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Postmodern Cinema and Its Features

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Good morning, so we recently finished a new Hollywood period, new Hollywood cinema was sceptical.A sceptical of American policy; it told us that look, there is something verywrong with the American society, its politics. And therefore, we need new themes, new waysof telling stories, new kinds of heroes, but what they did, the cinema of 80’s do to us?It took us back to pre-new wave cinema, where we have told that look America is stillthe super power and the war in Vietnam can is still be won. And therefore, we have allthose Rambo movies, and movies like Commando where the enemies always the other.Notice the race; enemies not within, in new Hollywood cinema enemy is within, did you note that?In new Hollywood cinema, they are not fighting a war against others, even when they are interrogatingthe Vietnam War, it is given the perspectives also given from the other point of view;it is not just out and out aggressive American point of view that we are looking at.But when you look at cinema of Sylvester Stallone or Schwarzenegger or even a film like Robot cop,what are they doing; that America is taking over the world that is the very strongmessage that comes across. And after that we gradually, so 80’s over then we graduallymove towards the 90’s; so that is the cinema we are interested in, the postmodern cinema.And then we will also talk about various kinds of cinema not just Hollywood, so please feelfree to give your interpretation or opinion as I go on.So, just revising something that we must have already done, postmodernism root term is of course,modernism where postmodernism; postmodernism literally, something which comes after modernism.I think when we were doing cinema and modernism; we did talk about all these aspects. So, Iwould again suggest that you go back to cinema and modernism, and then I will also give youlist of readings on modernism, because we cannot be talking in detail today about modernism.By the mid latter, mid 60’s and late 60’s it was felt that modernism as moment was tameand conventional; what shocked then became very traditional by the late 60’s, evenin cinema, in art, in literature, so in all aspects of art and artistic manifestations.So, modernism no longer had responses to all the questions. To read more about modernism,I will just give you a list of books, and this lead to the growth of postmodernism.Now, this is one book I strongly recommend, Malcom, Bradbury and James McFarlane’s ‘Modernism’is a 1976 book.I think Ranjith, it could be of use for you; it has all aspects of culture.Ramond William, if you are interested in culture study. And then you this book called,‘Five faces of modernity:modernism, Avant-Gadre, decadence, kitsch and postmodernism’, this is by Matei Calinescu.There is a ‘Cambridge companion to modernism’ by Michael, Levenson.And Dennis Walder’s ‘Literature in the modern world’ is an out and out literary book.But five faces of modernity is important in order to understand, even popular cultureand other aspects of art, apart from literature.Linda Hutcheon in politics of postmodernism,this is how she defines, ‘postmodernism manifest itself in many fields of cultural endeavor’.And then she gives us a list architecture, literature,photography,filmpainting, video, dance, music and elsewhere. So, forces of postmodernism can be felt onvarious walks of life. She goes on, ‘In general term, it take the form of self-conscious,self-contradictory and self-undermining statements’. Please, note down these three terms; self-conscious,postmodern, postmodern art is highly self-conscious, self-referential, and aware of it, some ofthe movies that are going to discuss today are extremely self-conscious.Self-contradictory, so postmodernism accepts that the world around us is contradictoryand fragmented, those are the key features. In fact, if you want to look at postmodernismand spaces. Postmodernism is more centered on fragmented spaces than fragmented time;a spatial fragmentation is more important, perhaps it could be of use to you, David Harveybook is important you know, ‘fragmented specialty’.So, if the literature of realism you know then realism, we are talking about Victoriankind of literature; modernism was a revolt against realism prevailing during the 19th century.So if the literature of realism is the mode of narrative, which is natural andpresence of slice of life, the so called verisimilitude, closeness to life. Postmodernism, the postmodernistliterature is a case against realism. And two terms again, those are Bakhtinian terms that you should know,dialogic and heteroglossic. Are you aware of that Tara? Dialogic and heteroglossic as opposed to Monologic?Can anyone explain that to me, Sandeep? Bakhtin gives us theseterms carnivalesque, dialogic, heteroglossic as opposed to monologic.Student: Ma’am you have two things, which have which enter into dialogue as suppose just