Tag Archive for College of Film and the Moving Image

Longenecker in The Conversation: A Brief History of Invisibility on Screen

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Marc Longenecker ’03, MA ’07, assistant professor of the practice in film studies, explains the history of invisible characters in films. Longenecker ’03 majored in film studies and physics for his BA, and film studies for his MA.

Elisabeth Moss stars in the latest adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. Universal Pictures

Elisabeth Moss stars in the latest adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel. (Photo by Universal Pictures)

A brief history of invisibility on screen

What would you do if you could be invisible? Would this newfound power bring out the best in you, instilling you with the courage to discreetly sabotage the efforts of evildoers? Or would the ability to slip in and out of rooms unnoticed tap into darker impulses?

This alluring fantasy has long been fodder for filmmakers, many of whom have taken cues from the eponymous character in H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel, The Invisible Man.

First adapted to the screen in 1933, the invisible man (and his descendents) appeared in six films from 1933 to 1951. Now, he’ll be making his latest screen (dis)appearance in a film directed by Leigh Whannell. This iteration takes a horror-movie tack: Its protagonist, played by Elisabeth Moss, is harassed by an ex who has faked his own death. But beyond “The Invisible Man” franchise, the concept of invisibility has inspired a raft of movies over the decades.

As a film professor who studies adaptations and series, I’m most interested in the versatility of these invisible characters. They can star in cautionary tales or embody underdog heroes; they can act as vessels for social critique or vehicles for masochistic power fantasies.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Hartford Courant: “Jeanine Basinger, the ‘Professor of Hollywood,’ Is Wesleyan University’s Homegrown Screen Legend”

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger, whom this article notes has been dubbed “the professor of Hollywood” and “an iconic figure in American cinema, one of the most beloved and respected film history professors in the history of film studies” by The Hollywood Reporter, is interviewed on the occasion of her 60th year at Wesleyan, and the 50th since she created its film program. She talks about her next book on American film comedy, shares some of her favorite things, and muses on which actress would play her in a movie of her life.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “‘We Need More Vigorous Debate’: A Conversation with Michael S. Roth”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, managing editor of Modern Intellectual History, interviews President Michael Roth in connection with his latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Roth discusses his career path from intellectual historian to university administrator and professor, and offers his unique perspective on debates surrounding freedom of speech and political correctness.

3. Los Angeles Times: “Kirk Douglas Dead at 103; ‘Spartacus’ Star Helped End Hollywood Blacklist”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, comments on Kirk Douglas’s legacy following the film icon’s death at 103. Recalling when she first saw him on-screen in the 1940s, she said, “He wasn’t a traditional leading man, really, in looks, and yet he had an unmistakable charisma and power on screen—not just the glamour of the movie star, though he did have that, but real acting chops. So you knew he was going to be a star.” She added, “He was a very modern American antihero type, but he could also play anything, really.”

Slowik in The Conversation: Oscar-worthy Scores Unlock a Film’s Emotional Heart

Michael Slowik '03

Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03 writes about how film scores can “convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape” by considering two films nominated for 2020 Oscars for best score.

The secret to the success of two Oscar-nominated scores

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards an Oscar to the film with the best original score.

The best scores—like those from Lawrence of Arabia and Black Panther—convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape.

How do composers pull this off?

Back in 2014, I wrote a book examining the musical methods of early sound films. Ninety years later, some of the basic techniques developed during that era remain relevant. They include what industry professionals call “spotting,” which refers to when music appears in the film, and decisions about which musical styles to incorporate.

This year, two very different Oscar-nominated scores—those from Marriage Story and Joker—show how style and spotting can have major effects on a viewer’s engagement and emotional experience with a film.

Sounding out the breakdown of a marriage

Marriage Story tells the story of a married couple whose separation leads to an increasingly bitter and contentious divorce.

The film’s score, composed by Randy Newman, uses music in a classical style—but mainly during moments of kindness and human connection.

