English 124 Guidelines
Essays should provide a working definition of what a stylized moment is, and justify those moments chosen as stylized, and argue what these selected moments signify. To insure that the meanings you assign do not seem arbitrary, argue the logic of these meanings. What is the internal logic established within the film that authorizes these meanings and not others?
FMM (Frequently Made Mistakes):
-It is essential to distinguish between style and significance: all stylized moments carry meaning, are significant, not all meaninful/signficant moments (such as meaningful soundtrack lyrics) are stylized.
-Reserve the word "focus" for describing actual soft focus, deep focus, rack focus, etc. Avoid using it as a metaphor. Replace "This zoom in
-Title your essay! The absence of an original title is a missed opportunity to further advance your thesis.
Because you may be working in groups or dealing with ideas from the Textbook in your essay, you must be extremely careful to develop your own unique and insightful ideas and to give credit to every idea that is not your own. If you are caught plagiarizing, even if it is unintentional, you will receive an "F" for the course. If you repeat any ideas brought up in the Textbook, use them only to advance your own points, and then write the word "Textbook" in parentheses. If you are writing an essay with another person or persons, make sure your essay makes its own unique points, and that you write in parentheses at the end of the shared sentence the last name of the person in your cohort whose idea or words you used. It is up to each member of a study group to agree upon consistently assigning credit for ideas, words, etc. Always discuss sources you use in your essay, put quotation marks around any words that are not your own, and provide page numbers or a full web address and a works cited page. Consult MLA documentation rules and the Community Rights & Responsibilities Website if you are uncertain.
- There are not necessarily right and wrong things to do in your essay, some readings are stronger than others and some ways of analyzing lead to better essays than others. The best arguments are those that are well-supported with specific evidence accompanied by an insightful discussion of that evidence.
Essay 1-Psycho (20 points)
Your analysis of the scene will consist of three parts:T
1) The scene you need to analyze shot by shot begins with the blood traveling down the tub basin and ends with Norman inadvertently knocking down the picture from the wall. Describe the scene in film terms employing the technical language of cinema - camera technique, mise en scene, lighting, soundtrack, props, editing, etc. Read the Textbook carefully and appropriately use as many of these terms as you can, such as close-up, lap dissolve, etc. Remember to discuss all aspects of the scene;
2) Discuss what meaning these film techniques reasonably confer via style. You may employ the Textbook to support your points. For example "This scene is shot in a canted angle, meaning that the camera is off of its vertical axis giving us a slanted view of the scene. Typically, this angle implies `a world off kilter (Stylized Moments)." Then go beyond this to provide your own unique and keen insight to what this may mean in the scene. For example "The canted angle here tells us that Radio Raheem is an "off kilter" character about to explode."
3)Analyze this scene in terms of the entire movie. Discuss both large themes in the movie - coming of age, sexuality, evil, etc. - and specific parts of the movie - the opening, the climax, the ending - in order to ground your ideas in the movie itself. Make sure you discuss the entire movie with a consideration of how the film ends.
Your grade will be based upon how accurately and consistently you use film terms to analyze the scene, how thoroughly you attend to every aspect of the scene, how specifically your interpretation follows from the film terms, and finally how insightful and smart your overall interpretation is. You should go point by point through the scene analyzing the techniques in turn, combining parts 1 and 2 as you write. Students often feel overwhelmed that they cannot possibly `read' all of the deep meanings in the scene, but if you concentrate on analyzing specific stylistic techniques, you will do well. We will tend to be more lenient on this first essay as we understand this is your first formal attempt at analyzing style. You should be creative and speculative, but be specific and thoroughly prove your interpretations by discussing the scene in film language.
Essay 2-Shadow of a Doubt (20 points)
I discuss in Chapter One the spectacular stylized crane shot at a crucial moment in Hithcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) when young Charlie (Teresa Wright) finally learns the truth about her beloved, but murderous Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten). After studying closely the film, describe and analyze two stylized moments/scenes that use the camera, editing, etc. in significant ways, examining things that can only been done in a movie rather than say a play or novel of the same story. Pay attention to any moment that sticks out, that breaks the illusion that you are watching reality rather than a film. Look for moments in the film that use style to make a point or develop a theme. Ask yourself how certain choices are accomplished and how they construct and affect meaning.
Keep in mind the difference between plot significance ("This is when we find out Judge Smails is dishonest") and stylistic significance ("This scene uses a canted angle and pov shots to convey Radio Raheem's brewing anger and frustration."). Most casual viewers can talk about plot, but a film student will attend to style, and that should be your field of inquiry. Style usually does not advance the plot, it bears meaning.
It is not effective to claim that a stylized moment "draws the audience in," "creates interest," "grabs our attention," "intensifies the drama," or any other appeal to affecting the audiemces' emotion's, etc. Be sure to distinguish between function and style.
Essay 3-Final-Into The Wild (25 points)
This essay is exactly like your second essay, except that you are asked to write a longer and more detailed analysis, and that you are required to include a literary component, Jon Krakauer's book, to your essay in order to address the "Literature" part of the course's title as I have been attempting all semester. Choose 3 stylized moments from Sean Penn's film and analyze them using film language, with respect to the entire movie. Use the literary component as additional support for your argument; this is not a book report, you should use the book to analyze the movie--a minimum of four words quoted in your essay from your chosen text.
I am asking you to analyze 3 stylized sequences, just as you did
with the shower scene in Psycho
and Shadow of a Doubt, and then to
Feel free to contact me any time via e-mail with any concerns about these assignments.