KEANU REEVES IN ACADEME: EXCELLENT IDEA, OR BOGUS?(also published on April 1 as a shorter version under the title 'Totally bogus, or bodaciously cool? Reeves is a class subject ')
by Janet Weeks, Los Angeles Daily News
A film instructor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., had a totally excellent idea this semester.
Instead of offering his usual course in the films of avant-garde European directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jean-Luc Godard, he's spending 12 weeks on the films of a most triumphant actor, an Olivier for the '90s.
Ted? No way.
Stephen Prina is offering a comprehensive study of Reeves' work, including the goofy teen comedy "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and its equally goofy sequel, "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey."
Students view a film a week - like "Point Break," in which Reeves plays a surfing FBI agent - then spend an hour discussing what they have seen. Yep, a full 60 minutes.
Students also are required to read a variety of essays with themes that Prina said tie into the various movies. For example, the week the class viewed the original "Bill and Ted," they read "Nietzche, Genealogy, History," by Michel Foucault. And to prepare for "I Love You to Death," they read excerpts from "The Philosophy of Andy Warhol." You remember Warhol, the gnarly artist dude.
Prina said he wanted to design a course about filmmaking in the 1980s and focused the class on Reeves because the actor has appeared in a diverse set of films that each exemplify a specific style.
"The class is about this agent - Keanu Reeves - who can move across the wide spectrum of contemporary filmmaking," said Prina, a painter, photographer and film aficionado. "And, of course, I think he is quite good."
Prina is serious about that, by the way. He contends that Reeves single-handedly has carried certain films, such as "I Love You to Death," which co-starred William Hurt and Kevin Kline.
Some critics who write off Reeves as a one-trick pony, an actor who simply plays himself no matter the character. Said Prina, "So what?" The same can be said of Jack Nicholson, he pointed out, and he's an Oscar winner.
"I saw 'Much Ado About Nothing' over the weekend, and the first time Keanu came on screen everyone laughed in the audience and I almost stood up and gave a lecture."
Some students and others, however, think Prina's selection of Reeves as a metaphor for modern films is most heinous. A most bogus choice.
"Colleagues have lodged formal complaints about the class," he said. "They think it's a joke. Film students have said they are ashamed to go to a school that offers this class."
But Prina is undaunted.
"I did not design this class to be provocative." He did hope to stir discussion, however. "Of course. That's my job."
The unusual nature of the course also has prompted stories in the New Yorker and Harper's. MTV News is planning to tape a segment on the class. And there's a possibility Reeves himself may make an appearance in one of the classes.
Now wouldn't that be bodacious?