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The American Context of Conspiracy Thrillers

’60s and Mid ’70s films made during the Conspiracy Thriller boom such as Manchurian Candidate (1962), Parallax View (1974), All the President’s Men (1976), and Stepford Wives (1975) seem to coordinate a critique or valorization of specifically American contexts. Manchurian Candidate demonstrates a stunning loss of American wartime innocence and domestic conspiracy in the same year John F. Kennedy was assassinated, resulting in the film being pulled from theatrical release. The Parallax View takes the notion of an American working against his/her own people a step further by enlisting an actual domestic cabal pulling the strings behind a patsy. All the President’s Men brings this fear of local threats home (literally and figuratively) with a very accurate retelling of the Watergate Scandal, a scheme that went right to the Oval Office. The purpose of this essay would be to select two to three of these films and identify what conventions used within these films spoke to an American context, and if possible, find what these films critiqued about American society in greater detail and how these concerns are relevant today. Some of the conventions include themes, characters, locations, symbols, and color coordination.

  • I would strongly encourage whomever decides to write this topic to pick just one or two of these films, maybe three maximum, to discuss in greater detail. The argument could become confused if the writer attempts to cover too much. By narrowing the focus, the writer will have more space to delve deeply. Of course, it is ultimately the writer's prerogative. – Samantha Leersen 7 hours ago
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  • Thanks for the suggested revisions. It was my intention to give those films off as a list of possible examples to select from rather than propose to cover them all in one go. I went ahead and corrected it. – Runestrand 6 hours ago
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One More Time For The Cheap Seats In The Back:The Concept of the Reboot

Analysis on the joys and failings of the reboot, addressing all female reboots, sequals, or revivals, such as Oceans 8, Gilmore Girls Revival, Twin Peaks revival, etc. It is easy to be swept up in the excitement on nostalgia, but it often doesn’t deliver. Lets look at why we cant always take that fuzzy feeling to the bank, by observing the box office reports as well as the public response and universal criticisms found in most of these films.

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    True History of the Kelly Gang: Motherhood and Masculinity

    In the film True History of the Kelly Gang, a fictional take on the outlaw Ned Kelly’s life, relations between Britain and members of the Commonwealth (in this case, Australia and Ireland in the 1870s) play a central role. Themes of displacement begin with Ned’s Irish-born parents’ (especially his mother’s) sense of alienation in Australia and distaste for anything that reeks of British influence. This feeling continues with Ned’s propulsion into the role of “man of the house” when his father dies and then when his mother secretly attempts to sell him into servitude for some quick money. Derision of authority figures partially stems from forced separation from or abandonment by one’s home (whether it is one’s country or familial circle).

    In connection with relations between nations of different power dynamics, gender plays an important role here as well. Despite the reluctance to perform an expected role, there is a strong male desire to be powerful enough to defend female honor from outsiders (i.e. the sexual exploitation of Ned’s mother and sister) that culminates in the Kelly Gang’s string of police-related murders. Ned is encouraged to “Die a Kelly” and give up his own life for his mother, even if it is at the expense of his unborn child and its mother. Ned’s entry into gang life begins as a “Son of Sieve,” an Irish rebel who dons overtly feminine dresses into battle to appear crazy and, therefore, more frightening. By the end of the film, in contrast, Ned Kelly is finally captured after wearing heavy, uber-masculine “bulletproof” armor in a gunfight that results in the bloody massacre of his men.

    What connections are made in the film between male and female dynamics and Britain’s relationship to members of the Commonwealth? How does simultaneous suicidal devotion to a reigning power and an internal aversion to fighting someone else’s battle with the promise of little to no personal benefit play out? What does the film have to say about these opposing tensions and their consequences within this fictionalized depiction of Ned Kelly?

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      The 1980s: The Heyday of Scary Children's Movies

      The 1980s was a great decade for children’s movies. From The Neverending Story to The Princess Bride, from Return to Oz to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, young audiences had all kinds of new cinematic stories to whet their appetites. Some movies, like ET and The Black Cauldron, went on to become classics (or "cult classics") and achieve great fame even if their initial box office performances were less than stellar.

      However, the kids’ movies of the 1980s are famous–or infamous–for scaring kids, too. On YouTube especially, but also other forms of social media, you can find detailed discussions of which films and moments from this decade were the scariest and what effects they might have had on kids. As adults, millennials might look back at these movies and wonder, "What were we, and our parents, thinking?" But we still hail these films as classics, and mainstays of the children’s cinematic canon, so to speak.

      Choose one, or perhaps two, of your favorite scary ’80s movies for kids. What made them memorable? What made some scarier, thus "better" or "worse," than others? Has cinema "softened" too much toward kids since the ’80s? If yes, what could it do to bring the edge back (do we need/want it)? Why do you think scary moments from kids’ movies stick in our minds, and what would it take to create such memorable moments now?

