Thursday, March 24, 2016

Silent Film Unit Exam; Film Analysis

Here are some full silent film selections. Please choose at least 1 to watch and analyze. See handout. There are several to choose from, so please pick something you might be interested in. You may watch more films, of course, for extra credit.

If you'd like extra credit, watch and critique one (or more) of these films. Reviews should follow the review format we discussed earlier in the course. All extra credit assignments are due by end of marking period. You may do as many of them as you'd like from this list.

PLEASE NOTE: Please write up your answers in paragraph form--do not try to cram your answers into the film analysis sheet. Use the sheet as a guide to your analysis. Think essay format.
Horror & German Expressionism, Mystery/Suspense

Adventure/Action, Suspense & Romance:

Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
Rudolph Valentino
Mary Pickford
Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell: 
Clara Bow
Conrad Veidt: 
Lon Chaney, Sr. 
Cecil B. DeMille:
Oscar Micheaux:
King Vidor:
Charlie Chaplin:
Buster Keaton:
HOMEWORK: Silent Film Analysis sheets are due April 5.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Metropolis: Day 2

Please watch and take notes as you notice key aspects of the film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang.

HOMEWORK: Please study for your major unit exam Wednesday. See posts below for help.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Please use the first 20 minutes in class today to view films, watch clips from the Minorities blog post below, work on your silent film watching project (your historical/film analysis), or study for your exam on Thursday.

Then switch gears to research Metropolis.

Fritz Lang born in Vienna, Germany, 1890 -- the son of an architect, he dropped out of college to fight in the Great War (WWI)

After the war, Lang met producer Erich Pommer who worked for the movie company Declar--
Later Declar becomes UFA (the largest film company in Europe)

1919 - Lang directs his first film “Halbblut” (the Half-Caste)
1920 - Meets writer Thea von Harbou, marries her in 1922

Thea von Harbou wrote all of Lang’s films (including Metropolis) until 1933 when they divorced.

1925-1926 - Lang makes the film Metropolis which is drastically cut and distributed over the world Lang forms his own production company; Thea is his main writer
1931 - Lang directs (with actor Peter Lorre)
1932 - The Testimony of Dr. Mabuse (banned because it criticized the Nazi party)
1933 - Lang immigrated to the U.S.
1934 - Lang is offered a contract by David Selznick, producer at MGM. He goes on to make several films (mixing styles), ends up going blind and dying in 1975.

MAJOR FILMS: Halbblut (Half Caste) (1919) Dr. Mabuse (1922) (serial) Die Niebelungen (Siegfried; Kriemhild's Revenge) (1924). Metropolis (1926) Spies (1928) M (1931) The Last Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1932) Fury (1936) You Only Live Once
(1937) Western Union (1941) Man Hunt (1941) The Ministry of Fear (1944) Cloak and Dagger (1946) Secret Beyond the Door (1948) The Big Heat (1953) Moonfleet (1955) While the City Sleeps (1956). Die Tausend Augend des Dr. Mabuse ("The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse") 1960

As we watch Metropolis, please complete the film analysis sheet.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Film Exam Review: Origin of Film to the Talkies (19th Century to 1927)

Your unit test will cover the following material.

You should be familiar with the term, device, person, or concept, and be able to explain why this thing was important or significant or how it influenced or helped contribute to early film history.

