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College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University

ENG 490: THE MSU Film Collective

We are the professors, students, filmmakers, screenwriters, and cinephiles at MSU who gather weekly in ENG 490 to watch and discuss good films. In the spirit of the Cinématèque Française and the generation of film critics and French New Wave directors it inspired, our collective abides by the principle that good film writing and good filmmaking (and just plain good living) begin with serious film watching.



mavericks_misfits_logo.pngFall 2014 ENG 490 Series

Mavericks and Misfits

Renegades. Outlaws. Outcasts. This semester's MSU Film Collective celebrates those who play by their own rules.

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9/4 - Tchoupitoulas

9/11 - Brick

9/18 - Thirst

9/25 - The Werckmeister Harmonies

10/2 - Bush Mama

10/9 - Faculty Films

10/16 - Wanda

10/23 - Blue Is the Warmest Color

10/30 - Picnic at Hanging Rock

11/6 - Heremakono

11/13 - Touch of Evil

11/20 - Snowpiercer

12/4 - The Unknown and other silent films


9/4 - Tchoupitoulas (2012)

Dir: Bill and Turner Ross

Presented by Peter Johnston

A documentary that follows three brothers as they discover the scenes of late-night New Orleans.

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9/11 - Brick (2005)

Dir: Rian Johnson

Presented by Glenna Johnson

In this neo-noir thriller, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receives a distressed call from his ex-girlfriend shortly before he finds her dead body in a sewage tunnel.  Determinedly looking for answers, Brendan begins his own dangerous investigation into the seedy underbelly of his California high school.

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9/18 - Thirst (2009)

Dir: Park Chan-Wook

Presented by Professor David Bering-Porter

Through a failed medical experiment, a priest is stricken with vampirism and is forced to abandon his ascetic ways.

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9/25 - The Werckmeister Harmonies (2001)

Dir: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky

Presented by Professor Pat O'Donnell

Bela Tarr follows up on his seven-hour epic Satantango, considered by some critics as one of the finest films of the 1990s, with this elegant, haunting work about the cycles of violence that have dogged Eastern European history.

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10/2 - Bush Mama (1979)

Dir: Haile Gerime

Presented by Tama Hamilton-Wray

Inspired after having seen a Black woman in Chicago evicted in winter, director Haile Gerima developed Bush Mama as his UCLA thesis film. Gerima blends narrative fiction, documentary, surrealism and political modernism in his unflinching story about a pregnant welfare recipient in Watts. Featuring the magnetic Barbara O. Jones as Dorothy, Bush Mama is an unrelenting and powerfully moving look at the realities of inner city poverty and systemic disenfranchisement of African Americans. The film opens with actual footage of the LAPD harassing Gerima and his crew during the shooting.

As part of the Specters of History symposium, director Haile Gerima will be on campus on Friday, 10/3, screening his film Teza and answering questions.

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10/9 - Faculty films

Presented by Professor Bill Vincent

Faculty filmmakers present their films, including Professors Eswaran Pillai and Salah Hassan's documentary Migrations of Islam, Professor Bill Vincent's short films Dream Girl and Sunday Dinner, Peter Johnston's short On the Open Road, and Professor Jeff Wray's Evolution of Bert.

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10/16 - Wanda (1970)

Dir: Barbara Loden

Presented by Professor Ellen McCallum

In a stark realist film style, director Barbara Loden captures the story of a woman on the edge, leaving her abusive family for a road trip with a stranger. Wanda's incredible passivity makes for curiously compelling drama as this 1970 film explores what it means to be pushed outside of society--or did she jump?

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10/23 - Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche

Presented by Professor Valentina Denzel

Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.

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10/30 - Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Dir: Peter Weir

Presented by Ryan Cole

During a rural picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls' school vanish without a trace. Their absence frustrates and haunts the people left behind.

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11/6 - Heremakono (2002)

Dir: Abderrahmane Sissako

Presented by Professor Ken Harrow

Waiting for Happiness depicts life in the seaside town of Nouadhibou in Mauritania. A young man, Abdallah, feels disconnected from his people because he dresses in Western clothes, and he does not speak the language, but he connects in small ways during his stay.

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11/13 - Touch of Evil (1975)

Dir: Orson Welles

Presented by Professor Justus Nieland

After nearly decade of creative activity in Europe, Hollywood's erstwhile enfant terrible returns to act, write, and direct within the studio system into which he couldn't, or wouldn't, fit. Welles delivers both an oversized performance in a film marked by outrageous casting, and a decadent example of the American film noir at the end of its classical cycle.

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11/20 - Snowpiercer (2014)

Dir: Bong June-ho

Presented by Professor Jyotsna Singh

Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

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12/4 - The Unknown (1927) and other silent films

Dir: Tod Browning

Presented by Professor Josh Yumibe

Bringing together the black humor and frightening brilliance of Tod Browning, Lon Chaney, and Joan Crawford, The Unknown (1927) recounts a horrific tale in which Chaney plays the psychotic Alonzo, a murderous criminal evading the police by masquerading as an armless knife thrower in a touring gypsy circus. Madly in love with his assistant Nanon (Crawford), Alonzo is faced with the conundrum that she is attracted to him only because she believes he’s harmless—demasculinized and armless. What to do then about his hidden, libidinous limbs? A brief series of silent shorts will precede the feature.

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