Category: Education


Lecture from 2012 on the theme of the artist-hero in Tim Burton’s films. It runs around 50 minutes. An audio-only version is available here.

Abstract:
Characters with particular artistic talents and sensitivities dominate the films of Tim Burton: the introverted Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) of the 1990 film of the same name stuns his detractors with a series of unlikely masterworks; Jack Skellington of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) is the celebritized and eagerly sought scare-artist of Halloween Town; in Corpse Bride (2005) Victor Van Dort (Depp) funnels his frustrations into musical composition. These portrayals are curiously complemented in Burton’s oeuvre by characters who appear as affected, inferior or even deadly, artists. The Joker (Jack Nicholson) of Batman (1989), for instance, pronounces himself “the first fully functioning homicidal artist,” before presenting his mutilated girlfriend as “a living work of art.” This illustrated presentation explores the foregrounding of creative art in Burton’s films, focusing especially on the figure of the artist-hero. It considers this recurring figure in relation to an auteurism that insists we recognize the “Tim Burton-ness” of each film (notice its particular artistry), traditional conceptualizations of art production, and the role of artistic practice in foregrounding individuality.

I’m excited that I will be giving, as part of the Stranger With My Face International Film Festival’s Mary Shelley Symposium, the following presentation:

rott2.gifBAD DOG!
The Rogue Hounds of Horror

Domestic dogs regularly earn the affectionate adjective “faithful” in tribute to the numerous ways in which they complement and enrich human lives: as companions, guardians, workmates, friends. However, horror cinema provides multiple instances of dogs turned treacherous, canines who fiercely reject our attribution of fidelity and who abuse the special status we afford them in our culture. With attention to several films, including SUSPIRIA (1977), THE THING (1982), and CUJO (1983), this illustrated presentation takes a stern yet understanding look at these “bad dogs,” considering the terror and allure of imagining the rebellion of our furry friends.

The talk will be held on Saturday April 16, 11 am. Cost is $6 or $4 (Conc.), or free with a Festival Pass (see below).

This exploratory but accessible talk will be of interest to lovers of cinema, genre, horror, and—of course—dogs.

I really hope as many people as possible attend this wild and wonderful festival, which Director, Founder and Programmer, Briony Kidd, along with others, are working tremendously hard on. A tantalizing array of films (both shorts and features) await your attention and enjoyment, as well as in-depth talks and presentations. For more info visit: http://www.strangerwithmyface.com

I will be donating my speaker’s fee to The Dogs’ Home of Tasmania, so you can come and enjoy a talk about angry dogs while your support indirectly helps very vulnerable ones.

The Man Who Loved ChildrenMy guide to Christina Stead’s 1940 Australian classic The Man Who Loved Children has been published by Insight Publications. The Man Who Loved Children is now part of the Australian year 11-12 English curriculum, and this 73-page guide is especially designed for college-level students and their teachers. It contains: character map; synopsis; background on the writer; sections on genre, structure, and style; discussion of historical context; chapter-by-chapter analysis with key quotes and study questions; detailed discussion of themes; essay questions; guidelines for planning and writing an essay; and sample essays written to year-11/12 A+ standard.

Available now from publisher Insight Publications (in both paperback and digital editions) and Angus & Robertson, with others to follow.

Thinking in the DarkI strive to make Jacques Lacan accessible in this new anthology from Rutgers UP on film theory. Each chapter considers a different theorist/philosopher whose ideas have been influential in cinema studies, and via analysis of two films (one classic, one contemporary). My chapter discusses Laura (1944) and Black Swan (2010). I’m honored to be included in a book with the likes of Tom Gunning and Dudley Andrew (and of course its wonderful editors Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer). Anyone who teaches film or is otherwise in need of a vibrant introduction to film theory: check it out.

And remember: “What does it matter how many lovers you have if none of them gives you the universe?”

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View at Rutgers University Press

 

 

 

Life of Pi (2012): Film Guide

Life of PiMy guide to Ang Lee’s sumptuous and moving film, Life of Pi, has now been published by Insight Publications. This film has been added to the Australian year 11/12 English syllabus, and I hope that readers will find this guide a helpful resource for teaching and studying it.

