Cinema 101: Introductory Remarks


Starting a new post series is always a shaky venture for me; if it weren’t mathematically impossible, I’d say I probably abandon more series than I start. Yet here I go again. I’ve been wanting to do something like an introduction to cinema for non-film experts for a while now. In other words, if I were teaching an Intro to Film course to college freshmen and sophomores, these would be some of the things I’d talk about. People who know a lot about film may find some of the things I talk about too basic, which is why I decided to do this series here rather than Row Three – my audience here is more varied.

The only thing keeping it different from an intro college course is that I’m not planning on doing things in order. That is, I may write about the invention of film in one post, then about the French New Wave in the next, then discuss what a producer does in the third. It’s likely a bunch of the entries will be either historical or theoretical (i.e., explaining the auteur theory or genre theory in film criticism), simply because that’s what I find the most interesting, but I will also try to include some practical stuff about production as well, since I know people tend to have questions about that side of film. But I am not a filmmaker and don’t have extensive technical knowledge, so even those will probably tend to take a historical tack. Some posts may be on an era or national cinema, others may be just about a single film. There’s going to be a lot of leeway in what’s covered and how it’s covered in this series, which I’m hoping will help keep it both interesting to me to write and to you to read.

And in fact, I would like for you to tell me what you have questions about – what areas of filmmaking, film history, film criticism, etc. you’d like to know more about. What film movements have you heard of but aren’t as familiar with as you’d like to be? What aspects of filmmaking would you be interested to learn about? I expect and intend to be doing a bunch of research for this series, and actually, that’s part of the impetus for it – to give myself a solid reason and drive to get back into reading about and learning about film in a dedicated manner myself. But I can do that in a more efficient and directed way if I have some ideas that I know people might be interested in. Otherwise, I’ll probably just talk about the New Wave and film noir a whole lot. :)

So please, go ahead and comment with some things you’d like to see in this space in the future.


When Posters Attack: The Rite


Video Clip: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


  1. Offhand, the only thing I can think of that would be helpful would be a “further reading” type section where you might point readers in the direction of books, movies or even DVD bonus features and commentary tracks that expound upon the topic at hand.

    Also, perhaps you might make a “homework” assignment out of a singular movie example. Say, for instance, you were discussing costume design. You might pick Napoleon Dynamite (which I only cite because it just came on Comedy Central as I’m typing this) and ask readers to look at how the attire of each person tells us something about him or her, the milieu of the film, etc. People who have seen the movie will have something to concentrate on the next time they watch it, and those who haven’t might find your informal film class a handy impetus to make the time. It might be helpful if you narrowed your selection to something that’s actively available for streaming from Netflix or that will be broadcast on TV the week that you post.

    Just a couple of structural ideas I had. You’re perfectly welcome to discard or modify them as you see fit, of course.

    • I’m definitely planning on including a “further reading/further watching” section, Travis – glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks that’s useful.

      Including suggestions on streaming stuff that relates to what I’m talking about is a great idea, too, and one I’m ashamed I didn’t really think of. That won’t take much more time on my part to include. I’m guessing the specific examples (“homework”) will come up naturally as I talk about things, but I’ll try to keep it in mind as I write.

  2. Randy

    I would like to see some comments or analysis of films that were made to “make a statement” as opposed to just pure entertainment. Examples, the “statements made”, how they eventually affected the broader culture, etc.

    • Heh, I’ll add a note to do a piece on message films. I really don’t like message films, though, so we’ll see how it comes out. Whether/how they affected the broader culture is an interesting approach, though.

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