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Huck Finn and Film. TQPG Summer 2011 Monaghan. Essential questions:. How can we help students develop “critical film literacy”? To what extent might film versions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be used in the classroom?. Attitude Inventory:. Feature “Hollywood” films are good

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Huck finn and film

Huck Finn and Film


Summer 2011


Essential questions
Essential questions:

  • How can we help students develop “critical film literacy”?

  • To what extent might film versions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be used in the classroom?

Attitude inventory
Attitude Inventory:

Feature “Hollywood” films are good

resources to use in class.

Rationale for using film
Rationale for using film:

  • Student consumption

Student consumption of film
Student consumption of film:

  • Teens make up 16% of population, but are 26% of movie-going population (Rauzi, in Strasburger, 2001)

  • Marcus (2003) studied HS students and found:

    Forrest Gump (86%) Pearl Harbor (61%)

    Apollo 13 (80%) Glory (55%)

    Saving Private Ryan (75%)

Rationale for using film1
Rationale for using film:

  • Student consumption

  • Relationship to curricular topics

Presence of historical themes in film
Presence of historical themes in film:

  • From 1986- 2010, 15 of 23 Academy Award winners for best picture had historical themes

    Dances with Wolves (1990)

    Schindler’s List (1993)

    Forrest Gump (1994)

    Titanic (1997)

    Gladiator (2000)

    The Hurt Locker (2009)

    The King’s Speech (2010)

Rationale for using film2
Rationale for using film:

  • Student consumption

  • Relationship to curricular topics

  • Students encounter films outside of the classroom into adulthood

Critical film literacy
Critical film literacy:

  • Important to teach students “critical film literacy” (Marcus, 2005)

    • Ability to critically analyze a film as they would other primary, secondary sources

Trustworthiness marcus 2007
Trustworthiness (Marcus, 2007)

  • Students tend to trust films shown in school because they believe they have the endorsement of the teacher

  • Students tend to trust films that:

    - Agree with other sources, prior knowledge

    • Depict real people, real events

    • Are “made well”

  • Students tend to trust films if they are not presented with conflicting or supplementary evidence, information

Critical film literacy1
Critical Film Literacy:

  • Consider multiple perspectives

  • Develop empathy

  • Reinforce content: facts, ideas, concepts

  • Reveal insights about the time period in which it was created

Critical film literacy marcus 2005
Critical Film Literacy (Marcus, 2005)

  • Teachers can enhance by presenting students with information related to the film’s:

    • Creation

    • Distribution

    • Content

    • Director’s mission

    • Public reception

    • Exploration, critique of the film’s narrative and portrayal of literature, historical events

Huck finn and film1
Huck Finn and Film

  • To what extent might film versions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be used in the classroom?

    “Whenever a book is adapted into a movie, there are sacrifices and interpretations that must be made because the totality of the written work cannot possibly be translated to the screen. These choices can become exceptionally difficult when the work is one as widely-read and well-beloved as Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” -James Berardinelli

The adventures 1939
The Adventures…(1939)

  • Adapted freely

  • “If you’re a die-hard Mark Twain enthusiast, you might want to avert your eyes.”

  • Well-received, but criticized as a work of Twain (i.e. New York Times Review)

What does it tell us about 1939
What does it tell us about 1939?

  • Gone with the Wind

  • Wizard of Oz

  • Wuthering Heights

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

  • Stagecoach

What does it tell us about 19391
What does it tell us about 1939?

  • Considered progressive in its depiction of the relationship between Huck and Jim as the “moral core” of the film

  • The power of MGM

Power of mgm
Power of MGM

  • “Rooney would say years later, ‘MGM was this vast factory, the General Motors of the movie business, dedicated to Mr. Mayer's views of morality, and to mass entertainment.’ …Mayer, whether he was aware of it or not, played a large role in helping America define itself during the Thirties and Forties.”

The adventures 1960
The Adventures…(1960)

  • Starring Eddie Hodges (Huck), Tony Randall (King), and Archie Moore (Jim)

  • Archie Moore: “Long-time light-heavyweight boxing champ who holds the record for most career knockouts, scores an acting KO as Jim.”

  • MGM's lavish color remake

What does it tell us about 1960
What does it tell us about 1960?

  • Perpetuates the saccharine fantasy of '50s life

  • “…[Huck’s] relentless perkiness and Shirley Temple line readings make for a kiddies-only characterization. Boxer Archie Moore is equally stiff in his film debut as a dull-witted Jim. Shticky acting all around conveniently keeps questions, ethical and otherwise, out of the picture.”- Winecoff, 1993

The adventures 1974
The Adventures…(1974)


  • Somber songs, with stripped down dialogue

  • Reflection of post-Vietnam America?

  • “Paul Winfield plays Jim with such anachronistic coolness that he never really seems in danger” –Winecoff

The adventures 1993
The Adventures…(1993)

  • Disney

  • Heartwarming and fun, with some pointed moments

  • Well-acted

  • Most aesthetically familiar for students

The adventures 2007
The Adventures…(2007)

  • Originally aired on PBS in 1985

  • Most detailed by far

  • 214 minutes, continuous DVD

Huck finn and film2
Huck Finn and Film

  • None of the films follow the book with fidelity

  • Several commercial successes, but little critical acclaim

  • Is there any value, then, in using these films to supplement lesson plans?

Lesson plan ideas
Lesson plan ideas?

  • Evaluate film as a reflection of the time

  • Compare depictions of Huck, Jim, other characters over time

  • Hypothesize plot variations, directors motivations given the overall creation of the film

  • Others?