film 101 midterm essay

Select one of the three options. Presenting some of the salient points from the corresponding text, conduct a formal analysis of the sequence from the film, provided in the “Midterm Essay Clips” folder within the blackboard “Papers” folder (where Turnitin submissions are completed). You can address other aspects of the film that are relevant, including a brief plot summary if necessary, or other formal elements that shed some light on the ways cinematography, editing, and sound (respectively) is employed, but this should be kept to a minimum. After a brief overview of the author’s primary claims, emphasize those passages from the texts most relevant to your interpretation of the scene. Using the appropriate formal terms, describe in detail key examples how the film conveys its message and/or applies to the terms and concepts presented by the author. In other words, go for depth rather than breadth.

Option 1: Vertigo, Cinematography, & Laura Mulvey
Address Laura Mulvey’s arguments in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” by analyzing Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958), and, in particular, the clip in which Scottie (James Stewart) first observes “Madeleine” (Kim Novak).

Option 2: The Battle of Algiers, Editing, & Robert Stam & Louise Spence
Robert Stam’s and Louise Spence’s arguments in “Colonialism, Racism, and Representation” by analyzing The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966), and, in particular, the clip in which the three women plant bombs in the French quarter.

Option 3: M, Film Sound, & Mary Anne Doane
Address Mary Anne Doane’s arguments in “The Voice in Cinema” by analyzing M (Fritz Lang, 1931), and, in particular, the clip opening the film in which Elsie disappears.

For additional guidance on particular things to look for in each film and clip, and/or questions to address with your analysis, see the lecture notes for each film, as well as the discussion board prompts for that class.

Whether you paraphrase or quote, include in-text citation, footnotes, or endnotes, you must cite accordingly. You are also expected to provide a bibliography (even though it is just one text, this is an important habit). You do not need to do any additional research—and, in fact, should not incorporate other sources for your interpretation of the academic text or film. See the texts in the “Writing Guides” folder for additional information on citing sources.

Through this process, I suggest you:

  1. Write down anything about a specific image, sound, figure, camera movement, or series of shots that best illustrates your topic.
  2. Paraphrase in a paragraph or two the overall argument of the academic text/s you would like to incorporate.
  3. Define the key terms from the text/s that are most relevant to your argument, and explain why these are helpful.

Five-Paragraph Structure for 2–3-Page Papers

While there is no singular formula for writing a strong film analysis, and while I certainly do not require that you follow this structure, this is one option to keep in mind as you outline your papers.

1. Thesis Paragraph

Maps out what you want to say (your argument) and how you will say it (your method), including both the supporting text/s and terms, and examples from the films.

2. Terms, Quotes, or Supporting Texts

Lays out the key relevant concept/s from your source, and reiterates how you will apply—or challenge— these with your examples.

3. Example 1

If necessary, provide a brief, one- or two-sentence context for your example. In around two sentences, describe all relevant aspects of the example, using the formal terms. In a couple of sentences, elaborate on its relevance to your thesis and central concepts.

4. Example 2

Same as example 1, but perhaps referencing first example as a counterpoint.

5. Conclusion

With the supporting concepts, ties the two examples together into a synthesis (a new idea or insight that emerges through this juxtaposition). It does not restate the thesis paragraph (which tells the reader where we are going), and does not list the points the covered in the previous paragraphs, but provides a sense of closure while also—paradoxically—suggesting new spaces to explore.

For additional guidance on writing a film analysis essay, refer to The Film Experience, Chapter 12: “Writing a Film Essay: Observations, Arguments, Research, and Analysis,” and the texts provided in the blackboard “Writing Guides” folder.

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