Wk7M1 The Film School Generation

Today’s discussion is brought to you by Group 11: Allison Hudson & Landon Getz

Screenings for this module include:

American Graffiti, 1973 dir. George Lucas

Inside Man, 2006 dir. Spike Lee

Shutter Island, 2010 dir. Martin Scorsese

34 thoughts on “Wk7M1 The Film School Generation

  1. Allison Hudson

    Belton uses American Graffiti as an example of a film that exploits previous ones in its genre by using a larger budget in order to draw in audiences. Do you think Shutter Island or Inside Man exploit earlier films of the same genre? If so, which films do you think are being exploited?

    Raiders of the Lost Ark was released during the Vietnam War and it returned audiences to innocent action. Again, Nazis were the bad guys and the cowboy looking Indiana Jones represented the American good guy. This put America in a good light in a time of protest and anger from its citizens. Do you think films made now still try to return audiences to innocence, aka distract them from real problems? Or do you think that films are taking a turn to protest and expose our country’s flaws?

    Belton says that nowadays film school students are influenced by directors like Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese, etc. Do any of the classic Hollywood directors (Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock, etc.) inspire or influence your work? What about any of the films we screened? TV also plays a big part in influencing filmmakers. Do you feel that TV shows have an impact on any of your projects or your style?

    Even though we are primarily familiar with more modern directors from the film school generation, do you think learning about older films helps impact our filmmaking? Or do you find the historical American films we watch in school irrelevant to the present industry?

    1. Alex Wilson

      In regards to question 2, I think films definitely go both ways. I think for the most part movies are still here and created to distract us and allow us to see and live in places we never dreamed of or couldn’t see in real life, which is my favorite part about them. The best part of a movie is when you can become absorbed in it and everything else around you goes away, and for me that’s why film makers make movies. I do definitely think that more and more movies are being released showing a corrupt US Government in some form, which I don’t know if these movies are taking a direct shot at showing our countries corrupt government flaw, but I do personally believe that we have a very corrupt government so it very well could be.

      1. Christophe Freeman

        I agree films these ways do go both ways. A lot of hero films like Batman and Superman show someone saving the world from destruction. We have dealt with a fear of the world ending recently with the Mayan prediction of 2012 being the last year for the earth. Movies like Batman give the world hope that if such a thing would occur a hero would come and save us. This gives audiences a childlike hope for the future. At the same movies like Safe House and The Purge make the audiences wary about the government. Safe House showed how corrupt the government can be and the Purge showed how our future can change drastically because the government is trying to “help” us live happier.

        1. Kendrick Branch

          Though both types will always be made, I believe films that reassure the audience in the end will remain most popular. They fit in better with the constant flow of idyllic advertisement viewers see daily. After somewhat of an identity crisis at the loss of his high-tech gadgets (like a teen without a phone), Robert Downey Jr. literally does a commercial to summarize the moral of Iron Man 3. (he gets an upgrade and all is well)

          1. Chris O'Malley

            I agree that the reassuring films will always be the most popular. Studios are very unlikely to allow big budget films to have critical or negative messages because this would add more risk to their investment. Innocent films are easier to sell to the masses both in America and internationally.

        2. Benjamin Romang

          I agree that films today very much deal with corruption, the future, and hope. Just looking at the summer blockbuster line up of Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, After Earth, World War Z, Pacific Rim, the Wolverine, and Elysium, we can see the patterns. There are a lot of films that show Earth in the future, usually under destruction. And a lot of films show incompetent forms of government, which then makes the world rely on a hero to rise and save the world.

    2. Nick Neal

      Shutter Island’s costume and set design is inspired by the late 1940’s, but the editing is far more contemporary. There’s more close up shots, quicker cuts and the camera focuses on individual characters more.

      In regard to question 2, it depends on which film and how you interpret them. Avatar seems to be critical of imperialism and environmental distruction but it doesn’t say America specifically is bad. The recent Lincoln movie is aptly named because it’s more about the legislative battle against slavery rather than slavery itself. So the criticism is often limited, is cloaked in interperative ambiguity, and also the main perspective is going to be from the good oppressor who’s decides to stop the oppression, rather than the actual oppressed.

      From an editing perspective, I don’t think old films are very relevant, because their pacing is way too slow for contemporary audiences. However, from a narrative perspective, old films can still be a source of inspiration.

    3. Levi Brown

      About the second question: the innocent helps power cinema’s ability to provide escapism. I don’t doubt that the film’s lighthearted action highlighting Jones in a heroic manner helped people forget the devastating news about the war.