one view.So, both the relationship that both have with respect to each other, andhow they effects each other. So, if it is A and B; A has affect on B, and B also have effect on A.So, mono; single, it is a single perspective,single tongue, and single word as opposed to dialogic. So, it is not, it is literallyhaving dialogue, there has to be two or more than one person to have a dialogue, hetero;many tongues, many words, multiple perspective in other words. So, there is a necessity forhaving a dialogic heteroglossic perspective as opposed to monologic discourse. And carnival,what is the carnival according to you? So many things come together, so you know itis like a ‘pot fury’ of many things. So, again this is the term Bakhtin gives us,you can look these terms up. So, why is postmodernist literature a carnivalist literature, becauseit brings together many tongues, many perspectives, many cultures; and by culture we mean, highbrowand as well as so called lowbrow.Now, historically the setting point for postmodernism is 1968;at least in literature, although it must have made its presence even earlier,but then more forcefully we realize, we have looked, we recognized the exact period as 1968,when Stephen Spender called it ‘The year of the Young Rebels’.So, postmodernism is often considered the nemesis of modernism, signifying a break from the earlier momentand deliberate fracturing. Now, you look at cinema of the mid 60’s, late 60’s, 68;you know all these things, you know the major films made in that period do not you?You also know, cinema made during the so called ‘modernist period’. Can you take a momentand think about those films which are made during the so called modernist period? Andthen look at the cinema of 60’s, late 60’s. What were they making in 68; ‘the year of the young rebels’?Easy Rider.The break through movie? Bonnie and Clyde.And then subsequently all those films that we have been talking about.Remember the list;can just help me recall Sandeep?Student: The list?The listStudent: Easy rider, Bonnie Clyde, China town, Apocalypse now,.So, 1968 to 1978 we had that kind of moment,The Graduate, Dog Day Afternoon. Think of all those Roman Polanski’s films, Rosemary’s baby,The Exorcist, French Connection.We are looking at William Friedkin, we were looking at Coppola’s Conversation.All these movies they together constitute the period of young rebels.So, there is a thematic connection between the postmodernist literature,as an artistic moment and also how you can connect it thematically, artistically, technically to cinema as well.Think about all these things, there is pattern that emerges.Fredric Jameson, another very influential cultural critic, theoreticianin his book ‘postmodernism or the cultural logic of late capitalism’, which was written in 1991l;defines postmodernism as an erosion of the distinction between high and low culture,this is important, all of you should know that. Erosion between high and low cultureand I am going to give you several examples, from movies that we are going to do today,erosion of boundaries between high and low in cooperation of material from other text.I will give you some time to think about that, and you will come and I am sure you will haveyour own interpretation of this. Postmodernism from according to Fredric Jameson signifiesbreaking down boundaries between different genres of text or writing; text could be cinematic text also.Postmodernist artist cannot invent new perspectiveand new modes of expression instead, they operate as bricoleurs; this is a nice word, what does it mean?Putting together several things. So, there is something you know ifmodernism is a building and then postmodernism comes and takes that building apart, and whateveris left of the ruins of the rebels of the building, they are used to create somethingelse altogether that is Bricolage, and the person who does it is a Bricoleur.It is a French term, look it up; it is very interesting to understand. So, postmodern artist in otherwords is Bricoleur who puts together fragments of different narratives. Can you, if you lookat all these examples and quoting from different text, would you call Tarantino a Bricoleur?Cinema of Tarantino, a kind of Bricolage? How many of you remember the opening scene of Reservoir dogs?Tell me, what is it about? What are they talking about, high culture, and low culture?Student: They talk about American culture,and how like you know tipping and their restaurant system works,and how people earn money through tips andTipping the waitress that is one thing; another?Sandeep do you remember something else, they talk about?Student: They talk about pop culture, about that song of MadonnaWhich song is that? Madonna like a virgin, and then they deconstruct the entire song.Discussing, totally deconstructing a Madonna song; for no reason is just a couple of guyssitting together talking and the camera pans around them. So, what is Tarantino doing there;referencing a pop culture certain key cultural aspects of