The guide is 73 pages (approximately 22,000 words), and includes the following: character map; background on the writer and director; detailed synopsis; character summaries; discussion of the film in its historical and cultural context (including debates over religion and reason, as well as animal ethics); detailed discussion of genre, structure, and style; scene-by-scene analysis, including key points and study questions; detailed discussion of characters and their relationships; involved analysis of themes (including fiction versus reality, choosing faith or reason, respect for non-human animals, the ‘true’ nature of non-human animals, the value of both family connections and independence, the general theme of ‘discovery’, and the importance of saying goodbye and letting go).

life-of-pi-screenshot-13It also contains a section addressing different critical interpretations of Lee’s film (including its relationship to Yann Martel’s source novel). A particularly helpful feature of all Insight guides is their focus on essay planning and writing: this guide includes a section on structuring an essay, sample essay topics, a detailed analysis of one of those topics with a sample essay outline (with complete introduction and conclusion), and a complete sample essay in response to another question (written to Year 11/12 A+ standard). The guide also includes a list of references for further reading.

life of pi screenshot 2Life of Pi is a stylistically brilliant yet thoughtfully composed film. It’s also thematically rich, offering a number of very worthwhile points for discussion and study — points that are both serious and provocative, yet accessible enough for the year-levels for which the film has been set. I hope this guide helps navigate, tease out, and enjoyably expand upon all this film has to offer.

Available from the publisher, Insight Publications.

SUNY Press, 2014 http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5921-bad-seeds-and-holy-terrors.aspx

SUNY Press, 2014

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film, by State University of New York Press. The book is currently available in electronic form, and the hardcover edition will be released on November 1.

This book wrangles with the numerous child villains who have haunted horror cinema over many decades, including Damien Thorn (The Omen), Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist), Samara (The Ring), and Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed), and the psychic terrors of Village of the Damned (pictured on the cover), among others. It interrogates in detail and with a variety of theoretical tools a cultural obsession with imagining children as objects of terror. In doing so, it highlights popular horror cinema as a vital topic of analysis, exposing it as a site of deep and volatile ambivalence toward children.

Available in print and digital form from the publisher, SUNY Press; Amazon; and others.

“This is impeccably well researched and presented. It holds its own at the top of film studies scholarship. Sprightly in its survey across key areas of cultural anxiety and able to draw on a range of lucid examples, Lennard produces sophisticated and complex extended analyses where necessary. A pleasure to read.”  — Linda Ruth Williams, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

“Deftly organized, elegantly written, and graced throughout with numerous stills and frame blowups, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors has something to offer both the lay reader and the scholar.” — CHOICE

Wag the Dog (1997) film guide

Wag the Dog coverFreshly pressed: a guide to Barry Levinson’s political satire Wag the Dog (1997).  When the U.S. President is accused of making sexual advances toward a young girl in the lead-up to an election, his media advisers call in mysterious spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) to manage the scandal. Brean’s strategy involves concocting a fictional war with Albania to divert attention from the scandal. As this war will be an entirely a fictional production, he enlists eccentric film producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to “produce” it as he would a Hollywood film, and invest it with all the drama and mawkish sentimentality the media and public crave. Wag the Dog seemed almost uncannily topical when the Lewinsky scandal broke just a few weeks after its release; however, the film now also eerily recalls the artful “selling” of the Iraq War to the American public in 2003.

Wag the Dog has been added to the Australian year 11-12 curriculum, and this guide is especially designed for college-level students and their teachers. It contains: character map; synopsis; background on the writers and director; sections on genre, structure, and film style; detailed discussion of the film’s historical context; scene-by-scene analysis, with key quotes and study questions; detailed discussion of themes; essay questions; guidelines for planning and writing an essay; and sample essays written to year-11/12 A+ standard.

Available now from publisher Insight Publications, as well as Angus & Robertson, Co-op, Booktopia, and in electronic form through iBooks.  View preview.