After taking attendance, Jaap started class with a clip from Back to the Future. In the clip, Dr. Brown is testing out his new time machine made from Marty’s car. The doctor begins his trial and has Marty document it on a videocamera. The doctor’s machine works and sends his dog one minute into the future. Later, it becomes known that the doctor uses plutonium to power his time machine, which he stole the Libyans. By coincidence, the Libyans show up and fire guns at the doctor and Marty.
After watching the clip, we discussed why Back to the Future is considered a 1980s blockbuster. The class came up with a list as follows:
– BTTF takes place in a cold war setting
– action primarily trumps character development
– BTTF demonstrates the American middle class excelling and doing the impossible
– and there is a heavy focus on the beauty, power, and excitement of technology
After the discussion, Jonathon and Laura (Lauren?) did their presentation on the Robert Sklar reading: Hollywood and the Age of Reagan. The pair discussed the concept of synergy, which is the combined or cooperative action of two or more elements to enhance an effect. They also discussed how new technology caused resistance from the film industry at first, but once Hollywood saw the potential for large profits, they adopted the new technological capabilities with open arms. Hollywood used new methods of marketing and the multiplex to get their films seen by millions. However, we learned that the huge money makers often did not generate positive critic reviews. However, Hollywood didn’t care and continued expanding their films into franchises with accompanying books, games, TV shows, etc. The presentation then shifted into the discussion of how film in the Reagan era brought back national pride after the Vietnam war by reveling in the heroism of WWII. Hollywood films also briefly evoked big, hard bodied stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stalone as a way of physically representing bravery and heroism. However, these kinds of roles eventually gave way to the “underdog” characters such as Marty McFly in Back to the Future and Kevin in Home Alone.
Following the presentation, Jaap lectured about the difference between big films of 1980s and 1970s. Jaap described how films in the 80s featured new gender relations and the usage of “hard” bodies rather than soft. 80s film also suggested the reemergence of new “old” problems such as discrimination and the subordination of women. Films also were more patriotic and depicted acts of American heroism. The 1980s marketed their films a lot more than those of the 70s with the usage of multiplexes, franchises, and multi-media (games, toys, etc). In addition, the creation of the VCR allowed home views to actually own their favorite films after its theatrical release.
Jaap then showed us a clip from Robocop. In the clip, the cop is captured by a gang and tortured. The gang violently blows his limbs off before eventually shooting him in the head. The cop is brought to a hospital where the doctors begin to operate and turn him in a robot. At the end of the scene, the doctors debate on whether or not they should leave his left human arm in tact.
We discussed why Robocop is a good example of an 80s movie. Again we came up with a list:
– it depicts a regular man who is weak and destroyed but technology is used to bring him back better than ever
– the main character is “symbolically castrated”
– there is a fuse between humanity and technology
– and the audience is rooting for the policeman, an American hero (patriotism!)
Next, Tomson did his presentation on the Robin Wood reading. The reading discussed movies during the Carter administration and how the US was in a period of recuperation. Hollywood started recycling the same plots which gave birth to the sequel. This was also a period when children’s films were marketed for adults so that the parents could “escape” their every day lives (ET, Star Wars, etc). These films were effective because they were simple minded and required minimal thinking and analysis. The plots were normally twists on familiar narrative structures and could provide “reassurance” to its viewers. For example, the use of special effects was reassurance that the economy was doing well and Hollywood had the money to spend on such effects.
The class then discussed if Body Double is a reassuring film. The class generally answered “no” because the movie makes the audience aware of the construction of a film, spoofs other movies, and the main character is severely flawed (he is a peeper, claustrophobic, etc.)
Our last discussion of the day was about the role of media in Body Double. We mentioned how media distracts and confuses the characters, leading them down the wrong paths. The director DePalma is trying to say that the power of media can manipulate reality. There is an absence of absolute truth in the film that makes it difficult to be certain of what the characters and audience sees.