In the film’s lengthy opening, for example, we hear Charlie and his wife Nicole describe what they love about each other. During this sequence, the audience hears strings, flute, harp and piano. Perhaps Newman chose classical music because, for many listeners, its sounds can evoke the perfection of a past era. He splices these sounds with dialogue reflecting what most people want from their romantic relationships: warmth, trust and mutual support.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Alumni Gather at Liberal Arts + Film and Storytelling Forum in Mumbai

Liberal Arts Forum Mumbai

Indian director Navdeep Singh, Wesleyan Professor Scott Higgins, and director and Wesleyan alumnus Matthew Weiner ’87, P ’18 spoke at the Liberal Arts + Film and Storytelling forum in Mumbai, India, on Jan. 12.

On Jan. 12, several creatives gathered in Mumbai, India, to share valuable insights on liberal arts and the impact of Indian cinema on global entertainment.

The event, Liberal Arts + Film and Storytelling: A Wesleyan University Forum, brought together Wesleyan faculty, distinguished alumni, aspiring students and their parents, and the wider Wesleyan community across the globe.

Speakers included Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78; Scott Higgins, Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies and director of Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image; and acclaimed global film- and entertainment-industry personalities Matthew Weiner ’87, P ’18, and Navdeep Singh. Weiner is known as the creator of the hit television series Mad Men and The Romanoffs, and Singh is an Indian director best known for his Bollywood film NH10.

“I have always admired Wesleyan University and its focus on liberal arts education,” said event host Manisha Ajay Vaghani P’18. “They provide unique cross-cultural learning experiences and offer graduates the opportunity to explore different professional paths around the world. By hosting this event, we hope to give audiences a sense of Wesleyan’s distinct culture and its strong interdisciplinary educational approach, and thus spread the word to more suitable students.”

Roth and Higgins discussed the experience of studying film in a liberal arts context, and how Wesleyan’s distinctive education prepares students to be leaders in the film and entertainment industry.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”

“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”

2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.

3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. Marketplace Tech: “Twitter Bans Political Ads, But Is That All Good?”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, is interviewed about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s announcement that the platform would no longer run political ads. Fowler says implementing this ban is likely to be more complicated than it sounds, and she is skeptical that it will help to reduce the impact of disinformation and improve political discourse. Fowler was also interviewed on Marketplace Morning Report and quoted in Quartz on the ban.

2. NPR’s Throughline: “Zombies”

On Halloween, NPR’s Throughline podcast interviewed Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister as part of a deep dive into the history of zombies. Now a global phenomenon in pop culture, the idea of zombies originated in Haiti, back when it was a French colony called Saint-Domingue and many enslaved Africans were worked to death on plantations. The Haitian people ultimately rose up in revolution and defeated their colonizers. But after the revolution, many Haitians were forced back onto plantations when the French demanded reparations in exchange for recognizing their independence. “I think that the figure of the zombie is a reminder that slavery happened to people, that they freed themselves from it, that it still happens in a kind of an afterlife, and it echoes in social practices,” said McAlister. An abbreviated version of the story also aired on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

3. Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live: “Acknowledging Middletown’s Ties to Slavery”

MacLowry ’86 Directs “The Feud” on PBS

Strain and MacLowry '86

Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86 are new assistant professors of the practice in film studies and codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project.

A film written, directed, and produced by Peabody Award winner Randall MacLowry ’86 tells the story about the most famous family conflict in American history—the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

The one-hour documentary titled “The Feud” premiered Sept. 10 on PBS and PBS.org as part of the station’s American Experience programming. Watch the film’s trailer online.

MacLowry also is a new assistant professor of the practice in film studies. He’s teaching the course Advanced Filmmaking this fall.

The clashes between the Hatfields and the McCoys evolved into a mythic American tale of jealousy, rage, and revenge—a story that helped create the negative “hillbilly” stereotype that has shaped attitudes towards Appalachia for more than a century. Much more than a tale of two warring families, “The Feud” is the story of a region and its people forced into sudden change by Eastern capitalists, who transformed Appalachia from an agrarian mountain community into a coal- and timber-producing workplace owned and run primarily by outside interests.

