Scene Exposition/Critical Analysis (40%)--Due in the 5th and final weeks of class, these two 15-minute presentations will be group projects. For each presentation, you will identify one scene from a single film of your choice and analyze the formal elements based on the vocabulary in the course. Using the scene explication as a representation of the whole film, your research should be balanced equally between formal elements of the film and legitimate historical information.
In class, you will play the clip (on DVD or VHS) and walk us through your analysis of formal elements and the ways in which they construct our understanding of the film’s narrative. In addition, you will provide a critical analysis using the elements of the critical essay as described in your text.
You may choose any film from the film list, including films we watch in class. If you are interested in a film which does not appear on the list, please propose it to me well before the presentation is due. The film chosen must be based on true events, biography, or cultural truths. It must be a film with defendable artistic merit whose director is working within--or consciously against--cinematic tradition. You may work with a documentary rather than a dramatization if you choose. Assume that the film has been constructed deliberately. The following features are required:
►Cinematic Elements: An in-depth formal analysis which considers several technical aspects (such as mise-en-scene, music, editing, dialogue, use of color, and special effects) and the ways in which those constructions shape the film and our understanding of it. Aside from your own analysis, you must employ at least two sources in support of this critique. How do the director’s decisions influence and construct both the film and our response to it? How does the scene “work” both within the confines of the scene and as one part of the movie as a whole? What larger cultural references are drawn upon and/or ignored?
►Historical Accuracy: Research which proves and/or disproves the historical accuracy of the film. Your findings from at least two sources should be discussed in detail—what were the intentions of the director? Does the scene reflect historical accuracy, metaphors for “truth,” fiction, or “composite” truths? (Even if you choose a film which is not based on actual events, comment on cultural realities and historical references in the film.) How does historical information influence the artistry of the film and vise versa? How does it influence the audience? Does the presentation enhance or cripple our cultural understandings of history? Who is to be believed? What is history? Reflect on Howard Zinn’s assertion that “the historian’s distortion is more than technical, it is ideological.” Can the “truth” of history be known?
►The Big Picture: Draw conclusions about the ways in which this film, and film in general, impacts our understanding of both our history and contemporary North American thought. What does it mean to live in a culture which focuses so intently on entertainment? What is the role of historical film? Do the intentions of the film contradict the results? What is art? What is (or what might be) the role of the arts, especially film? What does it mean to make artificial constructions based on “fact?” How do the entertainment media influence culture, politics, faith, education, etc.? What does it mean to have cultural power—and do people who make films have it? What is the nature of the American Story? Is it anchored in truth? Can movies be historically accurate but miss the point? Can they be built of fabrications/imagination and still present a cultural truth? Is it possible to make a film which deals responsibly and ethically with history? What is the role of cinema in our lives?
►One MLA works cited page (minimum of four sources) will be due at the end of your presentation. Group members will receive identical grades on the presentation as a whole.
Presentations—Criteria for Evaluation
10% Appropriate Choice of film/scene
20% Cinematic Elements/Technical Explication
20% Historical Accuracy/Discovery
20% The Big Picture: Conclusions/Reflections
10% Works Cited Page