Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Movies

So--I've gotten downright formulaic with the movie thing. I've decided to set the class based on genre and film elements, and then work with them in pairs. For each set, we'll study 2 films, preferably one pre-1980 (not a magic year, just kind of in the middle) and one post. Here's what I've come up with so far. What do you think? Please keep in mind that I'm trying to choose movies against which my students won't totally revolt.

Genre: Drama/Element: Screenplay
  • To Kill a Mockingbird OR Rocky
  • Dead Poets' Society OR Straight Story

Genre: Musical/Element: Art Direction

  • Singin' in the Rain
  • Moulin Rouge

Genre: Sci Fi-Fantasy/Element: Special Effects

  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone

Genre: Thriller/Element: Direction

  • Rear Window
  • ??? Ideas? Quality PGish thriller in the last 20 years with exceptional direction?

Genre: Action Adventure/Element: Editing

  • King Kong 1933
  • King Kong 2005

Genre: Noir/Element: Cinematography

  • Maltese Falcon
  • ??? Ideas? Again, a quality noir film from the last 20 years with exceptional cinematography?

Genre: Western/Element: Score

  • Magnificent Seven
  • Silverado

Genre: Animation

  • Snow White
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

Genre: Martial Arts/Element: Foreign Language Film

  • Seven Samuari
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

For documentaries, I'm thinking

  • When We Were Kings (Tons of my guys are into boxing)
  • Rize (Boys of Baraka is R. Thppt.)
  • Whatever short documentaries I can track down
  • Winter of the Dance (A pal of mine knows these guys, and participated in Winter of the Beard, which I hope will be out by the end of the year. I may be able to get the director and producer in town to chat with us.)

So, what I'm lacking is comedy. (In so many ways.) Ly suggested Bringing up Baby, but I don't know if my kids will stick with that one. Maybe. What "film element" would fit well with comedy? I'm kind of thinking either acting or production, since, well, that's what's left.

School starts tomorrow! Wish me luck.

28 comments:

Erik said...

Okay,

I recognize I have no professional qualifications whatsoever. That said, I’ve watched my share o’ movies, I know some of your kids, and you called me a pussy for not expressing my opinions on your blog. Below are my suggested revisions to your list:

Genre: Action/Adventure
Element: Editing

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Spielberg, Lucas and Harrison Ford. Won 4 Oscars, including editing; nominated for another 4, including best picture.

North By Northwest – Hitchcock with Cary Grant and Martin Landau…Oscar nominations for editing, art direction, and screenplay.

Can you really compare Peter Jackson’s 2-hour too long CGI cluster-fuck to Raiders? Fuck no. All three King Kong’s were okay, but none are even in the same league with Raiders and North By Northwest.

Genre: SciFi/Fantasy
Element: Effects

Star Wars: Good choice. Tough to argue

Back to the Future: Won the Oscar for special effects in ’85. Plus, unlike Harry Potter, I don’t think you’re kids have seen it and I think they’d like it.

If you need another Fantasy, I’d take Fellowship of the Ring over Harry Potter any day.

Some other choices that I don’t feel too strongly about:

Seven Samurai is great but I don’t know if the kids can sit through 3+ hours of that. They might get a kick out of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (I think it’s an American Film though)…maybe Fist of Fury?

I’d take The Outlaw Josey Wales over Silverado any day.

I thought Lynch’s Straight Story was a much better, and believe it or not, more important film than Dead Poets Society.

While I think To Kill a Mockingbird is better than Rocky…the kid’s might relate to Rocky a little more. I dunno that one’s tough.

Rear Window was fuckin great.

This one’s a longshot, but, why not Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins to go along with Maltese Falcon? I think it got an Oscar nod for cinematography.

That’s it.

E

lonna said...

I'm a little late to this discussion. I took "media arts" for one semester in high school and I took Intro to film in college. In fact I considered getting my ph.d. in film history, but psych really fits me better. I'm not a good enough writer to be in the humanities. Anyway, here are the films and genres I remember (wow it's been almost 20 years ago). Also, I went to a private school, so we didn't have to worry about ratings. A lot of these movies are probably not appropriate for your student population.

prison films: Cool hand luke (awesome) and I honestly do not remember the other one.

