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Archives For February 2015

Picks for the 87th Academy Awards

By Christine Ragusa
Posted on 18 February 2015 | 11:04 am

Our Film Studies professors (Colleen Glenn* and John Bruns**) pick their winners for Sunday’s 2015 Oscars. They are…


Best Picture

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)


The Grant Budapest Hotel*

The Imitation Game


The Theory of Everything


Best Director

Birdman – Alejandro G. Iñárritu *

Boyhood – Richard Linklater**

Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson

Leading Actor

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

Michael Keaton (Birdman)***

Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Leading Actress

Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)*

Julianne Moore (Still Alice)**

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall (The Judge)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Edward Norton (Birdman)*

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)**

Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)**

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)*

Emma Stone (Birdman)

Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Best Cinematography

Birdman or (the Unexpected Virture of Ignorance) – Emmanuel Lubezki**

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman*

Ida – Lukasz Zal and Ryzaard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Graham Moore**

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson*

The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virture of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood – E. Max Frey and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness***

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy


***Picked by both Colleen and John

For a full list of nominees click here.

By Daniel Greenberg

Brian Williams probably won’t forget this week anytime soon.  The NBC newsreader was suspended without pay because of the controversy over his mistaken claim that his helicopter had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq.  On the surface, this scandal looks a lot like a vain and deceitful man’s attempt to cover himself with supposed glory.  After all, how could anyone make an honest mistake about something like that?


Brian Williams

It’s easier than you think.  Human beings are surprisingly prone to creating false memories—memories of events that never actually happened.  False memories aren’t lies; we firmly believe that they’re true, and we could testify to them in court with a clear conscience.  They’re not a sign of age or a failing memory; anyone at any age is susceptible, and we’ve probably all had moments when we “could have sworn” that we sent that email or paid that bill, only to find out that we didn’t.

Still, memories for shocking events (and being hit by an RPG would certainly qualify) seem like they should be different.  Take our memories of momentous historical events, such as the September 11th attacks, the Challenger disaster, the Kennedy assassination, or whatever the key event of your generation might be.  These are known as flashbulb memories, and they’re among the most vivid and emotional memories we possess.  On top of that, we tend to have near-absolute confidence in their accuracy.  We’ll often say that these memories are burned into our minds—that we could not possibly forget.

Yet this confidence is misplaced, because flashbulb memories are unreliable too.  The late psychologist Ulric Neisser vividly remembered an announcer interrupting a radio broadcast of a baseball game to announce that Pearl Harbor had been bombed—except that the bombing took place on December 7, 1941, and no baseball is played in December.  The author and physician Susan Koven remembers being in kindergarten when President Kennedy was assassinated, at least until she did the arithmetic and discovered that she was actually in first grade.  Even former President George W. Bush has a false flashbulb memory for the September 11th attacks.  He claimed on several occasions that he learned about the event that day by watching footage of the first plane hitting the tower, but he could not possibly have seen it because no such footage was available at the time.


Google’s definition of “autobiographical memory”

These are anecdotes, but scientific evidence tells the same tale.  Jennifer Talarico and David Rubin, who were colleagues of mine when I was at Duke University, studied memories for the September 11th attacks.  They tested Duke undergraduates on September 12th, the day after the attacks, then tested them again some time later.  They found that flashbulb memories were just as inaccurate as ordinary memories—most people changed their story in some way—yet people were far more confident in the flashbulb memories.

Why does this happen?  In part, the answer is that humans are imaginative but fallible creatures, and we’re good at remembering generalities but not so good at remembering specifics.  We’re always envisioning what might have happened, even while reminiscing about what actually took place, and truth and fantasy can blend together, especially as our original memories start to fade.  The false memory story isn’t made up out of thin air; it changes a little bit with each retelling, like a message in a game of Telephone, until it bears little resemblance to the initial event.  Williams’s stories show the signs of just this sort of change: He begins by saying that the helicopter in front of him had been hit by an RPH, then later says his own helicopter took gunfire, then adds in an RPG.  Bit by bit, the story shifts.

