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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?

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Baxter WallIn the photo at left are Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (who is also a title designer), who won the last TWO Oscars for Editing for David Fincher’s The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  

Here is a very brief review of digital tools for media educators, notably those who are novices with editing and moviemaking in general.  In particular, those who might be asking “where do I start?”

Adobe Premiere Elements (now at 12 in 2014) is the most widely used digital editing software available and is a more accessible consumer version of Adobe Premiere Pro.  There are references available for Adobe Creative Suite 6 and through a new edition of Debbie Keller‘s textbook for digital moviemaking programs: Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, and Encore.

Final Cut Pro is one of the most popular programs for educators across the country, although after some early progress with professional uses about a decade ago, they have dropped significantly from the professional world (thanks to the release of FCP X), although they are still trying.   For starters with Macs, most folks are familiar with the basic Apple program, iMovie, which has developed significantly over the years.  Oh, by the way, Baxter and Wall edited their Academy Award-winning movies with FCP7.

Avid Technology  is highly used by professionals today and is a solid bet for educators (it is the platform of choice at many universities).  Among their products, Media Composer is the basic editing program and it is important to note that Pinnacle is a division of Avid.

Sony Vegas remains quite popular with students, although I have found it is less used by educators — is it the name?

For an overall look at the landscape, here is wiki page for video editing software that provides a table-based overview.

For some classroom ideas, of course there are the interactive exercises and projects with my Moving Images textbook.   Here’s another: you can find editing resources on the Thinking Film site.

william goldenberg oscar argo zero dark thirtyAnd what’s in store at this year’s Oscars in the editing department?  There are some interesting stories: William Goldenberg has two nominations — for Argo and Zero Dark Thirty — so he is competing partly against himself, which hasn’t happened since Walter Murch in 1990 (for The Godfather, Part III and Ghost).  And he is competing against his mentor, Michael Kahn, who is nominated for Lincoln.  Here is a very thoughtful, interesting interview with Goldenberg by the site production Apprentice.

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The Tenth Annual Northeast Media Literacy Conference at the University of Connecticut on March 16, 2012, will feature the theme of “News Literacy in a Digital Media Age.”  I will be making a presentation designed around that theme in which participants will investigate the development of integrated units that foster analytical and creative skills, project management, and media literacy through non-fiction and promotional platforms using classroom cases.   In particular, the work associated with documentary and news media units such as those featured in Chapter 6 of Moving Images (Recording and Presenting Reality), will be highlighted.

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This article appeared in the New York Times this summer.  Interesting reading about current trends in relation to film schools and prospects for current grads.

Posting this link reminds me of good articles and interviews (including ones featuring Jay Rabinowitz, Nicholas Ray, and Richard Linklater; and Peter Weller on Antonioni) in the issue of the Projections series devoted to film schools: Projections 12.  

Projections 12, edited by John Boorman, Walter Donohue, Fraser MacDonald


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This weekend is the bi-annual NAMLE conference in Philadelphia.  At the conference, I will be delivering a presentation titled “Contexts, Connections, Collaboration: Integrating Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving in Media Literacy Education.”

One particularly exciting aspect of the event is that one of the keynote speakers is Douglas Rushkoff, who is a leading figure in media studies.  In fact, a documentary that he hosted for PBS is one I have used many times: “The Merchants of Cool.”  I highly recommend this piece for secondary school media teachers or communications professors.

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