Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Film Studies Resources: August 31, 2022

Acolytes of Horror. "Saint Maud: God As A Self-Portrait." (Posted on Youtube: May 12, 2021) ["Having recently found God, self-effacing young nurse Maud arrives at a plush home to care for Amanda, a hedonistic dancer left frail from a chronic illness. When a chance encounter with a former colleague throws up hints of a dark past, it becomes clear there is more to sweet Maud than meets the eye."]

Bordwell, David.  "Movies By the Numbers." Observations on Film Art (July 14, 2022)  ["James Cutting’s Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement, itself the fruit of many years of intensive studies, builds on these achievements while taking wholly original perspectives as well. Comprehensive and detailed, it is simply the most complete and challenging psychological account of film art yet offered. I can’t do justice to its range and nuance here. Consider what follows as an invitation to you to read this bold book."]

Elbri, Bilge. "Event Horizon Gets Better With Age." Vulture (August 18, 2022) ["Twenty-five years ago, Paul W. S. Anderson released one of the gnarliest, most unforgettable science-fiction horror films ever made, but it took most people a few years to realize it. Starring Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, and a spaceship that had just returned from a journey through Hell, Event Horizon came out in August 1997 and bombed with critics and audiences alike. (Those of us who were fans of the picture back then can tell you how lonely an experience that was.) But over the years, Anderson’s film grew in reputation. This was due partly to the indelible quality of its imagery: its brief but deliriously grotesque glimpses of Hell, the medieval-torture-device-like design of its titular spaceship, not to mention a final act that featured a mad Sam Neill running around naked and on fire after gouging out his own eyes. (“Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.”) Anderson understood how to shock audiences — maybe too well, since members of his studio were notoriously outraged when they first saw the film — but Event Horizon carries a fascinating cautionary tale about our inability to let go of the past, a tale enhanced by a cast that brings real depth to what might, on paper, have looked like fairly disposable genre work."]

Gardner, Caden Mark. "Polyester." Reverse Shot (August 3, 2022) ["Polyester (1981) was the first John Waters film of the eighties, and it has an unmistakably different vibe from his earlier films. Waters and his muse, Divine, had not worked together since her tour de force performance as Dawn Davenport in 1974’s Female Trouble, and with Polyester, the Waters-Divine collaboration feels less content to ride on pure shock value. Instead, they are stretching their artistry and deepening their approach to performance with a devilish wink. Polyester is on its surface a cocktail of pop culture artifacts where the cross-gender drag casting of Divine as Francine Fishpaw becomes less of a punkish transgression than an homage to the tradition of the “women’s picture” melodramas of the 1950s—with the added stunt of Odorama scent, achieved with scratch-and-sniff cards. While Polyester is an undeniable transition film for Waters, which feels informed by the changing standards of Hollywood and the world around him, it’s also very much the work of a prankster."]

Gould, Steve. "The Elgin and El Topo plunge NYC into Midnite Madness."  MUBI Podcast (July 7, 2022) ["In 1970, a scruffy repertory theater — led by the visionary Ben Barenholtz — quietly placed a print ad in the Village Voice, advertising midnight screenings of a Spanish-language western they claimed was "too heavy to be shown any other way." The movie was Alejandro Jodorowsky's EL TOPO, and it'd kick off the "Midnite Movie" craze that changed moviegoing. Hear the history of the Elgin Theater and its legendary, weed-soaked screenings of EL TOPO, featuring commentary from ex-Voice critic J Hoberman, Amy Nicholson of the podcast "Unspooled," ex-Elgin programmers Chuck Zlatkin and Steve Gould...and Jodorowsky himself."]

Levenson, Joey. "Graphic Design on Screen: Inside Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with Tina Charad." It's Nice That (August 13, 2022) ["The 2019 film is littered with parodic references and allusions to a very real and very specific time and place, of which Tina was responsible for. She approached the film as it is: a period piece. “On historical projects, I like to work with the researcher, especially on big budget features like this one,” she explains. After breaking down the sets needed, plus the props and all the small details in the script from Tarantino, Tina would get to work coming up with endless design concepts to fill the visuals of the film. Tarantino’s star-studded release was a more meticulous project than most, as Tarantino is a director known for his incredible attention to detail in the mise en scene. “We started with props and then went store-by-store in Hollywood looking to see what was there for inspiration for the film’s location shoots,” Tina says. “It was quite hard to recreate storefronts for old Hollywood, as a lot of photographs of them weren’t even in colour. So we took some artistic liberty with Quinten [Tarantino].” Additionally, the film is known for its abundance of fake – and incredibly convincing – movie posters featuring the cast playing actors in old Hollywood, as well as entirely made-up products, stores and studios they all engage with. “We tried to mimic that time and place of the 60s. But if I couldn’t find a reference, I’d go into the advertising of that time, mainly by browsing historical newspapers from California,” Tina explains on the process of world-building. “I treated every prop and storefront as if it was real, taking it back into a 60s style or maybe even 50s.”"]

Mulvehill, Charles. "Harold and Maude find new life at The Westgate." MUBI Podcast (July 14, 2022) ["Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE debuted to generally poor reviews, and worse box office. But in suburban Minneapolis, a humble second-run neighborhood theater called The Westgate found the film an audience...and helped turn it into one of the biggest cult hits of all time. Host Rico Gagliano gets the story from HAROLD AND MAUDE producer Charles Mulvehill — one of the few living members of the film's creative team — and an endearing cast of local characters who, back in 1972, found themselves part of a one-in-a-million phenomenon."]

Russell, Nicholas. "An American Werewolf in London." Reverse Shot (July 14, 2022) ["John Landis claims the inspiration for 1981’s An American Werewolf in London came in 1969, when, as a production assistant on Brian G. Hutton’s World War II caper Kelly’s Heroes, he witnessed a Roma ritual. “It was an elaborate gypsy funeral rite which the film’s crew witnessed from the back of a truck as they passed by,” The Telegraph recounted in a retrospective piece on the film in 2016. “The corpse was being buried feet-first, wrapped in garlic, in a deep grave right in the middle of a crossroads.” Later, the piece mentions Landis’s love of the 1941 Universal classic The Wolf Man, which, coincidentally, features a Roma caravan harboring a werewolf that goes on to infect Lon Chaney Jr.'s Larry Talbot. The similarity seems a little too involved to be true. At the very least, even if Landis’s story checks out, it is the necessity of the Roma element that, in some way, concretizes and emboldens the cinematic character of the werewolf: an ethnic outsider, perceived as a monstrous abomination. In his film, Landis trades overt exoticism of the creature’s origins for a narrative about exoticism itself."]

Schnelbach, Leah. "Want a Movie About an Eldritch Glory Hole of Surprising Depth? Try Glorious." Tor (August 24, 2022) ["Mostly I’m glad that Glorious exists. The last few years have seen amazing additions to the horror canon, and the fact that a small movie can be unapologetically gross and splatter-y, but also make a big thematic swing, and mostly work, and find large-scale distribution, makes me very, very happy. Join me in the rest stop bathroom for a non-spoiler review, won’t you?"]

The Worst Person in the World (Norway: Joachim Trier, 2021) [Ongoing Archive for the film: "Chronicles four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is."]


Monday, August 29, 2022

ENG 102 Resources: August 29, 2022

Benton, Michael and Michael Marchman. "So long—it’s been good to know ya: Remembering Howard Zinn." North of Center (February 13, 2010) ["Zinn, as much as anyone in our lives, revolutionized how we understand our history, ourselves, and, our roles as educators. “In a world where justice is maldistributed,” he wrote, “there is no such thing as a neutral or representative recapitulation of the facts.” We agree. There is tremendous injustice in the world and as educators we feel a deep responsibility to our students, our community, and ultimately to ourselves, to acknowledge these injustices, to seek explanations for them, and to challenge them. Zinn provided a model for us, urging us to encourage our students to be active participants in democracy rather than passive spectators. And he showed us how to do it." Howard Zinn is the author of the landmark A People's History of the United States and many other books/articles.]