That doesn’t answer the most important question, though.  Granted, false memories exist, even for traumatic or shocking events.  But liars and frauds exist too, and we don’t want them to be able to get off scot-free by claiming false memory as a defense.  So how do we distinguish false memories from flat-out lies?  Unfortunately, that’s where science fails us; we just don’t have any reliable way to tell.

In Williams’s case, it might not matter.  Sure, nobody has any use for a dishonest reporter, but an honest yet unreliable one doesn’t seem that useful either; one might expect that a reporter like Williams would know better than to trust his own fallible recollections.  Is he a liar or a victim of false memory?  In the end, only he can say—and at this point, even he might not know for sure.

Greenberg, D. L. (2004).  President Bush’s false “flashbulb” memory of 9/11/01.  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 363-370.
Talarico, J. M., & Rubin, D. C.  (2003).  Confidence, not consistency, characterizes flashbulb memories.  Psychological Science, 14, 455-461.

Daniel Greenberg, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, is an expert on human memory.

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With all of the talent in our Film Studies Program we couldn’t just have one list. Now, it’s John’s turn!  John Bruns, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Film Studies Program, shares his list of must-see romantic movies!

It Happened One Night (dir. Frank Capra, 1934)

I teach this film almost every year, and never does it fail to please my students. After more than 80 years, not only does it still get all its laughs, it’s still a very satisfying romance. Robert Riskin’s smart screenplay is about a spoiled little rich girl, Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), who marries against her father’s wishes a wealthy ninny named King Wes220px-Gable_ithapponepm_postertley. She runs away from her father and hops on a bus bound for New York that will reunite her with her newlywed husband. But along the way she meets Peter Warne (Clark Gable), a down-on-his-luck journalist who is starving for a big story–literally (it’s the Great Depression, you see). Well, the big story lands on Peter’s lap–literally. You’ll have the biggest grin on your face as you watch Peter and Ellie stubbornly fight the obvious: that they are in love. The first film ever to sweep the Oscars’ top five categories–Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress–this cross-class romance is the ideal Valentine’s Day sweet.

Before Sunrise (dir. Richard Linklater, 1995)

Before Sunrise is the first of three installments of Jesse and Celine’s love story. Few films portray falling in love as honestly (and as patiently!) as this film. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train traveling through Europe and strike up a conversation. In a life-changing flash–as Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013) will show–Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna, his final stop. She agrees, and the two wander through the city together, all the while knowing that Jesse’s flight back to America is at sunrise. Vienna is the perfect backdrop for this dalliance of beautiful young minds.

Beautiful Thing (dir. Hettie MacDonald, 1996)

Hettie MacDonald was, and still is, an award-winning director of British television. Her debut, Beautiful Thing, was made for Channel 4 Films, the ground-breaking production company that provided Brits with intelligent and artistic television–a welcome alternative to what the BBC was offering. The film tells the story of two young men, Jamie and Ste, who live next door to one another in a working class area of South East London. Jamie, struggling with his homosexuality, finds himself attracted to Ste, who initially rejects Jamie’s affections. But a strong bond develops between the two as they both deal with a host of family problems. Channel Four liked what they saw so much that they decided to give Beautiful Thing a theatrical release. The soundtrack is by the Mamas and the Papas, and a solo Cass Elliot, who approvingly serenade this illicit romance. Funny and moving, this film is indeed a beautiful thing.

Read John's list of top five scary movies.

Beauty and the Beast (dir. Jean Cocteau, 1946)

Speaking of beautiful things, no film is more hauntingly beautiful than Jean Cocteau’s adaptation of this beloved French fairy tale. La belle et la bête stars Jean Marais (as the Beast) and Josette Day (as the Beauty). Cocteau was a well-known poet and surrealist-turned filmmaker (see his stunning and odd 1930 film, Blood of the Poet). So it should come as no surprise that this visually expressive film is a far cry from the 1991 Disney animated feature. And all the better. You’ll marvel as you watch Beauty’s tears turn to real diamonds, and disembodied arms hoist ornate candelabras in the Beast’s elaborate, dreamlike castle. You’ll be spellbound by this classic love story.