American society and bringing everything together.There is a one point, when there is Mexican standup, remember? That is Tarantino’s favorite device.In every movie of his, he uses that Mexican standup scene, a short is always there.Especially, I think he follows perhaps the other way round, John Woo follows him.So in every John Woo movie there is a Mexican standup scene; this is standard shot in Tarantino as well.So, Michael Madsen’s character, if I remember it correctly he callsHarvey Keitel, that is the Lee Marvin character. I do not know if you remember that, but Iwatch the movie quite recently and Michael Madsen calls Harvey Keitel, this is a LeeMarvin again among us guys. And you remember, what is Lee Marvin known for? Lee Marvin isknown for playing those tough macho, hyper masculine kind of guy.So, there is the so reference is to popular culture.We will look at other movie, some other films also, wherethere is mix of both high as well as pop culture. Fredric Jameson further says that postmodernistrecycled previous works and styles, recycling of previous works and styles,‘There will be blood’; it is a recycling of what, what genre?Student: Western Typical western, but is this western herothe John Wayne kind of hero? No, there is a reinterpretation of the western myth, no?So, there is the recycling genre, recycling previous styles. ‘No country for old men’,again reworking of a western genre, have you watched the movie, ‘No country for old men’?Please do watch it as you are essential viewing. Student: It sort of pastiche.More like a pastiche, it works more like pastiche, but ‘No country for old men’ and ‘Therewill be blood’ are more serious political look at the genres of western. After all,what is western all about? Western is of the, western you know the typical, strong individualisticAmerican hero, and how he triumphs over the so called ‘other’ in all his films.You watch a movie like Shane, George Steven’ ‘Shane’, Searchers, John Ford’s Searchers. Now, what happens?The hero is always victorious. A lone ranger, but emerges victorious in theend, rides away into the sunset; he is essentially a lone ranger, but how do these two men end up?Daniel plain view in ‘There will be blood’. Yes?Student: There are anti-heroes Anti-heroes, they are not the triumphant individualistic heroes.They are loners, yes, they are highly ambitious individualistic yes,but are the film makers glorifying them?No. So that is what we mean by reworking of the previous style, previous genres.Now, we are also told that there is category of pastiche,which is a parody according to Fredric Jameson that has lost its sense of humor.So, it is not a spoof, now you look at out and out spoof; Johnny English is aspoof of James Bond genre, the spy, the detective thriller kind of films. So, Johnny Englishfunctions very well as a spoof, naked gun series, and this functions superbly as spoofsof the detective genre, so those are spoofs. Parody is something else. Parody is not outand out spoof, parade is a or rather pastiche is a kind of parade, which is not intendedto create humor or cause humor. Spoof yes, that is the main purpose of spoof.This is another key theoretician who you should know about; Ihab Hassan and his seminal book‘The dismemberment of Orpheus’ of 1971, it has been reprinted several times,the most definitive work on postmodernism. The title is itself evokes the myth of Orpheus, theman who went to the Hades in search of his dead wife Eurydice. And he is once he is ableto rescue he is ask not to look back, you know the legend but he cannot resist the temptation;he looks back and then his head is you know severed off but the heads continues singingwhile his lyre is in thousand pieces by his side. So, there is a, so why do we why whyshould Ihab Hassan used the title like ‘Dismemberment of Orpheus’ for a book on postmodernism?Breaking down; fragmentation, breaking down of the central stable figure but fragmentsare still important nevertheless. Modernism was essentially rational, postmodernismunlike the heroic modernist and why do we call, call him the heroic modernist;the artist in from modernism has the heroic modernist, because he created works out of pure imagination.However, the postmodernist artist works with cultural givens, trying to manipulate themin various ways and what are those various ways; using parody, pastiche, collage, juxtaposition for various ends.Ihab Hassan gives us a definitive list, where he distinguishes between modernismson one hand and postmodernism on the other; so it is a long list, perhaps you would like to look at it.I can give you a very few point from there for example, he calls modernism,characterized by romanticism and symbolism whereas postmodernism is more Dadaist, more anarchy.There is form in modernism whereas, postmodernism is anti-form.There is design in modernism whereas; postmodernism happens by chance, that is the idea given.Logos, words are important in modernism. Postmodernism characterizedby silence, you read Samuel Beckett’s