Eisen, Lauren-Brooke. Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Colombia University Press, 2017. ["When the tough-on-crime politics of the 1980s overcrowded state prisons, private companies saw potential profit in building and operating correctional facilities. Today more than a hundred thousand of the 1.5 million incarcerated Americans are held in private prisons in twenty-nine states and federal corrections. Private prisons are criticized for making money off mass incarceration—to the tune of $5 billion in annual revenue. Based on Lauren-Brooke Eisen’s work as a prosecutor, journalist, and attorney at policy think tanks, Inside Private Prisons blends investigative reportage and quantitative and historical research to analyze privatized corrections in America. From divestment campaigns to boardrooms to private immigration-detention centers across the Southwest, Eisen examines private prisons through the eyes of inmates, their families, correctional staff, policymakers, activists, Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, undocumented immigrants, and the executives of America’s largest private prison corporations. Private prisons have become ground zero in the anti-mass-incarceration movement. Universities have divested from these companies, political candidates hesitate to accept their campaign donations, and the Department of Justice tried to phase out its contracts with them. On the other side, impoverished rural towns often try to lure the for-profit prison industry to build facilities and create new jobs. Neither an endorsement or a demonization, Inside Private Prisons details the complicated and perverse incentives rooted in the industry, from mandatory bed occupancy to vested interests in mass incarceration. If private prisons are here to stay, how can we fix them? This book is a blueprint for policymakers to reform practices and for concerned citizens to understand our changing carceral landscape."]

 Gardner, Caden Mark. "Polyester." Reverse Shot (August 3, 2022) ["Polyester (1981) was the first John Waters film of the eighties, and it has an unmistakably different vibe from his earlier films. Waters and his muse, Divine, had not worked together since her tour de force performance as Dawn Davenport in 1974’s Female Trouble, and with Polyester, the Waters-Divine collaboration feels less content to ride on pure shock value. Instead, they are stretching their artistry and deepening their approach to performance with a devilish wink. Polyester is on its surface a cocktail of pop culture artifacts where the cross-gender drag casting of Divine as Francine Fishpaw becomes less of a punkish transgression than an homage to the tradition of the “women’s picture” melodramas of the 1950s—with the added stunt of Odorama scent, achieved with scratch-and-sniff cards. While Polyester is an undeniable transition film for Waters, which feels informed by the changing standards of Hollywood and the world around him, it’s also very much the work of a prankster."]

Gould, Steve, et al. "The Elgin and El Topo plunge NYC into Midnite Madness."  MUBI Podcast (July 7, 2022) ["In 1970, a scruffy repertory theater — led by the visionary Ben Barenholtz — quietly placed a print ad in the Village Voice, advertising midnight screenings of a Spanish-language western they claimed was "too heavy to be shown any other way." The movie was Alejandro Jodorowsky's EL TOPO, and it'd kick off the "Midnite Movie" craze that changed moviegoing. Hear the history of the Elgin Theater and its legendary, weed-soaked screenings of EL TOPO, featuring commentary from ex-Voice critic J Hoberman, Amy Nicholson of the podcast "Unspooled," ex-Elgin programmers Chuck Zlatkin and Steve Gould...and Jodorowsky himself."]

Herzog, Katie. "The Pride Generation." Conversations with Coleman (July 17, 2022) ["In this episode, we talk about Katie's upbringing as a lesbian in a less than accepting environment. We also discuss the rapid rise in the salience of trans issues in the past couple of years, the element of social contagion, and the recent rise of Gen Z girls with gender dysphoria. We talk about the mission creep of gay rights organizations and the increasing salience of drag queens in the culture as well as the backlash against them. We discuss the concept of being non-binary and the difference between male and female sexuality. We also talk about pedophilia and so-called virtuous pedophiles. We discuss puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and gender reassignment surgery. Katie also gives advice to parents with gender dysphoric children. We go on to talk about trans women in sports and the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill and much more."]

Kumar, Bhavik and Mini Timmaraju. "Trigger Laws Make Abortion Off Limits for Millions; Patients Face 'Intolerable' Risk & Uncertainty." Democracy Now (August 26, 2022) ["Millions of pregnant people in the United States have now lost access to abortion in their state since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortion “trigger laws” have gone into effect in numerous states across the country, including Texas, where it became a felony to perform an abortion starting Thursday,​​ punishable by up to life in prison. We speak to Dr. Bhavik Kumar, a Texas-based abortion provider, and Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about how doctors are navigating the legal environment after the end of Roe v. Wade. “What I’ve seen over the last seven years of providing abortion care in Texas is that politics has found its way into my exam room, into my health center. It’s soaked its way into everything I do as a healthcare provider,” says Kumar, who adds that conservative politicians have attacked both abortion and trans healthcare in similar ways. Meanwhile, Timmaraju says even anti-abortion laws that allow abortion under extreme circumstances undercut bodily autonomy by leaving life in the hands of a panel of judges or hospital staff. “It’s an absolutely intolerable way to manage reproductive healthcare in this country,”"]

Russell, Nicholas. "An American Werewolf in London." Reverse Shot (July 14, 2022) ["John Landis claims the inspiration for 1981’s An American Werewolf in London came in 1969, when, as a production assistant on Brian G. Hutton’s World War II caper Kelly’s Heroes, he witnessed a Roma ritual. “It was an elaborate gypsy funeral rite which the film’s crew witnessed from the back of a truck as they passed by,” The Telegraph recounted in a retrospective piece on the film in 2016. “The corpse was being buried feet-first, wrapped in garlic, in a deep grave right in the middle of a crossroads.” Later, the piece mentions Landis’s love of the 1941 Universal classic The Wolf Man, which, coincidentally, features a Roma caravan harboring a werewolf that goes on to infect Lon Chaney Jr.'s Larry Talbot. The similarity seems a little too involved to be true. At the very least, even if Landis’s story checks out, it is the necessity of the Roma element that, in some way, concretizes and emboldens the cinematic character of the werewolf: an ethnic outsider, perceived as a monstrous abomination. In his film, Landis trades overt exoticism of the creature’s origins for a narrative about exoticism itself."]

Ryan, Chris. "Civilized to Death." Dosed #16 (August 22, 2022) [Chris Ryan is the co-author of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships. His latest book is Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress: "Most of us have instinctive evidence the world is ending--balmy December days, face-to-face conversation replaced with heads-to-screens zomboidism, a world at constant war, a political system in disarray. We hear some myths and lies so frequently that they feel like truths: Civilization is humankind's greatest accomplishment. Progress is undeniable. Count your blessings. You're lucky to be alive here and now. Well, maybe we are and maybe we aren't. Civilized to Death counters the idea that progress is inherently good, arguing that the "progress" defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease. Prehistoric life, of course, was not without serious dangers and disadvantages. Many babies died in infancy. A broken bone, infected wound, snakebite, or difficult pregnancy could be life-threatening. But ultimately, Christopher Ryan questions, were these pre-civilized dangers more murderous than modern scourges, such as car accidents, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and a technologically prolonged dying process? Civilized to Death "will make you see our so-called progress in a whole new light" (Book Riot) and adds to the timely conversation that "the way we have been living is no longer sustainable, at least as long as we want to the earth to outlive us" (Psychology Today). Ryan makes the claim that we should start looking backwards to find our way into a better future."]

Sale, Anna, et al. "No Call Goes Unanswered: A Lifeline in Wyoming." Death, Sex, and Money (July 13, 2022) ["As the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline becomes a 3-digit number, 988, I visit a call center in Wyoming, which had the highest suicide rate per capita in the US in 2020. If you or someone you love is at risk of harming themselves, or needs some help with mental health, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. After July 16, you can just dial ‘988.’"]

West, Steven. "Bruno Latour - We Have Never Been Modern." Philosophize This! #169 (August 20, 2022) [Bruno Latour's book We Have Never Been Modern: "With the rise of science, we moderns believe, the world changed irrevocably, separating us forever from our primitive, premodern ancestors. But if we were to let go of this fond conviction, Bruno Latour asks, what would the world look like? His book, an anthropology of science, shows us how much of modernity is actually a matter of faith. What does it mean to be modern? What difference does the scientific method make? The difference, Latour explains, is in our careful distinctions between nature and society, between human and thing, distinctions that our benighted ancestors, in their world of alchemy, astrology, and phrenology, never made. But alongside this purifying practice that defines modernity, there exists another seemingly contrary one: the construction of systems that mix politics, science, technology, and nature. The ozone debate is such a hybrid, in Latour’s analysis, as are global warming, deforestation, even the idea of black holes. As these hybrids proliferate, the prospect of keeping nature and culture in their separate mental chambers becomes overwhelming—and rather than try, Latour suggests, we should rethink our distinctions, rethink the definition and constitution of modernity itself. His book offers a new explanation of science that finally recognizes the connections between nature and culture—and so, between our culture and others, past and present. Nothing short of a reworking of our mental landscape. We Have Never Been Modern blurs the boundaries among science, the humanities, and the social sciences to enhance understanding on all sides. A summation of the work of one of the most influential and provocative interpreters of science, it aims at saving what is good and valuable in modernity and replacing the rest with a broader, fairer, and finer sense of possibility."]


