The Six Week Film School

Welcome to the home page for the Six Week Film School. Here you'll find links to articles and resources that will provide context for the films, both individually and as they fit in the series. All materials presented below are of course optional; don't worry, we won't grade you on whether you did your homework.

You are welcome to attend any individual film in a series, or join us for all six.  All films are free to attend. We do ask that you reserve yourself a seat or RSVP in advance. Just click the link to on the "class" you would like to attend and put your name down.  Each night will feature a brief introduction and post-show discussion led by Illinois State University's William Thomas McBride.

SWFS 2018: Wonder Women Directors
original artwork by Charlie Pleskovitch

From Dance, Girl, Dance (Dorothy Arzner,1940)

JUDY O’BRIEN [Maureen O’Hara] (dancing onstage, dress straps rip-male audience members taunt) Go ahead and stare. I'm not ashamed. Go on, laugh; get your money's worth. Nobody's going to hurt you. I know you want me to tear my clothes off so you can look your 50 cents' worth. Fifty cents for the privilege of staring at a girl the way your wives won't let you. What do you suppose we think of you up here? 

(camera pans l to r well-heeled and ashamed male in tuxedos and reproving female audience members) 

With your silly smirks your mothers would be ashamed of. It's a thing of the moment for the dress suits to come and laugh at us too. We'd laugh right back at you, only we're paid to let you sit there...and roll your eyes, and make your screamingly clever remarks. What's it for? So you can go home when the show's over, strut before your wives and sweethearts... and play at being the stronger sex for a minute? I'm sure they see through you just like we do.

Tess Slesinger & Frank Davis (screenplay); Vicki Baum (story)

From series curator William Thomas McBride:

"On my way out of the Normal Theater following the post-screen discussion of one of Scorsese’s films, a female patron approached me and asked why not do a series of female directors? I have been working on our new series ever since—and given the current cultural moment regarding harassment and gender inequality in Hollywood, Washington, and everywhere else, the timing of Wonder Women Directors seems perfect. Joining me for individual screenings will be Shari Zeck, Interim Dean, Milner Library, Illinois State University; Li Zeng, Head of Theatre and Film Studies and Film Minor, Illinois State University; Chamere Poole, Dept. of English Ph. D. candidate, Illinois State University; and Ann Johnson, Dept. of Sociology Masters student, Illinois State University, who will discuss the overarching cultural concepts of sex, power, history, and film style in these six films directed by women."

Back to School with Wonder Women!

Christopher Strong

Christopher Strong

Female aviator Lady Cynthia Darrington (Katharine Hepburn) and Parliament member Sir Christopher Strong meet at a party, where the free spirit and the married politician are instantly attracted. Christopher's wife, Lady Elaine, invites Cynthia to stay at the Strongs' summer house, where she grows even closer to him. Mindful of the damage an affair would do to Christopher's career and family, the couple parts, but they soon realize they can't live without each other. From 1933. NR / 78 min. Directed by Dorothy Arzner.

01/24  @ 7:00pm


Suggested Reading for Class


Theresa L. Geller provides some great insight into Dororthy Arzner.

Judy (Maureen O'Hara), overwhelmed with frustration, furiously confronts her heckling audience in Dorothy Arzner's "Dance, Girl, Dance" (1940).

Women Film Pioneer Project - Dorothy Arzner

“Let’s Talk About The Movie Where Katharine Hepburn Has An Abortion By Flying Into The Sun” Mallory Ortberg April 14, 2014 HEROES


The Hitch-Hiker

The Hitch-Hiker

Ray (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert's (Frank Lovejoy) fishing trip takes a terrifying turn when the hitchhiker (William Talman) they pick up turns out to be a sociopath on the run from the law. He's killed before, and he lets the two know that as soon as they're no longer useful, he'll kill again. From 1953. NR / 71 min. Directed by Ida Lupino.

This class will include guest lecturer:

Li Zeng, head of ISU's Theatre and Film Studies

01/31  @ 7:00pm


Suggested Reading for Class

Wheeler Winston Dixon wrote an excellent piece on Ida Lupino.

Through The Lens documentary on Ida Lupino.

Ida Lupino - Notes from class

A League Of Their Own

A League of Their Own

As America's stock of athletic young men is depleted during World War II, a professional all-female baseball league springs up in the Midwest. Competitive sisters Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty) spar with each other and grumpy has-been coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) on their way to fame. Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell co-star as two of the sisters' teammates. From 1992. PG / 128 min. Directed by Penny Marshall.

This class will include guest lecturer:

Shari Zeck, Interim Dean, ISU's Milner Library

02/07  @ 7:00pm


Suggested Reading for Class

A League Of Their Own - Notes from Class

Lost In Translation

Lost in Translation

Lonely, aging movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and conflicted newlywed Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) meet in Tokyo. Bob is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial; Charlotte is accompanying her celebrity-photographer husband. Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights, forming a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful. From 2003. R / 105 min. Directed by Sofia Coppola.

02/21  @ 7:00pm


Suggested Reading for Class

Lost in Translation - Notes from class



Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. From 2014. PG-13 / 128 min. Directed by Ava DuVernay.

This class will include guest lecturer:

Chamere Poole, Ph.D. candidate, ISU's Dept. of English

02/28  @ 7:00pm


Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

Before she was Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her about the massive conflict that's raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny. From 2017. PG-13 / 141 min. Directed by Patty Jenkins.

