Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Genre in a Blender

Reel One: After multiple examples of films using straight-ahead, easy to follow narratives, we left the safety of the path this week and dove into the magnificence of Dark City. As a general rule of thumb, when the protagonist of a film is suffering from amnesia, the plot is going to go down a few rabbit holes. It's actually one of the (many) things I enjoy with this movie - you need to actually watch it. I included it on the syllabus to discuss the concepts of mise en scene and I think it provides a brilliant springboard for that discussion. Proyas' view of a sort-of New York is dark and mystic and foreboding. Buildings rise and fall at the collective whims of a race running experiments on us in a complicated attempt to understand what allows us to also be individuals. Time is running out, yet day never comes. Coming out a year before The Matrix, this film deals with some of the same issues, including the idea of "am I my memories?" and "if I am, and I can't trust those memories to be true, then who am I?" Dark City is often classified as a neo-noir, which I think is fair, but it fits in nicely with my sci-fi-centric class as well. (Another point that will come back up when we return from break is that the canvas that is science fiction is large enough to encompass any number of genres. More on that in the "Coming Next Week" portion!)

Reel Two: Buffy breaks my heart. Over at the Re-Watch, three amazing scholars tackle some crucial Season 2 storytelling. Hold the phone, Agnes! you say. Buffy? That late 90s thing based on that fluffy movie with that guy from the first 90210? She's in high school but goes around killing - what was it? - yeah, vampires. That's what you're talking about breaking your heart?

None other, Skeptical Ones. For this week, the Re-Watch gallops headlong into the valley of love, loss, maturity, grief, and flaming baseball bats. "Phases" can be sweet as love begins to blossom and "Bewitched . . ." can be funny and tragic by turns in its depiction of boomerang magic (be very careful what you wish for, when you put revenge into the mix) and then. Then there is "Passion."

I'll say no more about it - this week's lineup will spell it out for you (and Steve Halfyard even breaks it down by notes for you!) and really - this is where many a casual viewer sat up on the couch and said, "Whoa. They did that?" Whedon mixes genres into a fine puree sometimes - teenage angst gives way to slapstick gives way to gothic romance gives way to horror gives way to "clutch a pillow and cry for the loss of what never was."

This is why Buffy has (rightfully) sparked book after book and blog after blog.

Coming Next Week: The school is on spring break, so there won't be a usual "reel" for our film. However, I'm taking the time to finish watching the amazing and incredible Cowboy Bebop series, so I daresay I'll yammer on about Spike and Faye and Jet and Ed and Ein and the wonders of anime. The class will be watching the movie; I'm working through the original series. What? you say. Japanese animation? Huge eyes and sharp features and jerky movements? Piffle. Bebop has more heart and loveliness and humor and despair and hope than anything I've seen consistently in quite a while. Pokemon it ain't. Join me, won't you?

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