Thursday, September 28, 2023

Eng 102: Fall 2023 Resources #13

 LeGuin, Caroline, Elizabeth LeGuin, and Ursula K. Le Guin. "Ursula K. Le Guin on Her Illegal Abortion in 1950." Lit Hub (September 13, 2023) ["It’s hard all over again to engage with this essay knowing that today, after that reprieve of “half a lifetime,” abortion is again illegal in this nation. The dark ages are back: in Texas, Idaho, North Dakota, Tennessee, and more than a dozen other states, pregnancy can now mean facing the prospect of being forced to bear children against one’s will—bearing them “for the anti-abortion people” (who will have nothing to do with helping care for those children). Those who have the privilege and means, as our mother did over 70 years ago, may make the ethical choice to break the law, to have or not have children for themselves; they may have loving family members and find medical professionals willing to risk being criminalized by supporting them. Most do not have this choice, however. Somewhere in Missouri or Idaho, a young person with the capacity to imagine the wider realities we so desperately need, the burning potential to become a transformative storyteller, is being shamed and shoved into the silence of enforced motherhood."]

Li, James. "How Big Food Corporations Made Americans Overweight And Sick." Breaking Points (Posted on Youtube: January 8, 2023) ["James Li breaks down how corporations producing food have lied to the American people leading to increases in obesity and other illnesses."]

Maughan, Philip. "The Rediscovery Of Circadian Rhythms." NOEMA (August 3, 2023) ["An explosion of interest in our internal clocks is helping people lead more balanced, productive and longer lives. But will it lead to societal change?"]

Peregrine, Rhys. "The Power of the Look: On Jordan Peele’s Nope." Bright Lights Film Journal (May 26, 2023) ["In this instance, the look is also a threat to those doing the looking. The act of seeing can be damaging not only to the target but also to the beholder. There are obvious parallels here with the consumption of exploitation film and how we, as audiences, are unwilling to look away, even when we should. It is what Peele referred to as “the dark side” of our obsession with spectacle."]

Prescod, Paul. "UAW President Shawn Fain Is Showing How to Build Working-Class Struggle." Jacobin (September 28, 2023) ["Shawn Fain, the firebrand president of the UAW, is modeling exactly the kind of labor leader we need right now: one who boldly names the billionaire class as the enemy — and galvanizes workers themselves to fight back."]

Purac, Selma A. "Selling 'Silence' in Contemporary Horror: Krasinski’s Quiet Consumers." Monstrum #4 (October 2021) ["John Krasinski’s 2018 horror film A Quiet Place broke through the noise of a box office dominated by blockbusters and pre-existing properties. Acclaimed by critics, the relatively modest production, which cost only 17 million dollars to make, went on to gross over 340 million dollars worldwide (AQP Numbers). In part, this success is rooted in the film’s focus on the horror soundscape, which is central to its very premise."]

Roskam, Kelly. "Protecting the Public?: Guns, Intimate Partner Violence, and the US Supreme Court." New Books in Political Science (August 7, 2023) ["Postscript invites scholars to react to contemporary political events and today’s podcast welcomes an expert on domestic violence and firearms law to analyze a controversial Second Amendment case that the United States Supreme Court will hear this Fall, United States v. Rahimi. Kelly Roskam, JD is the Director of Law and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy. She studies the constitutional implications of, advocates for, and works to improve the implementation of firearms laws. She has been writing about the practical implications of the Rahimi case since it came up through the 5th circuit (for example, “The Fifth Circuit’s Rahimi decision protects abusers’ access to guns. The Supreme Court must act to protect survivors of domestic violence” and “A Texas Judge Is Using Originalism to Justify Arming Domestic Abusers” (co-authored with Spencer Cantrell and Natalie Nanasi). In the podcast, we discuss the specifics of this strange case (a man who assaulted a woman, shot in the air, and later threatened to kill her claims that his constitutional rights have been violated – and the 5th circuit agrees that Congress is the threat to liberty). Ms. Roskam explains how the legal regime Congress created in 1994 to protect survivors of intimate violence also protects the safety of the public at large. She presents some of the data (e.g., that the presence of a firearm increases the likelihood that domestic violence will escalate into a homicide). She explains what is at stake, the possible ways the Supreme Court might approach the case, and ways to combat firearm violence beyond the courts."]

Sexton, James. "Divorce Lawyer on Marriage, Relationships, Sex, Lies & Love." Lex Fridman Podcast #396 (September 17, 2023) [Discussing his book How To Stay in Love: Practical Wisdom from an Unexpected Source. Description of the book: "Hard-hitting divorce lawyer James J. Sexton shares his insights and wisdom to help you reverse-engineer a healthy, fulfilling romantic relationship with How to Stay in Love. With two decades on the front lines of divorce Sexton has seen what makes formerly happy couples fall out of love and “lose the plot” of the story they were writing together. Now he reveals all of the “what-not-to-dos” for couples who want to build—and consistently work to preserve—a lasting, loving relationship. Sexton tells the unvarnished truth about love and marriage, diving straight into the most common issues that often arise from simple communication problems and relationships that develop by “default” instead of design. Though he deals constantly with the heartbreak of others, he still believes in romance and the transformative power of love. This book is his opportunity to use what he has learned from the mistakes of his clients to help individuals and couples find and preserve lasting connection."]

Sokolower, Judy, ed. Teaching About the Wars. Rethinking Schools, 2013. [Available online: "During his four years in office, President Trump pushed the United States closer toward war with Iran. After barely a month in office, President Joe Biden carried out airstrikes in Syria, against facilities allegedly belonging to Iran-backed militia groups. “We cannot escape the realities of how we got here, decades of U.S. war in the Middle East and a continued belief that bombs will somehow bring peace,” the organization Win Without War said in a statement. “History has shown how utterly failed that mentality is, with a cost of countless lives and massive destruction.” Teaching About the Wars breaks the curricular silence on the U.S. military engagement in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The articles and lessons in this volume explore “the realities of how we got here.” Even though the United States has been at war continuously since just after 9/11, sometimes it seems that our schools have forgotten. This collection of articles and hands-on lessons shows how teachers prompt their students to think critically about big issues. Here is the best writing from Rethinking Schools magazine on war and peace in the 21st century."]

Sottile, Leah. "How Radical Climate Activists Became a Domestic Terror Threat in the U.S." On the Media (September 22, 2023) ["In the US, the vilification of climate activism stretches back nearly three decades. In the nineties and the early aughts, radical climate activism was all over the news, and the coverage took no prisoners. One particular group, Earth Liberation Front, became known nationwide for their disruptive climate action. At the time, a smaller, underground faction of the group – dubbed ‘The Family’ by the FBI – was deemed one of the largest domestic terror threats in the country. The group targeted businesses and government facilities it saw as harming the environment. According to the FBI, from 1995 to 2001, the group was responsible for around $45 million dollars in damages in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California, and Colorado. The group was so underground that, until the arrests of several members, many of them didn’t know each other's real names, and when they discovered the government was on their tail, a few fled the country. By the late 2000s, the so-called family largely faded from the public eye, though not from the sights of the FBI. And in 2018, one of the remaining fugitives, Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, was captured and brought back to the U.S. to stand trial. This week, Brooke speaks with Leah Sottile, a longtime extremism reporter, and the host of the BBC podcast Burn Wild. The podcast looks deep into these once notorious activists, and mulls the question: how far is too far to go to save the planet?"]

