The Film Club’s Art in Cinema series is moving on to special visual effects. Film Club members were asked to vote for their favorite special effects film from a slate of four selected by the Film Club core team. (The slate was developed from a list of 22 possible candidates.) Seventy people participated in the one-week online survey and an “oldie but goodie”—the very first Star Wars—came out on top.
Not surprising since 1977’s Star Wars launched a worldwide phenomenon. Its characters are as familiar as your neighbors: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi and, of course, the ominous Darth Vader. Its story of bravery and heroic derring-do continues to capture new generations of fans. Its groundbreaking effects still thrill audiences, 44 years after first being seen. The film gave birth to prequels and sequels—a total of 11 with more on the way. In fact, in light of its three prequels, the original 1977 Star Wars is now referred to as Star Wars Episode IV—A New Hope.
The film was developed by writer and director George Lucas in the mid-1970s and serves as a testament to not only his creativity but also tenacity. When Lucas began pitching the film, he heard “no thank you” from Universal and other major studios. Finally, 20th Century Fox came on board and financed what was considered a risky project—and certainly benefitted by that decision. Creator Lucas became one of the wealthiest people in the entertainment industry since he initially turned down a higher salary from Fox to retain rights to not only possible sequels but to the merchandizing as well.
When Lucas and his team started the project, visual effects technology was in its infancy. Yet Lucas would not let go of his vision of a realistic universe full of spaceships, creatures and knock-your-socks-off experiences. The path his team followed—a painstaking combination of animation, detailed miniatures and computer-controlled motion photography—changed the way people saw and created movies forever.
Fr. David Guffey, CSC, Director, Family Theater Productions, will be giving us insights into the film. You can watch the film on Amazon Prime, You Tube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and Disney + (subscription service). You may also want to check your local TV listings since the film is shown from time-to-time.
The Film Club shared a delightful evening on Feb. 11 talking about Amelie, the shy, clever and generous heroine of the movie that bears her name. As a child starved for love, she grew into a young woman living within herself…not sure how to find love. By happenstance, she realized she could find joy by cleverly and covertly helping others become happier. And, in the end, through the wisdom and concern of a neighbor with whom she shared time, she was able to take the big step and seek the love and affection that she so wanted. As discussion leader, Father David Guffey, said, “Amelie’s desire to make other people have more joyful lives eventually opens her up to love.” This charming, modern-day fairytale, set in a perfect Paris, has a happy ending for those who knew Amelie and for Amelie herself.
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Fr. David and the Film Club would be thrilled to receive your recommendations for guest speakers who are involved in some aspect of film making. If you know someone who you think would be an interesting guest, contact with your suggestions.
The Film Club brings together movie lovers for a monthly discussion on a selected film. The 2019-2020 theme is Art of Cinema and with each film is chosen not only for its meaning, but also in the context of a specific aspect of filmmaking (e.g., screenwriting, set decoration). It’s amazing how much more you can see once you begin to appreciate the techniques that make one film stand out from the rest.
The Film Club also hosts two seasonal events: A Holiday Party, featuring a classic Christmas movie, and Oscar Night, where we review the nominated films and vote for our “best picture of the year.” (Our track record for predicting the Oscar has been uncanny.)
The Film Club meets in the Grand Pavilion on the second Thursday of the month from September through May. Our discussions are led by Father David Guffey, CSC, Director, Family Theater Productions.
2020-2021 Film Club Schedule
|October 8||Original Musical Score||The Mission|
|November 12||Costume Design||Julie & Julia|
|December 10||Holiday||O, Henry's Full House|
|January 14||Cinematography 1||Lawrence of Arabia|
|February 11||Cinematography 2||Amelie|
|March 11||Visual Effects||TBD|
|May 13||Multiple Categories||A Man for All Seasons|
The shimmering sands and endless vistas of the desert were the topic of discussion as the Film Club focused on the cinematography in the epic Lawrence of Arabia. The majestic landscape was itself a character in David Lean’s revered film and, with the help of discussion leader, Father David Guffey, we were able to envision the difficulties and intricacies of filming a movie of this magnitude in such a challenging environment.
