280. With Honors

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Movie: With Honors

Release Date: April 29, 1994

Director: Alek Keshishian

Starring: Joe Pesci, Brendan Fraser, Moira Kelly, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Hamilton, Gore Vidal.

Tag Lines: “If you want a degree go to Harvard. If you want an education go to Simon Wilder.”

Awards: Golden Globe for Best Original Song, “I’ll Remember,” Patrick Leonard, Madonna, Richard Page (nomination).

Relevance: In the Spring of 1994, I was finishing up my first year of Graduate School in upstate New York working on my Master’s Degree in Theater with an emphasis in Play Writing. I was living in student housing with three roommates and spent a lot of time in my room reading, writing and listening to the radio. Yes, we listened to the radio back in 1994.

One night while reading, the deejay on the radio announced a new song by Madonna. I screamed. She had just finished “The Girlie Show Tour” in December and I wasn’t expecting any new music from her. It’s the only time in Madonna’s history I was surprised by anything she released. I was always in the know about everything she did. I vowed to never let that happen again. It didn’t. “I’ll Remember” played. I listened. And like every other Madonna song before fell immediately in love.

I was a little sad that it was only one song for a soundtrack, but I was happy enough for new music. And apparently so was the rest of the country. “I’ll Remember” became a Gold record, reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was nominated for a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award and an MTV Movie Award. It is still to this day one of my favorite Madonna songs of all time. And she has a lot of songs.

The movie was not well received and disappeared in theaters faster than it showed up. I didn’t get to see it until the Fall of 1994 via rental from my local Hollywood Video. I wasn’t expecting much. In fact I was only supporting Madonna and director Alek Keshishian. I was so pleasantly surprised about how good the movie was and how much I loved it. Despite being produced in 1994, it had such a 1980’s movie à la ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’ feel to it. I loved the story, the acting and of course the music.

I own the movie and have watched it numerous times throughout the years. Every time I hear Madonna’s song, I am instantly reminded of it. Some movies are just not meant to be blockbusters or award winners or understood by everyone, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good movies or can’t effect someone’s life for the better.

Today’s Thoughts: Although I have seen ‘With Honors’ numerous times, I probably haven’t watched it in its entirety for close to ten years. So I was excited to sit down and see Brandon Fraser’s naked butt, hear Madonna’s “I’ll Remember” and cry a little. Yes, the Kleenex made its return.

It is a very overdone premise but because it is directed with such charm, the movie is very entertaining. Brandon Fraser and the rest of the cast do a fine job with their characters. But it is Joe Pesci that is quite remarkable in it. It is a departure from his gangster and “cousin Vinny” roles and the performance moved me to tears. Even today. When is son calls him “nobody,” the look on Mr. Pesci’s face is heartbreaking. Thus the Kleenex.

There are a lot of great quotes from the movie. “My cock is cleaner than your bum.” That is just an example. However, today I was most taken by the mini-speech Joe Pesci’s character gives when confronted by a Harvard professor in his classroom.

“Our “founding parents” were pompous, middle-aged white farmers, but they were also great men. Because they knew one thing that all great men should know: that they didn’t know everything. They knew they were gonna make mistakes, but they made sure to leave a way to correct them. They didn’t think of themselves as leaders. They wanted a government of citizens not royalty. A government of listeners not lecturers. A government that could change, not stand still. The president isn’t an “elected king,” no matter how many bombs he can drop. Because the “crude” Constitution doesn’t trust him. He’s a servant of the people. He’s a bum, okay Mr. Pitkannan? He’s just a bum. And the only bliss he is searching for is freedom and justice.”

I wish our current “leader” (I use quotes because the only person he truly leads his himself) would read this, understand this and govern by it. Not likely. But a hope.

Anyway, thank you Madonna. If it weren’t for her song I may not have gravitated toward this movie. ‘With Honors’ is touching, funny and enjoyable and a movie I watch all the way through the end credits, for obvious reasons. I highly recommend it, as it is a film that “you’ll remember.”

Ways to Watch: Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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