Blindspotting (USA: Carlos López Estrada, 2018)




Blindspotting (USA: Carlos López Estrada, 2018: 95 mins)

Eggert, Brian. "Blindspotting." Deep Focus Review (August 7, 2018)

Enzo and Eve. "Wakanda Deferred." Hammer & Camera #16 (July 12, 2019) ["Enzo and Eve of the Marxist "propaganda circle" Unity & Struggle to discuss their article, "Black on Both Sides: Grappling with BLM in Movies", and to review the past year of Black cinema. Among the films discussed are Black Panther, Blackkklansman, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, and Us."]

Henderson, Odie. "Blindspotting (2018)." Roger Ebert (July 20, 2018)

King, Graham. "Blindspotting and Seeing Both Sides of the Picture." Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays. ed. Stephen Rust. (Open Publication: 2018)

Lazy Dog Films. "Blindspotting (2018): Identity Politics In A Gentrifying Oakland." (Posted on Youtube: October 18, 2020) ["Blindspotting, released in 2018, follows Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal as two men navigating through a gentrifying Oakland. With Collin (Diggs) just days away from his probation, he witnesses a police shooting, sending him down a path where he questions his identity. Written over ten years, Diggs and Casal tackle complex issues from race to identity with ease. Blindspotting’s core theme is explored through a black and white man's eyes as their environment forces them to put their identity in perspective. Blindspotting, in its 90-minute runtime, manages to present issues like racism, police brutality, and gentrification while examining toxic masculinity and identity without feeling bloated."]

Reyes, Steven. "Blindspotting and the Perception of Blackness." (Posted on Youtube: July 3, 2020) 







Thursday, August 25, 2022

Film Studies Resources: August 25, 2022

 An analysis of the metaphorical meanings of multiverse stories, and what they reflect about the burdens of modern existence.




Ethan Hawke has been talking to IndieWire’s Eric Kohn and Peter Rinaldi at Filmmaker about—among many other things—his six-part documentary series The Last Movie Stars. As David Fear writes in Rolling Stone, the careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward span “many eras and way stations of twentieth-century cultural history: the Actor’s Studio generation, the Method-mad 1950s, the rise of TV, the theatrical revolution happening on Broadway, the socially conscious Sixties, the anything-goes New Hollywood Seventies.” But Hawke’s series “also doubles as a portrait of the agony and ecstasy of matrimony—an affectionate yet psychologically fraught, zero-prisoners-taken look at a union that had been lionized as a fairy-tale come true and was anything but.” - David Hudson (July 22, 2022)




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Eggert, Brian. "The Gray Man." Deep Focus Review (July 14, 2022) ["A good action movie is difficult to find. Although dozens are released every year, few have more to offer than some impressive stunts, fast-paced fight choreography, or eye-popping sequences of destruction. They supply the requisite thrills, but once the credits roll, they often fade from memory. The problem isn’t the action; it’s the banal characters. Rarely do action movies give us compelling heroes or villains who make a lasting impression. The Fast and Furious series may provide one over-the-top vehicular extravaganza after another, but its dopey family and one-note baddies couldn’t be less engaging. Sure, the John Wick movies started with a compelling revenge story, but the character’s unwavering composure doesn’t have many dimensions. Invulnerable heroes from the killing machine John Rambo to the infallible Dominic Toretto obliterate their opponents and come away barely dented. By contrast, consider characters such as John McClane in the original Die Hard (1988) or Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) that elevate all the trappings of an entertaining actioner, lending humanity and vulnerability to their heroes. Enduring action movies give their characters a sense of humor or depth of feeling beyond point and shoot. "]

Hudson, David. "Lessons From Bob Rafelson." Current (July 28, 2022) ["The first shot is to grab the audience and the last shot is to redeem yourself,” writer, director, and producer Bob Rafelson told the Los Angeles Times’s Kristine McKenna in 1986. Rafelson, who died last week at the age of eighty-nine, often didn’t know what that redemption would look like until a day or two before he shot the final scenes of his films. Two of his best, Five Easy Pieces (1970) and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)—together, they “stand as a kind of bitter eulogy diptych said over the shallow grave of American Dreamism,” writes Michael Atkinson for Sight and Sound—were shot in sequence and strayed from the screenplay long before the final crack of the clapboard."]

Jones, Eileen. "Bodies Bodies Bodies Is a Bad Class Satire and a Boring Film." Jacobin (August 18, 2022) ["Like so many horror films attempting to be subversive, Bodies Bodies Bodies tries to satirize the upper class. But all it delivers are tired, lazy tropes about Gen Z."]

Loayza, Beatrice. "David Cronenberg’s Tableaux of Pain and Pleasure." The Nation (July 21, 2022) ["The body, that object of eternal obsession, perpetually surveilled and self-policed, is a site of great danger. Errant bodies, then, are as much a threat to the status quo, testing our willingness to embrace the monstrous. In Crimes of the Future, prior to a scene in which a live surgery is staged as a public performance, the phrase “Body is reality” flashes on a small television set: It is through the body, Cronenberg argues, that we experience and make sense of our lives; through the body that ideas, desires, and fears find palpable expression. If his films promiscuously stake out the possibilities of the future and the novel ways in which we might inhabit it, then the body is a testing ground where the ineffable and the unthinkable might be grasped for the first time."]

Mikulec, Sven. "Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers: A Force to Be Reckoned With." Cinephilia and Beyond (July 17, 2022) ["A squad of six British soldiers head into the Scottish Highlands to perform a routine training exercise against a Special Air Services unit, but upon reaching their destination, they find the mauled remains of their SAS colleagues. The single survivor is either unable or unwilling to clearly explain what the hell happened, so the group retreat to a lonely, seemingly abandoned house in the company of Megan, a zoologist who they happen to stumble across along the way. As the night quickly approaches, they realize nothing is like it seems and the danger they’re facing is much darker than they could have possibly anticipated. Repeatedly attacked by werewolves, killed off one by one by a horrifying force far more superior than anything they had encountered before, the unit tries to stand their ground and survive through the night. Morning might indeed bring salvation, but until the sun rises they are stranded in the middle of enemy territory, forced to fight on unequal terms."]

O., Kenny. "Breaking conventions? Political ideology of films with explicit sex." Open Screens 5.1 (2022) ["Explicit sex in films on general release remains rare, even if it has significantly increased since the late 1990s. Commentary on explicit arthouse films has tended to focus on those also containing sexual violence, and debates have often revolved around whether explicit imagery constitutes art or pornography. Relatively little attention has been paid to explicit romantic films, and to what leads some of them to gain notable international visibility, while others languish in obscurity. This article examines 9 Songs and Love, two of the most discussed and financially successful arthouse films with a romantic storyline that also devote significant screen time to explicit images of sex. It argues that their success can be attributed in part to their conservative sexual and gender politics, and their ideological proximity to conventional heterosexual pornography. They are contrasted with The Story of Richard O. and Daughters of Fire, two explicit films that struggled to gain critical attention or financial reward. These latter films are shown to have fundamentally different ideological foundations, including radical ideas about sex and gender, and an embrace of the artistic value of the pornographic. Such an ideological gap can be considered a contributory factor in the divergent destinies of these explicit romantic films."]

Subissati, Andrea and Alexandra West. "Class Act: Society (1989)." The Faculty of Horror #109 (Jule 30, 2022) ["The elite are literally a different breed in Brian Yuzna’s cult classic film about the perils of popularity and privilege. In this episode, Andrea and Alex dive into the mystique that surrounds the wealthy and explore why they need the rest of us to survive."]

Tafoya, Scout. "The Unloved, Part 104: Ambulance." Roger Ebert (August 1, 2022) ["Somehow, it happened. Michael Bay earned a place in the Unloved. He made his best movie and no one liked it and it made no money. Well sir, you're welcome around these parts anytime. Enjoy this look at our premiere vulgarian's attempt to go "straight," and shake your head with me in horror at the culture that said no to a film as electrifying as Ambulance."]



Monday, August 22, 2022

ENG 102 Resources: August 22, 2022

Graham, Thomas, Jr. and Scott L. Montgomery. Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, 2017. ["Nuclear power is not an option for the future but an absolute necessity. Global threats of climate change and lethal air pollution, killing millions each year, make it clear that nuclear and renewable energy must work together, as non-carbon sources of energy. Fortunately, a new era of growth in this energy source is underway in developing nations, though not yet in the West. Seeing the Light is the first book to clarify these realities and discuss their implications for coming decades. Readers will learn how, why, and where the new nuclear era is happening, what new technologies are involved, and what this means for preventing the proliferation of weapons. This book is the best work available for becoming fully informed about this key subject, for students, the general public, and anyone interested in the future of energy production, and, thus, the future of humanity on planet Earth."]

