyone - even though he is in fact just as shallow a corporate tool as the rest of his colleagues in Congress. The election is looming and Cam is unopposed... until Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) signs on to challenge him.
Marty is, generally speaking, naïve about everything twenty first century - and large parts of the twentieth century. It should be easy for Cam to defeat him, but this is the age of the insatiable beast that is the Twenty-four Hour News Cycle. To feed the beast the candidates are forced to go to extremes just to get their message out. It makes them pretend that they are what they are not and it is exhausting for them in a deeply comedic existential sense as they struggle to keep up with who they apparently now are, and what they apparently now want to be.
Spoiler Alert! Tim Robbins's character 'Bob Roberts', does not make an appearance in this movie. Which is really disappointing. Oh well.
9:40 PM, 19th October, 2012
Hart (Bottoms) is a very intelligent new arrival at Harvard, excited to begin his law degree and ready to make a name for himself. What he is not ready for is Professor Kingsfield (Houseman) - the man who has seemingly taken it upon himself to ensure second year Harvard law classes have as few students as possible. Kingsfield wrote the book on contract law, and is prepared to throw it at any student he comes in contact with.
Life is made even harder for Hart when he falls in love with Susan (Wagner, of "Bionic Woman" fame). It's a challenging relationship that threatens to distract him from the already difficult coursework he is tasked with. When it turns out that Susan is Professor Kingsfield's daughter things get even more difficult for Hart, who is now trying to impress both a professor and a potential father-in-law.
The Paper Chase is an intelligent film which, at its heart, is about the relationship between a student and teacher. Kingsfield is a tough nut to crack - he respects Hart's intelligence and clear respect for the course material but is not about to show any signs of affection. Hart feels equal parts fear and anger toward Kingsfield, but above all respects the Professor, to the extent that he is willing to battle through that fear to try and impress. The script and performances are wonderfully natural in regard to this relationship, everything rings true and that makes for an enjoyable ride as events play out.
Houseman won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance, and it's well-deserved - in a character so rigid he does a masterful job of presenting subtle nuances, allowing the audience to catch a brief glimpse of the truth behind the gruff mask. He steals every scene he's in with ease and the film is well worth seeing for his performance alone. So come along and enjoy - perhaps you'll learn something to help deal with that awful Professor you're struggling with at the ANU (though it should be noted that the ANUFG does not endorse breaking into university libraries for any reason).