The Shining Commentary

The Shining Commentary from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

So I just wrapped up my commentary on Kubrick’s The Shining. One of my top 3 films of all time, and it feels good because I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. And luckily I gave my digital storytelling class an assignment that provided the opportunity. I’ve pretty much been eating my own dog food all semester, which has been important for the evolution of this class this semester, and taught me a ton.

The actual assignment was simple in concept: provide a commentary track on a scene (or series of scenes) from a favorite film. This assignment was aimed towards getting the students to consider and get familiar with working through digital video, using Andy Rush‘s awesome Digital Video site as a resource. I was hoping this assignment would encompass everything from ripping DVDs to downloading YouTube videos to compressing and converting codecs to editing video and laying down a voice over track. One thing is for sure, those students with Macs in the class probably have a bit of an advantage when it comes to digital video because Moviemaker only imports WMV files, and that is pretty much a huge dead end for web video.

And despite that two semesters running now this has been the most difficult section of the course to teach, I do love setting them loose on digital video even though I know it will be a humbling experience for both them and me. I constantly get my ass kicked in this department, but I still think having a strong sense of how to rip, access, and remix video is important enough that I’m willing to take the time and energy to work through it with them all. That said, getting digital video right is hard. It takes patience, a meticulous sensibility, and some pretty extensive knowledge and understanding of how the proprietary codec market works. I’m somewhat a novice at digital video, but I always have fun with it which is not often enough. But I do think it is vital for some idea of literacy moving forward, and using video to comment on our culture and mashup various clips and resources (our next video project) is becoming the lingua franca of the web and giving them the opportunity to work on it and take it seriously is important, especially using a series of free and/or cheap tools.

What’s interesting is that this course has 27 people, and less than 12 got their video project in on time? Slackers will be tolerated with digital video, I knew it was coming, I even warned them, but nonetheless video beat most of them into submission.

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11 Responses to The Shining Commentary

  1. AnxiousP says:

    From IMDB: “where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence”

    Is the spiritual presence modern society?

  2. Reverend says:

    AnxiousP,

    That a good question, and I think what might be at work here is the fact that the “spirituality” in this film can so quickly be framed as insanity of madness. The idea of encountering Llyod, the world of the spirits Jack comes to inhabit would probably be more akin to our understanding of madness and faith, but I think the real point is that madness and faith are closer in spirit than we think. And the complete lack of a sense of community or support outside the “family unit” kind highlights one of the real horors of modern society: alienation from one’s sense of purpose, from one’s work.

  3. AnxiousP says:

    It seems to me that you are saying the spiritual presence is madness manifested brought on by isolation (like it seems more like the Overlook is place people without work, money, purpose are stranded; the bar scene without money, etc) which is a symptom of modern society and I think I agree in regards to what is being said.

    Jack is looking for purpose and failing, and this fact coupled with isolation drives him crazier… and that his this isolation and madness pulls in the rest of the family as kids are receptive to what’s going on (danny having his special abilities)… and trying to get help.

    In the end nothing can save them… and the message is that this leaves an imprint on all of society, on those who suffer the same fate, and repeats over and over again… and in general I think this is a mostly overlooked aspect of society. good stuff

  4. Reverend says:

    AnxiousP,

    Hahaha, glad you are with me in the upbeat theme, and I think Kubrick shares some of this sensibility. If you look at the video by Vivian Kubrick about the making of this film (Brian Lamb does a good job framing these in this post) you get a sense Kubrick and Nicholson themselves suffering through this sense of being lost as men, fathers, and artists. And I know, I know, boo-fucking-hoo for the middle-aged privileged white man and all, but that is what I am nonetheless—and I do relate to it on some real levels. And, if we are to push a little further, it quickly becomes apparent that it is in popular films of the 70s and 80s that the emasculation of the role of the “head of the household” is underway. Films like Jaws really pave the way in this regard. For example, Keller and Ryan’s Camera Politica discusses crisis films such as Jaws and The Exorcist as reactions and attempts at psychically dealing with the emerging sexual politics and cultural revolutions during the 60s and 70s. I’d say The Shining takes these issues to the next level in this regard, but in the making and the final artistic execution.

    I love this kind of reading, and while their language is a little stilted and stuck on deconstructing this and that, I think the push to frame films along specific cultural trends at specific moments in a decade etc. is very useful. In fact, I find it the most compelling way to read film, and one of the few things I really “got” out of grad school. Thank you Foucault.

  5. AnxiousP says:

    “boo-fucking-hoo for the middle-aged privileged white man”

    I don’t think this is limited to race, etc. It’s a general problem of middle class and the sexual politics of our day and age which ties into the economic systems and our relationship to them, etc.

    I have seen this sort of analysis before… Al Bundy in Married with Children killing the father figure or Homer J. Simpson even 🙁 Where it gets even more bizarre is Peter Griffin… I do like Hank Hill though in that regards…

  6. AnxiousP says:

    I also want to add that much of the attack on patriarchy, in the face of the the totalitarian business interests and the State in whose interest it is to break up any sort of power structure in its confines, is sort of a farce.

  7. Sarah says:

    I think the best part about this commentary is really your commentary on perspective. I’ve never seen The Shining. I probably never will. But the point isn’t what you see, but how you see it. None of us in DS106 can look on a movie, or anything for that matter, with 30 years of experience. Your commentary shows not just your understanding and insight into the film, but it proves to me, someone who has never seen the film, that the movie obviously has a lasting presence. Not only that, it has the ability to evolve. Very few songs, TV shows, or movies have the strength to carry on to the next generation and apply to our lives. This obviously has real staying power. The fact that you can even watch it, even through different eyes, and relate (even if it’s not to Jack’s character) says something about the power of this film.
    Thanks for some real perspective Prof. Groom!
    :]

  8. Andy Rush says:

    Very interesting. You final comment reminds me of the XTC song “Punch and Judy” The lyrics are great and fit in somewhat with the movie theme that you’re going for. Fascinating stuff when you read about Punch and Judy shows. Thanks.

  9. Reverend says:

    Andy,

    You know you love the bava’s reading of The Shining best. All work and no play….as for the Punch and Judy show, it ties into a whole ‘nother theme of the film, the whole Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs theme, Wile E. Coyote, and a more general sense of the fairy tale cartoon vision of the violence and breakdown of the family.

    The Punch and Judy stuff is inspired if that is what Kubrick was going for he was even more brilliant than we already know.

  10. Pingback: Punch and Judy Show | And He Blogs

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