Jones, Brittany Rosemary. "Historian Paul Garon Documented the Beauty and Radicalism of the Blues." Jacobin (August 17, 2022) ["He was an important figure in socialist publishing and the city’s counterculture scene, a longtime board member of Charles H. Kerr — America’s oldest radical publisher — who even compiled their back catalogue. His greatest love, however, was the blues. One of the genre’s most knowledgeable and ambitious experts, he saw in the blues the articulation of a specific subjectivity: that of the black working men and women of America, unsung revolutionaries who took up music as a valiant form of poetic protest. His four pioneering books and distinctive Kentucky drawl, punctuating the hum of Chicago bookstores and blues clubs, unveiled a radical history of this country."]

Jones, Eileen. "Bodies Bodies Bodies Is a Bad Class Satire and a Boring Film." Jacobin (August 18, 2022) ["Like so many horror films attempting to be subversive, Bodies Bodies Bodies tries to satirize the upper class. But all it delivers are tired, lazy tropes about Gen Z."]

Karp, David A. Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness. Oxford University Press, 2016. ["Combining a scholar's care and thoroughness with searing personal insight, David A. Karp brings the private experience of depression into sharp relief, drawing on a remarkable series of intimate interviews with fifty depressed men and women. By turns poignant, disturbing, mordantly funny, andwise, Karp's interviews cause us to marvel at the courage of depressed people in dealing with extraordinary and debilitating pain. We hear what depression feels like, what it means to receive an official clinical diagnosis, and what depressed persons think of the battalion of mental health
experts--doctors, nurses, social workers, sociologists, psychologists, and therapists--employed to help them. Ranging in age from their early twenties to their mid-sixties, the people Karp profiles reflect on their working lives, career aspirations, and intimate relationships, and confide strategies for overcoming paralyzing episodes of hopelessness. Throughout, Karp probes the myriad ways society contributes to widespread alienation and emotional exhaustion."]

Khan, Shamus Rahman. "The Sociology of Elites." Annual Review of Sociology (May 1, 2012): 361 - 377. ["Elites are those with vastly disproportionate control over or access to a resource. We can understand this as a position that a social actor occupies, or we can imagine such resources as a possession of an actor. The study of elites is the study of power and inequality, from above. It involves looking at the distribution of social resources, which can include economic, social, cultural, political, or knowledge capital. It also means exploring the role of institutions such as schools, families, and clubs in how such resources are organized and distributed. Over the past decade, particularly as social power and economic rewards have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, elite sociology has experienced a revival. Empirical observations of these phenomena point to the changing character of American inequality."]

Kimble, Julian. "Devil in a Blue Dress: Crossing the Line." Current (July 20, 2022) ["The American dream has always been a spectacular lie. Not everyone is afforded equal rights or opportunity—and that’s by design. America is a dream seller that has gone out of its way to show Black people in particular that they can chase the carrot should they choose, but it will be to no avail. Throughout Devil in a Blue Dress, Carl Franklin’s sharp 1995 noir thriller, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is confronted with the boundaries he must respect as a Black man in 1948 Los Angeles, as he tries to build a life for himself after serving in World War II. Out of work and needing to pay his mortgage, he finds those barriers magnified when he is tasked with locating Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals), a woman who appears to be white, enjoys “jazz, pigs’ feet, and dark meat,” and used to be engaged to former mayoral candidate Todd Carter (Terry Kinney). Devil in a Blue Dress takes Easy on a journey through Black Los Angeles and into the shadows of the city’s white aristocracy, showing how much race informs the ways the power brokers play their hands."]

Loayza, Beatrice. "David Cronenberg’s Tableaux of Pain and Pleasure." The Nation (July 21, 2022) ["The body, that object of eternal obsession, perpetually surveilled and self-policed, is a site of great danger. Errant bodies, then, are as much a threat to the status quo, testing our willingness to embrace the monstrous. In Crimes of the Future, prior to a scene in which a live surgery is staged as a public performance, the phrase “Body is reality” flashes on a small television set: It is through the body, Cronenberg argues, that we experience and make sense of our lives; through the body that ideas, desires, and fears find palpable expression. If his films promiscuously stake out the possibilities of the future and the novel ways in which we might inhabit it, then the body is a testing ground where the ineffable and the unthinkable might be grasped for the first time."]

Moro, Jeffrey. "Against Cop Shit." (Academic blog: February 13, 2020) ["Cop shit is seductive. It makes metrics transparent. It allows for the clear progress toward learning objectives. (“Badges” are cop shit, by the way.) It also subsumes education within a market logic. “Here,” cop shit says, “you will learn how to do this thing. We will know you learned it by the acquisition of this gold star. But in order for me to award you this gold star, I must parse you, sense you, track you, collect you, and—” here’s the key, “I will presume that you will attempt to flout me at every turn. We are both scamming each other, you and I, and I intend to win.” When a classroom becomes adversarial, of course, as cop shit presumes, then there must be a clear winner and loser. The student’s education then becomes not a victory for their own self-improvement or -enrichment, but rather that the teacher conquered the student’s presumed inherent laziness, shiftiness, etc. to instill some kernel of a lesson."]

Rosenstock, Nancy. Inside the Second Wave of Feminism: Boston Female Liberation, 1968-1972 An Account by Participants. Haymarket Press, 2022. ["A landmark account of a key radical feminist organization, offering lessons for today’s women’s liberation movement. Activist members of the radical feminist organization Boston Female Liberation provide an inside account of the group’s history, strategy, and legacy in this compelling contribution to the historiography of Second Wave feminism.
Boston Female Liberation member Nancy Rosenstock expertly weaves together the reflections of her fellow-activists, describing how they became feminists, recounting the breadth of their organizing work, and linking their achievements and experience to contemporary struggles against sexism. The book also includes ten radical feminist documents crucial to contextualizing the activity and thinking of the organization and its members."]

Solnit, Rebecca. "Orwell's Roses." Open Source (August 18, 2022) ["George Orwell rests now with the immortal English writers. But why? For impact and influence, you could argue that Orwell in his novels and essays matched Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens—John Lennon, too. Orwell called out the Big Brother barbarism of the twentieth century, but he was more than the author of 1984. He made it his life work to tell the truth about England, which he loved, and the British Empire, which he loathed. He gave us our twenty-first-century assignment: to rescue the language of public life from euphemism and lies, from our various Ministries of un-Truth, so as to save fairness, privacy, the pleasures and shared human interests that met his standard of a decent society. The writer Rebecca Solnit has a clue to getting the inner Orwell. She says: think of him at the core as a gardener. Rebecca Solnit’s striking, fresh take on the late great George Orwell comes in a book-length essay titled Orwell’s Roses. The line that recurs, chapter after chapter, is this: “In the spring of 1936, a writer planted roses.” He also kept a goat, and cared about his trees—factoids about Orwell, but maybe keys to his work. We know everything else about the prolific Orwell, the socialist who abominated the Soviet Union in his masterpiece, 1984. Orwell, the Tory anarchist, he joked about himself, from the lower-upper-middle class. Perhaps the most important all-round treasure of an English writer in the twentieth century, the wintry conscience of his time and still an endless pleasure to read, and admire anew."]


Annihilation (UK/USA: Alex Garland, 2018)

 




Annihilation  (UK/USA: Alex Garland, 2018: 115 mins)

“We have many theories, few facts.” -Dr. Ventress (in the film Annihilation)

"[T]he longer I stared at it, the less comprehensible the creature became. The more it became something alien to me, and the more I had a sense that I knew nothing at all—about nature, about ecosystems." — The biologist in the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, 175