All material mentioned was either referenced and discussed below in the blog (check and review blog entries), the handouts from Turning Points in Film,  additional printed sources (handouts), films we watched in class, or from Tim Dirks website (Film History). Please refer to your notes and study. This test covers a lot, please study. Please. No. Really. Study. Review your notes. And study those notes--that's why you took them!
  • Styles of film: realism, classicism, formalism
  • Early film invention: Magic Lantern, Daguerreotype, Celluloid, Kinetoscope, Mutoscope, Praxinoscope, Thaumatrope, etc. You should be familiar with these devices and how they utilize persistence of vision, or how they influenced early film making. 
  • Edweard Muybridge, photography, & the Zoopraxinoscope
  • The Lumiere Brothers & their films (The Sprinkler SprinkledArrival of a Train, etc.)
  • Pathe Frere Manufacturing Company (Charles Pathe)
  • Pathe Films: Aladin and the Wonderful Lamp; Onesime the Clock Maker; Slippery Jim; The Policeman's Little Run
  • Thomas Edison and the Edison Manufacturing Company: various films (Sandow the Strongman, Serpentine Dances, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz (1910), Uncle Josh films, Life of an American Fireman, etc.
  • The Black Maria
  • Augustin Le Prince
  • W.K.L. Dickson
  • Hepworth Manufacturing Company (Cecil B. Hepworth)
  • Hepworth's films: Rescued by Rover ; How It Feels to be Run Over; Explosion of a Motor Car; That Fatal Sneeze; Alice in Wonderland
  • George Melies & A Trip to the Moon
  • Persistence of Vision
  • Etinnene-Jules Marey
  • George Eastman
  • Ferdinand Zecca
  • Edwin S. Porter & his films: The Great Train Robbery ; Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
  • Actualities
  • D.W. Griffith and his contribution to film (also his IntoleranceWay Down East, and Birth of a Nation)
  • Billy Bitzer & contributions to cinematography/photography
  • Lillian Gish
  • Early film comedy and comedians (particularly Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Billy Bevan, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, etc.)
  • Slapstick comedy & comedic technique
  • Charlie Chaplin (various films; we watched the Circus in class, but others were mentioned: view films like The Rink, or The Idle Class)
  • Buster Keaton (we watched One Week in class; but view other examples of the great "stone-face")
  • Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle & his scandal (Hays Code chapter)
  • Hollywood (the origin and development of)
  • Eisenstein & Montage & Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step sequence)
  • Nanook of the North & Robert Flaherty
  • Types of Shots (close up, medium shot, full shot, deep focus shot, long shot, extreme close up and long shots, panning, dolly/tracking shot, etc.) and how and why they are used
  • Types of Angles (high, low, bird's eye, oblique, etc.) and how and why they are used
  • Advice about Camera shots and editing
  • Lighting: high key, low key, and chiaroscuro
  • Sound: Diegetic & non-diegetic
  • Early independent film studios/the Hollywood Studio System
  • Early major film studios (1920-1930)
  • Goldwyn, Fox, & Warner Bros. (studios)
  • Blockbooking
  • Sid Grauman
  • The Academy Awards
  • The Hays Code
  • German Expressionism & its influence
  • F. W. Murnau & Nosferatu
  • Robert Weine & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • Carl Laemmle
  • Birt Acres
  • R.W. Paul
  • Alice Guy-Blache
  • Mack Sennett
  • Douglas Fairbanks
  • Rudolph Valentino
  • Mary Pickford
  • Lilian & Dorothy Gish, & Mae Marsh
  • Clara Bow
  • Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell
  • Cecil B. DeMille
  • Oscar Micheaux
  • Minorities in film 
  • Conrad Viedt
  • Lon Chaney, Man of a Thousand Faces
  • Lois Weber
  • Nickelodeons
  • Kinemacolor & early "special effects" such as tinting or painting celluloid
  • Steven Spielberg; Jaws (1975)
  • George Lucas & Star Wars (1977)
  • Characteristics of Blockbusters
  • CGI (computer generated imaging) & its contribution to contemporary film
  • Blaxploitation
  • Fritz Lang & Metropolis (1927)
  • Film vocabulary: 
    • Auteur, Story, Plot, Order, Narration, Narrative Form, Narratology
    • Diegesis, Scene, Sequence, Frequency, Ellipsis, Motif
    • Space, Viewing Time, Duration
HOMEWORK: Please study for your exam, please study for your exam, please study for your exam.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Minorities in Film

While most of the pioneers of early film were male Caucasians, the lack of minority voices in film was filled by two very important filmmakers: Alice Guy Blache and Oscar Micheux. While we will focus on these two primarily, they are far from the only minority voices around. Gay & Lesbian, Asian, Latino, and other influential filmmakers begin working in this time period as well, and should be recognized for their contribution to film.

