Film & Theater studies

Annotated Bibliography Assignment (Due: March 23rd–hard copy only and submitted at the start of
As part of your preparation for the paper itself, you are required to complete a through and detailed annotated bibliography built from the secondary sources you will use in your paper. Your annotated bibliography must contain a minimum of 5 academic, secondary sources that relate to the topic of your paper. This is an all or nothing grade that will count as 5% of the final grade for the paper. In other words, the essay assignment is 30% of your overall grade for this course, and your annotated bibliography will be worth 1/6th of that grade. There is no late credit available for this assignment: failure to submit the bibliography by the deadline will result in an automatic 0 for that percentage. For each source in your annotated bibliography you will need to include the following:
1. 1.) Provide the complete and accurate MLA citation for the source (this should be the first entry for each source on your annotated bibliography, and they should be organized alphabetically)
2. 2.) Briefly summarize the source, its main ideas, and its overall argument.
3. 3.) Explain how the source relates to your research topic.
4. 4.) Explain how the source relates/challenges/etc. the other sources you will be using.
Suggestions for Possible Topics
The following are some suggestions of possible topics and/or approaches that might be interesting and fertile, but they are merely meant to be possible points of departure – please feel free to develop your own ideas and subjects. These are purely suggestions! You are under no obligation to write based on these topics and approaches, and in some cases various prompts can be combined. Please note that simply identifying some of the features of a film does not constitute a critical, argumentative thesis. So, while some of these prompts point you toward identifying and bringing forth some of the various features of a film, you will have to form your own interpretation and critical stance upon the use of those features.
And one final note, these are simply general approaches, and while they may offer a starting point for your critical viewing of the film(s), do not expect that each of these suggestions will work with each film on the list.
Consider the cultural/historical significance of the film in its contemporary millennial moment. In what ways was this film tapping into concerns, issues, topics, etc. that were relevant to the years surrounding its release? How was the film’s take on these topics unique, significant,
valuable, or problematic? Whose perspectives are given voice? Whose are silenced or otherwise
ignored? Etc.
• Likewise, consider the film’s relationship to film history. What larger cultural/historical
significance present in this film relates to the history of cinema as an art form? What is the nature of that relationship? Is this film rewriting/revising formulas and genre conventions? To what end does it do so? What theory(theories) of cinema does this film stem from? If there are multiple theories identifiable in this film, how do they interact? Are they in contention? harmony? suspension? Etc.
• In particular regard to theories of cinema, consider the film’s relation to traditional Hollywood style of filmmaking. Where does the film fall in relation to the tenets of the continuity style of filmmaking? Is it breaking these rules, bending these rules, rewriting these rules, building upon these rules, etc? Is this film part of the “spectacle” tradition in film history or part of the “documentary” tradition? If it is a combination of both, how do these different origins interact within the film? Or, in a slightly different vein, is the film utilizing surrealist aesthetic principles? And if so, how, and to what ends? Is the film critical of such surrealist principles? Are there a combination of conflicting aesthetic principles present in the film? What do you make of their relationship in the film? What comes from their “friction”?
• Consider the film in terms of postmodern eclecticism, and/or parody, and/or pastiche. Examine the various references, allusions, connections to other texts (cinematic, literary, historical, or otherwise). Why are these references made? How do they add thematically? conceptually? narratively? etc. How does the film under question become a “web” of interconnected texts? To what ends do the filmmakers employ this web?
• In this class we discuss cinema itself as being “hallucinatory” in a variety of ways. Consider the hallucinatory aspects to the film(s). In what ways can you say that this film utilizes a “hallucinatory” aesthetic? In what ways is that hallucinatory aesthetic postmodern in its production? Does the hallucinatory quality of the film have a historical/cultural significance? In what ways does the film rely on the hallucinatory qualities we see in psychedelic aesthetics? And, to what end(s) does the film utilize the psychedelics? Does the film share some relation to the theories and principles that motivated psychedelic aesthetics? Or, in a slightly different vein, does the film use more of a “technological hallucinatory aesthetic? –realize that this is a term we are using in this class, and not a formal aesthetic term. In what ways does the film rely on the hallucinatory qualities we see in aesthetics inspired by technological advancements? Does the film share some relation to the theories and principles that motivated, or are otherwise inspired by, technologically based aesthetics? To what end(s) does the film utilize the “hallucinatory” quality of technological special effects?
• Consider the basic elements that characterize postmodern aesthetics, as we have discussed so far in class, and how they are present in this film. For what end(s) does the film utilize one or more of these aesthetic concepts? Are these concepts used consistently or are they used sporadically? What significance can be argued for their use? How do they interact with one another, and what effect does that have on the content of the film and/or the viewer watching?
o An important note on terminology—realize the subtle, though crucial, difference between the terms “postmodernity” and the “postmodern.” “Postmodern” is an adjective that refers to a particular period in literary and cultural history, and to a set of aesthetic styles and principles which characterize artistic production in this period. Whereas, the term
“postmodernity” refers to the way the world itself changed during this period, due to developments in the political, social, economic, etc. spheres—it refers to a set of ideas and theories about the condition of life and reality at the time of the postmodern.
• Consider the film’s aesthetic and narrative content in relation to other relevant critical approaches: such as post-colonial, feminism, black studies, queer theory, etc. What would an approach from one of these “schools of thought” have to say about the film and/or its use of hallucinatory-esque concepts? Does the film utilize a hallucinatory quality for some political ends relevant to the concerns of one of these critical schools? Is it successful in doing so? Why not/how so? Does the film itself raise questions and criticisms toward one of these critical “schools of thought”? In what ways? To what ends? Etc.
