Johannes Wich-Schwarz, PhD, associate professor of English, presents, Peeping Tom (1960), by director Michael Powell.
Powell’s infamous movie effectively ended the director’s career—audiences rejected the movie as disturbing and disgusting. Yet, over the years, the movie has found new recognition, especially through the efforts of Martin Scorsese. On its surface, Peeping Tom is a thriller in the vein of Hitchcock’s Psycho (released the same year)—but its deeper significance lies in its existential questioning of the cinematic experience itself. Peeping Tom raises the unsettling question whether we as movie watchers are automatically implicated in the exploitative and violent aspects of the human gaze. How do we ethically justify watching another movie after having seen Peeping Tom?
Kent Bausman, PhD, associate professor of sociology, presents Do the Right Thing (1989), by director Spike Lee.
Do the Right Thing chronicles the simmering racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood over the course of a long hot summer day. An explosive drama leading to tragedy, it is a vivid and distinctly told tale without any clear heroes or villains. The film was released more than two decades before the recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore, yet it continues to speak volumes about the state of racial tensions in the United States. Written, directed and produced by Spike Lee, the film generated considerable public controversy upon its release, but most film critics were in agreement that it was filmmaking at its best. Largely shunned by the Academy Awards at the time, the film has since been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the “100 Greatest American Films” and in 1999 was selected for inclusion to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Christopher O’Connor, PhD, assistant professor of biology, presents Gattaca (1997), by director Andrew Niccol.
With this film Andrew Niccol makes his directorial debut. The film explores eugenics and its unintended but very real consequences caused by technological advances meant to “aid” human reproduction. One can locate Gattaca’s roots in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Like Brave New World, the film explores the technologization of genetics and of human biological science in general. The title is composed entirely of the letters used to label the nucleotide bases of DNA which are guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine. After the film was released, NASA scientists voted it the most scientifically accurate film ever made.
John Wickersham, PhD, professor of philosophy, presents Stand By Me (1986), by director Rob Reiner.
It this film, four 12-year-old boys set out on a quixotic adventure with quite unexpected consequences. The movie is based upon a Stephen King novella, The Body, and takes its title from a popular song from 1961. These four boys set out from their homes in fictional Castle Rock, Oregon, to find the remains of a boy who died mysteriously and whose body was never found. The quest is the whole point of the movie, not the body, and like Odysseus and his companions, the boys have many an adventure before the denouement. Stand By Me gives the viewer an exquisite view into the world of boys, comparable to the Twain novels. River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton have the central roles as two of the boys, with Kiefer Sutherland and John Cusack in supporting roles, and Richard Dreyfuss in a cameo.
Steve Coxon, PhD, associate professor of education, presents The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
The Godfather is one of the most referenced and influential films of last 35 years. Nominated for 11 Oscars and winning three, it is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Featuring Marlon Brando, The Godfather, launched the acting careers of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, James Caan and others. A gangster film in which the bad guys seem to be good guys, The Godfather explores many themes, including freedom, family, respect, culture, power, good and evil, marriage, citizenship, courage and loyalty. Powerful in its character development, particularly of mob boss Vito Corleone’s son Michael, The Godfather centers around this complex father/son relationship.