#301. Matt Damon

If you had one Trillion dollars lying around, would you use it to save Matt Damon? A few years ago, someone threw some numbers together to estimate the amount of money spent on rescuing all of Matt Damon’s characters and the total was close to a Trillion dollars. Granted, Matt Damon certainly has some skill when it comes to being an actor, but why his characters always need saving is quite the question. Part of why this number is so large is due to the variety of Damon’s roles. From sci-fi epics like Elysium (2013), Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015) to modern-era films like Syriana (2005) and Green Zone (2010), Matt Damon has shown time and again that he knows how to act like he needs help. With so many excellent roles to choose from, this week’s two films highlight some award-winning films featuring Matt Damon.

The DepartedThe Departed
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 151 minutes / 2.52 hours

What helps set Matt Damon apart from other actors is the fact that he can remain as an individual in a cast filled with high-profile actors. From his role as Linus Caldwell in Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) to his role as James Granger in The Monuments Men (2014), few films with a star-studded cast including Matt Damon have been nominated for Best Picture. Unless you also want to include Good Will Hunting (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and True Grit (2010) in this list, in which case it’s happened three times. However, the only film to include Matt Damon alongside a cast full of A-list actors that also won the Oscar for Best Picture is that of The Departed (2006). Of course, partly because of the large cast of excellent talent, Damon was not nominated for an acting award for his part in this film.

Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has come a long way since his childhood in South Boston. As he proved his reliability in the Massachusetts State Police, eventually he was placed on a task force to rid the city of organized crime. What his supervisors do not know is that this position is a conflict of interest for him, since the mobster they are trying to catch, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), is the man who helped raise him. Soon Colin is trying to use his connections to find a mole in the mob while also trying to not be found out as the mole in the police. Both moles eventually learn each other’s identities, but when it comes down to loyalties, each one has to determine for themselves which side of this fight they want to be on. Unfortunately, with secret identities now revealed, the conflict explodes in a hail of bullets, leaving few alive.

Good Will HuntingGood Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

While The Departed did not garner Damon an acting Oscar, he has been nominated a number of times. This comes as no surprise as Matt Damon holds the eponymous role for such films as the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan, , as well asThe Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Jason Bourne (2016). His most recent nomination comes in the form of another eponymous role: The Martian. Before this, he was nominated for Invictus (2009), but merely in a supporting role. The real trick is, even though he didn’t win an Oscar for his acting in Good Will Hunting, he did earn one for this film. Along with Ben Affleck, the two of them wrote the screenplay for this coming-of-age film, immediately launching both of their careers for decades to come.

The titular Will Hunting (Matt Damon) works as a janitor at MIT where he comes across a mathematics problem posted for graduate students. His solution to the problem piques the interest of the professor who posted it. Realizing the genius who solved the problem isn’t one of his students, Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) gets Will out of some jail time by promising to mentor him. While this allows Will to avoid punishment, it also comes with a catch: Will must receive therapy. With Lambeau’s attempts to coach Will through his problems being unfruitful, Lambeau decides to hand him off to Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). Despite initial coldness, Will eventually opens up to Maguire, learning that they share some of the same struggles. At the same time, Will’s blue-collar friends gradually convince him that he’s meant for greater things and to take the opportunities he’s given.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 magnificent Matt Damon roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Rainmaker / Mickey Rourke -> Diner / Kevin Bacon)

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#300. Crime in Boston

Cities are known for many things. We associate Paris with art, New York with theater, and Washington D.C. with politics. Unfortunately, sometimes cities can be known for their less-wholesome aspects. Despite Boston’s numerous tourist and cultural attractions, many people associate it with crime. While the Italian-based mafia tended to be based out of New York City, the Irish-based mafia usually congregated in Boston. As a result, there have been a number of films which use the crime-filled underground of Boston as their backdrop and main conflict. That’s not to say that every film about crime in Boston is about the mafia; in fact, Spotlight (2015) highlighted the Boston Globe’s uncovering of a sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. Still, the “exciting” action films tend to focus on the mafia. This week’s two films examine mafia crime in Boston.

