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Monday, 16 February 2009

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todd.

Posts like this make me want to go back and take more undergraduate lit courses.

Sisyphus

Don't you mean more undergraduate _film_ classes?

It's interesting how Nolan uses a really high key light, almost overhead, to help turn the Joker's eyes into pits (the black makeup is not in and of itself enough, as we can see from that shot of the Joker with his head tilted back a bit). To do that he had to risk Maggie Gyllenhal really not looking attractive (even ignoring the bad hairdo and scarily gaunt ribs poking through where there should be cleavage).

Andrew R.

Have you ever thought about doing a future course on the work of no-talent hacks? Because for every film director and comic-book writer/artist team that's really good, there's a lot of dreck. And then you could actually deal with theoretical objections to authorial intent.

Scott Eric Kaufman

But Andrew, then I'd have to spend the quarter teaching dreck produced by no-talent hacks. I'm not sure I'd enjoy that too much.

Thanks, todd.! Are you an institute of higher learning, and if so, you don't happen to be hiring, do you?

Sisyphus, I love the fact that, objectively, there should be cleavage. The lack! The lack! And what's odd is that Gyllenhal was criticized for breast-feeding her kid on the set. (Or so I half-remember from one of her Daily Show appearances.) I didn't focus on the lighting here, but throughout the film Nolan uses really high key lights: he lines the the righthand side of the bank in the opening scene with a on-screen explanation of them, then reuses them in the bat-cave. They're in Bruce's penthouse too. Honestly, he's a little obsessed with putting in-frame lights that'll plausibly create the effects he desires. (He did it in The Prestige too.)

As for whether todd. would enjoy my composition course if it were a literature course, I'll say this: one of the reasons I've written these posts is that, unlike when I teach literature, I don't have a ready-to-hand toolbox for discussing film or comics, so I've had to build one. But I consider what I'm doing here a close-reading akin to what I'd do to a work of literature were I happen to be teaching Huck Finn. The historical audience and rhetorical devices would be different, but the process would be the same: how does this work, what does it tell us about the author's expectations of the reader, &c.

JPool

So my new question, in which I reveal that I don't really know what goes on in a composition course, never having taken one:
Are your students making films/comic books as part of the course, so that they can try out these various visual devices and see if/how they work for them?

As your thesis/conclusion, "The Batman is really fast," I would rephrase it slightly, "It is the nature of Batman to be Batmannish" or "Batman is Batman." See?

JPool

So my new question, in which I reveal that I don't really know what goes on in a composition course, never having taken one:
Are your students making films/comic books as part of the course, so that they can try out these various visual devices and see if/how they work for them?

As your thesis/conclusion, "The Batman is really fast," I would rephrase it slightly, "It is the nature of Batman to be Batmannish" or "Batman is Batman." See?

Andrew R.

Well, Scott, I've always thought that a fun course in intellectual history would be to teach something of an "anti-Great Books" version of Western Civ. The idea would be to take works that are pretty clearly not very good and yet were very popular at the time that they were written. But of course that course will have to wait many, many years, especially since to date no search committee has chosen to do the right thing and employ me.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Andrew, I've taught that class! Started with Looking Backward, on to The Iron Heel and Sister Carrie, threw in some Silas Weir Mitchell and Thomas Dixon, &c. I think most classes on American realism and naturalism end up like that.

That said, my inner-intellectual historian thinks popularity should matter when we talk about particular cultural moments, but disciplinary history dictates we teach works which model complexity, and rarely do those twain meet. (Like, in Twain.)

JPool:

Are your students making films/comic books as part of the course, so that they can try out these various visual devices and see if/how they work for them?

They do. Their first assignment is the R.A. (or rhetorical analysis), their second the unfortunately acronymed R.I.P. (or rhetoric in practice). They write their own comic, script, review, &c., the thinking being that the lessons will stick better if they apply the techniques they've learned to identify.

Jonathan Dresner

That said, my inner-intellectual historian thinks popularity should matter when we talk about particular cultural moments.

Ironically, that's precisely what I emphasize when I'm teaching cultural moments in my surveys: the high culture which we now consider removed and abstruse often had mass audiences.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Same here, Jonathan. However, that fact is lost upon the professional gatekeepers, which is odd, because some of them are Dickensians, so they know this intellectually, but Dickens still feels like literature to them, so anyone who writes about Silas Weir Mitchell is a populist in the derogatory sense (i.e. such persons want to open the quarter with Mitchell and finish with four episodes of Charmed).

Scott Eric Kaufman

(And that should not have been one sentence.)

Jake

The Batman is really fast.

He sure is! I like how with all that heavy gear and large cape he is able to silently disappear from people mid-conversation. It's a good thing the "wraith-like" aspects of Batman are somewhat intact in the newer movies, which seemed to be inhibited by a police procedural-like realism.

That gala scene was one of my favorite bits in the movie. I like how the spinning camera, the score, and the Joker's spooky story makes the scene all disorienting, and then the scene rests on the words "One day they carve her face. We have no money for surgeries..." Sends chills down my spine!

Scott Eric Kaufman

It's a good thing the "wraith-like" aspects of Batman are somewhat intact in the newer movies, which seemed to be inhibited by a police procedural-like realism.

But, as Q.E.D.'d above, it's a realism whose tenets are continually violated. I mean, he falls 90 some-odd stories, lands on his back and walks away in the first half of the film; but at the end, he's nearly killed by a three-story drop? Say what?

I like how the spinning camera, the score, and the Joker's spooky story makes the scene all disorienting, and then the scene rests on the words "One day they carve her face. We have no money for surgeries..."

That's the real problem with my analysis here, isn't it? I don't account for the score---how Nolan titters on the edge of key with his harem of shrieking cellos.

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