Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in Film

Minari. A24. 29 June 2022, https://a24films.com/films/minari

If you were to watch films from ten years ago, you would notice little to no representation of Asian American and Pacific Islander in films made and/or distributed in the United States. Apart from Studio Ghibli or martial arts films, Asian media was not mainstream. As film studios begin to pay more attention to ethnic diversity, Asian American films are becoming mainstream and anime, which was once a niche genre, has been mainstreamed as well. Here are five films to celebrate not only the increased visibility of AAPI-heritage actors and directors, but the wider range of stories and characters available for viewers to enjoy.

Minari

Written and directed by Lee Issac Chung, Minari is an autobiographical movie about a South Korean family who immigrated to the rural United States in the 1980s to start a farm, which is the dream of its patriarch, Jacob. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. IMDb.com. 29 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4shx

Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. In addition to well-choreographed action sequences featuring both men and women fighters, the film has magical beasts. And though in some ways it is a typical hero’s journey, the complex family and community relationships in the story go further than many prior films in challenging stereotypes.

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians. IMDb.com. 29 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4sht

Set in modern times, the movie follows Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nick Young who return to Nick’s home country of Singapore for his best friend’s marriage. While in Singapore, Rachel’s Chinese-American heritage is scrutinized by Nick’s old-Chinese thinking.

Moana

Moana. IMDb.com. 29 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4shu

An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.

Abominable

Abominable. IMDb.com. 29 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4shv

After discovering a Yeti on the roof of her apartment building, teenage Yi and her two friends embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family. But to do so, they must stay one step ahead of a wealthy financier and a determined zoologist who wants to capture the beast for their own gain.

Do you have a favorite recent film featuring Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander actors, stories, or characters? Let us know in the comments, and if you are so inclined, please share why it is appealing and/or important to you! RW

Student blogger Richard Wu began working in Media Services in 2021. Richard is a pianist, and his focus at Indiana University is music. This is his second Media Beat blog post.

Six Black TV and Film Composers Everyone Should Know

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Quincy Jones. Digital image. YARN. 10 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9y

In honor of African American Music Appreciation Month, we at Media Services have put together a list of six Black film and TV composers every film and music enthusiast should know. This list is in no particular order and focuses primarily on artists who are known for writing film scores, so musicians like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, who certainly contributed to film but are better known for their work in jazz, will be excluded.

Michael Abels

Michael Abels. © Eric Schwabel.  Digital Image.  Hewlett Foundation. 2 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9A

Michael Abels discovered his love for music at a young age, starting to compose at age 8 and completing his first piece for orchestra at 13. He later attended the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and studied West African drumming at the California Institute for the Arts. He has worked extensively with Jordan Peele and is best known for his score for the film Get Out (2017).  He also collaborated with Peele on Us (2019) and Nope, which is set to release later this year. Other projects Abels has worked on include Netflix films See You Yesterday (2019), All Day and a Night (2020), and Nightbooks (2021), as well as the films Bad Education (2020) and 892 (2022). Besides film scores, Abels has also written his fair share of classical works, including a ballet entitled Falling Sky (2020) and the opera Omar. His best-known orchestral work, Global Warming (1991), has been performed by orchestras around the country. He is also a co-founder of the Composers Diversity Collective and is currently the Director of Music for the New Roads School in Santa Monica.

Terence Blanchard

Oscars 2019. Digital Image. Wikipedia. 2 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9z

Like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington before him, Terence Blanchard got his start in jazz.  Also like Miles Davis, Blanchard plays the trumpet. His first major gigs as a professional musician had him touring with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and performing with The Jazz Messengers. But while his career may have started with jazz, he soon made a name for himself writing for film, collaborating frequently with Spike Lee. Many of these projects included films such as Malcom X (1992), Clockers (1995), Summer of Sam (1999), 25th Hour (2002), and Inside Man (2006), as well as many other films from other filmmakers. He is best known for his scores for the critically acclaimed Spike Lee films, BlacKkKlansman (2018), and Da 5 Bloods (2020), both of which earned him Oscar nominations. Even with his success in film, Blanchard never gave up his love for jazz, and has received many accolades for his work. From 2000 to 2011 he was the artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz before taking a similar post at the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami. In 2015 he was a visiting scholar in jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music, and in 2019 he took on the Endowed Chair of Jazz Studies position at UCLA. In 2019 he also completed his opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which the Metropolitan Opera performed for their 2021-2022 season. It was the first opera by an African American composer the Met has performed in the history of the organization.

Kathryn Bostic

Kathryn Bostic.  Digital Image.  APM Music. 2 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9I

Kathryn Bostic is a name that doesn’t receive quite as much recognition as the previous two entries, as many of her projects are a bit lower profile. She has scored several different documentaries (making up the bulk of her work), including the critically acclaimed Toni Morrison:  The Pieces I Am (2019), for which she received an Emmy nomination. She also wrote and performed the documentary’s song “High Above the Water.” Other projects Bostic worked on include Clemency (2019), Dear White People (2014), the TV series Women of the Movement (2022) and other documentaries Who We Are:  A Chronicle of Racism in America (2021), and Amy Tan:  Unintended Memoir (2021), for which she received another Emmy nomination. She is currently working on another documentary, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. Bostic has also written for Broadway, collaborating with playwright August Wilson on both Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf. She also wrote the music for Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. While Bostic may not be as well-known as some of the others on this list, her contributions are no less valuable. She was the first female African American composer to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and from 2016 to 2018 she served as the vice president of the Alliance for Women Film Composers.

