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MyFavoriteFilms

Social studies and film

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Some excellent choices. I would also like to add anything by Ken Burns, as far as American History goes. I find his documentaries intelligent, warm & factual, appealing to all ages.

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Tikisoo, I agree.

 

I think most films based on works of fiction that depict a specific time in history of any country can be a good stepping stone in getting students to understand the time period. This goes beyond watching a film and then reading the book. I do think that it is up to the teacher to be competent enough to communicate to the students what is fact and what is dramatized Hollywood. I like how you mentioned the Great Depression, there are so many films that have story lines around that time - many not even directly about the Great Depression - but they give a great view into the lives and feelings of many people at that time. When I think of Woody Allen's *The Purple Rose of Cairo* and how during that era some people had nothing but the movies...it really shows you just how much things have changed. Today, people who are unemployed at least have enough to pay an internet bill and have access to websites and streaming movies online. Movies are a great way of teaching our youth about the past without coming off as preachy or old timer-ish.

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I don't even know if many kids would want to sit through A Lion in Winter in

the first place. Maybe they would. I wouldn't have a problem with using some

briefs scenes from films to either point out a lesson or to use as an example of

what needs to be corrected. Then you run into the time problem, having to spend

extra time showing the scenes and then going back to show where they are wrong.

Documentaries are a different thing and I could see where they would be useful.

 

There was a social hierarchy among slaves, with some doing house work, some

doing skilled trades and some doing the hard agricultural work, which was probably

what the majority did. Gone With the Wind still presents a sanitized version of

slavery which falls short of historical accuracy.

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I don't think there was any film made before 1960 with a fictional backdrop that had a fairly accurate portrayal of slavery in America. The slave/master and servant/employer relationship in Hollywood always seems a little too "glossy" in movies from the studio era.

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"Glossy" is a good description of how the slave/master relationship, and many

others, were portrayed back in the day. Partly a reflection of the times and partly

of the fact that Hollywood had a story to tell where accuracy wasn't the first

consideration. That's understandable in a work of fiction, which is why I think

they can only have a limited use in teaching or illustrating history.

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> {quote:title=C.Bogle wrote:}{quote}

> "Glossy" is a good description of how the slave/master relationship, and many

> others, were portrayed back in the day. Partly a reflection of the times and partly

> of the fact that Hollywood had a story to tell where accuracy wasn't the first

> consideration. That's understandable in a work of fiction, which is why I think

> they can only have a limited use in teaching or illustrating history.

 

If a professor used Hattie McDaniels portrayal as a servant in GONE WITH THE WIND to high light the master/slave or servant relationship after discussing history textbooks in class, they'd lose all credibility with me. I even raise my eyebrow at some documentaries I have seen over the years. Particularly ones centered around inner city struggles.

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Well a lot of it comes down to why (i.e. to what purpose) a movie is made. Typically it is to make money and being too realistic could impact the marketability of a film.

 

My wife and I were discussion this point; She had a hard time watching Roots since she just didn't like seeing the treatment of slaves in that movie and it made it angry (she is Italian and thus US History isn't something she 'lived' like many of us). Well I told her some of the purpose of that film was to stir up strong feelings and that it reflected reality. But she said she doesn't typically watch a movie to learn a history leason but for enjoyment entertainment.

 

Of course Roots was successful but I assume its time had finally come.

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> {quote:title=MyFavoriteFilms wrote:}{quote}

> Ken Burns is a good one to mention in this thread. Thanks for pointing him out.

 

His brother Ric Burns made some good docs too, including a seven ep series on NYC.

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Mammy was an interesting character, but I wouldn't use her as an example of a

typical slave, even a house slave. Sometimes you just have to hit the books.

I was really thinking of this topic more in regard of treating Hollywood films

in general as a dubious guide to history, and not so much as how they might

be used in the classroom, which has its own problems.

 

Yes. Hollywood films are there to tell a story and of course to make a profit.

I enjoy many of them even if they get the facts screwed up. I just like to keep

the distinctions clear.

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There are actually quite a few really well made Hollywood films and mini-series that depict actual events and or historical moments that are all quite good and tell their stories with a minimal amount of inaccuracies.

 

So lets take a look at history and how film has tried to tell their stories.

