I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Beautiful Mind, 2001

Rated PG-13

I have seen this absolutely brilliant movie many times and feel that I can’t talk about it without revealing the most defining aspect. So, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading, see it, and then return back here.

“A Beautiful Mind” is loosely based on the prize-winning biography of the same name, and to date, it is the last biopic to win Best Picture. It spans five decades as it tells the story of John Nash, a Princeton University student and mathematical genius who is searching for his “original idea” that will get him published and make him famous. Immediately, you know he’s special (a term I like to use). But because he is also a genius, he becomes a professor at MIT and ends up falling in love with one of his students, Alicia. As he performs his work on governing dynamics and occasional code-breaking for the Pentagon, he starts to suffer from delusions. No other movie gets you inside the character’s mind like this one does. This is a beautiful and touching story of triumphing over adversity. (After reading a bit more about the real John Nash, I was surprised to learn some critical differences from the life that was portrayed on film. I won’t go into them here so as not to disenchant you regarding this glorious film.)

Like I said before, I knew Nash was special and was socially awkward, but I didn’t suspect that he had paranoid schizophrenia; I’m a pretty gullible movie-watcher. Did anyone else figure it out (before it became blatantly obvious)? My hubby did, but I tend to consider him pretty genius, so he doesn’t count. Since I was taking child psychopathology and psychology courses in college when I first saw this, I should have known better, but again, I’m a gullible movie-watcher. I believe what’s on the screen.

I cry every time I watch this film, and sometimes it is in a new place, depending on where I am in my life. When I saw it in the theatres, I cried twice: at the part where Nash is in his psychiatric hospital room desperately trying to fish out the imaginary decoder imbedded in his arm, and the other time was when he is running the bath water for his baby and gets sidetracked by his hallucinations. In the latter scene, I was obviously suspecting the worst outcome and crying out of fear for the baby, but both scenes depicted him in such innocence and naiveté that my heart bled for him. This time, I cried during two other scenes. First, was when his wife is trying to explain to him that he is sick and that his hallucinations aren’t real. That’s something that one would expect to have to explain to a child, but not a spouse. The other was when she chooses not to commit him to the hospital again. She tenderly tells him what’s real: him, her, their love. With their hands on each other’s hearts, she says, “I need to believe something extraordinary is possible”.

This film has such a fun and recognizable cast. Russell Crowe is superb as John Nash and I believe he was robbed the Best Actor award (although he did win the Golden Globe). This is my favorite role of the beautiful Jennifer Connelly as Nash’s wife although I first liked watching her in “The Rocketeer”.  ‘Big Brother’ Parcher is played by my older-man-crush Ed Harris- I love him in “Stepmom” and “Apollo 13”. Dr. Rosen, the psychiatrist, is played by the charming Christopher Plummer (from “The Sound of Music”). Josh Lucas plays the annoying colleague who redeems himself in the end- I fell in love with him in “Sweet Home Alabama”. And Anthony Rapp, another one of Nash’s colleagues is uber-talented in “Rent”.

This film was up against “Gosford Park”, “In the Bedroom”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, and “Moulin Rouge”. I’ve seen the last two nominees and enjoy them both immensely but still feel that the right movie won. Another beautiful film made this year that I wish was nominated though is “I am Sam” with Sean Penn, who was nominated for Best Actor. "A Beautiful Mind" claimed four of its eight nominations for its own including Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Connelly), and Best Adapted Screenplay. I also think it should have won Best Score… James Horner, the same genius who brought you the music of “Titanic”, produced a beautiful soundtrack to this film.


I love the scene when John and Alicia are on their first “date”; they’re outside the party on a balcony looking up into the sky. John tells her to pick a shape (an object, anything). At first, she’s puzzle, but she settles on “umbrella”. He takes her arm and using her pointer finger, traces the outline of an umbrella in the stars. Even though I know it was computer-generated, I still think it’s a pretty cool talent and I won’t deny trying it myself once in a while when looking up into the heavens at night.

The other touching scene was the very end when Nash is making his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. He acknowledges that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his devoted wife. He looks at her in the audience and says, “You are the only reason I am…. You are all my reasons”.


To steal one of my favorite lines from the film, believe that something extraordinary can happen. Believe it for yourself and believe it for others. Most of all, believe it in the unexpected or unlikely. It’s what can keep the hope alive in the darkest or most difficult of times.

Don’t be too quick to judge or even label someone. It’s easy to look at someone and make a judgment without hearing him/her speak. It’s also easy to make another judgment after that, but try to keep an open mind about people and their backgrounds. You never know what difficulties they’re trying to overcome or suffer through.

1 comment:

  1. I did not figure it out either, as a psychology major. I absolutely love this movie. My favorite part about this movie is the love his wife has for him. I would love to have discussions about that.