      • I remember the scariest 80s movie to me, as a kid, was Gremlins. It was hardcore and uncompromising, with some grotesque violence, threats of animal abuse, and most memorably the bomb-drop that there was no Santa Claus after a horrible story told by Phoebe Cates about her father's death. Gremlins was absolutely uncompromising in the realm of harsh reality. Since the eighties, mainstream cinema has doubled-down on the disturbing for adults and spares kids the slightest wink of real-world danger for the most part. The bit that seems especially odd to me is the total refusal now to kill the villain. I think children's movies are an incredible medium, or were, but there's no element of conflict anymore, which A, never gives kids that cool opportunity to see something frightening in a movie, and B, never gives kids the chance to form their own moral stances and see the clash between real good and evil. By lightening the conflict of children's cinema's stories, kids are left to believe that good and bad can always find common ground. By always letting the villain live, kids never feel that triumph anymore. Bring back the bad guy and whack him. – HankMelluish 6 days ago
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      How Infinite Time Loop Movies Have Avoided Their Own Groundhog Day

      A list of the most well-received infinite time loop movies and how they managed to keep it fresh. Analysing how each one, like the recent Palm Springs and TV equivalents like Russian Doll, handled this well-known concept but changed enough to keep audiences interested.

      • Thanks for the note, the piece was actually more to acknowledge how popular this type of movie is despite how many of them there have been over the years. I think going into too much detail on one would go against the idea of it and instead some shorter analyses on a few different films would be better. Showcasing their varied approaches. – Marcus Dean 3 weeks ago
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      Taken by noahspud (PM) 2 weeks ago.
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      Inception: Anticlimactic or Satisfyingly Open-ended?

      Inception is a highly popular film with an incredibly divisive ending. The whole movie takes the audience on a journey through exciting and complex dreamscapes, as Dom Cobb tries to pull off a reverse, mind-heist. Instead of stealing secrets from unconscious victims, he must plant an idea into someone’s head. Even though the film was wildly successful, the ending was very anticlimactic. At the end of the movie, the top spins. If it stays spinning, the characters are still in a dream. If it stops, the characters are living in reality. The characters watch the top spin one last time, to find out their fate. While the top is spinning in the most suspenseful part of the film, the film ends. The audience is left not knowing if the top was going to keep spinning, or come to a full stop. Was this a satisfying end, or a complete cop-out?

      • Really interesting open question about open-endedness. Could definitely reference the similar (although in my opinion, much less successful) end to Tenet too. – Marcus Dean 3 weeks ago
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      • I loved the movie Inception and really like this topic. I think that exploring the other works of Christopher Nolan e.g. Interstellar, Tenet, Dunkirk etc. would aid in exploring Inception's goals as a movie through the lense of Nolan's directing approach and treatment of time, space and reality. – rbryan14 7 days ago
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      Sci-Fi without spaceships

      The title is a simplification, but one of the things that defines sci-fi is gaving science as a frame for the possibilities of the world. There are many classical sci-fi topics such as space exploration and time travel, for instance. I am interested in thinking about sci-fi on a very small scale. I can’t really think of many examples from the top of my head. "Melancholia" and "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes" would be examples where the sci-fi elements dwell in the background. Any thoughts?

      • Could you kindly correct the typo "gaving?" – Munjeera 2 months ago
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      • Interesting. You might delve into the original Twilight Zone series (you can find it on Netflix) for examples. Several episodes deal with spaceships, aliens, and/or space exploration, but just as many do not. Personally, the ones that do not are some of my favorites, partly because the "usual" sci-fi elements aren't used. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago
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      • H.G. Wells’s literature could prove useful here for some ideas. – J.D. Jankowski 2 weeks ago
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      The Quiet Man and Domestic Abuse

      The Quiet Man (1952, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Ward Bond) won the Academy Award for Best Director (John Ford) and Best Cinematography. The Library of Congress selected the movie in 2013 to be included in the United States National Film Registry.

      The basic theme is boy moves back to Ireland, boy meets girl, boy meets girl’s brother, boy fights girl’s brother and, in the end, everyone is happy and friends for life. It is an enjoyable movie that presents Ireland in a quaint way, although the film is filled with stereotypes of the Irish.

      The issue is that there are some uncomfortable moments throughout the film that raise the issue of domestic abuse and present it in ways that somehow they can be glossed over as simply entertaining and appropriate in their settings. At one point Wayne (Sean Thornton) pulls O’Hara (Mary Kate Danaher) off a train and drags her (as his wife) five miles to her brother’s farm, where Wayne throws her back at her brother and tells him to keep her. During the lead up to this scene, a woman in the crowd that has been following Wayne drag O’Hara from the train to the brother’s farm, anticipating the fight that will culminate in the film’s big scene, steps forward to give Thornton a tree branch and the woman says, “Here’s good stick.” The point is he can use it on his wife.
      The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in domestic abuse, with one Irish mental health authority saying it has reached “epidemic levels.” Ireland may not necessarily have a more heightened level of abuse than other countries. In addition, the issue of domestic abuse predates the pandemic. But, in focusing on Ireland, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November 2019, a study placed the number of Irish women who suffered at the hands of domestic abuse at 23,000—so before the pandemic.

      Someone agreeing to write on this topic can address films, such as The Quiet Man, and how they may have glossed over domestic abuse and what changes have taken place since this film’s release in 1952. In addition, the impact of films and domestic abuse should be addressed. Did, for example, The Quiet Man, provide a way to rationalize domestic abuse which allowed it to be “swept under the rug” and be treated on a lesser level than other crimes?