There are only so many hours in the day, folks. Even with this new and improved block schedule routine that allows me to take more classes than I normally would, there remains a significant amount of “stuff” that remains by the end of my schedule that I feel as if I could’ve done. Enough is always just a little more, but it’s that “little more” past my reach that kills me.
I wish I could’ve taken our school’s Film class, a senior English elective choice for upperclassmen. One of the main reasons for that, of course, is the fact that I like movies. Another is the notion that any chance to get Mr. Lubliner as a teacher again would be worth taking. He’s been around the block a couple of times with the cultural scene, the daily grind, and, of course, movies, as anyone in my sophomore English class who shared in listening to his weekly stories would attest. It seems as if nothing he knows has come from learning it from the book; he’s gotten to learn it all through life experience, which as we are figuring out as high schoolers, is life’s most important teacher.
There was no doubt that Film class was always on my mind for the past two years. When it got to prioritizing for my senior year, however, it got pushed to the back a little. Physics came first, then Math, then Econ… and after a few more dominoes, I had a full schedule. That doesn’t mean I’ve decided I know everything about movies. In fact, having a conversation with Mr. Lubliner reminds me how much I don’t know: he knows what it’s like to watch Lawrence of Arabia, a nearly four hour movie alone, on one projector (with a short break every thirty minutes for the operators to rewind the film); he knows what it’s like to see a script in the industry rejected simply because the main characters are over eighty; he even knows that Princess Leia turned out to be a pretty good go-to person for rewriting romantic comedies. He gets Film class, but most of all, he gets film.
Luckily, Mr. Lubliner is still around the building with a lot on his mind. Sure enough, he was there in the English office on a Friday, a respective pink shirt appropriately adorned per tradition and was ready to answer some questions for The Forest Scout.
I think it’s interesting how the structure of a film class, that classroom environment, is becoming more of a rarity for these students. Mediums like Netflix offer an accessibility that going out to theaters doesn’t always have, and the big screen is shrinking to the more personal confines of television.
Let me be direct: I think that film, as an art form, is dying. I’d go as far as to say, probably, that the best screen work being done right now is for television, including Netflix in that arena. Netflix needs a much smaller audience to be a success, so they don’t pay to play. I’ve been around long enough to see both my family and myself work in the business, long enough to see when it looked like movies were gonna kill television. Of course, I got out of the business because it was a business. What happened with film was the summer blockbuster. When my dad owned theaters, people would still come to see the same movie for eight weeks, but producers eventually discovered that — and it might’ve been a result of TV, even — they needed to establish the idea of the opening weekend. That drove business for them, more than the opinions of reviewers like Siskel and Ebert could’ve. Movie stars have always kind of been that big attractant, but it’s those big moments, almost big shock factors with those big visuals, that create good marketing today.
Power in Hollywood has shifted from producers to agents. The agents create advertisement. They’re trained Harvard lawyers, people made for marketing. What’s seen is the death of that classic screenplay that drove the art. We don’t have those movies that stay in our minds anymore. It’s very rare you get a Godfather today. In class, we explore the techniques and concepts of story meaning. That’s far above the level of business.
Do you have a steady roster of movies that you teach from year to year, or do you like to mix it up?
I’m pretty set. Mr. Wanninger [another film teacher at LFHS] probably changes movies more than I do. I’m about what movies tell us. All that literature is telling us is to do is to change the way we look at our lives. Generally, I can narrow the most impactful ones down to a few. Only when I’m teaching documentaries do I need to adapt, to keep those relevant. Of course, I’m not teaching quite the same movies I was ten years ago, but for me, there’s nothing closer to a perfect movie to top off everything I’ve been teaching than Schindler’s List for the end of each year.
You’re teaching class when suddenly, someone runs in and says that the AMC is having one last screening of this one particular film before the alien overlords go through the records and toss every single copy in the trash. Which movie is it where you have to say, “Sorry, kids, I’ve got to catch that” and take off?
You might have to rephrase that question. I would never leave class.
Well, consider the wording as it is. The aliens have landed, after all.
I guess that’s true… I’m torn between two, and I’m trying to think about what I especially want to see on a really big screen. They’re both David Lean movies — Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Lean’s one of my heroes, but even more than that. Like, I don’t show the movies in my class, because they’re mine, you know? They just wouldn’t show on that overhead projector the same way.
The VCR was finally pulled off of production last month. Would you like to give a few final words in its honor?
Here’s what I will say: the VCR allowed me to see a wide range of historical and wonderful films. Back then, I could have seen all the screwball comedies of the 40’s. I just loved Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bacall… those actors would all be available to me. I’d been exposed to them in college, but after that, the only alternative would be to actually go out to a place with a projector and find the movie. Like, find the movie! I would have been just waiting for the next classic movie house in Chicago to show another film every time. So, in a weird sort of way, with the VCR, I got up to speed with the generation before me. Nowadays, that means a lot. I rarely go to the theaters, but as you could probably already tell, there’s not much for me I’d want to watch anyway.
Speaking of which… Rogue One. Predictions?
What? Star Wars? I can remember when my dad got called and heard that people were lined around the block to see the first one, which I loved. No one knew what it was at first, and that’s when you could appreciate the second for the more comedic and fun one it turned out to be. I HATED the next four. Hated them.
Eh… I might not even watch the new one. I watched Star Wars for Han Solo.