Westerns: Barbarosa and something else

We actually had a section on Woody Allen and we had to watch another movie of our choosing for a paper. We saw Annie Hall and something else in class. I did my paper on Bananas

Hitchcock got his own section. We saw Rear Window and North by Northwest in class. I also saw N X NW in my college class.

Horror: we saw the original Frankenstein (awesome) and Young Frankenstein (also great)

For our final exam we saw the Godfather in class and then we had to review Godfather Two for our final exam.

For musical we saw Meet me in St. Louis in my college class and I hated it, but it's a great discussion about how gender roles have changed with time.

2001 is also good for editing if you can handle the monotony. I've never made it past the first 15 minutes.

We saw Maltese Falcon for noir, and I can't think of any current noir that isn't overtly sexual.

We saw Bringing up Baby in my college class as a classic screw ball comedy and my best friend hated it, but I remember that it was fun.

I also made my adolescent development class watch a movie and look for developmental themes. It might be fun to do a coming of age genre for your particular students. This is my favorite type of film after cult films, and I know of an endless list, but they seem to love John Hughes movies, Clueless, Mean Girls (which I still have not seen), and I love Breaking Away and One Crazy Summer. Good luck!

amandak said...

Genius!! All of you!

Sounds like this is going to be a really fun class for everyone.

Wish I had brilliant suggestions. Ah well, I'll ponder, maybe something will hit me.

I can't wait to hear what Ly comes up with for the other Noir film. OK, Ly, here's your assignment: something fabulous, not rated R (which I guess would cover the avoiding sexually explicit content), and something her students will sit through and dig on. And.... GO!

amandak said...

Oh, and YAY for a comment from Erik! Hi Erik! Smooches. ;)

CC said...
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CC said...

Good work!
If you think you are going to have a hard time justifying to some parents why they should let thier children watch movies, wait until you tell them you are watching Harry Potter! My mother who is a born again Christian is sooooo against Harry Potter, because she thinks that is is from the devil. "All that witchcraft and socery (sp?), opening the door to the devil."
She really drives me insane! She wonders why I stopped going to church years ago- as George Carlin says, "when I reached the age of reason...."

Missuz J said...

So, after asking for a noir from the last 20 years, I did some research and it seems like, according to some, the genre is actually, well, done. IS there such thing as neo-noir? I can't really see why not, as long as it fits the parameters. Why? Well, because I say so. Batman Begins may have come out after 1958/Touch of Evil, but seems to--in new and varied ways--fit the noir mold. I think a discussion of HOW genres are, well, "created" and WHY we feel the need to categorize, categorize, and categorize would be cool.

Also--I'm going to IMDB right now to check the rating on Young Frankenstein. Because THAT is some funny shit.

Keep it coming folks. This is some of the most fun I've had prepping for a class in years.

Aarwenn said...

The genre is not AT ALL done!!!

What about L.A. Confidential? The movie that's held up as a paragon of new noir? Bound, the noir about the lesbian couple trying to take down one of their husbands? Even Wild Things, although cheesy and focused mainly on the lesbian love scene, has a very standard (and good) noir plot. The Usual Suspects for a good violent noir. Try Mulholland Falls, too, starring Nick Nolte and Jenneifer Connelly, for a movie set around Hoover's paranoid administartion.

Katy said...

Did a little searching and found a list in Wikipedia which I realize may or may not be accurate since any old yokel can throw in their two sense. There is a list however of movies that fall under the genre film-noir some post 80s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_noir

Good luck with school, I wish I could come to your film class it's going to rock.

Oh, and E, I think one of the saving graces of the King Kong clusterfuck is that you can directly compare it to its earlier counterpart. The same could be said of comparing the Sabrinas, Ocean's 11 or The Italian Job. Being able to actually look at a film and see the way technology changes the look and feel of a film that is supposedly telling the same story.

Katy said...

Also, though it's not really olden days and nowadays, it might interesting to compare Miyazaki and Disney. You could look at the role culture plays in film.