I classify "weird fiction" as not necessarily a genre-in-itself, instead it operates in the interstices of mainstream genres, creating through poetic prose, vivid imagery, hallucinatory experiences, existential angst, dream logic and shocking stories, a powerful effect upon the reader, provoking them to start to see the mundane world with a slant. If you look at the etymology of 'wyrd' it originates as the "power to control destiny" (no doubt in a magical or ritual sense) and morphs to the latter "weird" meaning of "unearthly" or strange. These stories stay with you, taking root deep inside your consciousness, reverberating like the ripples of a deep pond disturbed by a thrown rock and provoke you to rethink what you have always taken for granted. There is a commercial genre called "the new weird" (also an older pulp magazine "weird" usually involving cosmic horror) and some of these books/authors would be slotted into my broad genre classification here (many are not), but in the spirit of actual weirdness I include other books/films that operate under the aesthetic classification described above without being marketed as "new weird." The disturbance to perceived reality also may take place through a decoding/encoding process that challenges and restructures (exposing the myths and inconsistencies) of dominant narratives (also see situationist détournement). The purpose is to expose the cracks in the foundations of controlling narratives, destabilizing them through weird narratives that shake the assured assumptions of its adherents. The concepts of carnivalesque revelry and the dialogic nature of consciousness as developed by Mikhail Bakhtin are equally important, in that they involve the reversal of a dominant order and/or an exposure of the fantasy of the controlling order, in the process revealing the many perspectives/voices that are silenced/masked. As disturbing as these can be for many, perhaps the most problematic aspect of many weird narratives would be the decentering of humans (as the center of the universe) and explorations/recognitions of non-human perspectives. Importantly, in the context of my own American culture, this also involves narrative & theoretical displacement of our hegemonic way of seeing & being as the baseline for thinking about and understanding the world. In film studies there has also been a classification of Mind Fuck films which would be included here. All of these can provide a cathartic release from the anxiety/terror of the really fucked-up, weird situation we are living through and the twisted creatures that our at the helm of planet earth. [Editorial note: my definition was written during the COVID-19 Pandemic]. Under no circumstance is weird meant in a derogatory way.  Anyone who does a deep dive into science, especially theories of consciousness and reality, knows that science is seriously weird. I appreciate works that challenge our constructed reality, pushing us to see that there is not just one way. Also it should be understood that what seems weird to some may seem obvious and normal to others. One of the great benefits of learning across time and space/places is that it can, following Bertolt Brecht, "make the familiar strange." -- Michael Dean Benton (May 2020; revised September 2021)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Christion, Valley. "Annihilation: The Alienation of Desire."  The Artifice (October 10, 2018)  ["In Annihilation, novel author Jeff VanderMeer and film director Alex Garland both took special pains to avoid falling into this trope. Both the Crawler and the mimic are utterly and truly alien in the respect that they lack a projection of human desire; as the viewer, we don’t know what they want. This is a major plot point in both the movie and the film, as the ambiguity of the alien is a major piece of the immersive whole."]

Crosby, S.L., et al. "Annihilation: A Roundtable." Gothic Nature #1 (September 2019): 256 - 281. ["It is a unique and beautiful film, but it is also an important film with a resonance beyond most other ‘sci-fi classic[s]’—at least from an ecocritical perspective—which is the reason we have decided to devote a ‘roundtable’ discussion to its analysis. In an age of devastating climate change and environmental disintegration, the film brings to a popular audience a cinematic version of the mind-altering ‘ecological awareness’ that theorists such as the author of the novel Annihilation consider essential to human survival. VanderMeer, of course, is a leading figure in the recent upsurge in cosmic horror literature termed ‘The New Weird’, and the ‘weird’, he points out, draws attention to how the human is inexorably ‘entwined’ with the material, nonhuman world. It thus confronts our self-destructive amnesia, our doomed ecophobic ‘attempt to transcend our material conditions’ which has only seduced us into suicide (Morton and VanderMeer, 2016: p. 58). The film, Annihilation, in its weirdness, may evoke such entanglement and, as the following reviews demonstrate, certainly causes us to reflect upon it."]

Eggert, Brian. "Annihilation." Deep Focus Review (February 23, 2018) ["Fission occurs when cells replicate and then divide. The process involves a single cell that splits itself in two, thereby negating its original form in service of two distinct cells. Growth and healing rely on this otherwise violent act, which signals Nature’s impulse to self-destruct in order to create. It’s a theme that prevails throughout Annihilation, writer-director Alex Garland’s film of Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel. A microscopic view of cell division recurs as the film’s central motif, lovingly integrated into Garland’s visual and narrative choices. But the horrible beauty of the Kantian sublime dominates this intelligent, aesthetically wondrous production, leaving the viewer with much to contemplate about our human biases toward the essence of creation. (After all, while the rapid growth of, say, bacteria in the human body has been described as a disease, it’s a time of prosperity in the microcosm of the bacterial world.) Conceptual as such ideas may be, Garland never forgets to mirror them with human drama. Indeed, within Annihilation‘s visceral yet thoughtful science-fiction context, his characters undergo fission to either self-destruct or become something new."]

Hicks, Luke. "Making Something New: Tracing the Complex Brilliance of Annihilation." Film School Rejects (February 27, 2020)  ["Do I begin down the snaking path of humanity’s obsession with the unknown and turn left at the disquieting display of self-destruction? Or should I fork right at philosophical reflections on biology? Do I start towards its status as one of the few intelligent, dignifying female-driven films to come out of Hollywood in the past decade (four of the five most significant roles held by women, known and unknown, queer and straight, and of different ethnicities, varied worldviews)? And if so, which track do I take when the trail divides into dismantling patriarchal gender norms and theories of forthcoming human evolution? I could exhaust one hundred different ways out with similar thoughts before touching on themes of ecological ethics or technological development. And if I was hospitalized in the process due to exhaustion, I’d be upset that we never breached the intersecting conversations between suicide, mimesis, interanimation, marriage, filtered vision, the metaphysical, and annihilation."]

Kjaerullf, Caroline. "The Ambiguous Portrayal of Nature in Annihilation." Leviathan #7 (2021): 127 - 138.

Like Stories of Old. "The Problem of Other Minds – How Cinema Explores Consciousness." (Posted on Youtube: May 31, 2018) ["How have films engaged the problem of other minds? In this video essay, I discuss cinematic explorations into consciousness in the context of the cognitive revolution that has challenged many of the basic assumptions about what was for a long time believed to be a uniquely human trait." Uses Frans de Waal's book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?: "Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition--in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos--to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal--and human--intelligence."]

Nicolini, Kim. "Annihilation: Alex Garland’s Bad Trip Through Dis-ease and Over-Reproduction." Counterpunch (March 2, 2018) ["There are a lot of reasons to join Garland’s journey into a shaky world where reproduction leads to destruction and where the further you go into the film the further you will find yourself separated from any known reality (just as the further the main characters delve into the ominous and alien Shimmer, the further they come unglued). At one point in the film, female scientist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) questions whether all the women who reside at the film’s center have lost their minds. After watching the film, you may very well ask yourself the same thing. But that is the power of the film. By provoking the audience to lose their minds, toss all rational thought to the wind, and deconstruct the most primal notions of stability, this sci-fi horror film unveils the fears that seep through collective humanity like a terminal illness and show the unnatural and terrifying impact of human intervention with the natural world."]

Raup, Jordan. "‘Annihilation’ is Beautiful, Horrifying Sci-Fi with a Bold Imagination." The Film Stage (February 21, 2018) ["More terrifying than any creature Hollywood could dream up is the unraveling of one’s mind—the steady loss of a consciousness as defined by the memories, motivations, and knowledge built up from decades of experience and reflection. With Annihilation, Alex Garland’s beautiful, frightening follow-up to Ex Machina, he portrays this paralyzing sensation with a sense of vivid imagination, and also delivers a cadre of horrifying creatures to boot."]

Robinson, Tasha. "Annihilation is the most thoughtful science fiction movie since Arrival."  The Verge (February 23, 2018) ["But it’s a mark of success for the film that even knowing the outcome doesn’t disperse the tension. Annihilation is a portentous movie, and a cerebral one. It’s gorgeous and immersive, but distancing. It’s exciting more in its sheer ambition and its distinctiveness than in its actual action. And by giving away so many details about the ending up front, writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) seems to be emphasizing that Annihilation isn’t about who-will-live dynamics, or the fast mechanics of action scenes. It’s about the slow, subdued journey Lena and the others take into the unknown, and how it affects them emotionally."]

Statt, Nick. "How Annihilation changed Jeff VanderMeer’s weird novel into a new life-form." The Verge (February 28, 2018)  ["Alex Garland’s Annihilation, the mind-bending science fiction journey into the world of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach books, is an astounding film. It’s smart and daring and almost as satisfying to talk about as it is to experience firsthand. It’s even more astonishing considering its source, a seemingly unadaptable, utterly bizarre novel. But Garland found a way to make the film into its own creature. His version is simultaneously faithful in spirit and shockingly bold in its departures in plot and theme."]

"Weird Fiction." Horror Pod Class #2 (January 31, 2018) [Michael Benton -- What is very interesting to me is the idea that the "new weird" genre is speaking to a 21st Century dis-ease sparked by an awareness of the impossibility of truly knowing reality. Propaganda, disinformation & official lies instantaneously and repeatedly disseminated through ubiquitous screen technologies, radically transforming science/technology/theories that even leave those that devote their lives to a particular discipline overwhelmed, and a general distrust from the general population in their traditional experts/leaders. This is played out vividly in Vandermeer's trilogy and Garland's film as the main characters struggling to understand/survive the transmutating Area X/The Shimmer are scientists/soldiers.  ]


















VIDEO ESSAY | Annihilation / Solaris: Refractions of the Self from Mike Odmark on Vimeo.