      1. Nick Neal

        Yeah it’s interesting that these kids biggest problems are who they’re going to date in college, rather than whether they’ll be drafted.

    4. Renee Schuyten

      Films today definitely take their turn to protest and expose flaws. Even when wrapped up in escapism, there is more often than not a deeper lesson – Avatar, ecological disaster and the murder of native populations; Brokeback Mountain, homosexuality; Batman, Hunger Games, social class struggles; DaVinci Code, religion, Ice Age, global warming; Up, single parenting; Mean Girls, consumerism, sexism… I think it would actually be hard to make a good film without some sort of comment on society. You need a good moral premise to engage your audience and give your character an arc, a conflict. That being said, I totally escaped to Pandora and the waterfall, rooted for cried for Katniss, and laughed at those goofy animals, Sid and Manfred. I don’t think escapism and flaws are exclusive to eachother.

  2. Landon Getz

    This week Belton looks into the rise of film schools and how auteur theory could be one result of them. Martin Scorsese went to NYU and serves as a great example of a director using this auteur theory, which can be seen in this week’s screening of Shutter Island. Belton also points out that after film schools were introduced young, less experienced filmmakers were sometimes more successful than experienced veterans.

    Belton also touches on postmodernism and how it “reflects the schizophrenic breakdown of the normal experience of the world as a continuous, coherent, and meaningful phenomenon.” How do you think this is reflected in Shutter Island?

    Do you think film school graduates such as George Lucas and Martin Scorsese have these film schools to credit for their success even over experienced veterans?

    In what ways do these directors (Lee, Lucas, Scorsese) display auteur theory in these and other films?

    1. Nick Neal

      Shutter Island’s editing is very post modern in that it cares more about emotion and less about continuity. There are somewhat frequent flashbacks that give conversations more depth because it shows how they effect the character. For example De’caprio’s character has a flash back of a train full of dead people when they talk about the war.

      1. Evan Halleck

        I agree Nick, The editing in Shutter Island really is all about emotion and driving the characters so the audience knows who these characters are.

      2. Parrish Colbert

        Besides the fact that De’caprio is a phenomenal actor Shutter Island’s non conventional style definitely pulls you into it’s obscurity and the story being told.

    2. Chris O'Malley

      I believe that film school is a crucial part of the success of auteurs like Scorsese and Lucas and Lee. Before film schools existed, directors drew inspiration from the directors they trained under. Film students were exposed to many more films including foreign and classic films. This gave them a greater understanding of the power of cinema and allowed them to craft unique styles. Experienced veteran directors were often stuck in antiquated and boring styles of filmmaking which allowed the innovative films of new auteurs to gain success.

  3. Renee Schuyten

    I think that American Graffiti was a smarter and classier version of the cheaper 50’s beach and hot rod films. If anything was exploited, it was the baby boomers nostalgia for their past amidst the turmoil of the 60s and 70’s.

    Shutter Island definitely uses a lot of the visual style of film noir, and the chaotic layering of scenes with flashbacks, reality, hallucinations. Scorsese uses pastiche with reference to Hitchcock (Psycho shower scene, shot of the shower head as Teddy showers after his night in the cave and a bit of Vertigo as he climbs the stairs of the lighthouse). Is this exploitation? I don’t think so.

    1. Steven Colonero

      I agree, I would also say that the cast while all big name actors now, were not really that well known when the film was released. This was before Star Wars and Jaws. Many of these actors were unknowns. This film and Dazed and Confused have alot in common. Both display a plot that is clever, and both have actors and actresses that were not well known when these films came out.

  4. Jennifer Machura

    In terms of classic directors influencing me, the only one is Hitchcock. I think that’s because I grew up watching Hitchcock films with my parents, and those were really the only “old” films I watched. TV shows definitely have an impact on my work, especially The Wonder Years. That show has always been a dominant inspiration for me and my writing, especially when it comes to dialogue and bringing out the awkwardness of characters.
    I think it’s important to learn about older film. It helps us not only realize and appreciate how far technology has come, it also provides a look at the work that influenced modern-day directors that we are familiar with. I used to hate film history, but after taking a History of Animation class at Columbia College, I started to really enjoy learning about the advancements in technology and storytelling. The same goes for live action film.

    1. Christophe Freeman

      Hitchcock is a director that also has influenced me. The way he uses film as a total art is amazing to me. The dialogue, the story behind the film, the cinematography all are part of Hitchcock’s style. His style encourages me to think more about film as an art instead of simple movie making.