The movie portrays the exploits (real and exaggerated) of British military man, T. E. Lawrence. Despite the grandeur of the film, it offers an intimate look at a time and place full of daring-do and political intrigue and a world in the midst of difficult cultural and economic transition. The portrait of Lawrence, played by then-newcomer Peter O’Toole, shows a man looking for his next success but not learning from his failures. His charisma won him followers. His exhibitionism earned him fame. His ego allowed him to be manipulated. And in the end, did anyone really know who he was…including himself?
The Film Club kicked off the holiday season with a look at a very American film genre, the Christmas movie. With all the Christmas movies from which to choose, there were several winners (all classics), when guests were asked to choose favorites in several categories:
The film version of a classic Christmas story was also discussed that night—O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. It was part of the 1953 film anthology, O. Henry’s Full House. You’ll remember, the story is about a young couple who each, unbeknownst to the other, sacrificed their most precious possessions to buy the other the perfect Christmas gift. Ironically, she sold her beautiful hair to buy him a chain for his heirloom watch and he sold his watch to buy her ornamental combs for her hair. The power of O. Henry’s writing—on- and off-the-screen—had the Film Club talking about the twist ending—and the power of love—103 years after the short story was first published.
After a night of Christmas films past, Father David Guffey, who led the night’s discussion, shared some meaningful thoughts. He said, “Wonderful things can happen if we leave room for them to occur, even in what may seem to be far off from the ideal Christmas. We’ve all seen how Christ can come in very unexpected ways. How can we make room for grace to break in? As we approach this Christmas, let us consider how we can be the angels, the Santa’s, the bearers of light? How can we bring grace into others’ lives?”
The November Film Club served up a delightful feast for over 50 Film Club members who discussed Norah Ephron’sfilm, Julie & Julia. The movie centers on a contemporary food blogger, Julie Powell, and her culinary idol, Julia Child. Their connection was Julie’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, now approaching 2-million copies in print. As part of the Film Club’s Art of the Cinema series, our focus was the film’s costuming by Hollywood veteran, Ann Roth, that subtly and successfully bridged the time gap between the women’s lives and highlighted the parallel challenges they faced generations apart. One participant said, “I’ll never look at a movie the same again. It was really remarkable how the costumes helped tell the story and hold the film together.”
On Oct. 8, Film Club discussed the powerful film, The Mission, made even more so by the soaring score composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone. The music creates the backdrop for this compelling drama that depicts a time when church, state and greed created an unholy alliance in 18th century South America. The score artfully combines liturgical chorales, native drumming and Iberian-influenced music, giving voice to the various constituencies involved in the conflict that arose over a Jesuit mission, the indigenous Guarani it served, and the Portuguese who wished to conquer and exploit both.
Audience takeaways included the role the score plays in following the arc of the story, beginning with the simplicity of the melodious Gabriel’s Oboe to the complex On Earth as It Is in Heaven. Attention was also paid to the outstanding cinematography (it won the Oscar) and how it is made even more memorable by its musical accompaniment. Most agreed that The Mission is a remarkably moving film—one they won’t soon forget.
September’s Film Club discussion of Martin Scorsese’s first (and only) family adventure—Hugo—kicked off our 2020-2021 Art of Cinema season on a truly positive and uplifting note. The winner of five Oscars, the movie centers on the exploits of an orphaned boy who secretly keeps the clocks running in a 1930’s Parisian train station. His solitary life changes when he is befriended by the adventurous Isabelle. Through his interaction with her and others (including an automaton!) and his need to fix things (including himself), Hugo eventually creates his own sense of belonging and positively influences the lives of others who frequent the station. One of the people he meets and impacts (and vice versa) is real-life French film pioneer, Georges Méliès, who is Isabelle’s grandfather. The film was a glimpse into Méliès’ genius that repurposed his considerable skills as a magician to those of an early and notable film producer. You can see Méliès’ ground-breaking 1902 adventure film, A Trip to the Moon, that’s featured in Hugo, here.
