Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Here's a few big films from the 1970's & 1980's that helped create the blockbuster phenomenon.

Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather (1972)

George Lucas:
Jaws (1975)

Star Wars (1977)

Lucas and Spielberg:
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

John Carpenter's Halloween (1978)

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976)

Stephen Spielberg
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

ET (1982)

Our Last Two Classes

Today: please turn in your Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? reviews. Look at the various Blaxploitation clips (there's an option for extra credit at the end of the post). Our final exam on Thursday will cover all marking period material (1950's/1960's/1970's, Hitchcock, film review basics, and the handout-chapter materials/history). In addition you should know the basic vocabulary of film: montage, editing, continuity editing, different types of shots, diegetic sound, styles of film, mise-en-shot, mise-en-scene, auteur, film history from origin to 1980.

By the way, film studies will continue next year, taking a look at more popular cultural films, exploitation films, and world cinema. So don't be sad that the course is ending. Go see some films!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blaxsploitation Films

Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the early 1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban black audience; the word itself is a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation."

Characteristics of Blaxploitation films:
1. Story uses the urban ghetto as a locale for its setting
2. Often includes such characters as: pimps, hit men, drug dealers, the ho, etc.
3. White characters are often antagonists: corrupt cops, evil politicians, easily fooled organized crime goons, etc.
4. Characters are often stereotypes
5. Black music (hip hop, rap, jazz, R&B, funk, blues, etc.) is used as a score
6. Black actors play primary and protagonist roles

Popular genres of film include:
Crime (Foxy Brown), action (Three the Hard Way), horror (Abby, Blacula), comedy (Uptown Saturday Night), nostalgia (Five on the Black Hand Side), coming-of-age/courtroom drama (Cornbread, Earl and Me), and musical (Sparkle).

Here is a list of clips for your viewing pleasure:

They Call Me MISTER Tibbs (1970) (Sidney Poitier) - sequel to In the Heat of the Night

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) directed by Ossie Davis

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) starring Melvin Van Peebles - considered (with Shaft) to have created the Blaxploitation cycle.

Shaft (1971) Directed by Gordon Parks; starring Richard Roundtree

The popularity of this film spawned these sequels:

Shaft's Big Score (1972)

Shaft in Africa (1973)

Remake in 2000, Shaft 2000

Also by Gordon Parks:
Superfly (1972)

Blacula (1972) directed by William Crain

And its sequel: Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)

And because Dracula was lonely:
Blackenstein (1973)

Cleopatra Jones (1973) starring Tamara Dobson

and its sequel for all the sistahs:
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975)

Coffy (1974) starring Pam Grier

These exploitation films were influenced by lesbian exploitation films (also prison exploitation films):
Black Mama, White Mama (1972)

Abby (influenced by the Exorcist - 1974)

Sugar Hill (1974)

Dolemite (1975)

Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (1975) Bakshi is not black, but many white filmmakers took advantage of reaching a black audience in their films.

Sparkle (1976) Musicals like this also included such popular titles as the Wiz (1978)

The Wiz (1978)

Later in the 1980's until present, blaxploitation film style has been parodied:

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988)

Jackie Brown (directed by Quentin Tarantino) 1997

Pootie Tang (2000)

Black filmmakers like Spike Lee would go back to blaxploitation films to influence a whole new host of black directors and redirect African American cinema. Fundamentally, Spike Lee's films are also blaxploitation films, although they have a wider audience.

Feel free to look up some of these films by Spike Lee:
She's Gotta Have It (1986)
School Daze (1987)
Do the Right Thing (1988)
Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Jungle Love (1991)
Malcolm X (1992) This award winning film established Spike Lee as an important African American auteur.

For extra credit this marking period, write a very short blaxploitation film script (3-7 pages): due at end of next week (June 19 at the latest). We will pick up Blaxploitation as popular culture next year in Writing Across Cultures. Stay tuned next season!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review Due/Final Exam

After completing the film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, please use time remaining to begin writing your review. See the handout, sample reviews, and the blog for assistance. The review is due next class, June 9.

Your final exam in Film Studies is the 11th of June. A review sheet will be provided to you next class.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Film Reviews

Film reviews attempt to do the following:
A. Act as journalism - either the opinion of "experts" or scholarly "criticism" or simply used to give an opinion of the film
B. Act as advertising - publicizes a film; encourages sales
C. Act as criticism - includes a description, analysis, and evaluation of a film
D. Act as rhetoric - yes, there are books written about films. Film buffs like this sort of writing. It is similar to literary criticism or any topic written for the enjoyment of the reader (popular mechanics, animals or nature writing, sports, etc.)

A film review includes the following components:
1. A condensed plot synopsis (summary of the plot, naming director, producer, etc.)
2. Background information about the production/director/auteur/etc.
3. A set of abbreviated arguments about the film (what others have said/or problems, weaknesses/strengths/artistry of the film)This is usually tied into the value of the film.
4. An evaluation (thumbs up or down, five stars or one, or three rotten tomatoes, etc.)

After watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, write a 2-3 page review of the film. Due: June 9

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