‘Ramona’ Resurrected: Long Lost 1928 Film Adaptation Resurfaces in L.A.

Among its myriad trans-media permutations—plays, songs, pageants, pinball games—four major American films were made of Helen Hunt Jackson’s famed 1884 novel Ramona. An international bestseller published one year before Jackson’s death, the epic saga, set in Southern California in the early American period, tells of a tragic romance between the half-Indian Ramona and the full-blooded Indian Alessandro, who is murdered by a white man at the end. Intended as a brief for the beleaguered American Indian, Jackson’s lavish description of the region’s Spanish Catholic past instead was used to promote Los Angles as an Anglo Protestant mecca and helped propel the city’s phenomenal population growth—from circa 15,000 at the time of Ramona’s publication to 324,000 by 1910. Continue reading

Technology in the Classroom: A Personal Reflection

Technology has been praised, criticized, and feared in the classroom.  The tumultuous discussion of “pros and cons” is all the more evident in today’s new media landscape.  To this day, many instructors resist the incorporation of technology for a number of reasons.  To some, the idea of new media in the classroom is frightening because it requires us to acquire new technical knowledge.  Do I even have time or want to take the time to learn how to use WordPress, Prezi or Twitter?  The same concern relates to students: will new media technology widen the socio-economic technological, digital divide?  Will students pay attention in class, when they could easily be on Facebook or shopping for shoes?  How would technology benefit my students’ learning?  Continue reading

Woody’s Revenge: The Farrow/Previn Scandal Lives! in “Blue Jasmine

Editor’s Note: This essay was originally written in August 2013, and later revised in March 2014 for publication in Mediascape.

In an essay I wrote for my co-edited anthology Woody on Rye: Jewishness in the Films and Plays of Woody Allen (Brandeis Press, 2013), I argue that Allen’s films since the Mia Farrow/Soon Yi Previn scandal of 1992 all to some degree betray (if only unconsciously) the scandal’s lingering effects on the much acclaimed/much maligned writer-director. No film deals as overtly with Allen’s affair with his nineteen-year-old, quasi-step-daughter Soon Yi as his 2011 play Honeymoon Motel, in which a middle-aged New York Jew runs off to a motel with his stepson’s bride on the day of the wedding ceremony. But each film does employ, I suggest, one or more (sometimes overlapping) strategies for coping with the scandal’s (internal and external) fallout. Allen’s latest film, Blue Jasmine, which was released after my essay’s submission for publication, would have made an ideal capper. For besides being one of Allen’s stronger works (and worth seeing just for CateBlanchett’s stunning performance), it fits my post-scandal strategy thesis to a tee. Continue reading

Then [Nothing] Changed: On The Zombie Genre

Some might argue that the well of zombie survival-horror started drying up long ago. Filmmakers continue to create speculative fictions using Romero-style undead, but clever movies like Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004), Planet Terror (Rodriguez, 2007), and Dead Snow (Wirkola, 2009) are the exceptions. Most zombie-movie makers (better: zombie movie-makers) approach the genre’s tropes with all the imagination of a wedding band covering “We Are Family.” Continue reading

The Top 10 Movies of 2013: Editors’ Picks

At the Mediascape Blog, we like to think the movie year ends with the Academy Awards. To mark this year’s Oscars, editors Matthias Stork and J.M. Olejarz present their Top 10 lists for 2013.

Matthias Stork:

10. American Hustle
High-caliber acting and tremendous production design, with smart dialogue and excellent close-up camerawork…it is too long, however, and moves at a slow, too deliberate pace.

9. Inside Llewyn Davis
With wonderful music and a star-making performance, the Coens craft yet another intricate character study about how we continuously process failure.

8. Upstream Color
I cannot fully explain it. In fact, I can hardly explain it. But it does evoke a legacy of mind-bending cinematic and literary exercises that cannot but fascinate. This is a film that made me reevaluate how I watch movies. Continue reading

The Capitalist Complicities Behind “The Wolf of Wall Street”

When I first put my arbitrary list of the Top 10 Movies of 2013 together, I included Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street. The decision didn’t come lightly; I’ve had a very odd and ongoing conversation about this film. It had been my most anticipated film of the year by a country mile, but the experience of watching the movie drained me. It is too long, filled with shots and scenes that serve no real purpose except to keep telling us things we already know, shocking us with continued depravity or reinforcing the excessiveness and repetitiveness of Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) drugs-and-sex compulsiveness. Was it satire? Was it condemnation? Was it, as so many people claimed in various critiques, a glorification of rampant immorality? I had many conversations with colleagues about the goal of this film following that initial viewing. These conversations opened the film up as an ambivalent, outraged work about the failure to prosecute the finance sector, channeling its anger into gross satire. On a second watch though, The Wolf of Wall Street reveals significant political problems that can’t be ignored. Continue reading