TMA 498, FALL 2013
TOPICS IN THE MEDIA ARTS: GREAT (SHORT) FILMS
CLASS OBJECTIVE: we intend to look at the way that media and culture industries sort of push us into certain commercially-derived or dominated patterns of thought and action, to look at ways that there might be some substance and sincerity to all this, and finally to get around all that’s dubious and frivolous and start making our own connections. Imposed and unconsidered Ideas of Greatness can make the big boys a lot of money, obscure important conversations, and get all Romantic and sloppy. Carefully considered and contextualized Ideas of Greatness also allow us to establish a set of hard, definable, even incontrovertible criteria or standards of judgment. Far from diminishing the moments of pleasure, an expanded set of critical tools will leave us amazed by the abundance we’ve been blinking our way past.
This is a second, alternative edition of the Great Films class. We have previously, profitably, keyed on the feature film. This emphasis gets us a long way down the road, uncovering practical infinities of possibility and profundity. But this emphasis is also, in some ways, quite limiting. Commercial feature films, the art cinema, even the feature documentary are really the tip of the cinematic iceberg; there is more to movies than has been dreamed of in our philosophies, or touched upon by our viewing itineraries. We will watch nearly 150 complete films this semester. We will explore ancient films and their allegedly defunct methods, avant-garde and amateur sensibilities, as well as some of the patterns being established through new possibilities in distribution and exhibition. For all the things that we do know, it may turn out that we may don’t know very much after all. Prepare for what may be an unprecedented immersion, challenge, expansion…
WEEK 1: INTRODUCTION
View: Zabriskie Point; Moonbird, Introduction to Fogo Island, Runaway, The Dante Quartet; Jeu, The Magician and the Cavern, Organism, Village of Idiots
WEEK 2: ANARCHY
View: Daisies; A Bear for Punishment, The Cat Came Back, Fat and Lean Wrestling Match, The Bricklayers, The Colonel’s Account, A Very Fine Lady, The Fireman, For Better or Worser, The Band Concert, Pardon My Scotch
Read: Milton, Areopagitica
WEEK 3: ACTUALITY
View: Blood of the Beasts; Miss Dundee and her Performing Dogs, Barcelona by Tram, Moscow Clad in Snow, Bronx Morning, Daybreak Express, The Children of Fogo Island; Kings Cross, Bowling, Maligne Canyon, July 4th
Read: Plato, Apology
WEEK 4: ADVOCACY
View: Now!, Two Solutions to One Problem, Coal Face, A Colour Box, Rainbow Dance, Housing Problems, Trade Tattoo, Churchill’s Island, Lounge Chair, Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism, Our Town Faro
Read: Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience
WEEK 5: INTERLUDE—SILENT COMEDY
View: Behind the Screen, The Cook, The Scarecrow, Haunted Spooks, Mighty Like a Moose, Fiddlesticks, Liberty, Happy Anniversary
Read: Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences
WEEK 6: THINGS
View: Toccata for Toy Trains; Cracking Contraptions, This Too Shall Pass, Mouse Heaven, The Home Where No Man Rests, The Night Before Christmas, Have You Got Any Castles?, La Grande Revue Philips, Toute la Mémoire du Monde, Renaissance, A Game with Stones, Tops
Read: Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
WEEK 7: SPACE, TIME, IMAGE
View: Nothing Compares 2 U, Let Forever Be, What is Home Without the Boarder?, The Cook in Trouble, The Old Mill, At Land, Go! Go! Go!, Du Cote de la Cote, La Jetée
Read: Emerson, Beauty
WEEK 8: EDUCATION
View: St. Mathurin’s School of Practical Joking, Auteur, Here Comes Science, The Struggle for Survival, Around the World with Orson Welles, Elgar, Paddle to the Sea
Read: Lessing, The Education of the Human Race
WEEK 9: RHYTHM/MOVEMENT; ABSTRACTION
View: Pilala, Pierrette’s Escapades, Ten Ladies in an Umbrella, Skeleton Dance, “Lullaby of Broadway,” Dance in the Sun, Rabbit Moon, Shake! Otis at Monterey, Ballet Adagio
Colour Flight, Santa’s Workshop, H2O, An Optical Poem, Glen Falls Sequence, Begone, Dull Care, Blacktop, Garden of Earthly Delights, Le Chant du Syrene, Synchromy, Animated Motion
Read: Shlovski, Art as Technique
WEEK 10: SURREALISM, SUBJECTIVITY
View: The Rabbit of Seville, Dough for the Do-Do, Krek, Dom; Shattered, Meshes in the Afternoon, The Way to Shadow Garden, The Flat, Thanatopsis, Film
Read: Breton, What is Surrealism?
WEEK 11: INDEPENDENCE
View: Hoagies, films of William Wegman, The Voice of the Nightingale, Autumn Fire, Rose Hobart, Family Portrait
Read: Morris, Useful Work vs. Useless Toil, Orwell, On Gandhi
WEEK 12: PARABLES
View: Bread and Alley, Little and Big, Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century, Gerald McBoing-Boing, Ersatz, Fast and Furryous, Act Without Words I, Punch and Judy, The Hand, The Promethean, Dinner for Two
Read: Pope, An Essay on Criticism
WEEK 13: AMERICAN THANKSGIVING
WEEK 14: OBSCURITY AND THE OTHER
View: Once in a Lifetime, The Spider and the Fly, The Vampire, Choose Your Weppins, Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak, Kurelek, Elegie de Chiac, Talking Heads, Peter and the Wolf
Read: Trollope, Aboriginals, Lessing, The Parable of the Three Rings
Final paper due.
WEEK 15: CINEMA DIRECT/PASSION PLAYS
View: Coffee and Cigarettes, The Case of Charlie Gordon, Varley, White Mane, Nahanni, The House is Black
Le Poulet, Gasman, Through My Thick Glasses, Bonjour, Danny, Bonjour,
Read: Wordsworth and Coleridge, Preface (1802) to The Lyrical Ballads
TEXTS AND ASSIGNMENTS:
Readings are listed in the weekly schedule. They are available on the internet, or from various sources in various libraries.
Each student will be required to lead a discussion on the readings from one of the weeks on the schedule. It will depend on enrolment, but it is likely that these will be group presentations, with two to three people speaking, together, for from 10 to 15 minutes. Presenters must be prepared to talk about time and place, text and context, individuals and collectives. Try to link your presentation to the theme of the week. Your instructor will be pleased to make some suggestions in this regard.
By 5 PM on the day of class, students will e-mail the TA and tell him if they have read the assigned text, or not.
Students will write 500-750 weekly words about one or two or three of the films screened in each class. Alternatively, students may write those 500-750 words on the week’s actual topic, though if they do so, they should still probably cite individual titles. These responses should be posted on the digital dialogue section of Learning Suite. They are due on Monday at noon, the week following the topic in question.
For instance, or in other words, your responses to the actualities screened during our week three class are due on Monday, at noon, of week four.
Each student will submit a 1500-2000 word paper on the nature of canon and classic, especially as these terms have been complicated, expanded, in any way altered by our own conversations and textual experiences. The paper is due on Wednesday, December 4.
Our final will take place on Thursday, December 15, commencing at 5:45 PM (really!).
At that time we will all sit down and see a short film. Then we will write until 7:45, at the latest, on why or how or whether the film in question is great.