Engl 222 Critical Analysis Essay (hard copy due in my Brink 200 mailbox by noon Monday May 1--late essays accepted no later than in class Tuesday May 2--also send to me by email MS Word or RTF to sflores@uidaho.edu): Your assignment is to write at minimum a six page (double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins) essay in which you may write about what you find most meaningful, or important, or effective and compelling (thought provoking or significant) about a film, with some attention and analysis in your essay to how the film is put together to achieve its meanings and effects; moreover, does the film (and director) seem to succeed in accomplishing particular aims (or answer questions, solving problems), and does anything about its narrative (including characters' relationships or plot developments) complicate the resolution to its story or aims?

One approach to fulfilling this assignment is to present an argument and analysis to explain how cinematic techniques work together to create meaning in a film, and that emphasis on relating film techniques/form to meaning/narrative may appeal in particular to those of you who have studied films in other courses. Another approach, as described above, is for your analysis to foreground the film's narrative--its plot and story, with characters' relationships and conflicts within its cultural/historical setting, including ideology or implicit debate over values and perspectives and actions/ethics--and include some recognition and support for your analysis with attention to the film's cinematic techniques, but those techniques are not your main focus for discussion.

This assignment can be very much like the Sequence Analysis Essay and builds upon the “scaffolded” sequence of our film studies over the course of this semester.

For example, if you choose to include substantial attention to a film's form/techniques, please review and keep in view the following: in your prior sequence analysis essay, your essay aimed to understand how a sequence makes sense—how a sequence of shots has and creates meaning—including (and because of) its relation to other significant prior or subsequent parts of the film, as the film’s narrative story and plot unfold and arguably either cohere or work in contradiction to enact meaning. In other words, a sequence functions in its fullest significance and range of meaning(s) as it is understood to exist and as it is situated within the overall film and its contexts. In that prior essay you were assigned to create an argument and conduct analysis that begins with a specific shot sequence but which also moves beyond close analysis to understand the film’s overall narrative arc and its primary modes of representing and working through problems/questions—both cinematic as well as cultural/social/historical problems and questions, and to consider to what degree the film seems to answer or resolve such questions.

In this Critical Analysis Essay, you are to create an argument and conduct analysis that may but not does not necessarily need to include a focus on one or more shot sequences but that also moves beyond close analysis to understand the film’s overall narrative arc and its primary modes of representing and working through problems/questions—both cinematic as well as cultural/social problems and questions, and to consider to what degree the film seems to answer or resolve such questions. For example, in the film Frozen River (2008), what challenges do differences (of age, ethnicity/culture, or ?) pose to the two primary women characters' relationship, and what commonalities or compromises/exchanges enable these women to work together, perhaps to begin to understand one another, and to bond ? How does the film (and its form/techniques) enact or represent such issues and relationships and developments over the course of the narrative? Note: you may also incorporate some attention to film history and to helpful information about the director and the film (from review-essays, our textbook), and if you do so, that will adjust the ratio in your essay between such "research" and your "analysis," but be sure to include a substantial, majority portion of your essay as analysis relative to the research on the film's and director's place in film history. I expect that your essay will be strengthened by some consulation/research, for example, by taking advantage of essays and other materials included not only in our main film history text but also in folders in Bblearn.

You are to write about a post World War II film (1945-present) that you select from a list that I shall provide of acclaimed films that vary by time period, culture, and genre; you may also choose a film that is listed on our course schedule on the main website (derived from films mentioned in the chapters in our main film history text). Note also that if you wrote on an American film (directed by John Ford or a film set in the United States) for the Sequence Analysis Plus Essay, then you must write on a foreign film (non-U.S. setting) for this assignment.

On the list I at times note whether the film appears on the Sight & Sound list of all-time top films (with its ranking), or on other lists of top films (many of the films also are derived from the National Society of Film Critics's list of 100 Essential Films, as well as list of top ten films on the Criterion site, and whether the film is available streaming via your subscription to Hulu, or for those of you who have Netflix, whether it is on Netflix streaming, though I did not conduct a thorough search for whether films are on Netflix. The UI library also has a good number of these films in DVD-format, available for loan.

