Erin begins week 15 today, and all is happiness. Baby is getting bigger, Erin’s getting bigger. These are the days of peaches and cream because presently there is very little inconvenience to her (and, therefore, to me). No fatigue going on. No morning sickness. Nothing but happiness, really. Second trimester rocks.

Last night we watched Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. Although I don’t think it was movie of the year, taking the life of a mentally ill math professor and making it interesting viewing is unquestionably an achievement. In addition to the Oscar for Best Picture, it also won for Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Akiva Goldsman). I would have given all but Best Supporting Actress to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Russell Crowe, however, was utterly robbed of an Oscar for Best Actor. Maybe Denzel Washington was the cat’s meow in Training Day (a film I’m unlikely to see since the premise sounds idiotic to me), but I have a very hard time believing that anyone could watch Crowe in Gladitor, turn around and watch him in A Beautiful Mind, and do anything other than give him the statuette. He is superb here.

Ron Howard does good directorial work much as he’s done in the past. His films have a standard of quality that is very high, and the complete body of his work is impressive. He’s made a lot of very good films. He’s not, however, made any great films, and though I don’t think A Beautiful Mind is any exception to this, it’s his best effort yet. His pictures—among them Apollo 13, Splash, Far and Away, Backdraft, and Parenthood—are consistently well-made and are solidly entertaining. They also rarely move the audience beyond the medium or substantively deal with larger issues, something A Beautiful Mind does and why it’s also his best picture. As such, I am hopeful that this represents a breakthrough in Howard’s work, and that he may be on the verge of something spectacular. All the component pieces are there for him.

I did not believe that the attractive Jennifer Connelly merited Best Supporting Actress over either Helen Mirren or Maggie Smith in Gosford Park. Connelly’s performance was solid, and I have little complaint other than I thought Mirren and Smith were better.

While the screenplay for A Beautiful Mind is excellent, screenwriter and Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman was taken to task by many critics for excluding a number of salient details about John Nash’s life and inventing a number of others. Converting book to screen is all about making choices and finding the story that works on the screen. For what it’s worth, I think Goldsman did fine work, and I’m not inclined to quibble over artistic license. (‘Cause, hey, generally speaking, math is pretty boring, and you gotta tell this story somehow.) I also don’t think it’s nearly as good as the work done by Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson is bringing Lord of the Rings to the big screen.

So I highly recommend A Beautiful Mind. I think it’s a very good though not great work by director Ron Howard with a brilliant performance by Russell Crowe. I didn’t think it deserved all the Oscars it won, but it’s surely worth your time.