The TownThe Town
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

Because the mafia is outside the law, sometimes they can perform actions to bring about their own form of justice. Especially with a tight-knit group like the Irish-Americans who control the mafia in Boston, the ties that bind them together are based in their nationality. This notion of an extended family means that members will do whatever it takes to look out for one of their own. Sometimes the legal process is too slow, so they’ll take matters into their own hands. The Boondock Saints (1999) is a prime example of this, as two brothers take on the Russian mafia in order to clean up Boston. Similarly, the friendships built through growing up in some of Boston’s tough neighborhoods, like Charlestown, can lead people to join the mafia as their only means of making a living. In The Town (2010), we find how difficult it can be to escape this life of crime.

Fergus Colm (Pete Postlethwaite) is the leader of an Irish-American crime ring that runs out of the Charlestown section of Boston. Four childhood friends work underneath him, including Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy MacGloan (Slaine), and Dez Elden (Owen Burke). These four rob a bank and take the manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), hostage, eventually releasing her unharmed. Unfortunately, not only does she live in the same neighborhood and could potentially identify Jem, but Doug develops feelings for her as well. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is closing in on the group and manages to kill or capture most of them during a heist at Fenway Park. Not wanting to put Claire in danger, Doug flees to Florida to try and find his estranged mother, leaving Claire with the stolen money and the wish to meet up again.

The DepartedThe Departed
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 151 minutes / 2.52 hours

As mentioned earlier, the connections of the Irish-Americans in Boston lead to some strange bedfellows. The famous mobster, Whitey Bulger, was portrayed by Johnny Depp in Black Mass (2015), a film that showed how he was able to evade capture for so long: a South Boston friend involved with the FBI keeping Bulger a few steps ahead of the feds. Similarly, the connections between the Boston mafia and those who are tasked to take them down are often tightly tied together. These familial connections muddle the waters of characters’ moral intentions. Should they remain faithful to the group that gave them their identity and heritage, or should they bring these criminals to justice? This complex and twist-laden plot is best attributed to Martin Scorsese’s only Best Picture win, The Departed (2006). After all, the best director to handle a film about the mafia is none other than Martin Scorsese.

Growing up in South Boston, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is brought under the wing of Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a mobster who uses Colin to infiltrate the police. Years later, Colin has joined a task force focused on bringing down the very mafia that raised him. Meanwhile, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is recruited by the police to go undercover into the mafia because he too has family ties to the seedy world of organized crime. As Billy and Colin interact in their different spheres, their loyalties are questioned as each tries to figure out who the respective moles in their organizations are. The back-and-forth game of cat and mouse (or rat) continues until they eventually learn of the true identities of the other. In a bloody string of murders, both the police and the mafia are left with losses, revealing the harsh reality of crime in Boston: nobody gets out alive.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 mafia movies in Massachusetts

#299. Ben Affleck

Have you ever tried to be something you’re not? Do you know someone who has succeeded at one talent, only to try and capitalize on the success by attempting a different talent? While Hollywood is filled with actors who want to be directors and directors who want to be actors, very few of them can succeed in both realms at the same time. Take Clint Eastwood, for instance. He was a great actor back in his heyday, and now he’s a great director, but there wasn’t much time where he was both. Somewhat similarly, Ben Affleck has shown he is an excellent director as of late, but his early acting efforts were not quite as exemplary. Perhaps Affleck has finally found his niche after being lauded for his writing skills early in his career. Of course, he still enjoys his time in front of the camera as well. This week’s two films look at the directing and acting of Ben Affleck.

ArgoArgo
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes / 2.0 hours

At age 25, Ben Affleck (along with his friend, Matt Damon) won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997). While he had acted in a few films before, including two by director Kevin Smith (Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997)), none of his roles could ever be taken seriously. Instead of pursuing his writing, Affleck ended up appearing in numerous films, most of which were forgettable or terrible (most still say Gigli (2003) is the worst film ever made). And yet, when he started directing full-length films, his acting seemed to improve almost overnight. Within five years from his directorial debut, Affleck would win his second Oscar, this time for the Best Picture, Argo (2012). While he also appeared in the leading role of this film, his performance was much better than most of his previous attempts.

