Wednesday, October 26, 2005

vote it here!

Take My Poll

Take My Poll

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

10/26 Directions and Focus

We shall start class discussing the focus of the remainder of the semester.
My thought is either to
(A.) focus on two (or three) categories, each for about three weeks, or (B.) focus on more categories, each for a week. If we focus on fewer categories, we will watch more films from each category and you may gain a deeper understanding of the sub-genre. If we watch want to encounter more categories, we will watch a single film from each. You will see more different types of films, but have a limited chance to compare them to other similar films. Which would you prefer? Your final choice (C.) is to leave the decision up to me, and force me to choose our categories and our class focus. Voting. There is more voting to be done. The first is right here and is mandatory for all students, (even Chihiro!)

Current results

The second poll box (at the bottom of today's post) should be filled out only if you wish to help choose our class content. So we all remember our choices, here is the liist of categories. You are welcome to ask questions about them if you wish.

  1. Science & Technology: Nature versus technology

  2. Gender & Equality: Why should men have all the fun?

  3. Cyberpunk: The future looks… a lot like here; only it’s more poorly lit.

  4. Man & Their Machines: Who’s ruling who?

  5. Close Encounters With E.T.s: Is there anybody out there?

  6. Horror!: Why are so many extraterrestrials nasty, scary, and… deadly?

  7. Action Blockbusters: SF action films – lots of bang, not so much thought, plenty to write about.

  8. The Human Condition: Philosophy 101 – Questions like; who we are, and what does it all mean?

  9. The Human Mind: Stories about our grey matter.

  10. Space Opera: Adventure stories in spaaaaaaaaace!

  11. Comparative SF: But… what about Japan?

  12. Anime: Cartoons are for kids, aren’t they?

  13. Natural Disasters: The end is nigh!

  14. Disease: Films about sickness.

  15. The State of Government: Law and social order under review.

  16. Possible Near-Futures: views of the future reflect the ever-changing present

  17. Time Travelers: The future (or the past) are both just a film away.

  18. Super Heroes: Real heroes wear brightly colored spandex.

  19. Remakes & Serials: It’s a lot easier (and less risky) to remake an idea, adding new pretty effects.

  20. Satire: With all this SF being made, you just know someone is making fun of it.

More On Dr. Strangelove
After we discuss (and write) about our thoughts, we will return to our focus on the film Dr. Strangelove. In class, i hope to give you a chance to share ideas about your possible focus, in the hopes you will
refine, and develop your ideas through discussion. I have given you some comments, now it is time to see what others say, think, are curious about when you tell them your ideas. Try to share information and listen to others. Help each other improve our ideas. At the end of the class, I will ask you to fill out the back side of the sheet you turned in yesterday, describing
  • your planned focus for our paper (due Friday),

  • your 'next step' and

  • any other questions comments or concerns you have at this time.

quotes from Dr. Strangelove. Some of you mentioned doing research on humor or specific characters, but most expressed concern over the difficulty of understanding the characters. Maybe this URL address will help. It has numerous quotes from the film.

If you have voted to help choose our course content, please also complete this poll below.
If given a choice, what focus would you like for the rest of our SF Film class?

Fewer topics, more depth

More Variety in sub-topics, less depth

Whatever you think is best, Scott

If you want to help choose the course content, please select your choices for our focus. You may choose as many as you want, but less than 10 is best.
Science & Technology
Gender & Equality
Man & Their Machines
Close Encounters with E.T.
Action Blockbusters
The Human Condition
The Human Mind
Space Opera
Comparative SF
Anime (only a choice option if you chose 'more variety')
Natural Disaster
The State of Government
Possible Near Futures
Time Travelers
Super Heroes
Remakes & Serials

Free polls from

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

10/19 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

“a satire on the dangers of atomic weapons”

Today's class will be another research and share information about our Friday Film. You will work in 4groups (of 6people each)
  1. 5minutes to read through 'brief film overview,' organize, and get situated
  2. 40minutes to research & read
  3. 30minutes to share info (and take notes)
  4. 10-15minutes to comment about their expectations for the film and what they will (probably) be watching for.

There are three different research veins, I would have two people work on each category. There will be a lot of overlapping information, but that will be good in small group conversations.
  • 1960's overview
  • Terms to know
  • Characters & film

Brief Film overview and comments on it.
As we learned last week, this film is yet another SF film that deals with the conflict between the Soviets and the US in the post-WWII world. This one however is slightly different in that it is considered a “Black Comedy” or in the words of one critic a “the story is a ‘nightmare comedy’ using the lethal paradoxes of accidental was as the big joke.” According to the director Stanley Kubrick, “After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two megapowers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?”

