In my English literature class about the Beat movement, we recently    watched the 2010 independent film “Howl.”  A few of my classmates  and I had seen it once before, but with little to no background on Allen  Ginsberg.  My background on the Beats came down a few moments in  pop culture. These included hearing references to Jack Kerouac’s “On  the Road” in some TV shows, and Kerouac himself getting a mention in  the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  I didn’t know what their  significance was, or anything about a Beat movement.

After watching it a second time, those of us who had seen “Howl” before now understood it better from assigned readings and class discussions throughout the semester.  Certain messages and themes throughout the Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” were easy to pick up on beforehand.  But being in the Beat movement class and then seeing the film again made the more abstract parts easier to understand; and now I know the significance when hearing Beat references in pop culture.

The performance of James Franco as Ginsberg was discussed in class, partly in comparison to a video clip we watched of the Beat writer himself reading “Howl”  as an old man.  We also watched a YouTube video of actor John Turturro reciting Ginsberg’s poem; it seemed that everyone favored Franco’s in-character reading of the poem the most.  Based on that, I think it would have been interesting to watch a video of  Ginsberg reading his poem in the 1950s to see just how close Franco’s performance was.  I feel that, myself included, my whole English class felt that the acting was spot-on.

We also talked about the show “Mad Men,” with its re-creation of the 1960s, because its leading actor, Jon Hamm, also starred in “Howl.” Hamm portrayed one of the lawyers in the trial regarding “Howl” and its literary value.  Rather than talk about his performance as a trial lawyer, we referred to “Mad Men” and the look of the 1960s society in comparison to present day.

David Strathairn portrayed the opposing trial lawyer, and I’ve seen him in a few other independent film roles.  Between Hamm and Strathairn, it was a great pairing of actors to re-create the trial scenes.

Independent films like this make me admire the cast as intellectual people, as well as for their acting talent, because the genre is a “thinking” one.  There are so many thought-provoking independent films out there on intellectual topics and great acting within them.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a huge fan of the actors and actresses who are great talents.  That goes for both today’s big names as well as those among old Hollywood.   I like intellectual, talented, creative, ambitious people that I know in person from high school and college classes; that flows over to the type of celebrities who make up my favorites.  Those favorite celebrities are the people who are famous because they are truly talented.

From watching “Howl” earlier this year to being in an English literature class about the Beats and watching the film again, it was an education.  It wasn’t just English literature, but history and culture were intertwined as well.  I love all of those subjects and many categories within each one.

To wrap this up, there are some particular favorite moments of mine in the film “Howl” and in Kerouac’s “One the Road.”

In the film, my favorite scenes include the poem’s reading to a group of 1950s young adults listening intently in a smoky, intimate setting.  Their faces show expressions as if to say, “This poet is really saying something important for our generation.”  And an interview scene, Ginsberg’s desire to “focus on writing” is stated.  I can relate to that, since I want to do a lot of writing in my career.

In the book “On the Road,” a sentence in the very beginning is something I can relate to as well.  Kerouac wrote about always wanting to go out west.  There are many places I dream of traveling to, including out west, to see the great national parks and Pacific Ocean.  But where doesn’t matter…I relate to the statement simply because I want to travel all over.

Later in the book, Kerouac writes about some people he was hanging out with and there was mention of some old boat.  I won’t give any more away, for anyone who hasn’t read “On the Road.”  But Kerouac conjured up a scene in my mind that made me think, “That would be a cool thing to do!”  I love maritime settings, so the lines about the old boat spoke to that interest.