Tuesday, December 09, 2008

From Sir with Love

Am I the only one who would love to read or hear a little more often about the day jobs and non-bloggish projects being conducted week-in and -out among our little school of fish. I probably talk about it more than most, partly because my job isn't always such a far cry from what I'm up to on this site, but I still think it's funny sometimes that even among many of the frequent commenters, I know who you think is going to win Best Supporting Actor from the New York Film Critics Circle but I don't really know what you do of a workday. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Either way, even if you don't want to show me yours, I'm showing you mine, because I'm so excited to teach this newly expanded Contemporary Women Filmmakers course next quarter (i.e., starting in January). I tried to bring the pretty with this flyer I made, which would be hard not to do, given the luscious and/or otherwise compelling images that my selected directors have so generously furnished in their films. Here's the write-up for the course, in case it's too fuzzy in the jpeg:

In recent years, more and more women film directors have risen to global prominence, producing important bodies of work and winning major prizes around the world. In saluting this diverse and expanding tradition, this course nonetheless poses the question: what (if anything) is gained and what (if anything) is lost by reading these films with regard to the directors' gender? In what ways do these films confront and complicate longstanding debates about gender and authorship, representation, sexuality, chauvinism, beauty, violence, voyeurism, and pornography? Alternatively, what is at stake in sidelining questions of gender and critiquing these films as "just" films? In this course, we will closely examine work by several modern directors whose films cover a wide range of genres and modes, including action, drama, satire, horror, comedy, political allegory, and the avant-garde. They also hail from such disparate areas of the globe as North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific. While mastering some basic concepts of film analysis, we will also consider some key ideas in feminist theory and trace some of the public debates that shaped these films and their reception.

Huge kudos to anyone who can name all the films or makers based on these snapshots. But my question for you is, who else would you have wanted to see included as part of this class? I can sneak in plenty more stuff in lectures and through on-line clips. You know you want the undergraduates of Northwestern to be seeing all the best stuff. For the purposes of this class, "contemporary" means the last ten or fifteen years (though I'm cheating for Peel).

I already have a list of who I was sad to leave out, but I'll learn more from hearing your suggestions. Let loose! Just, you know, don't suggest Twilight.

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Blogger Dr. S said...

(Heh. You know what I do all day long!)

12:10 AM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

(I know, and I wish we were in offices across the hall! Bouquets to the lucky **** who gets the film position! xo)

12:18 AM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Mikadzuki said...

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: "Innocence" by Lucile Hadzihalilovic! Not only is it one of the finest films of the aughts (imo), but it also deals with gender issues in its own subdued, beautiful way. See it, people, please.

What I do in real life? Um... not much. Hope to be admitted into my college. Walk around at home. Annoy my parents.

5:34 AM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Calum Reed said...

I'm in my final year studying Film Studies at University in Sunderland, England. And I work in a lil' shop sellin my groceries part time :-)

I wish I could have done this module. Sounds really exciting. Yay for Sofia! I know you don't like it but I think Whale Rider and Niki Caro would be useful to look at. Also... Boys Don't Cry. Unless I'm missing it in your montage?

7:13 AM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

damn i was going to try to win those huge kudos but i'm stumped on a few...

from left to right

campion -the piano
southern comfort? or trans doc.i know that
reichart's old joy
martel's holy girl
bigelow's strange days
is this breillat's fat girl?
coppola's lost in translation
eves bayou?
cholodenko's high art
can't remember name's perespolis
campion's peel

damn. no kudos for me!

but i do want to take the course

7:17 AM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Catherine said...

I'll add my voice to those clamouring to take this course. My university doesn't offer any film courses (that I know of) until 3rd year. Grr. Any chance you could scoot over here (Dublin, Ireland) and teach a guest seminar? The weather's not the greatest, but we do know how to organise a fabulous knees up!

1:27 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Dr. S said...

The position is on hold, actually, and it's not even in my department. (No one said a word to us about it; to our knowledge, it was never happening at all! Which makes me think that it must be happening in drama? Or something? When it's happening again, that is, because right now it's not.)

4:56 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Mikadzuki: I've got to get around to Innocence, which my students have also been praising to the heavens. Haven't spotted it anywhere in the local rentals and libraries, and I'm a non-Netflixian, but I'll track it down.

@Cal: To be honest, I've taught Boys Don't Cry so often that it's starting to get to me; I have re-lived that version of the horror so many times that I needed to back away for a spell. I think Whale Rider will be on the alternative list for outside/final projects, but I just can't get excited enough about the filmmaking to really go for it.

@Nathaniel: You're missing three of the Samira Makhmalbafs and an abstract student film by Caitlin Horsmon, and I know you haven't seen any of those. But look closer at those bottom two corners!

@Dr. S: Well, if it can't be mine, then no one can have it, is how I feel! :)

5:45 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Bill C said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:44 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Bill: Lukewarm on In the Cut? No, my friend. Barely edged out of that year's top ten list.

Morvern Callar is one of the greatest movies I think I've ever seen, certainly one of the three or four best in the last ten years. That's Morvern in the bottom lefthand corner, so don't worry, she's covered.