Overview of the 1960's. To fully appreciate to better appreciate this film (and to help us with our final paper for this unit) here are some links. I would focus on the years leading up to 1964 -- when our movie was made.
“1960-1969 World History”
The 60’s
Am Cultural History
Wikipedia – 1960s decade

Terms to know: Lots of words and terms to think about that will help with our understanding of this film.
  • US/USSR relations
    • NATO Warsaw Pact
    • Berlin Wall
    • U-2
    • Space Race
    • John F. Kennedy “defending freedom from its hour of maximum danger.”
    • Nikita S. Krushchev “We will bury you”
    • Kennedy Doctrine
    • Vietnam War
    • Hawks v Doves
    • Pinko, Reds, Commies
    • imperialist stooges/lackeys
    • capitalist imperialism
  • Cuba
    • Fidel Castro
    • Bay of Pigs
    • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Sci&Tech
    • Hydrogen bomb
    • Nuclear Winter
    • ‘Doomsday’
    • “Fluoridation Conspiracy”
Characters & Cast: In your writing on this film, you will explore some of the themes from this film, large and small. Some are quite obvious from the narrative itself, but others might be a bit more difficult to find at first. Let us look at one specifically: Sexuality. Many of the absurd, omnipresent names of the male, military characters (caricatures) have sexual connotations or allegorical references that suggest the connection between war, sexual obsession and the male sex drive. Let’s do a bit of looking and searching to see what we find, or can guess about these characters’ names.
  • Group Captain (G/C) Lionel Mandrake
  • President Merkin Muffley
  • Dr. Strangelove (all by Peter Sellers)
  • Gen. 'Buck' Turgidson (George C. Scott)
  • Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden)
  • Col. 'Bat' Guano (Keenan Wynn)
  • Maj. T.J. 'King' Kong (Slim Pickens)
  • Ambassador Desadeski (Peter Bull)
  • Premier Dimitri Kissof (Not shown, but on the phone)
    • Lt. Lothar Zogg (James Earl Jones - do you know his name?)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Film for the final two of unit2

So here's a funny thing... the vote came out tied. Very strange. Because the lowest number was your first choice, I added the numbers of all the votes together. I then subtracted one point for each vote of '1' for each film... to reward first choices.

The votes totals came out as:
  • Dr Strangelove (58)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (60)
  • Forbidden Planet (107)
  • Them! (80-something)
  • War of the Worlds (60)
who would have thought watching a 30sec short on bunnies (its a cartoon, not connected in anyway with the film except as a spoof -- a joke, making fun of the actual film) could be so influential (many of you mentioned that as a reason for wanting to watch War of the Worlds). who would have thought.... oh wait. i live in Japan... hee hee! Anyway. All five films are fine, and any of them were worth watching for varied reasons so.... we have to have a vote off, but we will watch either The Day the Earth Stood Still or War of the Worlds on Friday. Come early, as I will call a vote just before the start of class.

Originally uploaded by

Originally uploaded by

2 images from The Day the Earth Stood Still

Originally uploaded by

Originally uploaded by

2 images from War of the Worlds (1953)

I still want you to do your assignment -- predicting/mentioning what you plan to watch for and regardless of the film, you will have to do the same assignment from the book (Ch3 #2, p78) for class. Do it on the film you would most like to watch. Or better yet, do a short writing on both films. Short short ¶ about each. Not much discussion of why, more focused on what you will be looking for.

K see you in class, and hey, I am proud of you all for participating in the voting process, very important part of being a responsible adult is expressing your opinion and being counted!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

10/11 Class catch-up, moving forward

In today's class, we will discuss our final two films in this second unit (first full film unit). If there is time, we will discuss the idea of 'sequence' again, as well as finish up on our conversation about the first part of Chapter3. If we don't finish the mini-presentations, you can read a bit more about 'sequence' below, and should save your Ch3 questions for next Monday.

By Friday's class, you should check the blog once more, and bring a short ¶ to class (can be hand written) with expectations of the film we will watch ( like last week's Friday assignment).

In class mini-research/presentation
For our final two films for the unit, I have chosen The Day the Earth Stood Still and Dr. Strangelove. However, I am willing to change my choice, if you wish, but I will need to be convinced. My question to you is in which order would you like to watch them and/or which other film would you suggest we watch instead and why. Let me explain. The next writing assignment (due next Wednesday) is #2 from the end of Chapter 3 (p78). You will write an answer to #2 about the film we watch on Friday: either The Day the Earth Stood Still or Dr. Strangelove or possible a different film entirely. My question for you is which would you rather watch? Before you answer this question, you might have some questions:
  • what are these movies about,
  • why did I choose them as opposed to other films from the 50's
  • what other films from the 50s did I not select and why
  • etc.
I want to give you a chance to ask questions and find out some information on your own, then we will have a short conversation and then make a decision. We can acomplish all of this in class, if we work hard and share information. Here is how

Forming Groups, beginning research.
7groups of 3-4. no more, no less
1 typist ( computer input names and information for your group. pick someone who can type!)
1-2 researchers/readers (find & evaluate information, take notes, speak to class).
1 helper (if group of 4) (for collecting & exchanging information between research and typist, understanding/explaining assignment -- very important this last bit)

