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PWR 2AG: The Rhetoric of Film Criticism

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Catalog Number: PWR 2AG

Instructor: Alex Greenhough

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

As an entertaining escape from the pressures of everyday life, the cinema is often seen as a diversion. Yet its influence is immense. Films mirror and contest the changing attitudes and values of different communities, cultures, and countries. Compelling film criticism – from Honest Trailers on YouTube to reviews by writers such as The New York Times' Wesley Morris and Manohla Dargis – provides important insights into the artistic, philosophical, and political significance of how movies such as ParasiteEverything Everywhere All at Once, and Nope influence our understanding of our ourselves and our world.

In this course we'll explore different methods for studying specific films; we'll touch on a range of important academic frameworks, such as genre studies, feminist film theory, and documentary ethics. Through an in-depth analysis of one film for your research-based argument, you'll develop your skills in writing, research, and oral presentation. Additionally, you will adapt your research-based argument essay into a “storyboard” for a short videographic essay, that'll include material from the film you're analyzing.

Examples of Research Topics

A background in film studies isn't essential for this course, as there are many potential projects for students across the disciplines. If you're interested in the social sciences, for instance, you can examine documentaries like One Child Nation and 13th from a range of different perspectives. Students taking humanities courses in English, history, and philosophy can address literary adaptations, the implications of the accuracy and inaccuracy of historical epics like Dunkirk and All Quiet on the Western Front, or filmic explorations of time, identity, free will, and notions of objectivity. And those majoring in computer science, engineering, physics, biochemistry, or psychology can choose to write about the representation of robotics, cloning, or interstellar travel in science fiction films or science documentaries, for instance, or the cognitive processes involved in viewing a film.

PWR 2 Assignment Sequence

Research Proposal

(5-minute oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words): You will propose a project that examines how a film reflects aspects of a genre, national cinema, or director's oeuvre, and/or addresses a contemporary social issue, scientific or philosophical concept, or historical event. In the oral proposal presentation you'll begin developing your skills in effective communication.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages): You'll develop your persuasive argument in this essay, drawing on research that will include critical and scholarly texts as well as your own original reading of the film. By focusing on a single film, you'll hone your proficiency in close description and sustained interpretive analysis.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support): In this second presentation to the class, you'll present the argument you've developed about your research-based argument, further developing your oral presentation skills in delivery and visual aids, such as a slide deck and clips from your film.

Genre/Modes Assignment

(a storyboard for a videographic essay): For this assignment, you’ll outline a videographic essay in the form of a storyboard, interweaving and juxtaposing text and image and sound to provide commentary on the film’s scenes you've analyzed.