Film History – Week 6


I want to take a moment to tell parents to please preview any film listed here before letting your children watch them. Some of the films this week deal with mature themes and may have images that you do not want your children to be exposed to. Thank you.

1. Read The Young Oxford Book of the Movies p. 28 – p. 33. In your notebook answer the following questions:

a. Explain what the “superspectacle” movie was like and name the American director these films influenced.

b. What did WW1 do to the movie-making business in Europe? Which European country saw their film industry prosper during this time and why? Plan a family movie night to watch Hugo if you haven’t already seen it. It is wonderful!

c. Germany created a production company in 1917 to “raise the standard of German films.” What was this company called? What Expressionist film did it make, and how did this film use light?

d. What famous discovery did Murnau make? What about G.W. Pabst? Their discoveries went on to influence Hollywood? Can you think of any films where you have seen these techniques?

e. What influence did Surrealism have on the film industry?

f. Contrast Soviet Montage with Sergei Eisenstein’s editing. Explain the Kuleshov Effect. Teens may want to read more about it here.

Optional: Continue working on your film history timeline for your wall. Add in important dates and figures and films from your reading. You can get some ideas here. Also if you are interested in the UFA read more about it here.

This week’s viewing:

1. Watch the full movie of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

2. Watch a short clip from The Last Laugh and notice the ending where the camera acts as a performer.

3. Older teens might want to watch this short explaining the influence Salvador Dali and surrealist art had on Un Chien Andalou.

4. Finally you should read more about Battleship Potemkin and it’s restoration at TCM. Battleship Potemkin is such an important film in film history, so please take the time to watch the whole film and think about the editing during the Odessa Steps sequence. The acting, editing, and propaganda are still very powerful today. To learn even more about the film please visit Wikipedia.


If you or your student is enjoying this time period and these wonderful films, you should check out European Film Gateway which has a wealth of information available for everyone.

Next time sound comes to the movies!


The kids and I went and saw Lincoln today. It was a very moving film that all of the kids enjoyed. The twins especially liked it and declared it the best movie they have ever seen. Decca was equally enthralled by it even at it’s long running time.

This summer the kids and I listened to Chasing Lincoln’s Killer while driving cross country, and I was amazed at how interested Decca was in the story. Unlike the twins, he has never been very engaged with history, but this story seemed to catch his interest. We studied Lincoln and the Civil War a little since then, and I knew he would want to see the movie. The length is a little long for a nine-year-old (especially if your child is not interested in the subject), but Decca stayed interested through it all, and I am glad I took him along. It is a must-see film, not only because of the subject, but also because of the wonderful film-making and powerful acting.

Fair warning though, although there is not much I objected to in the film, the previews were graphic and very inappropriate for children. I knew this would most likely happen, as I have very little faith in the rating system, so I was prepared. Even so I was appalled at what previews they allow before a PG-13 movie that will most likely be seen by children 13 and younger. If you have plans to take a younger teen or child I would enter the movie about twenty minutes late and avoid the previews all together.

Other than that it was an excellent movie and I highly recommend it.

Film History – Week 5

Buster Keaton, one of the great stars and filmmakers of the silent area.

1. Read The Young Oxford Book of the Movies p. 24 (from Enter the Genre) – p. 27. In your notebook answer the following questions:

a. What were the most popular genres of the time? Are these genres still around today? (If you are interested in the different genres or a specific genre see pages 72 – 129).

b. Who founded United Artists?

c. What was the Hay’s Office? Do we have anything today that is equivalent to this?

d. Explain the star system? Who were some of the major stars of the silent era?

e. “The sudden decline of silent filmmaking has no parallel in any other art  form.” (p. 27) Explain.

Optional: Continue working on your film history timeline for your wall. Add in important dates and figures and films from your reading. You can get some ideas here.

2. Visit Britannica for kids and read more about this time period in cinema. Also watch this short on Buster Keaton at Britannica.

3. Read a short history of the MPAA here.

There are so many great films to watch from this time period. I encourage you to explore YouTube, Netflix, and other sources to find some full length classic silent films to watch with your children. Here is a great list of the top 100 silent films for your reference.

In the meantime here are some clips to watch from a few of my favorite silent films:

Harold Llyod in Safety Last

Buster Keaton in The General

Charlie Chaplin eating a boot in a famous scene from The Gold Rush

And here is one of my favorite clips from the Thief of Bagdad

Next up in film history sound comes to the movies!

Stop Motion, Hugo, and Film Studies

Autry and Tru are a great team when it comes to making films, for they both bring separate strengths to their projects. Autry is the more technical of the two, and she is a great editor. Tru is great at coming up with stories and characters for the films. He is an idea man.

Over Christmas Autry figured out how to use the 3DS to make stop motion films. She started by writing lyrics to Christmas’s songs. Here is one she did.

After she worked on those for a day or so, she got her brothers interested in the process. Together she and Tru made a cute little film about the adventures of Junk Bot.

The lightning is too dark in some places, and sometimes the actions moves too fast, but I think it is a good effort on their part.

I took the kids to see Hugo today, and the twins left the theater in utter amazement. Truffaut thought it was the most amazing film he has ever seen. He was so appreciative of the film history we worked on this fall, as it provided him with the historical background and references needed to enjoy this film.

Hugo has inspired the twins to make even more films together, and it has inspired me to continue with our film history studies. Although I haven’t figured out the whole plan with Truffaut for this coming year, I know film studies will be an important and integral part of his education.

