Fame, fortune, and their name printed in the auspicious MIT Tech!

The problem Professor Lambeau puts on the hallway chalkboard sets off such excitement as to the identity of the mystery mathematician that his next class is overfilled with students eager to learn who the “silent rogue” could be. When I first saw the film, I thought that the joke — “Is it just my imagination or has my class grown considerably?” — was that everyone enrolled in the massive lecture course actually showed up, which never happens in large lectures. Instead, I think the implication is simply that nearly everyone who heard about the Hard Math Problem being solved was eagerly attending in awe; in short, this is a really big deal.

So big a deal in fact, that people are running as fast as they can to get to the lecture hall.

Someone solved the theorem on the hallway chalkboard!!
Someone solved the theorem on the hallway chalkboard!!

Only in repeated viewings did I realize, this quick scene is not of running students late for class, but instead, it depicts the electric excitement on campus that disrupts the normal pedestrian flow, pulling academics into a sprint toward the lecture hall, books and briefcases in hand, to behold who solved the theorem.

Addendum: In this curious eagerness they find companionship.  Could this be the result of “goodwill hunting”?  They look for math but find companionship, but maybe it was companionship they were looking for all along?  Because nerds don’t have friends?

What’s so good about him?

An addendum to previous post, Good Will Hunting II: It’s Hunting Season

Okay, I would be remiss not to praise the GWH2 moment wherein Mr. Ponytail intones the film’s somewhat obtuse before-and-after title.  Really, is anyone in the film really hunting for “good will” — “an attitude of kindness or friendliness; benevolence”?

Will Hunting is actually surrounded by this sort of unobtrusive support; what he ultimately needs is “to meet his match” (according to the trailer) — the kind of challenges he receives from Minnie Driver, Robin Williams, and Math. I would argue he’s “It’s Not Your Fault” Hunting.  But that is not the same as good will.  Will needs tough love, not merriness and good will towards men. (Though I guess he claims to need no one but the dead academics he so relishes…)

The other understanding of the play on words is that Will is just plain Good, as in Good [at Math] Will HuntingGood [at Burying it Deep Inside] Will Hunting.  But that’s stupid, right? But I digress — the film’s title is a compelling discussion to come.  Let’s just cut back to the punchline… “Applesauce, bitch.”  (And who doesn’t like applesauce?)

Good Will Hunting II: It’s Hunting Season

I always forget that Matt & Ben really got their break from Kevin Smith (Good Will Hunting co-executive producer, creator/writer/director of Chasing Amy and, as seen above, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back) .  I haven’t seen Jay & Silent Bob, but have to admit, this scene is masterful.

Were Ben-Affleck-self-mocking a film genre onto its own, he’d be buried in Oscars.

Ben Affleck, Pink Hats, and the Perceived Loss of Authenticity

How strange it was to glance up at the television screen during Tuesday’s Red Sox game to see NESN repeatedly zoomed in on none other than Good Will Hunting’s and Cambridge, MA’s own Ben Affleck. This is nothing new, I suppose. His presence has been documented in his sweet dugout-hugging seats before.

Actor Ben Affleck leans in to speak to players and coaches in the Boston Red Sox dugout during their baseball game against the Florida Marlins at Fenway Park in Boston Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Actor Ben Affleck leans in to speak to players and coaches in the Boston Red Sox dugout during their baseball game against the Florida Marlins at Fenway Park in Boston Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

But let’s step back a minute and observe how far we’ve come from Southie (and Cambridge Rindge & Latin)….

Brown-bagging spectators at Little League.
Brown-bagging it at Little League.

One of the many safe and stable realms of male bonding that Good Will Hunting establishes is baseball. This is of course a recognized Bostonian phenomenon: the Sox, the Curse, the brotherhood of “Red Sox Nation.” There is a key sequence in the film that invokes this (occasionally) unspoken bond among Bostonians — Will and his therapist’s nostalgic recollection of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Director Gus Van Sant intercuts archival footage, so soaked in nostalgia it has gone grainy and soiled, with the boys’ energetic reenactment of the game’s climax.

"Thirty-five thousand people went crazy. And I wasn't one of them." -- Sean (Robin Williams)

I can’t help connecting the dots from Good Will Hunting‘s grimy nostalgia for 1975 into the future to the Red Sox “Dirt Dogs,” mucked-up helmets, bunch-of-idiots, dirty-water sensibility. This aura clung to the authenticity of the true fans, sitting in the stands in rain or sleet or heartbreaking loss for decades.

That said, recent years have lent the franchise a slew of other connotations, many not in keeping with the underdog mentality so many have cheered for.

So here we are, back from 1975 and 1997, on June 16, 2009…

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Affleck and Kevin Youkilis (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

How weird and false and inappropriate it is to see a dashing, cleft-chinned version of Chuckie Sullivan on Boston’s plasma screens, in Fenway’s front-row, coyly sporting a Celtics t-shirt like an expatriate with something to prove.

How strange it is to see Kevin Youkilis (his shaved head distinctive though out-of-focus) and Affleck in the same AP photograph, their worlds-colliding romantic-histories seeming so much more Hollywood than Boston. (Youk is married to former Affleck beau Ezna Sambataro. Just please, don’t call them Kevezna).

(And Ben and Youk, encountering on this public stage…. Awkward!)

There is a real cognitive dissonance in seeing Morgan in the Little League stands and then Ben at Fenway. Affleck is such Glossy Movie Star these days (but hardly even in movies people sees anymore) and it invalidates that grainy authenticity of Southie, the unrefined Morgan Sullivan, and good ole Will Hunting’s modest dream to grow up taking their kids to little league together.

Affleck’s post-GWH transformation into Tabloid Cover Boy is paralleled by the Fenway Faithful’s transformation into “Pink Hats” (as lamented by tried-and-true Sox fans).  Are we mourning the loss of authenticity?  Has the Dirty Boston in Affleck been reduced to a crisp Pink Hat? Is the Matt & Ben we-won-Oscars-for-a-middling-screenplay-but-we’re-best-friends-so-it’s-adorable fairy tale just marketing hooey?

I don’t know, but I do know that the photographer at Tuesday’s Red Sox game should have been focusing on Youk (the first-baseman! leading the team in on base percentage and helping kids and awesomeness!); not on some Supertramp fan in the front row.