The Unloved - Annihilation from Scout Tafoya on Vimeo.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

ENG 102 Resources: August 17, 2022

Berkshire, Jennifer, et al. "Reading the Room." On the Media (August 12, 2022) ["An old threat has returned to classrooms across the country — and it’s made of pages and ink. On this week’s On the Media, hear what it means to ban a book, and who has the right to choose what kids learn. Plus, meet the student who took his school board all the way to the Supreme Court in the 80s. 1. Kelly Jensen, editor for Book Riot who writes a weekly update on “book censorship news,” on what it means to ban a book. 2. Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, hosts of the education podcast “Have You Heard,” on the rights—both real and fictional—of parents to shape what their kids learn. 3. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger takes a deep dive into our nation's history of taking books off shelves, with the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Island Trees School District v Pico. Featuring: Steven Pico, then student and plaintiff in the case and Arthur Eisenberg, New York Civil Liberties lawyer, who represented him."]

Coffee, John C. "How Corporations Get Away With Crime." Capitalisn't (July 22, 2022) ["When it comes to corporate rulebreaking, data from 2002 to 2016 reveals that the US government arranged more than 400 "deferred protection agreements" as a means of deterrence. Under these, a company acknowledges what it did was wrong, pays a fine, promises not to misbehave for a period of time -- and thus is largely let off the hook. Columbia Law School Professor and author of "Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement", John C. Coffee, says these have done little to deter future wrongdoing. Coffee joins Luigi and Bethany, both of whom have also extensively researched and exposed corporate wrongdoing, to discuss how to reform aspects of enforcement, such as self-reporting mechanisms, internal investigations, independent external auditors, whistleblowers, and even shame and humiliation."]

Eggert, Brian. "The Gray Man." Deep Focus Review (July 14, 2022) ["A good action movie is difficult to find. Although dozens are released every year, few have more to offer than some impressive stunts, fast-paced fight choreography, or eye-popping sequences of destruction. They supply the requisite thrills, but once the credits roll, they often fade from memory. The problem isn’t the action; it’s the banal characters. Rarely do action movies give us compelling heroes or villains who make a lasting impression. The Fast and Furious series may provide one over-the-top vehicular extravaganza after another, but its dopey family and one-note baddies couldn’t be less engaging. Sure, the John Wick movies started with a compelling revenge story, but the character’s unwavering composure doesn’t have many dimensions. Invulnerable heroes from the killing machine John Rambo to the infallible Dominic Toretto obliterate their opponents and come away barely dented. By contrast, consider characters such as John McClane in the original Die Hard (1988) or Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) that elevate all the trappings of an entertaining actioner, lending humanity and vulnerability to their heroes. Enduring action movies give their characters a sense of humor or depth of feeling beyond point and shoot. "]

Forsthoefel, Andrew, et al. "Walden & the Natural World of Transcendentalism." Open Source (July 21, 2022) ["It’s one of many odd points to notice about Thoreau at his 200th birthday: that the non-stop writer was equally a man of action, a scientist and a high-flying poet whose imagination saw that “the bluebird carries the sky on his back;” and still a workman with callused hands, at home in the wild, a walker four hours a day on average, in no particular direction. His transcendentalism was all about the blossoming intersection of nature-study and introspection, fact and idea, detail and ideals. In his pine grove, on his river, at his pond, the outdoor Thoreau."]

Hannah-Jones, Nikole. "The Country We Have." Throughline (July 28, 2022) ["Is history always political? Who gets to decide? What happens when you challenge common narratives? In this episode, Throughline's Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei explore these questions with Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist at the New York Times and the creator of the 1619 Project. Since the project launched in 2019, a majority of U.S. states have tried to ban teaching about race, racism or the 1619 Project specifically. And there has been a significant rise in the number of book challenges and bans. Yet many classrooms across the country have embraced the curriculum and resources that have spun out of the original project. It has pushed people on both sides of the political spectrum to ask how our framing of the past affects the present, to interrogate what we remember and don't remember as a society — and whether we need a shared historical narrative to move forward." If you would like to read more on the topic, here's two books: The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, by Lerone Bennett, Jr.]

Hudson, David. "Lessons From Bob Rafelson." Current (July 28, 2022) ["The first shot is to grab the audience and the last shot is to redeem yourself,” writer, director, and producer Bob Rafelson told the Los Angeles Times’s Kristine McKenna in 1986. Rafelson, who died last week at the age of eighty-nine, often didn’t know what that redemption would look like until a day or two before he shot the final scenes of his films. Two of his best, Five Easy Pieces (1970) and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)—together, they “stand as a kind of bitter eulogy diptych said over the shallow grave of American Dreamism,” writes Michael Atkinson for Sight and Sound—were shot in sequence and strayed from the screenplay long before the final crack of the clapboard."]

Hughes, Peter. "A History of Love and Hate in 21 Statues (Aurum Press 2021)." New Books in History (July 4, 2022) ["The ongoing debate surrounding who gets to determine the subjects of public commemoration, particularly in the form of statues, has become more heated over the past few years. In his timely book, A History of Love and Hate in 21 Statues (Aurum Press, 2021), Peter Hughes examines the long history of statues being used to articulate the values of rulers, governments, organizations, and average citizens. Of course, that also means statues are often targets of people who want to challenge those values. In this wide-ranging conversation, we discuss whether the motivation for public commemorations, as well as the opposition to them, can be found first and foremost in a society’s emotional relationship to the person (or god, for that matter) being commemorated, as is suggested in the book’s title; or, if the timeless debate over who does and doesn’t get commemorated is really about power."]

Keegin, Joseph M. "What is Punk?" What is X? (August 15, 2022) ["The dog days of late summer call for a break from discussions of concepts like Time, War, and Virtue and a turn to a subject that, though significant, probably lacks its own Platonic form: Punk. Joining Justin for this episode of “What Is X?” is our own Joey Keegin—a contributing editor at The Point and a veteran of punk scenes of the 1990s and 2000s. Once a hitchhiker and freight train hopper and DIY participant, Joey is estranged from punk now yet still inspired by it. Why? To ask what punk is, Joey points out, is to ask more than simply what punk music is—because it’s “a promise,” he says, “of a way of living, a promise of a way of being together with other people.” But when it’s just as punk to be straight-edge as it is to be addicted to heroin, how do you sort the good from the bad? Can there even still be punk after the death of rock? Together, Justin and Joey attempt to sort out these distinctions. Along the way, they discuss whether it’s possible for a punk to age gracefully, what punk understands about modernity that hippies didn’t, and why Socrates was not a punk—but was maybe a hardcore kid."]

Stone, Asa B. and Eli Revelle Yano Wilson. Beer and Society: How We Make Beer and Beer Makes Us. Lexington Books, 2022. ["Beer and Society: How We Make Beer and Beer Makes Us takes readers on a lively journey through the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of the modern beer world. This book illustrates that beer is far more than a beverage. As a finely-crafted cultural product, beer can be a part of our identity, a source of pleasure and camaraderie, an object of connoisseurship, and a livelihood for those who are behind the beer itself. Drawing on leading sociological and psychological perspectives, the authors argue that our enduring relationship with beer reflects the very roots of our society, including its collective values and norms, power structures, and persistent inequities based on race, gender, sexuality, and social class. Beer and Society explores beer as an embodiment of who we are and a force to energize social change."]

Tafoya, Scout. "The Unloved, Part 104: Ambulance." Roger Ebert (August 1, 2022) ["Somehow, it happened. Michael Bay earned a place in the Unloved. He made his best movie and no one liked it and it made no money. Well sir, you're welcome around these parts anytime. Enjoy this look at our premiere vulgarian's attempt to go "straight," and shake your head with me in horror at the culture that said no to a film as electrifying as Ambulance."]


The Witch (Canada/USA: Robert Eggers, 2015)

 



The Witch (Canada/USA: Robert Eggers, 2015: 90 mins)

Aloi, Peg. "Watching The Witch with Two Actual Witches." A24 Films (October 27, 2020)

Bastién, Angelica Jade.  "The Feminine Grotesque #3: Something Wicked – On Robert Eggers’ The Witch." Vague Visages (March 3, 2016)

Bradley, S.A. "Shut Up and Watch the Movie (Part Two)." Hellbent for Horror #44 (June 19, 2017)

 Bushi, Ruth. "The Witch Explained (2015): The Horrors of True History." The Haughty Culturalist (March 23, 2022) ["Religious extremism, misogyny and madness stoke fears of the supernatural in The Witch, a folk tale rooted in horror and history."]

