The problem with focusing relentlessly on understanding is that math and science students can often grasp essentials of an important idea, but this understanding can quickly slip away without consolidation through practice and repetition.
The existential philosopher Merleau Ponty says, “Film is not thought, it is perceived.”
Many people see watching movies as a way to spend time. For example, someone who is down might want to watch a movie to cheer up, or a group of friends coming together might want to terrorize themselves with a horror film for the sake of thrills. For some, however, watching films is beyond the mere mundane experience many perceive it to be. Some always watch in solitude because they want to freely express their emotions in the absence of others who feel they may judge them — crying during a particularly heavy drama or chasing after the culprit alongside the detective in the mystery movie.
Watching a movie should never be seen as a waste of time. In fact, it is an activity that should be conducted once a week, if not once every ten days. That is because the film has the ability to see different thoughts, environments, and cultures in the space of a few hours, which leads to the mind being introduced to new things and maintaining its vitality.
Despite mathematics presenting directors with an overwhelming plethora of topics to depict, there are not many mathematically themed movies. However, some productions cover the subject of many areas of mathematics or the life of remarkable mathematicians that bestow upon viewers many insights regarding the field.
That is why I have listed out brief synopses of several works that I believe will come to be appreciated only by serious audiences who can appreciate good scriptwriting and directing. It goes without saying that those who see movies as mundane content with titles along the lines of “Spiderman 94”, “Undefeatables 16”, “Incapturables 3”, or “Unkillables 32” will not find the following reviews to be particularly enjoyable. But if you are a connoisseur of mathematics, then read on.
“Stand And Deliver” is a 1988 film by Ramon Menéndez based on a true story. It follows the successful experiences of an idealistic teacher named Jamie Escalante, who tries to teach problematic kids. Though it may seem cliche, the story features many elements most of us can relate to in our own lives.
Actor Edward James Olmos does a fantastic job of playing the character of Mr. Escalante. So well that he was nominated for an Oscar in the year of the film’s release. However, he, unfortunately, did not take home the award due to stiff competition from the likes of Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” Gene Hackman in “Mississippi Burning,” Tom Hanks in “Big,” and Max Von Sydow in “Pelle The Conqueror.”
“Stand And Deliver” is a moving film every passionless math teacher must watch. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it is one of the most inspiring films for those involved in the profession of teaching.
At the onset of the film, we encounter Mr. Escalante as a passionate teacher bent on teaching calculus to minority students like himself so that they can go onto college. He ultimately succeeds in taking his disinterested students from having nothing to do with math to solving complex math problems that would challenge most high school math teachers.
This serves to draw attention to a key idea: it’s not students that have trouble learning, but rather teachers who fail to teach.
The statement Jamie Escalante makes while passing out test papers to his students carries deep meaning:
“You already have two strikes against you: your name and your complexion. Because of these two strikes, some people in this world will assume that you know less than you do. Math is the great equalizer.”
“Good Will Hunting” shows us that life is made up of choices and that some things that occur to us are not entirely our fault in a series of superb dialogues and unforced, non-melodramatic acting.
I miss this movie from time to time, just as I do my closest friends from my college days. This is because this is the film’s time that brings to mind the warm memories associated with friendship and gives one hope.
The main character Will, played by Matt Damon, is a genius who could solve the best internationally-award-winning academic equations. However, despite his God-given talent, he chooses to make his living as a janitor and work odd construction jobs.
The audience might find it absurd that Will seemingly wastes his intellect. However, we see that Will is very clever. Life is a matter of preference. Some hold what they treasure close to their chest, while others don’t mind being open-handed with what they’ve been blessed with.
Will simplifies his remarkable genius in a very relatable manner with the following statement:
Beethoven looked at a piano, and it just made sense to him. He could just play. I look at a piano, and I see many keys, three pedals, and a box of wood. But Beethoven, Mozart, they saw it; they could just play. I couldn’t paint you a picture, I probably can’t hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can’t play the piano. But I can do your o-chem paper in under an hour. When it came to stuff like that, I could always just play.
Yet despite his gifted nature, Will struggles to solve the most challenging equations: his personal life and issues. It is at this point that Will meets psychologist Sean Maguire. The two’s dialogue, to include the scene where they assume silence to count the passing seconds, is very thought-provoking. That is because people get acquainted with each other through their hurts and connect through those very means. Will and Sean’s relationship is a textbook example of that trope.
