Recommended Special Education Movies
Monday, June 30, 2008
I am Sam
Sam Dawson (Sean Penn), a mentally challenged man with the IQ of a 7 year old, is living in Los Angeles and is single-handedly raising his daughter Lucy (Dakota Fanning), whom he fathered from a homeless woman who wanted nothing to do with Lucy and left him the day of her birth. Although Sam provides a loving and caring environment for the 7-year-old Lucy, she soon surpasses her father's mental capacity. Questions arise about Sam’s ability to care for Lucy and a custody case is brought to court.
Sam is a man with a mental age of 7 who is well adjusted and has a great support system consisting of four similarly developmentally disabled men. His neighbor Annie (Dianne Wiest), a piano-player and agoraphobe, befriends Sam and takes care of Lucy when Sam can't.
Sam works at Starbucks bussing tables. Sam is popular with the customers, whom he addresses by name and favorite coffee. His job gets difficult when Lucy starts grabbing objects, making a woman spill iced coffee down her shirt. In a humorous, but innocent exchange, Sam tries to remove an ice cube from the startled woman's cleavage. Sam then brings Lucy to his neighbor and baby Lucy croons, "Annie!" Sam says, "Her first word was Annie." Flustered but flattered, she retorts, "And people worry you aren't smart," and agrees to function as Lucy's babysitter.
Lucy is as precocious as Sam is backwards. Sam loves reading Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss to her, but when she starts reading "real hard" books like Stellaluna, she balks at reading the word "different" because she doesn't want to be smarter than her dad. She knows he's different, "not like other dads", but that's all right with her because he is loving, taking her to the park and to International House of Pancakes (every Wednesday, because "Wednesday is IHOP night").
When they decide to go to Big Boy for a change, Sam causes a disturbance because he cannot get the kind of French pancakes he is accustomed to. At the school Halloween party, he dresses as one of the Beatles but embarrasses his daughter by drawing undue attention. Other kids tease her, calling her dad a "retard". She tells one boy that she is adopted. This causes a crisis at her birthday party, which results in an unexpected visit from a social worker who takes Lucy away. A judge allows him only two supervised, 2-hour visits per week.
Sam's friends recommend that he hire Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer), a lawyer. He shows up at her office and starts spelling out his situation while she juggles coffee orders to her assistant, Patricia. Socially, Sam is rather high-functioning—more together in many ways than his high-class, respected lawyer whose marriage is falling apart and whose son hates her.
Sam surprises Rita at a party. Stunned, she announces that she's taking his case pro bono, because others see her as cold and heartless.
Rita begrudgingly works with Sam to help him keep his parental rights, but chaos arises when Lucy convinces Sam to help her run away from the foster home she is being kept in during the trial. Over the course of the trial, Sam gets a new job at Pizza Hut and Annie leaves her apartment for the first time in years. Sam also helps Rita with her family problems, and helps her to realize how much her son really means to her. Sam also convinces her to leave her husband, because Rita told him that he cheated on her.
During the trial, however, Sam breaks down, after being convinced that he is not capable of taking care of Lucy.
Meanwhile, Lucy is placed with a foster family who plan to adopt her. Lucy often runs away from her foster parents in the middle of the night to go see Sam, who moved into a larger apartment closer to her.
In the end, the foster family who planned on adopting Lucy lets Sam have custody of her. Sam says that Lucy still needs a mother and asks if the foster mother would like to help raise Lucy. The movie ends with Lucy's soccer game where Sam is the referee. In attendance are Lucy's former foster family, the newly divorced Rita and her son with whom Rita has renewed her relationship, along with Annie and Sam's other friends.
Charlie Babbitt (Cruise), a Los Angeles car dealer in his mid-twenties, is in the middle of expensive negotiations over four luxury sports cars. The deal is being threatened by the EPA, and if Charlie cannot meet its requirements he will lose significant money. After some quick subterfuge with an employee, Charlie leaves for a weekend trip to Palm Springs with his girlfriend, Susanna.
Charlie's trip is spoiled by sudden news that his estranged father, Sanford Babbitt, has died. Charlie travels to Cincinnati, Ohio, to settle the estate, where he learns an undisclosed trustee is inheriting $3 million on behalf of an unnamed beneficiary, while he is to receive only a classic Buick Roadmaster convertible and several prize rose bushes. Eventually he learns the money is being directed to a mental institution, and he discovers that it is the home of his autistic brother, Raymond (Hoffman).
Raymond is an autistic savant, with superb recall but little understanding of subject matter. He is frightened by change and adheres to strict routines (for example, his continual repetition of the "Who's on First?" sketch). Except when he is in distress, he shows little emotional expression and does not give eye contact.