Kris Bowers

Kris Bowers. © Molly Cranna. Digital Image. NPR. 2 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9K

Kris Bowers got his start as a pianist, taking lessons at a young age. While attending the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, he began to study jazz piano, and later went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in jazz performance from Juilliard. Bowers soon started performing in high-profile projects in a variety of genres, and in 2011 he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. He got started writing for film by scoring documentaries, the first of which was a film called Elaine Stritch:  Shoot Me (2013). He went on to write music for Kobe Bryant’s Muse (2015), I Am Giant (2015), Play It Forward (2015), and Norman Lear:  Just Another Version of You. He also scored the film Little Boxes (2016) and contributed to the television shows Religion of Sports (2016) and Dear White People (2014). In 2017 he won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Musical Direction and Composition for his work on Amazon’s Christmas Special The Snowy Day (2017). His first big project was the film Green Book (2018), for which he wrote the score and acted as piano teacher for Mahershala Ali as well as standing in for some close-up piano scenes. From there, Bowers went on to work on other high-profile projects such as TV series When They See Us (2019) and Bridgerton (2020), as well as films The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021), Space Jam:  A New Legacy (2021), Respect (2021), and King Richard (2021). Bowers is also currently working with Disney on Haunted Mansion, which is set to release March of 2023.

Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones. © Ian Spanier. Digital Image. NPR. 2 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9L

More of an up-and-coming artist than some of our previous entries, composer Amanda Jones is starting to make waves in the entertainment industry. She earned a BA in Music from Vassar College where she studied composition, music production, and classical guitar, and earned certificates in film scoring and orchestration from Berklee College of Music. With the intention of starting a career in music production, Jones worked as a music production assistant for big-name film composers Hans Zimmer, Henry Jackson, and John Powell. In 2018, Jones tried her hand at composing for film with her first feature, One Angry Black Man. She has since gone on to write for numerous TV series, short films, and feature films.  She was the first African American woman to be nominated for an Emmy for Best Score for her work on the Apple TV+ series, Home (2020), and she helped co-found the Composers Diversity Collective. Besides writing for film and TV, Jones also plays guitar with her LA indie rock band, The Anti-Job. We have no doubt that we’ll be seeing much more from Amanda Jones in the near future, so make sure to keep her on your radar.

Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones.  © Canadian Film Center.  Digital Image.  Wikipedia. 2 June 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4r9M

This next entry on our list is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Amanda Jones.  Over his impressive 70-year-long career, he has earned 80 Grammy nominations—28 of which he won—a Grammy Legend Award, two honorary doctorates—one from Berklee College of Music and one from the London Royal Academy of Music—the National Medal of Arts, awarded to him by President Barack Obama, and has been recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors. He has worked as a jazz arranger, conductor, performer, record producer, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. He has collaborated with legends like Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few, and is one of three composers besides John Williams to score a Stephen Spielberg film. Quincy Jones has inarguably become one of the most influential black figures in the entertainment industry and his work speaks for itself. While that work spans a variety of mediums, his film scores are often overlooked. Some of these include scores for films such as The Italian Job (1969), In the Heat of the Night (1967), In Cold Blood (1967), They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970), and Stephen Spielberg’s critically acclaimed The Color Purple (1985), for which Jones received an Oscar nomination.  All of these accolades and achievements only represent a fraction of the legacy Quincy Jones has left in his wake and there is no doubt that he has left a mark on the entertainment industry that will never be erased.

Did we miss any of your favorite black film and television composers?  Make sure to let us know in the comments. KE

Kathryn Edom is a composer and aspiring music librarian going into her second year of IU’s MLS (Library Sciences) program. She previously attended Sacramento State University and University of Oregon where she received her BM and MM (respectively) in music composition. On top of her courses, she currently juggles three different library jobs, and in her limited spare time, enjoys reading, writing music, playing Animal Crossing, and watching Oregon football. Kathryn has been a Media Services part-time staff member since 2021.

5 Must-Plays in the Video Game Collection’s New Additions

A bunch of new video games have arrived in Media Services! From childhood classics like Yoshi’s Island DS to modern hits like Spider-Man Miles Morales, there is something for everyone to play. Our department has an array of systems available (except PS5) to loan for in-department use, so not having a system is not a problem!

Elden Ring (PS5)

Elden Ring. gamestop.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qDp

Top Review → All things considered, Elden Ring is a crowning achievement for FromSoftware but also for gaming. It takes the overused open world formula and flips it with a focus on exploration and freedom. It eliminates those limiting markers and quest objectives which every game since The Witcher 3 has used and that have really dampened the open world formula. For a game all about tradition, with its fantasy aesthetic and kings or rulers, it is amazing that Elden Ring breaks the mold and tradition by making such a compelling and intriguing experience. Once the bugs have been ironed out, there is no doubt in my mind that Elden Ring will be looked upon as one of the best games ever created despite the difficulty. It will be looked upon as a genre defining classic. (Elden Ring. psxextreme.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEC)

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (WiiU)

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. zelda.fandom.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEE

Top Review → Some fondly remembered game designs have aged poorly, but if I didn’t know that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker came out 10 years ago on GameCube, it would be easy to believe that this HD re-release was a brand-new Wii U game. That’s how well this classic action adventure game holds up. (Here’s our original Wind Waker review from way back in 2003.) Its admirable longevity stems from excellent combat, charming characters, fun side-quests, inventive dungeons, one of the series’ best stories, and a cel-shaded art style that, while divisive, still looks great. For the re-release, Nintendo made very smart decisions about what to update and what to leave alone. (The Legend of Zelda: The WindWaker HD. ign.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qED

Metroid Dread (Switch)

Metroid Dread. amazon.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEF

Top Review → Metroid Dread first turned up in 2005 – it even got a name drop in a terminal in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. In many ways, the re-announced, presumably reworked Metroid Dread of 2021 feels like that 2D-ish Metroid game we should have gotten 16 years ago, following two masterpiece Metroid games, Zero Mission and Prime. It’s not often we get to say this about a game that emerges from more than a decade of development purgatory, but the wait has been worth it: The epic delay allows Metroid Dread to use the Switch’s power to greatly improve on what could have been accomplished on previous Nintendo systems, and makes the supposed conclusion to Metroid’s mainline story something of a grand finale. (Metroid Dread Review. ign.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEG)

