Films, Music and TV to Actually Learn From

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July 4, 1969. Three Dog Night's "Easy To Be Hard" blares as fireworks illuminate the Bay Area night sky, followed by a shot through a nondescript suburban neighborhood. As the radio segues into Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man," a murder takes place in gruesome fashion. With this unsettling introduction, David Fincher turns the thriller genre on its head, elevating it into a compulsively watchable dissertation on the obsessions of a bygone era. As reporters and detectives become hopelessly consumed by the mystery of the titular serial killer, their quest for closure feels infectious.

With layers upon layers of facts, subtext and period details, "Zodiac" offers a tremendously rewarding mind exercise for any occasion. Its open-ended nature speaks to real life, encouraging viewers to digest, analyze and synthesize information while rejecting the essence of certainty.

-David Liu


I won't spend this short space explaining how "The Wire" is better than most novels. If you want to read about that, just Google it.

The reason "The Wire" is a fantastic study aid is simple: It makes you question the world and your place in it.

If UC Berkeley has an unofficial motto, it's "question everything and think intensely about social issues until your old friends don't want to know you anymore." And that's what "The Wire" is all about.

Through the lives of policemen and the drug dealers they pursue, the show explores the dirty American underbelly that defines so much of the urban experience. But unlike many unsophisticated cop dramas, "The Wire" is one elegant argument that the law and morality aren't the same thing and that black and white almost never exist. And that is an education in itself.

-Katie Dowd


For all you science majors dreading Chem 3A misery, fear not! "Bones" is here to help! Each 40-minute episode is packed with scientific references ranging from the composition of sediment or asphalt, to the physics of a person's fall. True, it might not all be technically accurate, but the underrated and stellar cast makes up for any pseudo-science.

The interns, who change from week to week, offer their own eccentric tidbits on religion and history. But it isn't just its depiction of forensic science that makes "Bones" such a fantastic study aid. David Boreanaz plays the lead male role. Sometimes with his shirt off. 'Nuff said.

-Lynn Yu


"Thank You for Smoking" provides a useful study of persuasion. Its masterful protagonist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) works as a cigarette-peddling spin doctor who exhibits the most amusing effects of what argumentation has to offer. For the multitudes facing down exams that likely involve essays, "Thank You for Smoking" takes viewers through how a seemingly impossible case can be made when people break out truly persuasive arguments.

Brush up on your rhetorical terms and their uses: the film's numerous monologues contain appeals to ethos, logos and pathos and ad hominem attacks to name a few. If you can deconstruct Nick Naylor's sparkling logic, who's to say that analyzing Freud or Nietzsche will be any harder?

In the case that you still feel short on substance and want a back-up plan, follow Naylor's philosophy on certified bullshit: "If you argue correctly, you're never wrong."

-Leslie Toy


Mustering the determination to go into hardcore study mode is undoubtedly a struggle, but "The Social Network" acts as the perfect study aid. The soundtrack is purely instrumental, composed by Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. But though there are no words that explicitly educate, the sweeping rhythms inspire a steadfast work ethic.

Blending the classical with the electronic, the album is sure to resonate with your inner motivation (it's in there somewhere!). Simply blasting the tight synth on pieces like "On We March" and the ominous dissonance of "A Familiar Taste" will catalyze a drive to go out and code. Or, you know, chug through some chem problem sets.

There is nothing like the scattered industrial bursts mixed with subtle strains of violin and sparse piano notes to keep you focused and energetic well into the wee hours.

-Cynthia Kang


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