Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ambition Versus Good Sense

This week, the online film class is watching Bride of Frankenstein and exploring the trope of the "mad scientist playing God."  I just flat out love this movie.  Directed by James Whale, the film has much to adore and it's a wonderful film to explore questions of narrative structure.  After all, you'd expect a movie with the word "bride" in the title to be all about the girl.  But no, the incomparable hissing-like-a-swan Elsa Lanchester is actually only visible onscreen for a few minutes, which raises the question of whose movie is this?  Whose story is being told?  (After all, there's another "bride" in the movie!)  As I've said before, these are important questions to ask - and how you answer these questions will radically change your analysis of what's important in the film.  It's a short one, so watch it more than once.  (Spoiler tip - the Bride also plays Mary Shelley at the beginning of the film.  What's the significance of that?  What similarities are there in how Bryon and Shelley treat Mary and how Victor and Pretorius treat the Bride?  These are things that make you go "hmmmm.")  The film also examines a question that often comes up with scientific advances - just because we CAN do something, SHOULD we do it?  Does ambition trump good sense?  Technology crashes into morality, both in Bride and in Breaking Bad.  The Manhattan Project, genetic manipulation, extending life through artificial means - all of these scientific advances also have a moral element.  We can learn much from the approaches taken in Bride to these issues.

We continue with our exploration of classics next week, when Forbidden Planet is served up for your viewing enjoyment.  Color!  Flying saucers!  Robots!  A lost civilization!  And a lot of Freud with more than a dash of Shakespeare.  All with Leslie Nielsen at the center - long, long before he became famous as a comic actor, thanks to Airplane! and the Naked Gun franchise.

Breaking Bad fans and followers -please check back here this Wednesday for the first installment of "Walter White Wednesday" as I begin laying out some of the big themes and little gems from Breaking Bad.  I thought it was especially nice to start that segment on 2/22 and the fact that it's Ash Wednesday when the season of penance begins just tickles me.  This week, I'll take a look at what it means to "break bad" and why Walter White is susceptible to going off into the deep end of the moral pool.

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