Today, watch a few of their film clips and take notes on important details. By the end of the lesson you should begin to ask yourself the question: why is minority cinema important? What is the future of minority cinema? How does knowing a little history help minority artists?

Oscar Michaeux was the first black film director.  Within Our Gates (1919) (music underscore added recently) and his film in its entirety for those interested Within Our Gates (full film). Evelyn Preer was one of the early black actresses. She was also a popular singer. Here's one of her songs: It Takes a Good Woman to Keep a Good Man at Home. You can hear the rhythms of the jazz age (late 1920's). Think of the book Ragtime. Sadly, in American film, it is not until 1991 that the first African-American female director appears (Julie Dash). However, since then, more black female directors have joined the ranks.

The first female director is:
Alice Guy Blache
Lois Weber, an American female, was also a silent film actress and then director. She invented the first use of the split screen technique in her film Suspense (1913). Other films include the Blot (1921) and Hypocrites (the first full frontal nudity depicted in film outside of "art film" like Edweard Muybridge's work.) She, too, is important.

As for gay and lesbian films of the early silent film era, there are a few. Apart from two men dancing in the film by Edison, the first depiction of one of the sissy stereotype characters is Algie the Miner (1912). The film was directed by Alice Guy Blache. The first butch male-to-male kissing scene is the fall of Babylon sequence in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). It also features a pretty kick-ass heroine: mountain girl.
A little gender bending: Vitagraph's A Florida Enchantment (1914)

German film was one of the first to tackle gay subjects head-on. Here's the film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others, 1919) by Richard Oswald. It stars Conrad Viedt (see below). The lesbian film Madchen in Uniform was made in 1931 (and is a talky, so we won't but mention it here). If you're interested in this film, you may also like the 1933 film Anna und Elisabeth. (This is only a clip, sound is not original, of course.)

Latino silent film information can be found here. There is little on line to watch (sorry about that). And Asian film star Sessue Hayakawa starred in such films as The Typhoon (1914) and The Dragon Painter (1919). He signed on with Paramount Pictures (Famous Players Lasky) where he worked with Cecil B. DeMille in such movies as The Cheat (1915). The first Japanese feature film was made in 1912, the Life Story of Tasuke Shiobara.

The director Dadasaheb Phalke is considered the father of Indian film, although Asian film begins in the late 1890's. It is interesting to note that the first optical toy (a primitive zoetrope) was invented by Ting Huan in 180 AD in China.

By the end of the silent film era, most countries have begun to make films.

After the Civil Rights Movement, blacks in film began to appear more frequently, although not very often.

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 Blaxploitation films include:
Crime (Foxy Brown), action (Three the Hard Way), horror (AbbyBlacula), comedy (Uptown Saturday Night), nostalgia (Five on the Black Hand Side), coming-of-age/courtroom drama (CornbreadEarl and Me), and musical (The WizSparkle).

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)
And a 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) (Starring Diana Ross and little Michael Jackson)

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)

Directors like Spike Lee are encouraged to make films for a black audience. Many other actors, directors, and writers begin expanding the ground opened by blaxploitation.

She's Gotta Have It (1985) interview with Spike Lee
School Daze (1988)
Malcolm X (1992)

Other critically acclaimed films:
The Wiz
The Color Purple

Romantic films
100 Gangster, Pimp, Hood, Crime films (clip)

The 100 Best Black Movies

Recently, Dear White People (2014), Selma (2015), and Straight Outta Compton (2016)

Slapstick & Silent Film Comedy

Slapstick & Silent Film Comedy

The name "slapstick" comes from the bataccio — a club-like object composed of two wooden slats used in commedia dell'arte. Actors using the slapstick may hit each another repeatedly with great audible effect while causing very little actual physical damage. The term "slapstick" became synonymous with the style of silent film comedy most frequently found in the comedic silent films of Mack Sennett, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Hal Roach, and other comedic directors.

Later, the animated films from Warner Brothers Studio and Walt Disney will utilize many of the common gags found in comedic silent films. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry, and Donald Duck are just a few examples.