As for Denis: she's by far my favorite director who should logically be here but currently isn't. I was tilting toward either I Can't Sleep or Beau travail myself. Sadly, the mandate for geographic diversity only allows me to stop for so long in any given country, and with a full week on Breillat (who teaches beautifully), I'm having trouble squeezing Denis into the mix. But she'll headline the list of alternative suggestions.

Exciting that we're so totally simpatico on all three of these artists.

6:48 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Bill C said...

I gotta stump for Claire Denis, Nick, who I don't see represented on your poster. Any of her pictures, really, but particularly TROUBLE EVERY DAY and BEAU TREVAIL. (Her latest, 35 SHOTS, is bittersweet perfection.)

And as a fellow nut for PEEL, can I suggest an offbeat Campion selection while I'm at it? IN THE CUT. I know you were kinda lukewarm on it, but it certainly lends itself to dissection in a classroom setting!

(Edited because I think you have MORVERN CALLAR on there already.)

6:49 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Bill C said...

Wow, you type fast, Nick!

6:51 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

I try! It helps when I'm typing about goddesses like Campion, Ramsay, and Denis.

6:53 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger Bill C said...

Had a eureka moment just now, remembering Jocelyn Moorehouse's PROOF and the transformative effect it had on me in high school, in the sense that it was a movie I truly discovered on my own, by accident, and it led me to taking more chances with the unsanctioned and unfamiliar.

You've probably got your Down Under bases covered, and the fizzling-out of Moorehouse's career has got to count against her, but it's a mini-marvel that transcends its jokey high-concept (i.e., blind photographer) with modest wisdom into the nature of lying and the more ineffable aggravations of being disabled.

Anyway, have always felt a strange karmic debt to PROOF--an OUTSIDERS-like snapshot now of Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe looking impossibly youthful--and wanted to cast a vote for it, as it were.

10:06 PM, December 10, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

I have similarly fond memories of Proof, which I tracked down after all the How to Make an American Quilt reviews were like "How is this the same woman who also directed...?" (For reasons you will all be able to guess, I saw Quilt on opening day.) I agree that Proof acquits itself with its cheeky concept admirably, and Weaving and Crowe are quite good, and appealing in odd ways, though the female lead (the character and the performance) seemed like problems to me in my dim memory, and I never liked the movie quite as much as the reviewers did. But you're right, it deserves a shot by anyone who hasn't seen it; I've never known anyone not to like it, at least a little.

My other Down Under possibility would have been Gillian Armstrong. I thought Oscar and Lucinda was just a stunner—a "costume drama" that looked like a zillion others coming out in those years, but so much more eccentric and memorable, and it did very well by Peter Carey. Admittedly, I haven't watched it again since it was out, though I've been quite curious. I'm almost nervous to discover I've overrated it. Anyway, I almost always find something to like in Armstrong's movies (Charlotte Gray was something of an exception), but to repeat myself ad nauseum, there just isn't room for everything.

While we're on the Antipodean tip, I really disliked Samantha Lang's The Well, and I'm embarrassed at having never got 'round to Love Serenade.

12:27 AM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

(By the way, Bill: have just done what I should have done eons ago and added Film Freak Central to the sidebar. Probably everyone who passes through here already knows about it, but I've been a fan for a long while, and I've been remiss to leave it out!)

12:31 AM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger Bill C said...

Thanks, Nick--truly flattered. Yours was one of the first URLs I added to our Blog and I will give you a shoutout on our mothersite's Links page if/when I finally get around to its long overdue overhaul.

Armstrong's a terrific pick. Still curious to see that Houdini movie she made with Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones, even though it came and went with nary a ripple.

9:21 AM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

Unfortunately, I join this thread at the precise point where I can warn you that Armstrong's Death Defying Acts is turgid beyond belief -- one of not very many Fs I've given this year. Believe me, there's a reason why it came and went so fast. I too like Oscar and Lucinda, though I also haven't revisited it since the year of release.

Didn't really get on with Innocence, myself. It's kind of luscious but obvious.

Nick, I think you should teach Aeon Flux or maybe Tank Girl, or both.

7:08 PM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

I had no idea that was Armstrong. I have to say that a movie co-starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones is sort of kryptonite to me, not least when it goes straight to video. One attempts to keep an open mind, but I may feel the need to avoid this.

7:16 PM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

Slam it shut. Lock. Throw away key. You do not need this...

7:17 PM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

I wouldn't go so far as Tim does in regards to Death Defying Acts, but it sure isn't anything good. It's neither here nor there, really. Nothing to be gained from watching it. Pearce is quite terrible though.

I imagine you'd get something out of Ana Kokkinos' view of a gay greek world in Head On or the Sarah Watts' excellent Look Both Ways, both Australian films.

The Well is indeed fantastic, but I sort of loathe Love Serenade, which everybody else seems to salivate over for reasons I can never figure out.

5:37 AM, December 13, 2008  
Blogger CCW said...

Nick, here are my eclectic suggestions:

Karen Moncrieff - Blue Car
Isabel Coxiet - The Secret Life of Words
Mary Haron - I Shot Andy Warhol
Sandra Goldbacher - Me Without You
Nicole Garcia - Place Vendome

9:01 PM, December 14, 2008  

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