Writing Assignment #2: Be the Critic

Double spaced, standard 12pt font (Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, etc.), approximately 3 pages, stapled.

Due Thursday, Feb. 25th in class.

You have two options for this assignment:

1) Imagine that you are a contributor to a collection of brief essays on the influence of classic film noir on contemporary film. Choose a movie you’ve seen recently that you feel owes some significant debt to film noir of the 1940s and 1950s and discuss how your movie draws on, pays homage to, enters into conversation with, updates, or subverts the various thematic or stylistic elements that are typically associated with film noir. Be sure to draw on Schrader, Naremore, Grossman, or Borde and Chaumeton where approporiate to back up your arguments — chapter 5 of Naremore (now on the readings page) might prove especially useful. If you choose to work with Schrader (and you probably will want to), be mindful of Naremore’s take on his famous essay in chapter 1 of More Than Night. Try to be as specific as possible when talking about your movie — feel free to focus on individual scenes or even shots rather than merely broad themes. While you may wish to briefly summarize the movie you’ve chosen, please don’t spend a whole lot of time on plot summary — no more than a brief paragraph. The bulk of your essay should be devoted to analysis.

2) Imagine that you are a film critic writing for a special issue of a journal of film criticism devoted to the key ideas in Laura Mulvey’s famous essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Choose a recent film and discuss it through the theoretical lens Mulvey offers us in her essay, applying the concepts she uses to the themes, individual scenes, or even single shots of your movie. Do, in other words, with your movie what Mulvey does with Vertigo, Marnie, and Rear Window toward the end of her essay. (If you are interested in discussing a movie that you feel subverts the structures of looking that Mulvey talks about, or if you wish to offer a critique of Mulvey’s persepctive in relation to a given film, please let me know and I will give you several critiques and analyses of Mulvey to work with.) Be as specific as possible and use Mulvey to support your arguments. To make your life easier, here are some notes on Mulvey that outline her central ideas.

Regardless of which option you choose, try to be as focused and as specific in your discussion as possible. You don’t have a lot of room for a broad, wide ranging discussion so try to keep it somewhat narrow. Please feel free to run ideas by me or to show me drafts. I will be happy to discuss any aspect of this assignment with you and will help you work out your arguments as best I can. What I am looking for here, more than anything else, is how well you articulate and support your arguments with evidence from your movies and the text. If you have questions about this assignment, please feel free to post theme here in a comment.

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