Untitled Goose Game (PS4)

Untitled Goose Game. amazon.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEI

Top Review → The thing about Untitled Goose game, for me anyway, is the fact it is so original. It is not very often you get a truly original video game idea and if Untitled Goose game is anything, it is certainly that. Everybody who plays gets to live out their fantasy of just being an absolute nuisance. It’s very liberating, a lot of fun and truly unique. (Untitled Goose Game. thedigitalfix.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEJ)

Pokemon Legends: Arceus (Switch)

Pokemon Legends Arceus. amazon.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEK

Top Review → If you’re a fan of Pokémon, then you ought to pick this game up. I often got distracted from the main storyline simply because I was having so much fun discovering, battling, and capturing Pokémon. The Alpha Pokémon especially gave me something to work towards as I strove to fill my party with enormous creatures. I never missed the gyms or standard format of previous Pokémon games. This one stands on its own and provides the modern Pokémon RPG experience we’ve waited too long to play. (Pokemon Legends Arceus Review. imore.com. 22 April 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4qEK

Check out these other new arrivals too!

  • Switch
    • Pokemon Brilliant Diamond 
    • Pokemon Shining Pearl
    • Pokemon: Lets Go, Eevee!
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
    • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
    • Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
    • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
    • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
    • Pikmin 3 Deluxe
  • 3DS & DS
    • Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash
    • Yoshi’s New Island
    • Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses 
    • Yoshi’s Island DS
  • Xbox One / Xbox 360
    • Fallout 3
  • PS4
    • Katamari Damacy Reroll
    • Red Dead Redemption 2
    • It Takes Two
    • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • PS5
    • Spiderman: Miles Morales
    • Elden Ring

Student blogger Kate Naughton is a Media Services student staff member who joined us in 2021. She is studying marketing. Kate is an avid gamer and has undertaken a number of special projects related to Media’s video game collections.

‘Tis the Season for Jazz

Photo credits L to R: Lionel Hampton. Hot Jazz. https://go.iu.edu/4pSt; Dexter Gordon. Dexter Blows Hot and Cool, https://go.iu.edu/4pSu; Sarah Vaughan. Hot Jazz. https://go.iu.edu/4pSv. All photos accessed 06 May 2022.

Jazz is one of the few musical genres that originated in the US. The Jazz Age began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in New Orleans. The pioneers of this genre were the African-American community in New Orleans during that era. Artists like Buddy Bolden, Scott Joplin, and Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton blended the rhythmic style of West African music with the harmonies of European music to create the unique sound jazz is known for (the process was much more complex and nuanced, of course, but this generalization captures the basics). The genre then rose to global prominence and further evolved into a magnitude of subgenres, such as Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz (aka Cu-bop), Cool Jazz, and Free Jazz. All the subgenres, however, still included the two fundamental aspects of jazz music: improvisation and tradition.

Improvisation

A hallmark of the jazz genre, improvisation is believed to have been influenced by blues and folk music, which themselves originated in the work songs sung by enslaved Africans during forced labor on US plantations. Improvisation by performers was also a standard feature of the Baroque and Romantic eras of Western classical music. As a musical technique, improvisation highlights the performers themselves rather than a song’s composer by creating a completely unique performance: a defining feature of jazz is that a song never gets played exactly the same way twice. Improvisational freedom allows for the creativity and skills of musicians to be at the forefront of performances by transforming the music as the artist sees fit. Although to some this may sound like random noise, even chaos, only the most dedicated, accomplished performers can create the type of sophisticated solos, improvised in real time, that represent the height of jazz artistry. In other words, it isn’t easy: they just make it look that way.

Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and Gerry Mulligan. The Sound of Jazz. 06 May 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4pSE

Jazz is an important part of American History, a fact that prompted the designation of April as Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) by the Louisiana Jazz Federation in New Orleans in 1980. In 2001, JAM was elevated to a nationally recognized observance through the efforts of John Hasse, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Since then, national celebrations have paid tribute to past and present jazz musicians as well as the rich history of jazz itself. If you missed the opportunity to immerse yourself in jazz during the busy month of April, consider treating yourself to a summer celebration of our national genre. We have curated a list of jazz-related films, from biopics to romance movies to comedies, that celebrate the history of jazz and explore the themes and traditions of the genre in film. We hope you will agree: any season is the perfect season for jazz!

Mo’ Better Blues (1990)

Film Poster. Digital Image. IMDb. https://go.iu.edu/4pSW

Musical comedy/drama Mo’ Better Blues is about the career and life of the character Bleek Gilliam, a jazz musician. Bleak is the trumpeter of a very successful jazz band, The Bleek Quintet, with his childhood friend Giant working as the band’s manager. Throughout the film, Bleek tries to solve the issues he created both in his personal and professional life due to his own questionable decision-making skills.

Bird (1988)

Film Poster. Digital Image. Amazon. https://go.iu.edu/4pSX

Bird is a biopic film following the life and untimely death of the legendary jazz musician Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker. Bird jumps between montages of Parker’s life from his early childhood to his death at the age of 34, blending his personal history with his wife, bandmates, and friends, with his career as an influential jazz musician.

All Night Long (1962)

Film Poster. Digital Image. IMDb. https://go.iu.edu/4pT5

All Night Long is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello, set in the 1960s’ London jazz club circuit. The film follows the musical couple Aurelius Rex, a jazz musician, and Delia, a retired singer, at their one-year anniversary party thrown by the wealthy socialite and jazz aficionado Rod Hamilton. Trouble arrives for the happy couple in the form of aspiring jazz drummer Johnny Cousin, the retelling’s version of the Iago character from the original Othello. Johnny sets forth with an elaborate scheme to break the couple up and jump-start his own career. The night turns eventful in unplanned ways as everything for everyone begins to unravel. All Night Long was directed by Basil Dearden.

