First Day of Film School: Science Fiction

So today is the day. The whole reason I made the trek and relocated my life out to California. The first day of grad school. Eek!

First days are an amalgamation of nervousness and exhilaration. This does not change no matter your age, or at least for me  it hasn’t. That same eagerness that I had on the first day of kindergarten, where I got to finger-paint and nap, feels the same now as I get ready for my first class of my M.A., Global Science Fiction. Although to be fair I don’t imagine any finger-painting will be involved, and any naps taken will be out of sheer need and not after snack time, so there are some key differences. But the excitement is the same.

Even though my first class is in the evening, I’ve spent my morning preparing. Notebooks are labeled, clothes are laid out, and my backpack is at the door ready to go. I just have to wait for it. And in my waiting I have read and in some cases re-read my materials for today’s class. Which is really the whole point of this post.

Whether you’re a casual film fan or an absolute cinephile (which is coincidentally a word that spell check doesn’t want to acknowledge exists but means movie lover) it’s fun to see what others are watching and/or reading about when it comes to film. Movies are such a communal thing in our culture. So this is me bringing you into my educational community. I’ll try to keep this up as best I can through the semester, but once papers and research become a regular thing, I make no guarantees.

So the textbook for this course is Christine Cornea’s Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality. Thus far it’s been a discussion about how science fiction as a genre has been defined, and the differentiation between the intentions of SF literature and film. Sounds heavy, but it’s kind of fun when you start thinking about what makes this genre tick. Is it the “creature features” from the 50s and 60s? The consistent interest in aliens? Today’s focus on expanding technology? That all seems to be up for debate and the blurry lines of the very definition is what makes SF a fascinating genre.

Horror or Science Fiction? You decide.

We’ll also be reading from online articles and blogs, which is great inspiration for this aspiring blogger. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Movies first, otherwise the articles won’t make much sense. And if you haven’t already seen any of these films, you should definitely check them out before reading the articles because spoilers abound.

So movies. This week we’re screening “Le voyage dans la lune” (Georges Melies, France, 1898-1905) and “La Jetee” (Chris Marker, France, 1962). For some, the name Georges Melies might ring a bell if you are a fan of Scorsese’s Hugo (USA, 2011). Melies and his creative process were beautifully rendered by Scorsese, but you should see the original Melies films, if for no other reason than it will give you a better appreciation for Hugo ( but seriously, they’re awesome and ought to be appreciated on their own merit). I’m excited to see “La Jetee” because I have never heard of it. It’s a broadening my horizons moment. I’m woefully ignorant about foreign film but I’m working on fixing that.

Anywho, if you’re still interested after watching the movies (and I’m assuming you behaved yourself and actually tracked down the films instead of just clicking on these links) then here’s what we’re reading from the mighty internet.

“A Trip to the Moon” by Dan North (A fellow WordPress blogger)

“La Jetee: Unchained Melody” by Johnathan Romney

“Freeze Frames and Stasis in La Jetee” by Nicola Woodham

North’s blog has a ton of links throughout though some are inactive. I found it helpful to just read it straight through. I also get distracted easily, so that may be my personal problem.

That in a nutshell, is my first day of film school. Hopefully, I’ll have time to talk about my thoughts on the screenings, but if not, I hope you enjoy the overview.

Has any one seen any of Melies’ films or “La Jetee”? Thoughts?

6 thoughts on “First Day of Film School: Science Fiction

  1. Not to be all off-topic… but I’m so excited that you’re going to film school. That means someday I can say, “Oh, check it, that lady in the credits? Totally wrote screenplays with her once upon a time.” (Or, you know, “that professor.” Either/or.)

    Have you read the book that Hugo takes its inspiration from (The Invention of Hugo Cabret)? I know it’s not a film, but it does a really interesting job of combining visual and narrative aspects– almost like a film in book form. It’s an eloquent tribute to Melies; it kind of redefines what books can be in a similar way that Melies redefined what film could be.


    • Thanks Leah! I’m pretty excited to be here too. Right now it seems like professor is more likely, but I’m hoping to take some screenwriting classes while I’m here too.

      I’d love to read the book. It sounds completely worth while. And I trust your recommendations too.


  2. I watched “La Jetee” just this summer! Pretty interesting. Cool sci fi and a twist, all with stills. It’s just like they keep saying. It’s all about the story. And my dad’s love of Creature from the Black Lagoon has rubbed off on me. Ever since I’ve loved those trashy B horror flicks from back in the day.


    • I thought it was a new experience, the stills with narration created a better movie than some films achieve today. I think I liked it because you’re left room for imagination.

      We ended up talking about whether or not each film was truly SF. There were at least a few people that thought neither Melies’ film nor “La Jetee” were SF. And the professor called things like Creature from the Black Lagoon SF-horror.


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