While Keanu Reeves is somewhat famous for being, shall I say, of questionable talent, one has to admire his perseverance. His latest film, Hardball, doesn't stray from the typical perception, but it is still not a total loss.


Reeves plays Connor O'Neil, a gambler and scalper down on his luck in Chicago, who is pursued by a cavalcade of men who want desperately to break his legs. After one particularly big loss, when he asks a friend for money, he is essentially forced into coaching a baseball team of kids from the projects for the payment. Needless to say, self-discovery and happiness ensue.


From previews and descriptions, this film appears to be the run-of-the-mill Mighty Ducks -type tale in which an unlikely coach, through a zany progression including plenty of comedic montages, turns a group of misfit kids into a lean, mean, fighting machine of a team. This, however, turns out to be false advertising.


While such a plot line is quietly present, there were aspects of this film that differed from The Mighty Ducks and other archetypes, such as the portrayal of life outside the team for the underprivileged kids, which was admittedly disturbing. As the kids approached their buildings, they filed between the drug dealers and people shouting at them from all directions, looking straight ahead, terrified. Once inside, families all sat on the floor (below the windows) to avoid stray bullets. This depiction was one admirable portion of the film, albeit a bit out of place.


At this point, it would be easy to simply pan Reeves' performance and get it out of the way, but in this case it is not necessarily that clear-cut. Sure, overall, his eyes still had no expression and his voice was monotonous beyond reason. This is what made him shine in the Bill and Ted movies. But there were moments when one had to admit that his acting was acceptable.


Reeves seemed convincingly uncomfortable at one point, when he stood to lose twelve thousand dollars on a bet. There were, however, laughable moments when he got angry, and lacked the proper fire in his eyes to make it realistic. But in general, his mediocrity probably wouldn't have been as blatant in this film, had I not been trained to look for it by past critics.


Diane Lane plays the teacher of the boys on Reeves' team. Since, by some obnoxious law, there can't seem to be a movie without a love-related side plot, they hit it off. Their courtship, in this case, is appropriately underdeveloped. The spotlight is shifted to Reeves struggle with gambling and the lives of the kids.


The absolute highlight of this film is the kids on the team. They were charming, hilarious, and did an excellent job even when their roles became serious. Of course, as with any kid sports movie, there was the obligatory chubby kid (who was extraordinarily cute), and a few jokes centered around that.


The cinematography was not particularly noticeable throughout the movie, with the exception of a few insightful camera angles in showing the homes of the children and other random, sparsely-placed points. The music, on the other hand, added a nice touch, allowing such old school hits as "Big Poppa" by Notorious B.I.G. to surface. Such auditory distraction helped action scenes involving baseball games and practices progress smoothly.


While it is to be expected of this sort of film, the predictability was a low point. From the acting to the plot, no surprises were to be found. But the kids made it sufficiently fun (and, on the flip side, sobering) and, therefore, the film was not an utter waste of time.

Archived article by Stacy Williams

November 23, 2015

Campaign Proposes Placing Cornell Alumna on $10 Bill

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The Barbara on the Bill campaign aims to put Barbara McClintock ’23 M.A. ’25 Ph.D. ’27, a scientist known for overcoming discrimination in the field of genetics and making groundbreaking discoveries, on the $10 bill.

Don Gibson, a Ph.D. student in the genome center and plant biology department at the University of California, Davis, started the campaign to emphasize that Americans value achievements in science and technology.

Although many have called for another political or civil leader, such as Susan B. Anthony or Harriet Tubman, to represent American women on the $10 bill, Gibson advocates a scientific figure to celebrate American accomplishments in a different field.

“America has only had one theme on its currency — great political and civil achievements,” he said. “There’s no greater venue to share a value of American achievement and accomplishment then on our currency. America has unlocked the atom, created light, put a man on the moon and unlocked the human genome.”

Gibson also said he believes displaying a scientist on American currency will help humanize the public’s image of scientists who are often pictured as intelligent but austere figures.

“[We could] change the average perception of what a scientist is,” Gibson said. “They are human beings who have all struggled, who have tried to prosper and if we can share an image of not only a great scientist but a great American women of science, we can change the perspective [on] science and the people who do it.”

Gibson also said he hopes having an image of a female scientist on the $10 bill will show that women can be just as successful and influential as the men who currently dominate the STEM fields at a 3-to-1 ratio.

McClintock became the first woman to win a nobel prize in medicine or physiology in 1983, and remains the only woman to have received an unshared award in this category, according to The American Society of Plant Biologists. The prize recognized her discovery of genetic transposition, a process which shows genes changing their positions on a chromosome.

Today, the knowledge of jumping genes has aided scientists in the development of many medicines and in the study of cancer and genetic diseases, according to the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  It was not until the 1960s that her idea of transposable genes was finally widely accepted, and this was only after other scientists observed the same phenomenon in bacteria.

Although men often posed the greatest obstacle to McClintock’s work, they were also often her greatest proponents, according to Prof. Thomas Fox, genetics.

“McClintock was discriminated against by institutions and their rules,” he said. “The male scientists in her field who knew her were trying to help her fight these rules.”

Fox said McClintock’s male coworkers soon came to respect and admire her work in the lab.

“They recognized and respected her brilliance in the work on chromosomes that fit the paradigms, which she did long before she started the most famous stuff on transposable elements,” Fox said. “They respected her to the point that when she started reporting the radical notion of transposable elements, those who knew her thought she must be onto something even though they didn’t really understand what it was.”

Fox said he was struck by McClintock’s brilliance, pulling from his own personal encounters with McClintock when she was an A.D. White visiting professor at Cornell.

“My recollections are that she listened quietly and intently to descriptions of experiments very far from her own kind of research, and then asked the kinds of penetrating questions one would expect from an expert in the field,” Fox said. “Nothing new here; she was wicked smart.”

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