Some responses to a recent posting I made on this topic make it sound like I
was suggesting only showing _Titanic_ and Adam Sandler films to introduce
cinema to undergraduates.  Nothing of the sort.

So I'm re-sending one of my postings from two weeks ago on the subject.  It
gives a clearer picture of where I stand.

My apologies for in effect repeating myself, but the memory of a listserv
tends to be quite short.

--Edward R. O'Neill

> I'd like to add a few points to the question of showing _October_ vs.
> _Titanic_ as part of an intro film course.
> I think both approaches have their uses and their problems.  Often the
> decision is a question of how the course fits into the curriculum, rather
> than about an abstract ideal.  Thus there are practical pedagogical
> questions and questions of one's values.
> While it is indeed difficult to get students into the mindset of past
> and art forms, that is part of what education is about:  learning that
> things were different in the past, and that these past worlds were not
> simply ignorant or trivial but as profound and rich as our own, but
> different.  And that they are *our* past, and thus tell us about who we
> This is where the practicalities connect to our educational values.
> If we truly love film and what it can do, we owe it to our students not
> to show these clips but to make them vivid and meaningful.  After all, if
> these shots are so influential and so often quoted in other films, there
> must be some reason why, and getting the students to see why can be a
> meaningful and personal experience that is different for each and every
> student.
> If we show only films that appeal to students already and that they have
> probably already seen, we run the risk of not broadening their worlds.
> if we don't meet the students halfway, we run the risk of simply being
> elitist and treasuring cultural masterpieces for no good reason.
> I find it wrong-headed, however, to frame a debate about contemporary vs.
> canonized masterpieces as an issue of anti-intellectual vs. intellectual.
> One can construct a thoughtful context for _Titanic_ OR _American Pie_, or
> one can approach _Citizen Kane_ in a shallow, naive and uninformed way.
> date of the film does not determine whether one's response is intellectual
> or anti-intellectual.
> Constructing a meaningful context, however, requires knowledge of
> and traditions--the long take, disaster films, changes in filmmaking
> technology, or the conventions of comedy, e.g.--which may not be gleaned
> only from looking at recent films, and thus history is constantly calling
> us to be made useful and fresh again.
> (If your student listens to the audio commentary of _American Pie_ on the
> DVD, he or she may find that the team that made it thought long and hard
> about this type of film and the choices and values involved.  It is not a
> thoughtless shallow work in the least.  And knowledge of _The Graduate_,
> least, might help.)
> Thus I think the question comes back to (first) your pedagogical goals and
> (second) your values about education itself.  Only sorting out how we feel
> about these questions can we get a good sense of how to raise the issues
> with our students.
> Sincerely,
> Edward R. O'Neill
> Bryn Mawr Colllege

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