“Pi” is a movie where director Darren Aronofsky shows us how a $60,000 budget can be used to shoot a masterpiece. In fact, the black and white color scheme couldn’t have been better suited for the film.
The main character is a man named Max Cohen, a mathematician who takes mathematics from beyond simple pleasure and utilizes it as a tool in order to understand every facet of life.
There are dull and monotonous parts of the movie that may get tedious for the audience, so it is not a film suited for relaxation purposes. However, it is a must-watch for those who are even slightly intrigued by the relationship between mathematics and philosophy.
“A Beautiful Mind” is an exceptional movie that looks at the famous mathematician John Nash, a genius that teetered on the brink of schizophrenia. In this film, Russell Crowe was impressed once again with his ability to bring authenticity to a character, playing the role of a schizophrenic and that of a fighting slave in the movie “Gladiator.”
The film features many moving scenes. For example, The constant mockery behind his back, his wife Alicia’s inability to look at him as he undergoes electrotherapy, and other professors coming to his office to give him their fountain pens as a gift are just a few among many.
“Proof” is an entertaining film that poses a unique perspective to the inner workings of the mind of a mathematical prodigy. Its intriguing nature stems from its perspective on what it is like being the son of a nearly insane father who happens to be such a genius. The best part may be that it is the legendary actor Anthony Hopkins who plays the role of an outstanding professor, but alas, praising the merits of his likes is but a waste of time for us mere mortals.
We witness the challenges Catherine, the professor’s daughter, faces when he suddenly becomes ill, and she must drop everything to tend to him. In fact, Catherine’s biggest challenge has been living under her father’s shadow since the day she was born, and the movie opens with the question of whether it is possible to surpass your father, who has garnered an immense reputation based on his intelligence?
When we look at history, we find that genius condemns those who surround it with obscurity. For example, many people know Edison but not his family. Who knows how many children Al-Khwarizmi had? What is the name of George Cantor’s wife? We can’t tell those close to the bright minds that have made their mark on history because their light plunges others into unknown darkness.
Alas, the statement from the movie that attracted my attention the most was when Anthony Hopkins’s character tells his daughter that the insane do not question whether or not they have really gone insane.
Unlike many math-related movies, “21” is quite entertaining to watch. Unlike multitudes of other films that cover the topic of games of chance, this one actually pertains to a true story. The movie tells the story of 6 MIT students and their professor who go to Las Vegas in 1993 to take away millions of dollars by counting cards in blackjack. Kevin Spacey, who plays the role of the professor, puts forth an impressive performance.
While I watched the movie, a theoretical train of thought went through my mind: if I were the owner of a casino, instead of hunting out someone who comes to my place and constantly wins by cheating, I would forge an agreement with them and convince them to work for me. First, I would want them to prevent customers from winning at my casino and send them to swindle rival casinos. I don’t get why one would beat someone when they could be utilized as a highly useful asset.
“Moneyball” is based on a true story and not only a story of success but also one of failure.
The movie explores the experiences of a man who seeks to change a system despite millions not believing in him. The flawless plot shows us that sometimes failure can lead to success and that courage and risk-taking can give birth to an unforgettable story. That is because sometimes it is able to see things from a different perspective that brings us the success that we seek.
Nonetheless, it is a movie that incorporates many lessons, not only for those interested in mathematics but also for those who may be invested in management and industrial engineering. These lessons are dispersed amongst the different plot sections and teach concepts such as strategic management, leadership, human resources management, analytical thinking, feedback, delegation of authority, and risk.
First of all, this movie is good. Eddie Redmayne, who brings Stephen Hawking to life, has done a marvelous job. He was so good, in fact, that in his email to director James Marsh, Stephen Hawking said that at one point, he thought he was watching himself.
However, despite the fact the general understanding of this film is that it is a biographical account of Stephen Hawking’s life, the reality is that it is a look at his relationship with his wife Jane Hawking from her point of view. Basically, it is a movie that looks at the non-mathematical aspects of a scientist’s life using another perspective. Taking that into account as the audience will yield a much more fulfilling and meaningful understanding of the film.
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