09 May, 2008

Different Majors, Different Worlds

It's been kind-of a complicated time for me at UNM--a period of transition, you could say. Next week I'll have my Bachelor's degree in Media Arts (or, less pretentiously(?), "Film"), with a minor in Psychology. However, next month I'll start a full year (still at UNM) of science and education classes, as part of earning my Master's in Secondary Education (with a specialty in science curricula). In keeping in communication with this grab bag of departments (and the many others I've been in and out of), I've seen an awful lot of what makes up the University of New Mexico. And, I've got to say, I find it all really wacky.

It has been an incredible shift in gears to go from a full slate of Media Arts classes to taking exclusively Biology labs and Chemistry lectures. Each one has it's own rhythms and routines. MA classes are nearly always in the evening (Why? I don't know. Because the department thinks it's somehow sacrilegious to watch a movie in the daytime?), and they're one night a week, consisting of an hour of lecture, a short break, and then a movie. Assignments are always quizzes and papers. Papers, papers, papers. Science lectures, on the other hand, require a lot more rote memorization, textbook reading, exams, and hard facts. Labs demand specific methodology and, sometimes, numbers (Who knew?).

What's been especially strange, however, is how little interaction or association all these departments (and their students and faculty) have with one another. Once a student's core liberal arts curriculum is completed--or, actually, much sooner, when majors are declared and focuses are plotted--the whole university structure gets very cliquish. And I understand that's a natural process (similar interests, and what not), and I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but for me, as someone who passes through each one but doesn't feel particularly connected to any single department, I find it...alienating.

Buildings have their own smells and color schemes; bulletin boards have their own visual and written languages; the people look different and act different and talk different; cut-out comic strips, pasted on office doors, have different punchlines; students who excel at their subject are recognized differently than if they were a top student in another subject; department parties and get-togethers have varying ideas of "fun" and "professionalism" and "on time."

I guess what it all means, for me, is that it's hard to feel like you fit in any one group, when you're unsure what'd direction you'd like to take, and therefore stuck on the fringe of all of them.

(Sometimes I wonder what title each department would receive if their students were all given university superlatives. Like, Exercise Science majors are Most Generically Attractive. Or Foreign Language students are Most Likely To Take Pride In Their Egotism. Or Music [Vocal Performance] majors are Most Boring.)

08 May, 2008

What I Love: Delayed Movie Titles

Movie titles can be an art, in and of themselves. In March, Nerve compiled an admirable list of The Twelve Greatest Opening Credits in Movie History, which included some of my personal favorites, like Do the Right Thing and Dr. Strangelove. Of course, the list cited the work of the two biggest names in title design--Saul Bass, who did some of his best work with Scorsese and Hitchcock (e.g., Vertigo), and Kyle Cooper, who's best known for his collaborations with David Fincher . (Stanley Kubrick must, along with these other directors, be placed in the upper echelon of design collaborators, for his work on Strangelove, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc.)

Sometimes opening credits are great because of impeccable graphic design (like in Catch Me If You Can), or sometimes because they set the perfect tone for the movie that follows (Monty Python and the the Holy Grail). Sometimes the credits are entirely better than what follows (Cooper's Dawn of the Dead [2004]).

There has been a recent mini-trend, however, which I absolutely love, and must acknowledge...

You expect a movie to have titles. You expect to see them, after the start of the movie, within a reasonable length of time. But sometimes a movie will play with that expectation, and make you wait. And wait. Until at some point, you've forgotten you're waiting, and you're simply watching a movie. The story has begun, there's no turning back. And then, BAM-- Credits.

I've got two examples--Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Martin Scorsese's The Departed (above). Both movies wait until the end of the first reel of film (about 20 minutes in) to get to the opening titles. And in both cases, watching them for the first time, it was at the titles when I realized I was watching a masterpiece. It's such a maverick decision to pull the audience out of the action of the (already developing) story, and remind us we're watching a movie--but it also displays the incredible control these directors have over their medium. In a time where it feels like, in Hollywood, everything's been done before, to withhold the credits and delay our systematic pleasure in the routines of even fine cinema--well, it seems audacious.

So, one thing I LOVE... is delayed movie titles.

(Oh, and great end credits, too. But not lousy ones. Like, alas, 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake. You don't get a link for that. Because it's end credits suck.)