Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I completed one item on my 300-count task list yesterday. I saw the last of the movies nominated for an Academy award. I know you are as excited as I am.

Half Nelson

Half nelson is the wrestling term that refers to using an opponent's own strength as a weakness to bring them down. This is the central theme of the movie as the main character pulls a half nelson on himself, turning his unrealized idealism into disillusionment; a drug addiction, an inability to have a meaningful adult relationship and bottomless sprial of self-destruction.

Stripped bare of any student/teacher cliches, Gosling is the Brooklyn history teacher/basketball coach with a slight crack problem who develops an unexpected friendship with a 13-yo female student. She finds him whacked out on crack in the girl's bathroom one afternoon, but instead of turning away she brings him water and sits with him until he comes down. While the relationship seems inappropriate, considering how opposite they are in most respects, it provides both with something that is lacking.

A change occurs.

And that is the other recurring theme - change does not occur without a meeting of opposites. This phrase is spoken many times throughout, it's also cleverly conveyed through Gosling's students, one by one, as they deliver reports about change, like the US installing Pinochet in Chile, complete with archive footage.

I've seen Gosling in other films; The United States Of Leland and The Notebook, definitely good performances but his work in Half Nelson is academy award winning. As the good guy gone lost, there are gobs of conflicting emotions that have to be portrayed in a believable manner. Gosling nails them all, sometimes simultaneously, with seasoned, nuanced delivery much like DeNiro.

I'd like to say that Gosling anchors the film but he has to share that spotlight with Shareeka Epps, who plays his 13-yo student/friend. She morphed from hard-core, hard-luck ghetto girl to warm, compassionate friend without so much as a blink. And every bit of her delivery was just as believable as Gosling's.

It's a sometimes difficult film to watch but you should still make an effort to see it, its a powerful piece that will linger long after you press eject.


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Anonymous Jason said...

I hadn't heard of this film until now. I like Ryan...alot. I will be adding it to my every growing Netflix queue. Thanks for the review and recommendation.

7:13 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Right Jason, my Q overfloweth too :) Enjoy!

7:16 AM

Blogger JC said...

Well glad to see your priorities are in the right order....movies before Yiddish homework! Oye vey!

Man I need to catch up, I think 'Talledega Nights' was the last movie I went to... oh wait, i saw that 'Night at the Museum' one with a group from work.

Still want to see DreamGirls and Good Shepherd, why do time have to fly by so fast....

7:15 PM

Blogger Jim said...

JC, All of those are good but you could safely wait for Good Shepard on DVD, I'd see Dreamgirls in the theatre however.

8:02 PM


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