Thursday, 12 February 2015

So Fetch Friday: The Problems of Being a Film Student

My friend Katy Rochelle over at Girl Meets Cinema started a new recurring series called So Fetch Friday. It's something of a follow up to the "Fandom Friday" series she was running during the summer. The only difference is that this time she invites other people to participate. I was considering it and wondering about waiting until the summer but right now I need something to work on so I figured why not give it a try. I don't know if I'll be able to do this regularly (to be fair, even Katy herself isn't sure if she can commit to it), but I thought it might be good to do one and see how it turns out.

Things haven't been going easy right now. Certain personal issues have been causing problems, and combining that with the usual stress of academic work has made it hard to think about anything. Right now, I can't go into detail about what happened but I've spent a lot of time getting irrationally angry, agitated, or otherwise into some frame of mind that interferes with my ability to write. I won't get into the specifics of precisely what happened, but I will say I've been short on ideas lately and it's hard to find material right now. One of the strangest things about being a film student is that it often becomes a lot harder to actually find time to watch movies. I can sometimes squeeze in a film or two on the weekend between readings and working on essays, and once in a while I can fit one in during the week. However, it's mostly just the films I get forced to watch in class.

There are seven more weeks until I'm done, but I do have reading week next week. Maybe I can find a bit of time to write something in between work on my essays. Maybe even if I'm really lucky those essays will offer up something I can work with. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I've drawn from my academic experience on this blog. I also know that it will only be six more weeks before I have to watch the obligatory Jean-Luc Godard movie this year (there seems to be some sort of law requiring him to be included in educational programs; this will be the fourth class in a row where I've been forced to watch one of his awful films). Fortunately, my professor chose Breathless, which out of the Godard films I've seen so far is probably the least awful. At least that one has a somewhat coherent (if ridiculous) story.

This week, we watched the Italian movie Bicycle Thieves, which wasn't too bad. I was a little nervous going in and read a plot summary ahead of time to make sure I knew what to expect. I often do that when one of the movies being screened makes me nervous. Part of the strategy I used to get through From Russia With Love last semester was to read a plot synopsis ahead of time so that I would know where all the sexist moments occur (as well as checking with the professor to see if he was in fact going to address the issue of sexism in Bond).

I was toying with the possibility of writing an article about Italian Neo-Realism, perhaps comparing it with Hollywood's ideas of realism, but I got stumped on how to go about doing it. It's funny how different people across different cultures and different time periods had drastically different ideas of what makes a work of art seem "realistic". The Italians had one idea, and Hollywood envisioned something very different. Then of course there are the movements that attempted to reject realism like the Advant-Garde movement in France or the Expressionist Period in Germany (neither of which lasted very long).

In my horror movie class, we watched The Bad Seed, the story of a little girl who seems normal on the outside but is really a psychotic killer underneath. This one was a bit odd, especially since it made a lot of choices that would seem strange by modern standards due to it being made under the Production Code. One thing I found especially strange while watching it was how they refrained from showing all the murders. They keep talking about people turning up dead but if that film had been made today we'd probably be seeing that boy's corpse being dragged out of the water and the attempt to burn the custodian alive. I also saw Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape for my Sex on Film class (yes, I'm actually taking that). It was a bit weird and I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. There was lots of sex and home videos and sex.

I've recently been having the problem of trying to find movies to review only to come out unsure of what to say about them. That happened last weekend when I found an... interesting film but couldn't really come up with material for how to describe it in a review. That movie was Domino, a movie where I could really see Chaos Cinema at work. It was an interesting movie in which Keira Knightley manages to do something a bit different from her usual period pieces, but at the same time it was so disorienting it was hard to formulate a clear opinion. I also tried to watch Broadcast News only to shut it off twenty minutes in due to a fit of irrational frustration.

Speaking of action movies, I did manage to see Basic a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. Admittedly, it is still a bit hard to wrap my head around the twist ending but overall it was an interesting experience. While I wouldn't call any of his films outright sexist, John McTiernan isn't exactly known for his strong female leads so it was a nice change to see not one but two interesting female characters, and both of them in the military, too. Connie Nielsen was great as the tough officer who is determined to get to the truth, but the even bigger surprise was the presence of a female soldier in Nunuez. Seeing her appear in a film by someone like McTiernan was such a shock it seemed almost too good to be true, but it wasn't. Say what you will about the women in Predator or Die Hard (though to be fair even then she is handled okay, at least they don't make her a full-on distressed damsel), but this one shows that he can in fact incorporate strong women when he wants to.

