If someone were to have asked me how any serious film professor could show a review of Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny in his film class, I would consider it to be a very legitimate question. What, in fact, could students learn about film from watching a summary of what is unarguably a terrible film? The answer is “Plenty!”
First, students learned that I am serious about student involvement in the classroom. It is easy to say that I want students to suggest films to watch. It is another matter to accept their choices; especially when they choose a review of Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny or the review of Howard the Duck that was shown during the same class. I do not want students to simply choose the types of films that I would show. I want them to make contributions based on their own interests.
Fortunately, I have been teaching long enough that I can find a lesson in virtually any film that is selected. It might not be the lesson I had planned to teach that day, but I am learned to be flexible. Therefore, I was able to introduce some significant concepts I had planned to cover later in the course. For example, the review of Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny was too much of a summary. In our film analyses we will focus more on analysis. Students began to learn course expectations.
The review of Howard the Duck was still too much summary, but the author did incorporate research about comic books and discussed Howard the Duck in its relationship to other films. These are good ideas that I would expect to see in the film analyses done by the students.
Another issue that came up with both films is the matter of tone. While I can acknowledge that both reviewers understood their audiences and did a fine job in reaching them, they would not be acceptable in a more academic setting. For example, it is unlikely that “fuck” or other such terms will appear in the film analyses written by the students in the class.
I have frequently taught short films introduced to me by students. However, for a number of reasons, it is unlikely that I will choose to teach these two reviews in the future. But the fact that I would not have selected these film reviews does not mean that they were poor selections. Although very different from what I had intended to teach on the second day of class, I think that discussing Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny and Howard the Duck went well and that students learned a great deal from it.