works and you will find how silent his plays are.I am not just talking about ‘Waiting for Godot’, there are other plays also.Harold Pinter is a master of silence, he has even written a play called silence, because therenothing left to say anymore. Postmodernism believes in anarchy whereas in modernism we had hierarchies.Modernism believed in having a finished work, complete work whereas forpostmodernism everything is a work in progress. Think a movie like, ‘Synecdoche New York’it is very abstract, who directed it? Student: Kaufman’s brothersKaufman brothers, I mean auteurs, the signature style is all over the movie; you do not evenhave to look for the name of the authors there, you know that it has to be brothers Kaufmanat work here, ‘Synecdoche New York’. So, its long list where Ihab Hassan talks aboutthe major distinction between postmodernism and modernism. The key words as we have alreadyseen and you must remember; modernism is focused on determinacy, trying to give some stability,some meaning whereas postmodernism talk about indeterminacy.That brings as to the category of the postmodern cinema and basically is characterized by de-legitimationof authority which leads to indeterminacy and again erosion of central idea of stability of a structured order.Key features of postmodern cinema; fragmented editing style. See,Godard started it, when he gave us the idea of jump cut; and jump cut was, so well suited to thefragmented times that by the time we came to Easy rider and Bonnie Clyde another moviesof that period, it had become derringer of the period, so fragmented editing style. Now,it has become all faddish, very fashionable, MTV style cutting but there is no sub text,there is no political sub text, there is just like it is a fade. You know, it gives an impressionof pace, everything is moving very fast; therefore we need that kind of cutting.So, it is a fashionable trend, it has nothing to say about your society or about your cultural scene.Non-linear narrative, another important feature of postmodernist cinema; think modernism,think Dziga Vertov’s cinema, remember a man with a movie camera? He is on the streets,taking but you know he looks at some kind of a period; morning to night, so there is a sense of linearity.Charlie Chaplin’s cinema there is a plot; there is a seriouslinear coherent plot, whereas all that is goes for a task in postmodernist cinema.Hyperlink and hyperlink stories; hyperlink, can you give me some example of it?Student: Amores Perros? Let them hearAmores Perros Student: Amores perros, are you familiar withthis, who directed it? Student: InarrituInarrituStudent1: Pulp fiction is non-linear right?Student2: Only towards the end we come to know that it was,.Would you call ‘Babel’ a hyperlink cinema? So Babel is a hyper link cinema.Student: Magnolia Good, Magnolia.Student: Crash. Crash, which crash are you talking about,the Canadian crash? Student: No, the LABrendan Fraser’s Crash; so Crash. So all these are examples of hyperlink cinema whereparallel stories seemingly unrelated, but everything has a point, but may not necessarilybe connected to one another. Fluidity of identity; we are looking very skeptically at the conceptsof genre, what are genres? I mean, I am going to do Pulp Fiction with you soon, and thenI will ask you a question; does this movie have a genre? We have something like genrebending and genre blending, so does this genre has a genre that is your homework, do it for tomorrow.Then intertexuality, we have already talked about; allusion and quotation.Postmodernist cinema encourages multiple reading of course.Literally celebrates anarchy; Pulp Fiction, it celebrate anarchy, I mean we route forthe anti-hero, we root for those people who are completely out of the box.And there resist closure; ‘No country for old man’,what happens to Chigurh?He walks away, but not into the sunset;he is that kind of a western hero, just limbs away, does not gloriouslyride away, limbs away with a broken body. Perhaps, he may continue murdering peoplesenselessly, meaninglessly or he may meet his own end, who knows; there is no sense of closure there.And I mean, more relevant example would be the way ‘A Serious man’ ends, Coen brothers.Are you familiar with A Serious man? Please watch it; it ends with a whimper,tremendous movie, hilarious. It has wonderful lines, magnificently acted butwhen it ends, you feel ah, I mean we would not expecting this; resist closure completely.So, watch it a serious man by Coen brothers. I mean Coen brothers, Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson;you can look at these names as key people where the sphere added the of postmodernism, movementat least contemporary postmodernism, the way we understand it today.This is another concept that you should be familiar with Chinese box structure in postmodernist text.The focus is on skewed and distorted narratives, subject to abrupt shifts and transformations, andambiguous about its boundaries. Think of The Big Lebowski; if you have not