ENG 102 Resources: Ethical Reasoning


ENG 102 Essay 2: Ethical Reasoning (Develop this in your thinking and writing)

Ethics and politics look at both how we should regard and accommodate each other and what kind of things make it possible to, for example, treat each other with respect and what kinds of things don't. That I might view you as "weird" or even "inhuman" (politics) may very much dictate how I then treat you (ethics). When we examine more closely how we think about the world, it turns out that ethics and politics are inseparable. (21) -- Veronique Pin-Fat "How Do We Begin to Think About the World." (2014)

Ethical Reasoning is reasoning about right and wrong human conduct. It requires students to be able to assess their own ethical values and the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, think about how different ethical perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas and consider the ramifications of alternative actions. An intellectual's ethical self identity evolves as they practice ethical decision-making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues.

Core Beliefs: Those fundamental principles that consciously or unconsciously influence one's ethical conduct and thinking. Even when unacknowledged, core beliefs shape one's thinking and actions. Core beliefs reflect an individual's interaction and absorption of ideas from their environment, religion, culture, education, profession, entertainments and other media forums (social media/news sources).

Ethical Perspectives/Concepts: The different theoretical means through which ethical issues are analyzed. A primary focus is on how ethical theories and concepts are engaged & contested to develop and explain one's own ethical position.

Context/Situation/Synthesize: 1) Understanding the complex context of important social and/or political issues. 2) Recognizing the situational aspect of some positions, insights and/or solutions. 3) Demonstration of an ability to understand and discuss more than one ethical position and/or dilemma (positions that reflect different ways of thinking about an ethical issue). Key to this is the synthesis of multiple sources/perspectives in order to develop one's own unique ethical perspective/position on important social or political issues.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Alfonso Cuarón (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive)

Introduction to Alfonso Cuarón:

Shkurny, Alex. "Defining truthfulness: Alfonso Cuaron." Filmustage (Ausgust 9, 2022)

Zarandona, José. "Great Directors: Cuarón, Alfonso." Senses of Cinema #49 (February 2009)

Vasiliauskas, Matt. "How Alfonso Cuarón Makes Every Shot Count." Studio Binder (August 12, 2019)


Film Options:

Y tu mamá también (Mexico: Alfonso Cuarón, 2001) 
MB: a sexy road movie in which two teen males hook up with a beautiful older woman. If this was made in Hollywood chances are it would be silly and immature. Instead, Cuarón provides us with a brash, honest look at human sexuality, complex emotions, and coming-of-age reckonings. No wonder the American censors were scared of this film ;)  This film catapulted Cuarón onto the global stage and added to the young actor Gael Garcia Bernal's growing reputation (coming on the heels of his role in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's 2000 film Amore Perros).
Film Description: "This smash road comedy from Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón is that rare movie to combine raunchy subject matter and emotional warmth. Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna shot to international stardom as a pair of horny Mexico City teenagers from different classes who, after their girlfriends jet off to Italy for the summer, are bewitched by a gorgeous older Spanish woman (Maribel Verdú) they meet at a wedding. When she agrees to accompany them on a trip to a faraway beach, the three form an increasingly intense and sensual alliance that ultimately strips them both physically and emotionally bare. Shot with elegance and dexterity by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Y tu mamá también is a funny and moving look at human desire." - The Criterion Collection
Resources for after you watch the film:
Carlos Aguilar: "When ‘Y Tu Mamá También’ Changed Everything."
Charles Taylor: "Y tu mamá también: Dirty Happy Things."
Ernesto R. Acevedo-Muñoz: "Sex, Class, and Mexico in Alfonso Cuarón's Y tu mamá también."
Coco Trejos: "Y Tu Mamá También and the Confines of Machismo."
Benson-Allott, Caetin. "Sex versus the small screen: home video censorship and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Children of Men (Japan/UK/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
MB: There are so many essays and videos on this important film that I simply had to stop before I disappeared down the cultural rabbit hole when I was updating my archive. This film is on my short list of favorite films of all time. I've seen it and have taught it at least a dozen times. I want to watch it again, right now!
Critics Consensus and Film Description (Rotten Tomatoes): "Children of Men works on every level: as a violent chase thriller, a fantastical cautionary tale, and a sophisticated human drama about societies struggling to live." "When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the survival of Earth's population; He must face down his own demons and protect the planet's last remaining hope from danger."
"When we say that Children of Men is, without a doubt, one of the best films made in this century, we put this claim forward calmly and only after a long and detailed deliberation. The main argument for the inclusion of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 dystopian science fiction thriller in this prestigious company actually has little to do with the astonishing and somewhat distressing fact that Cuarón’s vision of the future is so close in resemblance to our current day situation we could even call the filmmaker some kind of a prophet. Yes, the bleak, terrifying image of the world Cuarón foresaw for the year 2027 has a lot more in common with our present than any sane person would possibly hope for, but even the director himself would wave it off and refuse to accept a compliment regarding the visionary aspect of his work, simply explaining there are no prophetic qualities in Children of Men. He made the film with his eyes wide open, aware of the situation in the world and perceiving clearly the obvious signs of what direction the world was taking as early as then. Children of Men belongs to the elite gallery of top-notch films simply because it was made with extreme technical virtuosity, displaying a very high level of talent behind and in front of the camera." - Sven Mikulec (in the resource archive)
Archive of resources for after you watch the film

Gravity (UK/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
Film Description: "Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first Shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The Shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone-tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness of space. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space."
Resources for after you watch the film

Roma (Mexico/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
MB - I saw this movie at an art theater in San Diego with my Great Aunt Julie. She grew up as a child in the district in Mexico City that is represented in the film and afterward she told me that the film had perfectly captured the time/place of the district. She said it was like taking a trip back in time to her childhood. I headed off to the bathroom and when I came back she was animatedly talking to others that had grown up there. It was magical to see their faces lit up and excited to share these treasured memories. A great cinematic moment in my life!
"The perfectly controlled camera, either strictly still, panning or tilting, sometimes travelling with the characters, observing the spaces and their telling geometry rather than entering them. The depth of field, where the surrounding chaos often contrasts with the camera’s steadiness. Every single painstakingly precise detail in Alfonso Cuarón’s lauded film Roma, from the rigorous camerawork (under his own direction of photography) to the conspicuously meticulous mise-en-scène and production design, converges on the reconstruction of a past, recognizable in its slightest references. But that precision also reminds us that this is a past recalled, not a present lived. This distinction is relevant to a major accomplishment of the multi-award winning film about young indigenous domestic worker Cleo and the well-off family that employs her; an exploit that does not stem from Cuarón’s aesthetic mastery, but from his ethical approach – it is the honesty of the gaze. Underlying the entire project – an homage to the woman called Libo, who Cleo stands for; while the second sibling, Paco, represents the filmmaker himself – is a complex pre-existing system of power relations. The Mexican filmmaker averts a common danger when speaking from a privileged position one has not asked for: ignoring it." - Biénzobas
"With his eighth and most personal film, Alfonso Cuarón recreated the early-1970s Mexico City of his childhood, narrating a tumultuous period in the life of a middle-class family through the experiences of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, in a revelatory screen debut), the indigenous domestic worker who keeps the household running. Charged with the care of four small children abandoned by their father, Cleo tends to the family even as her own life is shaken by personal and political upheavals. Written, directed, shot, and coedited by Cuarón, Roma is a labor of love with few parallels in the history of cinema, deploying monumental black-and-white cinematography, an immersive soundtrack, and a mixture of professional and nonprofessional performances to shape its author’s memories into a world of enveloping texture, and to pay tribute to the woman who nurtured him." - Criterion Collection

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

ENG 102: Fall 2023 Resources #12

 Goff, Philip. Galileo's Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness. Pantheon Books, 2019. ["From a leading philosopher of the mind comes this lucid, provocative argument that offers a radically new picture of human consciousness--panpsychism. Understanding how brains produce consciousness is one of the great scientific challenges of our age. Some philosophers argue that consciousness is something "extra," beyond the physical workings of the brain. Others think that if we persist in our standard scientific methods, our questions about consciousness will eventually be answered. And some even suggest that the mystery is so deep, it will never be solved. Decades have been spent trying to explain consciousness from within our current scientific paradigm, but little progress has been made. Now, Philip Goff offers an exciting alternative that could pave the way forward. Rooted in an analysis of the philosophical underpinnings of modern science and based on the early twentieth-century work of Arthur Eddington and Bertrand Russell, Goff makes the case for panpsychism, a theory which posits that consciousness is not confined to biological entities but is a fundamental feature of all physical matter--from subatomic particles to the human brain. In Galileo's Error, he has provided the first step on a new path to the final theory of human consciousness."]

