How to View and Appreciate Great Movies

Course No. 7000
Professor Eric Williams, M.F.A.
Ohio University
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Course No. 7000
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What Will You Learn?

  • The masks of characters: public, private, and personal and how they are used for connections and development.
  • How color and light affect the way we see" movies: with a foundation of 12 hues, six color schemes, four characteristics of light, and three ways to use light."
  • The complex and vital editing process: the three stages of editing and how an editor removes, inserts, and organizes hours and hours of footage.

Course Overview

You may sometimes wonder why a single scene from a movie stays with you long after the credits roll, yet in other cases, you can’t recall if you’ve even seen an entire film. Thinking about that memorable moment, what made that impression? Was it a particularly well-acted scene? The dramatic lighting? The emotion of the music? The tension that has built up? The ability to relate to the situation? A powerful choice of words? The answer is, simply, yes.

Understanding the intent of every aspect of a movie—from lighting to language, color to characters, stars to scores—can help you not only appreciate the movies you’re watching at a much more profound level but also open your eyes to the multitude of ways you’re being manipulated from the moment you sit down in the theater. A great filmmaker controls every sensation the movie evokes—tremors or tears, goosebumps or giggles. And while this may feel orchestrated when you begin to pull back the curtain and discover the secrets behind making great movies, you’ll also learn why we invite and welcome that manipulation.

Join professional filmmaker, author, and award-winning professor, Eric R. Williams, as he takes you behind the scenes with How to View and Appreciate Great Movies, sharing the concepts that he has developed as a professional filmmaker over the last 25 years. As he walks you through 250 different titles―some well-known, others less so―you’ll explore how every step of a movie is a choice and each choice has a significant impact on consciously and subconsciously influencing the audience.

View old favorites through a new lens including:

  • Casablanca
  • Citizen Kane
  • Jaws
  • The Godfather
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Star Wars
  • Rocky
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Apocalypse Now

You’ll unpack and examine the screenwriting, story building, sound choices, set design, lighting, special effects, editing, scores, characters, and more for these movies and hundreds of others. Each facet of filmmaking is controlled independently, and Professor Williams will demonstrate the essential step of amalgamating every perspective into a collaborative―if not unified―view, resulting in a symphony of creative decision-making. This process doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, it leaves a lasting impression.

Generalizations about Genres

Before diving into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, Professor Williams zooms back for a wide-angle look at the bigger picture of films: the notion of genre. If you use Netflix to measure film genres, you might believe there are thousands of them. In fact, Netflix has categorized more than 27,000 genres—from “20th-Century Period Pieces for Hopeless Romantics” to “Feel-good Deep Sea Movies for Ages 8 to 10.” Once you start subdividing and adding in niche interests, the number seems limitless.

With this course, Professor Williams challenges the idea that there are a myriad of genres by redefining what a genre is, down to the nitty-gritty of establishing the difference between “action” and a “thriller.” He’ll break down how and why you can use genres to better find, understand, and appreciate movies as he introduces you to the concepts of super genre, macrogenres, and microgenres.

Perhaps one of the most interesting revelations concerning genres is when Professor Williams divulges how great movies can often use genre against us. A good filmmaker will know to how to anticipate an audience’s expectations before they’ve even walked into a theater. If we signed up for a Romeo and Juliet experience, it better include: a couple overcoming obstacles; falling in love against all odds; and then the ultimate, albeit expected, tragic death of one or both of them. And the filmmaker knows we better make use of the tissues we brought with us because that is what we are expecting. When we don’t—when the movie doesn’t meet our preconceived expectations, it’s not considered a “Great Movie.”

Or, is it?

As previously noted, filmmakers have the power to manipulate every single facet of our experience and sometimes by playing with the notion of what we predict, the surprise that results is just as satisfying as the conclusion we expected. Consider Psycho. This oft-lauded film starts off as a crime movie but turns into a horror movie when director Alfred Hitchcock [SPOILER ALERT] kills the protagonist (a huge star who was portrayed as being the main character, so you expect her to live through the entire film) at the end of the first act in cold blood.

Genre is not a steadfast rule. Expectations exist to be bent, twisted, broken, undone, exaggerated, minimized—most of all—controlled. And often, a great movie will take the stereotypes you associate with the genre and will surprise you by turning them on their head. Or, sometimes it will blend genres. Or, it might start as one genre and end as another. It’s no wonder we readily accept there are 27,000 genre possibilities—that’s the filmmakers playing with us again.

