June 25, 2008

School Ties

I've mentioned at least once on here that I attended Boston University. It's an alright place that wouldn't otherwise be worth mentioning again, but the spring issue of the alumni magazine "Bostonia" brought to light some interesting details about my alma mater:

A Class I Wouldn't Have Skipped:

If you're anything like me, you rarely let movies get away with obvious violations of the physical laws of the universe - "There's no way he could have jumped from here to there!", "Wouldn't they have been killed on impact from that?", etc. Unbelievably, there's now a course devoted to those questions.

Indeed, a genius (in the that's-so-cool sense and also the literal sense) professor named Andy Cohen teaches Cinema Physica,"an introductory physics course for nonscience majors. Every week, Cohen’s students watch movies such as Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, and Armageddon, and use class discussions and labs to examine the basic physics driving the high-octane scenes."

"The subtitle of this course should be Bruce Willis Saves the World," Cohen tells students with a laugh. The purpose of analyzing all the explosions and heroics, he explains, is to give humanities majors a truer sense of what science is — a quest for discovery rather than for memorized formulas and precise answers...When one student suggests using an equation, Cohen pounces. “Don’t say equation,” he says. “I never want to hear the word equation in this class. I hate equations.

Tell me something better than that. Too bad I was science major and had to take a full year of physics - the kind with lots of equations that I didn't understand.

Harrison Ford IS Indiana Jones:

BU somehow gets linked up with Indy 4.

"Meanwhile, the real Indiana Jones — actor Harrison Ford, that is — was elected to the board of directors of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), which is based at Boston University. AIA president Brian Rose says Ford “has played a significant role in stimulating the public’s interest in archaeological exploration.” It’s a role Ford evidently takes seriously. “Knowledge is power,” he said in a press release announcing the news, “and understanding the past can only help us in dealing with the present and the future."

These Are 6 Who "Made It?":

BU has a pretty solid acting program from my memory, though I think it's stronger in theater than it is in film or television. In "From BU to Hollywood," we meet six alumni who "have made it in one of the toughest businesses there is." They are:
  • Alfre Woodard, Actress, Class of 1974 ("Desperate Housewives," Oscar nomination for Cross Creek)
  • Michael Chiklis, Actor, Class of 1986 ("The Shield," "The Commish")
  • Ronna Kress, Casting Director, Class of 1984 (National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets)
  • Gary Fleder, Director, Class of 1985 (Kiss the Girls, the upcoming The Express)
  • Emily Deschanel, Actress, Class of 1998 (Glory Road, "Bones")
  • Krista Vernoff, Screenwriter, Class of 1993 ("Grey's Anatomy") - doesn't she look exactly like Katherine Heigl?
They're fine and all, but then I found this list:
  • Jason Alexander - Big one. I still beam with pride when I watch "Seinfeld".
  • Geena Davis - Quick, name her last movie!...umm...
  • David Dinerstein - Executive at Lakeshore Entertainment, which this year alone has given us Untraceable and Pathology. Thanks, David.
  • Olympia Dukakis - Not so much to brag about lately.
  • Faye Dunaway - Even less to brag about lately.
  • Dan Fogler - An up-and-comer, he won a Tony Award in 2005. Since then his film credits include (wow): School for Scoundrels, Good Luck Chuck, and Balls of Fury.
  • Tony Gilroy - Ugh.
  • Richard Gladstein - Produced Best Picture nominees Pulp Fiction, The Cider House Rules, and Finding Neverland. Most recently - Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. Nice.
  • Russell Hornsby - Hmm, a recognizable face despite the fact that I've missed most of his work, including the recent Stuck. Probably should have been a candidate for the MLK, Jr. biopic.
  • David E. Kelley - Writer for every TV show I've ignored for the last 10 years - and...Lake Placid.
  • Julianne Moore - What?!?! Noooooooooooooo! Click me.
  • Rosie O'Donnell - I got nothing.
  • Estelle Parsons - Wow, 81 year-old Oscar winner for Bonnie & Clyde, also on TV's "Roseanne."
  • Kim Raver - A bunch of other TV shows I've never seen - "Third Watch", "24", "The Nines", "Lipstick Jungle." Movies? How about Night at the Museum...
  • Scott Rosenberg - Interesting resumé. Although he wrote High Fidelity, his responsibility in writing Con Air, Gone in Sixty Seconds, and Kangaroo Jack cannot be overlooked. Or over-ridiculed. Also, according to the IMDB trivia, in April 2001 he "was arrested for a bar brawl while out with Vince Vaughn and Steve Buscemi, the latter of which was stabbed three times during the scuffle." Way to make us proud, Scott.
  • Joe Roth - This is where I die. Director of (I just can't believe this): Freedomland.
  • Marisa Tomei - Aside from her recent appearance in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, she's been AWOL since winning a still-controversial Oscar for My Cousin Vinny.
So there are some hits and misses, but I'm overall a little underwhelmed.