Goulet, Jean-Guy and David Young. Being Changed: The Anthropology of Extraordinary Experience. Broadview Press, 1994. ["Anthropologists of recent generations have always expressed enormous sympathy with 'non-rational' modes of thought, with the 'supernatural' experiences of people around the world. What they have rarely in their scholarly writing admitted to doing is giving any credence to the 'irrational' themselves-though such beliefs have long been common among those who have lived and worked for extended periods in cultures different from those that dominate Western society. Now, in a ground-breaking volume, leading anthropologists describe such experiences and analyze what can occur "when one opens one's self to aspects of experience that previously have been ignored or repressed." The ten contributions to the book include Edith Turner on 'A Visible Spirit Form in Zambia', Rab Wilkie on 'Ways of Approaching the Shaman's World', and Marie Francoise Guedon on 'Dene Ways and the Ethnographer's Culture'. The editors' introduction and conclusion extensively discuss the general issues involved. Being Changed is a book that directly challenges the rationalist bias in Western tradition by developing a new, 'experimental' approach to extraordinary experiences-and a book that takes traditional cultures seriously in a way that anthropology has rarely done before."]

Gregs, Tom, Eleanor McLaughlin, and Stephen Plant. "Dietrich Bonhoeffer." In Our Time (August 31, 2023) ["Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of the German theologian, born in Breslau/Wroclaw in 1906 and killed in the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9th April 1945. Bonhoeffer developed ideas about the role of the Church in the secular world, in particular Germany after the Nazis took power in 1933 and demanded the Churches' support. He strongly opposed anti-Semitism and, with a role in the Military Intelligence Department, took part in the resistance, plotting to kill Hitler and meeting with contacts in the Allies. Bonhoeffer's ideas on Christian ethics and the relationship between Christianity and humanism spread more widely from the 1960s with the discovery of unpublished works, including those written in prison as he awaited execution."]

Gunderman, Richard. "The manipulation of the American mind: Edward Bernays and the birth of public relations." Body and Soul (July 9, 2015) ["The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind." - Edward Bernays.]

Hecht, Jennifer Michael. "The Happiness Myth." The Vault (August 1, 2023)  ["In 2006, Jennifer Michael Hecht spoke to the Institute about her book, The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong. Hecht is a poet and historian, who holds a Ph.D. in the history of science/European cultural history from Columbia University. She has published four books of nonfiction and three books of poetry. She has taught in the MFA programs at Columbia University and the New School."]

Huberman, Andrew. "The Effects of Cannabis (Marijuana) on the Brain & Body." The Huberman Lab #92 (Posted on Youtube: October 2022) ["In this episode, I discuss cannabis (aka marijuana), including the biological mechanisms underlying its effects on the mind and body, its known medical applications, its impact on libido, creativity, hunger, hormones and more. I also cover the known adverse health consequences of chronic and even acute (one-time) use and the factors that determine if cannabis is helpful or harmful. Additionally, I detail how the various strains of cannabis: sativa, indica and hybrid strains, can produce such divergent effects depending on the strain type, THC-to-CBD ratio, total dosage, and frequency of use. I review why cannabis can impact speech patterns and one’s propensity to develop anxiety/depression during and after use and, in some individuals, paranoia. As the legal landscape for cannabis is rapidly evolving, this episode should interest a wide audience, including former/current cannabis users, those in the medical, sports, law enforcement, and educational communities and, of course, children, teenagers, and parents."]

---. "How Psilocybin Can Rewire Our Brain, Its Therapeutic Benefits & Its Risks." The Huberman Lab (May 8, 2023) ["In this episode, I discuss what psilocybin is (chemically) and how it works at the cellular and neural circuit level to trigger neuroplasticity, which is our brain’s ability to rewire itself in ways that lead to long-lasting shifts in our emotional, cognitive and behavioral patterns and abilities. I discuss the emerging clinical trial evidence for the use of psilocybin in the treatment of depression, addictions and other psychiatric challenges. I explain the typical duration and phases of a psilocybin journey, the different categories of dosages often used and I explain the importance of set, setting and support when using psychedelics. I explain which groups of people place themselves at great risk by taking psilocybin as well as groups that could benefit, and I highlight the rapidly changing legal and medical landscape around psilocybin. This episode is a thorough exploration of psilocybin from the scientific and clinical literature perspective and ought to be of interest to anyone curious about psilocybin, mental health, neuroplasticity and/or psychedelics more generally."]

---. "What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health." Huberman Lab #86 (Posted on Youtube: August 2022) ["In this episode, I discuss the physiological effects that drinking alcohol has on the brain and body at different levels of consumption and over time. I also describe genetic differences that predispose certain individuals to alcoholism, binge and habit-drinking. I explain alcohol metabolism in simple terms and how it effectively acts as a poison, leading to cellular stress and damage. I then explain that it impacts neuronal function and changes our thinking and behavior – hallmarks of inebriation. I also discuss how alcohol consumption of different amounts impacts inflammation, stress, neurodegeneration, and cancer risk and negatively impacts the gut microbiome, brain thickness, hormone balance, mood and feelings of motivation. Additionally, I discuss the biology of hangovers and describe science-based strategies to mitigate the severity of a hangover. Since alcohol is one of the most widely consumed recreational substances, this episode ought to be of relevance to everyone. Indeed, even low-to-moderate alcohol consumption negatively impacts the brain and body in direct ways. The goal of this episode is to help people make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption that are in keeping with their mental and physical health goals."]

Johnson, Michael K. "Speculative Wests: Popular Representations of a Region and Genre (University of Nebraska Press, 2023)." New Books in the American West (April 20, 2023) ["The Western as a genre is alive and vibrant, argues University of Maine - Farmington professor of English literature Michael K. Johnson. In Speculative Wests: Popular Representations of a Region and a Genre (U Nebraska Press, 2023), Johnson explains how authors, directors, and storytellers are pushing the classic genre into new directions by hybridizing Western tropes with science fiction, horror, and fantasy storytelling. These new speculative Westerns are revitalizing a genre, which has grown incredibly popular in recent years through television series like The Last of Us and Westworld, as well as many examples in film and literature. Speculative Westerns have also allowed space for Native and African American writers and storytellers to expand the genre into more inclusive spaces, telling stories about people often left out or stereotyped in more traditional Western stories. By including time travel, zombies, and vampires, Johnson argues that the Western has cemented itself with a new generation of Americans as one of the critical cultural narratives for understanding the United States."]