For example, here are some of the films that I am considering for the list: ’71, Birdman, Children of Men, Chinatown, City of God; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Deliverance, Do the Right Thing, Drive, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ex Machina, Fresh, Her, Ida, Margaret, Mulholland Dr., Night of the Hunter, Pariah, Rachel Getting Married, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Conformist, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Secret in Their Eyes; Two Days, One Night; Volver, Winter’s Bone, The Godfather and/or The Godfather, Part II, and Apocalypse Now, Nashville, The Player, Gosford Park, Annie Hall, Manhattan, What’s Up Doc?, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas (1989),, Larisa Shepitko’s Wings on Hulu, Knife in the Water on Hulu (1962), Closely Watched Trains on Hulu, Woman in the Dunes on Hulu (1964), Violence at Noon on Hulu (1966), The Insect Woman on Hulu, Agnès Varda’s Vagabond on Hulu, Caché, Run Lola Run, Nikita (aka La Femme Nikita), Pan’s Labyrinth, Tsotsi, Stranger Than Paradise, Frozen River, Jackie Brown, El Secreto de Sus Ojos/The Secret in Their Eyes, and more possibilities from the films we are studying over the semester and as mentioned, those listed in the course syllabus.

Watch your selected film (repeatedly) and take notes. Pay attention to the primary issues/contradictions/conflicts explored in the film, its overall structure, and significant techniques used. Ask yourself the same kinds of questions that prompted and informed your Sequence Analysis Plus Essay. For instance, does a particular color or lighting scheme dominate? If so, why? Is the narrative chronological or achronological? What effect does this arrangement have? Does the film engage with genre conventions? How and for what purpose? With whom do we identify, or is 'identification' frustrated or undermined or used to challenge our assumptions and values? What effect does this have? What are the roles and relationships between characters who appear to be aligned with dominant cultural politics and ideologies, and as these characters are juxtaposed or connected to characters in subordinate or marginalized positions and identities? How are they shot and lit? What story and plot and action and performances are these characters embedded and embodied within? What patterns of familiar images and motifs help to structure the film?

Begin to formulate an argument. In the course of exploring your essay you may develop a specific (hypo)thesis statement about how one or two particular cinematic techniques underscore one or more key issues/motifs (or problems/questions/conflicts) in the film. Or you might begin with the film’s story/narrative to see what you most want to focus upon in your interpretive argument, with some analysis of cinematic techniques deployed to support and to illustrate your explanation and exploration. Your essay will most likely be strongest if you include some close cinematic analysis of one or more shot sequences, as you did in the prior sequence analysis essay. While some brief (plot) summary may be helpful, plan to avoid or minimize bare description so that you focus instead on writing an essay with well-developed and supported cinematic analysis and argument/interpretation.

If you select a film that we have studied in class, your analysis must go significantly beyond or take a different perspective on what we have studied already in class. Though you are not required to draw upon and incorporate criticism on the film that you are analyzing, if you happen to choose a film for which there are film analyses in our Bblearn materials/folders, feel invited to consider and to cite/quote such criticism to develop and to suppport your essay, and as points of reference and departure. And keep mind that for general as well as specific points about film studies, you may want to cite one or more passages in our primary text on film history or other film studies/criticism excerpts (PDFs) from our course Bblearn folders--as mentioned above--to support and illustrate your analysis. Also, as with the Sequence Analysis, see the range of student essay examples in the Bblearn folder, which also includes two examples of students' Critical Analysis essays on the films, respectively, of Two Days, One Night,and of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

As assigned earlier in the semester, review Corrigan and White PDF in Bblearn folder for Chapter Twelve (429-461): Writing a Film Essay: Observations, Arguments, Research, and Analysis Writing an Analytical Film Essay and also read the Introduction to Film Analysis chapter from Film Analysis: A Norton Reader (available via PDF in the Bblearn folder).

• Consider also the following advice excerpted from Timothy Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing about Film.

