On Wednesday in recitation we began by going over the midterm essay assignment, talking about possible topics and going over logistical questions. After that, Jaap briefly introduced Peter Biskind’s article and then turned the class over to the presenters.
The presenters went through Biskind’s article and discussed some of the personal history of the “film school generation” which included Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, and Coppola. After they presented, we all discussed whether or not these men had ruined movies and tried to explain why they had such an incredible impact on cinema. After we discussed Biskind’s article, Jaap led the class through Thomas Schatz’s artice and listed the many different conditions that combine to make a movie a blockbuster. Some of the things we discussed were the value of a star in a leading role, multimedia platforms and crossover appeal, and the advantages of having an easily understood concept (Spielberg’s comment that a good film can be described in twenty-five words or less). Following this conversation, Jaap showed us a clip from Goldfinger, and asked us whether or not the movie should be considered a blockbuster. Convincing arguments were made for both sides, such as the fact that the film was based on an already successful book and featured lots of action. To the contrary, it was pointed out that Goldfinger came out before the concept of a blockbuster was really discussed, and that it only happens to fall into the category retrospectively.
From there, we talked about Star Wars and Jaws and tried to figure out why these particular movies have kept audiences riveted for so many years and continue to resonate with people decades after their initial release. It was brought up that Star Wars especially creates a world that provides an escape for viewers and keeps people wanting to come back to it because it’s both exciting and comfortable. Similarly, it was pointed out that these stories are all pretty classic tales, easily described in few words, just in different settings. With this said, Jaap showed us the original posters for both Jaws and Alien, which was pitched as “Jaws in space,” and pointed out the utter simplicity of both marketing campaigns. We briefly discussed the idea of racism in Star Wars and whether or not it is a valid critique. The character of Darth Vader was used as the most obvious example of potential racism in Star Wars, along with the droids and their characterization in the “bar scene.” Finally, there was a presentation on Kael’s article that explained why movies are so bad. We ran out of time to finish discussing the article. but the presenter elaborated with very good points as to why modern screenplays are less than fantastic for the most part.