Kaag, John. "Henry at Work." Open Source (September 7, 2023) ["Have no doubt that the gabby man-about-Concord in the 1850s was a worker: expert surveyor, gardener, as many trades as fingers, he said, not to mention the writer of Walden and Civil Disobedience, of course, and a life journal that came to two million words. We read Henry Thoreau anew for his insight into our work, not his: the often fruitless, driven, underpaid labor of the 2020s, and, oddly enough, our midnight anxiety that ChatGPT could take it all away. This is a conversation in the Harvard Bookstore with our friend the philosopher John Kaag, who co-wrote the pungent and personal handbook titled Henry at Work."]

Leber, Rebecca. "Bringing Climate Change Into the Courtroom." On the Media (September 22, 2023) ["Last week, the state of California sued five of the world's biggest oil companies for a "decades-long campaign of deception" around the danger of fossil fuels. And just days earlier, a group of small island nations struggling with storms and rising seas appeared before an international court to seek relief, arguing that excessive greenhouse gasses are pollutants that violate international law. Last month, a group of young people in Montana, ranging from ages 5 to 22, won a momentous lawsuit when a judge ruled that the state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects was unconstitutional. These suits are all part of a rising strategy to bring climate action directly into the courtroom, and to force those most responsible for the climate crisis to pay up, and to pay attention. A report published this summer, sponsored by the UN Environment Program and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, tracked this surge in climate lawsuits, and found that the caseload stood at 2,180 as of the end of last year. That’s more than double the number in 2017. And they’re not just cases in the U.S. — around 30% were filed elsewhere in the world, with an increasing number from the Global South, which faces the brunt of climate impacts. This week, Brooke speaks with Rebecca Leber, who covers climate change for Vox, about the recent rise of climate litigation, the different legal strategies at play, and how the evolving definition of a human right to a healthy environment has the potential to reshape domestic laws."]

ENG 281 Week 7 Film Options: Zombies Contemporary (16 Week)

MB - Something happened to zombies in the 21st Century. They became faster and more dangerous, no longer shambling, mindless automatons (although the extremely popular The Walking Dead (2010 - 2022) series, adapted from a comic books series, carried that tradition on). Of course, George Romero was seemingly ahead of everyone else when he created the zombie character Bub in the 1985 film The Day of the Dead (the 3rd film in his zombie world). Post 9-11, and later post-pandemic (kind of eerie how prescient some of these zombie films were in regards to a possible epidemic), in the US, they became representative, a metaphor for every social, environmental, or political problem we face. Zombies were everywhere. We even have fungal zombies that seem to be representative of our new viral fears, as seen in the series The Last of Us (2023 - Ongoing; adapted from a popular video game).  Needless to say there has been an explosion of non-fiction and fiction zombie books. There was even a recent musical zombie film: Anna and the Apocalypse (UK: John McPhail, 2017). Here is a political/philosophical theory book on the 21st Century zombie phenomenon: Zombies in Western Culture: A 21st Century Crisis. Even the great philosopher of consciousness, David Chalmers, has written and theorized about zombies in our culture: Zombies on the Web. No doubt there have been a flood of graduate student thesis/dissertations of zombie culture like this 2009 dissertation by Kyle Bishop: DEAD MAN STILL WALKING: A CRITICAL INVESTIGATION INTO THE RISE AND FALL . . . AND RISE OF ZOMBIE CINEMA

28 Days Later (UK: Danny Boyle, 2002)
MB - Danny Boyle, the director that became globally famous for his remarkable film Trainspotting (1996), brings the energy of that film to the moribund zombie genre at the turn of the century. I remember when I saw this in the theaters when it was released, it was an innovation because the zombies were fast and very aggressive. It was a thrilling reinvention of the genre that would become very influential for later zombie films/series.
Film description: "A group of misguided animal rights activists free a caged chimp infected with the "Rage" virus from a medical research lab. When London bike courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma a month after, he finds his city all but deserted. On the run from the zombie-like victims of the Rage, Jim stumbles upon a group of survivors, including Selena (Naomie Harris) and cab driver Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and joins them on a perilous journey to what he hopes will be safety."
Archive of resources for after you have watched the film

Shaun of the Dead (UK/France, Edgar Wright, 2004)
"Shaun of the Dead is rare in its ability to deliver comedy and horror in equal measure, without compromising either. The screenplay by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is replete with comedic details, as slacker electronics salesman Shaun and his gang of friends fight off zombies with weapons such as cricket bats and a vinyl copy of Sade’s Diamond Life, leading up to a tense standoff at a local pub. Part of the fun is in spotting the homages to classic zombie flicks, such as a restaurant called Fulci’s and music cues from Dawn of the Dead." – Kelly Robinson
Archive of resources for after you watch the film

Pontypool (Canada: Bruce McDonald, 2008)
Film Description: "When disc jockey Grant Mazzy reports to his basement radio station in the Canadian town of Pontypool, he thinks it’s just another day at work. But when he hears reports of a virus that turns people into zombies, Mazzy barricades himself in the radio booth and tries to figure out a way to warn his listeners about the virus and its unlikely mode of transmission."
Archive of resources for after you watch the film

Zombieland (USA: Ruben Fleischer, 2009)
MB - a funny and irreverent take on the Zombie genre, with a good cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin). Jesse Eisenberg's Columbus with his rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse is very amusing and Woody Harrelson as the devil-may-care Tallahassee is perfectly cast. 
Film Description: "Columbus has made a habit of running from what scares him. Tallahassee doesn’t have fears. If he did, he’d kick their ever-living ass. In a world overrun by zombies, these two are perfectly evolved survivors. But now, they’re about to stare down the most terrifying prospect of all: each other."
Sorry, no resources for this one, pretend you are on your own like Columbus, and make it up as you go ;)

Train to Busan (South Korea: Sang-ho Yeon, 2016)
MB - I had a handful of students demand that I watch this South Korean take on the zombie film. It is a great example of the new type of zombies :)
Film Description: "Martial law is declared when a mysterious viral outbreak pushes Korea into a state of emergency. Those on an express train to Busan, a city that has successfully fended off the viral outbreak, must fight for their own survival…"
Resource for after you watch the film:

The Girl With All the Gifts (UK: Colm McCarthy, 2016)
MB - an interesting addition to the zombie genre is the centering of the story on young females who hold the cure to the epidemic within their bodies (also see The Last of Us (2023 - Ongoing TV series; adapted from a popular video game)
Film description: "In the future, a strange fungus has changed nearly everyone into a thoughtless, flesh-eating monster. When a scientist and a teacher find a girl who seems to be immune to the fungus, they all begin a journey to save humanity."
Resources for after you watch the film:
Brian Eggert on the film
Lea Anderson "Be(ware) The Swallowing: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS"

One Cut of the Dead (Japan: Shin'ichirô Ueda, 2017) 
MB - According to IMDB it cost $25,000 to make this film and it made over $25 million. This alone makes it a significant independent horror film!
Film description: "Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies."
Resources for after you watch the film:
Michael Frank: ONE CUT OF THE DEAD: Under the Hood of Horror
Brian Eggert on the film

Pontypool (Canada: Bruce McDonald, 2008)


"You have to stop understanding! Stop understanding what you are saying! Stop understanding and listen to me!" - Grant Mazzy

Pontypool (Canada: Bruce McDonald, 2008: 93 mins)

"BBC World Service: Pontypool [the radio drama]." SFF Audio (September 3, 2009)

Burgess, Tony, et al. "Pontypool." The Projection Booth #294 (October 25, 2016) ["In a rather different take on the typical zombie story,Bruce McDonald's Pontypool (2008) has the English language as the infectious agent which drives people mad. Written by Tony Burgess (and based on his novel, Pontypool Changes Everything), the film stars Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy, a shock jock from the big city now working in backwater Ontario with his audio engineer Laurel-Ann (Georgina Reilly) and producer Syndey Briar (Lisa Houle)."]