Chico & Rita (2010)

Film Poster. Digital Image. IMDb. https://go.iu.edu/4pT6

Chico & Rita follows the titular characters through the late 1940s to the early 1950s. The romance between Chico, a piano player, and Rita, a singer, begins in Cuba in 1948, when Chico sees Rita perform and falls in love with her and her enchanting voice. He then gets an opportunity to play piano for an upcoming performance of hers and leaps at the chance to finally meet Rita. Their love of jazz music and their romantic desire for one another set the stage for a tumultuous romance across their successes, failures, and all the life in between. This animated film was directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, and Tono Errando.

Miles Ahead (2015)

Film Poster. Digital Image. IMDb. https://go.iu.edu/4pT8

A biopic on jazz musician Miles Davis, Miles Ahead is an adaptation of Davis’ life after ending his career due to health, personal, and drug problems. The story starts with an interview being done by fictional reporter Dave Braden, who wants to learn Davis’ story. The interview sparks a desire in Davis to return to his musical career and redeem himself in the eyes of the public, his wife, and himself.

Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) (1958)

Film Poster. Digital Image. Wikipedia. https://go.iu.edu/4pT9

Businessman Julien has fallen in love with his boss’s wife, Florence Carala. Julien and Florence make plans to murder her husband, Simon Carala, and make it look like a suicide so that they can run away together. Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly to plan when a stopped elevator causes a series of unfortunate events for the couple. Ascenseur pour l’echafaud is a romantic crime spree of chaos as the two secret lovers do everything they can to avoid the consequences of their actions. The score is one of many famous jazz film soundtracks of the era.

The Aristocats (1970)

Film Poster. Digital Image. 1stDibs.com. https://go.iu.edu/4pTa

Taking place in 1910s Paris, The Aristocats is a romance between Duchess, the cat of a retired opera star Madame Bonfamille, and Thomas O’Malley, a local street cat. Thomas takes Duchess and her three kittens out to the alley cat jazz scene to appreciate the art of jazz music. Meanwhile, Edgar, the butler for Madame Bonfamille, is upset that he isn’t the primary beneficiary in Madame’s living will, but rather the cats are, and he will only get an inheritance if the cats are removed from the picture. Edgar devises a plan to get rid of the cats, but is thwarted by Thomas and the rest of the alley jazz cats. (Warning: this film contains outdated and insensitive racial/ethnic stereotypes.)

That Thing You Do (1996)

Promotional Image. Digital Image. The Boston Calendar. https://go.iu.edu/4pTb

Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do follows an aspiring jazz drummer, Guy Patterson, as he tries to find a life and career in the music industry. He gets his opportunity when the drummer for the local band The Oneders [pronounced “Wonders”] breaks his arm and they need an emergency replacement for the upcoming talent show. Patterson’s musical style and talent win the competition for the band, prompting a string of successes as well as troubles for the band throughout the film. CR

Student staff blogger Cas Regan is a Junior at IU in the Earth Science B.S. program with a minor Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In addition to classes and working for Media Services, they are also the Co-President of the Beekeeping Club at IU.

Five Movies/TV Shows Featuring Developmental Disabilities

A developmental disability is a condition usually diagnosed during a child’s development, prior to adulthood. Developmental disabilities can impair several areas of development, such as physical, learning, language, and/or behavior. Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month encourages increased awareness of the needs of those with developmental disabilities. The observance, celebrated each year in the month of March, also highlights these citizens’ potentials.

The following are five films and TV shows that feature at least one main character with a developmental disability.

Wonder (2017)

Wonder. IMDb.com. 28 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4pEj

Based on the book of the same title by R.J. Palacio, this 2017 film adaptation features August Pullman, a kid born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Beginning from Auggie’s point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, her
boyfriend, and others, the perspectives converge to form a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump. IMDb.com. 28 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4pEk

In this Oscar-winning picture, Forrest Gump, a gentle soul born in a small Alabama town,
happens into one memorable experience after another through a panorama of American history from the 1950s to the present. Throughout his life, he is supported by his love for Jenny, his childhood friend with whom he shares his lifelong memories.

Of Mice and Men (1992)

Scenes from Of Mice and Men. IMDB.com, 28 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4pEl

Based on the novel by John Steinbeck, in this 1992 film migrant farm workers George (Gary Sinise) and Lennie (John Malkovich) travel together, hoping that one day, when they’ve got enough money saved up, they’ll buy a little place of their own and live off the fat of the land, and Lennie will get to tend the rabbits. Lennie likes soft things: rabbits, mice, puppies. He’s a simpleton, a big powerful child, and soft things excite him. That excitement usually leads to trouble, and that trouble keeps them moving.

Ousama Ranking (Ranking of Kings)/様ランキング (2017)

Ranking of Kings wallpaper. Digital Image. OtakuKart. 4 February 2022. https://go.iu.edu/4pEm

The people of the kingdom look down on the young Prince Bojji, who can neither hear nor speak. They call him “The Useless Prince” while jeering at his supposed foolishness. However, while Bojji may not be physically strong, he is certainly not weak of heart. When a chance encounter with a shadow creature should have left him traumatized, it instead makes him believe that he has found a friend amidst those who only choose to notice his shortcomings. He
starts meeting with Kage, the shadow, regularly, to the point where even the otherwise abrasive creature begins to warm up to him.

Kage and Bojji’s unlikely friendship lays the foundation of the prince’s journey, one where he intends to conquer his fears and insecurities. Despite the constant ridicule he faces, Bojji resolves to fulfill his desire of becoming the best king he can be.

The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Hazel and Gus. The Fault In Our Stars. IMDb.com. 28 March 2922, https://go.iu.edu/4pEo

Based on the book by John Green, this 2014 film adaptation features Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year-old cancer patient, who meets and falls in love with Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a similarly afflicted teen from her cancer support group. Hazel feels that Gus really understands her. They both share the same acerbic wit and a love of books, especially Grace’s touchstone, “An Imperial Affliction” by Peter Van Houten. When Gus scores an invitation to meet the reclusive author, he and Hazel embark on the adventure of their brief lives. RW

Student blogger Richard Wu is a piano performance major in the Jacobs School of Music and has worked as a Media Services desk staff member since 2021.