And I kinda of agree on ditching Harry Potter. It's been done. Might not be a bad idea to compare the old Star Wars with the new ones, even though the new ones, imo, just turned into cartoons.

thelyamhound said...

Noir is SO not over. Some may suggest that Lynch is art-noir, the Coens noir-satire and John Dahl neo-noir, so one may suggest that noir has become more an element than a genre unto itself, but still...

Batman Begins is definitely noir in style, if not necessarily in content. My misgiving on content is that the "shadow world" is the given, whereas the discovery is of the power to oppose the shadow and the potential abuses of that power; that sets the moral compass of the piece somewhere a little North of noir to my eye . . . but it IS, essentially, a detective story, so that could be an interesting exercise if you were aiming for aesthetic over archetype (or using it as an exercise in debating the parameters of genre . . . Hey, there you go!).

In addition to the examples already mentioned, and the Lynch/Coen references I dropped in the big post, there are John Dahl's Red Rock West and The Last Seduction, which are noir to a 'T', but that doesn't solve our ratings problem.

Anyone know what Dark City was rated? That's definitely sci-fi noir (so's The Matrix, but again, the R-rating).

Yeah, the rating's got me stumped on that one.

On thrillers--I'll need to look more, but there IS a great, unrated Australian movie (I'd call it PG-13, but I may not be remembering right; you'll want to give it a look) with Hugo Weaving (Americans will know him best as Agent Smith from The Matrix, or maybe Elrond from the LOTR trilogy, but he has a pretty illustrious career in Australian indies, and he was awe-inspiring in a faceless turn in V for Vendetta). It involves the interrogation of a man who may or may not have committed a brutal crime, and takes place entirely in the interrogation room at the police station.

A better Kurosawa film than Seven Samurai for kids would be Yojimbo; it's shorter, funnier, and it, too, was remade as a Western (A Fistful of Dollars).

Young Frankenstein is PG. Lucky you, and lucky students, 'cause that's quite possibly the funniest film EVER.

Good on Lonna for Cool Hand Luke, one of my absolute favorites (and as close to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as you could get away with showing to kids). Agreed with Erik that The Straight Story is a better, more important film than Dead Poets Society; if you wanted to go for the inspirational teacher story, Stand and Deliver is, in my opinion, the only film of the last 30 years that stands alongside classics like Goodbye Mr. Chips and To Sir, With Love.

Erik said...
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Erik said...

Katy/MissuzJ...

Let me backpedal a bit on the giant monkey movies, because, as usual, I didn't read all the instructions and I missed the criteria for comparing films from different eras.

That said, I think an effective comparison can be made with NBN and Raiders. And I still think, by all accounts, they’re better, more entertaining films.

Also, scratch my comments on Outlaw Josey Wales over Silverado and Back to the Future over Harry Potter--since those suggestions nick the whole comparison thing. Sorry.

But since we’re comparing eras and elements, I’ve got another thought on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre/element comparison. Why not split those up and show Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars back to back? Then, if you have time, do a fantasy comparison with Legend and Fellowship of the Ring? Just another thought.

the beige one said...

How about Sith and Empire as the two darkest movies in the bunch?

~A~ said...

I know when it comes to films I'm not the total smarty pants but I know what kids like.

With fantasy don't forget ones like Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, the first Never-ending Story.

I had a high school teacher use the Dark Crystal in a World Religions class when we studied Taoism and I was a Senior.

CGI is cool, but you have to give props to those films that didn't have close to the technology we have today and still pulled off a decent flick.

thelyamhound said...

I LOVE The Dark Crystal. What puppets have that CGI will never have is that inescapable sense of SUBSTANCE, in the most literal possible sense. Good call, ~A~.

I enjoyed The Neverending Story, but never got over it's truly vast liberties with the source material (book by Michael Ende--phenomenal piece of imaginative literature for children around, say, 9).

patrice said...

having not read the other comments yet:

??? Ideas? Quality PGish thriller in the last 20 years with exceptional direction?

