Archive for February, 2013

I Fidanzati or The Legend of the Holy Drinker? - a tough choice!

I Fidanzati or The Legend of the Holy Drinker? – a tough choice!

For a bit of a different post today, in the wake of all of the picks we saw this past Sunday of last year’s “best movies” (well, at least the ones that got their angles right with the Academy voters), I was prompted by students to share a piece that I wrote a little while back.  Every now and then, folks will ask “well, what is your favorite movie?” and I can immediately answer “One?  Oh, I could never pick just one… but let me think about it and I can give you a few…”  So here is my answer.

Dozen Favorite Films  (in baker’s alphabetical order)

The Apartment: Billy Wilder

A Canterbury Tale: Powell & Pressburger

Children of Men: Alfonso Cuarón

Dr. Strangelove: Stanley Kubrick

The Fiancés:  Ermanno Olmi

The General: Buster Keaton

Gigi: Vincente Minnelli


And Vertigo? Of course…

The Great Race: Blake Edwards

Hearts & Minds: Peter Davis

The Mirror: Andrei Tarkovsky

Night of the Hunter: Charles Laughton

Princess Mononoke: Hayao Miyazaki

War Requiem: Derek Jarman

When I was asked for one favorite, it had to be five, then ten; in the end, it was a dozen.  I decided that I wouldn’t choose more than one film from any director.  Tomorrow, the list will be completely different.  In fact, it will be five minutes from now.  A memory will surface, seeing a seat in a theater, recalling an instant of passion or creative sparks.  A righteous stirring, an inspiring leap, a deep wash of red or green or blue, a whispered line or angry burst – films by Jean Renoir or Frank Borzage, Preston Sturges or Wes Anderson, François Truffaut or Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang or Carl Dreyer, Max Ophuls or Kenji Mizoguchi, Akira Kurosawa or Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh or Bill Douglas, Michel Gondry or Alexander Payne, Jacques Tati or Roman Polanski, Larisa Shepitko or Tenguiz Abouladze, Ingmar Bergman or Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda or Bertrand Tavernier, Delmer Daves or Dimitri Kirsanoff, Yuri Norstein or Ladislas Starevich, Aki Kaurismaki or Federico Fellini, Louis Malle or Ken Loach, John Cassavetes or Ousmane Sembene, Stanley Donen or Alexander Mackendrick – through the swell of music married with dissolve to close-up, or the shades of black and white as they sear upon our cornea, or the flow of a camera moving across a magic hour landscape as we travel across our own fields and back yards; and smiles, chomping popcorn and sipping a soda in the dark, overturning a chair with laughs or gripping it with white knuckles; then, a face slides upon the screen, and we connect with it for that instant, more than we can comprehend, until we may turn to one that we truly know and suddenly be seized by a moment of understanding, sliding outside of our selves in suspension of awareness, of holding the angle of their gaze, of the contour of their soul, until it abruptly slips, and we are once again in the familiar perspective, but with this sacred memory.

Mine for 2013

Winner for 2012

Now that I’ve just posted this, it makes me want to produce some lists – yeah, I know they’re everywhere these days with the digital-crunching brave new netverse obsessed to convert everything to some hierarchy of numbers, but… they’re still pretty fun.  So maybe there could be some for sound design, musical score, cinematography, acting… and so forth.  And what is your favorite movie?

Read Full Post »

2013coverI will be delivering a presentation at the 11th Annual Northeast Media Literacy Conference at the University of Connecticut on April 19.  This presentation – titled Common Core State Standards and Media Literacy in the Classroom: Communications and Critical Thinking for Promotional and Public Service Messages – will provide useful, dynamic examples of curriculum and lesson development for media literacy connected to the CCSS.  Such units benefit the school community and foster evaluative, collaborative, and communicative skills; in this case, advertising and public service messages will be assessed using classroom cases.  Last year, the conference provided an interesting forum for international perspectives on media literacy – I wrote a piece for this blog on some of the highlights – and this year’s event will feature similar opportunities.

Read Full Post »

Will they be clinking their glasses at the Oscars?

Will they clink their glasses at the Oscars?

Earlier, I discussed the movies Argo and Lincoln in relation to cross-curricular connections that can be explored through analyses of movies and history.  Since then, there have been many provocative developments that add to the angles to be scrutinized with Argo (including its many major awards and Academy Award nominations).  Some of the most interesting include comparisons of the historical record to the narrative of the movie as well as recent commentary that has been recorded in the press from figures who were involved in the actual events.  Of particular significance are the complete fictions in the movie, such as the chase scene through the airport and while the plane takes off, and the depiction of the roles of the Canadians who sheltered the Americans that had escaped from the embassy in Tehran.

Victor Garber as Ken Taylor and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez

Victor Garber as Ken Taylor and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez

Let’s ask ourselves as media investigators: why were these choices made?  Are they valid?  Do the distortions or invented events constitute fraudulence on the part of the filmmakers?  Take into consideration a variety of storytelling and aesthetic decisions in the film – and one I suggest is from the closing credits in which director Ben Affleck and his collaborators inserted historical photos in comparison to images from the movie.  I also recommend recent interviews and reports that feature reactions from the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor, and the American President at the time, Jimmy Carter, including these articles from the Associated Press and E!Online.

In my initial blog post, I referenced Canadian journalist Jian Ghomeshi’s article about the depiction of Iran and Iranians in the film, and here is another piece related to Ghomeshi and Argo: an interview with actor Victor Garber who plays Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor.

Read Full Post »