actors, In My Opinion, music

Dark Comedy “The Professor” and Mortality Films

I heard nothing about Johnny Depp‘s recent dark comedy The Professor when I trolled through Amazon’s waters for something new to rent. It was a love/hate experience. One of those films that has great ideas and witty occasions but executed in a sloppy way that undermines the story. I really wanted to like the film. I love Johnny Depp. And I dislike much of his films. He has so much talent that shines forward in scenes, but he can’t seem to find a film that showcases him to the stature he belongs as an actor. In this film, his voice warbles and remains low and other accents from previous characters creep in. He doesn’t seem to know how to act the part. (2.5 stars) Yet, the ideas about the film come through and linger with me. 

Johnny plays a New England English academic who is diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He decides not to seek treatment knowing he has six months to live. This confrontation with mortality alters his perception of life and his teaching style. He throws away professionalism and embarks on a journey with his English students with a carpe diem approach including partying and random sex. In short, he throws away his authority and parties it up with his students while expecting earnest conversations. Time is not to be wasted. The movie is a cross between Old School and Dead Poet’s Society. It’s profane and not too funny much of the time. Too bad, since stories with themes that include the insights to a meaningful life appeal to me, and I love a good dark comedy. Maybe you liked it?

Finally, at the end of the movie, the message arrives. Treat your days as though they were your last. Don’t be a part of the 98 percent who embrace mediocrity. Strive to be an individual and live life with meaning. Well, it’s certainly sage advice we’ve heard of before in films. Do you recognize these famous lines?

“Make each day count.  Hear, hear! To making it count.”

“Earn this.”  

“Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

“Life is hard. It’s supposed to be. If we didn’t suffer, we wouldn’t learn a thing.”

“Don’t look back. It drags at your heart till you can’t do anything but look back.”

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

“I do not expect us to agree about everything, but I would much rather have you believe in something I don’t agree with than to accept everything blindly. And that begins with thinking rationally.”

“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!”

Have you noticed many films with the best messages are played by a dynamic duo from the 80s and 90s? Do you think there is a correlation between the memorable lines said by the characters played by Tom Hanks and Robin Williams? That is to say, the sentimentality incurred by their famous lines made them endearing to the public. Another way of putting it — their famous lines made the actor, not necessarily their talent? I do.

What are some of your favorite lines that give insight into the meaning of life?


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Jack, Titanic; Capt. Miller, Saving Private Ryan; John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society; Abileen Clark, The Help; Jesse, Before Sunset; Scarlett, Gone with the Wind; Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own; Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring; The Wizard of Oz; Santosh Patel, The Life of Pi; Ethel, On Golden Pond. 



"Sincerely, your favorite fan", actors, movies

Dear Johnny Depp,


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You and I have been together for a long time. I’ve munched popcorn in the dark at the cinema watching you since 1984. There you were in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and I appreciated your baby face in 1986, in a bit part as the interpreter in Platoon.

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One of your best years was in 1993. Your sensitive portrayal in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and your Buster Keaton impersonation captivated me in Benny and Joon. 

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What could be more bizarre than starring in a Terry Gilliam film in 1998 along Benicio Del Toro with an unusual supporting cast including Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey and Cameron Diaz? Surely that’s a weird enough nightmare for you, Johnny?

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You were cool and sexy and dangerous in Chocolat (2000) and Blow (2001) and From Hell (2001).

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And while you were boring in Public Enemies (2009) and The Tourist(2010), I blamed it on the script and gave you the benefit of the doubt,

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because you were funny in Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) and charming in Finding Neverland (2004).

index   Sweeney Todd

Stephen Sondheim is the best. In high school, I memorized all the lyrics to Sweeney Todd when it was out on Broadway (1979) and starred Angela Lansbury. I was thrilled with your baritone voice and your harmonizing with Alan Rickman in the 2007 version. I’m very excited to hear that you will be starring with Meryl Streep in Sondheim’s Into the Woods in 2014. I’m sure it will be a gas. BUT….


If I see you in one more Tim Burton film, I will disavow our relationship! Please, no more Helena Bonham Carter! I don’t care if you are the godparent to Tim and Helena’s son Billy Ray.  In fact, please stop wearing make-up in general. Must there be a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean? It’s getting old.


Your Favorite Fan