      1. Kendrick Branch

        Studying both classic and contemporary films allow a filmmaker to breakdown the use of theoretical tools on different levels. Studying the methods of other filmmakers gives perspective, and whether new or old it can be built upon and improved. One can really hone their creativity after analyzing various ways to understand an artform.

        Spike Lee is a favorite director of mine. I’m inspired by the way he built his own unique style on the shoulders of artists before him.

  5. Clark Faust

    In terms of my influence as well, I would say that the “film school generation” is more of an influence on my work than older generations of filmmakers. Scorsese in particular has a tremendous influence on me as well as other directors such as Terrence Malick and Spielberg.

    The directors of today (Lee, Scorsese, Spielberg, etc.) do display the auteur theory. I think that they leave their mark through the subject matter that they cover. Lee usually deals with race relations. Scorsese is a master of violence and gangster movies (even though he makes other types of films). Spielberg is great at depicting the innocence of childhood (while also covering other types of subject matter). Filmmakers like Tarantino try to leave their own marks on their films by continually use certain shots or products to show that it is his/her film.

    1. Levi Brown

      Those same directors are a big influence on me as well. I think they were able to drawn upon the best of French and Italian films and made them appealing to American audiences.

  6. Alex Wilson

    To answer question 3, there are definitely directors whose movies I prefer to watch. I like a very broad range of movies however and can’t say that any one person has really influenced any work that I have done or made me want to get into the cinema field. As I continue to work on more projects and develop I am sure that subconsciously things will come out that are 100% influenced by someone else or something that I have watched, but really I don’t think other people influence those first visions I get when I’m projecting the work in my mind.

  7. Steven Colonero

    Regarding the exploitation, I dont think that Shutter Island or Inside man exploit their cast or budget to get audiences in the seats. They relied on the story of the film itself. Both are smart well written and well acted films that use their cast and their budget to their advantage. If I had to say any film exploiting their cast it would have to be those latest romantic comedies by Garry Marshall. Im taking about New Years Eve and Valentine’s day. They exploit the plot of multiple story lines interconnecting using a ensemble cast. Most of which are very well known actors and some even Oscar winners. I feel as though those films in particular are exploiting a plot device as well as the actors themselves for audience approval and box office gain.

  8. Allison Hudson

    I don’t think that film school graduates can give 100% credit to the schools they attended. While school definitely helps you teach you the craft of filmmaking, the creativity and vision is still within the filmmaker. I would say if they had not gone to film school and had learned on their own like the ones before, their style may be different and it may have taken longer for their work to be recognized. I think they could attribute their success to film school but school did not teach them their style.

  9. Alexandra Freda

    Belton also touches on postmodernism and how it “reflects the schizophrenic breakdown of the normal experience of the world as a continuous, coherent, and meaningful phenomenon.” How do you think this is reflected in Shutter Island?

    Belton discusses Scorsese as a director specifically referring to his addressing of identity construction of his characters, and how they explore “the disintegration and fragmentation of any sense of a coherent self.” This is certainly exemplified in Shutter Island where the main protagonist Daniels literally searches for himself in the film. Laeddis is Daniels, the inner self conflicted in turmoil and so fragmented and broken from his actions that he cannot cope and creates his own fantasy where he gets to live out his life as the hero solving the mystery and avenging his wife’s death instead of having caused it which is the reality of Laeddis’s life. There is only one way that he can live with himself, as the “good guy”, meaning he must sacrifice himself via lobotomy rather than live with the truth of the self. In this context you could say Shutter Island is a quintessential post modern film.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark was released during the Vietnam War and it returned audiences to innocent action. Again, Nazis were the bad guys and the cowboy looking Indiana Jones represented the American good guy. This put America in a good light in a time of protest and anger from its citizens. Do you think films made now still try to return audiences to innocence, aka distract them from real problems? Or do you think that films are taking a turn to protest and expose our country’s flaws?

    Absolutely films are made for both reasons. Many films distract audiences from real problems, films like Transformers, Pacific Rim, essentially most campier action films, and of course all of the Marvel superhero franchise films may discuss or relate to contemporary issues, but they are glamorized and perhaps even idealized, bringing one more into the fantasy and beauty of the story which becomes more distracting from the way in which they relate to contemporary issues as well. Then again there are films that protest and attempt to expose problems within our culture and contemporary struggles. For instance films like Redacted, which was highly controversial 2007 film that was a propaganda film against the Iraq war for instance push boundaries and seek to be more honest about the cruelties and expose the unfair aspects of war.