Do you have a favorite film featuring characters with developmental disabilities? Let us know in the comments! Media Services

Give Nick Cage a Break and Check Out Mandy

With the approaching release and rave reviews of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” generations of movie watchers are finally reconsidering their harsh views on Nicolas Cage. I’m as guilty as anyone of using Nick Cage as the butt of a joke (especially in Cards Against Humanity) but I can say without a doubt that the actor has never given a boring performance. I mean, who doesn’t love a spontaneous Nick Cage outburst or self-referential joke thrown randomly in a drama, romcom, horror, or even sci-fi movie?

If you want to view one Cage’s most shocking movies in recent years, our collection has the perfect film for you: Mandy (2018). Written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is a psychedelic action horror film starring Nick Cage, Andrea Riseborough, and Linus Roache. Set in the Pacific Northwest in 1983, the peaceful lives of Red Miller (Cage) and his girlfriend Mandy (Riseborough) are savagely shattered by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand (Roache) and a group of motorcycle-riding demons. In response, Red brutally takes his revenge on all of those who wronged him. Immerse yourself in this phantasmagoric world, and expect the unexpected!

MANDY - Official Trailer - YouTube
Mandy (2018) Official Poster. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Z4OcDOwyIx8/movieposter.jpg.

Minor spoiler alert: if that description doesn’t pull you in, just know that there’s a chainsaw duel scene.

To be very clear, this movie is not for the faint of heart: it is for true horror, slasher, and occult movie fans. There is a significant amount of gore and brutality that made even a horror fan like myself squeamish. Between forging his own weapons and fighting different forms of evil, Cage embodies rage and revenge like no other. Even with limited dialogue, his performance showcases his ability to make an unsettling scene comedic in the best way.

Mandy (2018) [700 × 1000] by Graham Humphreys : r/MoviePosterPorn
Private commissions – Mandy (2018). Graham Humphreys. (2021, February 12). Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://grahamhumphreys.com/gallery/private-commissions/

Along with the incredibly realistic practical effects and especially entertaining action sequences, the cinematography and editing of this movie really steal the show. The use of primary colors and contrasting hues filtered over the Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses gives a texture and graininess reminiscent of your classic 1970s and 1980s slashers. It creates an immersive experience for viewers that I highly recommend. This unique and gorgeous film gives standard-horror-movie fans like myself a new appreciation for experimental indie and art-house films.

The Last Thing I See: 'Mandy' (2018) Movie Review
McKnight, B. (1970, January 1). ‘mandy’ (2018) Movie Review. The Last Thing I See. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from https://www.thelastthingisee.com/2018/09/mandy-2018-movie-review.html

If horror is not your thing, I still implore you to give Nick Cage another shot. Let yourself be entertained with his unpredictable performances and his ability to never blend into the background of movies. All of his movies may not be Oscar-worthy, but hey, at least they’re entertaining! LS

Student blogger Liz Sheldon joined the Media Services staff in Fall 2021. She hails from Indianapolis and is in her junior year at IU. This is her first blog post for Media Beat.

Selected Nicholas Cage film holdings available via IU Media Services:

Birdy (2014)

World Trade Center (2007)

Windtalkers (2004)

Omnibus, Vinnie Goes To Hollywood (2000) (Nicholas Cage is one of a number of celebrity interviewees who speak about working with English soccer star turned film celebrity Vinnie Jones)

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Wild at Heart (1990)

Raising Arizona (1987)

Moonstruck (1987)

Rumble fish (1983)

Korea Remixed Continues! Eight Recent Korean Films

Outstanding poster art from two recent Korean films. “The Handmaiden and The Wailing Chosen As Two Of The Best Movie Posters From Cannes.” soompi.com. 30 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4lS7

Korean culture has never been more influential or far-reaching, from the Olympic games in Pyeongchang four years ago to the continued spread of K-Pop and Korean cosmetics. The surprising global phenomenon of Squid Game, which became the most watched television show ever on Netflix, occurred simultaneously with the growth in popularity of Korean brands such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. Indiana University is celebrating Korea and its global influence throughout the Spring 2022 semester with the Korea Remixed festival. Involving a wide variety of lectures and events, the focus is on highlighting the interplay between the past and the present in Korea, and the remix of the long past with modern culture and technology. Springing off our blog post in late 2021, Ten TV Shows/Films Similar to Squid Game, published in anticipation of Korea Remixed, we are going to continue the celebration with a closer look at some major Korean cinema hits from the last two decades. 

A brief note about our choices. There are several criteria that are important in evaluating the quality and influence of a movie. Some factors we have considered here are: 1) commercial success in terms of box office sales numbers; 2) critical acclaim in the form of aggregate critic ratings; and 3) popular appeal as gauged by viewer or audience scores, along with total number of reviews. For some movies those factors conflict. In this list we are only looking at films that met the criteria in all three areas. 

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War  [태극기 휘날리며 | Taegukgi Hwinallimyeo], 2004 ‧ War/Drama ‧ 2h 20m 

Action Scene from Taegukgi. Digital Image. PopOptiq. 2 December 2012, https://go.iu.edu/4lS6

A tale of two brothers and the horrors of war directed by Kang Je-gyu. The title of this movie, Taegukgi, is also a name for the flag of South Korea. At the time of its release this was the most successful movie in Korean cinema. Taegukgi stars Jang Dong-Gun as Jin-tae and Won Bin as Jin-seok, brothers in the Lee family living in Seoul, South Korea. Jin-tae shines shoes and tries to save up money to pay for his brother’s college education. But it is the summer of 1950, and the brothers are conscripted into the Korean Army in the aftermath of North Korea’s surprise invasion. Jin-tae’s superiors make him an offer, if he can earn the highest honor of the Korean army, they will send his brother home. But as Jin-tae volunteers for dangerous mission after dangerous mission, will his brother and his family like what he has become? Fans of this film may also enjoy  other Korean films about war, such as Silmido, My Way/마이 웨이 (also directed by Kang Je-Gyu), or 71-Into the Fire/포화 속으로.

