Contradicting Popular Opinon: Dead Poets Society

Contradicting Popular Opinion:


An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks: Dead Poet Society

A couple of column topics fell through on me this week. (My wife gave one film a stay of execution, effectively declaring a moritorium on all death penalty sentences to Baz films.) It happens. So I have dug through the archives to present the “lost episode” of CPO. Never before seen on IP!

Why? Because it sucks? Heavens no!

See, Mr. Coogan is obsessed with IP exclusivity, and I had previously and somewhat impetuously posted this on LJ to test my HTML.

At any rate, this is revised and re-written, and the LJ version is all but destroyed, so welcome to the land of (somewhat) new column!

I might have already cannibalized some bits here and there, but hell, most of my 6 readers will forgive me.


Do you remember health class in highschool? In my experience, it is invariably taught by some sweaty gym teacher who appears to have never had consensual sex.

At least with a human being.

Not to stereotype all gym teachers as mouth-breathers (my elementary school PE instructor went on to be Town Supervisor!) but I think it is safe to say that the whistle-blowing Mr. B is more comfortable emasculating young boys than coaching them on their mental and emotional well-being.

Nothing breeds self-esteem like being called a nansy pansy.

Where was I? Oh yeah Movie Column. The lack of familiarity of said teachers with such concepts as the mechanisms of the self, ego-defense and basic hygiene leads to “Health class” being “Movie Hour” with the occasional bout of semi-factual bits of kinesiology.

If memory serves, my health class watched Beavis and Butthead take care of a sack of flour, “A Different World” (where every episode is a special episode), live birth videos (which were actually big draws in post WWII America), the Al Brooks vehicle Defending Your Life, and today’s subject Dead Poets Society.

Dead Poet’s Society
I have never understood the fascination with this movie. It’s as though when a girl comes of age she is handed the black boxed VHS cassette where it must remain proudly displayed forever next to such movies as Swing Kids, Empire Records, or When Harry Met Sally. IMDB currently has it listed at 7.7 stars out of ten.

I don’t get it.

What is the fascination with this movie?

Fucking tell me!

Is it the writing? DPS (man that is going to save me some time) is written by Tom Schulman, whose credential include such critically revered movies as Welcome to Mooseport, Eddie Murphy bomb Holy Man, and Second Sight starring Balki Bartokomous!

But hey, you can’t judge a guy by his lesser works, Tarantino script doctored It’s Pat at one point. So when Mr. Schulman went off to be a writer director, what was his artistic vision? What brilliance sprang forth?

Eight Heads in a Duffle Bag.

But maybe there is some sort of deep message in the movie. You know, maybe it has some sort of shocking relevance or trenchant philosophical insight. So, what is its complex theme?

Ahem… “Carpe Diem.”

Yep, two hours for a message of seize the day.

Shit, I knew that already. And in what infinitely clever way does Dead Poets Society bring about said crucial piece of information? How does it deliver this striking piece of wisdom?

By saying it, or rather by having various characters say it…

…over and over again.


I must add, at this point, that the teacher John Keating, must not be remarkably good at his job. He fails in delivering his simple message of “live life to the fullest.” After all, a noticeable percentage of his students commit suicide.

Although if Robin Williams is your main inspiration to live… I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Perhaps I judge too harshly. Mr. Keating also taught that tradition is stupid and boring. The suicidal kid’s family probably had a proud tradition of not killing themselves, so really he succeeded in his goal of being an iconoclast.

Okay, so maybe it is the actors and the characters that make this such a beloved piece. We have a coming of age movie, so let’s see who these kids are.

Let me pull out the trusty VHS copy (abandoned here by a female friend, of course) and look at the cover…


A bunch of young actors with their faces obscured all carrying the quite visible Robin Williams.

Robin Williams written in big letters, Peter Weir (the director) in slightly less big letters.

Left side of the box: Picture of Robin Williams.

Right side of the box: Picture of Robin Williams.

Back of the box: Close-up of Robin Williams, full body shot of Robin Williams with the back of some kids’ heads, and a distant shot of Williams in profile talking to everybody else.

The back of the box also mentions Robin Williams by name 3 times and his character’s full name.

Other actors mentioned by name: 0.

Other character’s mentioned by name: 0.

Allegedly this movie is about coming of age. Shouldn’t the young people be important enough to, I dunno, acknowledge?