6th sense came to mind immediately

patrice said...

and, now having read the comments...

hi erik

and noir isn't done, it's just been segmented. when I think of noir today I think of dark comedies and my favorite dark comedy of all time, happiness.

the challenge is to find a neonoir film that is suitable for children. though I think with the amount of movies you have on the docket, noir could probably come out. that's alot of movies to watch. are you watching them in class??

thelyamhound said...

I think that the ratings challenge with regards to finding noir (in content, not aesthetic--if we limit it to aesthetic principle, I definitely think Batman Begins is a good bet) is that to convincingly portray a "shadow world" to our more calloused sensibilities, you need some serious deviance: hard-drug addiction, psychosexual pathologies, graphic violence, or, in the case of Lynchian art-noir, surreal mindfucks and gruesome death.

Still thinking . . . but you might want to see if you can find a film geek with kids, 'cause I'm realizing that I've seen very few movies of ANY kind that weren't R-rated in the last, oh, many years.

Stine said...

Thriller element with a PG rating in the last 20 years, I'd say Poltergeist.

Musical:Art Direction - Jesus Christ Superstar 70's version, not sure if that's R, and totally agree with Moulin Rouge

As for comedy, was Bring it On R? There's also two of my favorites: Drop Dead Gorgeous and Galaxy Quest.

amandak said...
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rob said...

Alright...I'ma go against type (imagine that) and back up Becky’s original posit: Film noir is, indeed, done.

There is no such thing as a true, current noir film. The reason for this is because "film noir" isn't actually a genre. Noir was a phenomenon that occurred in American film making in the decade after WWII. Critics were noticing a trend in American crime dramas: Darker themes, lighting and mood reminiscent of European expressionism...especially German; cynical characters; edgy stories, and started calling this trend "film noir". If you do any research on film noir, you'll find that the makers of classic noir films weren't even hip to the fact that they were creating a new aesthetic in film making. They were just making the flickers that they wanted to.

That said, yes: There is such a thing as "neo-noir" or “post noir” but people just call it film noir. This neo-noir aesthetic also transcends the crime drama genre so it bleeds over into other categories of film. This is how we are able to lump films like Batman Begins into the category of noir when, truly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, it shares a lot of the same properties of a noir film, but calling it noir is akin to calling Disney’s animated feature, Alladin, a musical comedy. It’s just not quite correct. But universal usage of any term ultimately ends up defining that term. Much the way Webster is going to start printing “irregardless” as an actual word just because people use it, we can call most any film with dark overtones film noir just because that’s what people think it is…which, ultimately, is cool with me. It’s all evolution.

At any rate…you want a good, post ‘80s noiresque film? Try Bladerunner. It is the most faithful post-noir film made since China Town.

…the theatrical version, that is. Not the director’s cut.

thelyamhound said...

We're playing with some dodgy semantics here. I could go along with the posit that noir is less a genre than a movement, more akin to, say, the French New Wave than to "action". But as you noted, it has come to denote an aesthetic; and as I noted, it has come to denote a certain narrative trajectory. In other words, even if it was more a trend than a category, it had elements that could lead to its calcifying into a category (whereas, say, French New Wave or Italian Neorealism did not, though they're often referenced for [labored] comparison).

I agree with you that Batman Begins isn't really noir; unlike you, though, I'd say Alladin IS musical comedy, despite its atypical medium.

Blade Runner is a good example, and I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it. I think either version would qualify, though the original theatrical cut has the voiceover which, while arguably intrusive, does betray its ancestry (Marlowe, Hammett) nicely. On the other hand, the director's cut ends on a more "noirish" note, while the tacked on (and tacky) redemption coda of the original release seems a more strictly Hollywood affectation.

Blade Runner is rated-R, though (although it looks fairly PG-13 by modern standards--I wonder if they have a committee for rating revision?), so it's still not really a go for the class.

Erik said...
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Erik said...
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Erik said...

Rob...

Enjoyed your post.

Blade Runner is out. It's rated R. We live in the Mormon clusterfuck of the universe. That was one of the first films I suggested to MissuzJ.

Also, I tend to disagree with most your arguments.

