To Teach To Cheat (Movie Thoughts: Bad Education, HBO)

EVAgfhdUEAAA87ZWe all know Hugh Jackman as the ultimate Australian Showman (to me he was most memorable on Broadway as Peter Allen in ‘The Boy from Oz’) so wqe sometimes forget what. great actor he can be. On ‘Bad Education,’ he plays Dr. Fran Tassone, who was instrumental in making Roslyn High School in Long Island the fourth-ranked educational district in the country. But, Tassone was also involved in an embezzlement scheme worth millions. Jackman as Tassone is so charming and charismatic that we as an audience felt like we were taken along with the scheme as well. As a matter of fact, I found myself kind of rooting for him, the anti-hero in the scenario. This film, directed by Cory Finley, takes us to the crime story in a pretty straightforward manner – we see Tassone and his main cohort Pamela Gluckin (Allison Janney also great here) was able to cheat the system, and how when she got caught, how the schools system ‘covered up’ the severity of the case. I was riveted by the story, and I wonder why I never paid attention to this tsory since I still lived in New York when all this was happening.

Jump For Your Life (Film Thoughts: I, Tonya)

large_Tonya-posterTonya HardingĀ  – she fascinates me. I remember the 1994 Lillihammer Winter Olympics vividly – I was glued to the television set while it was on, especially after all the controversy involving her – she was involved in having someone whack the knees of her main opponent, Nancy Kerrigan, before the qualifications. It was high drama at its finest.

And now we have ‘I, Tonya,’ which is a film based on those events. Craig Gillespie has mad a funny, mocking film about Tonya Harding and the events that led up tot hose days. Played magnificently by Margot Robbie, the Tonya we see her is a sort-of misunderstood spoiled brat, and in the end we have a little bit more sympathy for her.

I liked the film a lot. It is fiercely entertaining, shot documentary style, with ‘interviews’ from Harding and all the various people in her life: Jeff Gilooly, her husband and purported mastermind of the crime, of Shawn Eckaard, the bubbling cohort of Gilooley, and most woneerfully, of LaVona Golden, Harding’s tough mother who pushed her daughter, for better or worse, to be the woman she became. Allison Janney is near perfection as Golden, a driven performance that’s funny and horrifically scary all at the same time. And while Margot doesn’t really look like Harding, I think she was able to capture her spirit, and by the third minute you re watching, you will have already believed her.

As I said earlier, Gillespie paints a sympathetic portrait of Harding here. Maybe the cynic in me is a little more suspect – I don’t wholly believe she is as innocent as she claims. Though I do think that the US Figure Skating Association banning her for life is perhaps a bit too harsh. As for the film, it is immensely enjoyable and it is even more so for someone like me who followed this when it was first happening.