Oldboy [올드보이 | Oldŭ boi], 2003 ‧ Mystery/Thriller ‧ 2 hours

Oh Dae-Su threatens someone for information. Digital Image. Arch Daily. 17 April 2013, https://go.iu.edu/4lS8

As one of the best neo-noir films of recent years, there are many dystopian elements that will appeal to fans of Squid Game. This tragicomedy may be too violent for some viewers but does feature great cinematography and scenography. Oldboy stars Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-Su, who is kidnapped and imprisoned in a hotel room. He learns that he has been framed for his wife’s murder. Then fifteen years later he is released, and the story follows his quest to find out who imprisoned him and murdered his wife and exact his revenge. Oldboy is the recipient of numerous awards from across the world. This film has a loose connection with a Japanese Manga of the same name and inspired a 2013 American reinterpretation by Spike Lee.

Ode to My Father [Kukche sijang | 국제시장], 2014 ‧ Drama/War ‧ 2h 10m

Yunjin Kim and Jung-min Hwang in Gukjesijang in Photo by CJ Entertainment. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 25 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4lS9

Starring Hwang Jung-min and Yunjin Kim, Ode to My Father, directed by Yoon Je-kyoon, tells the story of Korea from the Korean War to the present day through the eyes of Deok-soo, a young Korean boy who grows to become a man. When his father goes missing in the beginning stages of the Korean War during the Hungnam Evacuation, he must take responsibility for taking care of his family. Deok-soo’s journey to and through adulthood parallels the rise and growth of Korea. This film highlights the struggles and challenges that Koreans have faced to make their country grow, including migrant labor in West Germany and overseas conflicts in Vietnam. Those who enjoy this film may also enjoy Yoon Je-kyoon’s other work, the disaster movie Haeundae (Tidal Wave).

The Host [괴물 | Gwoemul], 2006 ‧ Horror/Action ‧ 1h 59m

The hunt for the monster. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 25 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4lSa

A monster film directed by Bong Joon-ho. A monster emerges from the Han River and chaos ensues. There are fears that the monster is also the host of a deadly disease and those in close contact must be quarantined. Song Kang-ho stars as Park Gang-du. He is an ordinary man trying to flee the monster with the rest of the panicked crowd, however just as he gets himself to safety, he sees that his daughter in the clutches of the monster. The Host is the story of one man’s search for his daughter and the search for the monster. Those who enjoy this film may also enjoy Bong Joon-ho’s other successful work, Memories of Murder, loosely based on Korea’s first confirmed serial murders.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents [명량 | Myeongryang], 2014 ‧ Action ‧ 2h 6m

The battle rages. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 25 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4lSb

This film, directed and co-written by Kim Han-min, depicts the historical Battle of Myeongnyang. At the time of its release, it was the most successful local film in Korean history. In 1597, Yi Sun-sin, played by Choi Min-sik, commands the navy of the Korean kingdom of Joseon in a heroic victory against the invading Japanese fleet, where his 12 ships overcome the opposing 333 vessels. Yi Sun-sin traps the Japanese fleet into a battle in the Myeongnyang Strait, whose strong and treacherous currents give him an advantage. This battle and Yi Sun-sin may be familiar to those who have played Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, where one scenario in the real-time strategy game has the player take on the role of Yi Sun-sin and defend Korea from Japanese invaders. Kim Han-min has also directed another period film, War of the Arrows, which may be appealing to those who enjoy this film. Another alternative, The Pirates by Lee Seok-hoon, is also a period film.

Extreme Job [ Geukan Jigeop | 극한직업], 2019 ‧ Comedy/Action ‧ 1h 51m

Extreme job in progress. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 25 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4lSc

This film, directed by Lee Byeong-heon, is the second-most-viewed film in South Korean film history. A young squad of undercover detectives has one last chance to save their careers. They must stake out an international drug gang from a chicken restaurant. Things change, however, when they decide to purchase the restaurant when it is going to go out of business. A further unexpected twist occurs when the chicken marinade they throw together becomes a runaway sensation and their diner becomes the hottest spot around. Those who enjoy this comedy may also enjoy another hit directed by Lee Byeong-heon, Twenty.

Train to Busan [부산행 | Busanhaeng], 2016 ‧ Horror/Action ‧ 1h 58m

Passengers in flight. Digital Image. NME. 19 February 2021, https://go.iu.edu/4lSd.

This film is directed by Yeon Sang-ho and stars Gong Yoo as Seok-woo, a fund manager on a high-speed train to Busan taking his daughter to see her mother, who divorced him because he is a workaholic. A chemical leak unleashes a zombie apocalypse that spreads across South Korea. The story follows Seok-woo and the other passengers on the train as they seek to escape the exploding pandemic. The story is somewhat typical of zombie movies. Those who enjoy this film may also be interested in other works by Yeon Sang-ho related to this movie such as the animated prequel Seoul Station and live-action sequel Peninsula.

Honorable Mention: Burning (2018) Poetry (2010), Masquerade (2012), Memories of Murder (2003), Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring (2003), The Handmaiden (2016), The Age of Shadows (2016)

Parasite [기생충 | Gisaengchung], 2019 ‧ Thriller/Dark Comedy ‧ 2h 12m

The cast accepts some of the four Oscars won by the film in 2020. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 25 March 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4lSk

This black comedy/thriller film was directed by Bong Joon-ho. It earned the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a first for a South Korean film. The Kim family struggles to get by on low-paying temporary jobs. Through connections they meet the wealthy Park family. They endeavor to con their way into employment with the family by getting rid of the family’s former employees. The question remains, when will the Kim family’s luck run out and their ruse be revealed? The film addresses themes of social inequality and class conflict. As mentioned previously, Bong Joon-ho is also the director of The Host, as well as Snowpiercer, so fans of his work may consider looking at some of his earlier work such as these films. SM

Student blogger Seth Morrison joined the Media Services staff in Fall 2021. He hails from Arizona and is a graduate student at IU. This is his first blog post for Media Beat.