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is astounded to learn that there are no viable plans to rescue the six escapees of the Iranian hostage crisis. While his exfiltration skills are top notch, he doesn’t have any better ideas. After a phone call with his son while Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) is playing in the background, he is struck with inspiration. Using the cover of a Canadian film crew performing site surveys for a sci-fi film, Tony heads to Iran to help coach the six individuals through his plan. Even though all the prep work in Hollywood has been done to make the film look like it is real, the hoax only works on the ground if the six diplomats can manage to convince the Iranian security forces that it’s truly what they’re there for. In the moment of truth, the group head to Tehran International Airport and attempt to leave the country the only way they can.

The TownThe Town
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

In 2007, Ben Affleck put on his writing cap and wrote the screenplay for Gone Baby Gone. Despite having directed a short film much earlier in his career, Gone Baby Gone was his first feature-length film as a director. While he did not appear in the film, leaving the leading role to his brother, Casey Affleck, when 2010 rolled around, he was back in front of the camera (as well as behind it) for The Town. Once again, audiences could see that Affleck does have talent for writing, as he wrote the screenplay for The Town as well. Despite the uproar of his casting as Bruce Wayne / Batman in the DC cinematic universe, this role, along with Nick Dunne in Gone Girl (2014), have shown that Affleck takes his acting much more seriously now, perhaps as a result of his directing. Time will tell if his most recent writing and directorial effort, Live by Night (2017) will be as well received as Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is just one of a group of friends who grew up together and are now partners in crime. Along with Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy MacGloan (Slaine), and Dez Elden (Owen Burke), the four friends rob a bank and take the manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), hostage. After they release her, they realize she lives in their neighborhood and could potentially identify them to the police. In order to find out what she knows, Doug starts following her, but eventually the two of them develop feelings for each other. Unfortunately, since the four friends are still deep in the world of crime, they continue to make robberies. Because these heists still occur, they eventually find that the FBI has figured out who they are. The Feds perform a sting at Fenway based on intelligence they received from a jilted ex, with few of the crew managing to escape.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 deftly directed pieces by Ben Affleck

Bacon #: 2 (Shakespeare in Love / Colin Firth -> Where the Truth Lies / Kevin Bacon)

#298. Iran

Let’s face it: most movies today are made in America. Sure, there are plenty of Chinese, British, Japanese, and Indian films made, but it seems the vast majority come out of Hollywood. Partly because Iran isn’t necessarily in a friendly relationship with the United States, very few films are set in this Middle Eastern country. This doesn’t mean Iran doesn’t have its own film industry, it just means the films most likely to be seen by a wide audience are Americanocentric. After all, people want to watch films with characters they can relate to, and one of the ways we can relate to characters is to have them come from similar geographic areas. For people who live in Iran, films set in Iran can be quite relatable. However, sometimes Iran can be set as the “enemy’s territory” in order to provide conflict to a story. This week’s two films examine Iran as a setting.

PersepolisPersepolis
Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

There is an intrinsic innocence in the point of view of a child. Because of their trusting nature, they often don’t question the events happening around them. That is until the events start to affect their lives. Since “winners” get to write history, the stories of the losing side often become lost. The somewhat recent Iranian revolution certainly affected plenty of children, but few have been able to tell their story as well as Marjane Satrapi. While technically based off of her memoir, a French graphic novel, the French film Persepolis (2007) gives an intimate look into the lives of Iranians during the most turbulent stage of political unrest their country has ever seen. Through young Marjane’s eyes, we see a family forced to succumb to the changing tide of Iran’s society and a child who is helpless to do anything about it.

In the capital city of Tehran, Marjane Satrapi (Chiara Mastroianni) is raised by parents who support the revolution to give the citizens of Iran more freedom (via communism). Unfortunately, when the Islamic Fundamentalists take control of the government, many of her freedoms are constrained. No longer can Marjane publicly enjoy her love of punk rock, heavy metal music, and other musicians contributing to her Western-leaning influence. Because of her vocal qualms with the government, she is sent to Europe by herself. Growing up away from her family, she finds that the rest of the world is prejudiced against her because of her Iranian origins. After a sickness nearly kills her, she returns to Iran to recover, only to find that the state of the country has gotten worse. With no other options available to her, she emigrates from Iran, leaving her loving family behind.