Random Musings for the End of the Week

Autry is getting so excited to start the school year!

I am trying to get everyone ready for the upcoming school year. Autry has all her school supplies, and we did the online registration for her at OCHSA. She has on campus registration in two weeks, and then she starts school the week after. She is so excited and can hardly wait!

MBTP Concept 4

I placed Decca’s order for Moving Beyond The Page. He will be using the 8-10 curriculum, and we will be starting with concept 4, exploration and survival. In addition to MBTP, he will be using Life of Fred for math, which he is looking forward to. I am also going to order Murderous Maths for him to read along with LoF. Decca wants to study Latin this year, but I haven’t picked out a program for him yet. I still am thinking about what he would like.

Tru’s school year is starting to take shape. For history and literature he will be working on a secular version of Sonlight Core H. For science he has chosen to use Middle School Chemistry, and then when that is over, we are going to study the brain using Ellen McHenry’s unit. Tru will study French this year with a Rosetta Stone/So You Really Want To Learn French combo, and for math he will use Life of Fred and Khan Academy. 

Speaking of Khan Academy, I can’t emphasize enough how great of a resource this is. I have researched math programs for months now, and I estimate the average price of a pre-algebra course is around $200.00. Khan Academy is free, and the instruction and exercises are wonderful. There are 2400 videos to watch and 125 practice exercises. My kids enjoy the videos, and they love working on the exercises because they can earn badges. I like that I can track their progress as their learning coach. Khan Academy is a wonderful resource, and I am surprised more homeschoolers are not taking advantage of it. 

Here is an overview of Khan Academy.

And this is a great talk by the founder of Khan Academy. 

Also this week the kid’s finished their film that they have been working on. I am impressed with how well it turned out.

Several people have asked me what camera and software did the kids use on this project. They used an HD Flip camera and iMovie to edit. I like iMovie for learning to edit, as it is very easy to learn. This year as Tru studies film more in-depth, I am going to have him learn Final Cut Pro. He will probably start working on that in a few months. One of his projects this year is going to be to make a film based on a historical figure or event he is learning about, and I will most likely have him edit this film on Final Cut Pro

Not much else going on around here. I did download Alice for the kids finally. The boys aren’t too interested, they would rather use Scratch, but Autry seemed to like it. I think she likes it because she can write stories within the 3D world she creates.  I haven’t explored it too much yet, but I think it is worthy to get, as it is free. I am not sure how much we will use it, but if your kids haven’t had much experience with a game making program they would probably like it.

Film Studies

My son Truffaut wants to study film next year, so I am trying to put together a course of study for him. I am excited about this as I majored in film in college. I am thinking I will divide a year study into three main areas. We will study film history, film as literature, and film making.

I have been searching amazon for a book or two to help with our study. I have found two that seem promising. They are Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts and Screenwriting for Teens: The 100 Principles of Screenwriting Every Budding Writer Must Know. These two books are going to form the basis for his film making study.

For film history I am going to use The Young Oxford Book of the Movies (Young Oxford Books). I have had this book for years, waiting patiently for my children to show interest in learning the history of film. Now that one has expressed interest, I cannot wait to begin working our way through it.

The book covers film history from the earliest beginnings (the magic lantern, zoetrope, etc.), silent films, the Hollywood system, European films, and National Cinemas. In addition it goes over the major genres in film, such as westerns, musicals, comedy, etc. I am hopping to watch two films per each section in the book. I think that would be a nice overview for him, and I hope to have this list put together soon, for anybody that is interested.

After film history, we will concentrate on two genres of films in our study of film as literature. My first film class in college was a film literature class, and I can’t wait to study this with Tru. In college we studied Hitchcock, the French New Wave, and screwball comedies. I am not sure Tru would be as interested in the last two categories, but I think he would enjoy a study on Hitchcock films. Along with our Hitchcock study, I am toying with the idea of studying either Westerns or films that have been adapted from classic literature.

All in all I am happy with the plan so far. I am confident we will be able to get it all in over the year, but if Truffaut is really enjoying it, I may stretch it out over two years. If we get it all done in one year, we will concentrate on animation (the making of animated films and the history) for the next year. I can’t wait to get started!

A new film by Decca

Decca loves to write scripts, and he is lucky to have an older sister who likes to make movies. She helped him film and edit his latest, and she stared in it. The film is about a girl named Grace who gets lost in the woods and comes to live with a boy named John. Decca wrote everything (even the lyrics to the songs), and Autry performed it all (even though she was quite embarrassed about the singing part). I am proud of her for helping him so much!

Another stop motion

Stop motion videos are fun for kids and quite easy to make. My kids enjoy them, and they don’t need my help. They just use the camera to take pics, upload them to windows movie maker, and then edit them. If your kids are looking for a creative outlet I would highly recommend directing them to make their own stop motion. It takes time, patience, and a good deal of imagination, and the outcome is always worth it.

Here is one of Tru’s stop motions. It was his first one, and you can tell it is just one sequence looped over and over. He recorded his song and then sped it up for the native chant. I think it works quite well.

I have been spending time reflecting on the kids and how creative they are. I think this year I will spend more time developing their creative side and try to incorporate it into our schooling. I haven’t decided how this will play out yet, but I have decided that I will have them do a book report as a stop motion. They will have fun doing that!