Cassidy, Brendan, JD Duran and Matty Negs. "The Witch, Top 3 Horror Films of 21st Century (so far)." InSession Film (February 22, 2016)

Fisher, Burton and Martin Kessler. "The Witch." Flixwise (January 24, 2017) ["Martin’s discussing Robert Eggers’ 2016 debut feature, The Witch, with Bay Area English Professor, Burton Fisher. Listeners will recall that The Witch was one of Martin’s favorite films of 2016. Here he gets a chance to elaborate on why this film stands apart from other recent supernatural horror flicks. Plus, he and Burton explore the various influences that helped Eggers shape The Witch’s cinematic world, including puritan folklore and the works of Andrei Tarkovsky."]

Graham, Bill, Brian Roan and Amanda Waltz. "The Witch." The Film Stage Show #176 (February 22, 2016)

Greene, Heather. "The Witch (2016)." The Wild Hunt (February 21, 2016)

Grossman, Pam. "The Witching Hour." (Posted on Vimeo: 2014)

Hall, Jacob. "An Atheist, a Catholic, and a Satanist Walk Into a Screening of The Witch." /Film (February 22, 2016)

Hauke, Alexandra. "The Wicked Witch in the Woods: Puritan Maternalism, Ecofeminism, and Folk Horror in Robert Eggers’ The VVitch: A New-England Folktale." Gothic Nature #2 (March 2021): 37-61.

Haydon, Chris. "The Witch - The Art of Terror." (Posted on Youtube: August 7, 2016)

Hollinger, Ryan. "The Witch: Explained." (Posted on Youtube: March 17, 2016)

Jones, Matthew. "Politicizing the Horrific: How American Anxieties Play Out on Screen." Philosophy in Film (March 25, 2017)

Juzwlak, Rich. "A Journey To the Center of The Witch, Salem, and Criticism." The Muse (February 26, 2016)

Koresky, Michael. "A Few Great Pumpkins X: The Witch." Reverse Shot (October 25, 2015)

"Listen to Mark Korven’s Frightening Full Score For The Witch." The Film Stage (February 26, 2016)

Ramos, Maria. 'The Witch and Female Adolescence in Film." Bitch Flicks (March 1, 2016)

Sims, David. "The Witch Mines the Quiet Terror of the Unknown." The Atlantic (February 19, 2016)

Subisatti, Andrea and Alexander West. "Season of the Witch: Witches in Film Part 3, The Witch (2015) and The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)." The Faculty of Horror #60 (March 25, 2018) ["The past few years have seen the figure of the witch become a cultural touchstone for progressives and conservatives alike. From the resurgence of astrology, tarot, and natural healing methods to feminist rallying cry, the witch has never been more inclusive or divisive. Through analysis of two recent films, Andrea and Alex examine the witch’s new meaning in contemporary Western society, and why she remains a symbol of subversive feminism."]

Thomas, Leon. "The Witch - Renegade Cut." (Posted on Youtube: June 6, 2016)

Weston, Hillary. "Into the Woods: An Interview with The Witch’s Robert Eggers." The Current (February 19, 2016)

Weston, Kelli. "The Witch: Suffer the Little Children." Reverse Shot (October 30, 2020)
























Monday, August 15, 2022

ENG 281: Fall 2022 Responses

Exemplary Responses:

Cayenne Rose: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Cayenne Rose: The Garden of Eden

Alyssa Greene: The Tree of Life - A Boy Struggles with Life, and Learns From It

Tayler Thompson: Nomadland - The Journey

Tayler Thompson: Uncut Gems - Pure Chaos

Lythean Lim: The Green Knight

Joshua Verax - Parasite: Leaches on Society

Cayenne Rose: Uncut Gems

Alyssa Greene: Parasite

Miguel Rodea - Midsommar: A Nightmare Relationship

Miguel Rodea - Sorry to Bother You: Code Switching in America

Matthew Lewis - Midsommar: A Bad Trip

Lythean Lim: Midsommar Crisis

Lythean Lim - Sorry to Bother You: The Ultimate Twist

Logan Christian: The Cycle of Life and Death in Midsommar

Logan Christian: Sorry to Bother You

Logan Christian: Blackkklansman

Joshua Verax - Blackkklansman: The Hate That Exists

Candace Wethington - Sorry to Bother You, and Your Views on Capitalism

Candace Wethington - Blackkklansman: Connecting the Past with the Present

Tayler Thompson - Blackkklansman: Justice

Miguel Rodea - Cam: A Lackluster Ending to a Good Movie

Miguel Rodea - Blindspotting: Identity Crisis

Matthew Lewis: (Cam) Way too real

Logan Bryant: Cam

Candace Wethington: Cam - Alice in Internetland

Brady Barnes: Annihilation - What would you do when faced with death?

Tayler Thompson: Blindspotting - The Full Picture

Tayler Thompson: Annihilation - The Shimmer

Miguel Rodea: Annihilation - A GOOD Example of how to use CGI for a movie.

Cayenne Rose: The Witch

Tayler Thompson: The Witch

Logan Christian: The Witch

Logan Bryant: The Witch

Connor Haun: The Witch

Candace Wethington: The Witch


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Class Profiles:

Aidan Thomas 0

Alyssa Greene 10 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Uncut Gems)

Candace Wethington 9 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Dear White People)

Cayenne Rose 8 (The Witch; Annihilation; Sorry to Bother You; Parasite; Uncut Gems; Don't Look Up; Judas and the Black Messiah; Portrait of a Lady on Fire)

Chloe Dowler 0

Conner Haun 9 (The Witch; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Uncut Gems)

Daniel Bowling 0

Joshua Verax 10 (Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry To Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Uncut Gems; Promising Young Woman) - A 

Logan Bryant 10 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; The Evening Hour; Parasite; Gaia) - A

Logan Christian 8 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Prey)

Lythean Lim 10 (The Witch; Annihilation; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Uncut Gems; Nomadland) - A

Matthew Lewis 8 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite)

Miguel Rodea 10 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar: Parasite; Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Uncut Gems; Nomadland)

S

Samantha Mangan 7 (The Witch; Annhilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar)

(Morgan) Tayler Thompson 10 (The Witch; Annihilation; Blindspotting; Cam; Blackkklansman; Sorry to Bother You; Midsommar; Parasite; Portrait of a Lady on Fire; Uncut Gems)



Professor: Michael Benton 


Final Project Responses: 

Alyssa Greene: [Track: Epic Films] 3 (Australia; The Queen; The Tree of Life)

Candace Wethington: [Track: Bluegrass Film Society] 5 (Saint Maud; The Evening Hour; Gaia; Time; Prey) - A

Cayenne Rose: [Track: Romance Films] 2 (The Garden of Eden; Dear White People)

Connor Haun: [Track: War Films]

Daniel Bowling: [Track: Bluegrass Film Society]

Joshua Verax: [Track: Bluegrass Film Society] 5 (Kajillionaire; Gaia; Time; Prey; Dear White People) - A

Logan Bryant [Track: Bluegrass Film Society] 5 (The Worst Person in the World; Great Freedom; Saint Maud; I Am Not a Witch; Kajillionaire) - A

Logan Christian [Track: Bluegrass Film Society] 5 (The Worst Person in the World; Saint Maud; I Am Not a Witch; Kajillionaire; Gaia) - A

Lythean Lim: [Track: A24 Films] 5 (Promising Young Woman; The Green Knight; Nope; The Lighthouse; Judas and the Black Messiah) - A

Matthew Lewis: [Track: Reason vs Faith]

Miguel Rodea: [Track: Christopher Nolan]

Samantha Mangan: [Track: Tom Hanks] 2 (Saving Private Ryan; Road to Perdition )

Tayler Thompson: [Track: Extra regular responses] 2 (Nomadland; Promising Young Woman)


Verification of Read/Understand the Syllabus:
Aiden Thomas
Alyssa Green
Brady Barnes
Candace Wethington
Chloe Dowler
Connor Haun
Daniel Bowling
Joshua Verax
Logan Bryant
Logan Christian
Lythean Lim
Matt Lewis
Miguel Rodea
Samantha Mangan
Tayler Thompson




Friday, August 12, 2022

ENG 102 Resources: August 12, 2022

Benson, Jared and Nick Lee. "Are Labor Strikes Illegal in the United States? The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947." Revolution and Ideology (August 12, 2022) ["We discuss a short history of labor strikes in the United States and how the federal government dramatically reduced the power of labor with the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947."]