ArgoArgo
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes / 2.0 hours

Part of the reason many Iranian films are unknown to American audiences is because they have rarely been nominated for Best Foreign Film. Around 1994, Iran has submitted a film for consideration for almost every year since but has only been nominated twice. Children of Heaven (1998) was their first nomination, but their second nomination, A Separation (2011), resulted in a win. It’s difficult to know when they’ll be nominated again, but with increasing globalization we can assume the competition for the nominee spots will certainly become more difficult in each successive year. Of course, these are merely films made by Iran. The 2012 Best Picture winner, Argo, was set in Iran, even if it was an American film. As a result, the Iranians in Argo are seen as antagonists instead of protagonists.

Based on real-life events, Argo follows CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) as he uses his expertise in exfiltration to rescue six individuals who managed to escape the hostage crisis of 1979. With the help of some Hollywood contacts, Tony starts putting together a cover for the diplomats to use and escape Tehran with little to no hassle. Posing as location scouts for a fake science fiction film, he manages to coach the six on their roles as Canadian filmmakers. Meanwhile, the Iranian revolutionaries are piecing together shredded personnel files and soon learn of the identities of the six missing hostages. Now at the airport, the Americans manage to exhibit their cover identities and board the plane toward freedom.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Iranian settings

#289. Charles Dickens

Much like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens is one of the most adapted authors ever to have lived. While the number of adapted works of Dickens isn’t necessarily large, especially when compared against those of Philip K. Dick, the sheer number of times Dickens’ writing has been adapted is what gives him this distinction. One does have to wonder if the prolific amount of adaptations has to do with the singular fact that Dickens’ name caries a certain amount of gravitas with it. Of course, his writings have withstood the test of time, even if their original context and political satire might be lost on modern audiences. If anything, these adaptations may be the only exposure to Dickens most people will experience. While we’ll feel guilty about having not read The Pickwick Papers, at least we’d know what it was about. This week’s two films highlight some unique adaptations of Charles Dickens’ works.

Oliver!Oliver!
Year: 1968
Rating: G
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours

When it comes to recognition from the Academy Awards, Dickens is definitely in the same class as Shakespeare. Both have had four of their adapted stories turned into films that won nominations for Best Picture. Both have had one of their stories win said Best Picture Oscar. Both aforementioned Best Pictures were also musicals. On Shakespeare’s side, we have Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Henry V (1944), and Julius Caesar (1953) as nominees and West Side Story (1961) as Best Picture (with Romeo and Juliet being nominated in 1936 and 1968 as well). In terms of Dickens’ achievements, there’s David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), and Great Expectations (1946) as nominees and Oliver! (1968) as Best Picture. The fact that the 1960’s saw two literary musical adaptations win Best Picture merely shows you what kind of decade it really was.

To quote another famous, musical orphan, Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) had a “Hard Knock Life”. Shuffled from an orphanage to the service of an undertaker, the young boy finally escapes and travels to London to start a new life. Because he has no family or connections in London, Oliver is soon taken in by a gang of thieves and pickpockets. While he doesn’t necessarily want to commit these crimes, he still needs to eat. After he’s accused of stealing a wallet from a Mr. Brownlow (Joseph O’Conor), a bookseller comes to Oliver’s rescue with the truth of his innocence. Partly because Oliver reminds him of his niece, Brownlow decides to take Oliver home with him. Despite the luxury Oliver now finds himself in, his past acquaintances kidnap him and attempt to bring him back into a life of crime. The golden heart of a barmaid is the only piece of hope Oliver has of being saved.

