Three films that I try to find a way to use every year.
I was a film student at Northwestern back in the days of the feminist film aesthetic of the late 70s. What I discovered then (along with the fact that I can fall asleep watching a film in a minute) is that are there a few films that I can watch over and over and over again and find something wonderful in them every time I see them. Citizen Kane is not one of those, although I think I watched it six times for classes before I graduated. These three are, and I try to find a way to watch them every year in class.
Directed by Charles Chaplin, Starring Chaplin and Paulette Goddard.
Most of my students have never seen Charlie Chaplin, but they certainly understand feeling like someone is watching them all the time, like they are part of a machine. They love watching Chaplin react to the world around him. This year we watched it at the same time we were reading Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Thoreau claims that we are all cogs in the machine.
The Iron Giant
Brad Bird – director
This is Brad Bird’s first feature film, and after years of working on the Simpsons, he begins to develop the themes that he brings to full expression in The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
What is Art?
How can we be true to ourselves?
I can be who I believe I am, not who you say I am.
We must think for ourselves.
This is cell animation, not the Pixar style work of the last two films, but the art looks to the comic books of the 50s for inspiration. There is cartoon violence (lots of explosions and rockets) and some potty humor, but even my most jaded second semester senior girls hold their breath at the end of the film. I cry every time I see it. Hogarth and the Giant. Don’t miss them.
Chris Eyre directed based on the book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
This film is like poetry. Not quite linear, it tells the story of Thomas and Victor, two young men locked into each others lives. It begins and ends on the Coeur d’Alene reservation in Idaho and is a buddy film, a road movie, bildungsroman, hero’s quest. The Dick Lourie poem at the end that is recited in voice over breaks my heart every time I hear it. This is a film about how storytelling and embracing the past can save your life.
“Some days it is a good day to die. Some days it is a good day to have breakfast.”
I also like to show Trevor Nunn’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to my upper school kids (especially seniors – it makes them so itchy). What films are on your list?