12 Questions for Travis Anderson

December 1, 2004 | 33 comments
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Everyone was excited to talk about International Cinema at BYU. Now is your chance to ask questions directly of the IC Director, Professor Travis Anderson. Submit ‘em now, while you can!

33 Responses to 12 Questions for Travis Anderson

  1. Clark on December 1, 2004 at 2:24 am

    Has the wide availability of foreign films available locally at Hollywood Video and Blockbuster along with an extremely wide selection by NetFlix modified how you view International Cinema?

  2. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 3:31 am

    When I went to BYU, the International Cinema was quite a bit less family oriented than the Varsity Theatre. There was, of course, the occasional light nudity at the International Cinema that made it really worthwhile for those of us who attended regularly, but I digress.

    An example of censorship at the Varsity Theatre would be Branaugh’s “Henry V.” Henry at one point exclaims, “Normans! Bastard Normans!” I was at BYU when it debuted at the Varsity Theatre, and I the version that they played censored the work “bastard,” the International Cinema’s version did not. Perhaps it was felt that using the term bastard in connection with an ethnic identifier constituted a racial slur. At any rate, I understand that the Varsity Theatre gets their reels pre-censored (the airline version or something, right?), so they can’t be faulted for butchering the Queen’s English.

    So, do you make an effort to obtain cleaned up versions of racy films (a la the PG version of “Saturday Night Fever”), or do you simply scuttle the showing of any film with lurid content? What standards do it use to determine whether a film can be shown? How do these standards relate to ethnic slurs or racism (e.g., “Birth of a Nation”), controversial subject matter (propaganda films of historical influence), violence (e.g., “Blue Velvet”), toilet humor (e.g., the m*sturbation scene in “Amarcord”), nudity (e.g., “Hair”), sexual themes (e.g., the *lesbians* in “The Color Purple”)?

    [Editor's note: Mr. Landrith originally used the term "dykes," which sparked lively controversy in subsequent comments. This and other distasteful usages have been replaced.]

  3. a random John on December 1, 2004 at 9:52 am

    This is probably a bit off-topic, but Hero came out on video yesterday, so any of you that are craving 20 seconds of moving sheets can now watch it in the depravity of your own homes. Seriously though, it is an interesting movie that I found worthwhile.

  4. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    One more question: How much does a movie’s notoriety play into its acceptability? For example, say Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” would create too much of of an uproar; could (say) a less notorious European film on Christ with the same basic content pass muster?

  5. Steve Evans on December 1, 2004 at 3:03 pm

    What film have you wanted to show at I.C. that’s been rejected or ruled against?

  6. Rosalynde Welch on December 1, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Are there various schools of film criticism, just as there are schools of literary criticism?

    Has the DVD changed the relationship of viewer to film to director?

    Has the cultural meaning or “ideological work” of mainstream filmmaking changed in the last few decades, and do you think it will change in the future?

    Is there a drift toward more explicit language, sex, and/or violence in filmmaking worldwide? What’s the best mechanism for understanding this drift? (Desensitization?) Will it be reversed?

    Film criticism seems to be the single form of academic criticism (v., say, literature criticism or art criticism or music criticism) that reaches wide popular audiences through mainstream media outlets. Why is this?

  7. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 1, 2004 at 10:06 pm

    Saw Hero in the local dollar theater.

    I’m tired of heroic tragedies, at least the parts that are unnecessary. The true heroic act of letting the law be applied, I liked that. But the rest? Shouldn’t the theme of a place by a lake where there are no swords have allowed a certain character or two to retire there (or to join the Taoist Immortals)?

  8. gst on December 2, 2004 at 10:36 am

    David, since when is it acceptable to say “dykesâ€? to refer to lesbians? Isn’t that kind of like the term “fagsâ€??

  9. Russell Arben Fox on December 2, 2004 at 11:36 am

    Obviously, I’d be interested to hear Travis answer a question or two on the mission of IC, the rules (both formal and informal) which guide its selections, and the challenges it has faced in recent years (both in connection to Hero and more generally). Beyond that, however, how about these:

    Many film scholars have lately argued that globalization has negatively affected the quality of American films in the sense that, since such a large percentage of receipts come from overseas theatrical and dvd/video distribution, films that attempt to tell setting-specific, language-intense, historically informed stories just aren’t worth a major investment. Hence the tendency of studios to put their biggest stars, budgets, and PR efforts into gross slapstick, sex, fantasy, war or action films. The implication seems to be that mature, literate movies are for the most part only possible in more protected and insular markets, where costs can be fully recovered from the local audience. Your thoughts?

    What do you think of Lars von Trier and the Dogma 95 movement? (See here.)Aesthetically, is anything gained by pursuing “chastity” in filmmaking, or is all the emotional and narrative manipulation made possible by sophisticated lighting, visual effects, and other cinematic tricks a legitimate part of telling movie stories? In short, is Spielberg a Bad Guy? (This kind of builds on the preceding question, since clearly the Spielberg model of moviemaking is deeply implicated in the rise of a global movie market.)