Strong Female Leads in the Horror Genre

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to recognize some of the strong female leads in my favorite movie genre – Horror. Characters in horror movies are put through the wringer, and in many cases the female characters are put into the role of the “damsel in distress.” However in these five films, the women are strong and empowered, breaking the “woman as victim” stereotype. According to recent data, nearly 2000 females are murdered by males annually in the United States alone. Given these staggering numbers, it is worth contemplating how women are depicted in horror films, not because Horror is to blame for this femicide epidemic, but because media can and do influence social perceptions and behaviors. As such, the question, “How does the presence of a strong female lead alter the tone of a horror film?” is a compelling one. All of these films are available through IU Libraries’ Media Services: click the linked film title to learn more!

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 11 Mar 2022,
https://go.iu.edu/4kwj

The Babadook follows single mother Amelia Vanek, played by Essie Davis, as she cares for her son, Sam, whose behavior becomes more and more concerning. One night, Sam asks his mother to read him a book titled Mister Babadook, which features the titular monster within its pages. Not long after, strange events begin to occur, and when Amelia questions Sam about them, he claims that the Babadook is the cause. In addition to navigating these disconcerting occurrences, Amelia Vanek is battling grief from the death of her husband throughout the film, and her perseverance throughout makes her a strong female lead.

The Others (2001)

The Others. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 11 Mar
2022, https://go.iu.edu/4kwk

The Others is a film about a young woman, Grace Stewart, played by Nicole Kidman. The film is set in 1945, and Grace lives in a house with her two photosensitive children and three servants. When she begins to hear voices and footsteps, Grace starts to believe that the house may be haunted. As more and more strange occurrences unfold, Stewart struggles to understand what is happening in her house and who “the others” are that she keeps seeing. Grace Stewart is adamant about protecting her children and their home, doing whatever is necessary to stay safe from the “others.”

Us (2019)

Us. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 11 Mar 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4kwl

Us tells the story of Adelaide (played by Lupita Nyong’o) and her family as they go on vacation. When Adelaide was a child, she encountered her doppelganger on the same beach where they are headed for vacation, causing her to withdraw and stop speaking. The family’s vacation is turned upside down when a group of people dressed completely in red break into their home and corner them. The people are revealed to be the family’s doppelgangers and explain that they want to “untether” themselves from their counterparts. Adelaide’s bravery and strength are vital to her survival, and she is absolutely determined to stop the doppelgangers.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Jennifer’s Body. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 11 Mar 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4kwn

Jennifer’s Body is about two high school girls, Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) who one night go to a dive bar to see a band. The bar suddenly is engulfed in flames, and Jennifer leaves with the band. Later that night, Jennifer appears in Needy’s kitchen, covered in blood and eating everything in sight before vomiting a black liquid everywhere. The next day at school, much to Needy’s surprise, Jennifer seems completely fine. After the football captain is found disemboweled, Needy begins to suspect that something is very wrong with Jennifer.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs. Digital Image. IMDb.com.
11 Mar 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4kwo

The Silence of the Lambs depicts Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, who is training in the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. She is asked to interview Hannibal Lecter, an incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer and former psychiatrist, in order to get information about a new serial killer that they are trying to find. Lecter agrees to help on the condition that he is transferred to a different facility. Lecter then demands a quid pro quo with Starling in exchange for information on the serial killer. Things take a turn when the serial killer kidnaps the daughter of a United States senator, and Starling dives even further into the investigation. Starling is determined and intelligent in getting the information that she needs to find the serial killer and deal with Lecter and proves herself to be crucial in solving the case. CR

Do you have a favorite strong female lead from the Horror genre? If so, let us know in the comments!

Media Services staff member Corinne Regan is a freshman at IU pursuing a Political Science Degree. She is also involved in the Civic Leaders Center and in her free time she enjoys spending time with her friends and listening to music.

Burning: One of the Most Underrated Movies of Recent Memory

Burning. Digital Image. rogerebert.com. 25 February 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4j0x

In honor of IU’s Korea Remixed celebration this semester, I would like to draw Media Beat readers’ attention to an underrated 2018 gem from one of South Korea’s most talented directors, Lee Chang-dong. His masterpiece, Burning (버닝), based on a short story by widely acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, received little awards attention and sadly flew under the radar for many film-goers. Despite receiving high critical praise and featuring one of the most promising rising actors, The Walking Dead‘s Steven Yeun, the film has already seemed to fade from many people’s memory.

The film has a deceptively simple set-up. A young aspiring writer named Lee Jong-su runs into a woman named Shin Hae-mi, with whom he quickly becomes infatuated. As they start to get to know each other, he is introduced to one of Hae-mi’s friends, Ben, played perfectly by Steven Yeun. Ben clearly comes from a much wealthier, privileged background than Jong-su: he has a glamorous apartment, car, and perfect social skills, whereas Jong-su comes from a broken home, drives around in an old rusty truck, and has trouble expressing himself. Around the halfway point of the film, the three of them go out to Jong-su’s farm for a trip, where Ben reveals to Jong-su a mysterious and strange hobby of his involving burning down greenhouses he finds out in the countryside. Shortly after this trip, Jong-su attempts to contact Hae-mi, but cannot seem to find her and worries that something horrific may have happened to her, and that Ben may be involved.

