There are movies on television. And then there are movies on the big screen, in all their cinematic greatness.
Bill Bachman says there is no comparison.
The senior instructor of communications at Penn State Wilkes-Barre plans to demonstrate that when the school sponsors “Five Great Films, Five Great Genres,” a film-and-discussion series beginning this week. Over five Thursday nights, movie fans who sign up can view and discuss the movies “Airplane!” a 1980 comedy; “On Golden Pond,” an inspirational 1981 film; “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” a thriller, also from 1981; “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” from 1951, listed under the Cheers category; and “High Noon,” a 1952 Western.
The movies will be shown at R/C Wilkes-Barre Movies 14 through Oct. 24.
“We do a different topic every semester,” Bachman said.
In the spring of 2012, for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, the course included five different films on the Titanic. On the last night, two different people who had a family member on the Titanic attended the screening. One person’s mother and another’s grandmother survived the sinking.
For this fall, Bachman thought about what films people have seen but only on the small screen.
“My current undergrad students have never seen ‘Airplane!’ on a big screen,” he said. “These films are picked as they are rated by AFI, the American Film Institute. I know every student I have has seen ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ “
But likely not on the big screen. Bachman said seeing the movie on a theater’s big screen will put the students right in the middle of the action.
Bachman puts “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” number 67 on AFI’s ‘100 Years …100 Cheers list,’ in the Cheers category, because it is the type of movie in which the audience cheers for a particular character. In that movie, an alien lands in Washington, D.C., to deliver an important message to humanity. Bachman said “High Noon” is always listed number 1 or 2 by AFI among Westerns.
He said each of the five movies has characteristics that stand out.
“With ‘Airplane!’ the most salient point is the comedy that thing is infused with,” Bachman pointed out. “ ‘On Golden Pond,’ I think what makes it so inspiring is the level of the writing in ‘On Golden Pond’ is so top-notch. Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda bring those characters to life.”
He also noted a direct correlation between the release of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the increase in enrollment in archaeology courses. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” shows there is hope for humanity, and “High Noon” exemplifies the best of everything people want to see in a Western, he said.
Developed about 10 years ago, the film discussion series that takes place every fall and spring is going into its second decade, Bachman said.
“We started this on campus at Penn State Wilkes-Barre,” he said. “Before it was a one-credit academic course for students. Over time we broadened it so the general public could come in for general education credits, as well.”
The course meets the requirements for primary and secondary education teachers in Pennsylvania, including 15 hours of class for one credit.
The course was held on campus until recent years. Movies 14 invited the school to show the movies in the theater. This is the third season in the theater.
Those who wish to take part must sign up for the five weeks. Only students receive a grade. They must attend and participate in discussions, and at the conclusion of the five weeks, students pick any two of the movies and write a paper at least five pages long comparing and contrasting the movies.
The general registration fee is $40 per person and $20 per person for Penn State employees or alumni, high school or college students, high school teachers, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce members and those who previously attended the film and discussion series.