Essential questions

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Presentations: Four individuals per group – first group member is responsible for
the review of the assigned chapter, the second for analyzing film as a cultural
phenomenon, the third for examining the modes of production and star power, and
the fourth for finding three critiques and then producing one’s own critique of the
film. Each group member must deliver his/her presentation by powerpoint and
provide the instructor an hardcopy of the outlined powerpoint BEFORE delivering
the presentation. In addition, to the prepared outline, each group member must
formulate one question to pose to the class for discussion. Also, each group member
must have a works cited set up correctly in either MLA or APA style. .

Synopsis:
1. outline of presentation
2. works cited
3. 1 question written down



I.     Chapter Review (Group member #1)

We are covering seven genres (according to Belton’s list): melodrama, American
comedy, war and crime, film noir, musical, counterculture, and twenty-first century.
The person responsible for the chapter review of the film genre his/her group selected
must provide an explicit outline of the chapter.
This is no small feat! Each chapter is rich with details. I do not want you to simply
regurgitate the data. After reading each section within the chapter, I would like you
to summarize the main concept (idea) and provide only one concrete evidence. For
example, if the section explores how, say, melodrama allows its viewers to come in
terms with uncomfortable social realities such as poverty and provides four films to
demonstrate this, I want you to only refer to one film. For each section, try to limit
your comments to half a page (typed, of course). You are also responsible for setting
up the film for the class. Your presentation precedes the viewing of the film. As you
do the review of the chapter, you must point out the connections in the film we will
be seeing. That is, if a section talks about how melodrama is used as a tool for social
reform and you believe your chosen film also performs this role, you need to state this
explicitly in your outline.


II.    Cultural Phenomenon (Group member #2)

Motion picture movies that emerged in the early twentieth century are a cultural
phenomenon. What this means is that movies do much more than entertain us.
Through movies, we are in a constant state of becoming: They speak to our desires
and yearnings, and they provide an aesthetic cultural space where we confront our
fears and disappointments and negotiate identities. Movies have institutionalized a
modern concept of self that values individuality and fluidity over the pre-industrial
sense of self as an integral, static, and indistinguishable member of the community.
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Motion picture movies have also created a new public domain outside of traditional
social institutions such as churches, dance halls, social clubs, and saloons where mass
culture resides. Within this space, time is objectified and controlled dictating how
individuals react and experience life. That is, life is put under the microscope and
scrutinized closely within a give amount of time. And because this careful analysis of
life is completed within a limited allotted amount of time (today around 120 minutes),
it is an intense experience.

In the preface of American Cinema / American Culture, John Belton writes, “The
core of that [book’s] thesis rests on an assumption that American cinema reveals, both
directly and indirectly, something about American experience, identity, and culture.
The relationship among American cinema and American identity, as mediated
through American culture, is extremely complex. Each shapes and is shaped by the
other in a constant process of mutual determination. American cinema plays a crucial
role in the process of identity-formation. Films not only serve as texts which
document who we think we are or were, but they also reflect changes in our self-
image, tracing the transformation from one kind of America to another. More
importantly, the American cinema plays a crucial role in assisting audiences in
negotiating major changes in identity; it carries them across difficult periods of
cultural transition in such a way that a more or less coherent national identity remains
in place, spanning the gaps and fissures that threaten to disrupt its movement and to
expose its essential disjointedness” (xxi).

Your role as group member #2 is to highlight and analyze how your chosen film from
a particular era captures an historical moment in cinema. That is, what does your
selected film say about class, gender, race, sexuality, sexual orientation, love,
government, education, among other social and political variables? Of course, your
film is not going to explore all of these; in fact, it may only touch upon two or three
major issues. The list below in the box is some salient factors prevalent in the film:

   How does the film both shape and reflect the American national identity? That
   is, what does the movie say about social, gender, cultural, racial, class,
   psychological, and political identities?

   Social: Question of agency (individuality); asserting self over/through/with
   community; romanticized sense of self that struggles to remain free from social
   corruption.
   Questions: Does the self feel threatened by its surrounding? Why? Does the self
   feel that community or government limits its expression and state of being?

