Friday, June 12, 2009

The Film Class

What a bittersweet moment it is to write about the end of this fantastic chapter of my life. Actually, it's not sweet at all. Just bitter. First hearing about a film class elective made me giddy, and actually getting in made me ecstatic. I had never had Mr. Bennett before, and was intent on making a good impression. The first week of the class I tried my hardest to whip out every bit of knowledge I had about film in a pathetic attempt to look good. After we got into the class a little further, however, I realized that my knowledge of film was bottom of the barrel, and that I had much to learn. So for the rest of the year, I pretty much kept my mouth shut in class, and left it all to the blog. Humility: my first lesson of the film class.

Naivety is a hell of a thing. I've been writing movie reviews since February 2008 (and I promise, I will be getting back to that as soon as school ends), and I always assumed I had all the information I needed to do so. Though my estimations on acting were correct, my idea of what good direction and screenwriting were was seriously flawed. There are so much more to both aspects of film, and without this class I would have gone to my college film class just as simple-minded. I now have the ability to determine if a line is significant or an object on screen means something. I still haven't mastered this ability, but I'm on the track.

But a film class is pointless without good, nay, great films to watch. Of all the movies we watched, I had only seen two previously (there were even a few I'd never heard of). Although some films were leagues better than others, there was never a movie that I out and out despised. I was even enjoying Top Hat. The film I liked the least was A Simple Plan, which was a bit slow for my taste without enough stuff in between to keep me interested. But even this film had it's perks in Sam Raimi's direction and Billy Bob Thornton's performance. Though we already did it in class, I'll post what I believe to be the award winning films of the class. So put your hands together for the 1st ever Mayoral Choice Awards!

Best Cinematography - Runners Up - Unforgiven, Citizen Kane - Winner - THE SEVENTH SEAL

Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted) - Runners Up - Dark City, Fargo, Memento - Winner - UNFORGIVEN

Best Supporting Actress - Sorry ladies, not much in this department.

Best Supporting Actor - Runners Up - Sterling Hayden (Dr Strangelove), Eric Roberts (Runaway Train), Dustin Hoffman (Midnight Cowboy) - Winner - GENE HACKMAN (UNFORGIVEN)


Best Leading Actor - Runners Up - Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), Guy Pearce (Memento) - Winner - PETER SELLERS (DR STRANGELOVE)

Best Director - This was by far the hardest category to decide - Runners Up - Christopher Nolan (Memento), Stanley Kubrick (Dr Strangelove), Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal) - Winner - ORSON WELLES (CITIZEN KANE)

Best Picture - Runners Up - Dr Strangelove, Unforgiven, Fargo, Memento (this remains my second favorite film of all time and is probably my favorite film shown in the class, but I wanted to give this award to one of the new films in my life and so...) - Winner - THE SEVENTH SEAL

I hope most of you find these picks satisfactory.

But these films were all nothing without our terrific teacher, Mr Bennett. The enthusiasm with which he spoke was infectious, and it made sitting in his class not a chore, but a privilege. I hardly considered us to be a "class" because I think that title is a bit insulting to it. Though learning took place, it was not the stuffy environment of an English class or the brain paralyzing environment of a Math class. We were just a group of people who loved movies. That's all we really needed to be. I loved how after the very first day of class, everyone seemed to have an immediate respect for Mr Bennett. I remember on that day, he explained to us the concept of labeling a movie as "pretentious". After that, "pretentious" was the word of the month. We all started saying it. It's died down since then, but the fact that it happened was telling. When Mr Bennett told us he'd probably be leaving Tech after this year, I was shocked. I wondered how much it would suck to be a Senior next year without being able to take Bennett's film class. It's a shame. I was looking forward to coming back next year to discover who the new Mayor would be. Though I guess it is much more presitigous to be the final Mayor to grace the classroom.

To wrap things up, I'll never forget this amazing class. It felt great talking about movies with people who actually cared. It gave my girlfriend a nice break from having me talk her ear off about something she is inept in. Thank you to everybody who made the class great.

Oh yea, I saw The Maltese Falcon yesterday. Would it be relevant to say this class was "the stuff dreams are made of"?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What Exactly Did Johnny Do?

Today in class I made mention of the song Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye when Mr Bennett asked about the songs used in Dr Strangelove. He said that the song in the movie was actually When Johnny Comes Marching Home. I was going to leave this alone, but something in me (Stubborness? Need for attention? Kicks and giggles? All of the above?) won't allow it. Part of me knew that at least I was half right. In sophomore (?) year, I had Mr Murray, who on St Patricks Day sang us a few songs. One of them was Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye. It had the exact same melody as the song in Strangelove, so I naturally assumed it was the same. Upon research, I have found the answer that I was looking for. - Trivia Section for Dr Strangelove: The score for the B-52 scenes is mostly made up of the melody of "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye", a traditional Irish anti-war song, which also provides the melody for the somewhat better-known (at least in the United States) American Civil War song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again". While the former tells the story of a soldier coming back from a war heavily mutilated and broken, with the last lines being "They're rolling out the guns again, but they'll never take my sons again", the latter describes the celebrations that will take place when the soldiers return from war: "The men will cheer and the boys will shout / The ladies they will all turn out / And we'll all feel gay / When Johnny comes marching home."So the song is in fact When Johnny Comes Marching Home, but my mistaking it for Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye is justified. (Self Esteem WIN!!!)

For those of you who want a side by side comparison of the songs, I would like to give you one, but the only version of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye I could find was the Dropkick Murphy's version, which changed around some lyrics and added some, uh, loudness haha, but it kept the basic melody. I'll post it anyway, for fun. If you can see past the loudness of the second one, you can detect the similarites of melody.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home:

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye (Awesome Version):

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Donnie Darko

Reminder to Mr Bennett: Please bring in that book.

Thanks to the kindness of Yuriy, I was able to watch the movie Donnie Darko today. I've been hearing great things about this movie for years. It's starring Jake Gyllenhaal, so naturally I was skeptical. I never really read the plot synopsis, so I was pretty clueless going in. Coming out, I'm just as clueless. I've got no idea what I just watched. Donnie Darko was an interesting movie. I don't know if it was a good, interesting movie, but it certainly was interesting.

I'm going to be honest and say half of this movies screenplay went in one ear and out the other. I tried my hardest to follow the film closely, but I must not have filled up on enough carbs beforehand. I was exhausted. Time travel, demon rabbits that may or may not exist, Maggie Gyllenhaal looks like a Puerto Rican, I've got no idea what this movie was doing. There were random slow motion sequences and frequent shots of people jumping on trampolines. Were these significant? I haven't the slightest idea. Were they annoying? Without a doubt.

The ending of this movie blew my mind. And not in the sense that, "Wow, that was AMAZING!". It was more in the sense of, "trying to put this puzzle together is destroying my will to continue. Function overload". I'm pretty sure that now that time has passed, I've got it. But don't ask me to explain it to you.

But will I watch it again? Yea, I think I will. The very fact that I can't piece this film together is telling me that there is something there. There HAS to be. If there isn't, I'm going to punch Jake Gyllenhaal in the ear.