Spike Lee earned an Oscar for his latest film BlacKkKlansman, but more than 40 SPU students are just discovering his work this week in a course called “Film & Faith,” focusing on Lee’s 1989 landmark feature Do the Right Thing.
In this new episode of the North by Pacific Northwest podcast, Jeffrey Overstreet discusses Lee’s films with cinephile and writer Josh Hornbeck.
Hornbeck graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 1999, and has since established himself as an authority on cinema and theater in Seattle’s arts communities. He worked for the Seattle International Film Festival’s development of Digital Marketing Department, and also served as writer and director of SPU’s touring theatre troupe. and has been a freelance writer for a number churches, universities, and nonprofit organizations across the Puget Sound. He now serves as the communications director for the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, while contributing to film conversations at the Criterion Reflections podcast.
This week at Libromania, “a podcast for the book-obsessed” from the Close Reads Podcast Network, host David Kern welcomed Jeffrey Overstreet, SPU assistant professor of English and writing, and Steven D. Greydanus, film critic for The National Catholic Register, to discuss the challenges of adapting books for the big screen.
They discussed favorites and they discussed the adaptations that have made them cringe. Many, many titles came up, everything from Charlotte’s Web to Babe, from The Hobbitto Watership Down, from The End of the Affairto The Name of the Rose, from Noahto No Country for Old Men, from Where the Wild Things Areto Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse.
This week, after the Academy Awards celebrated movies like Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, and Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, Dr. Jeff Keuss and novelist J.L. Spohr joined me for a special roundtable episode of the North by Pacific Northwest podcast.
We talked about the awards we liked, the awards we didn’t, the state of the Oscar broadcast, and what the movies of 2018 say about the times we’re in.
It was great to welcome these special guests, as the three of us used to record episodes of The Kindlings Muse, an arts-and-culture podcast established by Dick Staub, over several years.
At Seattle Pacific University, students ask provocative questions about movies as they engage the art of cinema. writing about film, they discover how movies create spaces within which — through the observation, discussion, critical studies, and academic writing — hearts and minds grow stronger in understanding and empathy.
In a recent film-focused section of Writing 1100 — the Disciplinary Research and Writing Seminar — students offered insightful perspectives on a variety of timely subjects like this one:
If we observe how increasingly diverse America is becoming — culturally and ethnically — it seems strange that films focused on those many and varied cultures would remain a hard sell at the box office.
One student recently posed a challenging question in the title to her paper: “Why Don’t Americans Watch Films from Latin American Culture?”
At SPU, students are asking good questions about movies as they engage the art of cinema in the classroom. In courses like “Film History I: Beginnings-1960” and “Film & Faith,” they are equipped with new knowledge and skills that make for more rewarding experiences at the movies.
And as they write about film, they are discovering how movies create spaces within which — through the dynamic experiences of observation, discussion, critical studies, academic writing, and further discussion — hearts and minds grow richer in understanding and empathy.
In our new series of posts called “NxPNW Student Perspectives,” we’ll catch glimpses of curiosity leading to discovery, arguments leading to discussion, and questions leading to conviction.
In a recent film-focused section of Writing 1100 — the Disciplinary Research and Writing Seminar — students offered insightful perspectives on a variety of timely subjects.
Why aren’t we seeing stronger roles for women in science fiction?
In her paper exploring this question, a writing student noted the significance of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the early evolution of science fiction as a genre. But she also noted that, even though sci-fi is defined as “literature of the Other,” womankind remains an “Other” poorly understood and badly misrepresented in sci-fi narratives and movies.
She claims that filmmakers continue to “adhere faithfully” to outdated gender stereotypes: “[P]atterns and traditions of the past have an effect on the future. Some may argue that society has significantly evolved in the treatment of women, but I find that many of the portrayals [in contemporary cinema] are very much the same.”
She finds the hero of Blade Runner guilty of misogynistic behavior toward the film’s primary female character. Rachel (Sean Young) may be an android, but she is portrayed as having achieved a substantial level of sentience, and Deckard (Harrison Ford) makes violent advances toward her that the film frames as romantic. “[S]he is ‘Othered’ by Ridley Scott through Deckard,” the writer argues, “to the point where our protagonist no longer respects her body or her boundaries.”
Looking closely at Denis Villeneuve’s 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049, the writer rejects the director’s claims that his movie is merely a “mirror on society” and its mistreatment of women. The film goes to graphic, ‘realistic’ extremes in its depictions of sexual violence towards women, she says, but the film “is almost completely devoid of realism in any other aspect. … It is awfully convenient for Villeneuve that this exploitation of women he imagines in the future provides him with the sex appeal he needs to market his movie.”
The writer even expresses some dissatisfaction with one of science fiction’s most celebrated female protagonists: Ripley from Ridley Scott’s earlier science fiction film Alien. Ripley, the writer argues, was originally written as a male character. And the revised ‘hero’ ends up serving as “a foil for the real star of Alien: the alien.” What’s more, the director “finds a way to worm in a gratuitous panty shot of Ripley.”
To make clear that she is not aiming to completely discredit these films, the writer adds that she has “a deeply rooted appreciation” for the films she’s examining. “However, it is only through a critique of society that we will grow. I criticize science fiction because I want it to be better.”
A blog post cannot convey the vivd color, quality, and weight of this volume. It’s a beautiful hardbound treasury of film studies, filmmaker interviews, and photography that together bring to life an extravagant animated feature.
[Note: Wilford’s essay about the work of Hayao Miyazaki is a featured text in SPU’s Faith and Film course.]
Lauren has risen in five short years to a Senior Editor position at Bright Wall Dark Room. Her work is so widely respected that some of her essays have been republished at RogerEbert.com. She’s also been published by Vice, The Other Journal, Christianity Today, Gradient, and Christ and Pop Culture.
Lauren and Ryan live and collaborate in Providence, Rhode Island. You can follow her work on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Letterboxd.
Heidi Speck kicks off the new year at The Falcon by reviewing Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest film: a troubling and hilarious period piece called The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.