   Gender: Crisis of masculinity; playing with/asserting gender roles; redefining
   gender roles.
   Questions: Are any characters’ choices restricted because of gender? What are the
   power relationships between the sexes, do these change during the film? Do any
   characters resist the gender roles that society has assigned to them? Do other
   characters choose to conform to those roles?
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       Politics/Class: Corruption and decadence of the Old World vs. freedom and
       equality of the New World; populism (the elevation of the common individual)
       vs. intellectual elite; progressivism vs. conservatism
       Questions: How does membership in a social class affect the characters’ choices
       and their success or failures? How does class affect the way characters view – or
       are viewed by – other? What do economic struggles reveal about power
       relationships in the society being depicted?

       Culture: inventing a unique and distinct American identity.
       Questions: Are any characters portrayed as being caught between cultures:
       between the culture of their home community and society at large or between a
       traditional and an emerging culture?

       Psychological: the fears, needs, wants, disappointments, desires, and fantasies
       the self confronts and works through.
       Questions: Are the characters in the film reliable? Should the audience member
       trust any of the characters? How do the characters deal with their emotions? Is
       their particular emotional outburst, if there is one, shared perhaps by audience
       members, especially during the time the film was released?

       Race: fear of and longing for racial/ethnic identity; narrative rooted in white
       privilege and white racism
       Questions: Are any characters engaged in a conflict with society because of their
       race or ethnic background? To what extent does the film celebrate a specific
       ethnic/racial identity?



You are required to get two scholarly articles from the library’s database on how the
social variables (race, gender, class, etc.) play out in your chosen film. If you feel that
race and gender are the two pivotal issues in the film that depict a particular era, then
you need to find an article on gender and race and some of the struggles/breakthroughs
how American society dealt with these issues during this time period.. You are not limited
to articles that directly mention the film. You can retrieve articles that explore the
politics, ideology, and social significance of gender and race in American society. You
can then make the connection for your audience in your presentation.
Databases you may want to look at:
     Academic Search Premier
     Article First
     Expanded Academic
     Humanities Full Text
     Infrotrac
     Jstor
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   III.      Modes of Production and Star Power (Group member #3)
             (I have a supplementary handout to help guide you through this process)

   Narrative: Belton contends that “the narrative is delivered so effortlessly and
   efficiently to the audience that it appears to have no source. [. . .] But, in fact, it is
   created; it is made according to classical principles of clarity, simplicity, elegance,
   order, and symmetry” (23).

          To identify and evaluate the narrative, assess the following:
               Equilibrium and disruption (pg. 24)
               Characters and goals (pg. 25)
               Time and space (pg. 26)
               Audience’s journey (pg. 28)
               Suspension of disbelief (pg. 29)


   Style: In a supplement text to John Bolton’s American Cinema / American Culture,
   Ed Sikov states the Hollywood is a “powerful idea, the consequence of both a
   particular formal style of filmmaking and an industrial system of film production”
   (7). He defines “style” as “the various elements of film art that produce expressive
   meaning: lighting, editing, set design, performance, dialogue, music, costume, and so
   on” (7).

          To identify and evaluate the style, assess the following:
           Mise-en-scene (“putting on the stage” or, simply “relation of everything in the
              shot to everything else in the shot – of actors to the décor; of décor and actors
              to the lighting; of actors, décor, and lighting to the camera position; and so
              forth” (pg. 47-48)
           Camera angle and movement (pg. 48-52)
           Lighting (pg. 51-56)
           Sound (pg. 57-58)
           Editing (transitions and scenes) (pg. 58-62)

    The Star: Stars play an important role in the production of American films. They
   are, in many cases, the economic backbone to the movie; that is, they help generate
   income for the movie, bringing in faithful moviegoers to the cinema. Sikov points
   out, “Stars reflect the needs, fears, and aspirations of American culture; our stars
   make sense to international audiences as embodiments of these concerns. And as
   American cultural needs shift, so do the types of men and women who become stars.
   Maintaining stardom across time therefore becomes difficult, especially during
   periods of social change” (33; his emphasis).

