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Instructions
The essay should be 4-6 pages long and double-spaced in 12-point font. It constitutes 17 percent of each student’s grade for the semester (i.e., 170 points/1000). The essay will be evaluated mainly for its content with respect to analyzing the film’s formal elements. In particular, I am looking for convincing argumentation, solid evidence drawn from the film that you discuss, and attention to detail. Remember that the essay calls for a formal analysis and it is not an essay on narrative or interpretation; an essay that drifts from or refuses to engage with formal analysis of mise-en-scene or cinematography/editing does not fulfill the remit of the assignment and will be deemed a failure.
Be mindful of the prose out of which your observations emerge. To wit, I will look for the presence of a clear introduction that cues the reader about the argument that will be made. Moreover, I expect that you will be mindful of grammatical correctness, proper usage, and proofreading to correct readily detected mistakes. Approach the essay as a piece of formal writing and follow appropriate conventions: Avoid contractions, generically gendered language, slang and profanity unless quoting from a source (e.g., one of the film’s characters).
Two options for writing your essays are described below. The film that you write about must be selected from one of the options listed at the end of this assignment in the “Appendix”. Essays on films that are not listed in the Appendix will be returned unread—NO EXCEPTIONS. The DVDs are available from the Library Resource Area which also has several DVD players. Library DVDs may only be watched on the library premises do not circulate. Notice that two of the options are available on youtube.

In order to compose a properly prepared essay, each student should view the film at least twice; initially, for a first impression, and subsequently to take more detailed notes. Even if one has seen the film before, one should view it two more times and also select scenes for further viewing and analysis for the purpose of preparing this essay. Any attempt to write the essay in one night will be a flop. On the other hand, while reading a properly prepared essay, it will be obvious to me that you watched the film attentively and took careful notes. Along with watching the film, be certain to review the appropriate Bordwell & Thompson chapters and handouts on cinematography/editing and mise-en-scene.

The essay does not demand research beyond the compulsory Bordwell & Thompson readings. Be certain, however, to cite any information external to your formal observations of the film via a recognizable citation style (APA is preferred). All late assignments will be marked down unless evidence of extenuating circumstances (e.g., medical problem) is furnished.

The essay options are as follows. Do one option or the other, but do not attempt to do both in the same essay as it will inevitably bring deficient results.

1. Select 3 or 4 scenes from the film and analyze the cinematography and editing that is used within them. Begin by characterizing the meaning of the film in the introduction (briefly, in less than a page). Then, in the body of the essay, sketch an argument that delineates how the cinematography and editing underscore the meaning in the scenes that you select. After studying the scenes closely, describe the manner in which the camera is used. What kind of camera movements (e.g., pans, tilts, tracking or crane shots) do you see? What other properties of the shot are in evidence (e.g., high and low angles, long shots and close-ups, and so on)? What effect do these have on the meaning of the narrative? What type of lens appears to have been used and what impact does it have on what has been filmed? Consider how cinematography may privilege certain characters (as, e.g., Roger O. Thornhill is privileged in North by Northwest by frequent use of point-of-view and reaction shots). Furthermore, how is information within the frame presented so that, e.g., the audience is aware of things of which characters are not aware? What effect do long takes have when they are used? Finally, how are the shots joined together by editing? Adhere to the chronology of shots in the scenes and note each cut that is made. In pursuing this option, it is essential to use accepted film terminology. For example, cameras do not “swish around the room”, but they may “pan from left to right”.

2. Select 3 or 4 scenes from the film and unpack their mise-en-scene. How is the mise-en-scene used to either articulate or complicate the film’s meaning? First, identify the film’s meaning (again, briefly, in less than a page). Second, develop an analysis that demonstrates how the elements of mise-en-scene underscore the meaning you that have identified; that is, how is the film’s meaning expressed by the use of setting(s), costumes, make-up, lighting, props, and staging of objects (including characters)?

Notice that each of the elements of mise-en-scene will not necessarily be equally prominent in any given scene but comment on each to the extent that you can extract details. In other words, do not discuss only one or two aspects of mise-en-scene to the exclusion of others. It is also a very good idea for the purpose of writing an effective and interesting essay to select scenes that present significant contrasts. Scenes with clear contrasts may dramatically flesh out the mise-en-scene and how it functions within the film. In this vein, recall Heavenly Creatures’s contrasts in mise-en-scene between Pauline and Juliet in the clip exhibited in class. How do contrasts convey a film’s meaning? Be mindful of reading details off of the film and using appropriate terminology in your analysis.

