Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Following Along with Film and Narrative
We've watched Hot Fuzz (2007), Smoke Signals (1998), Jaws (1975), Rashomon (1950), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) together as part of the kid's film course, with the last one being the only odd choice of that lot. Sure, it's got the whole non-linear, time looping story line set against a sci-fi version of the Normandy invasion, but it's still a Tom Cruise movie and not the most original or provocative example one might have chosen. The spouse and I had seen all of these films before, of course, but they were all new to the kid, who really liked Smoke Signals and Jaws but was wishing the syllabus had more comedy to balance to out the drama and action.
Following along with the kid's film class got me thinking about what movies I would put on a syllabus for a similar course. This happens to be the second college film and narrative class the kid has taken; the first was as a dual enrollment student at the local university. The first class provided the students with a list to choose from for each unit, which I think worked better and created a lot more opportunity to delve into different interests, while this second class only had the one open option and all the rest assigned (which they normally watched in class as a group). I wonder if a film and narrative class works better if it sticks to a theme as opposed to being a little of this and a little of that, all over the cinematic map, but I realize it's an introductory level course and not a special topics section.
The Cameraman (1928)
Cat People (1942)
Batman Returns (1992)
The Way Way Back (2013)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Smoke Signals (1998)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
(WALL-E from 2008 was also on the original syllabus but got dropped due to the pandemic closing campus and sending students home.)
Most of this list is pretty good, really, but I would definitely make some changes. For one thing, I'd like to see a little better representation of women as protagonists here, not just supporting characters. There are obvious boxes being checked in terms of minority and international representation, but some of those choices could be better (why come in with Creed for a bunch of kids who probably haven't seen any of the earlier Rocky films?). Here are the substitutions I might make:
The Way Way Back (2013) - Change to The Breakfast Club (1985) because I feel like John Hughes needs to be in here somewhere and the ensemble cast gives lots of teen types to explore. I also don't love having really recent movies in the mix because 1) kids are more likely to have seen them anyway and 2) they need more time to shake out into "important" and not so much.
Creed (2015) - Change to The Color Purple (1985) because Blade gets you a black male superhero fighter and this list still needs more women's stories in it. Even Hidden Figures (2016) would be great if one is just determined to have really recent films on the list.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) - Change to Dark City (1998) because it still has lots of mind-bending weirdness and sci-fi cred but also tech noir cool and was Roger Ebert's favorite film of 1998. It's more original but less obvious than The Matrix (1999) and offers lots of opportunities to talk about film noir and science fiction and the nature of identity and memory. I will probably put Dark City on any syllabus where it makes any sense to have it because it's just that fantastic. I used to teach it as part of my film noir unit, and it always went over really well.
What 12-13 movies would YOU put on a film and narrative syllabus? I'd love to see your lists in the comments section!