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RAMble, the University Libraries' blog

What’ch Ya Watchin’? Poetry on Film

by Christian Sammartino on 2021-05-11T11:24:19-04:00 | Comments

Movies about poetry? Yes, here are some films with a focus on poetry and poets in honor of National Poetry Month.

Dead Poets Society – It’s hard to believe this film was released over thirty years ago. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Robin Williams, may he rest in peace, plays John Keating, an English teacher at an all-boys prep school in the late 50’s. He is the English teacher every student should have at least once  –  enthusiastic, creative, with a deep concern for his students. I admit the plot of Dead Poets Society is a bit predictable and the film is heavy with sentimentality, but the actors give such genuine performances the movie better than the sum of its parts.  

Poetic Justice – Janet Jackson is the title character Justice LaRue, a young hairstylist who has been living alone in South Central LA and grieving the shooting death of her boyfriend. She has isolated herself and is just getting by; she goes to work and writes poetry. When Justice’s car breaks down leaving her without a way to get to an important hair show in Oakland, she agrees to go on a road trip with her friend Iesha Ashley (Regina King), Iesha’s boyfriend, Chicago, and his buddy, Lucky, in his mail truck. The movie then becomes a road trip film; Iesha and Chicago fall out and Justice and Lucky fall in love. There are side trips along the way and Justice’s poetry features throughout. This is not a favorite for me, but it is a cult classic. The acting is strong, but I found the background music intrusive and repetitive. Also, there seems to be something missing between the end of the road trip part of the movie and the final scene.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? - Loosely based on the Homeric poem, “The Odyssey,” this playful comedy stars George Clooney as 1930’s chain-gang runaway, Ulysses Everett McGill. To escape, he tells the two men shackled to him, Delmar O'Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson), and Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro), about the loot he buried. They’re off; hijinks ensue. There are some scenes that parallel “The Odyssey,” but it is very loosely based. This film is full of fantastic bluegrass, blues, and folk music that just make the movie. The soundtrack won album of the year at the Grammys and has sold more than 8 million copies.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise – I’ve been trying to highlight our DVD collection, but I really wanted to include this documentary on Maya Angelou. Available on Films on Demand, this PBS American Masters biography is centered around a lengthy interview with Maya herself, interspersed with photos, clips of older documentaries, pieces of her writing, and interviews with famous people she knew and touched. There are parts of her history that are heartbreaking; I knew some of it from her books but still I was brought to tears at times. I also learned a lot about her life and her influence. “Phenomenal Woman,” indeed.

Blog Post Written By Amanda Brooks


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