What Makes Great Movies Great?

Great film directors all have one thing in common – lofty artistic ambitions. They take on the toughest issues and most provocative themes of their day hoping to eloquently bring them to life on screen. They regard the movie screen the same way great artists gaze upon their canvases. Every inch of the frame offers a crucial opportunity to leave audiences spellbound by their handiwork.

The most challenging directors disguise their bold artistic intentions behind the mask of easily accessible genre forms, oftentimes burying something quite profound beneath a story’s glossy surface.

This sort of "subtext" and the prospect of unraveling a hidden, encoded message in a film is what drives some movie lovers (and Yale film professors) to attempt to decipher what is really going on beneath the scenes playing out on screen. There is always something much more mesmerizing to be uncovered in a great film once it's been brought out into the light. This presentation will illustrate some remarkable examples of cinematic mastery through technical innovation and complex thematic construction. The films selected for this presentation accomplish their missions by eliciting some of the most memorable moments and performances ever captured on celluloid.

Film Clips Include:

  • Sullivan’s Travels – Preston Sturges
  • Touch of Evil – Orson Welles
  • You Only Live Once – Fritz Lang
  • The Godfather Parts I & II – Francis Ford Coppola
  • Blow Up – Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Chinatown – Roman Polanski
  • The Verdict – Sidney Lumet
  • The King of Comedy – Martin Scorsese
  • Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik

Marc Lapadula – Yale University

Marc Lapadula is a Senior Lecturer in the Film Studies Program at Yale University. He is a playwright, screenwriter, and an award-winning film producer. In addition to Yale, Marc has taught at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School, created the screenwriting programs at both The University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins where he won Outstanding Teaching awards and has lectured on film, playwriting, and conducted highly-acclaimed screenwriting seminars all across the country at notable venues like The National Press Club, The Smithsonian Institution, The Commonwealth Club, and The New York Historical Society.

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