For your second and final paper for this class, you will compare/contrast one of the films on the course syllabus to another film of your choosing.
The paper should be approximately 1,500 words (4-5 pages), which you will post on your course blog, where I will read it. The paper is due Sunday December 15, at 11:59pm.
In your first paper, you examined one of the formal film elements that we covered in the first half of the course. In your second paper, you will deal with material covered in the second half of the course, which focused on cinema and culture, including alternatives to Hollywood film-making.
In your final paper, you should consider at least one of the following topics, as they relate to the two films you are writing about.
1. Genre. Do your two films belong to a recognizable genre? Are either of your films genre mash-ups (more than one genre)? Do either of your films challenge genre conventions? How do the two films compare/contrast in regards to genre? (You could discuss “the genius of the system” in this category).
2. Ideology. What core beliefs can you discern in your two films? How do these beliefs relate to power arrangements in society? Do either of your films validate – or challenge – racism, male supremacy, heterosexism, “able-ism” (prejudice against disabled people), classism, and/or nationalism? How do the two films compare/contrast in regards to ideology? (The Male Gaze belongs in this category).
3. Social Context. Are either of your two films commercial Hollywood films (that is, do they show a classical Hollywood style, and reflect Hollywood values)? Or do they challenge the Hollywood model? Do either of your films show the influence of international art cinema, Italian Neo-realism, Third Cinema, Fourth Cinema, National Cinema, Transnational Cinema, and/or Global Cinema? How do the two films compare/contrast in regards to social context? (The Counterculture belongs in this category).
4. Auteur Cinema. Are either or both of your films created by an auteur? Are they consistent with other films made by the same directors (or are they aberrations?)? Do they reflect the biography of the directors? Do they show the influence of other auteurs? How do the two films compare/contrast in regards to auteur cinema? (Self-reflexivity belongs in this category).
5. Avant-garde Cinema. Are either of your two films considered avant-garde, underground, or experimental? Do they approach film as an aesthetic, philosophical, and/or political means of expression, rather than as a vehicle for escapist entertainment? Do they experiment with the material processes of film-making? Do they show the influence of the Surrealist, Abstract, or Structuralist film movements? Or are they examples of the “City Symphony” or the “Compilation” film? How do the two films compare/contrast in regards to avant-garde cinema?
6. Documentary. Are either of your two films documentaries? Do they aspire to journalistic realism? Do they deal will “real world” issues of historical, cultural, or political import? Do they represent the “voice of authority,” “talking heads,” direct cinema, or self-reflexive documentary film traditions? How do the two films compare/contrast in regards to documentary?
7. Future film. Were either of your two films made in the last ten years? Do they show recent trends in commerical film-making, such as “horizontal integration,” globalization, or new industry labor practices? Are your films blockbusters? High concept films? Independent films? How do they reveal the influence of new digital technologies, both in the making and reception of films? (You could discuss “the genius of the system” in this category as well).
In writing your paper, you don’t need to spend much time describing the plots and characters of your film. Even if I haven’t seen the non-course film, assume I have, or have at least read an in-depth review.
Unlike your first paper, you are required to cite three critical authorities in your paper. That is, you will have to do research. In class, I did a research run-through, which included a general Google search, a search of film journals through links posted on the course blog, as well as a WorldCat search. I would suggest you prioritize the WorldCat and film journal searches over the Google searches, and look especially for academic/scholarly books and articles in peer-reviewed film journals.
Again, unlike your first paper, you will need a thesis – a central point you’re making in regards to the comparison/contrast of your two films – in your second paper. Your thesis can start out as an approach that guides your research – that is, as something you want to examine. If your thesis doesn’t hold up during research and preliminary writing, you can always try a different approach, undertake a different exploration.
If you have difficulty finding critical sources, you may have to do some research first, and let the critical sources you find lead you into one or more debates concerning your two films. But you are not just presenting a report of someone else’s research or critical argument; you are using the critical authorities to introduce you to the parameters of the debate, and to help you position yourself in that debate, to establish your own unique viewpoint and interpretation.
In regards to research, the place to start is the “Research” page I posted on the course blog. On that page, I discuss good critical academic sources, and not-so-good ones. I also provide a list of links of online film journals, with brief annotations describing them.
Then check out the “Film Reviews and Film Studies” web page and database, published through the University Libraries system. There are all sorts of film reference works and databases to explore. From there, you can easily track down film books and articles.
And then take a look at “The Citation Guide,” also published through the University Libraries system. This web page will give you tips on proper citation of critical authorities.
It’s likely that most of what you find in your research will be general film reviews. That’s fine, but you should know that not all film reviews are created equal. Most general reviews are purely evaluative: they determine the quality of the acting, directing, etc. (two thumbs up or down).
Other reviewers manage to get at some of the underlying critical issues examined by the film. It’s these latter reviews that you want look for. In other words, film reviews count towards your total of critical sources, but in my grading I will take into consideration whether you managed to find good critical reviews, as opposed to general, evaluative reviews.
Note that, for newer films, you may not find that many critical sources besides reviews. You should take this into consideration in choosing the films that you will examine in your paper.
Here is a suggested format for your paper:
1. First paragraph: Introduction, including a brief synopsis of both films and a very general comparison/contrast, leading up to your thesis statement.
2. Second paragraph: Examination of topic or topics (listed above) in the first film.
3. Third paragraph: Examination of topic or topics in the second film.
4. Fourth paragraph: Comparision/contrast of both films vis-a-vis the topic or topics.
5. Fifth paragraph: Conclusion, in which you basically re-write the introductory paragraph in reverse order, beginning with the thesis statement, and then summarizing your findings/conclusions.
As with your first paper, you may want to include film stills to illustrate what you’re saying about either of your two films. If you choose to include a still or stills in your paper, place it in an appendix at the end of your paper, with each inserted still numbered “Figure 1,” “Figure 2,” etc. When you refer to the still in your paper, just write, in parentheses: (See Fig. 1).
Please contact me with any questions.
University of Maryland