Film Analysis

Order Description
Star Wars IV: A New Hopedownload
Looking at Movies Richard Barsam; Dave Monahan
ISBN: 978-0-393-26519-4

Once you have the film, watch the film, paying attention to the formal aspects of the film that best convey its meanings and themes (in particular specific elements of the mise-en-scene, lighting, cinematography, editing, sound, narrative structure and/or use of symbols or motifs that illustrate these things).

As you write, be specific in your application. In addition, be sure you define terms. In other words, use specific examples from the film along with the text, lectures, and/or other supplemental materials to support your points:

a. Introduce your film and your emphasis (or thesis, or preview) for the paper (1-2 sentences). The thesis most likely will be to focus on themes or specific formal techniques, but by including it you help provide structure for the paper. A satisfactory preview also guides the reader along the paper.

b. What is the film about? Provide a brief (1-2 paragraphs maximum) basic plot description, focusing on the major characters and major events in the film (do NOT spend your whole paper summarizing the film, nor should you worry about spoilers as I\’ve seen these films–instead describe what you need to describe so the analysis makes sense). Use character names (you need not note the actor names; if you do, put them in parentheses). Remember you are not making a review.

See chapter 1 in Writing About Movies for an example of the type of summary Im thinking aboutif you take your summary from another source, such as the DVD cover or the Internet Movie Data Base, be sure you provide appropriate credit for it!.

c. What is the film trying to say? And how does it say it? For these questions, focus on the central theme or meaning of the film. For help in understanding movie themes, look at the lecture Storytelling in Movies, in Module #10, where several typical themes are identified.

Select four (4) different scenes that convey this theme (choose these scenes from throughout the filmnot all in one partif you do all the scenes from the beginning, for example, or from easily available clips, I will suspect you did not actually watch the film).

For EACH of the four scenes, consider the following:

1) What is this scene about? What happens in it? Who is involved? Again, use character, not actor, names.

2) How does this scene make use of specific formal cinematic techniques (mise-en-scene, lighting, cinematography, editing, sound, narrative structure, or symbol/motif) to convey this content? In other words, once you know what happened, search the scene for those formal elements that influenced your interpretation of the meanings or themes. Limit the techniques to those that enhanced your interpretation.

More specifically, describe at least one (1) formal cinematic technique PER scene (but no more than 2 per scene–4 to 8 techniques total). Choose DIFFERENT technique(s) for each of the four scenes. You may focus the paper on only one general category of techniques (e.g. cinematography) as long as the specific techniques described are different in each of the four scenes. Techniques can be related–for example, if you discuss an overall theme that depends on framing, you can discuss how one particular scene uses mise-en-scene elements, but for another scene you can describe specific camera techniques. Avoid doing a scattershot analysis where you try to discuss too many disparate techniques (esp. those that don\’t relate to your identified theme or themes). In the paper, do NOT substitute plot or dialogue for form-related film techniques. You are not making a literary analysis.

3) How well do these formal techniques convey the theme or meaning in this particular scene? How effective are they in helping us understand what the meaning of the film might be and/or in setting a particular mood, etc.? Do NOT make a review here, but objectively discuss if the film effectively conveys its theme through the formal techniques youve identified for EACH of the four scenes.

d. How might this film compare/contrast to any feature film youve watched this semester for this class? Make a specific comparison to one (1) of those films based either on themes/meanings OR on the use of a specific film technique. Since all films use these techniques you should be able to find some basis of comparison or contrast.

Describe at least one (1) specific scene from EACH of the two films (the film you are analyzing and the comparison film) that highlights this comparison. Ideally you should place the comparison at the appropriate place in the paper (for example, if you choose to compare lighting techniques, place the comparison with your discussion about lighting in the film you are analyzing).

You only need to do this onceyou are not required to make a comparison to each main point (or scene). An effective way to do this is to use one of the four scenes you noted earlier for section c, placing the comparison after the discussion of relevant techniques. Do NOT use clips or short films for this comparison or any film you saw outside of class–only feature films you viewed for this class are acceptable (Ive kept a list of what each of you has viewed over the semester).

Avoid placing the comparison by itself at or near the end of the paper dont just tack it on at the end of the analysis. Instead, integrate it into the paper where most appropriate. Avoid comparisons that have no link to what youve been discussing, or which are just similar in type, unless that is part of what you are discussing (e.g. genre elements).

e. Finally make an objective assessment of the film as a whole. Overall, was the film true to itself? Does it convey its story in such a way that we not only understand its meaning, but identify with it? Is it an effective film? Be sure you justify your answer (and that you stay objective).
1) To aid with this assessment, you can consider one or more of the criteria established in the first week (realism, plausibility, coherence, ethics, relevance, originality, and/or complexity, if that helps (these dont just refer to content, but also can be used for form; if you go this route, just choose ONE of these not all of them!).
2) OR you could look at the criteria for an effective story, located in the lecture Storytelling and Movies in Module #10
3) OR you might also consider if the film revealed a greater truth about us as human beings. If so, what might this truth be and how effectively was it revealed?
4) OR was there some other thing that makes it an interesting, effective example of the art of film? For this one, use the text for help in determining criteria.
Be specific in your assessments, using examples from the film that support your points (and be sure you DO NOT DO A REVIEW! ANY REVIEWS WILL LEAD TO SIGNIFICANT LOSS OF POINTS).