 

Early Man:

 

Quest for Fire 1981

 

Biblical:

 

Jesus of Nazareth (TV) 1977

 

The Story of David (TV) 1976

 

The Fall of the Roman Empire 1964

 

 

Early Europeans:

 

The Vikings 1958

 

 

England:

 

The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

 

Braveheart 1995

 

Henry V 1989

 

A Man for All Seasons 1966

 

The Bounty 1984

 

 

English Naval battles:

 

The Sea Hawk 1940

 

Damn the Defiant! 1962

 

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

2003

 

 

Colonial America:

 

The Black Robe 1991

 

Northwest Passage 1940

 

The Madness of King George 1994

 

John Paul Jones 1959

 

John Adams (HBO) 2008

 

The Man Without a Country (TV) 1973

 

Colonial Africa:

 

Zulu 1964

 

 

Mexican-American War:

 

The Last Command 1955

 

 

American Civil War:

 

Friendly Persuasion 1955

 

Glory 1989

 

The Red Badge of Courage 1951

 

The Prisoner of Shark Island 1936

 

Ken Burn's The Civil War (PBS) 1990

 

 

American Cowboys:

 

Conagher (TV) 1991

 

Will Penny 1968

 

Monte Walsh 1970

 

The Far Country 1955

 

Red River 1948

 

The Cowboys 1972

 

 

Lawmen / Outlaws / Stage:

 

The Gunfighter 1950

 

Lawman 1971

 

The Tin Star 1957

 

Stagecoach 1939

 

Wells Fargo 1937

 

Wagon Master 1950

 

Winchester '73 1950

 

 

Boer War / Spanish-American War / Early 20th century:

 

Breaker Morant 1979

 

Rough Riders (TV) 1990s

 

Bite the Bullet 1975

 

 

World War One:

 

All Quiet on the Western Front 1930

 

Sergeant York 1941

 

 

Just after WWI:

 

A River Runs Through It 1992

 

The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell 1955

 

 

The Depression:

 

The Grapes of Wrath 1940

 

The American Clock (TV) 1993

 

King of the Hill 1993

 

Places in the Heart 1984

 

Bound for Glory 1976

 

Sounder 1972

 

Cinderella Man 2005

 

 

World War II:

 

Hope and Glory 1987

 

Sink the Bismarck! 1960

 

Tora! Tora! Tora! 1070

 

From Here to Eternity 1953

 

They Were Expendable 1945

 

Das Boot 1981

 

The Enemy Below 1957

 

Run Silent, Run Deep 1958

 

A Walk in the Sun 1945

 

The Desert Fox 1951

 

Twelve O'Clock High 1949

 

Patton 1970

 

MacArthur 1977

 

The Longest Day 1962

 

Band of Brothers (HBO) 2001

 

Cross of Iron 1977

 

Battleground 1949

 

Sands of Iwo Jima 1949

 

The Halls of Montezuma 1950

 

Mission of the Shark (TV) 1991

 

Day One (TV) 1987

 

The Men 1950

 

The Best Years of Our Lives 1946

 

 

Korea:

 

The Bridges at Toko-Ri 1954

 

The Steel Helmet 1951

 

Pork Chop Hill 1959

 

Men in War 1957

 

Men of the Fighting Lady 1954

 

 

Mid-Fifties:

 

American Graffiti 1973

 

Strategic Air Command 1955

 

 

Space:

 

The Right Stuff 1983

 

Apollo 13 1995

 

From the Earth to the Moon (HBO) 1998

 

 

One of the very best about the culture of the Indian and the early white settlers:

 

Centennial (TV) 1978

 

 

Message edited by Fxreyman

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*Das Boot*, *The Black Robe*, and some you cite I know are pretty accurate. I know there have been major quibbles with some others. I have an amateur's interest in anthropology, and know that anthropologists would dispute some of *Quest for Fire*. I have read that there are major inaccuracies in *Braveheart*. Of course, they can still portray their times to some extent.

 

It does contain some historical inaccuracies, but I think *Little Big Man* is as well qualified as many on your list. It's a tall tale, but does represent the times pretty well, and has a far better portrayal of Indians than most films.

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Thanks...great list...lucky if I've seen a third of them. I agree that some of the television miniseries were very well done, with a great deal of research put into the scripts.

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Obviously this subject of teaching through film is something I'm passionate about. I'm grateful for all the varied responses & arguments.

 

> {quote:title=C.Bogle wrote:}{quote}

> Gone With the Wind still presents a sanitized version of

> slavery which falls short of historical accuracy.

 

"Sanitized" is right. We can present this story to show some alternative views, but I'm definitely keeping the "free love" aspect of slave owners to myself until they get older!

 

And I actually use avoidance & sanitation as a historical point in movies. The reluctance to even SPEAK about homosexuality in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR & SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER illustrate the morays of a very recent time period (that I lived through!) for social study.

 

I recall in film class ca 1978 our teacher showing us PSYCO. We were of course titillated by the famous "shower scene" we had heard so much about. But afterward our teacher explained how shocking it was for the big star to be killed off in the first 20 minutes of the film. In the 70's, that meant nothing to us, but putting us back into 1960 setting, we learned how ground breaking this was and therefore the general morality of the time.

 

Film gives us a real chance to experience the past in many ways with the correct guidance. Not the ONLY view, of course, but a view nonetheless.

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In regards to PSYCHO...I think that would still be shocking to today's audiences...not the graphic nature of the killing (since many viewers are desensitized to violence now)...but let's say you had a film where Mel Gibson gets top billing, like Janet Leigh did. And in some new film, he is killed off (with no ghost returning in later scenes) 20 or 30 minutes in...audiences would be thrown off by that, and it would add to the suspense...because you would know that if Mel Gibson died, none of the other characters are safe either.

