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The Greatest Scene Ever

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GSE Prison Films

Prison Films

In this episode of the Greatest Scene Ever, we'll take a look at the dynamics and challenges of prison films.

What is the Greatest Scene Ever?

Thousands of films. We all have our favorites. But what is it about a movie that catches our attention, holds us in its cinematic sway? It’s a question that’s endlessly debated. When we got to thinking about a concept for a TV show about film, we considered the subjective nature of the question, “What’s the greatest film ever?” Refining the idea down a bit more, we got to the core of the question: “What’s the Greatest Scene Ever?”

The idea came from an assignment I give to my students for my Film and Video Production II class at AU. By posing the question about a greatest scene, the answer, “I just thought it was cool” doesn’t quite always do. And as film professionals and academics, the question can (and should) be answered using specific criteria to justify the choice, ie: editing, acting, music, lighting, camera, historical context, emotional impact, etc. That’s the basis of our show.

Each program will have a central theme, ie: Westerns, Comedy, Action/Adventure, notable directors, etc. After an introduction that establishes that day’s theme, we throw out the first choice and play a clip from it. After the clip ends, we explain why it’s one of the greatest scenes ever (within that genre). And so on throughout the show.

In addition to having fun watching great film clips, our secret mission is to provide a conversation that’s enlightening and educating by providing the academic context in which films are made and seen by audiences.

So, join us in our cinematic adventure to answer the unanswerable: the Greatest Scene Ever.

- Professor Greg Smith

Greatest Scene Ever Resources and Trivia Answer

Learn More! Check out links to information relating to this month’s topic on our resources page.

Contact info

Send your comments and questions to:  

Professor Greg Smith
gregs@american.edu

Greatest Scene Ever Mission Statement

It’s not an accident that certain films inspire us or move us emotionally, and that others fall flat. “What did you think of the movie?” we ask each other as we leave the theater. “It was great.” “It was awful.” “I didn’t get it.” But as film students and faculty, we strive to understand the reasons why. There are certain rules that define film structure and specific reasons why a film either connects to an audience or misses. The best films bend or break the rules, but you must first learn the rules before you break them.

Greatest Scene Ever started as a challenge to AU/SOC film students to think about the “why”, as in why did we like this or that film or certain film scene. In presenting our half hour discussion within the confines of a TV program, we explore various genres or bodies of cinematic work from filmmakers past and present.

Our goals with Greatest Scene Ever are:

  • To provide and informative and entertaining half hour of film discussion.
  • To challenge the viewer to think about why they do or don’t like certain films.
  • To choose topics of discussion and critique that echo the lessons learned in our film classes.
  • To provide film and television students an opportunity to work on a professionally-produced half hour program with specific concentrations on directing, camera, floor direction, editing, switcher, audio, scriptwriting, research, set design, lighting, etc.
  • To provide an atmosphere of learning about filmmaking that’s fun as well as enriching.

Hopefully, after you watch an episode, you’ll start to think about films in a more enlightened way. You’ll think about your own choices for a Greatest Scene. You’ll agree or disagree with our choices in an informed manner. And while you’re learning and discussing and pondering, you’ll have fun doing it; or we haven’t done our job.

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Trivia Question

GSE Trivia Question Prison Films

In the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke” starring Paul Newman, who was the actor first considered for the role that decided Paul Newman would be better suited and eventually wound up producing the film instead?

Click here for the answer


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Meet the Hosts

Professor Greg Smith setting up a recorder a quarter mile from the launch pad. Photo courtesy of Greg Smith.

Meet Greg Smith and Paul Oechlers, co-hosts of Greatest Scene Ever.

Meet the Hosts


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