W, May 25th–Film

OK, first, let’s make sure we’re ready for Ty West on Friday. I’ll show you a trailer and a scene from Innkeepers and we can talk about good questions to ask.

Next, we’ll finish IB. And then have our discussion.

  1. Depiction of Nazis. How did you feel about Landa? Is he all evil? Complicated? Cultured? How does the movie seem to see him?
  2. Depiction of American violence? What are we asked to enjoy? Why? Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
  3. Jewish revenge and alternate history. WWII didn’t end like this. Does it matter?
  4. Female Avengers. What do Shoshanna and The Bride have in common? Is it feminist to have women commit spectacular violence?

Movie Pitch for Quentin

  • In small groups, create a short 5-slide Keynote/PP that attempts to convince Quentin Tarantino to make your movie. Ex: The lead character, called ‘The Bride,’ was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, led by her lover ‘Bill.’ Upon realizing she was pregnant with Bill’s child, ‘The Bride’ decided to escape her life as a killer. She fled to Texas, met a young man, who, on the day of their wedding rehearsal was gunned down by an angry and jealous Bill (with the assistance of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad). Four years later, ‘The Bride’ wakes from a coma, and discovers her baby is gone. She, then, decides to seek revenge upon the five people who destroyed her life and killed her baby. The saga of Kill Bill Volume I begins.  
  • Characters: Name and explain the details of at least 4 characters in your movie. Give suggestions about who might play them.
  • Settings: What are some of the places your movie will take place?
  • Fitting into the oeuvre: Explain how this movie fits into the larger pantheon of Taranitino movies.
  • Ideas for set-pieces. What Big Scenes do you envision in this movie?


Essay Questions for Tarantino: Choose 1. Minimum of 600 words. Due June 10th.

  1. Some critics have suggested that Quentin Tarantino may be one of the most influential directors ever. Trace Tarantino’s influence in modern movies by giving specific examples of his techniques, camerawork, attitude, and style being used in other movies by other directors. What about him is so appealing? See this article to get started.
  2. Some critics suggest Tarantino might be one of the most overrated directors ever. Critic David Denby wrote, “Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinematheque.” Agree or disagree with this assessment of the director. Give specific examples of evidence.
  3. Read the analytic essay on Inglourious Basterds and answer the question: Is the movie moral? Can a movie be evil or lacking in righteousness? Does the movie ask us to revel in things it shouldn’t ask us to revel in?
  4. What should the rules be for ripping off other directors? What kinds of borrowing should be considered legitimate and what kinds are wrong? Give several examples of each. See this documentary for some ideas about the issues involved.
  5. Take a look at this interview. Connect anything he says to either movie. Does the interview give specific insight into his directorial choices?
  6. Scene Analysis. Choose a specific scene from either movie to do a deep dive on. Describe the mise-en-scene and other cinematography elements with as many specifics as possible. Trace those examples to effects the director is trying to invoke or thematic ideas.

Wed, May 18th–Film

Ok, so we’ll finish Kill Bill part 1 and then…

Check out this interview to get an idea of how Tarantino thinks of movies. And take a look at his script.

Graded Discussion:

  1. High Culture/Low Culture: Is this a mainstream movie or an elite movie? How do we know the difference?
  2. Images and Violence: Discuss how violence is depicted in Kill Bill. How does Tarantino want us to respond to it? Why? What does he chose to depict graphically and what does he elect not to? For instance, we see The Bride cut one of the Crazy 88s in half with a sword, but the sexual violence she suffered while in a coma is only alluded to. How does this violence differ from, say, Saw or Saving Private Ryan?
  3. (Borrowed from here) Is the Bride a character we can sympathize with, and why or why not? Further, does she go too far in her revenge, in your opinion, and why or why not?
  4. (Borrowed from here, too) Charles Taylor, in his review of Kill Bill, Vol. 2, writes that the two movies are “all kick” and lack “moral ambiguities,” and that ultimately they are “awesomely trivial.” How might you respond to these assessment (with direct reference, please, to specific details and scenes from the two films)? Is there, in your opinion, a meaning to these two films–above and beyond their surface appeal–and what might that be?
  5. What’s with the constant pop culture talk? Why do you imagine Tarantino has his characters engage in constant discussion about pop culture? How does this change how we see the characters? Does Tarantino “steal” or “do homage” when he lifts so many images, ideas, phrases, and techniques from the movies he loves?

