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2 movies fit for the classroom
Inside Out (2015) - photo by JJ Feinauer
Pixars Inside Out has enjoyed a tremendous amount of box office success and critical praise since its release, as the Deseret News Nationals Chandra Johnson pointed out on June 20, at least partially because of how it tackled the complexity of human emotions. No easy task indeed.

In fact, as The Atlantics Daniel Smith wrote earlier this month, much of the critical praise is likely due to the fact that Pete Docter, the films director, was careful to research the intricacies of childhood emotion. The result, according to Smith, may be a the perfect tool for introducing children to emotional understanding.

Last year, after Docter previewed the movie, Variety predicted that it could eventually prove to be as revolutionary as Dantes "Divine Comedy," which so vividly described the Italian poets vision of heaven and hell that it has shaped the publics image of both ever since,'" Smith wrote.

This sounds like wild overstatement until you consider that the Divine Comedys initial audience was in the thousands, while Inside Outs will number in the millions, most of them impressionable children.

Not everyone is as convinced as Smith and the folks at Variety. Two philosophers, Antonia Peacocke and Jackson Kernion, for example, wrote a piece for Vox where they claimed the film falls short on certain elements of how the brain really works.

Inside Out is a lot of fun, at points laugh-out-loud funny, and, in true Pixar fashion, very poignant at its conclusion, they wrote. But its a poor reflection of what we know about the mind.

Still, the overwhelming consensus is that for a fantasy-filled childrens film, Inside Out is unusually insightful.

It's going to be a new pop-culture touchstone, NPRs film critic David Edelstein said while discussing the film. In all kinds of marvelous ways, Inside Out is mind-opening.

And when it comes to producing films worthy of the classroom, Pixar isnt alone. Christopher Nolans latest space epic Interstellar also impressed some educators and intellectuals.

Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example, was particularly impressed by the films ability to visualize modern sciences understanding of space, including complex theories that typically go over students heads.

Now, theres even a movement by some physicists to use Interstellar for educational purposes.

As Big Thinks Monica Joshi reported, a recent paper by a group of scientists (including Kip Thorne, one of the films producers) explored the scientific accuracy of Nolans film, concluding that it offers a variety of opportunities for students in elementary courses on general relativity theory.

As Nolan worked with Kip Thorne, a professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology, Joshi wrote on Friday, it was their ambition to make the visuals of the galactic objects as scientifically accurate as possible.

According to Joshi, the makers of Interstellar went so far as to create new software to model how a black hole would look, which facilitated the unprecedented accuracy of the films look.

While both films are certainly still cinematic adventures rooted in fantasy, it goes to show that not all entertainment has to be mindless.
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