• Likewise, explore the nature of identity present in the film through its political context. What identities/positions are valued? Empowered? Recognized? Voiced? Etc. What identities are silenced? Ignored? Demeaned? Stereotyped? Etc. In general, what standards would you use to determine an effective political voice in cinema? In particular, how does the film attempt to give voice to otherwise ignored or suppressed identity groups? Does it do so successfully? Why not/how so? –and I always encourage the more nuanced reading here. Here is what I mean by that: unless a film is all out exclusionary or directly demeaning, try looking into the more complex relationships around political identities addressed in the film. Where can it be said that its representational politics are successful while other parts are unsuccessful? And vice versa. What do you make of this mismatch? Obviously, for any thesis such as the ones formed from this general line of thinking, you will need to establish the definition of your terms and the standard by which you judge identity representation. And, when I point you toward more complexed, nuanced readings, I mean to suggest that you should look at the places where it becomes much more difficult to establish a clear take on the representation. In general, it is in those places where you can find the opportunities and spaces for more sophisticated arguments about representation.
• Consider the advancement of cinema in its digital age. How does this film utilize CGI, 3-D, Imax, or other computerized imagery/presentation? To what ends? How is the content of the film affected by the technological advances in cinema available at the time of its production? Etc.
• Many of our films in class address the question of memory. Is this a thematic concern in the film you have chosen to analyze? What does the film say about the problem of memory? Does it add something new to the conversation around this topic? Does it confirm/challenge previous notions of what memory is?
• In a somewhat related way, how is the notion of time manipulated/played with in this film? Does the film present its material chronologically or not? To what ends is the reversal or altering of traditional linear temporality put?
• As a more general, philosophical approach, you can begin by exploring the ontological questions raised by a film? Typically, though, asking questions such as “what is the nature of being” or “what is the nature of reality” or “how is ___ ontologically different in this new postmodern condition,” usually require the critic to take some specific entity or object for their study. In other words, try applying ontologically related questions to a specific object in the film. –what is the nature of memory in this film? –what is the nature of friendship in this film? –what is the nature of consciousness in this film? –what is the mind? –what metaphors does the film use to help us understand the nature of reality?
o If you go more general, and ask larger ontological questions, always establish a clear framework to prevent yourself from getting lost: –in what ways can humans interact with their world? –how are those interactions limited/enhanced by their “embodiment”? — how are privileged or non-privileged identities established, and how are they granted/denied access to certain points of social reality? Etc.
Explore the metafictional moments in a film. Usually such moments, where the film appears “conscious” of itself as a film, are employed for larger significance. Obviously, go beyond just identifying these moments, and explain what that larger significance is. Why is it important that film acknowledge its own existence as film, as art? Is there a commentary on the nature of narrative? On the nature of cinema? On the nature of history? On the nature of “realism” as a formal device? What do you think of that commentary? Etc.
What metanarrative(s) does this film address, and of course, in what ways is the film resisting or rewriting that traditional metanarrative? How/why does it do so? Is it successful in that production, or for that end? How is the narrative in the film multiple? How does the film itself resist a single all-encompassing summary, explanation, or narrative? What is the significance of this resistance? What binaries, or hierarchies, or traditions are suspended, rejected, examined, etc. through the resistance to reducing the narrative to a single line?
Criteria for Evaluation:
The following is an outline for how your paper will be evaluated. Errors and problems in any of the following areas will result in lost points, and if your work is unsatisfactory in any of the following areas, your assignment will not earn a passing grade.
• The essay provides a complete argument that goes beyond a superficial treatment of the film(s). Instead, it demonstrates an investment in offering a detailed and unique approach to reading it. It provides a well-reasoned, logical analysis supported with strong evidence taken directly from the film(s). The essay is focused entirely around the support of a single argumentative thesis statement. That thesis statement is clearly worded, takes a solid stance on an issue concerning the film(s), and of course, offers a valid interpretation.
• The essay is coherently organized. I’m never lost while reading it. I’m never confused about the passages/scenes from the film(s) or from the sources you are talking about. I am never confused about how the passages connect to the claims you are making. All evidence is clearly and effectively contextualized for your reader. Nor, am I ever confused about the claims you are making and how you arrive at your conclusions. The writing avoids getting lost in how ideas can be interconnected, and instead the essay systematically examines each of its premises in turn before moving on to the next. Each paragraph is focused, coherent, and manageable for a reader.
• The assignment avoids bloated or redundant language that just fills space. Instead it is concise and complete. Being concise and complete will give you the maximum amount of space for valuable analysis. Do not try to “sound smart” by using inflated language—write naturally and appropriately. Be sure to only use words you know the meaning of. Additionally, meeting the minimum page requirement does not guarantee a passing grade. Your essay’s argument, ideas, analysis, claims, organization, sophistication determine your grade. Although some summary, quoting, and paraphrasing is necessary to make your points, too much summary of the film or quoting/paraphrasing too much of the secondary sources does not demonstrate critical
engagement on you part. Your original analysis and argument should be the unquestionable bulk
and drive of the paper.
• The essay makes sophisticated and effective use of multiple academic sources to support the
claims made. Simply referring to the minimum number of sources does not constitute a passing grade. The essay contains passages quoted directly from these sources, and analyzes them in context to the argument the paper is trying to establish. The sources never speak for the student, as a replacement for his/her/their thought. Likewise, the essay makes sophisticated use of passages/images/scenes taken directly from the film(s) to further support the thesis. The essay is a mix of close analysis of the film(s) and support offered from academic sources. All sources used are cited properly using MLA format.
• The assignment is free of spelling, punctuation, and other mechanical errors. These distract and detract from meaning—as well as discredit you as a writer.

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