Deshane, Evelyn and R. Travis Morton. "The Words Change Everything: Haunting, Contagion and The Stranger in Tony Burgess’s Pontypool." London Journal of Canadian Studies 33.5 (2018): 58-76.

Eggert, Brian. "Pontypool." Deep Focus Review (May 28, 2009)

Gibron, Bill. "Pontypool Plays with the Notion of Truth, Terror." Pop Matters (May 31, 2009)

Halfyard, Kurt. "From Pontypool to the Metaverse in 98 minutes: A Conversation with Bruce McDonald." Screen Anarchy (March 6, 2009)

Holmes, Taylor. "Let Me Explain Why Pontypool is Zombies Done Right." Thinc. (November 19, 2017)

Ottmann, Solveig. "Broadcasting Death: Radio, Media History and Zombies in Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool." The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Stories 13 (Summer 2014): 38-56.

Subissati, Andrea and Alexandra West. "Kill is Kiss: Pontypool (2008)." Faculty of Horror #24 (February 25, 2015) ["Up is down, left is right and black is white in this month’s episode. Tackling the Canadian winter horror film Pontypool, Andrea and Alex talk about national identity, broadcast journalism and how the stories we tell should stop making sense."]

Shaun of the Dead ((UK/France/USA: Edgar Wright, 2004)


Shaun of the Dead (UK/France/USA: Edgar Wright, 2004: 99 mins)

Shaun of the Dead is rare in its ability to deliver comedy and horror in equal measure, without compromising either. The screenplay by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright is replete with comedic details, as slacker electronics salesman Shaun and his gang of friends fight off zombies with weapons such as cricket bats and a vinyl copy of Sade’s Diamond Life, leading up to a tense standoff at a local pub. Part of the fun is in spotting the homages to classic zombie flicks, such as a restaurant called Fulci’s and music cues from Dawn of the Dead. – Kelly Robinson

Bishop, Kyle William. "Dead Man Still Walking: A Critical Investigation into the Rise and Fall . . . and Rise of Zombie Cinema." (Dissertation for Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona: 2009)

Chen, David. "Edgar Wright and the Art of Close Ups." (Posted on Vimeo: 2014)

Ebert, Roger. "Shaun of the Dead." Chicago Sun-Times (September 24, 2004)

Hancock, James and Kyle Reardon. "Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy." Wrong Reel #142 (June 6, 2016)

Martinovic, Paul. "Looking Back at Shaun of the Dead." Den of Geek (May 29, 2012)

Nance, Chad. "Film Reconsideration: Shaun of the Dead." Camel City Dispatch (February 12, 2014)

Tucker, Michael, et al. "Shaun of the Dead." Beyond the Screenplay (February 7, 2019)

Zhou, Tony. "Edgar Wright: How to Do Visual Comedy." (Posted on Vimeo: May 2014)

28 Days Later (UK: Danny Boyle, 2002)


28 Days Later (UK: Danny Boyle, 2002: 113 mins)

Baishya, Anirban Kapil. "Trauma, Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction & Trauma." Wide Screen 3.1 (June 2011)

Booker, M. Keith. "28 DAYS LATER (2002, Director Danny Boyle)." Comments on Culture (2020)

Froula, Anna. "Prolepsis and the 'War on Terror': Zombie Pathology and the Culture of Fear in 28 Days Later...." Reframing 9/11: Film, Popular Culture and the "War on Terror." ed. Jeff Birkenstein, et al. NY: Continuum, 2010: 195-2008. [Your professor has a copy]

Kunkel, Benjamin. "Dystopia and the End of Politics." Dissent (Fall 2008)

Prewitt, Zach. "The Best Horror Cinema of the 21st Cinema." (Posted on Vimeo: October 2016)

Read, Jason. "Zombie as Critic." Unemployed Negativity (June 11, 2007)

Subissati, Andrea and Alexandra West. "Homegrown: 28 Days Later." The Faculty of Horror #111 (October 28, 2022) ["Andrea and Alex cross the pond to revisit Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic film that brought the zombie genre back to (un)life. From virology to bodily autonomy to Brexit, there’s a lot to chew on."]

Monday, September 25, 2023

ENG 102: Fall 2023 Resources #11

 Anderson, Ellie and David M. Peña-Guzmán. "Exercise." Overthink #83 (August 1, 2023) ["Western philosophy started… at the gym. ... Ellie and David tackle the philosophy of workouts, from Plato’s days as a wrestler to the modern loneliness of a solitary bench press. As they discuss the role of exercise — which the Greeks called gymnastics — in building bodies and training souls, they consider the ancient Olympics, the cravings for health and beauty that guide us through what David calls the "Protestant work-out ethic," and Jean Baudrillard's thoughts about Americans' passion for jogging."]

Arcas, Blaise Agüera y. "The Illusion of AI's Existential Risk." NOEMA (July 18, 2023) ["Focusing on the prospect of human extinction by AI in the distant future may prevent us from addressing AI’s disruptive dangers to society today."]

Benazzo, Mauricio and Zaya Benazzo. "After the Wisdom of Trauma." Sounds of Sand #51 (September 7, 2023) ["Today on the podcast, we welcome two special guests, Science and Nonduality co-founders Zaya and Maurizio Benazzo. Zaya and Maurizio are both filmmakers and activists. They merged their lifelong passions for science and mysticism when they met in 2007, and their first project together was filming the documentary Rays of the Absolute on the life and teachings of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. This project sparked their next level of creation and collaboration: SAND, a global community inspired by timeless wisdom traditions, informed by modern science, and grounded in direct experience. In 2021 they released the acclaimed documentary The Wisdom of Trauma featuring Dr. Gabor Maté. And for the past year they have been traveling the globe working on their next documentary about indigenous cultures, resilience, and an expansion of what is meant by Nonduality and Science, all today on the Sounds of SAND Podcast."]

Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Open Road Media, 2011. ["Acclaimed scholar and sociologist Peter L. Berger carefully lays out an understanding of religion as a historical, societal mechanism in this classic work of social theory. Berger examines the roots of religious belief and its gradual dissolution in modern times, applying a general theoretical perspective to specific examples from religions throughout the ages. Building upon the author’s previous work, The Social Construction of Reality, with Thomas Luckmann, this book makes Berger’s case that human societies build a “sacred canopy” to protect, stabilize, and give meaning to their worldview."]

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome.  "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)."  Monster Theory: Reading Culture. ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. University of Minnesota Press, 1996: 3 - 25. ["Monsters are our children. They can be pushed to the farthest margins of geography and discourse, hidden away at the edges of the world and in the forbidden recesses of our mind, but they always return. And when they come back, they bring not just a fuller knowledge of our place in history and the history of knowing our place, but they bear self knowledge, human knowledge—and a discourse all the more sacred as it arises from the Outside. These monsters ask us how we perceive the world, and how we have misrepresented what we have attempted to place. They ask us to reevaluate our cultural assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, our perception of difference, our tolerance toward its expression. They ask us why we have created them."]