Fortunately, there is one last chance for BU to regain some measure of credibility: my good friend Mitch Yapko, Class of 2003. IMDB lists his production work on the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off "Private Practice," as well as on a few upcoming films such as Good Dick, which played at Sundance 2008.

His unofficial acting resum
é, however, includes (from my memory) Spider-Man 2, Herbie Fully Loaded, "Boston Public," the game show "Lingo," the reality show "Girls Behaving Badly," the legitimate show "Deadwood," and I know I've missed some others.

Thousands of alumni are counting on you, Mitch...


  1. FAYE DUNAWAY went to BU?


    I have her autobiography. She either neglected to mention it or I forgot. God knows I always have a million or so balls I have to keep in the air.

    Hah hah. YEAH...

    She's done nothing to impress you LATELY, Danny. But that certainly doesn't negate the power of BONNIE & CLYDE, CHINATOWN and NETWORK among many, many others.

    The woman is an incredible beauty and looks nowhere near her actual age. I'm sure she's still at the height of her creativity and would LOVE to being doing more substantial, interesting projects. But you know what the business is like. Particularly for women of a certain age.

    It's changing slowly. But not nearly fast enough to suit me.

    So you were a science major? I'm VERY impressed. Not exactly my strong suit. The only science I was ever good at was Biology.

    I wonder why...

  2. I'm a fan of Marisa Tomei, who may no longer be in the Hollywood mainstream, but has gone on to a prolific career in indies (unlike her less fortunate co-star in My Cousin Vinnie, Joe Pesci).

  3. Hehe, Miranda...

    Well, Dunaway's name is on that list. I don't who the gatekeeper is or what you have to do to be consider "alumni", though.

    Interesting that both she and Estelle Parson were in Bonnie & Clyde. You're right, her career has probably been unfairly sidelined due to her maturity. Is it that roles for older women just aren't written? That doesn't seem like it could be accurate.

    But if not, which older women have the monopoly on those roles?

    Great point, Marilyn. I have liked Tomei in recent years, including Slums of Beverly Hills, In the Bedroom and Factotum. Also glad she's currently appearing in War, Inc. But one would have expected her to have more star power. At least I would have. Fact is, I don't know when she's ever been the leading woman. Weird.

    Joe Pesci, where have you gone? Another Oscar winner - five movies in the last 13 years.

  4. That's rad! I would take that class in a heartbeat...if I was forced to take another science class. Thanks the good heavens that's not the case. Sounds great though, for people who don't bang their head intot the desk at the first mention of...um... something science-y. Photosynthesis?

    Danny Glover went to my school and still lives near me. Annette Benning also graduated from here.

  5. Marilyn, didn't you hear? Joe Pesci retired to focus on his MUSIC CAREER! Come on now, that's better than working on Indie films. Or Indy films.

  6. Anything's better than working in an Indy film now!

    My high school ties are Carrie Snodgress, Harrison Ford, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    My college ties: Bob Newhart.

  7. Hillary Rodham Clinton?

    Most impressive, Marilyn.