The Muppet Christmas CarolThe Muppet Christmas Carol
Year: 1992
Rating: G
Length: 85 minutes / 1.41 hours

Just like we’ve seen a huge amount of Romeo and Juliet retellings, there have been plenty of versions of A Christmas Carol. I would wager that any holiday-themed story will be retold as long as that holiday remains relevant. Heck, even if it’s not relevant, people will continue to “celebrate” by reading or watching these stories. From watching Groundhog Day (1993) on Groundhog Day, to Independence Day (1996) on the Fourth of July, to V for Vendetta (2006) on Guy Fawkes Day, there are plenty of obscure holidays to celebrate with a movie. But Christmas always takes the cake in terms of holiday-themed adaptations. Of these adaptations, none is more recognizable than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Because it is such a timeless story, it has been reproduced in a large number of mediums, including puppetry (as seen in The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)).

Narrated by Charles Dickens (Gonzo the Great), The Muppet Christmas Carol follows Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a miserly old man who has pushed everyone close to him away. Because the following day is Christmas, Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), asks for all the bookkeepers to get the holiday off. After begrudgingly agreeing to Cratchit’s terms, Scrooge arrives at his home and spends the night alone only to be awoken by the ghosts of his past: Jacob and Robert Marley (Waldorf and Statler). They warn him that his current path will lead to his demise. To emphasize the point, three more spirits visit him in the night and show him what once was, what could be, and what is to come. Gradually, Scrooge realizes the error of his ways and wakes up the next day full of the Christmas spirit.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Dickens adaptations

#288. Orphans

While orphans are often considered to be some of the most disenfranchised people-groups in the world, there certainly seem to be a large number of them as main characters in a number of films. Granted, this is an artifact of a few different genres, most of which want to give the protagonists enough flexibility to go on adventures without being tied down to a home life. Even the ones who do have guardians either don’t have the best ones (as in the “step-mother” archetype) or experience tragedy again when these guardians are also killed. Despite the number of orphans decreasing in the real-world due to better survival rates for parents, somehow the stories of orphans always seem to find interested audiences. Some may fault the writers of these stories for this common ploy, but if it keeps working over centuries of writing, there must be some merit to it. This week’s two films feature orphans as their main characters.

                Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate EventsYear: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

In part due to the fact that there are less orphans in the world than there used to be, less authors are using them in their stories. That being said, there are still a number of notable literary orphans, the most famous of which is Harry Potter. With the rise of the popularity of superhero movies, we also see that many of their main characters are orphans as well. In fact, some have given Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) the facetious title of “Orphan Fight”. Even Marvel superheroes have this trait as well, including Spider-man and Captain America. This trait isn’t even constrained to American comic books, as the long-running Japanese manga, Naruto, had its eponymous character orphaned during a disaster that hits his home village. While many of these orphans have no siblings, one notable group of orphans is the Baudelaire children of Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004).

After the mysterious death of their wealthy parents, the Baudelaire children find themselves in the care of their unscrupulous uncle, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). When the children narrowly avoid an accident with a train, they are taken to live with their other uncle, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly). Through unfortunate circumstances involving his beloved reptiles, Dr. Montgomery is killed and the children are then moved to live with their Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep). Olaf appears again and lets some ravenous leeches kill Josephine. With the children now under his control again, he puts on a play about a wedding with the eldest child, Violet (Emily Browning). Unfortunately, the play is not an act and Olaf now stands to inherit the children’s bequeathed fortune. Fortunately, the two younger Baudelaires save their sister from her marriage while also learning of the source of the fire that killed their parents.

Oliver!Oliver!
Year: 1968
Rating: G
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours

To many it may seem strange that orphans are as musical as they appear in film, but we can certainly blame Disney for this oddity. I know I wouldn’t want to sing in the tragic circumstances of an orphan, but time-and-again we find Disney princesses (as well as other main characters animated by them) cheerily singing despite their lack of parents. This is probably because many of the Disney stories are pulled from old stories, where parents often died from a variety of factors. Even Disney’s most recent success, Frozen (2013), features two women orphaned by a shipwreck that killed their parents. Outside of Disney, there are still examples of musical orphans, including that of Lil’ Orphan Annie, who has had many musical adaptations. But, above all these is the most famous orphan of all: Oliver Twist. The musical adaptation in 1968 won Best Picture, as well as five other Oscars.

Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) has a difficult life as an orphan. After asking for more food at the orphanage, the owners sell him into the service of an undertaker. When he gets in trouble, he’s locked in the basement only to escape and head to London. Once in the big city, he becomes involved with a gang of pickpockets and thieves. Wrongfully accused for a crime, Oliver is almost sent to prison were it not for a bookseller who witnessed the crime and could exonerate the orphan. The victim decided to bring Oliver home in the process. Unfortunately, even though Oliver now lives in a life of relative luxury, his past comes back to haunt him. Some of the thieves find Oliver and force him back into stealing. Meanwhile, his benefactor goes about trying to prove that Oliver is the child of a niece of his. Tragedy ensues as a friendly barmaid tries to help Oliver escape the clutches of the thieves, but justice eventually prevails.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 outstanding orphans

#285. Jennifer Connelly

In the world of child actors, very few last long enough to continue working in the industry. Sure, there are exceptions; actors and actresses who eventually develop their craft into award-winning performances. Most people could count the number of these exceptions on one hand. This begs the question: what helps a child actor eventually arrive at success? It is my opinion that the earlier a child actor can work with an excellent director, the greater their chances are of achieving recognition later in life (should they not be hindered by alcohol or drug addiction before then). One of these anomalies is Jennifer Connelly. Her very first role in film was in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) when she was only 14. She’s only gone up from there. This week’s two films look at Jennifer Connelly’s best roles.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

While Sergio Leone’s crime drama was her first role, many consider Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) to be her breakout performance. That being said, there was plenty more to be desired for her acting. Fortunately, she has managed to stay out of the limelight partly because of her heavy involvement in independent films. Granted, this is often seen as the reason why she mostly appears in darker and more nudity-filled films (which may also be tied to shedding the “child actor” label), but it’s what eventually landed her in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). If audiences didn’t consider her a serious actress before this film, they certainly do now. A decade and a half later, she would team up with Aronofsky again for the Biblical epic, Noah (2014), but most claim their previous collaboration as one of their best.

Harry (Jared Leto) spends most of his time shooting heroin with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Because it is such an expensive addiction, they decide to turn to drug dealing in order to pay for the habit, as well as to realize their dreams of starting a business, becoming a clothing designer, and moving out of the slums, respectively. At the same time, Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), is convinced that she has been chosen to appear on TV and takes drastic measures to lose weight so she can wear a favorite dress again. Through this process, she becomes addicted to amphetamines while her son and his posse find their own unwholesome fates, including hospitalization, incarceration, and prostitution. In a hallucination, Sara imagines that the world is all right for her, her son, and his girlfriend. That dream is far from the truth.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

Another big-name director who cast Connelly in their films was none other than Ron Howard. We all have forgotten about the regrettable The Dilemma (2011), but Jennifer Connelly likely wouldn’t have appeared in that film had she not impressed Howard earlier in her career with her work in Inventing the Abbotts (1997). This inspiration is what led him to cast her, along with Russell Crowe and Ed Harris, in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001). Not only did this film win Best Picture and Best Director, but it garnered Jennifer Connelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She had already worked with Ed Harris on his directorial debut: Pollock (2000), portraying the mistress of Jackson Pollock (who himself was played by Ed Harris), but it took many years before she appeared in another film across from Russell Crowe: the aforementioned Noah.

John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a promising mathematics student at Princeton University in the late 1940’s. Because of the high hopes for his career, he is under large amounts of stress to publish, but he wants to publish something original, not just a derivative work. While at a bar with his mathematics friends, he develops a new idea that leads to his publication of the Nash equilibrium (a modified game theory). Meanwhile, he falls in love with, and eventually marries, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). At first, their life together is idyllic, but soon Alicia discovers that John’s roommate in college never existed, and John’s “boss” from the Pentagon also doesn’t exist. Despite John being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and his refusal to take his medication, Alicia stays with him and helps him to an eventual recovery.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 key Jennifer Connelly roles

Bacon #: 2 (A Beautiful Mind / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)