Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Paper Chase

James Bridges, 1973 (8.2*)
From the novel by John Jay Osborn, Jr., this is a realistic look at the competitive and stressful nature of the first year of law school for a group of freshmen at Harvard. Led by Timothy Bottoms, he and his friends learn they must survive Prof. Kingsfield, an autocratic and tyrannical professor of contract law, who bases his evaluations on the daily browbeating of students using the 'Socratic method'.

While wondering if he's in the right career, Bottoms meets and gets a crush on Lindsay Wagner, without knowing her true identity, which I won't spoil here. The stress of academic life is relieved occasionally with this romance, which some may find unnecessarily distracting, and some light humor, yet the overall tone of the film maintains the stressful nature of law school. Students get summer jobs as apprentices at law firms which could hire them after graduation, so the pressure is on from year one.

Former producer John Houseman (Julius Caesar) is the perfect overbearing yet respectable professor (the epitome of aristocratic haughtiness), earning an Oscar® for this former producer who's rarely seen in front of the camera (Three Days of the Condor), and who certainly steals this movie. Houseman repeated his role for a successful cable tv series based on this film that ran for four years, but it lacked the bite of the original film. The first film directed by James Bridges, who would follow this with The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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