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Overstreet

Recommended movies for teaching teens to think critically about art

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A friend who is a teacher is asking: What movie would you show to teens to "get them excited about thinking critically about cinema?" Where would you start?

Edited by Overstreet

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I don't believe "critical" thinking about cinema requires viewing of "art movies." I'd stick to well-known classics that exemplify great cinema, especially older films that students might not have been exposed to. More contemporary films could work, too, as long as the students are encouraged to watch possibly familiar films in ways that are specific to the instruction.

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I don't think I'd answer this question any differently than I tried to in this thread, other than to mention I recently did show Ponette to a family with teenagers and they really enjoyed it.  In fact, in talking about it afterwards, the teenagers seemed to make some theological connections in the film even faster than their parents did.

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I don't believe "critical" thinking about cinema requires viewing of "art movies." I'd stick to well-known classics that exemplify great cinema, especially older films that students might not have been exposed to. More contemporary films could work, too, as long as the students are encouraged to watch possibly familiar films in ways that are specific to the instruction.

 

Yeah, I will re-title this thread. This title is misleading.

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My high school film class showed us films like Citizen Kane, 2001 and Vertigo, which were a stretch for some, but provided strong examples of cinematic technique and symbolism and plenty of material for analysis.

In making recommendations, I'd gravitate toward formally dramatic works, because it makes the task of discussing cinematic form easier.

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Evan C   

What age teens?

 

I agree with Christian.  "Art" films are not necessary to get a teen to think critically, just well made movies.  Or, thoughtfully critiquing a bad movie might get them excited about thinking critically about film.  In general, I would try to start with what the teens know and like, and then branch out from there.

 

Sam Mendes' skill and impeccable craftsmanship was on clear display in Skyfall; I could see that being a good film to prompt consideration of things like camera angles, types of shots, editing, etc.  Deakins' cinematography is an added plus.

 

Some possible titles off the top my head: 12 Angry Men, Rashomon, Paths of Glory, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Touch of Evil, Sunset Boulevard, The Prestige, Jaws, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Au Revoir Les Enfants.

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What age teens?

College freshmen.
Then it should be the canonical classics, all the way. Pick something vital and vibrant, rich in form and subtext, and go from there. Something from the 70s, perhaps; old enough to be a gateway into the past, but recognizable enough in form and texture to appeal to someone lacking familiarity with classic cinema. Edited by Ryan H.

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I agree. 

 

I remember when I went to college and took an American Literature course.  The teacher took it upon herself to deviate away from the well-worn classics and introduce us to the rarities that she personally loved.  Needless to say, I felt a bait-and-switch, and to this day I hang my head in shame for never having read F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 

If college students want to learn about film, stick with the basics.  Feel free to jump into specific genres, such as noir, French New Wave, and Italian neo-realistic.  Get a Hitchcock in there (if not Vertigo, then Notorious or The Wrong Man), and touch upon some cultural landmarks of the 70s (like Chinatown). 

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It's not a film class. It's a Humanities 101 class that runs less than 2 hours, so the film's duration matters. I recommended Badlands, The Straight Story, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Vertigo, for starters.

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Evan C   

 

What age teens?

 

College freshmen.

It's not a film class. It's a Humanities 101 class that runs less than 2 hours, so the film's duration matters. I recommended Badlands, The Straight Story, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Vertigo, for starters.

 

That changes things slightly.

I definitely recommend Rashomon (it's 88 minutes, explores human behavior and feelings of guilt, showcases telling a story from four different vantage points, and introduces them to Kurosawa without whom many of their probable favorite films would not exist)

 

Paths of Glory (also 88 minutes) would be a fantastic choice for Kubrick

 

12 Angry Men (96 minutes) explores prejudices, our legal system, and talk about Lumet's shifting of lenses to make the jury room look smaller as the arguments intensify

 

The Purple Rose of Cairo (82 minutes) would be great for exploring a story within a story

 

Grave of the Fireflies (89 minutes) as a warning, I do know people who have found this too depressing to like it at all

 

Modern Times (87 minutes)

 

After Hours (97 minutes) might need some explanation, but I could potentially see that working

 

Episodes from The Decalogue could work really well.

 

Anything by the Dardennes (Rosetta and Lorna's Silence might be too intense for an introduction)

 

For Hitchcock: Rope (80 minutes) The Lady Vanishes (96 minutes)

 

For Welles: The Lady from Shanghai (87 minutes)

 

Most Bresson would be a fine length, but he might be a little ambitious for teens with minimal film experience.

Edited by Evan C

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I made this list of 25 films every high school student should see for another thread. The 2-hour limit for film watching and discussion could prove difficult.

 

I'd also recommend recent popular films that young people would typically watch, but ask much more critical and provoking questions about it. e.g. facilitating an analysis of Guardians of the Galaxy or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

 

I heartily second Evan's suggestion for The Decalogue, and now wish it was on my previous list.

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: I'd also recommend recent popular films that young people would typically watch, but ask much more critical and provoking questions about it.

 

Yes, definitely. If the question is how to encourage critical *thinking*, especially among people who might not have tried it before, then there are plenty of "popular" films that might actually be somewhat rewarding to look at that closely.

 

The first examples that come to my mind aren't that *recent*, but you can always ask why the camera looks at what it does in films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (all adult faces are obscured or kept offscreen for the first two thirds of the film, except for the mother's, to encourage us to see things from a child's point of view) or Rear Window (the camera stays in Jimmy Stewart's apartment... except for a few brief, shocking moments when it doesn't; why does the perspective suddenly change at those points? how does it affect our identification with the characters?).

 

In my presentation on film grammar, when I get to the point where I contrast low angles with high angles, I point out how our very first glimpse of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars was shot from a low angle, pointing up at him, so that he loomed over us very menacingly... whereas our almost-last glimpse of him in Revenge of the Sith was shot from a high angle, looking down at him as he yelled "Nooooo!", to emphasize how diminished and pathetic he had become.

 

Examples like that should abound in any decently-made "popular" film. (Though many "popular" films are certainly not decently made!)

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