PHILOSOPHY AND FILM WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
Submission method for all assignments: Submit your assignment by copy/pasting your text file into the body of your e-mail message. Do not send it as an e-mail attachment.
Unless noted otherwise, assignments will be assessed as either unsatisfactory, satisfactory, or outstanding.
3ASSIGNMENT 1: Due Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 11:59 PM (one week after first exam)
Assignment Description: Select two movies that we’ve seen in class from the beginning of the term until the first exam, and write 250 word reviews of those movies (please use the word count feature in your word processor). Include both reviews in the body of one email message, and use the following subject line when sending the message: “Assignment 1 for Philosophy and Film.” Try to be creative and say things that you wouldn’t expect other students to say. Make sure that you focus on philosophical content, rather than just how much you liked the story. In the opening sentence, state our general evaluation of the movie, even if it’s just a brief sentence such as "This was a great movie", "This was worst movie I've seen in a year," "I'm not sure what to think about this film," "This is a move for acquired tastes," "This is not the best film by this director". Do not be silly or insulting (being critical is not the same as being insulting). Do not waste space summarizing the movies; launch right into your analysis. If your reviews are good, I will post them on the Philosophical Films website. Below are two examples -- one good, the other not so good.
Example Of What To Do: “The Swimmer” was very good and well written movie that made me think about just how far we are willing to go to be comfortable with our lives and if we could go as far as Ned. I don’t think Ned is really lying to him self throughout the movie. I think he genuinely believes that everything is ok. He comes from nowhere and starts to swim in an old friend’s pool. This is his fresh start in the opening scene. We can only assume that he had been lost in the forest before hand, which I thought was an analogy for him being lost in life. Afterwards once he starts to swim home his faith in his created world is tested. Some more than others are not happy to see Ned and try to shatter his creation when they find out what is going on, but he rationalizes their mistake by simply playing dumb and assuming that there is something wrong with everyone else. The most important scene in the movie for me is when Ned meets up with Kevin and the two go swimming in a pool with no water. Kevin points out there is no water and Ned says, “If you make believe hard enough that something is true, then it is true for you.”. This one quote sums up the entire movie for me. Ned wanted so badly to return to his former life that he believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that things had never really changed, he believed this so strongly that to him it WAS true. At the end of the movie once he had waded through the pool and was publicly humiliated and after finally returning home to find it dilapidated, Ned breaks down and cries. This is supposed to be him realizing what all has happened but I think it shows just how strongly he believed. He cries not because everything everyone said about him is true now, it was always true, he starts to cry because the cooperation he needed to continue fooling himself is no longer there. He cries because even though he wants to live in this state, the world won’t let him.
Example Of What Not To Do: Let’s start with a movie I just recently watched it was called The Trial. I hate to say it but this film was crap. The acting was bad the dialog was bad, the plot was almost non-existent but they managed to drag the film out for two hours and did not even finish it, and it was in black and white I mean come on already its two-thousand and six. One thing I did like about the film was that it was filmed in a Film noir style with great lighting, overhead shots, ground shots, and it emphasized what little was going on in the movie. The attention to detail in this part of the movie the artistic direction was the only thing that kept me from falling asleep. I also didn’t like the film because it was about law and that is like blah blah blah kind of like this paper. As far as the philosophical value of this film I am sure it had a lot but not evident to me, but according to you and others it dealt with existentialism, is life meaningful? This movie sure didn’t make my life meaningful just bored and wasted two hours, I guess that is a type of meaning just not one that I want. For the movie goers that are entertained by a law film where a guy gets blamed for who knows what and the verdict is never found because he gets blown up by dynamite, this is the film for them and I highly encourage that they see it, or if you are looking for a reason to kill yourself watch this movie and it would be a good excuse to kill yourself. Ok that was my synopsis of The Trial, the very last movie we were supposed to watch for Philosophy in Film.
ASSIGNMENT 2: Due Date: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 (one week after second exam)
Follow the instructions for assignment one, but select two films since the first exam. Use the following subject line when sending the message: “Assignment 2 for Philosophy and Film.”
ASSIGNMENT 3: Due Date: finals week
Follow the instructions for assignment one, but select two films since the second exam. Use the following subject line when sending the message: “Assignment 3 for Philosophy and Film.”
UNASSIGNED ASSIGNMENT: not required this semester
Assignment Description: Select a film with philosophical content, and create an entry on it that would be appropriate for inclusion on the Philosophical Films web site (www.philfilms.utm.edu). The film may be of your own choosing or selected from the following list: http://www.philfilms.utm.edu/2/filmlist.htm. In either case, though, you must clear your selection with me. Please follow the format guidelines here: http://www.philfilms.utm.edu/3/submissions.htm. Do not plagiarize your film synopsis from another source: I’ll be checking for this. As the format guidelines indicate, I will be expecting quotations from the movie. You will be graded on how well you follow the format guidelines and the quality of your discussion questions. Only the best submissions will be included on the web site. Please note common mistakes made on this assignment: (1) the submission guidelines indicate that authors ask only one question per discussion question item; rather than including a string of interrogatives. (2) make sure to include philosophically pertinent quotations from the film’s dialogue. (3) do not focus too much on issues of literary interpretation (e.g., what does the river represent), and focus instead on philosophical issues. Please note that some films are more overtly philosophical than others, and discussion questions are easier to devise with the latter. (4) be careful about your writing style, and avoid problems such as grammatical errors, incomplete sentences, informal colloquialisms. Please take your assignment to the writing lab if you have problems with writing style.
Scene Analysis Assignment
They begin by making a complete shot list and sound track description for the scene. For each shot, I ask them to provide:
- A time code for each shot.
- A shot description, which should include the characters in (or object of) the shot, the framing (LS, MS, CU, etc.), any significant camera movements, and any image transition other than a cut (dissolve, wipe, etc.). A brief description of the action can also sometimes be useful.
- A complete transcription of the dialogue in the shot.
- A listing and description of the sound effects. (In an action sequence from recent films, it is unlikely that the list will be completely exhaustive, but try to be as complete as possible.)
- A listing and description of the music.
- General remarks, which contain more detailed comments about aspects of the sound track, including interactions among the components and how they interact with the images/narrative.
Filling out the form requires making at least four passes through the scene, attending on each pass to one element:
- Time code and shot description
- Sound effects
Here is what the scene analysis blank looks like:
I distribute the blanks as an Excel file. I also give them some exemplars, which are provided as jpgs below. After the students have filled out their forms for the scenes, I will ask them to write a short paper based on these analyses.
The first examplar is the terrace scene from Rebecca.
(We analyze this scene using musical notation in HtM, pp. 218-21.)
The second is the main title and Trinity in a jam, from The Matrix:
We analyze this sequence from The Matrix on pp. 223-24 of HtM, albeit in much less detail. Note the large number of shots (and short average shot length) in this sequence. Also this is a very busy sound track, and at times it is difficult to know whether a particular event belongs to the sound effects track or the music track. A version of the script is located here. (Correction: HtM refers to the agents collectively as Mr. Smiths; according to both IMDB and the script, however, the other two agents in this scene are named Mr. Brown and Mr. Jones.)
The third example consists of two scenes from 42nd Street.
Neither of these dialogue scenes has music. The number of sound effects is also quite low.