The critical essay usually falls between the theoretical essay and the movie review. The writer of this kind of essay presumes that his or her reader has seen or is at least familiar with the film under discussion, although that reader may not have thought extensively about it. This writer therefore might remind the reader of key themes and elements of the plot, but a lengthy retelling of the story of the film is neither needed nor acceptable. The focus of the essay is far more specific than that of a review, because the writer hopes to reveal subtleties or complexities that may have escaped viewers on the first or even the second viewing…

• As with the prior assignment, keep in mind (in view) your prior reading and the resources available via PDFs and video clips in the course website and Bblearn folders, including the many analyses of films. As I mentioned in class, with students’ permission I have placed examples of strong Shot Analysis Charts and Sequence Analysis Essays in the Bblearn folder for that prior assignment, for your review, and I will also include several additional critical essays by students in Engl 230 for further examples, as already mentioned above.

-Avoid plot summary and extended visual description. Aim instead to analyze how specific cinematic techniques function to underscore the film’s themes and ideas. Organize your essay around key points in your argument, rather than a chronological or primarily descriptive account of the film's plot and story.
-Avoid evaluative language. (“The costumes are beautiful.”) Aim instead to analyze the effects of the techniques used. (“Ada’s restrictive, layered clothing impedes her movement through the natural surroundings and symbolizes her oppression.”)
-If you know precise film terminology, use it. (Is the camera movement a track, tilt, pan or zoom? Is it a high-angle shot or a low-angle shot?, etc.)
-Avoid vague language. (“The use of lighting in this scene is very effective” or “Parallel editing helps to create suspense,” etc.) Aim instead to analyze the specific effect of individual techniques. (“Closed frame compositions emphasize Susan’s entrapment.”)
-Make a strong argument about the film!
-Ineffective thesis statement: In this essay I will analyze the use of sound in Blackmail’s “knife” sequence,  connecting it to larger thematic and visual patterns in the film as a whole.
-Effective thesis statement: In Blackmail off-screen sound illustrates Alice’s powerlessness, while also encouraging viewers to identify with this position of victimization.
-You are not required to do any additional research for this paper. Rely on the analytical skills that you have been learning in class and our reading and study materials in the main text as well as via our Bblearn site.
-You may find it helpful to read/review several examples of student essays that were written for shot and sequence analysis assignments and critical essay assignments in Engl 230--though these assignments differ somewhat from your assignment, these examples provide some instances of how other students have analyzed films productively. See the folder in Bblearn on writing advice and examples of student writing.

Essay Format:
• Type and double-space your paper, using 1-inch margins and 12 pt Times New Roman font. Do not use extra return/spaces between paragraphs.
• Number the pages.
• Underline or italicize film titles. (CAPS or “quotation marks” are incorrect.)
• Give your paper a title that reflects your argument about the sequence.
• Put your name near the top left of the first page, followed by Engl 222.01 and the date on separate lines
• Spell check and proof read your paper.

Lateness Policy: Excerpt from Course Requirement #6: All required work is due at the begin ning of class on the due date—work turned in late will be graded accordingly. Required graded written work will be downgraded one notch (for example, B+ to B, converted to points for each assignment) for each weekday late (not just days classes meet but counting just one day for a weekend). For this assignment, an essay submitted later than in class Tuesday May 3 will not be accepted. I will grant short extensions for medical and family emergencies—but talk with me as soon as possible to request an extension. Always keep copies of your work.

Academic Misconduct: Any act of academic misconduct, including but not limited to cheating, fabrication, plagiarism or facilitating academic dishonesty, will result in failure of the assignment and given the points available, likely failure of the course. Your case will be reported to the Dean of Students according to campus guidelines, and such matters are subject to policies in the UI Student Code of Conduct. See this helpful highlighed weblink to learn more about academic integrity on the Dean of Students' website.
Reminder of Guidance and Advice:
• Consult Corrigan and White chapter on Writing a Film Essay: Observations, Arguments, Research, and Analysi (PDF in Bblearn folder); also see the PDF excerpt from Gocsik et al Writing About Movies.

• You are invited to meet with me – Office hours: W 2:30pm-4:00 p.m. & by appt./Office: Brink 125