Year: 2021

FROM VARDA’S PARIS TO DE PALMA’S CALIFORNIA: THE CAMERA’S CONTEMPT FOR THE AUDIENCE

     Uncomfortable long takes, jarringly rapid scene changes, nearly incomprehensible and typically improvised dialogue, complex illusionary elements, and limited narrative explanation: these are the stimulating formal aesthetics of a film that conjoin to create discomfort and activity in its audience. Typically, mainstream films tend to stay away from these formal elements, in order to set the audience at ease. As Bordwell states, “in the classical cinema, narrative form motivates cinematic representation… To this end, cinematic representation had recoursed to fixed figures of cutting… mise-en-scene… cinematography… and sound.”1 Audiences are transcended into a world of comfortable fantasy, clarity, and delight through the linear, causal plots and editing that allows for exact specificity in setting, with a cheerfully entertaining battle between good and evil, where the former triumphantly prevails. These components are most notable with classical Hollywood films, like Singing in the Rain and Miracle on 34th Street: feel-good films that encourage a sense of passivity in their audiences, lulling them into blissful escapism. Why would films stray from such peace?       Life does not …

Madyson DeJausserand graduated OU with a major in Cinema Studies with a Specialization in Filmmaking in 2020.

Park vs. Prominence: How Bread (1918) Speaks for Women of the Silent Era

Since its inception, cinema as an art form has been a site of struggle. The legacy of female filmmakers, in particular, has been privy to a constant power struggle between legitimizing and validating their works, or being made insignificant by the Hollywood elite. Ida May Park’s directorial legacy, as explored through her film Bread, encapsulates the greater history of feminine struggle for recognition and equity wrought by a host of women in Hollywood both past and present. Despite being directly involved in delivering early silent cinema to the world, her and other female filmmakers were forced to constantly prove their existence in the industry as valuable. Additionally, the choices made by historical preservationists and academia communicate which films are worthy of safeguarding for posterity. Though many women fought to obtain recognition, other female auteurs films have faded away into obscurity. Ida May Park is one of the luckless female filmmakers and screenwriters whose cinematic legacy has been cut short due to a lack of archival work. As a result, her film Bread has since taken …

Hannah Cummings graduated OU with a major in Communication and a minor in Cinema Studies in 2020.

THE TANGLED MESS OF LOIS WEBER’S WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN?

Lois Weber’s 1916 silent film, Where Are My Children?, is considered a classic example of a social problem film, one which in this instance “dealt with the taboo subjects of contraceptives (for) and abortion (against).” [1] The narrative content of Weber’s film is a particularly tangled web of conflicted morality, unclear rhetoric, and misleading medical anecdotes, with “contradictory discourses arising from the context of the film’s production, cultural preoccupations of the period, and Weber’s idiosyncratic concerns.” [2] It is difficult—if not highly impractical—to judge a film that is over 100 years old through a modern feminist lens when its very topic of discussion (reproductive rights) is still a matter of heated, complex debate in the 21st century. As such, the contemporary cultural context of Weber’s film is key to breaking down and understanding Weber’s well-meaning but tangled message as it was (most likely) intended. In modern feminist politics, the issues of birth control and abortion are often grouped together under the umbrella of reproductive rights, and those that are for one are typically (though not …

Danielle Nicholson graduated OU with a BA in Creative Writing with a Specialization in Screenwriting in 2020.

American Masculinity: The Marketing of Humphrey Bogart

The star system and star image was the foundation for Hollywood film making during the time of a vertically integrated Hollywood. Box office returns would determine the economic success for a studio and when a studio had a bankable star, their image was critical to selling a picture to exhibitors as well as audiences. As Tino Balio states in the book Grand Design, “At the production level, the screenplay, sets, costumes, lighting, and makeup of a picture were designed to enhance a star’s screen persona… At the distribution level, a star’s name and image dominated advertising and publicity and determined the rental price for the picture.” Certainly story and plot play a major role in the success of a film along with the director and key players involved in creating the film; but even today, how often when talking about seeing a film, have we heard or uttered a phrase similar to, “Let’s go see the new [insert star name] movie”? The reason being is that stars throughout the history of cinema have filled a …

Adam Nollen graduated OU with a BA in Creative Writing with a Specialization in Screenwriting in 2020.

The Development of Screenwriting and the Hollywood Studio System

In the beginning of the 20th century, the introduction of cinema radically changed the world of art. During the outset of silent cinema, filmmakers made actualities; short clips that depict a single scene or action. However, not much time had passed before filmmakers started moving towards narrative film. As a result, the idea of structuring a story for film beforehand一or screenwriting一came to fruition. Due to the fact that narrative films were becoming the norm, screenwriting went through multiple phases of development, which led to the creation of many new jobs, and the birth of Hollywood and the studio system.   It is important to make the distinction between screenwriting as a profession, and the idea of planning out the actions of a film beforehand. In The Literary Side of Pictures, by Epes Winthrop Sargent, he states that photo dramatic writing began between 1894 and 1896.[1] These writings, however, were short captions used to describe what would happen in the film. These captions differ from screenplays. Also, this is vastly different from the profession that would …

Sarah Almi is an OU student with a Cinema Studies major who will be graduating in 2021.