already watchedthe movie and it fits all these characteristics. So, Chinese boxed structure in text suspensenormal categories of time and space, social and rational categories which are built upin everyday architecture and behavior to become irrational and quite literally impossible to figure out.You were just talking about Pulp Fiction; does Pulp Fiction satisfy all these categories?Complete erosion of boundaries, defying genre, defies rational temporal spatial categories.Now, there is novel by Umberto Eco, I havereferred to it in one of my earlier classes; The name of the Rose which brings togetherthe element of the popular detective genre,medieval history, life in a monastery, philosophy and theory of semiotics.So, now what is pastiche now? If you look at pastiche; so pasticheis nothing but bringing together of the high as well as the so called low art, so if detectivegenre is the so called popular art, theory of semiotic, theology and philosophy theseare high culture decidedly. Umberto Eco who is known semiotician anyway; he writes thenovel The name of the Rose, and shows us how a work of art function as a pastiche and it is asupreme example of pastiche, nothing is better than that. So, bringing together of dispirit elements.So, mixing of levels of culture creates a kind of hybridity.So, this is another key term that all of you should remember; postmodernisttext is hybrid, is fragmented as a Chinese box structure is heteroglossic. So, createsa high kind of hybridity that challenges the traditional notions, and then you think wewere just referring to Synecdoche or New York and also film like Inception, how does itclose, how does it ends, Ranjith can you tell me, how does the movie end?Student: The movie ends with, him spinning the top, and they show the top spinning and movie ends in that.And people had done, so much of research onthat spinning of top, what does it suggest? Does he lives on or is he dead? How many ofyou think that DiCaprio’s character is alive at the end? And half of you think that maybe you did not watch the movie at all. It is very ambiguous.Student: It is various in its story tone, he talks to his wife when; he is in the real world.So, there is some kind of ambiguity. So, whatwe are saying is; it requires multiple viewing of the movie, so that is what a postmodernist text is all about.Now, we will talk about Chinese box structure, narrative fragmentationas well as pastiche with reference to a list of films. Moulin Rough. The German movie, Run Lola Run.Zelig by Woody Allen. Memento, Fight Club, Requiem for a dream; these arethe movie that we will be discussing with reference to fragmentation and pastiche.So, Moulin Rough is the movie made by Australian director Baz Luhrmann. What is he making currently;The Great Gatsby based on Fitzgerald novel. So, Moulin Rough is one movie where song anddance sequences, all those stage sequences are done in a very fragmented MTV style, editing pattern.So, movie is basically very self conscious and its truly and globally postmodern spectacle.Now, why do we call it global phenomenon? You look at the director himself, he is an Australian.The hero, Ewan McGregor he is Irish, Scottish raised in England, a majorBritish actor who also occasionally flirts with Hollywood cinema. Then you have Nicole Kidmanborn in Hawaii, but raised in Australia; now she is a major Hollywood actor; so a filmwhich has an international, a sum large of people, of artist to say. Now, musical styleswhich are extremely identified at identifiable in Moulin Rouge; one is European vaudeville,you know set pieces, one acts, cabaret culture of course, stage shows, comic operas, pop songs.She even does like a virgin at one point if you remember. And some of the Italianstyle mellow dramas, the operas; also they also refer to the Bombay cinema also whenshe performs to ‘Chama- Chama’. So, now nostalgia; this is a favorite term of the postmodern critics.Nostalgia is a prevalent mode in postmodern films, and youcan look at the list of movies; David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, what is it all about? Yes Lahari.Student: Suburbia Suburbia, and what happens? So, the idea letme tell you that, David Lynch in Blue Velvet interrogates the so called myth of the calmpleasant American sub urban, the small town decency. Generally, we are told you know popularly,the popular perception is; that the rottenness and the corruption these are the attribute of city life.Countryside everything is ((Refer Prof)) (38:54) people are good, people areessentially honest, people are essentially they prefer to live in harmony with each other.But David Lynch in Blue Velvet tells us that behind or beneath the venire we need the facadeof decency and harmony there is a rot that exists. And this nothing, this is not somethingDavid Lynch actually gave us, Hitchcock is already done this in one of his earlier filmswhere he shows us the corruption of rural life, the country side; which appears verydifferent on the outside, but what lies