Follow Me! Pretty Please?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mr. Holland's Opus

Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin…

#343: Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995).  Oh my, I’ve been slacking!  It was an “eventful” weekend at work, which was exhausting.  So, I have a lot of catching up to do.  Wheee!

Today’s movie is Mr. Holland’s Opus.  This is essentially a love letter to music teachers everywhere.  And since my most memorable (in a good way) teachers have been, for the most part, music teachers, I love this movie.  Every time I watch it, I want to be a teacher, but then I remember how it ends and decide that I don’t want to put up with that crap.  And I am constantly grateful for those who are willing to in order to help mold the minds of today’s youth.

OK, so here are the main players:

Glenn Holland: Played by Richard Dreyfuss.  Mr. Holland is a musician who, like all writers have a novel in their desk, has a symphony on his piano.  He takes a job as a high school music teacher as a “fall-back”, and grows to love it.

Iris Holland: Played by Glenne Headly.  She is Mr. Holland’s rock.  She’s a photographer, and supports her husband.  She is also a very dedicated mom.

Bill Meister: Played by Jay Thomas.  Bill is the P.E. teacher/coach at the high school Mr. Holland teaches at.  They become best friends, and he sticks by Mr. Holland for thirty years.  He loves being a coach and teacher and truly cares about his students.

Principal Jacobs: Played by Olympia Dukakis.  Principal Jacobs is a bit of a hard-ass on Mr. Holland, but she genuinely cares about her students and pushes Mr. Holland to be the best teacher he can be. 

Vice Principal Wolters: Played by William H. Macy.  VP Wolters is kind of a jerk.  He is a stick in the mud old school administrator who fights Mr. Holland on everything.  He sort of comes around at the end, but really, he’s a jerk.

The Rundown: 
This movie basically follows the career of a high school music teacher in Portland, Oregon over thirty years, beginning in 1965.  Glenn Holland does not want to be a teacher, and it takes about half the school year before he hits his stride and finds his footing, but then he becomes a dedicated, caring and successful teacher.  The movie goes along, stopping at various points in his career to show the different relationships with various students.  There’s the shy clarinet player who is terrible, but yearns to be good; the not-so-bright wrestler who needs the grade to stay on the team that he teaches to play the bass drum; the stoner that he convinces to get straight.  There’s also the young high school senior who, when he feels trapped in his life, serves as his muse and his last chance to get out of his small town teaching life and do what he’s always wanted – compose a great symphony.  Of course, he chooses the life he has over the life he could have.

The film ends with the tragic cutting of the arts (everything – performing arts, visual arts, you name it) to save the budget.  UGH, this is all too real.  There is a reason why Save the Music is around, people!  Feeling that his whole career has been meaningless, that he can just be tossed aside so casually, Mr. Holland moves out of the music classroom he has occupied for thirty years.  On his way out the door, he hears noise coming from the auditorium.  It is a going away shindig in his honor.  Former students are there, faculty friends are there, current students are there.  If you are prone to crying like I am, this is where you bust out all the tissues you own. 

His first student, the clarinet player, is now the Governor of the state, and makes a speech about how much he influenced her, stating that the students that have walked the halls of their high school are his symphony.  I’m getting a little choked up just writing this, y’all…

Then a whole bunch of students past and present are revealed from behind the curtain, and Mr. Holland leads them in the first-ever performance of the opus he had been working on for the past thirty years.  *SOOOOOOB!*

The film also follows his personal life – the birth of his son, the discovery that his son is def, and his decades-long depression over the fact that he thinks he can’t share what he loves the most (music) with his son.  They find a common ground, and develop a relationship, and he finds a way to connect with his son.
I love this movie.  I damn near cry several times throughout, and always lose it at the end.  More education administrators need to watch this.  And they need to stop cutting arts budgets… OK, rant time:

I was a horrendous student when I was in high school.  I always thought I was stupid, because once upon a time, I had a teacher that pretty much told me I was.  But that’s a different story for a different blog.  Anyway, I grew up in a house of music and movies and theatre.  I wanted to be an actress and a singer from a young age.  If there hadn’t been an arts program at my school, I would have been completely lost.  It was the only place I excelled.  It was the only area in which I put in serious effort.  All of my closest friends were artists in some way or another.  Even though I wasn’t a visual artist, I spent most of my free time in the art room with them, attempting to create something.  And the art teachers supported that.  But my true love was performing.  As I got older, my confidence in my performing skills waned, but I still love the arts, support the arts, and see the need for them in school.  Is it any wonder our society is so culturally lacking?  There is no appreciation for art in school, why should it be appreciated outside of school?  Seriously.  Students need creative outlets and artistic expression.  Stop cutting our damn arts!  Start taking education seriously!  OK, end of rant…

There are a few lines that always stand out to me in this movie:

“A teacher has two jobs; fill young minds with knowledge, yes, but more important, give those minds a compass so that that knowledge doesn't go to waste.” – Principal Jacobs to Mr. Holland while he is still trying to find his footing as a teacher.

“Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about.” – Mr. Holland to VP Wolters (who is now the Principal) about the budget cuts.  Also? SO.FREAKING.TRUE.

“Playing music is supposed to be fun. It's about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it's not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can't teach you that other stuff.” – Mr. Holland to Gertrude Lang, the struggling clarinet player.

If you love music, want to be a teacher, or both, then why exactly haven’t you seen this movie?  Even if you aren’t a teacher or as passionate about music as some, this is still a feel-good movie, and Richard Dreyfuss is spectacular in this role.  After you watch this, make sure to track down a teacher who meant something to you and thank them.  Trust me: they remember you, and appreciate it.  So, I would like to offer a shout-out to two of my favourite teachers: Ms. Woods, Hanover Middle/High School Chorus teacher and Mrs. Johnson, Hanover School District Strings teacher.  Both had a profound influence on my life, and every time I listen to classical music or open my mouth to sing, they are both in my heart.

That’s a wrap!  Up next: quirky Disney.

No comments:

Post a Comment