 

We still have cinematic conventions at play, such as having the lead actor make it through the entire picture and if he or she plays a villain they usually die in the last five minutes. So that is something Hitchcock subverted...and still today, many studios and directors are afraid to kill off the big star early into the story. And most top-tier actors (due to vanity and their agents) would not accept a part like Janet Leigh did, because they want as much screen time as possible.

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Funny you mention CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER since I just saw those movies (again), last week. In both of these movies the term 'truth' is discussed a lot and both of them center around someone withholding truths and there is a lot (a lot!), of talk around these truths and just when you thing some of these truths are going to come out,,,,, well they never really do!!!! We only get more half-truths.

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> {quote:title=TikiSoo wrote:}{quote}

> Obviously this subject of teaching through film is something I'm passionate about. I'm grateful for all the varied responses & arguments.

 

I definitely agree that a good film to supplement what is taught in the classroom can and will benefit this new generation of students who have things like iPods, iPhones and black berry phones to keep them distracted in long lectures. I'm sure there is a significant increase in the amount of children with ADD then say 50 years ago. Anyway, I think movies are a great way to provide visuals and get some good discussion going, but I feel it is up to the teacher to point out any historical inaccuracies (or at least make it a point to say that the film is a rather fictionalized account) and discuss the similarities and differences between the movie and the book. If the students understand what is being portrayed, beyond Hollywood trying to fill movie theater seats, then I am all for it.

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It's true that sometimes films can illustrate the underlying social mores of a certain

time period, and the reluctance to discuss anything to do with homosexuality is an

obvious example. I think films can be used in a limited way, but you really have to be

careful how you use them. Of course, there are some historical topics that children

shouldn't be exposed to.

 

In general, I believe films and history are, for the most part, two separate entities where

there isn't a lot of overlay. A move is telling a story using all the dramatic elements

that are available, and history is trying to tell, as accurately as possible, about the past.

The film has no problem sacrificing historical truth if that helps it tell the story in a better

fashion. That's fine as far as movies go, but it bumps up against what history is doing.

The Prisoner of Shark Island is a good example. The current consensus is that Dr.

Mudd probably knew about the plot and knew who Booth was, which is the opposite of

the film. There are also a number of historical inaccuracies in the movie. Now that might

enhance the dramatic elements in the movie, but it wouldn't be allowed as history. These

are two forms that, for the most part, should stick to their respective places.

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You are correct that films are part of our history. For example, the transition from pre-code to production code movies in the 30s and going to the rating system in the 60s can be understood by looking at and comparing films from each of these eras.

 

For example last night I was watching Heaven with a Gun with Glen Ford on TCM. Now this looked like a typical Glen Ford western movie from the 50s. Well out of nowhere they shown the bar girl breast and it wasn't just for a 1 of a second, but the scene really focused on this gal. I have always associated Ford with Hollywood's golden era (e.g. Gilda), but this clearly wasn't a movie from that period!

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I remember reading Online that someone showed Gold Diggers 1933 to illustrate the Depression. I thought that was really cool.

 

I remember watching films like My Fair Lady, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Lion in Winter, & Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet in Middle & High School. However I don't think any of them were for Social Studies. It does make me think I actually was exposed to some really good Classics in school. :)

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Yes indeed. Just as there is the history of American theater, or American music, there

is the history of American films or movies. And what has appeared in American films is

often a reflection of what is happening in the country. Racial and sexual attitudes that

were common during the studio era are often mirrored in the movies of the time, just as

contemporary attitudes are often reflected in current movies. Back during the late 1960s

and early 1970s there were a spate of movies dealing with the counterculture, a simple

reaction to what was going on in the country.

 

Yeah, when a woman's naked breast makes an appearance, you can be pretty sure it's a

post 1968 movie, though there was The Pawnbroker a few years earlier.

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Well, films based on Steinbeck novels can be used in language arts and social studies. And his work seems to be very comprehensible to teens. I think some of Hemingway's work goes over their heads.

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With all of the media stimulus kids have these days, I realized how easily distracted (or bored) they can be with books or a teacher talking. And they use the internet for watching kittens fighting with toilet paper, not learning.

I began to gear my DVD library to TikiKid's history/social studies classes and show her pertinent films. She seems to be more interested in the charactor's experience and absorbs the visuals of costume & sets, than what's in the schoolbooks. If it helps round out comprehension of her textbook learning, I'm all for it.

 

She was introduced to Amelia Earhardt from recent *Night At The Museum* so that's our next assignment. She also is fascinated by Helen Keller and we have a date next time *The Miracle Worker* is on TCM.

 

Several friends are teachers and the HS Social Studies one often asks for advice about what to show in class. (guess I'm the resident classic film authority) Apparently this works well for her too.

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