Group Work:

Create your own Tarantino-homage scene. Storyboard out a short scene that uses the themes, camera techniques, and dialogue. Use a site like this if you need something to get you started.


Wed, May 11th–Film

OK, we finish The Godfather today. We’ll have a Discussion in class and then I’ll introduce the Essay Questions for Coppola.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Let’s talk about the ending sequence–one of the most famous in all cinema. What choices does the director make to end his movie? What is the result of these choices?
  2. According to Coppola’s biographer, Peter Cowie, Paramount were concerned about Coppola’s refusal to emphasise violence. Coppola himself said that the studio thought he was “great on character relationships and too timid with the violence.” What do you think?
  3. Does this movie trade in offensive stereotypes of Italian-Americans? Explain.
  4.  What does this movie suggest is true about “The American Dream” or at least of the ability of Civilization to create a workable society?
  5. What do you think of the character of Michael? How does the film dramatize his change in attitude throughout the movie.
  6. Does the movie glamorize or romanticize the Mafia? More or less than Goodfellas? Are the Corleones heroes or villains or something else?

Essay Types:

Consider a 2-person (or more!) discussion essay where you create 2 different characters who have different opinions and have a wide-ranging discussion about the two Coppola movies. For instance, you might have someone who loves the movie talk with someone who doesn’t. Or someone who is interested in film technique talk with someone who just likes movies for the thrills. See this James Franco review of Hitchcock to give you an idea about how this could go.

Compare/Contrast. Take the two Coppola movies and note similarities and differences. Alternatively, compare/contrast Godfather with Goodfellas. You might look at acting, camera movement, cinematography, use of Brando, themes, and score/costume. Always remember to fluctuate between good specific description of what’s on the screen and your interpretation of it.

Movie Critics. Choose 3-5 movie critics to read each on The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Then, write an essay where you describe what critics have to say about each movie and where you agree/disagree.

Wed, Apr. 27th: Film

OK, let’s finish the film.

Before I start, I’d like you to create your own questions the film brings up for you. You’ll all get notecards.

Then, let’s talk:

Compare/Contrast with Goodfellas: What are are the similarities in theme, film craft, acting, and imagery between the two movies?

Revenge: How does the old story of revenge play out here? What is the motivation for diCaprio’s character in killing Bill. Who do we sympathize with and why? How do we feel about Bill? Is he the villain?

Family: What does the film seem to be saying about families and our responsibilities towards them? Use the events of the movie to explain your answer.

History: This movie is loosely, loosely, oh so loosely based on a book entitled Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury. That book, itself, is considered only semi-accurate and the movie itself another remove from the truth. Does it matter? How much of this did you take as an accurate look at history?

Acting: How do you decide if someone put on a “good” acting performance? Is Daniel Day Lewis “good” in this? DiCaprio? Diaz?

Then, I want to practice some writing about film. I’ll show you a scene and then you describe not what happens but what the film is showing us. What do we see? Where is the camera? How is the scene framed and edited?

We’ll write a bit on QP.

Then, I’d like you to comment on the why? Speculate as to the purpose behind Scorsese’s choices and what he’s trying to convey about character, about theme, about humans.

Finally, we’ll look at an example of A film essay on Scorsese and I’ll give you time to choose the essay topic.

Essay topics

Choose one of the three:

  1. Write a 500-1000 word essay on one of the following themes in Scorsese’s work:
  • guilt and sin (religion)
  • redemption/salvation
  • loneliness
  • the dominance of flawed male characters
  • corruption
  • pride and hubris leading to a fall
  • the outsider in Scorsese’s work
  • alienation (Existentialist concept)
  • sexuality and women
2) Do a deep dive of any scene in Gangs or Goodfellas where you examine the film techniques and connect them to Scorsese’s intent. What is he trying to accomplish with these choices and why?
3) Read one of the film essays on Scorsese written by David Bordwell (or someone else’s if you prefer) and explain which parts of his argument you agree or disagree with. Use examples to explain your position.
Due May 6th
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