Appendix : Film Options
(DVDs and players are in the library collection and do not circulate outside the library. As some DVDs were purchased locally, salient titles are given in English and Spanish so that you can identify them more easily.)
Blue Valentine (Dir: Derek Cianfrance; USA; 2010). Love hurts in this melodrama with the accomplished Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
Shutter Island (Dir: Martin Scorsese; USA; 2010). Psycho-thriller about a psycho-killer, with Leonardo D.
El Orfanato/The Orphanage (Dir: J. A. Bayona; Spain; 2007). Highly regarded film and part of a wave of Spanish horror cinema.
Volver (Dir: Pedro Almodóvar; Spain; 2006). One of the most beloved works of Spain’s signature director of recent decades, a burst of gyno-power.
Brokeback Mountain (Dir: Ang Lee; USA; 2005). Ever wonder what “tuff guy” cowboys with stubbly faces do all night after erecting their tents on the range?
Old Boy (Dir: Chan-wook Park; South Korea; 2003) available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Nlb101Ymq8. A modern international classic, not for wimps.
Lilya 4-Ever (Dir: Lukas Moodysson; Sweden-Denamrk; 2002). Very tough and uncompromising film about people trafficking in post-Soviet Estonia.
Far From Heaven (Lejos del Cielo) (Dir: Todd Haynes; USA; 2002). Impressive and respectful re-working of 1950s melodrama, with some new twists. Nominated for “Best Film” and “Best Actress” (Julianne Moore) Academy Award.
Amélie (Dir: Jean-Pierre Jeunet; France; 2001). Stylistically sophisticated film with deepest dystopia and despair lurking behind the “feel good” veneer.
La Comunidad (Dir: Alex de la Iglesia; Spain; 2000). Carmen Maura stars in this very Spanish comedy-horror about nasty neighbors.
The King Is Alive (Dir: Kristian Levring; Denmark; 2000). A provocative Dogme95 film set/filmed in Africa with an international cast.
High Fidelity (Alta Fidelidad) (Dir: Stephen Frears; USA; 2000). Rom-Com that induces laughs and not winces. From a literary source (Hornby novel).
Erin Brokovich (Dir: Stephen Soderbergh, USA, 2000). Divorced woman with children overcomes odds, unravels corporate conspiracy.
Boys Don’t Cry (Dir: Kimberly Peirce; USA; 1999). Tough account of rural gender bending, based on actual case.
The Limey (Dir: Stephen Soderbergh; USA; 1999). One of Soderbergh’s masterpieces of editing, noir-influenced and and stylish.
Wonderland (Dir: Michael Winterbottom; United Kingdom; 1999). Multiple plotlines in contemporary London. One family, one weekend.
Safe (Dir: Todd Haynes; USA; 1995). Julianne Moore’s first starring role in a mordant analysis of life in USA. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=59cHP4jkr-Y.
Breaking the Waves (Rompiendo las Olas)(Dir: Lars von Trier; Denmark; 1995). Unconventional story of love and sacrifice, albeit helmed by a relentlessly pompous and weird Danish director.
The Fly (La Mosca) (Dir: D. Cronenberg; United Kingdom-Canada-USA)1986). Sci-Fi from a highly regarded director who originated in gory “body horror” films.
Something Wild (Algo Salvaje)(Dir: Jonathan Demme; USA; 1986). Curious crime caper that helped launch careers of Demme, Jeff Daniels, Ray Liotta.
Blood Simple (Sangre Fácil) (Dir: Joel Coen; USA; 1984). Coens’ first feature film is one of their best. Murder and mystery.
The Exorcist (Dir: William Friedkin; USA; 1973/2000). Celebrated horror film with a couple of additional scenes in this version.
Night of the Iguana (Noche de la Iguana)(Dir: John Huston; USA; 1964). Grimly hilarious crack-ups center on a defrocked minister and an earthy hotel/tavern operator.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (El Hombre que Mató Liberty Valence)(Dir: John Ford; USA; 1962). Late, revisionist western, directed by the genre’s leading auteur.
Man with the Golden Arm (El Hombre del Brazo de Oro)(Dir: Otto Preminger; USA; 1955). Stylish look at gamblers, junkies and losers in urban jungle of 1950s Chicago.
High Noon (Solo Antes del Peligro) (Dir: Fred Zinneman; USA; 1952). Upright sheriff dude finds out who his real friends are.
Strangers on a Train (Dir: Alfred Hitchcock; USA; 1951). One of the Master’s better works with numerous recognizable signatures. Spooky, too.
All About Eve (Eva al Desnudo) (Dir: Joseph Mankiewicz; USA; 1950). Critique of media and stardom that still stings today.
Third Man (El Tercer Hombre)(Dir: Carol Reed; United Kingdom; 1949). Noir-ish film set in post WWII Vienna, laden with creepy zanther music. Appraised as best film ever made in UK by British Film Institute.
The Big Sleep (Dir: Howard Hanks; USA; 1946). Labyrinthine plot, supremely snappy dialogue. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall rock the house. Murders and femme fatales.
Treasure of Sierra Madre (El Tesoro de Sierra Madre)(Dir: John Huston; USA; 1948). Humphrey Bogart goes bonkers in this quest film.
Casablanca (Dir: Micheal Curtiz; USA; 1942). Yo’, it’s a classic.
Citizen Kane (Dir: Orson Welles; USA; 1941). One of the world’s best known films, with justly famous realization of the formal aspects (mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing).
The Wizard of Oz (Dir: Victor Fleming; USA; 1938). This is obviously a work of fantasy since Dorothy struggles to … return to Kansas (?!).

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