Why Sights and Sounds Make Sense(s)

Seeing—and hearing—is believing, especially in the mystical world of movies where we are being asked to believe the unbelievable from the moment we sit down. How do you convince audiences that what Harry feels for Sally is true love, that the giant animatronic shark could be a real threat to anyone in water anywhere, or that super powers are not only possible but easily accessible to anyone with access to super-suits, special spiders, or Stark Industries? To paraphrase The X Files, we want to believe, but the filmmakers have to do their part to get us emotionally invested enough to want to believe. That investment involves building worlds that ensure our senses are satisfied with the experience, down to the smallest detail.

Spending more than half a dozen lectures on the nuts and bolts of movies, Professor Williams uncovers the tricks used to help us suspend our disbelief, let go of our cynicism, and buy in—including the use of sounds, scores, lighting, color, and special effects. You’ll discover how even these seemingly small details can greatly enhance or detract from the theme, atmosphere, and story.   

  • Consider Sound. When you watch a storm on the screen, you expect to hear rain. But is the rain pounding or sprinkling? Is there wind? Is it romantic-kissing rain or a tension-building thunder storm? Discover how the intensity, realism, or lack of sounds in a scene can not only add to it but also can help define it.


  • Consider Color. Would The Martian feel otherworldly if it was full of Earth’s greens and blues? Would Do The Right Thing have the same visual impact if it was shot in black and white? Color choices are never unintentional because they alter how the audience sees the movie (literally and figuratively).


  • Consider Location. There’s a reason you rarely see ghost stories occur in modern condos—you need the spooky, creaky, dark, and broken old house to increase the fear factor. The house, in essence, becomes a character itself.
  • Consider Score. You don’t even need to see the giant animatronic shark to feel dread when you hear the iconic “Duh-nuh – duh nuh duh nuh – duh nuh duh nuh duh nuh.” The most terrifying moments of Jaws are not built with visuals but with music. Learn how scores provide the emotional architecture to the story.


  • Consider Special Effects. The 3-D achievements of Avatar transported us INTO Pandora rather than showing us another planet, while the computer-generated imagery (CGI) in The Polar Express demonstrated the pitfalls that relying on technology can bring.

After viewing these lectures, the Academy Award categories for Editing, Cinematography, Sound Design, and more suddenly take on a whole new meaning. You’ll go into movies with a new eye for detail and a deeper appreciation for the nuances and minutiae that create the bigger experience.



Slap Adam Sandler’s name on the trailer and chances are the movie will earn millions, regardless of plot, story, editing, or any of the other components that make great movies. And sometimes, that’s all filmmakers do. While marketable and financially successful, those movies are rarely great.

Professor Williams spends several lectures delving into characters, actors, and relationships.
Examining established archetypes and character types; sprinkling in Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and the psychology of a story; and looking at the vital role of the antagonist, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of how characters are built, what their purpose is in a story, and why different characters behave the way they do.

Some of the fascinating insights Professor Williams provides about characters include:

  • The surprising way directors will intentionally cast stars for or against their expected “type” to reinforce or subvert our preconceived expectations.
  • An antagonist is vital to every movie, no matter what the genre. However, the antagonist is not always a villain. He can be a friend, an organization, a stranger, an animal, an environment, or even the protagonist himself.
  • All great villains are a distorted reflection of the hero.
  • Supporting characters represent the hearts and souls of main characters and are essential to revealing what the main characters are not.


Meta Movie Making

One of the best components of How to View and Appreciate Great Movies is that this course about how movies are produced is a production in and of itself. Professor Williams takes a fun, tongue-in-cheek approach, often breaking the fourth wall, revealing tricks of the trade, and drawing parallels between filming a movie and filming the course.

Relaxed, engaging, self-deprecating, and charmingly personal, Professor Williams invites you into the set and his views with humor and warmth. You’ll feel as if he were personally watching each movie with you and guiding you through the components of what made it great.   

The information you take away from the course is invaluable to enhancing your appreciation of films and is presented in a way that is easy to adapt into your own viewing habits. You’ll find yourself not only watching movies in a completely new way, but reviewing and talking about them from an entirely new and better-informed perspective.

Professor Williams often refers to filmmaking as a kind of magic trick—an illusion. And once you
understand the trick, pull back the curtain, and go backstage—behind the camera, inside the script—to see the creative process from the filmmaker’s point of view, the magic show can
never be the same again. Knowing that no decision made in the film process is arbitrary and every component is engineered to maintain control and manipulate your reactions can feel like it might ruin your movie-going experience, but as you’ll discover, it simply strengthens your love for what’s unfolding before your eyes and gives you a new set of creative and analytical tools to bring with you to the movies.