Hugo is adapted from Brian Selznick’s 2007 book The Invention of Hugo Cabret that spent 42 weeks on the New York Times best seller list for children. Selznick has some Hollywood in his blood: He is the grandson of legendary Hollywood producer, David O. Selznick. For more about the adapted screen play, check out Fr. Vince Kuna’s blog on the topic.
Hugo has many outstanding qualities, including its award-winning soundtrack. Two of its Oscars were for sound (best mixing and best editing)—while others were awarded for cinematography, production design and special effects. While acknowledging all of these technical accolades, many in the Film Club felt that Hugo and it's lasting appeal has more to do with the wonderfully told story about opening yourself up, reaching out and embracing the purpose of your life.
The film, Just Mercy, was the focus of July’s virtual Film Club. Based on an actual case in the early career of Byron Stevenson, now an acclaimed public interest lawyer, the film shows not only Stevenson’s unbending desire to seek justice and mercy but also gives the viewer an unsettling glimpse of what it’s like to be helplessly and unjustly accused or imprisoned. The film, set in 1980s Alabama, portrays a justice system that often delivered just the opposite to the poor and people of color.
Joining in the conversation led by Fr. David Guffey, CSC, Director, Family Theater Productions, was Monsignor Torgerson and 77 Film Club followers eager to share their reactions to the movie. Fr. Guffey said, “Great storytelling in film offers us a way to live inside the life of other people to share in their experiences and so widen our perspective on life. Though the real events on which the film was based occurred over 30 years ago, the issues of race-based prejudice are remarkably contemporary. This makes the film especially important now. It is important to have the conversation we had at Film Club. It will be important to continue the conversations about race as we listen to the stories of people most affected, and together envision ways of reform based on the universal dignity of every person as a beloved child of God.”
Many also commented about Bryon Stevenson and his inspirational life’s work. One person said, “When you look at what he decided to do, you have to believe that he was guided by the Holy Spirit.” The Monsignor commented, “As a young man, he could have written his ticket and gone to any important law firm. Instead, he chose a more difficult and rewarding path.”
Indeed, Bryon Stevenson is the hero of the film and his work continues today. You may be interested in reading about two of his recent projects—a memorial and a museum in Montgomery, AL—designed to recognize the suffering of many while serving as a catalyst for informed, societal change. Click on the links to find interesting stories about The Legacy Museum and the Memorial to Peace and Justice.
The Film Club will not be discussing a movie with you in August so we can take the time to prepare for next season when our Art of Cinema series returns. We’ll be giving you news as it evolves at stmonica.net/filmclub—and we can hardly wait (as the old song goes…) to see you in September.
It had been a long hot day leading up to the virtual Film Club on June 11, but you’d never know it listening to the animated discussion about Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. Fr. David Guffey led the discussion and Fr. Vince Kuna offered his perspectives, as he compared the book with the screen adaptation. Guests were given the chance to have an “around-the-dinner-table” discussion in break-out groups, before a general discussion that touched on Gerwig’s unique and contemporary approach to the classic story, the outstanding acting, character development, cinematography, set design, choreography and even the story’s backdrop: The Civil War.
Over 100 people joined the Film Club’s virtual get together on May 14, featuring Phil Alden Robinson, Director and Screenwriter of our film of the month, Field of Dreams. The conversation afforded an insider’s view of how the film evolved from a novel to a major motion picture and let us in on the challenges and rewards along the way. A big thank you to Phil Robinson, our guest, Fr. David, our moderator, and all of you who helped create such a wonderful evening.
The Art of Cinema Series: 2019-2020 Season
History of Film
Christmas in Connecticut
Julie & Julia*
A Man For All Seasons
*Replaced by virtual Film Club discussions of Groundhog Day (March), Rear Window (April) and Field of Dreams (May).
|January||Stan & Ollie|
|March||A Man of His Word|
|April||Of Gods and Men|
|May||The African Queen|
|October||A Beautiful Mind|
|November||A Man Called Ove|
|December||The Bishops Wife|
|March||Nine to Five|