Ousmane Sembène: Critical Cinema in African History

In the realm of the cinematic world, there are many directors who made their mark in the history books for their tenure in the arts during their country’s revolutionary movements. Many countries during the 1950s and through to the 1980s had evolving relationships with their governments and their citizens, most of which would lead to various forms of freedoms. Numerous newfound freedoms from government grips opened up many doors for directors to step away from the old restrictions and regulations on their film industries and began a wave of new and creative artistic cinema to take its place—appropriately named a country’s New Wave of cinema. As for the African film industry, that director can most certainly be noted as being Ousmane Sembène. Sembène is remembered for copious reasons, the most compelling being his political narratives for his film, often challenging his home country of Senegal’s corruption of independence and colonial oppression from France. Born in 1923 in Ziguinchor, Senegal, Sembène would end up creating some of the most politically empowering and realistic films for Africans …

Politics and the Rise of the Ultra-Violent Horror Film in the 2000s

    “Horror films don’t create fear, they release it.” -Wes Craven        Catharsis through entertainment is a uniquely human practice. We are the only species that intentionally create drama as a method of release. Stemming from the Greek word katharsis, it means “purgation” or “cleansing.” This idea was expounded upon by Greek philosopher Aristotle in his great work on drama, Poetics. In it, he asserts that the sole purpose of drama itself is to arouse emotions in the audience (specifically pity and fear), and purge these emotions, thus making the viewers emotionally stronger. If we are to follow this thread of logic, then the more intense the emotions the drama raises, the greater feeling of catharsis the audience is left with; and the more stressed an audience is the more intense the art has to be to arouse emotion.        The horror film may be the best contemporary example of art we flock to for catharsis. Present since the silent film era, it’s clear that Americans have an insatiable appetite …

Bryce Carlisle is a Oakland University student and screenwriter set to graduate in 2022 with a major in screenwriting and a minor in philosophy.

The Films of 1999 Part II: Election

  This is Part II of a video essay series on the films of 1999 and how they connect to the era/year in which they were made. Part II focuses on the movie, “Election” (Dir. Alexander Payne) starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. Specifically, it focuses on how the character of Tracy Flick and the various assortment of crazy characters around her reflect the Clinton Administration and its rise and fall from 1992-1999. Everything from the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the miraculous prediction of the tumultuous Bush v. Gore 2000 Presidential Election is covered. This video essay is unique in that it does not use voice over narration, and instead utilizes a supercut style of editing, matching clips with archival footage and interviews to propel the thesis. Of course, the opening titles and end teaser of the video firmly place this in the three-part video essay series it originated from; however, it stands on its own legs and still provides a complete analysis of its topic. Enjoy.

Terence Fisher: Auteur

  In creating this video essay, I sought to question the intersection of genre studies and auteur theory. In studying auteur theory, our book mentions Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni as the definition of an auteur, however this places several restrictions upon auteurship. With the exception of Hitchcock, all of the examples given create primarily arthouse films, “serious” films not meant for mainstream audiences. With the inclusion of Hitchcock, all the examples also received near critical acclaim for their work. However, this leaves out those films with a strong creative vision and lasting influence that did not receive critical acclaim or come from genres typically deemed “less worthy”. In this video essay, I argue for the widening of auteurship to include all filmmakers who satisfy those two requirements: a strong creative vision and lasting influence, regardless of genre or critical acclaim. To argue this point, I examine the vision and influence of the films of Terence Fisher, an English director who created incredibly popular horror films in …

Ryan Handley graduated OU with a minor in Cinema Studies in 2020. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in film preservation at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School in Rochester, NY.

Euphoria and the Humanistic Approach to Narration

  In this video, the character and narrator, Rue, will be examined in regard to her credibility and reliability as a narrative figure. Audiences typically find reassurance within the narrative, but in this case, the narrator defies the concept of being God-like and takes on a more humanistic approach. The narrator is typically someone the audience can identify with and trust to make the right decisions. In Euphoria, our main character Rue states that she isn’t reliable and often makes bad decisions. We expect her to be a better friend, daughter, sister, and overall good person. As the show progresses we learn that she struggles to do the right thing sometimes. Rue’s character uses narration to convey to the audience her own biased perspective. The viewer sees how imperfect Rue is through her drug use and mental illness, and this is what makes her more realistic. At first, the audience is relying on Rue for the truth of all sides of the stories being conveyed. As the season continues, Rue proves herself to be very …