CIN 101H5F: An Introduction to Cinema Studies/ Interpreting Cinematic Worlds

CIN 101H5F: An Introduction to Cinema Studies/ Interpreting Cinematic Worlds

Paper Two Assignment Sheet: Interpreting Cinematic Worlds
Due on Monday, 2 November (Week 8). Submit an electronic copy on turnitin.com by 12:00 PM (Noon) & submit a hard copy at the beginning of lecture.

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Assignment Background: Over the past few weeks we have discussed some of the ways in which the stylistic features of cinematic representation shape a viewer’s understanding of the “cinematic world” presented onscreen—and by extension, shape her understanding of the social world beyond the screen as well. As Nichols explains in Engaging Cinema, and as we’ve further elaborated in lectures and tutorials, every cinematic world is shaped by a particular set of ideological values and beliefs that may be rendered natural or unnatural, beneficial or problematic by the stylistic features of the image. For instance, while some films and TV shows we’ve looked at use the codes of realism to naturalize a set of ideological and perhaps even hegemonic beliefs and values about this world, others use them to critique such values and beliefs, or else, to call our attention the contradictions and unhappiness they create; some use stylistic elements (such as the shot, editing, or mise-en-scene) to challenge one set of beliefs while naturalizing another.

Assignment Description: Your task in this assignment will be to use one scene from a film or TV show of your choosing (or from the list of recommended films that follows) as the basis for a critical analysis of the ways in which the stylistic features that shape this scene also serve to shape a particular set of hegemonic and/or ideological values and beliefs about the social world (whether they naturalize, denaturalize, or otherwise complicate them). As part of this task, you will be expected to construct a clear, coherent thesis statement expressing the argument you wish to make about the way the stylistic features of the scene contribute to a particular understanding of this world. You will also be expected to support the major claims of this argument with any relevant evidence drawn from your description of the scene’s stylistic features—as well as any other relevant information you’ve drawn from readings or lecture in the process.

Assignment Goals & Criteria: The goal of this assignment is to help you hone the skills of close description that you practiced in the first assignment while also adapting them to a second foundational skill: forming a well-conceived thesis about visual style that is supported by the evidence of focused scene descriptions and analysis. These are the components of a standard college-level essay assignment. The paper will be graded with these two criteria, as well as the quality of the writing and the persuasiveness of the argument, foremost in mind. But don’t forget to consult the feedback you got on the first assignment to improve your effort this time around; it will help you achieve these goals.

Further Details & Requirements:

? The paper should be approximately 1000 words in length, not including references and/or notes. Use standard margins, double-spacing and a 12-point font.

? The paper should include at least one scholarly reference (class readings are okay), and correctly cite the relevant source using MLA or Chicago style references.

? You can discuss a scene from the film you wrote about for Paper One, but not the same scene. Your paper should also avoid repeating analysis of any scenes performed in lecture or tutorials. I’ve added some additional titles to the list of recommended films and shows in case you’d like another suggestion.

? The thesis should avoid the expression of opinions that cannot be supported with examples from your description of the scene or references to readings or lectures. A good thesis and argument rely on reason, evidence, examples, and references to persuade the reader of their claims. Pretend you are a lawyer defending a claim in a court of law, where evidence dictates the outcome. If you can present compelling evidence, you are making a strong argument. We will discuss the construction of a strong thesis in tutorials, but if you have questions on the subject please let us know or consult one of the resources listed below.

? Papers should indicate a basic understanding of the concept of ideology, and cite any relevant sources supporting the explanation offered for this concept.

? Some questions to keep in mind for your description: How do techniques of framing, editing, mise-en-scene shape the spectator’s view of the world? What does the image show as normal or abnormal, good or bad, and how do stylistic features of the image contribute to this impression? What does the image of this “cinematic world” foreground or ignore? You do not need to answer each of these questions specifically. You will naturally emphasize things that seem relevant or important about the scene’s construction, and as long as you have enough details to tell a story about how we see the event conveyed in the scene and support the claims of your thesis with analysis, that’s fine.

? Make sure to proofread your paper for errors in spelling and sentence construction. Excessive errors will affect your grade.

Recommended Films & Shows

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)

Dark Passage (Delmer Davies, 1947)
Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)

Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
Get Hard (Etan Cohen, 2015)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946)

Umberto D (Vittorio De Sica, 1952)

The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)

Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)

Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010)

The Office (TV Show, 2005-2013)

Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Additional Tips & Resources:

? If you have questions about grammar, constructing a good thesis, or proper citation and reference styles, consult the style manual mentioned in the syllabus or the Purdue Owl website, which offers helpful tips on these matters and can be found at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. You can also consult the resources I mention in the syllabus: The UTM Visual Studies Grammar Workshops, which will appear under “My Organizations” on your Blackboard page, has online workshops and quizzes you can complete to improve your skills.

? If you anticipate needing help from a writing specialist, book an appointment in the Academic Skills Centre as soon as possible and plan to start a draft of your paper early for the appointment. The same goes for visiting your TA or me during office hours or an appointment: we cannot offer substantive feedback on paper ideas or drafts by e-mail, so start working early to ensure that you have time to contact us, get the help you need, and use any feedback we give you at the meeting.

? If you think you’ll need help from an ELL specialist or peer-tutor, make sure to get a flyer about the new ELL support resources available in the Annie Smith Centre.

? Part of your job in a good college-level essay is to present your argument in a clear, logical progression of ideas and points. Remember that you are telling your reader a story about ideas and narrate this story in a way that makes sense and builds toward the conclusion.

? To this end, keep in mind that you are not advised to provide a complete description of the scene or to separate your description from your analysis of it; the two should be integrated into the kind of narrative I describe above. In other words, only relevant features of the scene’s style should be described as supporting evidence from one claim to the next.

? You should try to refer to relevant stylistic terms already covered in readings or familiar to you from elsewhere to describe your scene; you are also free to check the glossary of Nichols’ book or jump ahead if you want to search for a particular technical term to describe editing or sound, for instance. However, it is still more important at this point to describe the elements of the scene carefully than it is to use technical terms to do so. And if you do use technical terms to describe style, make sure you use them correctly; incorrect uses of terminology will compromise your argument.

? Feel free to use metaphorical language and write with style. Also feel free to be creative and take risks more generally in the claims you make about the scene. As long as you provide persuasive evidence of your claim you have written a successful analytical essay.

? Make sure you understand the university’s policy on Academic Honesty. Plagiarism will not be tolerated, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the information provided on this matter in the syllabus, and let your TA or me know about any questions you have on the subject.