Show me a “first world” country and I will show you a Mrs. Bridge — one of the title characters in this month’s movie, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990). First world countries offer capitalism, industrialization, and technological innovation as gravy trains that carry opportunity far and wide, thus creating a robust middle class. For Mrs. Bridge and other women of her time, “paternalistic” was another societal attribute that helped to create her particular middle-class status. Continue reading Mrs. Bridge is Changing with 21st Century Values
Audrey Hepburn’s compassion intensified during early hardship, growing up in Europe during World War II. Travelers to Europe today would find it difficult to imagine that enduring near-starvation was the plight of one who lived to become the most iconic movie star of her era. World War II left its ugly mark on many people, but blessed with physical beauty, a delightful personality, and great stamina, Hepburn survived to brighten lives around the world with her presence onscreen. This month, at a very different time, she brightens our lives once again as we watch the movie, Charade (Donen, 1963). Continue reading Charade Showcases Dazzling Audrey Hepburn
Through the decades of the 1940s and 1950s in America, societal monotony with its binary vision and easy moral choices began to change into a complex and uncomfortable nation of people, thanks in part to a revolutionary foray into areas of literary taboo in movies and in books such as Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place.
In the early 1940s, America needed women in the workforce, with her men overseas fighting Nazi and Fascist regimes. Continue reading Metalious’s Peyton Place Shatters Illusions of 1950s
Though there are many concerns among groups in the US regarding hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the opinions of some groups are quite polarized and more glaring than others. This article suggests consideration for perspectives not often heard in the ads and news items—those of local landowners and others most affected by the decisions to keep or curtail gas drilling operations. The most publicized are the perspectives of celebrities and others who have the wealth to support media advertising and film production. Continue reading Celebrity protest: Gasland or La La Land?
If you’ve ever had any doubt that movies influence, look no further than to consider the effects of this month’s movie, Gasland (Fox, 2010). It is difficult to imagine how a propaganda film that presents such a complex technical topic to a public audience could garner much interest, let alone stir so many in our nation toward irrational fears. However, as we have noted in our past commentaries, fearmongering is a great way to attract attention and to create public unrest.
When settling down to watch a documentary film, I remind myself of two important things:
- Rarely does a documentary film tell the whole story.
- People believe what they want to believe.1
It was with this mindset that I watched Gasland (Fox, 2010), not just with an open mind, but also with an inquisitive one. Gasland presents an up-and-close narrative on the surmised ramifications of hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” and how this well-stimulation technology negatively affects America’s habitat. Lauded by film critics, Gasland received a nomination in 2011 for Best Documentary Feature by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That recognition along with its 97% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes must please the film’s writer/director, Josh Fox, and those who support him.
However, before I enthusiastically jump on the anti-fracking bandwagon, my above-mentioned personal documentary-viewing guidelines require me to pause Continue reading Gasland: Russia and Others Promote the Runaway Bandwagon
When presented with the original script of Charlie Wilson’s War (Nichols, 2007), Texas bon vivant Joanne King Herring (played by Julia Roberts in the movie) keeled over and nearly choked, for the last scene was a video clip of the Pentagon burning on September 11, 2001. What was the cause of her extreme reaction? Outrage over potential misleading propaganda? Continue reading Charlie Wilson’s War: Main Characters and Misleading Propaganda
Ordinary people are capable of the extraordinary. British author Lissa Evans believed that with her heart and soul and set out to prove it by creating her own piece of greatness. The road to achievement is often paved with books; and Lissa, an avid reader, navigated her own course.
Evan’s book, The Finest Hour and a Half, from which this month’s movie is adapted, puts the reader in London as the winds of war are howling from Germany. All cinemas are closed in 1939 as Londoners brace themselves for an onslaught of attacks from across the Channel. Continue reading Their Finest: Lissa Evans Celebrates Ealing Studios’ Propaganda Filmmaker
Leni Riefenstahl. Never heard of her. A crash course was necessary indeed. Fortunately, I work at MoviesonChatham, a research and writing group for film groups, critics and fans. This eclectic group provides ample opportunities for learning curves. The eye-opening quest to learn about this obscure woman left me feeling concerned about the fact that I, a college educated woman who is never without a book, had never, not once, heard of Leni Riefenstahl.
Then again, where would I have crossed paths with Riefenstahl, or her legacy? Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: Extraordinary Talent Tainted by Heinous Objectives
Regarded by cinema historians as ‘the best propaganda film of all time,’ and a film that continues to inspire violent debate, Triumph of the Will linked Riefenstahl forevermore in the public record with fascism and Hitler.
—Felicia Feaster, Turner Classic Movies
Neither is there anything to be gained by ignoring her skill as a filmmaker, her place in film history, or her influence. Rather, we hope that this retrospective . . . will contribute to a discussion of the unsettling power of cinema and the relationship between documentary and propaganda, as well as the complex but crucial interplay of aesthetics and ideology.
—Leni Riefenstahl • UCLA Retrospective, UCLA Film and Television Archive
Throughout this year as we examine the theme of propaganda, it is useful to introduce a few simple concepts along the way that can help us to see why a film may fit into this theme, and if it does, to decide whether or not its communication succeeds in its intended influence given its design. Defining propaganda can help us with the first task, so that is where we will begin. Continue reading Propaganda: Activating Flawed Ideologies