Description Film is the art of the manipulation of time & space. In an analysis either of Joe Wright’s Atonement (2007) or Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) analyze how the filmmaker dynamizes space and spatializes time in ways that make new our perception, thought, and feeling toward a character or set of characters. Use stills if talking about a specific scene in detail Tips for Writing on Film Paper Titles: The title should be an exciting, nut-shell encapsulation of your argument. Film Dates and Title: When titles of films first appear in your paper, they should be followed by date of original film release in parentheses (19XX). This helps the reader of your paper situate the text within historical production period. Title of the pop culture text should be either italics or underline. Hook/Opener: Write with vigorous prose that energizes your ideas: vigorous verbs (power center of every sentence), strong nouns, and confidently assertive phrasing. Consider using a dramatically brief initial sentence. It will compel you to begin with a definite assertion that will “hook” your reader. A good opener (“hook”) gives your paper momentum and a sense of confidence that will energize the rest of the paper. Strong Verbs: As a rule, use active verbs to move sentences; excessive reliance on the verb “to be” slows down flow of ideas and makes for strings of prepositional phrases (“of”). Thesis: make sure that your thesis puts forth an argument–an argument that is manageable within a 5-8 page paper. Think of the thesis as something controversial and with and edge: “At first glance, Jason Reitman’s film Juno (2007) is about blah blah blah, but upon closer look it blah blah blah. . . .” Plot Summary/Description: Make sure that after you give evidence to support your argument, analyze and unpack carefully to reveal how the scene/event, etc. is constructed. In class and in our secondary readings we have acquired many concepts and tools that will help you to analyze. This will allow you to avoid plot summary. Here you would do well to reproduce an image grab of the scene or panel you are analyzing. You can recognize plot summary when your writing has no argument and/or point of view, it merely recapitulates the facts present in the text. Critical analysis takes a viewpoint and proves its validity; its object is to give critical texture to information the reader is already familiar with. It helps if you’ve formulated an interesting and controversial thesis. As you analyze the cultural object at hand, get in the habit of thinking in terms of why this content and how is it given shape–the kind of questions that lead to the type of close reading we do in class. These questions lead to critical analysis and avoid the less interesting what questions because they’re interpretive rather than descriptive. Toolbox: Use the tools that you’ve acquired in Looking at Movies. Concrete devices/techniques used to give shape to the film and how this object engages its ideal audience will shift your essay from description and plot summary to analysis. Images: If analyzing a frame please do insert this into your paper. This will allow the reader to see what your analyzing and it will force you to treat the scene/image etc. like you might the quotation of a piece of poetry: to break it down with analysis and not description. Voice: Make sure that you keep the voice of paper in present tense and in your Your prose should talk to your reader–speak directly to your reader. Prose should have a natural, conversational rhythm that carries with it a ring of honesty and passionate conviction and not the staid, dull beat of stuffy English. Do use the “I” voice. Make sure to use the active voice, especially with your first sentence of your paper; it’s important to grab reader’s attention. Avoid vague statements and words like “seems” etc. Topic sentences, paragraphs: It helps to have strong topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. Topic sentences act like sign posts that show the direction your argument taking at every step of the way. If a paragraph takes you in a new direction, make sure to create a new paragraph and develop that idea fully. Quote: When analyzing scenes, frames, soundbites, etc. treat like you would a quote from poetry: analyze and unpack carefully and slowly all of its significance in terms of how it is shaped to convey meaning: characterization, theme, motif, symbol, and the like. Focus: You don’t have to cover every example to prove your point; select the most salient feature, scene, character trait etc. then unpack carefully. Conclusion: Bring your main point into sharp focus; gratify your reader with at least one last new idea; give your ending emotional impact. Proof read: Read paper aloud to yourself or friend—this often irons out typos, logic kinks, etc. in paper. Reading out loud will allow your ear to catch what your tired eye will not. *Nit-picks: Use “that” and not “which” unless “which” follows a comma: g. “The war, which started four weeks ago, is likely to continue”. Here the “which” clause merely adds some nonessential information and thus functions as a parenthesis. Contrast to: “The war that the media represent is necessary.” Namely, “that” is conversational and “which” is bookish. (If you look at any decent newspaper writing, you’ll see “that” is the choice and not “which”.) Words such as “it,” “this,” and “that” (and even “she,” “he,” and “they”) are dangerous: You might be tempted to use them without clear referents. Always check for context, to be sure the reader knows what you mean. When writing about foreign films, be sure to use accents on titles and actor/character names.
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