1. You are expected to type the answers to the above questions as a coherent paper (As noted earlier, DO NOT USE NUMBERING; however, it should be clear that you\’ve answered each question).

2. The paper should be arranged with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should set the stage for the paperit needs to identify the film and provide your basic thesis (item a above). The basic summary of the film should also be part of the introduction (b above). The body of the paper then should address the next sets of questions (those in c.-d above) in some depth. The conclusion should focus on the last set of questions (in e. above) related to the assessment of the film.

3. Do your best to see beyond cinematic invisibility. One of the best ways to do so is to watch a movie more than oncethe first time just let yourself get caught up in the film, then in subsequent viewings start to become more analytical. The section on taking notes in the Writing About Movies may be useful, esp. on annotating shot sequences. Looking carefully at each scene in the film is what is meant by a close reading.

4. In this paper, be sure you identify and describe in some detail a minimum of four different specific film techniques (and not just describe plot events). Those techniques must be identified correctly, using correct film terminology. Keep in mind that if one of the techniques involves narrative structure, that is NOT the same as the plot.

5. Your primary material for this assignment is the movie itselfit is your text (much like a work of art or literature) Specific and detailed examples from the film are required for each question.

6. In addition, two (2) credible outside sources are also required for this assignment, as a minimum. One MUST be the textbook for the class–specific references to the text are necessary to satisfactorily pass this assignment. IF, FOR SOME REASON, YOU DID NOT OBTAIN THIS TEXT, YOU MUST CONTACT ME IMMEDIATELY FOR A POSSIBLE ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE (such as another film text from the library or other appropriate film source, such as the course lectures). The fourth edition is okay, as long as your citations match that edition (both internal cites and the final reference page)

7. At least one other source in addition to the text must be used to help support pointsthis can be from film reviews, commentary on the film, other film books, the supplemental readings in this course, etc.. You can find such information in the library, or off the internet, especially the Internet Movie Data Base or official websites for the film. Do not use Wikipedia, as it may be incorrect (it can be a starting point for other sources–check the bibliographies at the end of a selection). For the same reason, do not use or Quora as a source (or any similar websitethese cites vary in quality, with numerous non-experts providing answers). Do not confuse a website with a search engine (Yahoo, Bing and Google are search engines). Sometimes such information is on the special features of a DVD. Any such additional information should NOT dominate the paper, as you are expected to do original work for this assignment (the overuse of other sources can lower your score). NOTE: The film you are analyzing is NOT an \”outside source\” (same with the comparison film)–it can be included in the references, but you must also have two sources besides that.

8. Be sure you cite such references correctly in BOTH the paper AND on an attached bibliography, using either MLA or APA format (e.g. note the pages, use quotation marks if appropriate, etc.). Otherwise it is plagiarism. This is true even for the lectures or information from a DVD (be sure to clarify that it is from the directors comments or a documentary, and not just list the film, so Im not confused). PAPERS WITHOUT SOURCES ARE LIKELY TO FAIL THIS ASSIGNMENT; papers that just include a list of sources, but which do not integrate them into the paper also risk failure of the assignment.

9. A specific comparison to at least one other feature film you saw during the semester is required. You will lose 10 pts. off the top without such a comparison. As noted earlier, this comparison CANNOT be to a clip or short film or any film you saw outside of class for entertainment—it must be from one of the feature films you analyzed for a paper.

10. Dont regurgitate everything you learned this semester; instead, focus your analysis. At the end of each chapter are screening questions that might help focus and/or frame your analysis (you are not required to use these, I merely point them out). Or contact me for help. There are sample papers also posted that can serve as models for what I\’m expecting.

11. When you prepare your assessment section, DO NOT make statements like I recommend you watch this great film, or I give it four stars, or This film was really bad, or \”This was the dullest movie I ever saw,\” or even I greatly enjoyed this movie, etc. First, I most likely have already seen the film; second, opinion statements which focus on the films worth as entertainment are IRRELEVANT to the goals of this paper. As noted above, such reviews will cause your score to be lowered (in the worst case, to zero).

12. In addition, avoid personal commentary about how you were confused about movies all semester, or enjoyed watching this particular film, or any other remark that is not analytical Avoid as well making overgeneralized claims about the film or film history, or the actors, directors, etc., that you cannot support (such as no movie before this film tackled this theme or similar statementunless you are looking at a film from the late 1800s, you cannot make such a sweeping claim. It just reveals ignorance).
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