Entries in the Category "film class"
Movie Reviews: Holiday Weekend Edition!
Thanksgiving is a movie-loving time.
I mostly watched this under duress; it was playing at my parents' house on Thanksgiving Day, and to avoid it I would have had to leave. I don't really want to review these kinds of movies, because it just seems petty--I mostly hated it, yeah, but I knew that it wasn't made for me, it was made for someone who finds people getting slammed into the floor and kicked in the balls and whatnot hilarious. For someone who isn't totally fed up with the "uptight woman who loves her independence secretly wants a baby of own; she didn't even know it until she saw the negative pregnancy test" trope. Also for someone who can suspend belief enough to think that someone as aggressively uptight as Reese Witherspoon is a good match for a laid-back wiseass like Vince Vaughn (I like both actors and I think they are both capable of really good performances, but they so do not belong together). On the positive side, there were some great actors of a previous generation playing the four parents, the best of which was Sissy Spacek, who also had an awesome artist's colony house.
Click ahead for more! Many are holiday-themed.
Old movies are always great opportunities for analysis--seeing what’s different, but also seeing what’s the same. It’s fascinating to me, and yet some people, especially those my age, really resist that opportunity.
You’d think a roomful of college students, like the ones taking the film class I'm taking now--and it’s not an intro film class either, they’ve all made it through at least one full class already--would be willing explorers. I’m surprised at how often they react negatively to black and white, to subtitles, just to differentness. (The 400 Blows is not boring, twerps! You're boring.)
Let me describe an old movie experience: several years ago, when I still worked an office job, I saw a portion of a movie. I used to watch TV while I got ready for work, from about 7am to about 7:35, and what I watched varied, but if there was an interesting movie on at the time it usually won. So, this particular morning, I saw a bit of this movie in which a bunch of characters were trapped on a raft after a shipwreck. Tyrone Power was among them, and in the bit that I saw, the characters were discussing whether or not the sick and doomed among them should be thrown overboard, because they were running out of food, water and supplies. The concept of sacrificing a few people to save a few people was, I thought, an intriguing one for a movie. I love when movies address hard questions, when there’s a little ambiguity about the proceedings, so this was right up my alley. I didn’t get to see the end, because I had to go to work, but the first thing I did when I got there was put Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which is what I assumed I had watched, into my Netflix queue.
Some time later, Lifeboat appeared in my mailbox and I sat down to watch it. Imagine my surprise when Tyrone Power wasn’t in it. And it was about Nazis. And they were in a lifeboat, but it was a different boat and different people. It was a damn different movie. We live in the age of Google, so I found the movie I’d seen relatively quickly. In fact, it didn’t take me longer than the time it took to hit Tyrone Power’s IMDB page. I realized I had watched what was probably a B-movie from the 50s, released under both the title Seven Waves Away, and the far greater title, Abandon Ship! Yes, the exclamation point is theirs.
Well, Abandon Ship! is out of print, never been transferred to DVD, so I had no way to view it again until it played last week, incredibly, on Turner Classic Movies at like four in the morning. I DVR’d it and watched it today.
Abandon Ship!, especially compared to Lifeboat, is pleasantly sensational. Tyrone Power is strutting around (you know, on the raft) from the beginning, salvaging clothes off dead bodies and rolling them into the sea. People are all, “No! We need to give that man a funeral when we get to shore!” They’re menaced by sharks, they have no hope of rescue. Eventually they get to the point where they decide to control their rations by throwing the sick overboard.
From the film class I’m taking right now, I know that the 1950s were a turning point in the movie business; it was when “art movies” and “popular movies” began to take really different paths and the gap between culture and entertainment got wider. Old movies, especially from the 30s and 40s (probably my favorite old-movie era) are wonderful, but watching them is like visiting foreign countries. They just have moments that feel strange, and you take that into consideration as you watch and evaluate. Abandon Ship! (I can’t stop putting in that title, it cracks me up) was obviously popcorn fare, slick and cheesy and dark and fun, and for that reason, it felt really quite close to the movies we have in the theater today. The rhythms we’re familiar with now—like “We’re out of water,” DUN DUN DUN—were beginning to be developed. It's not exactly the same, of course--there's a little more melodrama in older movies--but the gap is just not as wide as people think.
For my part, I’m glad I learned to trek around in that foreign territory, and to feel comfortable doing so, because it’s brought me endless enjoyment.
Freudian slips, or Joke of the day for graduate students
(Freud says a cigar
is not just a cigar)
This morning in film class, discussing Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," my prof commented that the essay was, "dense but penetrable."
Cliff notes version: Mulvey applies Freudian psychoanalysis to film, explaining that classic Hollywood cinema (c.f. Hitchcock) serves men who experience movies as symbolic opportunities to touch a beautiful woman. Imagine the filming camera as caressing the Hollywood beauty, the camera as eyes, as hands, as phallus or penetrating object.
I know, riotous! OK, you had to be there, but the class was in stitches. I think my prof made the joke on purpose, because the next thing he said was, "You DID read it!"