So far, the article I did on pornography also seems to have gotten quite the attention. I was actually surprised with how many people expressed admiration that I had the nerve to touch on such a topic. Those kind of skills come when you start doing a class all about sex in film, which includes a few weeks of porn and a bit of history of the genre. Of course it's not exclusive to porn. We also spend some time talking about other representations of sex: this was actually one of four different classes I have taken this year to discuss the Production Code and look at its restrictions. We even had the Code itself as a reading, which became handy in the tutorial of an unrelated class.

At the same time, there were a few other reactions I didn't count on to my article. I actually had to take down the explicit image I originally included after somebody reported it. Obviously, I need to improve my ability to read instructions since I didn't even know you could place a content warning on blogger until Google mandated it. Fortunately, as soon as I found out how I set it to acknowledge that I do have some adult content so I should be okay. I've also been told of a new rule about posting explicit pictures, which is to avoid any that show a person's genitals.

As for fandoms, it's been a bit harder to keep track of things. I've been watching a lot of The X-Files lately. I'm currently starting the third season and already it's taken a few dark turns. Mulder's father was killed and then he was followed by Scully's sister, but it seems that FBI Director Walter Skinner is trustworthy after all so... yay? Also, did you know that Jack Black appeared on The X-Files? What was Jack Black doing in The X-Files? Also, someone should do a crossover fanfiction called The X-Men Files. My favorite episode so far is the one where it's dark and Mulder and Scully have to walk around with flashlights.

Keeping up with the more recent material has been a bit harder. I still haven't gotten around to seeing the new episode of The Walking Dead. I have been following Agent Carter, though I still haven't had a chance to watch the latest episode. It's been pretty exciting so far. After all, how could I resist a strong female lead? It's a great show. I understand when it's done we'll probably be seeing more Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which should also be quite good. Then there's also Elementary, which has presented a compelling arc for its third season. I'm going to miss Kitty, I hope she comes back at some point. I'm also still waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones and excited about the word of Twin Peaks coming back next year.

I've also been watching a more recent Canadian show, Strange Empire. It's actually really interesting to see a female-dominated western. I had written one of my own but CBC apparently beat me to it. I'm partway through season 1 and I saw an add in the paper for the season finale. It's really going in some interesting directions and I'm hoping it gets picked up for a second season because it is looking like it could be good. Then again, Arctic Air also seemed very promising in its first season only to go downhill in the second, so who knows? Hopefully it will work. Also, yes, there is a lesbian relationship, though it takes some time to make an appearance.

I think at the end I'm supposed to post some links to other blogs. At the moment, it's actually been very hard to keep up with other people's content, as often I'm either too busy or too stressed to take time out for them. Even the Thursday Movie Picks Meme has been hard to keep up with. These days, I often find myself drawing blanks as I try to think of movies that fit the theme picked for the week. It's actually gotten so difficult that I've had to set a rule that I won't be participating in or running any more blogathons until I'm finished the current semester. As soon as I get into April I'll be able to start participating in them again, and I've got a great cast-a-thon lined up to begin in April 1, roughly the same time as my classes should be ending (though the final exams might spill into the first few weeks).

Around the Internet

Let me know what you think of me doing this? Would you like to see more of these posts. I can't make any promises but I might be open to doing more in the future if I have time.


  1. Sorry to hear you're having a rough time of it at the moment, I hope it all gets better for you soon. Don't ever let blogging become a chore, that's one thing I've learnt :)
    I might try and take part in this Se Fetch Friday, it sounds like fun!
    - Allie

    1. So do I. I try not to let blogging become too much of a chore, but sometimes if I go too long without posting something I start to go crazy.

  2. Thank you so much for joining So Fetch Friday! I loved your free-form style. I found the series is a great way to talk about things off-topic from my blog and just to have fun with it. Going to school and blogging is such a hard struggle - I feel your pain. Some of my classes are kicking my butt. Hang in there! :D

    1. I'm trying, but often I'm on the verge of snapping under the pressure.

  3. I remember these days and it can be very time consuming. Place in other crap from life and it is even more difficult but this will pass. I really enjoyed Bicycle Thieves and found the father/son relationship endearing and realistic. Now as for who wants to save the Prime Minister of Canada, my question would be...why? :)

    1. Ah, well you'll have to wait until the blogathon is released to find out.

  4. I hope it gets better for you soon as I know going to school and doing anything else can be stressful. Try not to let blogging become a "job" and fret over self-imposed deadlines and such. Do it when you can, because you can, not because you have to. Keep your head up, buddy!

    1. That's actually part of why I decided to stop participating in blogathons for the duration of this semester (which should encompass the next seven weeks, with exams possibly spilling into April). I've actually had a few ideas for articles and projects but a lot of them are ones that I'd have to hold off on until the summer. Now if I could just find some stuff to do in the meantime...