    What’s your favorite movie? Your favorite American movie? Your favorite French movie? And how come American remakes of French comedies always stink?

  10. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 8:21 pm

    gst: David, since when is it acceptable to say “dykes” to refer to lesbians? Isn’t that kind of like the term “fags”?

    Actually, the first know instance of the word dyke in reference to female sexuality used it as slang for vulva in 1896. And the current American English usage dates from around 1931 and appears to be a shortening of morphadike, which is a regional distortion of hermaphrodite.

    I prefer dyke to lesbian, because I despise ethnic insults. Dyke doesn’t tacitly insult the past and present residents of Lesbos. For example, Olympic 200-yard dash champion in 2000 (Konstantinos Kenteris) hails from Mytilene, Lesbos. Also, dyke doesn’t introduce the ambiguity like we see in such statements as, “In Thucydides, the Lesbians are always revolting.” After all, it was only the poetess Sappho, also from Mytilene in Lesbos, who was supposed to be a *lesbian* (as opposed to Lesbians in general).

    Of course, the terms saphist and saphism would be the best way to economically refer to womanlove, but few people seem to know what these terms mean.

    But to answer your questions directly: Personally, I’d date the acceptability of dyke to the early 1980s, as indicated (for example) by the publication from 1982 to 1984 in New York of “The Big Apple Dyke News.”

  11. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    Whatever. “Dykes” still not acceptable.

  12. gst on December 2, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Do you also avoid “cretin”?

  13. Steve Evans on December 2, 2004 at 8:30 pm

    Adam, once again we find our venn diagrams touch each other, if not overlap. DLK is smoking crack if he thinks that term is just fine to use.

  14. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    gst: Do you also avoid “cretin”?

    No, because we have it on good authority (no less than St. Paul) that all Cretins are liars anyway.

  15. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 8:35 pm

    Steve Evans: DKL is smoking crack if he thinks that term is just fine to use.

    Whatever other faults I may have, breaking the Word of Wisdom isn’t one of them.

  16. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    Adam Greenwood: Whatever. “Dykes” still not acceptable..

    Why do I find your use of the passive mood here to be downright creepy? Don’t you mean to say that you won’t accept it?

  17. Aaron Brown on December 2, 2004 at 8:38 pm

    My sense is that “dyke” is like “queer.” It is both a negative, insulting epithet, and an acceptable slang term. It depends on who’s using it and in what context. In contrast, I think “faggot” is more definitively pejorative.

    Think “Dyke power!” or “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”, which are both intended to be seriously empowering phrases. But if you hear “Faggots Forever!”, it’s a good bet you’re not hearing it from gay activists, but from some smart-alecky homophobe.

    David’s original use of “dyke” really stuck out like a sore thumb, but I didn’t think he was being intentionally inflammatory. My impression is that in context, his usage just seems totally out of place. Awkward word choice given the tone of his post.

    Aaron B

  18. Kristine on December 2, 2004 at 8:42 pm

    Aaron, I think you’re right. Still, I think what Adam was saying stands: “dyke” falls outside of the acceptable limits of comment policy on T&S (unless and until I write the Gay Mormon Manifesto, which may include the phrase “Dyke Power”–till then, everybody please find a different word)

  19. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    I think that dyke can be used to humorous effect without being offensive. Although it may be of questionable taste, I think that my post on the term dykes demonstrates this.

  20. gst on December 2, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    Yes, David, we’re all in stitches.

    Merriam-Webster calls “faggot,” meaning male homosexual, only “usually disparaging.” Perhaps there’s a context in which it’s not disparaging, like maybe a forum for asking an academic questions about foreign film. Why don’t you try it out and we’ll see how funny it is.

  21. a random John on December 2, 2004 at 9:27 pm

    Hooray for David! He has read Sappho! :)

    Perhaps the following would be illustrative:

    Can you also use the n-word to humorous effect? May I suggest that you stay away from pejorative terms when trying to be funny unless you are a member of the targeted group? I am not trying to censor you, just trying to be helpful. There are plenty of white guys that are funny. I am not aware of any that are funny when using the n-word. You are free to disagree.

  22. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 10:59 pm

    gst: Why don’t you try [“faggot”] out and we’ll see how funny it is.

    Look, gst: I’m not some trained puppy that spews out humorous jests for your amusement, and I don’t just throw around gay jokes on a whim.

  23. a random John on December 2, 2004 at 11:04 pm

    DKL,

    Are you trying to make some sort of point about censorship (which might actually be relevant to this discussion) by being offensive and trying to provoke a response?

  24. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 11:12 pm

    a random John: Are you trying to make some sort of point about censorship (which might actually be relevant to this discussion) by being offensive and trying to provoke a response?.