    Well, Danny...

    I've gone on about this matter endlessly at other places (CRAIG KENNEDY'S LIVING IN CINEMA among them) but I haven't really tackled it yet in earnest at my own site.

    From the time that the film industry commenced as a successful enterprise that made millions of dollars, female actors were sidelined as soon as they hit their early 40s. It didn't matter if they had won Oscars or accumulated all kinds of critics' awards. They could be gorgeous, sexy and vital. Many times they were just as attractive (if not more so) than the women who were just starting out that were 15 or 20 years younger. Obviously, if they were brilliant performers in their 20s and 30s being in that particular age bracket made no difference whatsoever to their talent.

    But they just stopped getting leading roles when they reached that age. Those parts stopped being offered to them. Those women were largely considered washed up and the younger women coming up got those plum opportunities.

    There were VERY RARE exceptions to this. Some of those women continued to work in American film. But they played mothers, grandmothers and character parts. Some female actors fled to Europe. A few became mainstays on TV.

    Don't get me wrong. It can be a harsh, difficult business for men as well. But whereas male actors were generally taken more seriously as they aged (and got offered terrific challenging roles - often STARTING around the 40 year mark) for female actors at that juncture it was all over.

    The studios and the casting people back then really considered 40 as the last gasp for a woman to be considered sexually attractive or physically appealing onscreen. A female movie star is supposed to be glamourous and sexy. (Today as well, of course.) Unless she's a "serious" actor - and then she'll play more difficult roles that don't necessarily depend on beauty (from a really young age).

    I don't think this really began to change for women until the 80s - and "older" women are still being marginalized to some degree. It's getting better but there are still a LOT of desirable improvements to be made in this area.

    Now you see a lot of great looking women working in film throughout their 40s and it's not such a big deal. But a lot of those actors look much younger than their actual ages. So they can play characters that are younger than themselves, which helps considerably.

    The minute they start to look like "older" women the same problems arise.

    Who are the women in film right now that are getting all the best roles? I guess that would be JUDI DENCH and HELEN MIRREN.

    They're cast in just about everything available for their respective age range.

    It has changed a lot. But not nearly enough IMO.

  8. Totally, Scott. I've never taken a film class but I imagine there aren't many that take that angle on it.

    I hope you're kidding about Pesci but I'm not even going to bother looking it up!

    Harrison Ford! He's from Chicago, right? Of course. That's a pretty remarkable high school. Sometimes I wonder if people I was sitting next to in middle school would turn into a worldwide celebrity. Would it even be the same person? Fame is weird.

  9. Excellent insight, Miranda. Certainly something you've spent sometime thinking about. What you said about TV I found interesting - that older actresses move on to TV. That must be true. But even then, they're usually in the maternal roles.

    And yeah, talk about George Clooney - he becomes more respected and admired with every passing year. Even someone like Peter O'Toole was given a leading role a couple years ago.

    From what you're saying, then, I gather that there just aren't as many movies that feature older female characters. Mirren and Dench and Streep probably snap up what little there is. Too bad.

  10. Sorry to disappoint, but it's true. Retired to pursue his musical career.

  11. Scott at He Shot Cyrus just told me about this physics class. I think it's such an awesome idea, but I think they should do it for advanced physics classes, too. You could study movies like Primer or Back to the Future and talk about different time travel theories. You could get into parallel universes and all that. Soooooo awesome. I wish I knew anything about science, because it would make movie watching so much better.


  12. Hey, you went to BU? Isn't Boston a great city?

  13. I'm not one to tell people what careers they should pursue, Scott. I just think he could continued acting with some success. Or SNL appearances.

    Thanks for the visit, Whitney! Yes, it's pretty much a dream class for us movie nerds everywhere. Primer was the last best movie to deal with time travel, wasn't it? We need more of those...

    Yes, k, it's fantastic. My experience was only as a college student so I don't know "real" it really was, but going to BU was at least a great foray into city life compared to other leafy campuses way out from the city, like our rivals at BC.


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