Roger Ebert once said, “Every great film should seem new every time you see it” and that’s exactly what How to View and Appreciate Great Movies ensures.

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Art of the Silver Screen
    Professor Williams introduces his passion for film by explaining exactly what experience he wants to capture—what makes movies magic for him. He provides a brief history of movies and foreshadows elements of the course that he will be digging deeper into including music, framing, and the three-act structure, tying the whole thing together by familiarizing you with what he considers one of the most important movie elements: tension. x
  • 2
    We All Need Another Hero: Universal Stories
    Professor Williams introduces you to the story of a young hero, living a boring life on a small farm. Through extreme circumstances, the hero is whisked off on a journey through new lands full of strange and colorful characters, and introduced to a dangerous foe. The hero rises to various challenges, finds friends, and ultimate defeats the bad guy in a neat, happy ending. This is Professor Williams’s favorite movie. Is it Star Wars? Is it The Wizard of Oz? Uncover the foundation of Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” and explore how this plot device shows up in many seemingly unrelated films and genres. x
  • 3
    Movie Genre: It's Not What You Think
    Begin this lecture with a challenge: How many film genres are there? Professor Williams spends this lecture introducing you to the definitive list of genres based on what happens in the film and how the movie makes you feel, not an arbitrary and generalized category. Diving deeply into the meanings and examples of movie genres can help you better define what you look for and love. As for the actual number of film genres Professor Williams has established? You'll have to watch the lecture to find out the answer. x
  • 4
    Genre Layers and Audience Expectations
    Become familiar with three simple variations of film genre: super genre, macrogenres, and microgenres. Professor Williams will further break down each by filtering in three important variables: atmosphere, character, and story. He'll discern the difference between a heist film and an escape film, explain how the characters with whom your sympathies lay often define the genre you are viewing, and show how one movie can encapsulate multiple macro- and microgenres, with each additional label changing your expectations. x
  • 5
    Popcorn Can Wait: Story Shape and Tension
    Professor Williams introduces the relationship between story shape and story rhythm. By presenting the shape for several genres—and you may be surprised to see he presents actual, recognizable shapes—you start to see the rhythm for your story and rhythms are essentially a pattern. To keep us coming back, sometimes filmmakers break the rhythm, while at other times they present the same pattern out of order. Characters, dialogue, and plot all play a part. But ultimately, building tension is the thing that keeps us in our seats and coming back. x
  • 6
    Themes on Screen
    Examine the concept of theme through a spectrum of approaches ranging from traditional filmmakers who believe that their role is to be part educator, philosopher, or theologian and the non-traditional filmmakers who often present messy and contradictory situations or characters without moralizing, lecturing, or judging. Professor Williams then layers on the method of storytelling chosen to present the movie theme—active vs. didactic vs. both, creating a matrix upon which he breaks down and plots several popular movies to help illustrate what the theme is and to determine when and how the theme will make its way into the film. x
  • 7
    Paradigm Shift: Citizen Kane and Casablanca
    Looking at two iconic films that make up the yin and yang of filmmaking—Casablanca and Citizen Kane—Professor Williams looks at the historical context, the important elements, and the lasting influence these films have made on every component of movie making over the last 75 years. As Professor Williams breaks down Casablanca, you’ll better understand the three factors that made this movie an instant classic, suitable for repeat viewing: the characters, the theme, and the ending. With Citizen Kane, he’ll introduce you to seven groundbreaking film techniques that changed movies forever. x
  • 8
    The Language of Visual Storytelling
    Learn how to look at film as you might study a painting. Professor Williams opens by explaining how visual literacy is based upon at least four central factors: color, space, line, and shapes. He then delves into the distinct camera moves and how each pan, zoom, and dolly brings you a different view and impression of what you're seeing. Using classically, beautifully shot movies such as Blow Up, American Beauty, Jaws, and others, you'll examine framing and filming constructs such as the rule of thirds" and point of interest." x
  • 9
    Building Screen Space: Blocking and Framing
    On a basic level, blocking is the way that characters interact in a space. Framing is the way in which the blocking is captured by a camera. It seems foolproof, so it's hard to believe what a subconscious impact it can have when done well. Professor Williams explains how both framing and blocking can be broken down into the elements of lines and shape and scale. Using a plethora of examples including The Wizard of Oz, The Manchurian Candidate, Good Will Hunting, and others, you'll explore what sorts of messages good blocking and framing can send. x
  • 10
    The Cutting Room Floor: Powerful Editing
    What happens in an editing booth is a mystery to many of us. Professor Williams illuminates this complex and vital process, introducing the three stages of editing and delving into how an editor removes, inserts, and organizes hours and hours of footage into a comprehensive, visually literate film that resonates with the audience. Looking at movies including Roshomon, Slumdog Millionaire, The Godfather II, Reservoir Dogs, and more, you'll explore examples of how editing can visually manipulate us, while setting the tone, pace, and thematic intention of the movie. x
  • 11
    Sound Design and Acoustic Illusion
    Professor Williams introduces you to the four approaches to film sound, provides eye-opening (or perhaps “ear-opening”) insights into where the sound made a scene memorable in films such as The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Hurt Locker, and how tuning us into what our character hears provides us with more than just background noise. x
  • 12
    Setting the Scene: Masterful Set Design