Corriveau, Arielle. "A Spectacle of Modified Bodies: The Contemporary Grand-Guignolesque as a Feminist Challenge to Somatophobia in American Mary." Monstrum #2 (June 2019) ["What if you could make “five grand” in one night? Would you accept, even if it was illegal—even if you might be enticed to turn a single offer into an ongoing practice? In American Mary (2012), a horror film directed by the Canadian sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska, the protagonist, a medical student, takes such an offer but soon finds herself unable to come back to her normal life. American Mary centers on Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle), a broke, aspiring surgeon who falls into the strange world of body modification (also known as “bodmod”) in order to obtain enough money to continue her studies. However, her life takes a dark turn when her oppressive medical school professor breaks her trust and rapes her at a party. After that traumatic experience, Mary is enticed by the earnings associated with bodmod surgery— and possibly the renewed agency she gains from this practice—and she leaves medical school to open her own underground clinic in the bodmod community. Focused on visceral surgical procedures that provoke affective meaning, American Mary offers a critical engagement with bodmod culture and normative patriarchal fears of the body as a site of transformation and (especially in the female body) adaptability. In its championing of bodies on display, American Mary is a Grand-Guignolesque horror movie that advances a feminist vision of erotic voyeurism where a woman can inhabit and be in control of her sexuality without being reduced by it. 1 American Mary explores the limits and limitations of body modification as a form of self-expression in order to show how our society’s fear of the female body pushes unreasonable expectations onto women, and it concludes that we should instead celebrate and accept the diversity of bodies in our culture."]

Dorian, M.J. "Creativity Tip 21: Think Less, Play More." Creative Codex (August 6, 2023) ["What is the hidden link between play and creativity? Why do we discourage adults from play? How do you heal your relationship with play and improve your creativity? As we journey from childhood into adulthood, the world demands that we abandon play and daydream–relegating them to the domain of childhood. But of the many sacrifices we all must make in our transition into adulthood, this sacrifice is the most damaging to our creativity. It's time we heal our relationship with play and reimagine its place in our daily lives."]

Final Girl Studios. "Why American Psycho is More Relevant Than Ever (And Why Women Love It)." (Posted on Youtube:  February 15, 2023)  [MB - This is a very insightful video essay - the montage of Instagram influencers set to Bateman's morning routine monologue is chilling. Movie description: "A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies."]

Ford, Phil, J.F. Martel, and Meredith Michael. "That Ain't Plot: On Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away." Weird Studies (February 15, 2023) ["Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away is one of those rare films that is both super popular and super weird. Rife with cinematic non sequiturs, unforgettable imagery, and moments of horror, it is an outstanding example of a story form that goes all the way back to the myth of Psyche and Eros from Apuleius's Golden Ass, if not earlier. In this type of story, a girl on the cusp of maturity steps into a magical realm where people and things from waking life reappear, draped in the gossamer of dream and nightmare. Musicologist and WS assistant Meredith Michael joins JF and Phil to discuss a strange jewel of Japanese animated cinema."]

Foster, Nicola, et al. "Corals." In Our Time (August 3, 2023) ["Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the simple animals which informed Charles Darwin's first book, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, published in 1842. From corals, Darwin concluded that the Earth changed very slowly and was not fashioned by God. Now coral reefs, which some liken to undersea rainforests, are threatened by human activity, including fishing, pollution and climate change."]

Gianninni, Erin. "“If I stop doing that job, they don’t stop eating”: iZombie and the Sociopolitical Dimensions of Food." Monstrum #2 (June 2019) ["Zombies serve as a handy metaphor for any number of interpretations: fear of revenge from enslaved or colonized individuals (White Zombie [1932], I Walked with a Zombie [1943]); rampant consumerism (Dawn of the Dead [1978]) (Posey 2014); pandemics (28 Days Later [2002]) (Abbott, 2018: 13-23); and contemporary fears of both immigration and one another (The Walking Dead [2010-present]). It is a trope that filmmakers and creators continue to turn to, with a significant spike in zombie narratives over the past 20 years (172 released between 2000 and 2010, and 176 released or produced between 2011 and 2016) (Crockett and Zarracina, 2016). Because of their liminal notdead/not alive status, zombies, like other hybrid monsters, are feared as “the products of the culture that shapes them and bear within their myths the imprint of existing social conditions” (Lauro and Embry 100). They can only infect; “no zombie body is relieved of its condition by passing it on” (Lauro and Embry 100), and thus zombie-ism as a symbol cannot be transformative or liberating, unlike the image of the cyborg (Lauro and Embry 87). The zombie body can, however, symbolize (or reflect) the society in which zombie narratives are employed."]

Lee, Nathan. "Plastic Fantastic." Film Comment (July 31, 2023) ["By the time you read these words, the detonation of Barbie discourse will likely have faded to its most tedious aftereffect: commentary on the mountain of gold it accumulated on opening weekend and What This Means for the Movies (and for Women). You have surely endured, and perhaps contributed to, one of the half-dozen meme cycles the film has engendered since it broke the internet. You will have followed the factions of the Barbie vs. Oppenheimer contretemps as they reached the cringe détente known as Barbenheimer. Now that every corner of the cultural commentariat has weighed in, you may have read that Barbie is an exuberant girlboss fantasia, that it is yasss and slay, that it has its cake and eats it too. Alternatively, you may have been informed that just as there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, there is no feminist anti-capitalist critique immanent to a cinematic production beholden to Mattel, Inc. Alas, you might even have heard the bobbleheads on Fox News denounce the film as “anti-man” and accuse it of promoting “trans grooming,” a phrase that can only be taken seriously when applied to transgender employees at a dog spa."]

Friday, September 22, 2023

Wendy and Lucy (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2008)


Wendy and Lucy (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2008: 80 mins)

Chan, Jason Jude. "Wendy and Lucy Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt Discusses Her Slice of Life New Indie." Flavorwire (December 10, 2008)

Hassania, Tina. "Female Homelessness in Agnès Varda’s Vagabond and Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy." Cleo 1.2 (July 25, 2013)

Littman, Sam. "Great Directors: Kelly Reichardt." Senses of Cinema (June 2014)

Scott. A.O. "Neo-Neo-Realism." The New York Times (March 22, 2009)

Thought Pusher. "Flashback 2008: Heartbreak in a Pan: 25 Seconds in Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy." Bright Lights Film Journal (May 6, 2014)

Old Joy (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2006)


Old Joy (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2006: 76 mins)

Ebert, Roger. "Old Joy." Roger Ebert (November 2, 2006)

Fox, Neil and Dario Linares. "Old Joy/I Am Belfast (with Mark Cousins)." The Cinematologists #28 (June 26, 2016)

Halter, Ed. "Old Joy: Northwest Passages." Current (December 12, 2019)

Littman, Sam. "Great Directors: Kelly Reichardt." Senses of Cinema (June 2014)

Nayman, Adam. "Beyond Words: Old Joy and My Dinner With Andre." Reverse Shot #29 (2011)

Ogundare, Tope. "Male Love Through Female Eyes - Five films about men, each directed by a woman. What do we learn?" (Posted on Vimeo: March 24, 2016)

Pinn, Marcus, Brian Risselda and Josh Ryan. "Kelly Reichardt." Syndrome and a Cinema #11 (June 28, 2014)

Kelly Reichardt (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive)

Kelly Reichardt is an American filmmaker whose films take a poetic look at the struggles of people in their everyday lives. These films are meditative, have strong acting, and naturalistic settings. Even when dealing with intense moments, she pulls inward to reflect on smaller details and she masterfully uses silence as well as sound. I find these films to be very moving, but we as an audience need to actively view the films. They require our full attention. For future filmmakers in this class, Reichardt is a major independent filmmaker and her films are examples of what one can do through good storytelling, with a committed cast.  River of Grass (1994) was her first film, it is a good look at a respected filmmaker starting out, but our film options will start with her 2nd film. 