Delcomyn, Fred and James L. Ellis. "A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers (Southern Illinois University Press, 2021)." New Books in Architecture (August 4, 2022) ["In 2003 Fred Delcomyn imagined his backyard of two and a half acres, farmed for corn and soybeans for generations, restored to tallgrass prairie. Over the next seventeen years, Delcomyn, with help from his friend James L. Ellis scored, seeded, monitored, reseeded, and burned these acres into prairie. In A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers (Southern Illinois UP, 2021), they document their journey and reveal the incredible potential of a backyard to travel back to a time before the wild prairie was put into plow rows. It has been said, “Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This book shows us how. The first book to celebrate a smaller, more private restoration, A Backyard Prairie offers a vivid portrait of what makes a prairie. Delcomyn and Ellis describe selecting and planting seeds, recount the management of a prescribed fire, and capture the prairie’s seasonal parades of colorful flowers in concert with an ever-growing variety of animals, from the minute eastern tailed-blue butterfly to the imperious red-winged blackbird and the reclusive coyote.
This book offers a unique account of their work and their discovery of a real backyard, an inviting island of grass and flowers uncovered and revealed. We often travel miles and miles to find nature larger than ourselves. In this rich account of small prairie restoration, Delcomyn and Ellis encourage the revival of original prairie in our backyards and the patient, beauty-seeking soul sleeping within ourselves."]

Durgnaut, Raymond. A Long Hard Look at Psycho. British Film Institute, 2010. ["Upon its release in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho divided critical opinion, with several leading film critics condemning Hitchcock's apparent encouragement of the audience's identification with the gruesome murder that lies at the heart of the film. Such antipathy did little to harm Psycho's box-office returns, and it would go on to be acknowledged as one of the greatest film thrillers, with scenes and characters that are among the most iconic in all cinema. In his illuminating study of Psycho, Raymond Durgnat provides a minute analysis of its unfolding narrative, enabling us to consider what happens to the viewer as he or she watches the film, and to think afresh about questions of spectatorship, Hollywood narrative codes, psycho-analysis, editing and shot composition. In his introduction to the new edition, Henry K. Miller presents A Long Hard Look at 'Psycho' as the culmination of Durgnat's decades-long campaign to correct what he called film studies' 'Grand Error'. In the course of expounding Durgnat's root-and-branch challenge to our inherited shibboleths about Hollywood cinema in general and Hitchcock in particular, Miller also describes the eclectic intellectual tradition to which Durgnat claimed allegiance. This band of amis inconnus, among them William Empson, Edgar Morin and Manny Farber, had at its head Durgnat's mentor Thorold Dickinson. The book's story begins in the early 1960s, when Dickinson made the long hard look the basis of his pioneering film course at the Slade School of Fine Art, and Psycho became one of its first objects."]

Elkin, Rosetta S. "Plant Life: The Entangled Politics of Afforestation (University of Minnesota Press, 2022)." New Books in Geography (July 20, 2022) ["In Plant Life: The Entangled Politics of Afforestation (U Minnesota Press, 2022), Rosetta S. Elkin explores the procedures of afforestation, the large-scale planting of trees in otherwise treeless environments, including grasslands, prairies, and drylands. Elkin reveals that planting a tree can either be one of the ultimate offerings to thriving on this planet, or one of the most extreme perversions of human agency over it. Using three supracontinental case studies--scientific forestry in the American prairies, colonial control in Africa's Sahelian grasslands, and Chinese efforts to control and administer territory--Elkin explores the political implications of plant life as a tool of environmentalism. By exposing the human tendency to fix or solve environmental matters by exploiting other organisms, this work exposes the relationship between human and plant life, revealing that afforestation is not an ecological act: rather, it is deliberately political and distressingly social. Plant Life ultimately reveals that afforestation cannot offset deforestation, an important distinction that sheds light on current environmental trends that suggest we can plant our way out of climate change. By radicalizing what conservation protects and by framing plants in their total aliveness, Elkin shows that there are many kinds of life--not just our own--to consider when advancing environmental policy."]

Harman, Graham. "Architecture and Objects." University of Minnesota Press (July 27, 2022) ["Exploring new concepts of the relationship between form and function while thinking through object-oriented ontology (OOO), Graham Harman (Architecture and Objects) deepens the exchange between architecture and philosophy, providing a new roadmap to OOO’s influence on the language and practice of contemporary architecture."]

Like Stories of Old. "Multiverses, Nihilism, and How it Feels to be Alive Right Now." (Posted on Youtube: July 31, 2022) ["An analysis of the metaphorical meanings of multiverse stories, and what they reflect about the burdens of modern existence."]

MacLeod, Alan. "Most of the “fact-checking” organizations Facebook uses in Ukraine are directly funded by Washington." Monthly Review (August 8, 2022)

Moore, Lisa Jean. "Our Transgenic Future: Spider Goats, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature (New York University Press, 2022)." New Books in Medicine (July 20, 2022) ["The process of manipulating the genetic material of one animal to include the DNA of another creates a new transgenic organism. Several animals, notably goats, mice, sheep, and cattle are now genetically modified in this way. In Our Transgenic Future: Spider Goats, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature (NYU Press, 2022), Lisa Jean Moore wonders what such scientific advances portend. Will the natural world become so modified that it ceases to exist? After turning species into hybrids, can we ever get back to the original, or are they forever lost? Does genetic manipulation make better lives possible, and if so, for whom? Moore centers the story on goats that have been engineered by the US military and civilian scientists using the DNA of spiders. The goat’s milk contains a spider-silk protein fiber; it can be spun into ultra-strong fabric that can be used to manufacture lightweight military body armor. Researchers also hope the transgenically produced spider silk will revolutionize medicine with biocompatible medical inserts such as prosthetics and bandages. Based on in-depth research with spiders in Florida and transgenic goats in Utah, Our Transgenic Future focuses on how these spider goats came into existence, the researchers who maintain them, the funders who have made their lives possible, and how they fit into the larger science of transgenics and synthetics. This book is a fascinating story about the possibilities of science and the likely futures that may come."]

Nguyen, Mai and Pauline Greenhill. "Uncanny sounds and the politics of wonder in Christian Petzold’s Undine." NECSUS (Spring 2022) ["In the story of Undine, a water sprite leaves her aquatic origins to marry a human and acquires a soul in the process. The narrative ends tragically when her lover betrays her and she is obliged to kill him according to the laws of the elemental spirits. Related to figures such as the sirens of Greek mythology, the Lorelei of Clemens Brentano and Heinrich Heine, Melusine in French folklore, and selkie narratives of Celtic and Norse oral traditions, the first writings on this nymph can be traced back to Swiss physician and natural philosopher Paracelsus. Popularised as a literary fairy tale in 19th century Germany by the Prussian writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, Undine’s story has inspired numerous incarnations. For instance, it served as the source material for operas by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1812-1814) and others, a play by Jean Giraudoux (1938), and most famously Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale Den lille havfrue (‘The Little Mermaid,’ 1837). Films referencing ‘Undine’ date from the silent era and come from Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, and the US, as well as three from Germany: Rolf Thiele’s Undine 74 (1974), Eckhart Schmidt’s Undine (1992), and Christian Petzold’s Undine (2020) – our subject here. Movies based on or inspired by Andersen’s tale are of course much more common."]

Robin, Corey. "The Enigma of Clarence Thomas (Metropolitan Books, 2019)." New Books in Biography (August 4, 2022) ["Most people can tell you two things about Clarence Thomas: Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment, and he almost never speaks from the bench. Here are some things they don't know: Until Thomas went to law school, he was a black nationalist. In college he memorized the speeches of Malcolm X. He believes white people are incurably racist. In The Enigma of Clarence Thomas (Metropolitan Books, 2019), Corey Robin--one of the foremost analysts of the right--delves deeply into both Thomas's biography and his jurisprudence, masterfully reading his Supreme Court opinions against the backdrop of his autobiographical and political writings and speeches. The hidden source of Thomas's conservative views, Robin argues, is a profound skepticism that racism can be overcome. Thomas is convinced that any government action on behalf of African-Americans will be tainted by this racism, and that the most African-Americans can hope for is that white people will get out of their way. There's a reason, Robin concludes, why liberals often complain that Thomas doesn't speak but seldom pay attention when he does. Were they to listen, they'd hear a racial pessimism that sounds shockingly similar to their own. Cutting across the ideological spectrum, this unacknowledged consensus about the impossibility of progress is key to understanding today's political stalemate. Corey Robin is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center."]