    Dive into Apollo 13, The Shining, Room, Clockwork Orange, and more, to discover how props and set design can set a story up, introduce the characters, and provide clues about what to expect before the first line of dialogue has been spoken. Professor Williams demonstrates how the evolution or degradation of the set and props can often act as a mirror to the character's mental state. x
  • 13
    Special Effects in the 20th Century
    In the first of two lectures focused on the gamut of special effects from puppets to AI, you'll learn the history and the science behind the magic we see and believe. Professor Williams unpacks the two types of special effects, complete with plenty of examples, and teases what two movies he believes are among the greatest special effects movies of all time. x
  • 14
    Special Effects in the 21st Century
    You’ll go behind the scenes to discover the different ways stars interact with characters who don’t exist and the details that need to be captured—such as the correct angle of a non-existent sun reflection—when nothing you are filming is real. Plus, Professor Williams reveals his two picks for greatest special effects movie, and we’re pretty sure you’ll be surprised when you hear them. x
  • 15
    Scoring the Story: Music in Film
    Music tells a story and in film, it serves to continue or enhance the story you are watching via what you are hearing. Whether diegetic or non-diegetic, Professor Williams demonstrates how music becomes a motif or a leitmotif, acting as a guide for our subconscious attention, escorting us from scene to scene, or carrying us across continents, providing emotional cues and setting the stage for what to expect. Using examples from Jaws, Rocky, Star Wars and more, he demonstrates how just like with every other facet of moviemaking, filmmakers can use a score to adhere to—or subvert—your expectations. x
  • 16
    Color and Light: Elements of Atmosphere
    Superficially, color and light add to a film’s aesthetic qualities, but Professor Williams will show you color and light can be used to tell a deeper story—emotionally and intellectually. Looking at a variety of films that make creative use of color and light, including Do The Right Thing, The Life of Pi, The Martian, and Schindler’s List, you’ll become familiar with a foundation of 12 hues, six color schemes, four characteristics of light, and three ways to use light—as well as what each means and how various combinations can alter how the audience sees the movie (literally and figuratively). x
  • 17
    Knowing Characters from the Inside Out
    Professor Williams introduces the use of masks: public, private, and personal. He demonstrates that as characters pull each one off, we get to know them (and connect with them) better. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Imitation Game provide contrasting studies in the way the masks are used to reveal characters, and more importantly, to help you discern their motivation—What a character wants and what the character is willing to do to get it. Once the motivation is clear, the complexities of the character can be as well. x
  • 18
    Knowing Characters from the Outside In
    Professor Williams challenges you to read the screenplay of a movie you haven’t seen yet as if you were a detective, gleaning what you can about the plot, characters, and relationships simply from the word choices. Through a reading of Lean on Me, Professor Williams introduces you to the things you can learn about a character from what he or she says and what he or she portrays—or doesn’t say. x
  • 19
    Secondary Characters and Supporting Actors
    Thelma and Louise, The Godfather, and Barton Fink provide the backdrop for an expansive consideration of how supporting roles are used to influence our opinion of the protagonist. Professor Williams explores the idea that by pushing, reacting, and reflecting, the secondary characters define motive and reveal what the main characters are not. They represent the hearts and souls of our main characters. x
  • 20
    Star Power: Lead Actors and Their Roles
    Professor Williams acknowledges he can't tell you how an actor does what he or she does, but through this lecture he helps you appreciate the nuance that goes into acting as he breaks down the role of an actor. As you travel through Psycho, Get Out, The Thin Red Line, Rounders, and others, you discover what actors do (or should do) to prepare for roles and the pressure to portray believability. x
  • 21
    Character Relationships and Audience Empathy
    How relationships work is complex enough in reality. Professor Williams uses Precious and The Piano, and sprinkles in theories from Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, to illustrate how relationships are established, how the relationships work, and how they create tension in film. Examining established archetypes and character types, Professor Williams shows you how easy it is to make movies predictable and how objective and intention can help subvert expectations. x
  • 22
    Pathways to Great Antagonists
    Discover how a great villain is created and that a villain and an antagonist are not the same. Professor Williams demonstrates how all great villains are a distorted reflection of the hero, through movies including The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, The Silence of the Lambs, and Rocky. He unpacks why the antagonist may not always be bad, but must be present. Additionally, you'll explore the four thematic groupings (pathways) and how the protagonist and antagonist are utilized in each. x
  • 23
    Point of View in Script and on Screen
    As the lens through which the audience views the story, the point of view a movie takes can truly enhance your appreciation for how stories in movies can be told. Professor Williams reveals the decision trees that come with crafting the point of view, starting with three central questions. Using Annie Hall, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Sherlock Holmes, No Country for Old Men, and more, you get a handle on how to decipher the POV and the reason behind it, adding a whole new dimension to your enjoyment of the story. x
  • 24
    Filmmaker's Voice and Audience Choice
    After breaking down the filmmaker’s voice into six central parts, Professor Williams demonstrates how the audience itself—specifically our expectations—can play a key role in voice. Looking at films such as Anomolisa, The Artist, When Harry Met Sally, and others, you’ll see why it is what the filmmaker chooses to say with their voice that is important. Professor Williams also provides a list of five ways audiences can be made uncomfortable, reveals what a movie can tell you about itself in the first 10 minutes, and introduces three movies you’ve probably never heard of, but shouldn’t miss. x

