2017/Screening #2: Gold Diggers of 1933 – 98 Min.

During the Great Depression four poor actresses and a Broadway show unexpectedly get financial support from a young and aspiring musician. But from where did he get that much money?

Joan Blondell and Dick Powell (who were married from 1936-1944), Ruby Keeler, Warren William and a young Ginger Rogers (famous for her later partnership with Fred Astaire) are starring in this highly entertaining musical film directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Filmed on a budget of estimated 433,000 US $, the movie features four gorgeous dance sequences by legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley (1895-1974). All songs are composed by Harry Warren, who gained three Oscars and eight nominations in his career and wrote many standards like “Jeepers Creepers”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo” or “Lullaby of Broadway”.

Gold Diggers of 1933 gained great commercial success, but was actually one of the first American films being altered before distribution in order to avoid state censorship. In 2003, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024069/?ref_=sr_2

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2017/Screening #1: Sunrise (1927) – 95 min.

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In this melodrama a farmer is forced to choose between a seductive it girl from the big city and his simple and innocent country wife.

Sunrise was German filmmaker F.W. Murnau’s (“Nosferatu”; “The Last Laugh”) first of four American films before his tragic death in a car accident in 1931.

Producer William Fox (founder of Fox Film that became a part of nowadays 20th Century Fox which presently is owned by Rupert Murdoch) granted Murnau maximum artistic freedom for this film that brought his studio a lot of prestige, but poor revenues.

The film received three Oscars at the first ceremony of the Academy Awards in 1929. The categories at that time were a bit different, but would nowadays approximately equal for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Gaynor as the farmer’s wife) and Best Cinematography (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss). The film furthermore received one Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction (Rochus Gliese).

Murnau: “I think films of the future will use more and more of these ‘camera angles’, or, as I prefer to call them, these ‘dramatic angles’. They help photograph thought.”

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018455/

Welcome To Fall Trimester 2017!

Welcome to the official blog of TUJ’s (Temple University, Japan Campus) American Film course. Please feel free to post anything that you think is related to the screenings or topics of the course! Guests are also very welcome to add their comments, if they would respect this blog’s purpose. Have fun!!!!

Your Final Word

Captain_America-classic_suitThis trimester will end very soon, so please let me know how you feel/felt about this course. You could write here, for example, about particular content you did not know at the beginning and have learned about in class, moments in the class you were surprised about or felt challenged with, points you think that could be improved or just simply look back at all films and how you think about them now, etc. Thank you so much for making this course better!!!

2016 – Breakout Session #6: Auteur Cinema Vs. Post-Modern Producer Cinema

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In our last session we will discuss about how the process of film production has changed after the decline of the New American Cinema.

2016 – Screening #6: Vanishing Point (1971) – 105 min.

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Professional driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) takes a bet to ride his Dodge Challenger R/T from Colorado to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. On his way he fights obstacles and gains supporters, like a blind radio DJ (Cleavon Little) who is able to scan the broadcasts of the police…

For this class I choose the uncut version that only was released in the UK and is seven minutes longer than the US movie. A typical example of a cult movie, this film was a critical as well as a financial failure upon its release in the US. However, after being successful in Europe, the film was re-released in a double bill with “The French Connection” (1971). Running in drive-in theaters and on TV afterwards, the film since then has gained a respectable cult following. Steven Spielberg has named it among his favorite movies (there are some analogies to his 1971 film “Duel”), and Quentin Tarantino paid his homage to it in “Death Proof” (2007). A remake was done for TV in 1997, and “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly seems currently to plan another remake for the big screen.

The film was shot by director Richard C. Serafian on a low budget of 1,6 Million US $, but gained over the years more than 12 Million US $ at the box office. Despite its many locations, the film was shot in just 38 days (instead of 60 planned days due to a sudden budget shortage through the studio) with – for its days – light-weight ARRI II cameras and a small crew of 19 (excluding actors). I will leave the end of this film up to your interpretation (before you will hear mine of course). But it might be helpful for you to consider what Barry Newman has pointed in an interview: “… no matter how far they push or chase you, no one can truly take away your freedom…”

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067927/?ref_=nv_sr_1

2016 – Breakout Session #5: Blaxploitation Movies and Minorities in U.S. Cinema

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Our next breakout session was focused on films that fall under the category of Blaxploitation Cinema. Afterwards I tried to reveal some connections between the organization of the American mainstream film business and how women, racial minorities and transgender people have been/are being portrayed in U.S. cinema. Although eventually Blaxploitation films were strongly opposed by African-Americans because of the rather frequent negative stereotyping of their protagonists as gangsters (and therefore possibly tarnishing the image of African-Americans in society in general), they helped African-American talent (actors, directors, composers etc.) to emerge and become an established part of the U.S. film industry!

2016 – Breakout Session #4: Exploitation Movies and Other Forms of Off-Mainstream Cinema

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After our session on B-Movies (with special focus on the genres of Monster and Martial Arts), we had further excursions into the diverse facets of Paracinema, especially Fringe Films (C- and Z-Movies): Early Exploitation Films outside the Hays Code like Reefer Madness (1936), and Sexploitation Cinema. Clips were shown from “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (1965) by Russ Meyer, the “educational” movie “Teenage Mother” (1967) and the sexploitative B-Movie “Angel” (1984). In the next two lectures we will add Midnight Movies (artsy and/or crazy independent films that became Cult Movies) and Blaxploitation to our knowledge base!