Numbed by learning that he has a brother and determined to get what he believes is his fair share of the Babbitt estate, Charlie takes Raymond on what becomes a cross-country trip back to Los Angeles to meet with his attorneys. He intends to start a custody battle in order to get Raymond's doctor, Dr. Bruner (Molen), to settle out of court for half of Sanford Babbitt's estate so that they can maintain custody of Raymond.
During the course of the journey, Charlie learns about Raymond's condition, which he initially believes is curable — resulting in frustration with his brother. He also learns about how his brother came to be separated from his family, as a result of an accident when he was left alone with Charlie when he was a baby. Sometimes shallow and exploitive, as when he learns that Raymond has an excellent memory and takes him to Las Vegas to win money at blackjack counting cards, Charlie nonetheless finds himself becoming protective towards Raymond.
Charlie finally meets with his attorneys to try to get his share of his inheritance, but then considers taking custody of Raymond. However, Raymond is unable to decide exactly what he wants (he would like Charlie to live with him at the residential facility in Cincinnati, which is not possible because of Charlie's job). Eventually, the attorneys press Raymond for a decisive answer, upsetting him and leading Charlie to tell the attorneys to back off.
Eventually, Raymond is allowed to go back home to Cincinnati. Charlie, who has gained a new brother and mellowed considerably, tells him he'll visit often.
In the title role is 12-year-old Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith), who is afflicted with Morquio syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes dwarfism. The story begins when Joe Wentworth, played by Jim Carrey, visits the grave of his childhood friend Simon Birch, whose gravestone is marked 1952-1964. Joe explains that Simon is "the reason I believe in God." This is followed by a flashback to their friendship during the early '60s.
In Gravestown, Maine, young Joe Wentworth, played by Joseph Mazzello, doesn't know who his father is, and his loving mother Rebecca (Ashley Judd) won't tell him. Joe's best buddy is young Simon Birch, born so tiny that his classmates pass him about like a "doll." Simon’s mother is shown in a flashback giving birth to him by merely sneezing, implying the labor was made so easy because of his diminutive stature. Upon seeing his infant son for the first time in the nursery and told he would not survive, Simon’s father writes him off thus beginning his lifetime of neglect. Ignored at home, Simon turns to Rebecca as a mother, and he often has dinner with the Wentworths.
The main plot hovers about the life of 12 year-old Joe who does not know who his father is. For some time he has been the butt of jokes and scorn in their small town, but his mother has not revealed her lover met years ago on the train. Life-long pal Simon, also 12 but with the eccentricities of someone much older, decides he will help Joe find his father. We are also informed of Simon's deep-seated belief that God put him here for a purpose, that because of his faith, Simon would cope with his dwarfism and overcome people's blindness. Simon would become a hero.
These two early adolescents quickly endear themselves to the viewer. Although their routine is typical - playing baseball, racing to the creek for a swim, discussing girls - the script (by Mark Steven Johnson) has them perform these growing up tasks with quirky originality. Simon's self-deprecating humor is especially charming. He one-ups Joe in physical comparisons, though he goes for the smaller instead of the superior. He accepts playing the Baby Jesus because he is the only student who will fit in the crib. And he rides in a wooden Coca-Cola crate rigged up as a sidecar to Joe's bike.
Part of Rebecca Wentworth’s importance is serving as Simon's surrogate mom, one who cares about the boy - unlike his real parents, who permit Simon to live with them but are otherwise uninvolved. Ben Goodrich, the drama teacher played by Oliver Platt, begins to date Rebecca. Joe initially resents him, and Ben tries to win the boy over with goofy gifts and behaviors. During a baseball game Simon is given his first chance at swinging the bat instead of standing at the plate waiting for the guaranteed walk and he gets his first hit of his life, a foul ball that strikes and kills Rebecca Wentworth. Joe does not hate Simon for this turn of events because he understands that Simon has also lost his mother figure in Rebecca, but Simon himself is wrought with severe guilt and begs God for forgiveness. Later that winter, Simon proves himself when he risks his life to save a bus full of children which has crashed into a freezing lake. After saving the children, Simon is sent to the hospital and later dies.
The film ends, bringing us back to the beginning where an older Joe Wentworth is looking at Simon's gravestone. He makes a comment to his son that Simon mentioned to him earlier in the movie and the film ends.