  10. Angelo Lima

    In American Graffiti it was interesting how they show the kids that really into rock and roll with their attire natural to the 1960’s, but when they showed the nerdy character in the film they showed his attire in exaggeration. For this movie being made in the time of the 1960’s they had fewer scenes than what I would of thought of rock n’ roll especially for this decade.

  11. Angelo Lima

    I noticed in both Shutter Island and Inside Man, both movies which have been made recently have much more going on than movies of the 80’s or 90’s do, with the usual simple plot. I also noticed it did not matter what genre was considered. It just seems that more complicated plots are becoming popular quickly, so directors and screenwriters do have a harder job, but in contrast, the audience will be much more entertained.

  12. Evan Halleck

    Belton uses American Graffiti as an example of a film that exploits previous ones in its genre by using a larger budget in order to draw in audiences. Do you think Shutter Island or Inside Man exploit earlier films of the same genre? If so, which films do you think are being exploited?

    1. I completely agree with your example and argument about AMerican Graffiti. It took the classic hot rod movies and really made it a high budget sophisticated film that exploits the genre but in my opinion in a positive light. But as far as Shutter Island and Inside Man I do not really think of any films off the top of my head that they are exploiting the genre or older films really.
    Belton uses American Graffiti as an example of a film that exploits previous ones in its genre by using a larger budget in order to draw in audiences. Do you think Shutter Island or Inside Man exploit earlier films of the same genre? If so, which films do you think are being exploited?

    Belton says that nowadays film school students are influenced by directors like Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese, etc. Do any of the classic Hollywood directors (Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock, etc.) inspire or influence your work? What about any of the films we screened? TV also plays a big part in influencing filmmakers. Do you feel that TV shows have an impact on any of your projects or your style?
    I am inspired by many classic Holly Wood directors especially Hitchcock and Hawks. Also George Meille a lot as well. Hitch cocks style and amazing way to tell a story will always be in my head when thinking about making a film or writing a script. I also think that now that certain television shows are almost like mini movies (Game of Thrones,Breaking Bad) and the production quality being so high that I am not sure where the gap between movies and television will go one day. Breaking Bad is probably one of the best filmed tv shows I have ever seen and the choice of camera angles and proper lighting is done so well that I think it will always be an influence on my future film career.
    Even though we are primarily familiar with more modern directors from the film school generation, do you think learning about older films helps impact our filmmaking? Or do you find the historical American films we watch in school irrelevant to the present industry?
    When I first came to college I thought the whole program should be production. I was really anti theory and the study of older films. But now after four years of many many theory classes I can truly say that being forced to watch these older historic films have really influenced the way I look at films. I now really respect it and think it is making me a better film maker.

    1. Evan Halleck

      I also think directors like Quentin Tarantino that have quotes like don’t go to film school just watch films really is a bash to film schools. People are not experienced enough to try the film world yet and film school gives them a couple years to really learn things and figure out what they want to do.

      1. Renee Schuyten

        This being my second time around in film school, I’m not sure I really learned that much the first time. I’ve actually learned more in this class, although maturity and greater attention helps. Obviously it depends on the school – but I think if you had a passionate group of friends that you watched a ton of movies and talked them out into every detail, you would learn a ton.

    2. Benjamin Romang

      I think to be a master or professional at anything you are passionate about like music, architecture, or film, you must learn backwards through history. We start with what grabs our attention, like Star Wars or a new band, then we work backwards finding out what films or music inspired those artists, then what inspired those artists, until were at the beginning. So I would say its very important for film students to know the history of film, but more importantly know what inspired the artist who inspired you. By doing this there is a greater appreciation and understanding of our favorite films and allows us to predict where the medium is heading.

  13. Savannah Steiner

    Do you think Shutter Island or Inside Man exploit earlier films of the same genre? If so, which films do you think are being exploited?

    Answer: Shutter Island and Inside Man are not exploits of earlier films of the same genre, but homages made by the directors to those earlier films. Scorsese and Lee are examples of directors who use the auteur theory and love to work on films which incorporate various elements of the films they grew up watching. Shutter Island was definitely a post modern piece with elements of French New Wave and Film Noir. Inside Man was created with an influence to old heist and human drama pieces.

    1. Steven Colonero

      Really well said. Scorsese has always been influenced by classic Hollywood cinema, you can always tell by his style of film making while at the same time making it really unique. I think this can really be seen in all of his gangster films were you uses long takes and character driven story lines.

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