Movie Critic 101: Action!

One of the most effective ways to write a movie review is to apply the movie’s theme to the world today. Whether it be political, social, spiritual, or philosophical, the question to pursue is: What is going on in this movie that directly relates to my experience right now?

Through the lens of the camera is a slight yet palpable education, an invitation to empathize, and the ability to make things personal.

A few days after my first blog post regarding my ongoing movie selection for my summer mini course, the nation turned upside down. I thought the COVID-19 quarantine theme was enough of a movie-to-real-life connection (hence, my Rear Window idea). However, our current matter of racial injustice and national protest is urgent and calls for attention on any sidewalk, in any household, and most definitely in any classroom, including this small, humble online mini course about critiquing movies.

That is why, as my students and I officially start this mini course together, I am motivated, inspired, and excited to introduce Selma (2014) to my movie viewing selection. It is eerily prescient in its human-scale message, and I look forward to the discussions it invokes with my students. On a cinematic level, Ava DuVernay is the first black female Director to be nominated by the Golden Globes, and this film exudes a nostalgic, hauntingly beautiful canvas for focus on Cinematography.

Along with my Selma addition, I included your adamant suggestion of Singin’ in the Rain (1952) for my musical/comedy representation. (Thank you again to everyone who responded to my first post.) Singin’ encompasses so much from contextual history of silent film to sound, to the realm of musical performance and Hollywood reminiscence. (I am most curious about what a teenager in 2020 will think of this 68-year-old piece of celluloid.)   

We won’t have enough time for Sci-Fi, Horror, Western, or my favorite – independent (“indie”) film, but I’ll be sure to include some recommendations at the end of the mini course.

So, without further ado, below is my final selection and bullet point reasons for each movie’s relevancy and impetus for discussion. Please feel free to follow my class’s schedule and add your own experiences with these movies as I post my own review each week.

WEEK ONE VIEWING WINDOW (06/08 – 06/12)

Rear Window (1954) – PG, Alfred Hitchcock

  • Thriller/Mystery Drama
  • Focus on Directing vision and choice of perspective
  • A fitting theme of quarantine life!

WEEK TWO VIEWING (06/13 – 06/17: A shortened week)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – PG, Steven Spielberg

  • Adventure/Action Blockbuster
  • Focus on Sound
  • Film Score, leitmotif
  • Editing

WEEK THREE VIEWING (06/18 – 06/26)

Persepolis (2007) – PG-13, Marjane Satrapi

  • Adult Animated Adaptation
  • International Film Category: Iran, France (in French with English Subtitles)
  • Focus on female coming-of-age theme in a different culture, tapping into an array of social issues

WEEK FOUR VIEWING (06/27 – 07/03)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – G, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen

  • Focus on Musical genre  
  • Comedy genre with a touch of Romance
  • History of Hollywood’s transition from silent film to sound

WEEK FIVE VIEWING (07/04 – 07/10)

Selma (2014) – PG-13, Ava DuVernay

  • Historical Drama
  • Focus on Cinematography
  • A timely (and prophetic) look at the passion behind our civil rights movement
Cinema Paradiso (1988): One of the many options I tried to include…

During these unprecedented times, movies are a wonderful pastime and starting point for casual, personal, and passionate dialogue.

As the late, great Roger Ebert put it: “We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, although that is an important part of it, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.”

I’m excited to open these windows with my students!

Thank you for reading and keep watching those movies,

Reely Bernie

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