Once you have formed your group, come write your typist's name next to one of the films listed below. A maximum of two groups per film, so decide quickly.
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964) good message, 'interesting' delivery
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) good message, counterpoint to previous films
  • War of the Worlds (1953) more alien invaders, color!
  • Them (1955) more monsters! possible message
  • Forbidden Planet (1956) revolutionary special effects- 1950’s, 1st true sf blockbuster

Each group will have 20 minutes to do some research and an extra 5 minutes to post information (forum would work best, but we will survive)
After research and post, we will do a quick 4-minute presentation & Q&A from each group. Groups, you don't have a lot of time, so please focus your research and presentation. We want to know about the movie,
  • what information did you find about the basic story,
  • possible message/meaning/relevance to this unit,
  • other comments about this film that seemed interesting
  • recommendation, graded for your recommendation on watchability (high, medium, low).
I will grade your presentations on information found, explanation for recommendation (is it clear why you recommend we watch/avoid watching this film) At the end, we will have a chance to vote on what we will watch this Friday for our next short writing and finally the following week for our final film of the unit. I will post the results of the winning film on the blog tonight.

Good luck!

Information on Sequence: A sequence is '...a series of scenes or shots unified by a shared action or motif' (p176). The example I showed last week was of a sequence of shots in one sceen, but notice that from the definition, we can also create a sequence of shots that are not one right after another. It is equally possible to choose four or five shots of Captain Hendry as a sequence -- they would be 'unified by a shared motif' or four shots of people offering coffee to others -- unified by shared action. Notice too that a sequence is not necessarily long, nor is it necessarily short: it can be as large or as small as is necessary (beyond one shot -- that would be a 'singular moment' and not a sequence), as long as the shots that are included are 'unified by action or motif.' Now. if you are still unclear on terms like 'shot,' or 'sequence', or 'scene' you should ask now.

Chapter3 first half (p35-55): I don't feel like we finished our discussion, or that we probably got to all our questions yesterday, so if you have further questions, or want more clarification, now is the time to ask. I thought yesterday's questions about narrative and POV were very insightful and direct. I hope my answers and clarifications were helpful. Please, if you have more questions, let's take a look at them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

developing preliminary questions

Originally uploaded by skawt_p.
We will finish up our discussion on The Thing from Another World and then begin to do some pre-viewing preperationg for our next film, pictured here (10minutes, promise --one more repetition to point out).

ok. your main assignment for the day is to research our next film. We all know how to do online research, so I won't explain more, but remember to work as a group. decide who will look at/for what, collect data, bring back to group and discuss. You will have about forty-five minutes to research and discuss, make copies if you wish, whatever. Should be about 15minutes to type up your assignment.

To start you on your research,I offer you this from here is the plot summary of the film.
Dr Miles Bennel returns his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors. He is initially sceptical, especially when the alleged dopplegangers are able to answer detailed questions about their victim's life, but he is eventually persuaded that something odd has happened, and determines to find out what. This film can be seen as a paranoid 1950s warning against those Damn Commies, or conversely as a metaphor for the tyranny of McCarthy-ism (or the totalitarian system of Your Choice) and has a pro- and epilogue forced upon Siegel by the studio to "lighten the tone"
with this plot summary as a starting point, what sorts of things do you think your group should research? Find out more about? In a group of four, find two or three focused topics of research, have each person do one, search, read and report back. Share information. Then discuss what the writing assignment, then work individually to write it.

List of today's assignment:
  • do some research in a group
  • share information that you found with each other
  • write a short answer to the first exercise assignment form chapter2 from our book (copied below) to develop preliminary questions/feelings abou tthe film we will view Friday.
Exercise 1. Before you have seen a particular film, write one or two paragraphs pinpointing your expectations about it. What do you already know about it? The country and histroical period of its origin? About the director? What will probably be the most important features of the film? Specific characters? The sound? Do these expectations lead you to look for certain themese or types of stories?
This writing should be typed in word and turned in before class Friday. You might have time to finish it in class today if you work in groups, share information and stay on task.

Upcoming assignments:
  • Friday, watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers take notes (limited during, more after), watch for themes -- was your pre-write guess accurate or not? Did you find evidence or not? What was it? Be watching for what you think are important sequences/shots in the film.
  • Tuesday Chapter 3 (pg 35-55 only, the rest will be the reading for the following week)
  • Wednesday exercise 2 from chapter 2 (pg34) due. We will (hopefully have time to watch a couple important scenes a few times in class on Tuesday, but you must have an idea of which scenes you want to see again -- will re-watch two or three. If noone has an opinion about which scenes they want to watch on Tuesday we will watch no scenes at all. So. On Friday, take notes, you might want to do a short writing after the film (just notes) and pick a scene or two from teh movie, try to describe the action in it, so in class you will have an opinion to offer.