2024 Short Scene Analysis

2024 Short Scene Analysis

Brainy

The purpose of these papers is to allow you to demonstrate your grasp of the analytic concepts we have been developing in the class by closely analyzing a single sequence from a film. Your task is to say as much as you can within a limited space, as clearly and coherently as you can, about your topic. Note that you are not being evaluated for the originality of your thesis, but for your ability to use the vocabulary from the readings and lectures to give clear and accurate descriptions of the scene you have chosen. But you have limited space, so use it wisely. Keep in mind the following guidelines:

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1) No introduction or repetition of the question is necessary (although you must indicate the question number you are answering in a header). You should also refrain from giving plot summaries.
 
2) Assume your reader has seen the film but would like to understand more fully not only what meanings the film produces but especially how it produces them. In other words, do not simply recount parts of a film or films, but try to analyze, reveal form, cinematic style, and filmic constructions.
 
3) You should not analyze a scene that we have discussed at length in class.
 
4) Watch the sequence several times. Watch it without sound. Do not try and write your analysis from memory, particularly if you have seen the film you are writing about only once.
 
5) Describe only those shots and scenes you use in your argument or analysis. The prompts in this assignment give you a bit more freedom than the first, but you should still focus your paper on one or (at most) two sequences to support your claims. Always try to be as specific and concrete as possible.
 
6) Be as specific, concrete, and precise as possible in your references to films. Be sure to incorporate considerations of cinematic style and formal strategies. Terminology from readings and lectures will be important here, and you are expected to use this terminology.
 
7) Read the prompt carefully and stay on topic.
 
8) You are encouraged not to do any outside research for these papers, but if you do you need to cite them properly. Do not rely on information from Wikipedia (and any other non-academic, online source, for that matter) about your topic. Wikipedia is great for many things, but for the topics in question it can be extremely misleading.
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Please choose ONE of the following prompts and indicate which prompt you have chosen in the header of your paper along with your name and the section of the course for which you are registered.
 
Prompt #1: Mulvey’s Three Looks in Rear Window or Kiss Me Deadly

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Using the articles by Mulvey and Cowie as a guide, analyze the organization of looks in a single scene from either  Rear Window or Kiss Me Deadly. You should pick a scene that we have not discussed in class. First, explain each of the three looks and Mulvey’s primary thesis about how they are typically organized in classical Hollywood cinema. Then analyze at how these looks do or do not align in the scene. Are the looks organized in the way that Mulvey would have us expect from a classical Hollywood film? Your analysis should include use of the vocabulary from the first half of the course. In analyzing the system of looks, you will need to describe the editing patterns, the use of point-of-view, sound perspective, lighting, etc. Where is the camera positioned? Whose point of view are we seeing? Does the scene give us the optical point view of any character (be as clear as you can about the difference between a point of view shot and an optical point of view shot)? Remember that sound is also an important tool for implying point of view.
 
Prompt #2: Realism in Bicycle Thieves
 
André Bazin claims that the kind of long take, deep focus style that became prominent in post-war cinema was a “dialectical step forward” in the history of film form. As briefly and clearly as you can, explain what he means by this (you should spend no more than one paragraph on this). Then take a close look at a single scene (one that we did not discuss in class) from Bicycle Thieves and discuss how this realist style works. Does the scene employ long takes? Deep focus and deep staging? How does this affect our experience of the scene? What expressive power does the filmmaker gain by shooting the scene in this way? Is Bazin right to claim that this style gives the spectator more freedom? Or does this neorealist film rely on continuity techniques more than Bazin is willing to admit?
 
Prompt #3: Art Cinema and Third World Cinema in To Sleep With Anger
 
Both Bordwell and Gabriel describe modes of narration that differ in significant ways from classical Hollywood. Take a look at a single scene from To Sleep With Anger and discuss one or two ways that the scene demonstrates the norms of either “art cinema” as Bordwell describes it, or “third world cinema” as Gabriel describes it. Be as specific as possible, and make sure that you discuss the film’s style in addition to its narrative form. If you are focusing on narrative form, make sure you mention how specific stylistic devices are involved in telling the story. Does the film use continuity editing or longer, slower takes? Is the lighting highly stylized or natural? How is the sound motivated? Some of you wrote very detailed responses to the last quiz, and you are encouraged to expand on your ideas from that assignment if you wish. If you do go this route and want to discuss your quiz with me, please send me an email.
 
 
Prompt #4: Modes of Documentary in Grizzly Man
 
Pick a scene from Grizzly Man that was not discussed in class and analyze the ways that it uses the conventions of the different documentary modes that we discussed. Of all of the modes of documentary listed by Saunders, which do you believe most accurately fits the scene in question? Consider the following elements: How is the camera placed within the scene? Does the scene play out in a single take? Does the scene utilize continuity editing? Is it shot mostly in long shots, medium shots, or close-ups? What kinds of sound does the film use (onscreen, offscreen, diegetic, non-diegetic, etc.)? How does the film position (1) the audience in relation to the subjects of the scene; (2) the filmmaker in relation to the subjects in the scene; (3) the filmmaker in relation to the audience? Does the filmmaker intervene in the scene? If so, how? Be as specific as you can and avoid giving overviews of the entire film.

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Prompt #5: Parody of Documentary in The Office
 
In class I mentioned that The Office parodies conventions of the observational mode of documentary. For this prompt, first briefly describe what is meant by the “observational mode” of documentary according Saunders (you can also refer to the lecture and lecture slides on this point). Then pick a single, short scene from an episode of The Office and show how it utilizes these conventions. You should pay close attention to the following features of the scene: (1) Editing techniques; (2) Camera placement and movement (Does it use handheld camera movements? Camera placement within the scene?); (3) The “filmmakers’” position within the scene (4) Sound (diegetic, non-diegetic, onscreen, offscreen, etc.). In the header of your paper, please be sure to include the season and the episode number (e.g., “season 4, episode 12”) so that I can find the scene you are discussing.
 
Prompt #6: Genre Conventions in A Star is Born

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Compare the endings of the two versions of A Star is Born and discuss the ways in which the most recent version adds elements of the musical to the melodrama conventions of the 1937 film. What elements do both endings share? What elements does the most recent version leave out? How does the most recent version use these genre conventions to arouse emotional responses? To answer these questions, you should refer to the discussion of the musical genre in the textbook and to the elements of the melodrama that were discussed in the lecture. Because this prompt is more broad than the others, you will need to narrow your focus to just a few elements. Although you will have to say something about how the scenes fit in with overall structure of each film, you should refrain from giving plot summaries and focus only on those aspects of the film’s narrative that most important for your analysis.
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