This class will include guest lecturers:

Eric Wesselmann, Assoc. Professor, ISU Dept. of Psychology 

Ann Johnson, Masters Student, ISU Dept. of Sociology 

03/07  @ 7:00pm


Patty Jenkins, the director of 'Wonder Woman' , remembers how Lynda Carter’s portrayal of the character impacted her as a child and why it’s important to have female superheroes.

Learn how one psychiatrist, Dr. Fredric Wertham, used his perceptions of sexual deviance in Wonder Woman and Batman to derail the comic book industry.


Fall 2017 - From ALICE to SILENCE: The Scorsese Style

Martin Scorsese - The Source Material

“Marty Scorsese is one of the greatest living filmmakers. He’s earned the right to independently finance a movie and make the movie he wants to make."

- Megan Colligan, Paramount’s marketing and distribution head on SILENCE (2016)

Listen to William Thomas McBride discuss the Six WeekFilm School and Martin Scorsese on WGLT.

ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE - Wednesday, September 27th at 7:00pm



TAXI DRIVER - Wednesday, October 4th at 7:00pm

  • William Thomas McBride's Chapter on TAXI DRIVER
  • From series curator William Thomas McBride: "Last night's post-film lively discussion, concerning Scorsese's style, hand gun violence, and Sunday night's Las Vegas trauma, concluded with an audience member's question: "Was Scorsese's ending of his film a dream?" Interesting points were made on both sides. Driving home Wednesday evening my wife found this article, citing critics, DeNiro, and Scorsese, and seems to settle the question.


THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST - Wednesday, October 11th at 7:00pm



GANGS OF NEW YORK - Wednesday, October 25th at 7:00pm

GANGS OF NEW YORK - Notes from class


HUGO - Wednesday, November 1st at 7:00pm

More on HUGO

SILENCE - Wednesday, November 8th at 7:00pm


SIlence Jesus

“My whole life has been movies and religion. That's it. Nothing else.”

- Martin Scorsese


Spring 2017 - Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Style

When we awake with a vivid dream fresh in our memory, or are regaled by someone else’s dream narrative, we often launch head on into an analysis of the latent meaning of the dream’s manifest content. Without hesitation, and usually without trained expertise, we apply common principles of psychology and insights about gender, myth and popular culture, and make claims relating to biographical knowledge of the dreamer as well. The spectacularity of dreams is often attributable to both the uncannily realistic nature of them and their cinematic quality. Early on in its development, Hollywood (and Hitchcock) fell in love with Freud, and given cinema’s dreamlike status, it is rather easy to see why. Hitchcock’s psychoanalytic bent is evident in many of his titles: PSYCHO, VERTIGO, FRENZY, STAGE FRIGHT, SHADOW OF A DOUBT. His 1945 film SPELLBOUND took the extraordinary steps of hiring as co-writer and psychiatric advisor, May E. Romm M.D. and, as dream sequence designer, surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Freud characterizes dream form as Darstellbarkeit (suitability for display) whose plastic representation exhibits the visual and auditory modes we associate with film over and against a novel or epic poem. Just as we translate Freud’s monumental publication, Die Traumdeutung (1900) as The Interpretation of Dreams, so these Six Week Film School semesters center directly on the art of interpretation (hermeneutics). This scholarly search for meaning in texts originates as Biblical exegesis and Midrash, soon branching out to legal, philosophical and aesthetic hermeneutics, all marked by a concern with the relation between interpretive subject, text, and argument. As we have been discovering, the metaphors film style employs, like the ones populating our dreams, are simple and commonplace—often to the point of being clichéd. Of all of the films that most consistently and fluently speak the stylized language of cinema, it is those directed by Alfred Hitchcock. And it should come as no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock began his film career as an Art Director and composer of storyboards—hand-drawn images composed prior to shooting that depict and direct what each shot in the film should look like—a practice he continued throughout his life in film. This Six Week semester promises to deliver fun along with the language and interpretive "skill set" necessary to read films and other narrative texts via their formal elements. Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol conclude their little 1957 Hitchcock book this way:

Hitchcock is one of the greatest inventors of form in the entire history of cinema. Perhaps only Murnau and Eisenstein can sustain comparison with him when it comes to form.

While Hitchcock's oeuvre certainly invites our formal analysis of its cinematic language and a feminist, masculinist, queer problematizing of its psychosexuality, we will not limit our investigations there—grindhouse theory (PSYCHO, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN), ecocriticism (THE BIRDS), music theory (VERTIGO, PSYCHO), marxist and trauma studies (most films)—are all fruitful approaches and welcome.

William Thomas McBride discusses the Six Week Film School theme of "Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Style"
William Thomas McBride discusses the Six Week Film School on WGLT
Alfred Hitchcock Wiki Mainpage
1000 Frames of Hitchcock
“Hitchcock’s Stylized Capture of Post-Adolescent Fatheads.” by William Thomas McBride. Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Ed. Debbie Olson. Palgrave-McMillan, 2014, pp 237-263.
The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory 2nd Edition by Tania Modleski

Fall 2016 - Film Noir: Visual Style and Fortune

60 Free Film Noir Movies - Open Culture
How To Be a Glamorous 40's Femme Fatale
Paint It Black: The Family Tree of the Film Noir by Raymond Durgnat. (1970)
“Noir America: Cynics, sluts, heists, and murder most foul.” by Stanley Crouch from Slate. (2007)