Lecture Titles

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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 203-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 203-page printed course guidebook
  • Films Referenced by Lecture
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Eric Williams

About Your Professor

Eric Williams, M.F.A.
Ohio University
Eric R. Williams is a Professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University, where he teaches courses on screenwriting, film, and virtual reality production. He is also the director of the MFA in Communication Media Arts program at Ohio University. Professor Williams received his bachelor’s degree in Communication with a minor in Education from Northwestern University, and he earned his Master of Fine Arts...
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How to View and Appreciate Great Movies is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 55.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Movie aversion therapy The course was a major disappointment. We had hoped for insights into film techniques with clips and stills from great movies. Instead, we ran afoul of the Teaching Company's aversion or inability to pay for reproduction rights (witness the course on the history of Broadway musicals that includes no song examples after 1927). How can you distribute a course on appreciating movies with no examples of movies? Instead, we are given primitive and slightly creepy CGI static illustrations that are supposed to represent scenes from the movies discussed. Also not helpful: Prof. Williams fills time with rambling discussions of his pet theories (e.g., how many movie genres are there?).
Date published: 2019-10-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Filmmaking from a Screenwriter's Perspective Although the lecturer (Eric Williams) has both directed films and written screenplays, his predominant experience is in writing film scripts and it shows in the elements of this course, i.e., there's a much greater emphasis on (generic) storytelling than on visual storytelling. If you're an aspiring screenwriter, this course could be very appropriate for you, but my interest in films and in the appreciation of them is more from behind the camera (director, cinematographer, etc.) and thus I was a bit disappointed with the mix of lectures. The lectures place a lot of emphasis on storytelling "rules," tension ascension and dissipation, and "character arcs," much of it quite interesting, but also reminding me that too many films are criticized for having "formulaic" scripts (you can early on roughly tell how the plot is going to build and then resolve). I was also disappointed with the virtual absence of film clips to illustrate aspects of filmmaking and film art. I've taken numerous music courses from The Great Courses where the lecturer tells us what to listen for, and then we hear a piece of music and listen to it with more understanding. Perhaps the copyright laws are too onerous and would have made this course too expensive, or perhaps use of film clips would have displaced too much lecture time. Instead, we get cardboard figures and artwork to simulate film examples. On the other hand, I appreciated the fact that the lecturer ends almost every lecture with a quote from (the deceased) Roger Ebert, a film critic we apparently both admire, and one whose reviews I continue to eagerly read. In addition, Mr. Williams makes a good point that CGI is too often used to retain the viewers' interest rather than to extend the story. He further observes that current filmmaking increasingly uses shorter scenes (from 4 to 2 minutes on average) and with shorter shots within those scenes (more cuts and editing); these developments he seems to view unfavorably for their effect on storytelling. Mr. Williams is a genial lecturer and uses a fair amount of humor, most of which, unfortunately, escaped me. He's fairly broadminded in his rendering of opinions, but he made three assertions that I'd like to challenge in ending this review: (1) He says screenwriters fundamentally differ from novelists in that they provide no "interior monologues." Can't voice-over narration simulate an actor's thoughts? (2) He lists 11 "Super-Genres" without including Comedy, which is not even included among his 50 "Macro-Genres." I don't understand Comedy's omission or under what category he's including comedies. (3) He asserts that "The Imitation Game" about Alan Turing and his British WW II code breakers is a "crime" film rather than a "war" film, presumably because it ends with Turing's criminal prosecution for homosexuality. About 90% of the film deals with the crucial aspects of WW II military intelligence so his classification escapes me. But then, movies are fun to argue about!