Take a literary perspective and please explain to me why the late 60's fiction of Phillip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and it's translation into film by Ridley Scott in the 1980's as Blade Runner, is more "noir" in style and content than Christopher Nolan's translation of Bob Kane's Batman/Detective Comics film Batman Begins.

Granted, both films lost some of their respective written counterpart’s original "noir" crime/drama/detective/darkness/blah/blah aspects during their translation to screen. But from a literary, and generational standpoint, many feel Detective Comics was very "noir" in content and style…particularly in the 40's, 50’s, 70’s, and the later offerings from Frank Miller. I agree this point is debatable, but, MJ tells me you’re a comic guy, you know this shit, look it up and explain it to me.

Gotta disagree with this statement:

"Sure, it shares a lot of the same properties of a noir film, but calling it noir is akin to calling Disney’s animated feature, Alladin, a musical comedy."

I agree with Lyam.

Gotta question this statement:

"If you do any research on film noir, you'll find that the makers of classic noir films weren't even hip to the fact that they were creating a new aesthetic in film making. They were just making the flickers that they wanted to."

Are you saying Nolan and Miller were specifically targeting the traditional "noir" genre and style when they made Memento and Sin City? Even so, why can’t they be considered traditional “Film noir”? Are they automatically disqualified by your presumptions of their artistic intent?

If you're saying the genre is more related to a generational timeline combined with an unknowing creative mindset. I would argue that Phillip Dick came in a little late when he wrote Androids, while Kane's Detective Comics offerings were right on-time.

Of course were talking films now…

…and while I continue to maintain I’m stretching a bit, I’d still lend as much traditional “Film noir” style to Batman Begins as Blade Runner.

Not to mention both films came to screen much later than yours or MJ’s suggested deathline.

I dunno, maybe the whole subject is so “gray” and “dodgy” it’s more of a matter of preference than anything.

Let me know.

And by the way mother fucker, I liked the director's cut of Blade Runner.

I'm also too lazy for html tags.

fin

rob said...

Okidoke…

Ly

But as you noted, it has come to denote an aesthetic; and as I noted, it has come to denote a certain narrative trajectory. In other words, even if it was more a trend than a category, it had elements that could lead to its calcifying into a category (whereas, say, French New Wave or Italian Neorealism did not, though they're often referenced for [labored] comparison).

Yes. Exactly. Great observation.

I still maintain that film noir is not a genre. It was a movement that affects film making to this day but it’s not a genre. It’s a phenomenon in film making that dominated the scene for over a decade but it’s not a genre.

This is the way I see it: Think of all the Tarantino knock offs that surfaced in the mid ‘90s after Pulp Fiction hit big. Since ’94 (although much less today than in the mid ‘90s) the industry has been awash with films that basically ape Tarantino’s hip, kitchy, dorky, lethal style. This is a movement in film making that was pervasive in the milieu, yet nobody would call “film Quentin” a genre. And when it eventually dies, which it’s bound to do, and resurfaces years later, it still won’t be a genre.

Thus, true film noir is done.

That all said, I will reiterate my other point: Over time, these phenomena become construed as genre through universal perception…much the way most Americans consider sparkling white wine to be champagne. It’s not a fact that the Cooks that you’re drinking is champagne because it wasn’t bottled in the Champagne region in France. But, because of universal perception, it’s definitely true that it is.

So, yeah, we are dealing with semantics…but I don’t think I’d call them dodgy. From here, they’re perfectly clear.

Erik

Blade Runner is out. It's rated R. We live in the Mormon clusterfuck of the universe. That was one of the first films I suggested to MissuzJ.

Yeah…I was afraid of that. I was hoping that, as Lyam mentioned, today’s more calloused standards would render its R rating more of a PG-13. Fucking Joe Smith fucking up a teenager’s right to enjoy good film. I hope he’s down in hell, husband to multiple, barbed cocked demons.

Take a literary perspective and please explain to me why the late 60's fiction of Phillip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and it's translation into film by Ridley Scott in the 1980's as Blade Runner, is more "noir" in style and content than Christopher Nolan's translation of Bob Kane's Batman/Detective Comics film Batman Begins.

