While teaching courses like research methods, it’s helpful to provide an example of an interpretation of a text or two. The value of providing an analysis depends upon how many people have read the book, watched the TV series or saw the movie. Choosing a text most students are familiar with saves class or assignment time. I once wrote an analysis of Star Wars only to find that quite a few members of the class had never seen it. Surprise. I’ve used the Wizard of Oz as well, but there were still a few who had not seen that movie either. This presents a dilemma. I can stick to the short pieces that I can show quickly in class, like commercials, short films, and music videos or I can try to figure out how to ensure everyone has watched a longer work. The example of a longer work is necessary because the challenge students face is often figuring out how to narrow their focus when interpreting longer media products. They seem able to write competently about a short work, but they get lost when the piece is longer and more complex.
In a few other classes, like Communication Theory, I have students choose excerpts from films or TV shows to explain various theories. When they present their applications, it seem as if everyone in the room has seen the movies or TV shows but me. While watching the clips, I don’t share my class’s reactions, like laughter. Maybe I just don’t get it or maybe I am just getting too old to appreciate the sophomoric humor.
The point is I don’t think many young adults watch older films or foreign films or watch films outside the genre or two they prefer. When I mention a film few seem to have seen, I tell students to write down the name of the film I mentioned and find it on Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, cable or at their library and watch it. They are in for a great experience. They just have to keep an open mind if the film is in black and white, subtitled, or dated.
When I was on a limited budget, I used to visit the downtown Akron, Ohio, library, which had a large video collection and provided drive-through returns. Easy. Many of their videos were foreign films, old classics, and documentaries, but the selections were generally of high quality. I read movie review books by authors like Pauline Kael and read guides that ranked movies. I spent some time making sure that I watched all of the most highly rated and critically acclaimed movies of all time. Every week I went to the library or video rental store and picked up a film or two. I had a friend Denny Colby, who often came over and watched a movie or two with me each week. It took a couple of years to see all of the critically acclaimed films. I rarely found a film that had nothing about it to appreciate. I did get sidetracked at times, deciding to watch additional films by directors like Hitchcock, Bergman, Jarmusch, Kurasawa, Kubrick, and Lee.
The great movies have a universal appeal. While there are some good movies that are targeted to an artsy crowd, most outstanding films are based on a good story. Many of these films I love are not as well-known today as Star Wars or the Wizard of Oz, but they are quite entertaining.
I am going to give you a late holiday gift (I say “holiday” instead of Christmas in honor of Donald Trump). This is not my list of the best films of all time. It is a short list of films I think everyone can appreciate that people may have overlooked. If you watch any of them and don’t like them, you can get a refund up to $5 by sending me $10 and a return envelope with the names of the films you did not enjoy and a note from your psychiatrist. You can share this offer with your friends. Check them out on IMDb and look over some “best of” lists for additional titles. You will be glad you did.
Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources
Life is Beautiful
The Seventh Seal
North by Northwest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Coming to America
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid
The Man who Shot Liberty Valence
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
Back to the Future
2001 A Space Odyssey
My Dinner with Andre
Hearts and Minds
I hope you find the time to enjoy warching a few of these you have not seen.