We know that the last thing you probably want to think about in the middle of summer is school, but we're pairing this rough-and-tumble game with the cerebral experience of Dead Poets Society in order to provide you with a fully rounded learning experience without the exams. So Blue-47-21, Carpe Diem and read on for this week's game / movie matchup.
Dead Poets Society was a bit of a departure for Australian director Peter Weir, having just directed two films starring Mel Gibson (Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously) and Harrison Ford (Witness and The Mosquito Coast), and it nearly didn't happen the way it did. While the main role in the film eventually went to Robin Williams – and is widely considered to be one of his best dramatic roles – Liam Neeson, Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray were all up for the same part.
Despite the focus on Robin Williams, the film is really about a group of young men coming of age at an elite prep school with a penchant for snobbery. With fathers who expect their boys to grow up to become doctors and lawyers, their intellectual boats get rocked when they become exposed to the "Dead Poets Society," and come into direct contact with poetry, drama and even women for the first times in their lives. But as with most things in life, there are consequences attached to everything, no matter how new and delightful.
The film unfolds initially through the eyes of Ethan Hawke's character, as the awkward new student at Welton Academy, and then through the rest of the cast as they encounter Williams' John Keating, a teacher unlike any they have had before. Chances are you've only had a handful of teachers, or perhaps only one, who managed to affect your life the way Keating affects theirs. This movie underscores the reason that teachers like this make a difference and force us to step out of our shells and become something different.
There are indeed sports in this film, including soccer and rowing, but it lacks the quintessential high school and college experience that exists in a world all its own: football. Which is why we've decided to pair this with NCAA Football 13, which sits on the opposite end of the institute of higher learning seesaw.
Where You Can Watch Dead Poets Society
You can find Dead Poets Society on Amazon Instant Video, where you can stream the film in standard definition ($2.99) or purchase a digital version for $9.99 (SD only). The film is also available to rent on the Xbox Video Marketplace for 360 MS points ($4.50) in HD, or in SD for 280 MS points ($3.50). The PlayStation Store has more options, allowing you to rent the film in HD for $4.50 or SD for $2.99, while you can own it in SD for $9.99 and in both HD & SD for $15.99.
The film has long been available on DVD, but was finally made available on Blu-ray earlier this year. One of the best bonus features included on the disc is a collection of cast interviews reminiscing about the film, and despite it being ported from the original standard-def release, it's well worth watching. Priced around $12.49, it's the most affordable way to own a high-definition version of the movie.
There are a handful of other special features here, including a wonderful commentary from Peter Weir (who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for this film), writer Tom Schulman (who won the Best Screenplay Oscar) and cinematographer John Seale. Combine that with the Master of Sound: Alan Spet and Cinematography Master Class featurettes, and it's a virtual film school.
Weir would go on to direct films such as Fearless, The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and the very overlooked The Way Back. His films prior to Dead Poets Society are terrific as well, including his spooky Picnic at Hanging Rock. Williams would go on to do countless films, including more dramatic roles in movies such as Awakenings, Dead Again and The Fisher King, and other notable cast members include Ethan Hawke (Reality Bites, Gattaca), Robert Sean Leonard (Swing Kids, House) and Josh Charles (Sports Night, The Good Wife).
So step onto your favorite collegiate turf, sound your barbaric yawp, take the pigskin a few hundred yards downfield a few times this weekend, and then step back into the halls and textbooks for a look at Dead Poets Society. Selecting a film like Rudy to make this comparison would have been far too easy. Dead Poets Society represents the best and worst things about the prep school experience, and highlights the time when we are often forced to grow up without knowing it – something that adults often mistake for rebellion, when it actually represents change.
Kevin Kelly is a writer and pop culture junkie with a fixation on video games, movies, and board games. His writing has been seen at Moviefone, io9, Film School Rejects, TechRadar, Wizard World, G4, and The Austin Chronicle. He lives in Los Angeles and does not know how to surf. Follow him on Twitter @kevinkelly.