Love at Twenty (1962)

You love-starved cinephiles will want to track down this obscure anthology film. It’s comprised of shorts by five filmmakers: François Truffaut, Marcel Ophüls, Shintarô Ishihara, Renzo Rossellini, and Andrzej Wajda. My personal favorite is Truffaut’s “Antoine et Colette,” which is the second of five films that Truffaut made about his fictional alter-ego, Antoine Doinel (who is played by Jean-Pierre Leaud). In “Antoine et Colette,” Antoine meets the girl of his dreams at a music recital and decides to move into a flat across the street so he can be close to her and her loving, caring family. Fans of The 400 Blows (1959) will know that Antoine has run away from a home that was anything but loving and caring. Is he in love with Colette or with her family? Watch Love at Twenty and find out which is your favorite, because each short film in this anthology is a delicious slice of life. At turns funny, sad, real, fantastic, pleasant, painful, these films show from all angles what love is like when you’re 20.

So, what do you think? What’s your favorite romantic movie? How does it stack up to Colleen’s list?


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Planning your Valentine’s Day celebration? Perhaps your plans include dinner and a movie? If so, we’ve got you covered…well, the movie part. Colleen Glenn, Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies Program, shares her list of top romantic movies.

5. The Shop Around the Corner (dir. Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)


Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner

In this playful, classic rom-com, co-workers Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan spar and trade insults relentlessly, each not realizing that the object of their disgust is also the object of their affection, via anonymous pen pal letters. Sometimes, this movie teaches us, the right person is right before our very eyes. This film was such a hit that it was later remade as You’ve Got Mail (1998), but the original features more gravitas and more onscreen chemistry between the leading actors.

4. Silver Linings Playbook (dir. David O. Russell, 2012)

Things get heated between Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, an edgy rom-com/drama that exposes the dark and bright sides of emotional attachments, as well as the neuroses at the core of (most of) our family circles. Not only do Lawrence and Cooper sizzle onscreen, but also the pair brings a refreshing honesty and vulnerability to their flawed, but charming characters.

3. The Princess Bride (dir. Rob Reiner, 1987)


The Princess Bride movie

Weaving adventure, fantasy, comedy, and, of course, romance, The Princess Bride remains one of the most delightful movies ever made. The fairy tale features larger-than-life characters—brave heroes, cowardly villains, witty pirates; magical and dangerous locations—the Cliffs of Insanity, the Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair; and a tremendous cast, including Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal, and more. But most of all, the film captures the essence of true love, as Cary Elwes and Robin Wright discover that nothing can stop it, not even Death.

2. Intolerable Cruelty (dir. Coen Bros, 2003)

In this oft-overlooked Coen Brothers comedy, George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones prove that love is a battlefield as they bluff, flirt, dupe, and repeat in a series of deceptive maneuvers that would frighten even the most skillful of poker players. Sparks fly between this attractive pair as they attempt to get the best of one another (and one another’s assets). A must-see throwback to the old screwball comedy formula!


See "Colleen Glenn's Six Not-To-Miss Halloween Flicks"

1. Casablanca (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942)

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…” So mutters cynical ex-freedom fighter Humphrey Bogart as Ingrid Bergman walks into his café in Casablanca on the arm of another man—and not just any man, but a famous resistance fighter being hunted by the Nazis. The ex-lovers’ unexpected reunion sets off a chain of unpredictable and unforgettable events in what is perhaps the quintessential Hollywood romantic drama. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Does Colleen include any of your favorites? What is she missing? Stay tuned for part two by Film Studies Program Director John Bruns.

Faculty, staff, family and friends of HSS graciously volunteered on Saturday, February 7th at Sea Island Habitat for Humanity. We were put to work nailing, painting and prepping the next home in a James Island community where a total of approximately 25 homes will be built to help those in need. Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time!





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