UT RTF professors share their favorite films

Charles Liu

UT’s radio-television-film professors shape the storytellers of tomorrow, but they have also been shaped by the storytellers of yesteryear. Here are a few members of the RTF department and the films they love.

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley – “The General” (1926) 

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, William P. Hobby Centennial professor of communication, specializes in American film and media history. She said the film she most admires is silent comedy “The General,” starring Buster Keaton.

In the film, Keaton plays a Confederate railroad engineer who sets out to reclaim his stolen locomotive — and his captured fiancée — from Union spies. It’s a picture brimming with comic stunts.

“It was just the second silent film I had ever seen, when a series of American silent films was shown on PBS the summer I was 13,” Fuller-Seeley said. “I’m continually fascinated by the clockwork precision of Keaton’s universe in how it upends him, but then works in harmony with him. Keaton’s expressions and use of his body to tell the story are amazing, and the sight gags and humor always seem fresh to me.”

Micah Robert Barber– “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000) 

Micah Robert Barber is a lecturer and filmmaker in Austin, Texas, and has produced a variety of short films that have screened at festivals in the United States and Europe. He said his favorite “mainstream” movie is “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Directed by the Coen brothers, this adventure movie is a loose adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey.” In the picture, George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson star as escaped convicts searching for a hidden treasure.

“It has rich atmosphere, performances, writing, photography, humor and a compelling journey,” Barber said. “Plus [it has] some of the best music in recent film history.”

However, Barber said there were more, lesser-known films he held in high regard. 

“Asking a filmmaker to pick one movie is like asking a chef to make dinner with one ingredient,” he said. “As to the films that made me want to make movies? Tarkovsky’s ‘Mirror’ — a masterpiece of cinema — David Gordon Green’s ‘George Washington,’ and everything from Miyazaki.

Don Howard– “An Autumn Afternoon” (1962) 

Don Howard is a film and television director and editor and the director of UT’s 3D Production Program. For him, “An Autumn Afternoon” is a must-see work from director Yasujirō Ozu.

“An Autumn Afternoon” is regarded as one of the most profound works of Japanese cinema. The main character is Hirayama (Chishû Ryû), an aging widower who relies on his unmarried daughter, Michiko (Shima Iwashita), to take care of him. Over the course of the movie, he begins to recognize his selfishness in keeping her home.  

“Ozu made about 50 films in his life even though he died at 60,” Howard said. “He perfected his own way of making them. [‘An Autumn Afternoon’] is an incredible look at old and new Japan as they ran up against each other in 1962.”

Anne Lewis– “Modern Times” (1936) and “Salesman” (1968) 

Anne Lewis is an independent documentary-maker whose work illuminates the lives of working-class people. She said her favorite movies were actor and director Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and a documentary called “Salesman.”

In “Modern Times,” Chaplin’s Little Tramp persona appears as a factory worker who struggles to survive in an industrialized society. He befriends a homeless woman, Ellen (Paulette Goddard), and strives to live a better life.

“It says everything that is to be said about factories and modern life in the funniest and most absurd way that you can imagine,” Lewis said. “[Charlie Chaplin] is, for me, the most wonderful director.”

As a documentary-maker, she said she admired the Maysles brothers’ “Salesman,” which chronicles the lives of salesmen as they travel door-to-door, trying to sell expensive, decorated Bibles to uninterested customers.

“It’s as much about women that are approached by these salesmen as well as the salesmen process,” Lewis said. “It says so much about modern American culture and about how people relate to each other in families.”