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post #51
bio: erik

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Cheese it, it's Mr. Byg!
I'm having a really hard time remembering what movies I saw in college that weren't awful. The bad ones have stayed with me longer than the good ones. For example, I remember seeing Frankenhooker in the theater in Albany, but that's because if you're going to see a movie about reanimated hookers, Albany is a setting that lends a certain amount of realism to that premise. I remember going to the theater to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the kids from my floor freshman year, because it was early enough into freshman year that I hadn't figured out that no, I was not going to be friends with these people for the rest of my life yet. I remember going to see Unforgiven and thinking it should have been called Unimpressive (I wanted something with more of an Outlaw Josey Wales feel, even though the point of Unforgiven was that it was not like that). I remember going to see The Temp because there was absolutely nothing else to do. And I remember everyone from school cramming into the theater to see Bram Stoker's Dracula on opening night, and then the palpable feeling of "WTF?" as everyone left the theater several hours later. (Of course, WTF did not exist at that time, but the emotion it represents dates back to prehistoric times. Macedonian cave paintings reflect this, as do the Dead Sea Scrolls.)

The movies that I remember seeing and liking all are from a German Film class I took. And I think it has as much to do with the circumstances surrounding the class as it does anything else. I was really excited about this class, and for some reason thought it was going to fill up quickly, so I camped out on Add/Drop day at like 5 in the morning with everyone else who was worried about classes filling up. The new U2 record had just come out, and the dude sitting next to me in line would not shut up about it. He went on at length on how much the line "did you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in my head" applied to his life. He made me listen to at least one line per song that he thought was amazing. I kept thinking that if I humored him he'd eventually stop, but he went through the whole album. Finally he fell asleep. And then I was the first person to sign up for this class, so all of it was for nothing. The next day a friend of mine went and signed up no problem.

It was your typical film class in that you had people who were going to monopolize discussions no matter what. In one class we broke off into groups, and this idiot wouldn't shut up, but he hadn't even seen the movie we were discussing, or as he kept putting it "I haven't seen the flick." Luckily 4 of my friends were in the class, so we could all make fun of the artholes together.

The teacher's name was Barton Byg, and we never got tired of saying, "Cheese it, it's Mr. Byg!" when he entered the auditorium. The movies we saw basically covered the beginnings of film on through to the early nineties (which is when this took place). What's kind of interesting is that they all were pretty artsy, but old timey artsy is much easier to take. Nosferatu is enjoyable, Germany Pale Mother, not so much. (Though, one of my friends kept referring to it as Germany Pale Motherfucker, which he felt had to be followed by shrieking "I'll cut you so bad!" which took the edge off.)

So, the movies I'd recommend that I saw in this class would be Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Blue Angel (Marlene Dietrich playing a sex kitten? Who'da thunk it?), M (which is my favorite of these, and it features Peter Lorre as a murderer who whistles "In the Hall of the Mountain King" though apparently Fritz Lang did the actual whistling), and Metropolis. If you want extra credit, watch the video for "Express Yourself" and think about the ways Madonna borrowed from Metropolis, even if you didn't see the flick.

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