Slapstick is characterized by broad humor, absurd situations, comedic or farcical action such as chase scenes, and, of course, physical violence. Watch various clips below and note the actor/director where appropriate. Take notes on the film styles and view the films for ideas for your own stories, plays, and films.
Mack Sennett: comedian Billy Bevan (scene from Wandering Willies - 1926) and another clip with Vernon Dent & Billy Bevan
Mack Sennett: Black Oxfords (1924) with Vernon Dent & Sid Smith
Mack Sennett: comedian Harry Langdon (scene from Fiddlesticks - 1927)
Mack Sennett: comedian Harry Langdon (scene from Smile Please - 1924) & another scene (the skunk) from the same film.
Mabel Normand: The Extra Girl (clip, 1923)
Fatty & Mabel Adrift (1915) Mabel Normand & Fatty Arbuckle
Fatty Arbuckle: Coney Island (1917)
Fatty Arbuckle & Buster Keaton: The Cook (1918) The Garage (1920)
Buster Keaton: known as the great "stone face" because of his deadpan expression. Here are some stunts from The General 
Buster Keaton: One Week (1920); Sherlock Jr. (1924) 
Harold Lloyd: from The Freshman (1925)
Harold Lloyd: from Safety Last (the clock scene) (1923)
Charley Chase: Accidental Accidents (Hal Roach directing)
Ben Turpin: Seein' Things (1928), part one; Seein' Things (part two)  
"All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl." -Sir Charles Chaplin

Sir Charles Chaplin (1889-1977)
• Born in 1889 in London, UK to theatrical parents
• Chaplin’s childhood was one of extreme poverty and hardship
• Abandoned by an alcoholic father and left with a mentally unstable mother who was unable to support him, he struggled through life in the poor house and on the streets
• He learnt much of his timing and technique in the employment of impresario Fred Karno (1866-1941) whose troupe he left during an American tour in 1913
• Offered a contract by Keystone Films
• After 1914, he convinced Keystone producer Mack Sennett to allow him to direct his own films - often wrote, directed, acted and composed his own musical scores for his films
• In many silent shorts, he established the grammar and ground rules of screen comedy using his physical dexterity and pantomime skills to create expertly choreographed, visually humorous entertainment that mixed irreverence, romance, and pathos (feeling)
• Co-founder of United Artists in 1919
• Married Oona O’Neill (daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill)
• His left-wing sympathies caused him to emigrate to Switzerland during the 1950’s, McCarthy period
• He published his autobiography in 1964 and was knighted in 1975
• Chaplin died on Christmas day, 1977
• A writer Performer, director, composer and icon, he was a vital figure in the development of the screen comedy Films (incomplete list): Making a Living (1913) Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) The Champion (1915) The Tramp (1915) The Pawnshop (1916) The Rink (1916) A Dog’s Life (1918) The Kid (1921) The Gold Rush (1925) City Lights (1931) Modern Times (1936) The Great Dictator (1940) Limelight (1952) A King in New York (1957) A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)
Take a look at some of Chaplin's films (see previous post for more short films):

The Kid (1921) trailer
The Lion's Cage clip from the Circus (1928)
The Gold Rush (1925) Table ballet sequence from The Gold Rush and another scene; sound and words added later
The boxing scene from City Lights (1931)
Modern Times (1936)
The Great Dictator (1940)
Limelight (1952)

(and just for the fun of it...Warner Brothers cartoon: Bugs Bunny in Superstar)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Silent Film Selection for Analysis Homework Assignment & Extra Credit Silent Film Options

Here are some full silent film selections. Please choose at least 1 to watch and analyze. See handout. There are several to choose from, so please pick something you might be interested in. You may watch more films, of course, for extra credit.

If you'd like extra credit, watch and critique one (or more) of these films. Reviews should follow the review format we discussed earlier in the course. All extra credit assignments are due by end of marking period. You may do as many of them as you'd like from this list.
Horror & German Expressionism, Mystery/Suspense

Adventure/Action, Suspense & Romance:

Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
Rudolph Valentino
Mary Pickford
Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell: 
Clara Bow
Conrad Veidt: 
Lon Chaney, Sr. 
Cecil B. DeMille:
Oscar Micheaux:
King Vidor:
Charlie Chaplin:
Buster Keaton:
HOMEWORK: Silent Film Analysis sheets are due March 24.