beneath is a different story altogether, which movie?Yes? Student: Psycho?Not psycho exactly, psycho fall somewhere you know on the road side motel and some butStudent: Rear Window? No, no, Rear window is out and out city movie,I am talking about a film called ‘Shadow of a doubt’, please do watch it, ‘Shadow of a doubt’;Joseph Cotton, so intrigues and manipulation of a small town and country side life.Now, Cry baby, what is cry baby? It is a 90 movie; 1990, through back to thoseElvis Presley times, please do take it down and watch it. It is made to order kind of film for your generation.It stars a very young Johnny Depp doing an Elvis Presley.And he is the titular cry baby. He cries and then drop of a hat. What he is giving us isa mish-mash of all those Elvis Presley’s movies, then James Dean’s Rebel withouta cause, as well as John Travolta’s his Danny Zuko’s persona from Grease.It is a highly elusive, extremely referential movie to these great films of the 80’s and 60’s even.Then you have a Hairspray, you are aware of that.Pleasantville. Edward Scissorhands, again it is a very nostalgic film. What is the idea about?See, there is two kinds of film that exists, two kind of period thatexisting in Edward Scissorhands; one is the castle which very gothic, Vincent price isthe crazy scientist who creates this beautiful Robo, but the Robo cannot be completed becauseof the scientist’s premature death. Now, at the same time you have the interrogationof the American Suburbia. So, if look at the movie carefully, and if you look at the wayTim Burton creates the setting for the American suburbia; houses are all in trendy flaws pestleshades, so you have those the mint green, the pink, the very pleasant yellows all over the place.The idea is that country side, the suburbs are clam pleasant places, but are they?Edward Scissorhands who epitomizes everything that is beautiful and innocentlyis literally driven away, by the manipulation of the so called innocent suburb forks.The Truman show, and then you have pastiches of Hitchcock films. The other day we were talkingabout how people like, Brain De Palma; now you understand pastiches is not necessarilya spoof when Brain De Palma refers to or makes a reference to Hitchcock’s Rear window in‘Body double’ or even in ‘Dressed to kill’, he is not spoofing them, he is eluding to them.When Brain De Palma again refers to Eisenstein’s orders of steps scenarioin ‘The Untouchables’, and also to an extent in Carlito’s Way. Remembered?We were talking about Carlito’s Way, it is not a spoof, it is a pastiche.Fragmented psyche, schizophrenia and delusion;schizophrenia is an integral part of postmodernist literature.Think all David Lynches’ films, do you agree with me that Mulholland driveis essentially about characters with fragmented psyches.Dead Ringers by David Cronenberg; also he is an Canadian filmmaker, also watch his Crash;therefore I got confused when you said Crash, so there are two crashes David Cronenberg’scrash, came in 1986, the Hollywood crash was may be the 2000. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind,Being John Molkovich.A serious man, we have already talked about;Shutter Island,Inceptionthe list goes on.Postmodern cinema also resists closure,and then you have several examples; Pulp fiction,the Blade runner. We really do not know if Harrison ford’scharacter is a Robo or not. What is the term that they use?Student: Replicant, Replicant, is he a replicant or not; we are not very sure.Natural born killers. Run Lola Run, I mean how does it end? We are told itis a happy ending, but is it? Because, he gives us different endings at different time,he gives us so many endings. It is up to us to choose. So, when it ends happily on happy note,we are still left skeptical about it, is it really happening or it was just an MTv video we watched?All Iranian cinema; I know there are fans of Iranian cinema in this class,most of these films; they do not have a satisfactory conventional closure.Cinema of Wong Kar Wai; except ‘In the mood for love’, most of his movie do not have a closure.Think, Fallen angels; and Fallen angels is also good example of hyperlink cinema,have you watched Fallen angels? Chungking express? Yes? Watch Chungking express andwatch fallen angels. It is a pity, our course is coming to an end; I would not be able todo Chinese cinema for you, it was very much in pipeline but do not worry we are goingto have one web course also apart from the video module, we are going to have web course also.I will try to include Chinese cinema, I will definitely include Chinese cinema,Iranian cinema in that module. So, postmodernist cinema another key feature is;self-conscious and self-referential. It alludes to itself; Woody Allen’s Zelig,play it Sam, the purple rose of cairo, all films by Woody Allen. Stardust memories.Fellini’s eight and a half.Wag the dog, how many of you have watched Wag the dog?Please do watchWag the dog. Natural born killer.Barton Fink,are you familiar with the Tim Burton’s Edwood?