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Posts Tagged ‘Andrei Tarkovsky’

boyhood_xlgThe relationship between movies and time is integral to the medium’s essence: film itself is a succession of still images moving so quickly that we feel they are existing in front of us like our experience of the world and of time itself.  In fact, the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky used the description of “Sculpting in Time” to distill the nature of what filmmaking was to him.

This month, Richard Linklater’s groundbreaking movie Boyhood, starring Ellar Coltrane, is released in theaters.  In this film, director Linklater has taken a bold approach in the depiction of a boy growing to manhood: He recorded  the feature over a number of years as Ellar Coltrane ages from 6 to 18 over the course of the story.  There have been movies that deal in a variety of ways with aging characters, such as the Up documentary series by director Michael Apted, or fiction series such as François Truffaut’s Antoine Doisnel movies or Linklater’s own Before… movies with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but none have adapted as determined, lengthy, and particular approach to periodically filming the development of a young person and crafting it into a fictional world.

EllarColtraneBoyhoodThis article in the New York Times features a slide show titled “12 Years a Boy” in which one can view the physical transformations of actor Ellar Coltrane over the years during which this movie was made.  This article and topics discussed in Moving Images related to time and the relationships of reality to fiction in chapters 5 and 6 can be useful starting points in examining this movie.  Boyhood‘s content, moviemaking techniques, and media literacy-related discussion points can be a natural topical fit for students who are at the edge of adulthood, like the main character of Boyhood at the end of the movie (while it is important to note that this movie is rated R for language and teen alcohol and drug use).

As a final point, I find particular delight in one detail to this story: one of the links between father and son in the movie Boyhood concerns the ties that can be shared through music and time, and this manifests itself in the compilation of a Black Album of the Beatles (related to their “White Album” of 1968, actually titled simply The Beatles) made up of songs from after the group’s breakup and created by the father of the movie for his son (Ethan Hawke plays the father to Ellar Coltrane’s Mason).  The father writes, “Mason, I wanted to give you something for your birthday that money couldn’t buy, something that only a father could give a son, like a family heirloom.  This is the best I could do. Apologies in advance. I present to you: THE BEATLES’ BLACK ALBUM.”  Linklater and Hawke shared the 3-CD track list that they came up with (and which had originated as a real gift from Hawke to his oldest daughter).  Since every time my family and I get in the car my kids ask to put a Beatles CD on (and I can’t believe that I’m the one saying “could we try something else for a change”), I think it’s time that I made up our own family version of The Black Album, and I think I’ll have to make it a 4-CD package.

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Where Winter Olympics meet young filmmakers: snowboarding videos

Where Winter Olympics meet young filmmakers: snowboarding videos

Sochi 2014 is here!  There are so many topics to discuss, whether concerning cultural perspectives, world languages, geography, human rights and equality, world history and international relations, and, of course, sports, among many other angles.  For media literacy perspectives on the Games, I am posting right here a new lesson activity that works with Chapter 5 of Moving Images: Critical Notebook 5b.  This exercise encourages students to apply principles of media literacy to the images that they see as they watch the Olympics – from the personal interest pieces to direct sports coverage to commercials to power outages.

Image: 2014 Winter Olympic Games - Opening CeremonyAs we discuss or write about how we “experience” these Winter Olympics (or any similar event) from afar, it is particularly useful to raise questions about concepts that are at the core of the Olympics themselves: how does one interpret these events differently in another country or through contrasting media sources and visual traditions?  Students should be encouraged to seek out media from across the globe in relation to coverage of specific sporting events or ceremonies, sports figures, and commercial interests.  It can be highly enlightening to discover new perspectives on familiar institutions, events, or phenomena.  Including commercials.

I also recommend the continuously evolving video resources of the New York Times, which include a piece on snowboarder Mark McMorris that might be a big hit with high schoolers.

HedgehogOwlP.S.: I have to add that, on a personal note, whenever I watch an Olympics opening ceremony in the USA (and I have seen them from the vantage point of other countries, where the coverage is so very different), I am reminded of the lines from the Grim Reaper in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life: “Shut up… You always talk, you Americans. You talk and you talk and say ‘let me tell you something’ and ‘I just wanna say this’.”  Couldn’t we ever just watch the actual ceremony in America with its actual soundtrack?  Do the commentators really need to be blabbing on about whatever comes into their heads while these amazing images from out of Tarkovsky and Hedgehog in the Fog are gorgeously floating by on the screen?  It’s really maddening at times.

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