Higher Learning Review

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tamalosh's review of Higher Learning


Higher Learning - Freshman, Sophomore, Junior or...”

Written on: 10/11/2004 by tamalosh (2 reviews written)

Good Points
Feeling of being involved in the movie.

Bad Points
Exaggerated racism.

General Comments
Higher Learning - Freshman, Sophomore, Junior or Senior? In this movie, it's not as simple as that. It's a fairly good movie, yet I think it's based a lot around the racism between 'blacks' and 'whites'. Not to mention it's exaggerated. There are obviously other races there, but they don't play a major role in this movie. Also, it appears to be a movie where white people are always the "culprits" and main problems (I'll explain later). I think that this movie portrays typical college life, with protests, charity groups, athletic groups, etc. The main characters deal with racism, knowledge, power, financial problems, grade problems and sexuality.

Directed by John Singleton (who also directed "Boyz in the Hood") this movie is set on the fictional Columbis University campus. Starring Ice Cube, Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Tyra Banks, Busta Rhymes, Michael Rapaport, Jennifer Connelly, Regina King and Lawrence Fishburne. Released in 1994.

College life is taken apart and examined through the ethnically and racially diverse students enrolled in Columbis University.

This movie is based around 3 main characters (each of them freshmen at Columbis University), that each go through big changes in their lives.

Kristen (played by Kristy Swanson) is a young, innocent-looking white woman, who easily becomes a part of a white party-going group of students. One night during heavy drinking, she gets raped and doesn't know what to do about it. She goes back to her roommate/dorm-mate (who's a black girl) and she tries to help Kristen, but it doesn't really get "resolved". Later on in the movie, she meets Taryn (played by Jennifer Connelly) who's head of a woman's group, and an open lesbian.

Malik (played by Omar Epps) is another of these three main characters. As a black male, he's there on a partial sports scholarship, and he's only there at Columbus University to be a runner (as well as a non-loser, in HIS mind). He goes through problems with college grades, and can't find anyone to state his views of I-don't-need-a-brain-to-run, to. As the movie goes on, Malik needs to try to turn towards learning, as his girlfriend (played by Tyra Banks) and best friend (played by Ice Cube) basically scold him for not trying to learn.

Remy (played by Michael Rapaport) is a troubled freshman that can't seem to fit into any groups, but later finds a 'skinhead' group, that thinks all about "white power". Along with being a strong racist group towards the "blacks", they're also armed with guns. The leader of this group, challenges Remy to shoot innocent victims on the campus.

Sights & Sounds:

Columbus University is set in South Central Los Angeles, where a statue of Christopher Columbus stands at the entrance. The camera views are very well done, adding to the feeling of urgency along with the big fights that go on, it goes from steady, to appearing to be running along with the actors/actresses. This view where it appears to be running, gives you the feel that you are actually there in the movie witnessing every move, and standing out of the way of those who are fighting. The sound also adds to the tranquil moments and urgent moments. As well as the strong, loud beats during a fight or while Malik is running, it also appears to take you into the specific character's likes in music as well.

No-one in this movie seems to have a real proper solution to their problems, though it may appear to get better in some cases. I think this movie isn't about subtle racism, sexuality or power. Singleton has put it plain and clear so that we can actually see what happens without question. The racism between black and white, although exaggerated, and a very strong point in the movie, I think is intended so we don't have to wonder about a minor side story or anything. When I mention exaggerated racism, the story is mainly based around whites against blacks. When the black group has a loud party, it's broken up very quickly, and the white cops are quick to ask for I.D, meanwhile the white fraternity party going on, isn't bothered at all, except a kind: "could you just keep it down?" Remy, joins the neo-Nazi group, and causes a lot of trouble, shooting at a "celebrate diversity" musical concert, injuring and killing. It's later seen in a chase between Remy and Malik, that the cops are quick to pounce and accuse a non-armed Malik, and try to talk sense into Remy who's out of his mind confused, threatening his gun all over the place. Many police out there would look at both sides of a story (though I don't say there AREN'T any police like this out there, nor do I mean there are no people like Remy out there). As I said, Singleton has made this so, in order that we will have no confusion about the message he is trying to get across.

The choice of characters in the movie is well chosen, and the acting is well done. Even though there are troubling parts to the movie, it's to show us that racism, power-trips and sexuality are out there in the real world, and it's to make us think about it and we can't avoid knowing it's there. Very well done Singleton!

  • Ice Cube, Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson

    Starring Actor/Actress

  • Television

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