I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

There is just so much to discuss today: First, let me welcome you to the first day of March. With all of this melting snow, doesn’t it feel like we’re thisclose to spring? One actually can imagine a time in the not-so-distant future when the wind doesn’t whip through your pants, you don’t have to climb over a snow drift in town to put change in the parking meter, and you can say “goodbye” to those shapeless down parkas. But, let’s forget about the forecast and move on to the real business at hand: It’s Oscars Week! Can’t you just feel the excitement as we inch closer to this Sunday’s festivities? The glitz? The glamour? The red-carpet gaffs waiting to happen? It makes me giddy just thinking about it. And because I take this time of year so very seriously, I thought I’d help you get in the little-gold-men mood by dedicating this week’s blog to all things film—and I may even share some Academy Awards trivia and my Oscar Day traditions with you, too. So, break out your Manolos and Marchesas, your Armani tuxes and your ill-advised man jewelry, and get ready for your close-up (even if your close-up only happens in your bathroom mirror as you accept your hairbrush for Best Actor).

To kick things off, I’d thought I’d do a little sharing: On my bookshelf at this very minute is a tome entitled Men, Women, and Chain Saws by one Carol J. Clover. I would assume that you are asking the natural question: Why on earth would I have such a disturbing-sounding book on my shelf (can we at least agree that it’s one of the cleverest book titles ever?). I’ll tell you why: When I was a freshly scrubbed college undergrad, I minored in film studies, and in my senior year, I did my final advanced seminar in horror. Yes, me, the delicate flower you have gotten to know so well over the course of the past few months used to watch mostly terrifying, occasionally hilarious horror films for school. (Truth be told, it was either horror or a full semester of the Western, and I just couldn’t take the stinted dialogue and tight close-ups of Clint Eastwood’s mouth chewing tumbleweed for three months.) Twice a week, I would discuss social theory as it related to films like Night of the Living Dead (who knew that it was a political commentary on the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement of 1968?); The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween (the original versions, not those silly retreads); and The Exorcist (to this day, still the scariest movie I’ve ever seen). I even wrote my final paper on Stephen King’s Carrie (you know, women’s lib, woman as monster-hero, and all that). And even though, up until that point, I hadn’t watched a horror film since I was frightened into submission by Poltergeist in 1982 (clowns are just plain bad), I found myself slowly becoming a fan, and in time, an aficionado.

So, despite the fact that I am already shaking in my fuzzy slippers (yes, I blog in slippers), I am totally psyched about Rider University’s second annual film symposium,“The Horror Film Symposium: A Mini-Course in Horror,” beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2 through Friday, March 5, at the Lawrenceville campus. Sponsored by the Film and Media Studies program, the symposium will feature various screenings and events, including a student film competition, and lectures and roundtable discussions by Rider faculty and students, as well as outside film scholars and critics. The New Jersey premiere of House (1977) also will take place during the symposium. The cult horror film by Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi had its U.S. premiere last month in New York City, and is described by Dr. Cynthia Lucia, associate professor of English and director of the Film and Media Studies Program, as “the strangest film I’ve ever seen. It combines campy horror with a coming-of-age theme and even musical elements.” Lucia, who also serves as one of the editors of Cineaste, America’s leading magazine on the arts and politics of cinema, said that the winter issue of the magazine includes a special supplement on the horror film, and some of her colleagues from the magazine will be guest speakers at this year’s event. Complimentary issues of the magazine will be available to those attending, natch.

Perhaps “The Horror Film Symposium: A Mini-Course in Horror” will provide you with a new understanding and appreciation of horror films heretofore thought of as the exclusive domain of 16-year-old boys. Or, maybe, it’ll just give you the scare of your life and a good laugh afterward about what a chicken you are. Whatever you decide to do, if you plan on attending the screening of The Exorcist tomorrow at 1:15 p.m., bring a friend. Please. Rider University, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville; 609.896.5042 or rider.edu.

**Oscar Trivia Time: The only true “horror” film to win Best Picture was The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 (fava beans and Chianti, anyone?). Up until that point, 1973’s The Exorcist was the only horror film to be nominated in the Best Picture category.**

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of Princeton Scoop online and a freelance writer who has worked for several magazines, including Vanity Fair, Talk, W, and New Jersey Life. She lives in Princeton with her husband, daughter, and chocolate Labrador. She welcomes any inside scoop on what to do and see in the area. E-mail her at jennifer@princetonscoop.com.

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