34. Mr. Holland’s Opus

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Movie: Mr. Holland’s Opus

Release Date: December 29, 1995

Director: Stephen Herek

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headley, Jay Thomas, Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy.

Tag Lines: “We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.”

“It’s not about the direction you take. It’s about the direction you give.”

“A symphony of life.”

“Of all the lives he changed, the one that changed the most was his own.”

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Relevance: I have never been one of those people that was highly influenced or affected by one of his teachers in school. Everyone I knew had a story of someone from school that taught them love, compassion, integrity, humility or other life lessons as well as math, English or history. I can’t remember one teacher that did anything for me except annoy me, especially Sister Elizabeth, my eighth grade teacher. (I am happy to report she is now burning in hell where she belongs.) My whole life I have been surrounded by teachers as well, family, partners, friends, so I most certainly respect them, although all of them complained about not making enough money and all of them have always made more than me. But I digress. For some reason though, a movie about a teacher is one of my favorites of all time.

‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ was released late December of 1995. It was very well received by critics, especially when it came to the performance of Richard Dreyfuss. He eventually received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance of Glen Holland. The film also had moderate success at the box office and even more success when it made its way to home media. That is exactly where I ran across the film and eventually saw it.

I watched the movie sometime in the summer of 1996 with my then wife who, you guessed it, was a teacher. I was absolutely floored. I was completely moved by the story of Mr. Holland. Not only was I entertained but I was driven to tears numerous times throughout its almost two and a half hours. It was so moving and filled with heart, it was difficult not to love. I immediately recommended the film to my mother and watched it at least once through with her. Like me, she became a huge fan and it was one that was quickly added to her movie collection.

I could never really pinpoint why I loved this movie so much until Christmas time that year. One of my traditions over the holidays was to wrap all of my presents in one sitting while watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ In 1996, while I was watching that classic film, one that will be showing up on my list of most influential movies of all time later next month, I started to piece together the parallels of George Baily and Glen Holland. I loved George Bailey and his story of always trying to get out of Bedford Falls to live his life by traveling. Just like Mr. Holland. Although his Bedford Falls was high school and he was trying to write his Opus. Once I made that story arc comparison, ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ became a classic to me.

‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ remained one of my favorites and one that has been a part of my movie collection for quite some time. I may not have had a real life teacher that influenced me or made me a better person, but I had Mr. Holland. He and his film have been a true inspiration for me to live my dreams, promote the arts and be a hero as well as the “musical notes” to everyone in my life.

Today’s Thoughts: “Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart, it’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can’t teach you that other stuff.”

‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ is by no means a holiday movie, but for some reason it always reminds me of one. The warmth, sincerity and George Bailey vibes that ooze out of the screen always makes me want to decorate a tree or eat a candy cane. Although I didn’t do either of those today (our tree has been decorated for almost a week now), I did feel that warmth watching Mr. Dreyfuss teach music.

The movie is just as beautiful and heartwarming as it was almost twenty-five years ago. The story is timeless and it is told so remarkably by both its director, Stephen Herek, and its star. Richard Dreyfuss really does give a phenomenal performance as Glenn Holland. Every facial expression, every syllable uttered out of his mouth, every single nuance is delivered flawlessly. He really makes this emotional drama that much more satisfying. If it weren’t for Nicholas Cage, Mr. Dreyfuss would now have his second Oscar in his possession.

Although I own ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ on DVD, it is not one that I watch very often. Why? Because I am usually emotionally drained by the time the end credits start to roll. This is almost a full box of Kleenex kind of movie. And that is exactly what it was today. With that said, I adore this movie and its message with my whole heart and highly recommend it.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Richard Dreyfuss (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Richard Dreyfuss (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Patrick Sheane Duncan (nomination).

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

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