Monday, December 11, 2006

Wrapping Up the Fall

Fall semester classes ended last week, and I've got all my projects graded and final grades posted as of this afternoon. That's always a big load off my mind, as my classes tend to be very project drive, and I end up with long projects due at the end of the semester, requiring an intense period of grading. But I saw some really great work from my students.

Also on tap this week: jury duty. Yay. I have to drive to a neighboring town because I was assigned to a trial there. It's abotu 30 minutes away (as opposed to the ten minute drive to downtown Waco where local trials take place).

So I have Tuesday and Wednesday to work on syllabi for next semester, specifically my course on "Mavericks of the 1970s American Cinema." We'll be studying Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Kubrick, and others. It's one of my favorite periods of the cinema, and I'm looking forward to delving into it once again to teach the course. I've been working on my screening schedule for the semester, breaking it down by which films (from the 70s) I should show from each filmmaker. The big ones are easy (i.e., the major films from the filmmakers I mentioned above). By focusing on just the 70s, I can show almost all of the films they made in that limited period. Where I'm vacillating is on the other films and filmmakers to show. I want to show Lucas's THX 1138 and possibly American Grafitti (though I've never loved that film, to be honest). Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind will be fun to revisit. I'm thinking about The Parallax View and The Candidate to explore the political atmosphere (or to explore how politics impacted the filmmakers of the period). Any other recommendations?

In other news, I finally had a successful grant application. I won a small grant to pay for some student labor on my next (short) film, which I'll be shooting on and off through the spring and summer. It's called Clean Freak.


Anonymous Jonathan said...

A class on the mavericks of the 70s? Now that's a class I'd LOVE to take. I wish you best of luck with it.

I didn't like "American Grafitti" all that much, either. (Oddly, I found its sequel more interesting.) "THX1138" was pretty good--Lucas sure has his ups and downs.

As for political films of the 70s, I think "All the President's Men" had much more to say than "The Candidate."

I don't know what you think about musicals, if they are even worthy of study, but "1776" and "Fiddler on the Roof" are two of my favorite films of all time. And a really cute comedy is "Same Time Next Year."

If you're interested in films that had a real cultural impact on the decade (as opposed to artistic merit) you can't overlook "Saturday Night Fever," "Star Wars," and "Jaws."

BTW, about a year ago I revisited "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" for the first time in 25 years, and found it rather disappointing. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on it, and why you consider it a great film.

No doubt you'll be showing "The Godfather" but will you show "The Godfather II"? I think, in some ways, that's an even better film.

Well, good luck with the class. I'd be curious to see your final syllabus when you finish it. And good luck with jury duty, too.

Congrats on the grant! I look forward to reading about your experiences shooting the short.

Jonathan Chisdes

12/12/2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

All the President's Men probably does have more to say. I don't know -- it's a good film, but in some ways isn't as interesting since it's a retelling of actual events.

Close Encounters -- I've actually had similar reactions to it, though I haven't watched the entire thing straight through in a while. So I don't think it's a great film, but it is a good one, and an interesting one.

Godfather II is definitely on my list -- it IS a better film. From Coppola, I'm already thinking of showing Godfather and Godfather II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now -- he's becoming the dominant filmmaker of the class (which is fitting, since his influence on the decade is pretty dominant).

12/12/2006 8:37 AM  
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12/14/2006 9:20 AM  
Blogger pooks said...

I love 1776, too. I watch it every July 4.

I agree about The Candidate being the film to see. More subtle, but also a good example of Redford's career, and I consider him a maverick, as well. If I recall correctly, he would alternate a glam "Hollywood" movie with an indie, and The Candidate was one of his indies. And when you see what he did to support independent filmmaking, yes, The Candidate is an excellent choice.

You seem to be a little thin on womens' films and the 70s brought us a lot of stories of women having to recreate themselves. Today's students will probably find them archaic, but it was very much the 70s. I'm not sure if it's the best, but An Unmarried Woman comes to mind.

12/17/2006 6:52 PM  
Blogger pooks said...

Kramer vs. Kramer.

12/17/2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger pooks said...

The Graduate.

(I'll shut up now.)

12/17/2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger pooks said...

Okay, one more.

The Way We Were.

Even if you don't consider Pollack a maverick, it's a terrific example of "70s thought" and it's influence on even "Hollywood" film.

12/17/2006 6:58 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...


Some very good ideas. I'd already been thinking about The Graduate. And I think Kramer vs. Kramer also captures some late 70's zeitgeist. Interesting to put the two of them against each other and see Dustin Hoffman as playing Benjamin Braddock further into his life...

12/17/2006 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

You're right--it is interesting to compare Hoffman in "The Graduate" to "Kramer vs. Kramer," but I thought "The Graduate" was a 1960s movie.

12/17/2006 7:29 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

ah, you're right. that's why i eliminated it. i'd forgotten about that...

12/17/2006 8:27 PM  
Blogger badMike said...

If I can throw out some oddball suggestions to you:

1) Anything by John Waters, who pretty much defined the avant garde for many years. "Pink Flamingos" is of course his masterpiece, but both "Female Trouble" and "Desperate Living" are excellent films. If a film professor had shown me any one of those films, I would have pooped my pants in joy.

2) The original "Dawn of the Dead," an awesome example of true indie filmmaking and the first true horror epic.

3) The original "Halloween." Yeah, it's my favorite film, but it's a genuine masterpiece of mood and style on no budget. You could probably teach a course on this film.

4) You gotta show a Cassavetes film, either "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" or "A Woman Under the Influence," which are probably his most well-known films. But for sheer fun I recommend "Minnie and Moskowitz."

5) "Eraserhead," like "Pink Flamingos" David Lynch's first film has pretty much also defined the avant garde.

6) "Chinatown," duh.

7) Robert Downey Sr.'s "Greaser's Palace," the perfect Midnight Movie.

8) Speaking of midnight movies, I've never seen "El Topo," but it's a classic.

9) "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!" and yes, I'm serious. There's no other movie quite like it.

10) Something produced by Roger Corman, either "Piranha" or "Death Race 2000."

Ok, 10 is probably enough to pester you with...

P.S. I am DYING to see your new film. Shoot it quick so I can watch it.

12/17/2006 10:42 PM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Mike --
Not pestering at all. Your list, combined with all of the other suggestions, has finally convinced me that there are WAY too many great films to show from the 70s. I'm frustrated that I can't show them all!

As for my new film -- have I told you much about it? Or is it just the title that you like? I am pretty fond of that title myself. At the very least, it's a lot easier to write/type than my last film's title ;-)

12/18/2006 8:22 AM  

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