Questions to address for your presentation)
Describe the narrative (act of storytelling). That is, what are some of the salient
characteristics that distinguish this movie?
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Describe the movies’ style. How does the movies’ style operate to enhance the
audience’s sense of identification with the central character? How does the style
function to control how the audience feels about and experiences certain characters
and events in the movie?

Is a star featuring in the movie? If so, describe the star’s overall Hollywood persona.
Is this persona reflected in her/his character in the movie? How does the actor’s
stardom add credibility to the movie? What social phenomenon does the actor’s
stardom embodies? Pages 102-124 provide a brief sketch of the actor’s roles in
previous movies and how her/his stardom began and got shaped through her/his
Hollywood experience.

You are required to get two scholarly articles from the library’s database on narrative,
style or star power. Note: only one article can be on star power. What this means is that
if you get an article on, say, Tom Cruis, from People magazine, this will not be accepted.
People is not a scholarly journal. The purpose of your research is to find what other
intellects/scholars are saying about the theory of narration or the role of sound to enrich
your understanding of film as a form of art.
Databases you may want to look at:
      Academic Search Premier
      Article First
      Expanded Academic
      Humanities Full Text
      Infrotrac
      Jstor



   IV.     Three Film Critiques (Group member #4)

The fourth group member is responsible for finding three scholarly film critiques. These
critiques must be of substantial length; that is, any article you find that is less than two
pages is not acceptable. You may to look at the following databases:
      Academic Search Premier
      Article First
      Expanded Academic
      Humanities Full Text
      Infrotrac
Once you find three articles (critiques of the movie), you must prepare your own critique,
which must be at least two full pages. In your own critique, you need to refer to the
three you read, discussing whether you agree or disagree with their comments. This is
also your opportunity to refer to a particular scene in your chosen film or concept that has
not been mentioned in any of the critiques.
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Important note for all presenters: You must – of course – view the film in advance.
You can view your chosen film the week before your presentation on Thursday, any time
from 9 am to 5 pm, or Friday, from 9am to 2pm. If these time slots are inconvenient for
you, then you are responsible to rent the movie yourself and view it at home in
preparation for your presentation. If you are unprepared for your presentation, you will
automatically fail the class. Remember, fifty percent (50%) of your class grade is the
presentation. What this means is that the presentation is VERY IMPORTANT. Each
group member gets an individual grade.



1930’s era
Musical: 42 Street (1933)
Presenter #1 (chapter review):__________________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):_____________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production and star power):__________________________

Presenter #4 (film critiques):_____________________________________________



1940’s era
War and Crime: Casablanca (1942)
Presenter #1 (chapter review):__________________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):_____________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production and star power):__________________________

Presenter #4 (film critiques):_____________________________________________



1950’s era
Film Noir: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Presenter #1 (chapter review):__________________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):_____________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production and star power):__________________________

Presenter #4 (film critiques):____________________________________________
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1960’s era
Counterculture: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Presenter #1 (chapter review):__________________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):_____________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production and star power):__________________________

Presenter #4 (film critiques):_____________________________________________


1970’s era
American Comedy: Blazing Saddle (1974)
Presenter #1 (chapter review):__________________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):_____________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production and star power):__________________________

Presenter #4 (film critiques):_____________________________________________




1990’s era
Into the Twenty-First Century: Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Presenter #1 (chapter review):__________________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):_____________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production and star power):__________________________

Presenter #4 (film critiques):_____________________________________________

Presenter #5 (three critical analyses on a non-white, non-middle-class, non-heterosexual
             Hollywood):__________________________________________________
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2000’s era
Ideology: Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Presenter #1 (chapter review – handout):_____________________________________

Presenter #2 (cultural phenomenon):________________________________________

Presenter #3 (modes of production):________________________________________

Presenter #4 (film critique):_______________________________________________

				
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