All posts by Sandra Cheng

Homework #10: Endings

It seems fitting to discuss endings as our class draws to a close. For this last homework assignment, please consider the importance of endings to films and discuss one of your favorite endings. Note how the ending to Truffaut’s 400 Blows ended with the freeze frame of Antoine facing the camera, an ending that is intentionally ambiguous, forcing the viewer to continue the story. The ending to Truffaut’s film is so iconic that it is frequently quoted or parodied. See this short clip that shows how Truffaut’s ending was used for the final shot of Nelson’s film in a Simpsons episode. To complete this homework assignment, please submit your favorite endings in a comment.

Homework #10 is DUE by Tuesday December 15th (2 days BEFORE the in-class Final Exam). ‹Everyone should submit a COMMENT to my post.

Homework #9: Experimental Film – Chris Marker’s “La JetĂ©e” (1962)

Time traveler in Chris Marker's "La Jetée" 1962
Time traveler in Chris Marker’s “La JetĂ©e” 1962

In 1962, Chris Marker released an experimental film that he described as a “photo roman” (a photo novel), which was comprised of editing together individual photographic stills rather than film shots. The result was La JetĂ©e, a groundbreaking short film of science fiction about time travel in a post-apocalyptic world. Marker’s film inspired Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995) and a recent TV series of the same name. Watch Marker’s film (it is 28 min) and the trailer of Gilliam’s movie, and discuss the use of cinematic time travel. Is it successful in La JetĂ©e? What movies have you seen that deal with time travel?

To watch an English version of La Jetée, you need to watch it in two parts:
Watch the important opening sequence of La Jetée by here (click on World War Three)

Watch the rest of La Jetée here (this version is missing the  very important first 3 min)

Watch the trailer of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys here.

Homework #9 is DUE by Tuesday December 8th.‹ Clubs and Hearts Post, Diamonds and Spades Comment.

Homework #8: Jump Cuts in Godard’s “Breathless”

Film still of Patricia (Jean Seberg) in car, Jean-Luc Godard, "Breathless," 1960
Film still of Patricia (Jean Seberg) in car, Jean-Luc Godard, “Breathless,” 1960

Jean-Luc Godard’s extensive use of jump cuts in Breathless (À bout de souffle) 1960 was highly influential on the “look” of many later films. In a jump cut, two shots of the same subject differ in angle or composition, the disjuncture creates a visual “jump” on the screen. The jump cut is an example of discontinuous editing, however, the uneven transition of one shot to another is often described as an amateurish technique. Yet, Godard masterfully uses the jump cut to highlight the urban rhythm of Paris and the whirlwind pace of modern romance. Watch this clip, in which Michel (Jean Paul Belmondo) gives Patricia (Jean Seberg) a ride across town to her appointment. Note the number of jump cuts in the car sequence, in particular, the change in backdrop that frames Patricia’s head.

For this week’s homework, please search for the use of jump cuts in a later film. You can watch clips of a movie you like to see whether  jump cuts are used, or simply “google” jump cuts. Post a link to the film you’ve found and describe the impact of the jump cuts in that film clip.

Watch the car sequence in Breathless here.

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #8, Diamonds and Spades Post and Clubs and Hearts Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Due December 1st (after Thanksgiving!) 

Homework #7: Filming Locations-Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’

School house in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" 1963
School house in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” 1963

In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), a beautiful socialite Melanie Daniels (played by Tippi Hedren in her first film role) takes a trip from San Francisco to Bodega Bay in pursuit of Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor). Although Hitchcock preferred to film on a studio set, there are numerous location shots that highlight his love for San Francisco and the surrounding area. As a hobby, the California architect HervĂ© Attia produced a film short that revisits many of Hitchcock’s locations for The Birds. Watch Attia’s short film and a clip of the attack on the children scene. What do you think of “fan” movies like Attia’s that deconstruct films and revisit locations?

Watch Attia’s film location video here.

Watch the attack on the children sequence here.

Homework #7 is DUE by Tuesday November 17.‹ Clubs and Hearts s Post, Diamonds and Spade Comment, note your blog group! Please email me if you forget which group you belong in.

Homework #6: The Flashback in Film

Classic example of deep focus in childhood scene from Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941).
Classic example of deep focus in childhood scene from Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941).

In Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), most of the narrative structure relies of flashbacks. Viewers see Kane’s death at the start of the film and the “March of Time” newsreel provides an overview of the life and death of Charles Foster Kane. The life of Kane is communicated through the flashbacks of various sources, including his close friends and ex-wife. Orson Welles lets the audience know at the very beginning of the film what happens to Kane and tells Kane’s story through a succession of flashbacks. What other films to you know make use of the flashback device? In an earlier homework, Brygetee discussed the big-budget film, Titanic (1997) by James Cameron. You may recall that the audience learns what happens in the beginning of Titanic, and the first 20 minutes are devoted to exploring the sunken ship, ending with an older Rose who takes the audience on her flashback to that fateful voyage. Explore your textbook, the internet, or your own collection of films and share with your classmates a memorable flashback scene.

Click here to watch a flashback to Kane’s childhood as recalled in the diary of his legal guardian Thatcher in Citizen Kane (take note of the deep focus technique).

Watch Old Rose in Titanic begin her flashback.

