Option 1: 6-7 Page Final Paper (1500-1750 words)
For this paper, you will select a film, television program, or other moving-image media form from outside of class, in consultation with your TA. The best arguments are specific and focused. If it serves the argument you’re making, you may choose more than one film/TV show, but you must get approval from your TA.
You will watch this media on your own and develop an analysis that draws from the skills you’ve built in class. How does your chosen film deploy film technique to create meanings about vectors of difference (race, gender, sexuality, nationality, class, disability, age, and so on)?
Your essay should include a one- or two- sentence thesis statement that presents a specific, arguable point of view. Be sure to analyze at least TWO of the formal elements we’ve studied this quarter: mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, narrative, and sound. Research beyond course material is not required, though your TA may recommend outside sources for some topics.
An example thesis statement could be something like, “Double Indemnity uses POV shots and differences in lighting to encourage the viewer to identify with Walter Neff, while positioning Phyllis Dietrichson as a femme fatale.” You would begin with an introduction that introduces the film, its historical context (Hollywood and film noir, the post-war crisis in masculinity, the femme fatale), and your thesis statement. Then, you would choose two or three examples from the film that provide evidence for your thesis statement (for instance, an analysis of the film’s introduction of Phyllis, an analysis of the murder scene, and an analysis of its final scene between Neff and Keyes). Your paper would conclude with a synthesis of the points you’ve made.
A thorough analysis of a film is mindful of the following factors. You do not have to discuss each of them, but you should be aware of these factors as you develop your argument.
Socio-historical background: When and where was the film released? In what ways is the film an artifact of the time and place that made it? How might it follow or deviate from the cultural or political ideas of its time?
Intertextuality: What is its relationship to other films or media (books, paintings) (e.g., The Beguiled’s cinematographer referencing Vermeer paintings)? Does the film reference other works (e.g., Quentin Tarantino’s references to Blaxploitation and Hong Kong action films)? Existing genre conventions (Devil in a Blue Dress referencing noir)? What purpose do these connections serve? What are the politics involved in these references (e.g., Spike Lee charging Tarantino with cultural appropriation
(Links to an external site.)
Industrial background: Is this a low-budget film released straight to video? A prestige picture? Was it meant to circulate in film festivals and speak to a cinema-literate audience? Was it intended for the mall multiplexes and youth audiences?
Reception: What was its reception at the moment of its release? Has this reception changed over time–in other words, is the film appreciated differently now than it was initially? Was it ahead of its time? Do certain generations of audiences have a nostalgic attachment to it?
Authorship: How does this film fit into the larger bodies of work of its creative personnel?
- Research and Support Material Worksheet
- Discuss and demonstrate professional demeanor in your writing and critical thought throughout your paper.
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