Last week’s recitation began with a quick overview of the assignment due. I saw that some of the other posts described the requirements, so if you missed the recitation, check those posts out to get a good overview.
We then watched a clip from a parody of the 1976 Jaws, called Bacalhau, meaning Codfish. It’s interesting to consider that the audience from this parody had to be derivative of the Jaws audience. Though it may seem obvious, this is something completely new to the Blockbuster era. Blockbusters like Jaws reached such a wide audience that these parodies were able to reach a wide audience as well.
We then shifted gears as Bruno posed the question to us: What is a blockbuster? One student answered that it is movie that is made for a universal audience rather than a specific audience. Another student responded that it is instead a movie that reaches a universal audience, even if it wasn’t intended for one. Finally, another student answered that it is a movie that can be described at a high level in 25 words or less. This is the theme of Thomas Schatz’s “A New Hollywood” and the discussion built off of this idea. From here, Bruno posed the question: Did Star Wars destroy films or renew Hollywood by bringing audiences back to movies like never before?
The question wasn’t answered by our class but instead segued into our student presentations. The first student presented on Peter Biskin’s “Starbucks.” He spoke about Lucas, who made Star Wars, and other blockbuster directors of the time. He argued that Star Wars created the big budget comic book mentality. The reading went into Lucas’s childhood stating that he was bullied and had bad relationship with his father. It also went into Lucas’s motivation for his big budget films arguing that the changing industry made Lucas more focused on a paycheck rather than the content of his movie. During his screenings, not a single person enjoyed the film, but Lucas would constantly get feedback from every single audience member and change the film until it met all of the audience’s demand. In that sense, it was a film made to please the crowd. The only producer that thought the movie had potential was Spielberg, and the two went on to make history.
The next student presented on Pauline Kael’s “Why Are Movies So Bad…”. The presentation summarized the article, but then the student posed a question to the class that I found interesting: Is there an inherent conflict between popularity and art? Does art that becomes popular lose its value as art? The student argued that art was supposed to push boundaries, and thus inherently should not be popular. Thus any art that appealed to the mass can not be considered art, as it does not push boundaries. Many of these blockbuster films simply gave audiences what they wanted. Thus can they truly be considered art? It was an interesting point and certainly one I think is worth exploring. The student also talked about how popular novels today are page turners. This same effect can be seen in movies like Star Wars. They are linear films that go scene from scene, even with a page turner like transition.
We ended our recitation with a look at the politics of Star Wars. Bruno posed the question to the class “Is Star Wars racist?” Some have interpreted it as a film about the large black enemy trying to destroy the noble white characters. Though this interpretation might seem like a bit of a stretch, I think it is important to consider the time period and the wide reach of the audience. Whether or not it was Lucas’s intention, should he be held accountable for this interpretation? There wasn’t a single black character in the entire film, and its interesting to consider whether artists and filmmakers should be held to certain social standards when making their films.
That was the recitation! Comment if I missed anything 😀