Cumulus Partners

20. March 2011 16:37

Give Al Pacino a MacArthur 'genius' grant ...

20. March 2011 16:37 by mike barlow | 0 Comments

For some reason, HBO was offering "Looking for Richard" on demand for free tonight, so we watched it, and of course, it was wonderful. It helps if you're a fan of Shakespeare's "Richard III" and you enjoy watching actors like Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Vanessa Redgrave talking about the play and acting scenes from it. Which got me thinking: Wouldn't it be great if there was a movie like this for every Shakespeare play? And why stop at Shakespeare? There should be a movie like this for every play or novel that's difficult to read or understand without someone (or a bunch of people) walking you through it and explaining what's going on.

And this, I suppose, gets to the heart of my beef with high school education: It's ridiculous to teach plays and novels that are beyond the reach of most students. If a high school kid is required to read "Richard III," or "Henry V" or "Moby Dick," there better be a qualified teacher on hand to explain the plot, the context, the author's intent, the stylistic nuances, etc. There are plenty of books that high school kids can read, such as "The Secret Life of Bees," "A Separate Peace," "Animal Farm" and "The Great Gatsby." But asking them to read practically anything by Shakespeare is almost guaranteeing an unpleasant experience -- unless the teacher has the ability to guide the kids through the play, scene by scene. Asking them to read a novel like "Moby Dick" is really asking for trouble, since most adults can't even get through it. I waited until I was 58 to tackle "Moby Dick," and I'm glad I did. It's a genuinely great book -- but I would never ask a teenager to read it. Or a twenty-something, for that matter.

And that's why I'm nominating Al Pacino for a MacArthur "genius" grant -- so he can make another movie like "Looking For Richard," and then another, and another ...