This third intro to Kelly Reichardt is excellent and important, but I would recommend you wait till after you view your film, as it is full of spoilers for many of the films:

Old Joy (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
"Almost from the moment it arrived on screens in early 2006, Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy was celebrated as a new milestone for American cinema, even an expression of independent filmmaking’s delayed arrival at maturity. In relating its deceptively simple tale about two thirty­something friends who reunite for an overnight trip to the mountains, the film covers a remarkable amount of territory in its slim seventy-three minutes, offering not only a finely detailed character study of two men approaching the edge of middle age but also a sympathetic analysis of contemporary masculinity, an impressionistic portrait of coastal-liberal ennui, and an exemplar of economical storytelling. The critical ecstasy over the film following its premiere at Sundance—Amy Taubin, for example, argued that “by its sheer existence . . . Old Joy suggests that all is not yet lost”—came despite the fact that it had been somewhat incongruously tucked away in an experimental sidebar alongside nonfiction works by visual artists such as Kevin Jerome Everson and Sharon Lockhart. What critics discovered was a well-wrought fiction grounded in all-too-real life that presents our own world back to us in ways antithetical to the obstreperous tenor of most modern media. In contrast to the light comedies that had become the Sundance norm, Reichardt’s story­telling is oblique and deliberate, nuanced, deeply assured and profoundly tentative, marking a firm defiance against the clamor—and perhaps the hopelessness—of the twenty-first century." - Ed Halter
Resources for after you watch the film

Wendy and Lucy (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2008)|
Film Description: "Wendy, a near-penniless drifter, is traveling to Alaska in search of work, and her only companion is her dog, Lucy." MB - I've cut the film description because it gives away major plot details. Short, powerful, naturalistic film that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the impending economic collapse (keeping in mind she made it before 2008) and the quiet desperation of those living on the edge.
Resources for After You Watch the Film

Meek's Cutoff (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
Film Description: "During the 1840s, six settlers and their guide are caught in a dangerous situation: They are lost, food and water are running out, and the surrounding desert threatens to claim them all. Meanwhile, their guide, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), refuses to acknowledge that they may be several weeks off-course. When a Native American (Rod Rondeaux) is captured, Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams), one of the settlers, shields him from Meek's wrath, and he offers to lead the group to water in return."
Resources for after you watch the film

Night Moves (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2014)
Film Description: "Two Oregon environmentalists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning) and a former Marine (Peter Sarsgaard) hatch a plan to blow up a hydroelectric dam."
Resource for after you watch the film:
Brian Eggert's response to the film 
Kelly Reichardt at Film at the Lincoln Center discusses the making of Night Moves

Certain Women (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2016)
Film Description: "Three strong-willed women (Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams) strive to forge their own paths amidst the wide-open plains of the American Northwest: a lawyer who finds herself contending with both office sexism and a hostage situation; a wife and mother whose determination to build her dream home puts her at odds with the men in her life; and a young law student who forms an ambiguous bond with a lonely ranch hand."
Resources for after you watch the film:
Lash, Dominic. "'A fair curve from a noble plan': Certain Women." Movie #9 (2021)
Leach, Hope Dickson. "Kelly Reichardt and Humanism as a Political Statement." Talkhouse (March 29, 2017)
Mayer, Sophie. "Certain Women." Another Gaze (March 4, 2017)
Taylor, Ella. "Certain Women: Trapped Under the Big Sky." Current (September 19, 2017)

First Cow (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2020)
Film Description: "Two travelers, on the run from a band of vengeful hunters in the 1820s Northwest, dream of striking it rich -- but their tenuous plan to make their fortune on the frontier comes to rely on the secret use of a landowner's prized dairy cow."
Resources for after you watch the film:
Goncharov, Stefan. "The Idea of History in Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow." Photogénie (December 9, 2020)
Gross, Larry. "Milk Money: Director Kelly Reichardt on the New World and Nascent Capitalism of First Cow." Filmmaker (March 17, 2020)
Hudson, David. "Kelly Reichardt's First Cow." The Current (October 3, 2019)

Showing Up (USA: Kelly Reichardt, 2023)
Film Description: "Kelly Reichardt’s latest feature, Showing Up, is a delicate, witty, yet deeply profound film about the messy ways in which living and surviving can get in the way of art-making. The film follows a ceramics artist, Lizzy (Michelle Williams), who prepares for an upcoming gallery show while wrangling family issues, the interpersonal politics of her day job at an art school, and problems with her landlord, who happens to be none other than her more successful colleague, Jo (Hong Chau). Not to mention the injured pigeon that Lizzy is suddenly forced to care for... It’s a new riff on themes familiar from Reichardt’s work, like friendship and the ways in which precarity impinges upon community, but it’s also the director's funniest film yet, one that finds joy and comedy in its milieu of eccentric, sometimes petty, yet infectiously passionate artists. With Showing Up arriving in theaters this week, Film Comment Co-Deputy Editor Devika Girish interviewed Reichardt about the making of the film, the casting of Williams and Chau, the work of Cynthia Lahti, Michelle Segre, and the various other artists who are featured in the film, and much more." - The Film Comment Podcast
Resources for after you watch the film:
Hudson, David. "Kelly Reichardt and Showing Up." The Current (April 6, 2023)
Nayman, Adam. "Take These Broken Wings: Kelly Reichardt on Showing Up." Cinema Scope #92 (September 2022)
Reichardt, Kelly. "On Showing Up." The Film Comment Podcast (April 4, 2023)
---. "Showing Up." Screen Slate #24 (April 7, 2023) 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

ENG 281: Week 6 - Classic Zombies (16 Week)

Our introduction is by Matt Zoller Seitz
"Ever since director George A. Romero released his 1968 shocker Night of the Living Dead—which reimagined zombies, the dark magic-entranced slaves of voodoo folklore, as shambling fiends that crave warm flesh and can only be offed with a head shot—the zombie genre has displaced the western as cinema’s most popular and durable morality play. As the video essay “Zombie 101” demonstrates, while the genre’s superficial appeal is the spectacle of torn and mangled flesh—living and dead—its deeper resonance lies in its portrait of ordinary people struggling to survive in extreme circumstances.

Ultimately zombie films aren’t about the zombies, which have no conscious mind and therefore no personality. They’re a collective menace—rotting emblems of plague, catastrophe, war, and other world-upending events. The films depict representative social types wandering amid the ruins of the civilization they once took for granted, trying to reconcile their pre-zombie moral code (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) with the harsh necessities of the present (“If you’ve got a gun, shoot ’em in the head,” a sheriff tells a TV reporter in Night of the Living Dead, adding, “If you don’t, get yourself a club or a torch. Beat ’em or burn ’em, they go down pretty easy”).

If there’s no military, no police force, no law, no justice, and no hope, what’s the point of being decent as opposed to selfish? Might it be possible that, under such unimaginably awful circumstances, selfishness is decency? And if your mom is bitten by a zombie, at what point is it all right to stop treating her like your mom and reach for the 12-gauge? Dear Abby never had to ponder such questions. To quote the alternative title of a 1974 Werner Herzog movie, in zombie films it’s every man for himself and God against all. And as survivors sift through the rubble, weighing selfish imperatives against kinder, gentler impulses that might get them and everyone around them killed, the genre pulls off a nifty bit of creative jujitsu, defining civilization, morality, stability, and decency by depicting their opposites."