Eisenstein, Montage & Charlie Chaplin

Eisenstein & The Importance of Montage

As film continued to gain popularity, the film culture around the world inspired various directors and auteurs to create new and exciting films. The most influential film maker of early Russian film was Sergei Eisenstein.

Eisenstein is remembered in film for his contribution of the montage. The montage changed the way filmmakers approached film. It allows a filmmaker to tell a story through a sequence of shots that manipulate time. It is still used today and carries with it a psychological impact. In a script it is indicated by a series of descriptive lines, each spaced apart to indicate a series of shots, rather than description that would indicate one shot or scene. Click here for an example.

Here's a few clips from some of his films:
  • Battleship Potemkin (Odessa Step Sequence) (1925)
  • Oktober
  • Alexander Nevsky (1928) (battle on the ice sequence) - Music by Sergei Prokofiev. We can see how the invention of sound in the next few years will revolutionize film. The exciting tone of the music, nicely reflects the glory, fear, and trepidation of the characters in this scene.
And now for something completely different--our first look at silent film comedy with Charlie Chaplin:

Charlie Chaplin
The Circus (1928, short film)
The Idle Class (1921, short film)
The Rink (1916, short film)


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Jaws (conclusion & discussion); German Expressionism

After screening Jaws (1975), please spend some time in discussion of the film. Use your notes to help create an intelligent discussion about the film.


“Why should an artist duplicate the real world when it already exists for everyone to see?”
• Begins in Europe around 1906 in painting and theatre
• Style is unrealistic, stylized
• Attention often given to angles
• Distorted perspectives
• Narrow, tall streets and buildings (set pieces)
• Lighting is “dramatic”; Use of shadows
• Actors are grotesque, exaggerated make-up
• Dark, nightmarish tones & moods
• Attempt to show the interior lives of characters through exteriors
• Expressionism influences Futurism (and Modernism)
• Expressionism influences Film Noir in the 1930’s (more on that later...)
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Robert Weine (director) 1919

On, please view clips from the following:
These movies, along with Dr. Caligari, are influential in creating the "horror" genre in film. Why, do you think, is expressionism a good stylistic choice for horror films?

Here are some film selections. If you'd like extra credit, watch and critique one (or more) of these films. Reviews are due by end of marking period.

Nosferatu (1922) Full film
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (full film with star actor Conrad Veidt)
Genuine: A Tale of a Vampire (full film, Robert Wiene, 1920)
The Hands of Orlac (full film, Robert Wiene, 1924 with star actor Conrad Veidt)
Der Golem (full film)
The Cat and the Canary (full film - silent)
The Phantom of the Opera (full film)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (full film)
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (full film)
The Lost World (1925 full film)
The Lodger (1927) (Alfred Hitchcock's first film, full film)

Contemporary films like these also pay homage to the style: Careful by Guy Maddin (1992), the Shadow of the Vampire (2000) and The Call of Cthulhu (2006), The Artist (2011)

Carl Laemmle's 100 Years of Universal (director/producer of Universal studios)
F.W. Murnau's bio
Robert Weine's bio

Father of Documentary Film: Robert Flaherty
Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)

The Star Machine (Popular Actors of the Golden Age of Film):

From your notes you should also know the following blockbuster film stars of the early screen. Please watch their clips. Various famous Hollywood actors:

Monday, March 7, 2016

Jaws (Conclusion)

If you have not yet done so, please turn in your film concept worksheet for partial participation credit.

Today we will screen the conclusion of Jaws (1975).

Geva's Playwriting Contest is due tomorrow (March 9). Please submit a 10-minute play. You have them--submit! Submit here: Attn: Young Playwright's Contest:

HOMEWORK: Read the handout on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (German Expressionism), Nanook of the North, and the Hayes Code chapters. Answer the questions as homework.

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...