Homework #6 is DUE by Friday October 30th (ONE DAY AFTER THE MIDTERM). Diamonds and Spades Post, Clubs and Hearts Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

Homework #5: The Animated Sequence

Newspapers journalists in Citizen Kane
Newspapers journalists in Citizen Kane

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) is known for the use of many innovative techniques, especially the use of deep focus. In addition, there is a scene in which a photograph comes to life. The scene comes during Kane’s announcement that his has hired the group of star journalists from a rival newspaper to write for his own paper, The Inquirer. This sequence recalls the increasing popularity of animation in this period.

As we learned in class, Snow White and the Seven Dwarf (1937) was the first feature-length animated film. Watch a clip from Disney’s  Snow White, and post your thoughts on early animation.

Watch the photograph come to life in Citizen Kane here.

Watch a clip from Snow White  here

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #5, Clubs and Hearts will submit a Post and Diamonds and Spades will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Homework #5 is DUE by Thursday October 22nd.‹ Clubs and Hearts Post, Diamonds and Spades Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

Homework #4: Spectacular Cinema

Atlanta Burning sequence, Victor Fleming, Gone with the Wind (1939)
Atlanta Burning sequence, Victor Fleming, Gone with the Wind (1939)

Hollywood in the 1930s was filled with spectacles, from the musical fantasies of Busby Berkleey to surreal costumes and sets in The Wizard of Oz and the attention to historical accuracy in Gone with the Wind. These large budget films (the Oz budget was 2.77M and Gone with the Wind was approx. 3.9M) demonstrate the desire to create an immersive cinema that transported audiences from the somber realities of the Great Depression. Listen to the short NPR news story on the making of Gone with the Wind and note the grand scale of the production, from the long casting process to the interest in historical accuracy as well as the subsequent controversies. In addition, read a New York Post article that draws attention to the controversial aspects of the film.

Share with your classmates examples of films that function like spectacles. What big-budget movies have produced similar spectacular settings to captivate audiences? What do you think of the extravagant budgets of these films? 

Listen to the NPR Gone with the Wind Story here.

NYPost article: “Gone with the Wind” should go the way of the Confederate flag”

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #4, Diamonds and Spades will submit a Post and Clubs and Hearts will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Homework #4 is DUE by Thursday October 15th.‹ Diamonds and Spades Post, Clubs and Hearts Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

Homework #3: Birth of a Nation and Controversial Films

Poster for first showing of Birth of a Nation in Seattle, c. 1915
Poster for first showing of Birth of a Nation in Seattle, c. 1915

At home and in class, we screen excerpts of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation in class, a movie that was first screened 100 years ago. The racist content of the film invoked protest across the nation, led primarily by the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The combination of Griffith’s remarkable artistry, distorted historical accounts, and overt racism produced sickening propaganda for the Ku Klux Klan. Listen to a short NPR report on the legacy of the Birth of a Nation. For an example of the impact of Griffith’s film on a recent movie, see Henry Louis Gates’ interview of Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained (2012)

NPR report on Birth of  a Nation

Gates’ interview with Quentin Tarantino

Share with your classmates other examples of controversial films that have evoked protests in the past. Do you know of movies that have caused similar demonstrations or complaints about content?

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #3, Clubs and Hearts will submit a Post and Diamonds and Spades will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Homework #3 is DUE by Thursday September 24th.‹ Clubs and Hearts Post, Diamonds and Spades Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

 

Homework #2: Opening Scenes-The Matrix, an example of Bordwell and Thompson’s ‘hard’ opening?

Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) in opening scene of The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix (1999)
Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) in opening scene of The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix (1999)

Bordwell and Thompson begin chapter 2 in Film Art with a discussion of the importance of opening scenes in movies by contrasting the differences between two Steven Spielberg movies, Jurassic Park (1993) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Bordwell and Thompson describe the start of Jurassic Park as a “hard” opening filled with action that helps build suspense toward an encounter with a T-rex. The beginning of The Matrix is similar to the what Bordwell and Thompson describe as a ‘hard’ opening. According to movie legend the opening sequence of The Matrix was filmed first and cost $10M. Studio executives were so impressed with the opening that they funded the entire project, which in the end cost over $60M.

Share with the class a favorite opening scene by including a link in your post (video.google.com and youtube are good sources for video clips) and discuss why you find the opening so compelling. If you can’t find a clip and want to discuss a film anyway, include a link or an image to the movie.

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #2, Diamonds and Spades will submit a Post and Clubs and Hearts will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

To students submitting a Post, please check off the category Student Post and please tag your posts (i.e., add the name of the movie as your tag)! In order to post, you have to be a member of the class, simply click “Join” on the Class Profile to become a member. If you’re unsure how to submit a post, follow the instructions under Blogging Guidelines and/or contact me!

To students submitting a Comment, choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on. Watch the clip in their post and tell the class what you think are its strengths/weaknesses.

Homework #2 is DUE BEFORE CLASS September 17th.‹Diamonds and Spades Post, Clubs and Hearts Comment, note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

Homework #1: Introduce Yourself!

First Contact in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

As a follow-up to our first class, please tell your classmates a little about yourself and your interest in cinema. Have you ever taken a class on film history? What type of movies do you like? And how do you like to screen movies? From home? in movie theaters? on a large screen or on computer screens? Share your thoughts with your classmates by replying to this post. Click on “Leave A Comment” above this post and then submit your response. Please complete your Introductions BEFORE class on Thursday September 3rd.