    Actually, I’m just wisecracking and parading my anti-PC credentials around. I will not consider it censorship if the powers-that-be here at T&S see fit to delete my posts, since it is (after all) their forum. They maintain it with their resources, and I contribute to it at their pleasure, not just my own. It can’t be real censorship unless its enacted by the government.

    And for the record, I think that the editors here do an outstanding job of balancing the need to control tone with their desire to allow voices to be heard.

  25. David King Landrith on December 2, 2004 at 11:14 pm

    (I’m anxiously hoping that my preceding post will persuade the editors not to delete this thread.)

  26. a random John on December 3, 2004 at 12:08 am

    DKL,

    So far they haven’t deleted the thread, but they have edited at least two of your posts, one without any notice. Now if someone could just tie this all back to the IC program and viewings of edited versions of Tampopo versus the unedited version we would have a real live object lesson on our hands. As it is though, I think you’ve done your best to hijack and ruin this thread. It seems that I have done nothing but help you, so I will stop now.

  27. John Mansfield on December 3, 2004 at 8:01 am

    For Travis Anderson: What has changed that studios and directors are so much more concerned about the presentation of their movies than in decades past. Was “Cinema Paradiso”-style local snipping a norm of the past beyond BYU?

    Also, with a couple of exceptions, the questions here (including mine) all deal with controversy. It feels like the university president who spends all day dealing with athletic scandals. Is there anything interesting about the International Cinema that doesn’t involve cultural or moral standards?

  28. David King Landrith on December 3, 2004 at 11:15 am

    a random John: So far they haven’t deleted the thread, but they have edited at least two of your posts, one without any notice.

    Evidently you missed my post that they deleted in toto that made a joke using the n-word. (Just kidding.)

    a random John: Now if someone could just tie this all back to the IC program and viewings of edited versions of “Tampopo” versus the unedited version we would have a real live object lesson on our hands.

    I think that this relates to the matter of perceived controversy that I allude to in my second question (the one that uses “The Last Temptation” as an example). The word dyke wasn’t edited out of my original post until it occurred within a framework that emphasized it. I see four possible reasons for this. (1) The comment may have flown under the radar screen of the watchmen until other commenters brought attention to it; (2) the watchmen may have noticed the comment, but believed that the use of the d-word would fly under the radar screen of most commenters as long as attention was not drawn to it; (3) the watchmen may have viewed the ensuing discussion as a change of context which made the use of the d-word more offensive than its original context; and (4) it may have just taken the watchmen some time to get around to making the edit (for whatever reason).

    The first three of these four reasons could illuminate or clarify the issue of how perceived controversy impacts what films (or versions of films) end up being shown at IC. Specifically, to what degree do factors akin to (1), (2), and (3) impact the decisions of the IC watchman as to which films he allows?

    a random John: As it is though, I think you’ve done your best to hijack and ruin this thread. It seems that I have done nothing but help you, so I will stop now.

    Don’t worry. Dr. Anderson understands that guys love to talk about Lesbians. And all good threads find their way home eventually.

    Read through the “Most Popular Entries” section in the sidebar, and you’ll find that what makes them engaging is their meandering on and off of the topic as well as in and out of more or less related tangents. Besides, it was never my intention to hijack the thread. I asked a serious question, and some basically anonymous poster had qualms with something to which I’m willing to attach my full name. There’s certainly room for disagreement here, but I believe my lighthearted response was within the range of propriety.

    a random John: It seems that I have done nothing but help you, so I will stop now.

    Does this mean that I get the last word?

  29. Nate Oman on December 3, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    “And how come American remakes of French comedies always stink?”

    Because by and large French humor suffers from the chonic inability to be funny.

  30. Russell Arben Fox on December 3, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    “Because by and large French humor suffers from the chonic inability to be funny.”

    Yeah Nate, but doesn’t that mean it ought to be easy for American remakes to be an improvement? Yet it never happens. Perhaps French comedy is a black hole which sucks all the humor out of anyone who approaches it, whatever their nationality? I mean, I’ve seen German comedies that are funnier.

  31. Nate Oman on December 3, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Completely off topic: Russell (or any other Hanguk bogsa heatnun kiwhanhan sunkyosa), when you were in Korea did you ever “get” the frog jokes? They were ubiquitous in Kyoung Sang Do (I don’t know if they had them up around Soeul), but I never could figure out why they were funny. Initially I thought that my failure was linguistic and I was simply unable to understand some word or phrase, but even at the end of my mission when I was absolutely certain that I heard and knew every word and phrase, I was still left completely in the dark as to what was soooo funny.

  32. gst on December 3, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    Belgians are funny.

  33. Travis Anderson on December 28, 2004 at 8:39 pm

    Reading your posts is like watching psych patients free-associate–fascinating, in a disturbing kind of way. At any rate, I’ve culled what questions I can out of this and the original thread (about the “Hero” cancellation), and I’m going to start composing responses before the new semester starts eating up my time. So, if anyone has a further question, please email it to me directly.