And, when the f*ck does Robin Williams come of age? Is Robin Williams the guy you want telling your kids how to be adults? The guy is in his mid-fifties but has spent the last 30 years playing children in the bodies of men (literally in Jumanji, Jack, Hook, figuratively in Patch Adams, Toys, Death To Smoochy, TV’s “Mork and Mindy”, etc.).

Seize the day? No thanks Popeye.

I don’t get what people see in this movie.

Maybe it’s because I never went to a boarding school with interchangeably bland upperclass white kids. Boarding school at all is a fairly foreign concept to me, with most of my knowledge gleaned second and third hand from people talking about Harry Potter.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been forced to see this dang thing 5 times and can’t remember a single one of the characters names or faces save for Robin Williams.

Maybe it’s because the students only start to question authority when authority tells them to do it and the movie finds no irony in this.

Or perhaps it is because the film dwells too much on it’s only star, Robin Williams and in doing so becomes not a tale of boys becoming men, but more of a 2 hour lecture from a babysitter f*cking cocaine junkie on how I should appreciate life.

Robin Williams was Poochie before there was Poochie. When he’s not on the screen, all the other characters are talking about him. “Where’s Poochie?” (That’s right Mr. Williams; you are in the same category as Kevin Nash.)

Out of the other actors in the flick, we have Ethan Hawke, AKA Mr. Uma, as our basic POV character Todd Anderson. I never remember that it is Ethan Hawke in this movie. Of course, I always think of Christian Slater when I hear Ethan Hawke anyway. (I’m sorry about that Ethan, nobody deserves such a comparison.)

The next most famous person is probably TV’s Red Forman playing distant father, Mr. Perry. Playing his son is Swing Kid Robert Sean Leonard, currently of “House”. We have Josh Charles best known from TV’s “Sports Night” as Knox Overstreet. We got Sam Waterson’s kid as Gerard Pitts, and a bunch of young actors who either fell off the face of the earth ten years ago or are relegated to parts Bruce Campbell would turn down. (I kid of course, Bruce has never turned down a paycheck (see: Terminal Invasion)).

Bottomline: The thought of watching this melodramatic Robin Williams ego trip makes me nauseous. How would I fix this film? 2 words: Lloyd Kaufman. The boys would band together to avenge the death of their beloved teacher who was eaten by the reanimated corpses of Dead Poets. They’s also have a blaxploitation robot that calls everyone “babygirl.”

And a vampire that plays hockey!

I smell Oscar.

Pimping still is neither difficult nor necessary.

I am gonna talk about the current Movie Section feature some. In the interest of time and fairness I will say 1 negative thing and 1 positive thing about each list.
Romo’s War movies
Negative: No Dr. Strangelove,
Positive: PATTON!

Coates’s Sciffy:
Negative: No “Day the Earth Stood Still” or anything in black and white.
Positive: The Fly!

Kubryck’s Action:
Negative: Little known fact Scott; they made movies before the 1980s.
Positive: DIE HARD!

Michaelangelo’s Chop socky
Negative: The bottom five feel arbitrary.
Positive: The top five are all pretty good.

Kubryck’s comics
Positive: The Incredibles and Spider-man 2 are really good movies.
Negative: The selection felt limited. No American Splendors, no Ghost Worlds, no History of Violence, no Mask of the Phantasm.

Robtrain the Samurai
Positive: There are some really important movies here.
Negative: Robtrain is always all in caps. It makes him seem like heel TAKA.

Closs’s Big Score
Negative: A lot of these movies I find to be… ungood….
Positive: The most important flick on the list is in the top spot.

Closs’s Dark comedy
Negative: I don’t know how many of these I consider to be dark comedies.
Positive: I love the Coens.

Romo’s Westerns
Negative: Listing each film of the “man with no name” trilogy separately and High Plains drifter takes away spots from John Wayne in The Searchers, Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, and even takes a spot away from Clint’s Oatlaw Josey Wales.
Positive: The date range here is quality and so are the flicks.

Closs’s Foreign
Negative: Foreign is not a genre.
Positive: I enjoy Run Lola Run, the foreign flick for people who don’t watch foreign flicks.

Kennedy’s Holiday
Negative: The list makes no sense and Kennedy emits a strange and unpleasant odor.
Positive: This WILL be the Swaziest Christmas EVER!

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