Gladly. Although, before I do, I’d like to make the distinction between what is considered “noir” in terms of aesthetic and “film noir” in terms of the movement in film making. Although I hate to do so, I’m going to go out on a limb and make the assumption (I hate making assumptions) that by “noir” you mean dark, gritty, hard-boiled in style. I can dig it. When I talk about “film noir” in the next few paragraphs, I’ll be talking about the movement in film and that movement’s progeny in terms of the style of films it inspired. I just want to make sure that distinction is made to mitigate any confusion on either of our parts.

How Blade Runner is more of a pure noir film than Batman Begins is that it contains more of the elements that made the noir films of the ’40s and ’50 distinctively their own. I’m not just taking into consideration the content and character of the piece (Deckard, the cynical detective, the corrupt system, the femme fatale, the value charged investigation that ends in both victory and defeat, the character narration in the theatrical release*) but also the composition (the lighting; the cinematography -- all the way down to how the camera captured smoke; the music – it could be argued that Vangelis’s score is practically futuristic jazz). It’s much more reminiscent of the original film noir canon.

*I, too, prefer the director’s cut to the theatrical release. I would choose the theatrical release over the director’s cut when comparing Blade Runner to film noir because Deckard’s narration likens the piece to a noir film that much more.

From a literary standpoint, even PK Dick’s writing is more “noir” than Bob Kane’s. PK Dick, while not entirely hard boiled, is definitely much more edgy than Kane. In fact, Bob Kane’s Batman is not hard boiled or “noir” in the least. Batman didn’t really get dark or edgy until Frank Miller re-imagined him in the ’80s with Dark Knight Returns. Those were the books upon which the ’89 Batman movie was based and, thus, Batman Begins.

Are you saying Nolan and Miller were specifically targeting the traditional "noir" genre and style when they made Memento and Sin City?

I wasn’t saying that at all. But, yes, I would agree with that. Absolutely. Frank Miller’s work is indubitably inspired by film noir. He said as much when I saw him in San Diego last month. And Nolan as well. Especially with Memento which, as you’ve pointed out, is another good example of a film inspired by the film noir movement.

But I wouldn’t consider Sin City or Memento film noir for reasons that I’ve spilled earlier: Film noir was a movement…a phenomenon…it’s not a genre.

At any rate…the public considers it to be a genre so it will forever be thought of as one

Re. “ fin” – AWESOME!

Both of you -

Regarding Aladdin: I really should know better than to even touch this one as we could go round and round for ages…but fuck it.

Sure, Aladdin can be considered to be musical comedy, but it’s firstly an animated feature. Just as, according to you, Batman Begins could be considered film noir although it’s firstly a superhero epic/comic book adaptation. My real point is this, though: If you were stopped on the street and asked to categorize Aladdin into a particular genre you would have quickly answered “animated feature” or “cartoon” or “Disney film”. “Musical comedy” would never have crossed your mind.

So...you know...y'all can suck it.

;)

thelyamhound said...

Think of all the Tarantino knock offs that surfaced in the mid ‘90s after Pulp Fiction hit big. Since ’94 (although much less today than in the mid ‘90s) the industry has been awash with films that basically ape Tarantino’s hip, kitchy, dorky, lethal style. This is a movement in film making that was pervasive in the milieu, yet nobody would call “film Quentin” a genre. And when it eventually dies, which it’s bound to do, and resurfaces years later, it still won’t be a genre.

Actually, that "genre" already had a name by the time Pulp Fiction came out: pop-art ultraviolence. They'd been doing it in Hong-Kong and Tokyo for years, and the Japanese are still the masters (though I think Korean directors like Park Chan-Wook have added a depth and originality to it that exceeds all previous benchmarks).

And in a sense, it's already gotten its revival in Guy Ritchie's ouevre, or Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake. The only ingredients missing are the distinctly American elements (endless references to TV, comic books, and Elvis); but then, those guys are British, so references to dub, pints, and the Clash serve essentially the same purpose.