Monday, February 11, 2008

Academic Biopics, or How I'll take that Oscar now, Thanks!

Seeing as Hollywood is obsessed with biopics - seriously! (please don't ask me why, I have yet to see the appeal of them as a genre: now, if we want to talk about them as Oscar-bait for successful A-listers to practice the act of mimicry and steal the golden man from far worthier and less forgettable performances ... *cough Reese vs Felicity cough Hoffman vs Ledger cough Foxx vs everyone else cough*) AND I had time to play around this weekend, I figured a post on biopics was a must.
So I was wondering (and this wondering I owe in part to my professors this past week who unwittingly, I'm sure, have had me consider) what an 'Academic' biopic would look like. I mean, yes we've had our share of musical biopics (tragic La Vie en Rose, indie I'm Not There, feisty Walk the Line); of literary biopics (wandering Iris, sad and not biting enough Sylvia, campy Infamous and its darker counterpart Capote); of royal biopics (Blanchettian Elizabeth, O'Toole's Lion in the Winter) ... I could go on, of course. But where are the biopics that Grad Students can watch and revel at the ways their favourite one-liner from that obscure theory text by the writer will make its way into the plot in an unexpected (albeit totally contrived) way, or rejoice at a theory text title can serve metonymically for the theorist's life?

If I was, say, Scott Rudin - I'd be lining up the following movies ASAP - I mean, if the MLA Convention 2008 in NYC is not a prime venue for a late Fall release where a movie can get Awards buzz... I don't know what is:
György Lukács
Dir. Paul Greengrass
With Matt Damon

Think: an international pseudo-espionage film set against the backdrop of the changing political landscape of 1930s Europe: tells the story a man disenchanted with the world, finding Communism, and fleeing to the USSR. Would Matt be up for that?

Tentative Title: Lukacs! The movie.
Tagline: You think you know...
Biopic Cliches: History/Personal Life collapse, Political drama

Roland Barthes
Dir. Pedro Almodovar
With Daniel Craig

I think this should be the kind of 'getting under his skin' biopic, digging up dirt and presenting it in a way that mirror's Barthes own style. Maybe a vignette biopic a la Haynes, each beginning with either a photo or a book and a respective quote. You say pretentious, I say readerly.
Now if only Daniel would pick up my calls...

Tentative Title: R/B
Tagline: Fragments. Life. Pleasure.
Biopic Cliches: Early & Untimely Death, Illness, Gay

Walter Benjamin
Dir. Steven Spielberg
With Eric Bana
I know what you're thinking: do we need yet another WWI-themed Spielberg movie? All I have to say to that is... No, but if there was to be one, I think this movie - which would tell Benjamin's lifestory through flashbacks that afflict him in his last days attempting to run away from the Nazi regime - would have to be it.

Tentative Title: The Arcades, The Untold Walter Benjamin Story.
Tagline: In search for his lost time...
Biopic Cliches: Mysterious Death, Suicide Attempts, Tragic Love Life

Friedrich Nietzsche
Dir. Michel Gondry
With Robert Downey Jr

I say slap a moustache on Robbie Dee's face, exploit his cantankerous inner-Ubermensch and surround him with a Gondryan world where Nietzschean metaphors come to life as vividly as on the page. It's basically a story about a brilliant but tortured soul. Think A Beautiful Mind on German anti-Schopenhauerian Crack!

Tentative Title: The Will to Power, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Film
Tagline: He was beyond good and evil...
Biopic cliches: Illness, Loveless life, Madness

Yes. I am a theoretically-minded Grad Student (read: a big geek)
Sue me.
Now... what Academic biopics can we slate for 2009?


POP COLONY said...

For Barthes- Too bad "Signs" was taken! Though it would be hi-larious for M.Night to direct his bio-pic. Except the Shyamalanian ending would be to discover that he was French! You know how we only like Brits (well actually just mock Pomey accents) in our bio pics!*runs to watch Gladiator*

Jeffrey said...

LOL at the above comment. Def a fan of Empire of Signs. Mr. Barthes + semiotics = fun.

Hence, me = dork. =D

Amanda Reaume said...

Geek! Geek! Geek Alert!