Editor in Chief
Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr was just 14-years-old when he discovered that movies were more than just moving pictures on a screen.
The movie Duck Soup from the Marx Brothers was showing late one night, and Burr’s mother suggested he stay up to watch it.
It was one of his deceased father’s favorite movies, so Burr was all for it.
The resulting 68 minutes changed his entire outlook on movies.
“It just blew me away. I’d never seen anything like it. It was crazy, but it was also this weird black-and-white world that I’d never really paid attention to,” Burr said. “It was like looking through a window into this other planet. It just took me away.”
Now, after more than 22 years of writing film critiques for Entertainment Weekly and the Globe, Burr has been taking people away with his writing and encouraging them to pay attention to films.
Burr’s contribution to the overall film and journalism industry was just one of the reasons why Distinguished Professor of Humanics Carol Mitchell brought him to Springfield College on Monday, Feb. 24 to speak at a presentation titled, “Oscar Gala: Handicapping the 2014 Oscar Races with Ty Burr” in anticipation for the 86th Annual Academy Awards ceremony on March 2.
“I have been following him in the Boston Globe, and every time I read one of his reviews, I just think they’re fabulous,” Mitchell said. “He just has an incredible way of seeing the films and he’s able to often add a lot of humor.”
Mitchell’s theme as distinguished professor for this year is “Experiencing Humanics Through Film.” She has been serving as the chair of the film section for the William Simpson Fine Arts Series for the past 25 years, as well. The Oscar Gala was based around Mitchell’s belief that films can teach invaluable lessons.
“I really feel that film teaches us so much about global awareness, issues and situations, and we can learn so much from it,” Mitchell said. “We see a range of values in these films that help to show us how me might want to be and how we might want to serve mankind and serve others.”
Burr’s experience critiquing films for a living made him an obvious choice for the event.
He writes three to five movie reviews per week, not counting Sunday feature columns. Similar to Mitchell, he believes that films play an important role in society.
“I still think that there is a need for humans to congregate in a common area and experience something together,” Burr said.
Attendees did just that, congregating at a reception before the event to chat with Burr and others in attendance. By the start of the event, approximately 200 people filled the jam-packed Dodge Ballroom.
After Mitchell introduced the esteemed film critic, Burr showed the short film “Get a Horse!” which is in contention for best “Animated Short Film.”
He then proceeded to break down each of the nine nominees for “Best Picture,” showing short clips for each and describing their merits. At the end of the presentation, Burr opened it up for a lively Q-and-A session that would have lasted well into the night if not for the time constraint.
Before the gala, Burr met with a select group of students in a closed group setting to talk about his career, favorite movies, the history of stardom and more.
Although he admitted to getting overwhelmed with watching so many movies all of the time – something that he acknowledged as one of the more ridiculous hardships ever stated – Burr stressed that even after all of these years, he still loves what he does because it has a purpose.
“As with a lot of critics who choose a field, you’re really writing about the world. You’re really writing about life, just seeing it through this one particular slit and I don’t feel that I just write about movies. I feel like I’m writing about all of the things that movies engage,” Burr said. “I just love the idea that I can bring stuff to people an experience that will entertain them, or move them, or take them into some place that they hadn’t been before.”
Neither the small group of students nor the event’s large crowd was disappointed with Burr’s knowledgeable and entertaining discussion of movies.
Mitchell’s next “Humanics Through Film” event will be held on March 10 at 7 p.m. in the Fuller Arts Center. Be sure to keep an eye out for more information in the coming weeks.