What is History?
These are the first words spoken by Ryan Gosling in his Oscar-nominated performance in the 2006 film, Half Nelson. (Sadly, his only Oscar-nominated performance to date. I was so blown away by his work in this movie that I thought, for sure, he would have received at least another nomination, if not a win, by now) Gosling plays a Brooklyn middle school teacher named Dan Dunne that happens to wrestle (see where that title comes from?!) with a drug problem. Throughout the course of the film, he's even discovered by one of his students (an excellent Shareeka Epps as Drey) in a girls' bathroom stall, smoking crack – moments after a basketball game he just happened to be coaching.
Dan's struggles with addiction, while striving to be a better person, are the focus of the film and give an added depth to the "Teacher as Savior" genre. But I recently rewatched the film, focusing only on the scenes in the classroom. [more...]