American Film

by Chris Hafer

Created 07/06/12

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In 2011, I took a film course titled "Film, Culture, and Theology." The course was exclusively American and Hollywood in that we only studied film from America and Hollywood. With that being said, I have compiled a top ten list of American films released by the Criterion Collection. With film emerging as an academic discipline, I believe that top ten lists are very useful in engaging film and developing curriculum.

  • I have to list this as number 1 because it was my first Criterion experience. I specifically appreciate how Gilliam uses comedy to expose the dangers of drug use. Gilliam is also a master of lighting, and he uses color to further develop the characters' confusion, delirium, and paranoia. I especially enjoy the use of Christmas lights during some scenes (Kubrick does the same thing). I often find myself quoting dialogue from this movie to my friends just to lighten the mood and generate laughs. But I also believe that the film educates in showing contemporary Americans (especially the youth) what the drug revolution was like.

  • Malick's masterpiece does an excellent job of undermining Hollywood in multiple ways. It was released the same year as Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan." While "Saving Private Ryan" went on to win multiple Academy Awards, "The Thin Red Line" won none. Also, the big name actors in the film, such as John Travolta and George Clooney, have very small roles. Your best bet is to view the film and then read the essay that the Criterion includes in the DVD set and on this website.

  • I believe that almost every American should view this film especially after the Penn State sex scandal. Why? Because there was an abundance of rhetoric written over the course of the past few months that leads me to believe that some Americans believe in "presumed guilty until proven innocent." This film, perhaps more than any other movie, reassures Americans that the United States is decidedly "presumed innocent until proven guilty." Also, the dialogue in "12 Angry Men" is snappy and to-the-point, a quality in American Cinema that is greatly appreciated and terribly missed.

  • The Criterion needs science fiction, especially good Sci Fi like "RoboCop." I only wish that the Criterion would find more good Sci Fi films to include in its arsenal. This is Verhoeven's best American film, and he brilliantly blends Old Hollywood - the monster/Frankenstein theme - with futurism (law enforcement in the hands of the private sector). The film is also riddled with New Historicist Criticism and materialism (i.e. "I'll buy that for a dollar").

  • This is another Sci Fi film that is loaded with New Historicist and Materialist Criticism. The first time I viewed it I was reminded of being in college (2002-2006) and witnessing the obsession over television shows like MTV's The Real World. But I think Cronenberg's criticisms of television and entertainment go beyond this. In our age, a show like Videodrome could be likened to NBC or Fox News and the hallucinations that both of them produce for the political Left and the political Right. I am still pondering over the meaning of The New Flesh???

  • Jim Dobson and his Focus on the Family crew would do well to view this film and take into consideration its thoughts on the American family. I would also suggest that this movie is riddled with Aristotelian thought on Poetics. I also noticed some homage to the Hatfield and McCoy theme.

  • As I mention above, my favorite director is David Fincher. This is the first film that he directed (minus Alien 3) that is not a psychological thriller. While I do not think that this is his best work, (I would definitely rate Zodiac, The Social Network, Se7en, and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo as superior works) I love how he is able to use the F. Scott Fitzgerald story to blend historical reality with Sci Fi in a setting (southern USA) that would otherwise not fit this blend.

  • Unlike "Fear and Loathing," this film seems to celebrate drug use amongst high school students in the late 1970s. It also seeks to show its contemporary viewers what high school was like in the 70s. Some things were much different (i.e. hazing being perfectly acceptable). This is another one of those movies with very memorable dialogue. It also has a great American, rock and roll soundtrack.

  • This is Michael Bay's best film, and it is an action movie lover's feast. Since it was released in 1996, it also forewarns Americans that biochemical warfare and terrorism is not only a threat from the Middle East, it is also a domestic threat. Weapons of mass destruction are dangerous in the hands of radicals no matter where they are from.

  • This may be the best movie ever made on racism. Other than that, I will be looking around to see what others on this website have written on this great film.

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