Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A test approaches!

Next Wednesday and Thursday, I'll give you a test on film terms. You'll be given approximately 20 definitions; you have to produce the terms. Everything I'll use will come from the glossary I've linked to at right.

The one term there I haven't dealt with yet is "deep focus," which you'll see examples of in the next few days.

With any luck, we'll be watching one of the worst movies ever made on Thursday and Friday. Let's hope it comes in at the library!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Double Indemnity assignment

First: If you had me today, Thursday, I forgot to hand out some reference material at the end of class. If I don't locate you in the next day, please find me. Sorry about that.

The assignment is as follows; please read the directions carefully; if you have questions, please post them here, as others may have the same questions:

Read the handouts on film noir. (On the larger packet, there's a section after film noir about the blacklisting era in Hollywood; read that as well. It's likely you haven't heard of this odd time in Hollywood.)

You're to write a reaction piece on the movie. It's not a review, per se, but an organized essay of approximately 500 words that analyzes your response to the movie by focusing on three scenes in the film. (Each body paragraph would deal with a particular scene. Also provide some kind of introduction and conclusion. Again, I'm not looking for a research paper, but rather a response piece that employs the language we've been using in class to discuss film.) You'll want to consider scenes that had an impact on you--scenes that are at the heart of why the film struck you, why the film is successful, and the film noir aspects that make it interesting.


Monday, October 12, 2009

New links

Look to the right. Now look to the left. Now look to the right again. That's just good exercise after staring at the screen for too long.

But seriously, folks: Look to the right. No, really. I've posted two new links for your education and enjoyment. The Moving Image Collections site contains a host of research and browsing resources. I've linked you to their movie page, with links to resources about films, but if you go to their home page, you'll find even more pages and links of interest. Errol Morris's home page, with its somewhat wacky layout, belongs to one of the great filmmakers of our time. You may not have seen his work because he makes documentaries—but let me tell you, kids, his documentaries are more interesting and riveting and thrilling than 95% of what passes for an "action" movie these days. Ebert often speaks in praise of Morris, mentioning him in the same breath as Hitchcock. Anyone who cares about the history of warfare and U.S. foreign policy should watch The Fog of War; anyone who cares about Abu Ghraib, the Iraq conflict, torture, human rights, and the power of the image should see Standard Operating Procedure. Not every one of his films is quite so political: his first movie, Gates of Heaven, is about a pet cemetery.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review assignment

The assignment has three components:

• an approximately 250-word review of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,
• an approximately 100-word review, and
• a ten-word-or-less snapshot of the film.

Keep in mind these elements:

1. What to reveal about the plot. This typically becomes a problem in the longer review as you're looking for something to say. Avoid getting too bogged down in the plot (" . . . and then this happens . . . followed by this happening . . . but that guy turns out to be . . . "); don't reveal the twist at the movie's conclusion.

2. Names. Go on imbd.com to look up the names of the director, writer, the actors, and the characters. You don't need to mention everyone, not in short reviews like these (and not at all in the ten-word take), but you need to get these things right.

3. Elements of the film. Think about what struck you most in the movie. Comment on those elements (since this film has no sound, we're largely talking acting, script, direction, and set design). You'll notice different things than someone else.

4. Audience. Who is reading your review? Think of how you might write this for your peers so they appreciate what you've seen.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Batman, Yet Again

Back on Sept. 5 and 20, 2008 (look in the blog archives before reading this), I commented on The Dark Knight. This weekend, I watched the film again, and I gained an appreciation for it that simultaneously reinforced my view of its problems.

I watched it on my computer in half-hour chunks. This helped considerably, as I didn't have to see the movie as one giant block of narrative. One of my problems with the film is its novelistic structure: it's trying to do too much and gets somewhat lost doing it. This felt more evident on the big screen, where you're careening along and its easy to feel that something slipped past you. This time around, I appreciated how the Nolans did try to make a coherent argument. I still don't think it makes as much sense as they hoped, but by chopping the movie into pieces and viewing its pieces, the incoherence is actually less grating.

There remains the strange problem that Batman says "I'm going for Rachel" but ends up getting Dent. It was hard to be sure that he'd said that the first time around (that scratchy voice Bale uses is really a bad choice on somebody's part), but I confirmed it this time. So, does the Joker lie about who is where, knowing that Batman would choose to save the woman, which is who the Joker wants to kill? If so, fine, but at no point after these events does anyone say, "The Joker lied to us." When Dent is waving a gun around, why doesn't someone say, "The Joker set us up"?

It is an exciting film with solid direction. I think it should have gone in different directions, and some of its choices are baffling, but it's still a fine-looking movie, and it was nice to see Ledger's work again. (Really, all of the actors except Bale do great work; Bale is fine, but the script somehow hems him in.)