A cryptographic code called "Mercury" was created by the National Security Agency, so complex that its creators believe no computer on earth can decipher it. Originally created during the Reagan Administration as a test to keep the United States' highest priority secrets under wraps, their assumption is revealed to be false when they receive a message from an autistic savant boy named Simon Lynch (Miko Hughes) who calls a telephone number written in the code, which was secretly published in a puzzle magazine by two of the creators to see if anyone could break it. Colonel Kudrow (Alec Baldwin), perceiving the boy's ability to decipher the code as a liability, seeks to silence Simon; he sends a hit man to murder Simon and his family.
After killing the boy's parents, the assassin searches the house, fails to find Simon, and leaves at the sound of approaching sirens. Art Jeffries (Bruce Willis) is an undercover FBI agent who protects Simon. He finds Simon hiding in a cache of his bedroom closet and takes the boy under his wing. Jeffries begins to realize the difficulty of protecting, let alone questioning Simon, because of his impaired social abilities as a result of his autism. The situation is further complicated by the fact that nobody at the FBI believes Simon is in any danger, and Jeffries is soon painted by the NSA as a kidnapper.
Meanwhile, Colonel Kudrow, upset by disagreement over how to handle the case, murders one of his employees when he starts to reveal the Mercury plans to Jeffries. The murdered employee's friend turns to Jeffries for help; although he is shortly murdered too, he manages to leave crucial evidence of Kudrow's crimes. Jeffries and the few allies he has set a trap in which Kudrow is killed and the boy saved. The film ends with Jeffries visiting Simon at his school, who embraces him as a welcome, having accepted him as a person of his trust.
Young Helen Keller, blind, deaf, and mute since infancy, is in danger of being sent to an institution. Her inability to communicate has left her frustrated and violent. In desperation, her parents seek help from the Perkins Institute, which sends them a "half-blind Yankee schoolgirl" named Annie Sullivan to tutor their daughter. Through persistence and love, and sheer stubbornness, Annie breaks through Helen's walls of silence and darkness and teaches her to communicate.
The film begins with a feather falling to the feet of Forrest Gump who is sitting at a bus stop in Savannah, Georgia. Forrest picks up the feather and puts it in the book Curious George, then tells the story of his life to a woman seated next to him. The listeners at the bus stop change regularly throughout his narration, each showing a different attitude ranging from disbelief and indifference to rapt veneration.
On his first day of school, he meets a girl named Jenny, whose life is followed in parallel to Forrest's at times. Having discarded his leg braces, his ability to run at lightning speed gets him into college on a football scholarship. After his college graduation, he enlists in the army and is sent to Vietnam, where he makes fast friends with a black man named Bubba, who convinces Forrest to go into the shrimping business with him when the war is over. Later while on patrol, Forrest's platoon is attacked. Though Forrest rescues many of the men, Bubba is killed in action. Forrest is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism.
While Forrest is in recovery for a bullet shot to his "butt-tox", he discovers his uncanny ability for ping-pong, eventually gaining popularity and rising to celebrity status, later playing ping-pong competitively against Chinese teams. At an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. Forrest reunites with Jenny, who has been living a hippie counterculture lifestyle.
Returning home, Forrest endorses a company that makes ping-pong paddles, earning himself $25,000, which he uses to buy a shrimping boat, fulfilling his promise to Bubba. His commanding officer from Vietnam, Lieutenant Dan, joins him. Though initially Forrest has little success, after finding his boat the only surviving boat in the area after Hurricane Carmen, he begins to pull in huge amounts of shrimp and uses it to buy an entire fleet of shrimp boats. Lt. Dan invests the money in Apple Computer and Forrest is financially secure for the rest of his life. He returns home to see his mother's last days.
One day, Jenny returns to visit Forrest and he proposes marriage to her. She declines, though feels obliged to prove her love to him by sleeping with him. She leaves early the next morning. On a whim, Forrest elects to go for a run. Seemingly capriciously, he decides to keep running across the country several times, over some three and a half years, becoming famous.
In present-day, Forrest reveals that he is waiting at the bus stop because he received a letter from Jenny who, having seen him run on television, asks him to visit her. Once he is reunited with Jenny, Forrest discovers she has a young son, of whom Forrest is the father. Jenny tells Forrest she is suffering from a virus (probably HIV, though this is never definitively stated). Together the three move back to Greenbow, Alabama. Jenny and Forrest finally marry. Jenny dies soon afterward.
The film ends with father and son waiting for the school bus on little Forrest's first day of school. Opening the book his son is taking to school, the white feather from the beginning of the movie is seen to fall from within the pages. As the bus pulls away, the white feather is caught on a breeze and drifts skyward.
Posted byDoc Junhel at 11:30 PM