‘Movie Nights’ teach context behind films

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The faculty-led “Movie Nights with Lit Guy and History Dude” will return to Brown Hall 126 on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. with the movie “Frost/Nixon.”

Literature Professor Daniel Gates and History Professor Isaac Stephens kick off the series for its third year.

“What we wanted was an opportunity for students who are History majors, English majors or not majoring in any of these, to get together and enjoy how the disciplines can illuminate a popular film,” Gates said.

Stephens added that the event is really a celebration of the humanities.

“It’s a little more informal than a class,” said Stephens. “This was one way to bring both disciplines together. English and history are basically sister (educational fields) … they’re two sides of the same coin.”

Students who attend will enjoy more than the complimentary pizza and soda.

“(Students) get a chance to see a film that they have heard about but may not have seen in the theater … contemporary films that have depth and provoke good conversations,” Gates said.

Released in 2008, “Frost/Nixon” is an adaptation of a 2006 British play, which in turn is an adaptation of the 1977 interviews between British journalist David Frost and former President Richard Nixon.

“There are multiple layers or representations underneath this film,” Gates said. “We also were interested in the relationship between media and politics.”

The link between media and politics has a long history, stretching well past the 1960’s.

“It’s literally centuries old and that link can be found in the 17th century and in the 18th century,” said Stephens. “Look at artwork and monumental architecture. You can argue that those are forms of media.”

“Frost/Nixon” depicts Nixon’s first major television appearance since the Watergate scandal. The 1977 interview premiere drew in an audience of 45 million people, still the largest viewing of a political interview in television history.

With a cast headlined by Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost, “Frost/Nixon” was nominated for five Golden Globes and five Academy Awards.

The movie night will be capped off with an open forum where attendees and the hosts have a discussion of the film’s historical context with the professors. Gates and Stephens have two different educational backgrounds and believe this is where students will learn the most.

“(Isaac) draws a lot of historical references that sometimes I am not familiar with,” Gates said. “I’m usually approaching things in a way that emphasizes literary elements and the formal construction of the film.”

“When we do discuss it, we both talk about the genre and the metaphors,” Stephens added. “But the way and the perspectives that we have to interpret those things are coming from different avenues of training.”

“Movie Nights with Lit Guy and History Dude” will continue its personages film series with “Richard III” starring Ian McKellen and “Good Night, and Good Luck” starring David Strathairn and George Clooney.

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