From L to R: Ah-in Yoo, Jong-seo Jun, and Steven Yeun. Burning. IMDb.com. 25 February 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4j0w

I will stop there to avoid spoiling the mystery or giving away more of the plot. Lee Chang-dong slowly builds the suspense from this point on in very Hitchcockian fashion as the movie increasingly spins into the realm of a psychological thriller. The film is intentionally vague, without any easy answers given to the audience, allowing for several profoundly different interpretations with the potential to completely alter how film-goers will view each of the characters, or even understand what the movie is trying to say. It is an amazing feat that Chang-dong is able to pull off such an entertaining genre piece that is also so rich in thematic content.

Burning is one of the most relevant and poignant films about contemporary society to come out in the last decade. In a world increasingly rife with division by class, gender, politics, etc., many people are finding it harder and harder to trust one another. That trend is a focal point of the film, in the characters’ inability to trust each other and truly know the others’ motives, as well as through the audience’s struggle to fully know whom to trust while watching the film. There is much more to chew on in terms of how Burning raises and reflects contemporary social dynamics, and the film warrants multiple viewings, but to divulge more would give too much away. I hope I have piqued readers’ interests enough to inspire them to seek out the film out and come to their own conclusions. Korea Remixed is a perfect time to connect with this artistic contribution, and Media Services has this title available on both Blu-Ray and DVD. JG

Janzen Greene studies media and film here at IU. He joined the Media Services staff in Fall 2021, and this is his second post for Media Beat.

Cowboys and Cacciatore: The Origin of the term “Spaghetti Western”

Still from Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars”. Digital image. 9 Feb 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4iD1

Though now collectively little more than a drop in the bucket of modern filmmaking, Westerns were once a much more popular movie genre. The 1950s through mid-1970s were widely considered to be the height of the genre, a “golden age” of Westerns with figures like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Gary Cooper drawing crowds. The films were so popular, in fact, that their influence can be found in other films made around the time – in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971, Mike Teevee is seen wearing a cowboy outfit, referencing the popularity of the genre at the time.

But what is a “Spaghetti” Western? What distinguishes a “Spaghetti” Western from a regular Western?

“Spaghetti” Westerns are a subgenre of Westerns whose name references the circumstances and location of their filming. Generally, a Spaghetti Western is a low-budget film produced by Italian directors (hence the “spaghetti” connection) and filmed in Europe, primarily in Almería and the Tabernas Desert. Unconstrained by Hollywood’s film regulations (and, in particular, the Hays code which restricted film content at the time), Spaghetti Westerns are far more cynical and violent compared to their contemporary Hollywood cousins. Where a Hollywood Western typically idealizes the Old West, its pioneers, and rugged American individualism, the Spaghetti Western tears off this ideological veil, bringing the corruption, violence, and desperation of the time to the fore (though not always on purpose).

Many Spaghetti Westerns actually eclipsed the popularity of the genre that inspired them, and to this day they serve as inspirations for contemporary film. A number of tropes that continue to influence filmmaking today originated with the “Spaghetti”: western antiheroes; tense, dramatic close-up shots; and a particular style of colorful opening credits among them. These films (and Ennio Morricone in particular) would reinvent the “western sound” into something instantly recognizable and iconic (Masterclass, 2021).

Below are three giants of the Spaghetti Western genre:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Digital Image. 18 Feb 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4iD4

Set during the Civil War, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly stars Clint Eastwood as “The Man with No Name”(or, in the movie, “Blondie”) in this story about a trio of bounty hunters in pursuit of $200,000 worth of buried stolen gold, a fortune that would be worth over 7 million today. A story filled with revenge, confrontation, backstabbing, full of Sergio Leone’s signature lingering close-up shots, this film is widely considered to be the definitive Spaghetti Western. It is the last, and considered the best, in Leone’s trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns collectively referred to as “the Dollars trilogy”, including A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Once Upon A Time In The West. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 18 Feb 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4iD5

Once Upon a Time in the West centers on a pair of conflicts around the fictional town of Flagstone. Directed by Sergio Leone and with a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone (the undisputed king of Spaghetti Western soundtracks), this film was produced after Sergio retired from Westerns following his success with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Paramount Pictures, however, persuaded him to produce one more by providing both the funding and a contract with Henry Fonda (Clint Eastwood turned down a role for this movie). Filled with political and economic corruption, betrayals, and gunfights over a valuable parcel of land, Once Upon a Time in the West is a slower and more thoughtful film, less fiery and spirited than its other noodly siblings.

Django (1966)

Django. Digital Image. IMDb.com. 18 Feb 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4iD6

Directed by Sergio Corbucci, Django follows a Union soldier and his companion who become embroiled in a conflict between revolutionaries and Confederate Red Shirts (linked article requires IU CAS login). The film developed a reputation soon after its release for being incredibly violent (especially for the 1960s) which negatively impacted its reviews at the time. Only later would it develop a more cult-classic following. Despite its myriad murders, back-stabbings, and the brutal violence that permeates the film, Django is one of the few Spaghetti Westerns to have a more positive and upbeat ending, unlike the more cynical, pyrrhic notes on which many other films in this subgenre ended. The more modern Django Unchained (2012) from director Quentin Tarantino takes inspiration from this film, and Franco Nero (the original Django) actually makes a cameo appearance!

It is always illuminating when directors from one country or region take on the history and myth of another. Spaghetti Westerns offer an outsider take that continues to influence filmmakers’ and audiences’ perceptions of the American West, good, bad, and ugly. JS

**Summary credit to each film’s Wikipedia “plot” section: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Once Upon a Time in the West; Django.

Sources used for additional information:

Masterclass Staff. “Spaghetti Western Film Guide: 5 Spaghetti Western Filmmakers.”. Masterclass.com. August 27, 2021. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/spaghetti-western-film-guide#what-is-a-spaghetti-western

Student blogger Joshua Peters holds a BS in Biology and is currently pursuing a Library Science Master’s degree. This is his first semester working in Media Services as well as his first blog post for Media Beat.