Date published: 2019-08-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good information, but presentation is stilted I have watched over half of this course so far. The information content is high but the presentation lacks video examples. Most explanations all just talking or still images, and very few from the movies being described. They are mostly recreated storyboards. What this course is screaming for—but doesn’t provide—is examples using actual footage from the movies that are discussed. I realize that it may be expensive to get movie rights licensing and costly in terms of time and editing, but to have a course presented on video format about the movie industry and not use video examples as teaching tools is so contrary to good teaching practices. This course should be re-edited with video examples from the actual movies being described, rather than just static talk
Date published: 2019-08-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst TGC course I've seen Anyone expecting this to include clips from the movies discussed will be disappointed. I have over 100 courses and this ranks at or near the bottom. Worthless.
Date published: 2019-07-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Movies, great presentation, poor packaging Bought this for my wife. Both of us enjoyed it (although we now find ourselves picking up on the cinematographer's techniques!). But I felt the need to downgrade by one star because of the poor packaging. The DVDs were "stacked" on top of each other...making it difficult to handle.
Date published: 2019-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thorough and well done. Took me forever to finish because he inspired to watch so many movies!
Date published: 2019-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title accurately reflected the subject matter. I was initially put off by the instructor's gimmicky use of old movie props and his use of "the late great Roger Ebert" quotes to summarize the lectures. Then I began to warm to both. (I always used RE reviews to make movie viewing decisions.) Also, I am not a fan of Joseph Campbell's "hero journey" method of deconstructing stories. So when he started the lecture series w/this I rolled my eyes. The series took off after that and I really liked his explanations regarding genre, POV, etc. The series as a whole and lecturer were excellent and gave me several good ideas for my own writing. I would recommend this course highly to anyone that enjoys movies or is in the industry.
Date published: 2019-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great topic, but only partially successful I love movies, and talking and reading about movies, and movie trivia. Never having had any formal instruction in the science, techniques, and history of film, I ordered this course with great expectations—a chance to get some real academic infrastructure for my avocational interest. But while its scope and goals are right on target, and the instructor is a good teacher who definitely knows his stuff, the course left me unsatisfied in several respects. Chief among these was its lack of illustration and example, in a field that relies fundamentally on the visual and the auditory. While Professor Williams cites and discusses many films in addressing each topic (the course booklet lists over 400 movie citations in the 24 lectures, although many of them are duplicates), we don’t get to actually see excerpts or even stills from them. Most likely this reflects copyright restrictions, and it’s OK for some topics—discussions of movie genres, character development, heroes and villains, etc—but much more problematic when it comes to teaching us about such things as cinematography, sound design, color and light, and special effects. In those areas it was like watching a lecture on the Mona Lisa that went into detail on Leonardo’s brush techniques, background effects, perspective, and framing without our ever being able to see the actual painting being discussed. As the course progressed this was less an issue with the cited movies I knew well (maybe half of them), but increasingly problematic for unfamiliar ones, leaving me a bit dissatisfied. I won’t comment on the ersatz CGI and skits put together on the set in an effort to make up for this problem, except to say that, for me, they definitely fell short. However, my wife thought the introductory sequence for the lectures—both visual and sound—was the most original of any of the 100+ courses we’ve watched, and I agree.
Date published: 2019-05-29
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