MOVIE NIGHT

Back to college


"With Honors"

Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 3:58 p.m.

While the main goal of college is to earn a degree that opens the door to a fulfilling career, the experiences you have and the people you meet shape your life in ways that can’t be measured by grades and final exams.

The professor who challenged you. Those friends who will always hold a seat of honor in your memories. The first realization that dirty clothes do not just go in a hamper and magically reappear clean in your closet.

Yes, long after you’ve forgotten everything you ever learned in that statistics class, it’s these memories that tempt your lips into a smile whenever your mind finds them again.

These five films show why college can be one of the most memorable times of your life.

"With Honors” (1994) — After a computer crash erases his senior thesis, Harvard student Monty’s (Brendan Fraser) stress level goes to an 11 (on a scale of 10) when he drops his only hard copy down a grate and into the clutches of a homeless man named Simon (Joe Pesci). Simon makes Monty a deal: He will return a page for each good deed Monty does for him.

Monty starts by allowing Simon to stay in a car outside the home Monty shares with three roommates, but that quickly expands to a trip to the university’s grandiose library, letting Simon sit in on a class and pulverize a snotty professor, and doing something that escaped Monty in the beginning: Seeing Simon as a man and then a friend.

"The Paper Chase” (1973) — At Harvard Law School, first-year student Hart (Timothy Bottoms) and his fellow classmates face a firing squad each day when they enter the famously difficult contract law class taught by Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman). As Hart explains, the power structure of the class breaks down into three groups: those who hide in the back and never answer questions, those who answer only when called upon and those who dare to raise their hands. Hart strives to become one of the hand-raisers, but quickly discovers that expectations are hard to live up to. As if the class wasn’t daunting enough, Hart discovers that he is dating the professor’s daughter.

“The Great Debaters” (2007) — In 1935, a group of debaters from Wiley College, an all-black school in Marshall, Texas, match words with the Harvard team after amassing an impres-sive winning record. Leading them is Professor Tolson (Denzel Washington), an activist also trying to organize black and white farmers.

In this true story, the road to Harvard includes such detours as a romance between two of the students, the degradation of a noble father in front of his young prodigy, and a punch-to-the-gut scene when the students witness a stranger being lynched.

You know a period movie is convincing when you become so engrossed in its recreated past that you forget it was made in the present day. And that Harvard debate — particularly the final argument made by the Wiley College students — is such a moment.

“Real Genius” (1985) — There was a time when Val Kilmer was not only likable but dared to be (gasp!) silly. He taps into some goofy greatness here as Chris Knight, a smart slacker at Pacific Tech who is about to graduate. He used to be the top brain working on a professor’s secret laser project until 15-year-old genius Mitch (Gabe Jarret) joins the team. Mitch reminds Chris of himself when he first started out, so Chris sets out to make sure his uber-serious teen roommate doesn’t forget to have fun along the way. This film, packed with rapid-fire, clever lines and oddball characters, gives a whole new meaning to the term “popcorn movie.”

“One on One” (1977) — Recruited to play basketball at Western University in big, bad Los Angeles, small-town star Henry Steele (Robby Benson) leaves his high school with his ears still ringing from the cheers. The difficulty of college ball, not to mention his classes, quickly drowns out that noise. Janet (Annette O’Toole), a tutor who does not like jocks (uh, that might change), helps him catch up academically, but he keeps coming up short on the court.

When his coach (G.D. Spradlin) tries to get Henry to renounce his four-year athletic scholarship, he refuses and endures all the punishment thrown at him.

As Henry digs in, he rediscovers himself as a player and

a person.

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