Film options:

Night of the Living Dead (USA: George Romero, 1968)
MB: This is the seminal modern Zombie film and Romero was always associated with the zombie genre. He would go on to make 6 more 'Dead' films (you are welcome to watch any of the other ones for final project response credits) and other directors would make films in the "cinematic world." I have seen this film multiple times and it still holds up today. The subtext also still resonates (I don't want to spoil anything).
"The film that established the cinematic zombie as we still know it, George Romero‘s debut remains so rich in socio-political allegory, so fascinating in its discussions around race, gender and the fundamental impossibility of peaceful human coexistence, and so central in shaping the landscape of contemporary horror cinema, that one particular aspect of the film is often overlooked – just how damn beautiful it is. Shot on gorgeously grainy black and white, it blends vérité-like realism with bold cuts and exaggerated angles, crafting a monochromatic marvel that feels simultaneously retro and forward thinking. No matter which of Romero’s Dead films tops your own personal list, there’s no denying that the days to follow never looked as good as the night before." – Michael Blyth
Resources for After You Watch the Film

Zombie (aka Zombi 2, or, Zombie Flesh Eaters) (Italy: Lucio Fulci, 1979)
MB: This film is clearly seeking to exploit the market in the aftermath of Romero's 2nd zombie film Dawn of the Dead (1978). It is low budget, with not a whole lot of plot, but horror fans appreciate its non-stop gore and the over-the-top zombie vs shark scene.
"After making his name in the giallo subgenre, Lucio Fulci breathed new life into his career with this ultra-gory 1979 masterpiece about a group of unfortunate Americans who foolishly set sail for a remote Caribbean island that's crawling with worm-filled zombies. Thanks to its extraordinarily gruesome FX and that still-unbelievable zombie vs. shark-scene, ZOMBIE sparked a zombie-gore trend in Italy, and landed itself a permanent spot on the list of the greatest zombie movies in
the history of the subgenre." - Shudder
Resources for after you watch the film:
Dixon, Winston Wheeler. "Surrealism and Sudden Death in the Films of Lucio Fulci." Film International (December 24, 2012)

Re-Animator (USA: Stuart Gordon, 1985)
MB: This film had achieved cult status by the time I was a grad student and I remember tracking down a video copy to watch with friends. We had a great time with the over-the-top horror film, which still came off as a very well made film. Jeffrey Combs is perfect as the main character crazed scientist Herbert West. There was a sequel and it even had a musical production.
Film Description: "Adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s sepulchral 1922 pulp horror story, arguably the first such tale to ever consider scientifically affected corpses as zombies, Re-Animator is Stuart Gordon’s cult classic trip into the realm of the living dead. Conducting clandestine experiments within the morgue at Miskatonic University, scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond) reveals to fellow graduate student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) his groundbreaking work concerning the re-animation of fresh corpses. West’s secret reagent is a powerful injection with the capacity to give life where there is none – destined to capture the imagination of the entire scientific community. However, between life and death is a thin thread of understanding and when obsession gets the better of West, there is no stopping his wicked ways – dead or alive!"
Resources for after you watch the film:
Roger Ebert's review of the film
An article by Lauren Coates on how the LGBTQ horror fan base has embraced the campy aesthetics of Re-animator

Cemetery Man (Italy: Michele Soavi, 1994)
MB: This is easily one of my favorite zombie films. It is existential, romantic, sexy, horrific, comedic, surreal, shlocky - seriously, I could go on. It is based on a hugely popular Italian comic book Dylan Dog whose protagonist's look is actually based on Rupert Evert who plays the main character in the film. 
Film Description: "Something is causing the dead to rise from their graves as flesh-eating zombies, and cemetery custodian Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) grows tired of killing them all for the second time. However, the town politicians won't listen to him, so Francesco is on his own. One day, he falls for a beautiful woman (Anna Falchi) whose husband has recently died -- but their affair is tragically interrupted by zombies, sending Francesco into a tailspin of madness and woe."
Resources for after you watch the film:

Kuersten, Erich. "The Shrouds of Soavi: Cemetery Man, The Devil's Daughter." Acidemic (September 8, 2016)

Curtis, Kyle. "“Cemetery Man”: A philosophical film, with zombies!." Cinephiled (ND)

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Paul Thomas Anderson (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive)

 Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best filmmakers of the 21st Century. His first film Hard Eight  (1996) is a good debut and shows the style/flair that would develop in his later films, but I would like us to focus on the later films as this is when the PTA that is celebrated really starts to take off (also the final control of Hard Eight was taken away by the studio - notably, in the title of the film which PTA wanted to be Sydney, after the protagonist - this never happened to him again). 

There is an ocean of critical responses to PTA's films and filmmaking, so as an introduction, I will provide you with video essays that do not ruin the plots of the film and take a look at his career trajectory and filmmaking style.

166. The Career of Paul Thomas Anderson in Five Shots from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo.

The trailers for the films can be accessed by clicking on the titles.
Notice the link for the archive of resources below the titles - check them out after watching the film to expand and enrich your viewing experience, and to think about your responses.

Boogie Nights (1997)
Film description: "Set in 1977, back when sex was safe, pleasure was a business and business was booming, idealistic porn producer Jack Horner aspires to elevate his craft to an art form. Horner discovers Eddie Adams, a hot young talent working as a busboy in a nightclub, and welcomes him into the extended family of movie-makers, misfits and hangers-on that are always around. Adams’ rise from nobody to a celebrity adult entertainer is meteoric, and soon the whole world seems to know his porn alter ego, “Dirk Diggler”. Now, when disco and drugs are in vogue, fashion is in flux and the party never seems to stop, Adams’ dreams of turning sex into stardom are about to collide with cold, hard reality."
Archive of resources for after you watch the film

Magnolia (1999)
Film Description: "On one random day in the San Fernando Valley, a dying father, a young wife, a male caretaker, a famous lost son, a police officer in love, a boy genius, an ex-boy genius, a game show host and an estranged daughter will each become part of a dazzling multiplicity of plots, but one story."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film

Punch Drunk Love (2002)
Film Description: "Although susceptible to violent outbursts, bathroom supply business owner Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a timid and shy man by disposition, leading a lonely, uneventful life -- partly due to the constant berating he suffers from his seven sisters. However, several events transpire that shake up Egan's mundane existence, one of which is falling in love with one sister's co-worker, Lena Leonard (Emily Watson). But the romance is threatened when Egan falls victim to an extortionist."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film

There Will Be Blood (2007)
Film Description: "Ruthless silver miner, turned oil prospector, Daniel Plainview moves to oil-rich California. Using his son to project a trustworthy, family-man image, Plainview cons local landowners into selling him their valuable properties for a pittance. However, local preacher Eli Sunday suspects Plainview’s motives and intentions, starting a slow-burning feud that threatens both their lives."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film

The Master (2012)
Film Description: "A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by the Cause and its charismatic leader."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film

Inherent Vice (2014)
Film description: "The film follows Larry "Doc" Sportello, a well-intentioned but fumbling stoner, hippie, and private investigator embroiled in the criminal underworld of 1970 Los Angeles, investigating three cases linked by the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her wealthy new boyfriend."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film

Phantom Thread (2017) 
Film Description: "In glamorous 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutantes, and dames in the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock's life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a strong-willed young woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film

Licorice Pizza (2021)
Film Description: "The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973."
Archive of Resources for After You Watch the Film