“The Hatfield-McCoy feud conjures up this exaggerated image of two families shooting at each other across a river for no good reason, but the story of the feud is really about the impact of capitalism and industrialization on rural America,” MacLowry said. “Mountain families lost their land and their livelihoods in the face of this enormous pressure and became the victims of media accounts that depicted them as violent, uncivilized, and standing in the way of progress. The Hatfield-McCoy feud is part of that story.”

“The Feud” is a project of The Film Posse, Inc., a production company cofounded by MacLowry and Peabody Award-winning director Tracy Heather Strain. Strain also is a new professor of the practice in film studies.

Together, MacLowry and Strain are codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, an initiative to teach, support, and produce nonfiction film and video.

During the upcoming academic year, MacLowry and Strain will be teaching courses in documentary creation and studies. Listen to a podcast featuring the filmmakers created by Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image.

MacLowry ’86, Strain to Launch Wesleyan Documentary Project on Campus

Beginning this fall, the Wesleyan Documentary Project will be led by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86, the duo behind the Boston-based documentary film company The Film Posse.

Beginning this fall, the Wesleyan Documentary Project will be led by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86, the duo behind the Boston-based documentary film company, The Film Posse. (Photo by Eric Levin.)

Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image (CFILM) is launching the Wesleyan Documentary Project, an initiative to teach, support, and produce nonfiction film and video.

Beginning this fall, the Wesleyan Documentary Project will be led by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86, the duo behind the Boston-based documentary film company, The Film Posse. They will join Wesleyan’s faculty as professors of the practice, teaching courses in documentary creation and studies.

MacLowry and Strain will also relocate their production company to Middletown, where they will continue to produce films for PBS and other outlets. Together, The Film Posse and the Wesleyan Documentary Project will support filmmaking on campus.

Public Broadcasting Studio in South Dakota Named in Honor of Jeanine Basinger

Barb and Van Fishback

Brookings, S.D., residents and donors Barb and Van Fishback stand outside the newly named Jeanine Basinger Studio located on the campus of Basinger’s alma mater, South Dakota State University.

South Dakota State University (SDSU) recently named a studio in honor of Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and special advisor to the president. Basinger has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from SDSU and is a former resident of Brookings, S.D.

Jeanine Basinger

The South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Jeanine Basinger Studio, located on SDSU’s Brookings campus, enables professional, high-quality sound for guests and interviews. The Basinger Studio was funded by Brookings residents Barb and Van Fishback.

“We are pleased to recognize SDSU Distinguished Alumna and world-renowned film educator and author Jeanine Basinger with the new SDPB Basinger Studio,” said Barb and Van Fishback in a recent SDPB press release. “Jeanine and we are proud of the opportunity to enhance public broadcasting for South Dakota and strengthen the relationship between SDPB and the university.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The GlobePost: “Trump’s Foreign Trade Policy and the Art of the Deal”

In this op-ed, Giulio Gallarotti, professor of government, co-chair of the College of Social Studies, argues that Donald Trump’s approach to U.S. trade policy is shaped by his career as a real estate mogul and businessman.

2. The Hartford Courant: “Don’t Let the ‘Green New Deal’ Hijack the Climate’s Future”

This op-ed coauthored by Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe expresses concern that the broad, aspirational goals contained in the “Green New Deal” proposal from Democrats in Congress “will impede continued progress on the climate front for years to come.”

3. The Tyee: “Lessons in Democracy from Haida Gwaii”

This review calls Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Joseph Weiss a “remarkable book” that explores “the whole relationship of ‘settler’ Canada to the peoples whose lands we’ve occupied.”

4. Hartford Courant: “Middletown to Host LGBTQ Pride Parade in June”

Wesleyan, together with the City of Middletown and the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, will coordinate Middletown’s inaugural LGBTQ pride parade on June 15. The event, which will also feature a festival on the South Green, will celebrate and affirm respect for members of the local queer community. Its timing coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which marked the beginning of the gay rights movement in June 1969.

