Films on College

Declining by Degrees:
Higher Education at Risk

Documentary 2005 NR 120 minutes. This PBS documentary debunks commonly held notions about the rite of passage known as the college experience, following 30 students and their teachers along the path of higher education, from admission to graduation, and exposes the disappointment, disorientation and deflation many students feel, in both public and private schools. This revealing study also addresses the quality and readiness of America’s future work force. See Full Review

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America’s College Debt Crisis

Documentary CNBC Originals 2010 NR 43m. CNBC goes inside a debt crisis that affects millions of Americans, and investigates a system that encourages widespread borrowing, leaving the average college graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.Institutions turn a blind eye to the damaging effects student debt have upon borrowers.

College, Inc.

Documentary Frontline 2010 NR 60 minutes. Uncovering the truth about for-profit colleges and universities, this Frontline episode investigates the schools’ powerful recruitment methods, convenient online curriculum, connections to Wall Street and astronomical revenues. Through interviews with former students, employees and education experts, this program questions whether such institutions of higher learning improve the lives of their graduates or simply saddle them with debt. The business of higher education is booming. It’s a $400 billion industry fueled by taxpayer money. But what are students getting out of the deal? Critics say a worthless degree and a mountain of debt. Investors insist they’re innovators, widening access to education. Frontline follows the money to uncover how Wall Street and a new breed of for-profit universities are transforming the way we think about college in America.

College Conspiracy

Documentary 2011 63 min. This film debunks many myths, including the belief that Americans with college degrees earn $1 million more in lifetime income compared to high school graduates without a college degree. The most important basic fact that most Americans don’t understand about 4-year colleges is that most Americans spend 6 years attending them before graduating. With U.S. tuition inflation for private colleges averaging 5.15% over the past half a decade, assuming this same rate of tuition inflation continues, a college with tuition of $30,000 today will have tuition of $38,563 in the sixth year a student attends it. NIA analyzes the total cost to attend college by factoring in not just rapidly rising tuition expenses, but also the interest payments on student loans, and the lost income that college students would have earned if they worked at an average entry-level job that doesn’t require a college degree.

Inequality for All

Documentary 2013 PG 1hr 30m. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich makes a compelling case about the serious crisis the U.S. faces due to the widening economic gap. This film is entertaining, but it also educates. This is one of the best documentaries I have seen in years.

The Money Chase
Inside Harvard Business School

Documentary CNBC Originals 2008 NR 45 minutes. For 100 years, it’s been one of the most influential schools in the world. But what’s it really like to go to Harvard Business School? CNBC goes inside the ”West Point of Capitalism” as it commemorates its centennial.

The Social Network

Docudrama 2010 PG-13 120 minutes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) rises from Harvard sophomore to Internet superstar in this biographical drama. Examining his relationships with co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Winning Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Director, the film also racked up Oscar nods in the same categories and for lead actor Eisenberg. Director David Fincher.

Good Will Hunting

Drama 1997 R 126 minutes. When professors discover that an aimless janitor is also a math genius, a therapist helps the young man confront the demons that are holding him back in this uplifting drama about friendship and risk.

With Honors

Drama 1994PG-13103 minutesHarvard public-policy major Monty Kessler (Brendan Fraser) finds himself in a pinch when his thesis ends up in the hands of Simon Wilder (Joe Pesci), a resourceful vagabond living in the university library’s basement. Sensing a meal ticket, Simon offers to trade pages of the essay for food and lodging. An unlikely bond forms between the pair, and Simon teaches the self-absorbed, overachieving Monty that there’s more to life than book learning.

Revenge of the Nerds

Comedy 1984 R 90 minutes. After enduring abuse from cocky frat boys and their snotty girlfriends, freshmen nerds Lewis and Gilbert start a fraternity of brainy and socially inept cohorts in order to wreak revenge. The antics culminate in an annual fraternity decathlon.

National Lampoon’s Animal House

Comedy 1978 R 109 minutes. Knowledge is good, but swilling kegs of beer is more fun! Just ask the guys at the Delta House fraternity. Often imitated, but seldom equaled, Animal House spawned a generation of gonzo comedies and launched John Belushi’s film career. Dean Wormer (John Vernon) puts the titular frat on double-secret probation, and it’s up to Bluto, Flounder, Pinto and the rest of the brothers to get even. This edition includes retrospective featurettes and more.

The Great Debaters

Docudrama 2007 PG-13 124 minutes. At all-black Wiley College in 1935, an activist professor pushes his debate team to a level of excellence that nets them a chance to take on Harvard University — the reigning national champs — in this inspiring drama based on a true story. When the team finally arrives at the Harvard contest, the viewer gets a full-on debate, and it’s worth the wait. The topic is civil disobedience, and as one of the film’s heroes describes his own life experiences as an African-American, the message deeply touches hearts and minds. While based on a true story, like many movies of this docudrama type, the accuracy of the details is suspect. (The team did beat the reigning champion, but the actual champion at the time was not the team from Harvard. In fact, Harvard’s participation is fictional. The Wiley team actually beat out the student debaters from the University of Southern California.) Still, I prefer to give it the benefit of the doubt. Here the goal seems to be to educate and entertain at the same time. I feel like this film ultimately succeeds at that and it is also a work of art. I highly recommend it. A must-see for everyone.

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A Lawyer Walks into a Bar…

Documentary 2007 NR 84 minutes. Director Eric Chaikin’s insightful documentary explores the complexities of the U.S. legal system while tracing the journey of six prospective attorneys who are preparing for their fearsome bar exams. Chaikin talks with legal eagles Alan Dershowitz and Mark Lanier to help demystify the judicial process. In addition to high-profile lawyers, the film also features commentary from television’s Nancy Grace and comedian Eddie Griffin, among others.

The American Ruling Class

Documentary 2005 NR 89 minutes. This inventive, mildly fictionalized documentary follows noted editor Lewis Lapham as he introduces two Ivy League graduates to America’s elite in an effort to examine the role of class and moneyed privilege in American democracy. With stops at the Pentagon, posh Manhattan parties and more, Lapham encounters luminaries — including James Baker III and Walter Cronkite — who each share their perspectives on America’s ruling class.

St. Elmo’s Fire

Drama 1985 R 108 minutes. Best friends and recent Georgetown graduates struggle with the newfound responsibilities of life in the real world — in between visits to their favorite bar, St. Elmo’s — in this classic Brat Pack drama from director Joel Schumacher.

The Big Chill

Dramatic Comedy 1983 R 106 minutes. After years apart, a group of idealistic former college buddies (William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, JoBeth Williams, Mary Kay Place, Tom Berenger and Jeff Goldblum) who’ve followed divergent paths as adults reunite at the funeral of one of their own, reconnecting and reminiscing while a soundtrack of 1960s hits plays in the background. The ensemble performance in this Oscar-nominated dramatic comedy reflected the period’s baby boomer angst.

The Graduate

Romantic Comedy 1967 PG 105 minutes. Dustin Hoffman (in his first major film role) turns in a landmark performance as a naïve college graduate who is seduced by a middle-aged neighbor (Anne Bancroft) but ends up falling in love with her beautiful, young daughter (Katharine Ross). Mike Nichols won a Best Director Oscar for this 1960s classic, which boasts an immortal score from Simon and Garfunkel that includes the iconic “Mrs. Robinson.”


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