Undefended: Scenes From A Classroom

This week, FilmFisher is back in class. Presented below are FF writer’s favorite scenes from a classroom.

Brian Murnion:

  1. Zero for Conduct dir. Jean Vigo (France – 1933): Boarding-school boys pull pranks in and out of the classroom.
  2. The 400 Blows dir. Francois Truffaut (France – 1959) “…Doinel, for tomorrow you will conjugate – take your seat and write this down. In all tenses of the indicative, conditional and subjunctive. The rest of you, get out your notebooks. “I deface the classroom walls… and abuse French verse.”
  3. School Of Rock dir. Richard Linklater (USA – 2003) “Teach. Teach. Teach. Alright, look, here’s the deal. I’ve got a hangover. Who knows what that means?”
  4. The Social Network dir. David Fincher (USA – 2010) Passing the note up stadium seating, Mark Zuckerberg get’s a reality check.
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark dir. Steven Spielberg (USA – 1981) “Neolithic…” Indy double takes one of his students flirting with him.

Fraser Martens:

  1. Propping open the fire doors, The Breakfast Club. Technically the whole movie is set in a classroom, but the little power struggle between the kids and the principal over his attempt to prop the doors open to spy on them is a neat encapsulation of the whole thing.
  2. “Two for you, Glen Coco! You go, Glen Coco!”, Mean Girls. The best thing about this scene is that the kid playing Glen Coco wasn’t even an actor, but a kid who’d snuck onto the set hoping to steal some lunch from the catering table and stuck around as an extra.
  3. An update on Nessie, Napoleon Dynamite. It’s reassuring to know that Scotland’s local wizards are on hand to protect Nessie. Unfortunately, they’re unable to keep the kid next to him from squashing Napoleon’s pocket full of tots.
  4. “In what… way…”, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The two classroom scenes in this movie get elided in the popular consciousness, but I find the absurd discussion of literary symbolism that Sloane is enduring while she waits to find out that her grandmother has “died” much funnier than Ben Stein’s attempt to explain the Smoot-Hawley Tariff.
  5. The Pledge of Allegiance, Boyhood. I’m not going to lie, as a homeschooled Canadian I had no idea kids in American schools did this. Do they really do this? This is the weirdest little piece of religious ceremony I’d ever seen and it literally freaked me out when I saw it.

Sean Johnson:

  1. Rushmore: “Probably the hardest geometry equation in the world.” On top of the perfect introduction to Max’s character, one of the great things about the scene is what he (rightly?) imagines would win him acclaim among his peers. “I guess if anyone here can solve that problem, I’d see to it that none of you ever have to open another math book again for the rest of your lives.”
  2. Up the Down Staircase: Class discussion of A Tale of Two Cities. ”’Parks are murder pits!’ ‘Is Yellowstone National Park a murder pit?’”
  3. *A Beautiful Mind: The open window. *Crowe saves face with a brilliant quip (“As you’ll find in a multi-variable Calculus there’s often a… number of solutions for any given problem.”), and teaches in a plain white T.
  4. Rushmore: Miss Cross’ last day. Max’s terror at getting what he has wanted—at being treated like an adult by the adult woman he has been pursuing—is one of the truest moments in the movie.
  5. School of Rock: “the Man” lecture. “There used to be a way to stick it to the Man—it was called rock-n-roll. But guess what? Ohhh no, the Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV!” It can’t be an accident that this lecture is prompted by the comment, “My parents don’t pay $15,000 a year for recess.”

Joshua Gibbs:

  1. “Half Nelson” : Ryan Gosling enters the teacher breakroom wearing sunglasses, empties an entire fresh pot of coffee into his thermos, walks out.
  2. “All Quiet on the Western Front” : all the kids want to sign up for teh war!
  3. “It Follows” : gazing out a classroom window, a young woman finds a good reason to leave.
  4. “The Faculty” : Transforming a paper cutter into a war weapon.
  5. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” : the kids find the Prince’s hand-annotated book of spells

Shortlisted: Sean Penn receives a pizza delivery in “Fast Times,” although this one seems so obvious it might not even not even need mentioning.

Elizabeth Stinnette:

  1. William Forrester defends Jamal Wallace, Finding Forrester. While this is not a classroom moment per se, it does happen in a school. Sean Connery’s delivery and the sheer pathos of the scene are brilliant.
  2. The Haiti Report, Clueless. The best part is that Alicia Silverstone did not mispronounce “Haitians” on purpose. The directors thought her mistake was so brilliant that they decided to keep it anyway.
  3. “Rip it out,” Dead Poets Society. At the beginning of some classes, I wish I could do this with my textbook.
  4. Poetry of war, Joyeux Noel. Misunderstanding and racism often begin young–in this case, in the World War I era classroom. It’s chilling to hear schoolchildren of three nations accuse each other of the same evils.
  5. The Happy Hands Club, Napoleon Dynamite. Boredom in the classroom becomes hilarious.
Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books, collects records and jogs to work. He and his wife have two children, both of whom have seven names. He tweets at @joshgibbs and blogs for the CiRCE Institute.

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