5. South Dakota Public Broadcasting: “Fishbacks’ Gift Opens SDPB Basinger Studio at SDSU”

A satellite broadcast studio at South Dakota State University has been named in honor of Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, special advisor to the president, and an alumna of SDSU. “We are pleased to recognize SDSU Distinguished Alumni and world-renowned film educator and author Jeanine Basinger with the new SDPB Basinger Studio on SDSU’s campus in Brookings,” said Barb and Van Fishback, the donors who made the gift possible.

Recent Alumni News

  1. SXSW.com: “Bozoma Saint John [’99]: How Marketing Can Spur Social Change”

Bozoma Saint John ’99 was the Convergence Keynote Speaker for SXSWORLD, March 8-17, 2019, in Austin, Texas. Writes Doyin Oyeniyi for the official website: “Bozoma Saint John thinks and talks about empathy quite a bit. For the marketing executive and SXSW 2019 Convergence Keynote speaker, this is integral to the work that she does currently as chief marketing officer for Endeavor, and it’s been an important feature of her previous work with companies such as PepsiCo, Apple and Uber. As she explains, empathy is what makes the difference in actually being able to establish impactful connections through storytelling and marketing.”

2. New York Times Book Review: “Growing Up With Murder All Around,” by Eric Klinenberg

The March 4, 2019, issue of The New York Times Book Review features Eric Klinenberg’s review of An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, by Alex Kotlowitz ’77 on its front page. “Like Kotlowitz’s now classic 1991 book, There Are No Children Here, about two boys growing up in a Chicago housing project, An American Summer forgoes analysis and instead probes the human damage that stems from exposure to violence. What he finds is important,” writes Klinenberg. He calls Kotlowitz’s latest work “a powerful indictment of a city and a nation that have failed to protect their most vulnerable residents, or to register the depth of their pain.”

3. International Documentary Awards: “Reflections on Andrew Berends [’94],” by James Longley ’94

An editor’s note begins the piece: “Documentary filmmaker and cinematographer Andrew Berends passed away—just a week after Free Solo, on which he was one of the cinematographers, won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary…. We thank Longley for sharing his reflections with us.”

Longley recalls meeting Berends in 1991, when they both entered Wesleyan as transfer students and became film majors. “I was the DP on his thesis film, and I could see his determination and commitment to filmmaking taking shape,” writes Longley. “After college we were off finding our parallel paths; I made a film about the Gaza Strip and he made a film about North Sea fishermen in the Netherlands. We reconnected in Iraq. I arrived before him; he was looking for advice and contacts. He wanted to know how he should dress for the place. Maybe grow a beard, I suggested. Andy showed up in Baghdad looking like a werewolf with mange. Lose the beard, I suggested.” Tracing their “parallel paths” with warmth, admiration, and deep sorrow, Longley—himself the director of award-winning documentary films including Iraq in Fragments and Sari’s Mother—notes that “Andy was my friend, he was my brother, he was as strong a person as I’ll likely ever know.”

4. Boston Globe: “Grad Schools Lag in Promoting Diversity,” by Syed Ali [’13]

The author, a master in urban planning candidate at Harvard University, responded to an earlier article in the newspaper that called for Harvard to increase its commitment to diversity across its graduate school hirings and admissions. “This semester, I am enrolled in five classes at five different graduate schools (three at Harvard, two at MIT), and I believe that my peers and I would benefit from additional perspectives in each case. This extends to the faculty. Of the 15 courses I shopped across three Harvard graduate schools, 11 were taught by white men, four by white women,” he writes. Ali was an English and government double major at Wesleyan.

 

 

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Forbes: “Three Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of Your Career”

Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of the Gordon Career Center, offers career advice for young people just starting out.

2. The Times Literary Supplement: “Multiple Lives”

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, coordinator of South Asian studies, explores the “complicated existence” of Mahatma Gandhi.

3. The Washington Post: “The Delight of Being Inconspicuous in a World That’s Always Watching Us”

President Michael Roth reviews a new book, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, by Akiko Busch.