Last week, the University of Texas at Austin announced that Matthew McConaughey will team up with his Free State of Jones director Gary Ross this fall to teach a film class. The good news: Professor Matthew McConaughey. The bad news: Well, not really, as McConaughey’s lessons will be delivered via pre-recorded videos instead of freewheeling lectures and classroom discussions that he leads while eating an apple and sitting on his desk in jeans and a tweed jacket with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and fine, I have been thinking about this a lot. Maybe too much.
But in my defense, it is a lot of fun to think about. Like, what would a film class taught by Matthew McConaughey look like? I wonder…
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I’m Professor McConaughey and this is Film 101. Film. It’s like life, but recorded. Recorders. We’re surrounded by them now. Cell phones… [begins snapping fingers]… Snapchat. The future is today. [long pause, wry smile] I say we embrace it. Questions? You, third row, green shirt.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LUCAS: This syllabus, uh, it’s just a drawing of a tree.
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Sure is. The tree of knowledge. We’re planting seeds. Little tiny seeds filled with genetic information, filled with that… [begins thumping chest]… power, to transform, to grow, to become for-mid-able, like a mighty sequoia towering over the forest, branches stretching out and providing shade for all the little critters… [begins making critter noises]… scurrying about, leaves providing nourishment. Ecosystems. Photo-syn-the-sis. That’s you, Chad. That’s what you’ll become.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LUCAS: Um, my name is Lucas, sir.
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: [breaks into huge smile] Lucas the sequoia.
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Lemme clue y’all in on a little secret. I’ve worked with some great actors. Geniuses. Anthony Hopkins. Morgan Freeman. Kevin Spacey. Sandra Bullock. Woody Harrelson. Leonardo Di-Cap-rio… [begins chuckling to himself after this last one in a way that implies he has a secret he has no intention of sharing]. But the best acting advice I ever received was from Terry Bradshaw on the set of Failure to Launch. He said, “Wait, Kate Hudson is Goldie Hawn’s daughter? Well hot damn. I had no idea.” And that’s what it’s all about. Circles. Hollywood. The passage of time. The mo-ments… [interlocks fingers and holds them up in silence for 15 full seconds]… that connect us all.
A FRESHMAN NAMED EMMA: But Professor McConaughey… I thought Sarah Jessica Parker was in Failure to Launch, not Kate Hudson.
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: [leaps up from desk and points finger at Emma] Exactly!
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: [knocks on door] Professor McConaughey… are you free?
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Like a soaring eagle, kemosabe. Entre, entre. Have a seat.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: Thanks.
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: You looked troubled, son. What can I do ya for? Unburden thyself.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: Well, it’s just… I was going over my notes from the semester, what with the final exam coming up, and I’m a little confused.
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Time’s yours.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: [begins flipping through notes] Well, on September 3, you said, “A movie is like a bullet, screaming through air, ripping the wind, headed straight for its target, with no regard for who or what stands in its way”…
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Sure is. Dangerous.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: … but then on September 12, you said, “A movie is like a little baby bird. It wants to fly. It wants to leave the nest. But until it gets strong, until it gets… [Liam makes finger quotes]… ‘that motherly care, that regurgitated sustenance,’ all the flapping in the world won’t get it anywhere”…
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Correctamundo.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: … and then on October 4, you said, “A movie is like a great big steak dinner, ready to be devoured, but also savored”…
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: [begins nodding] Ribeye.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: … and on October 28, you said, “A movie is like the prettiest senorita at the party, dress flowing, ribbon in its hair, drawing the attention of all the boys even though” — and I have a note that says you chuckled here — “those raging hormones won’t let them pay attention to anything very long, to their detriment”…
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Little rascals puttin’ vodka in the punch bowl.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: … and then last week you said, “A movie is like…” but I couldn’t get it all down so I just have here “a 45-minute monologue about samurais.”
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Absolutely. The honor.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: So I guess my question is… what is a movie? Is it a bullet, or a bird, or a steak, or a pretty girl, or, like, samurais? How do I use this for the final?
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Excellent question, Liam. You see, a movie is a lot like 1967 Pontiac GTO, cherry red, with the good tunes… [begins bopping head as though music is playing, which it is not]… just blastin’…
[two hours later]
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: … and the dogs are barkin’, but the cat doesn’t care, you feel me? That’s what a movie is.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: So this class is still Pass/Fail, right?
PROFESSOR MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Indeed, my good man.
A FRESHMAN NAMED LIAM: Thank God.