Writing Assignment Two:
Guidelines for a Film Review of Harriet
Reading Assignment: Read “Film,” pages 338-47 in Discovering Arguments
Length: At least three (3) keyboarded pages, plus a works cited page with at least four entries (Total: 4 pages)
Value: 200 points
Assignment: Write a three-page film review, that is, six-to-seven well developed paragraphs, in which you research and synthesize at least three (3) film reviews and/or reputable/academic articles you find in online databases and on the Internet (Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb) of the screened film, Harriet.
The film review must include the following five (5) components in the following sequence:
• An introduction, which includes background and contextual information, such as the name of the film studio, origin of the screenplay, release date, director, actors, actresses, and any awards received
• A claim statement that presents your argument. Underline the claim sentence in your film review.
• A plot summary of approximately one-to-two paragraphs
• An analysis of three (3) elements of the film, such as characters, acting, theme, setting, pace, music/sound, cinematography, and director. Develop each of these in a separate paragraph or paragraphs. You must have at least three (3) documented instances of evidence to support your position. See Chapter 47,
“Using MLA Documentation and Format,” on pages 663-82, in the Little, Brown Handbook (13th ed.), or see our class on E-campus/Blackboard and the “MLA Documentation” item.
• A conclusion that answers the bottom-line question evidenced in the claim statement: Does Harriet provide a worthwhile viewing experience? Does the story have moral, social, psychological, or some other kind of value beyond entertainment? How? Is the entertainment value enough for you to recommend the film?
• MLA format. See pages 680-82 in the Little, Brown Handbook (13th ed.)
• A film review three (3) pages in length, containing six-to-seven paragraphs.
• The use of at least three (3) in-text (parenthetical) documented secondary sources and the primary source, which is the film. See Chapter 47, “Using MLA in-text citations,” on pages 634-44 in the Little, Brown Handbook (13th ed.).
Outline for Writing a Film Review
A. Introduce your review (engage your readers) and give the title and date of the film.
B. State the claim of your film review.
C. Consider using a claim statement that indicates the organization of your review.
Example: Harriet appeals to the viewers through the depth of characters, theme, and director.
A. Present an objective summary of the film in one paragraph. “Objective” means do not include your opinions or judgments You will share these in the analysis section of your film review.
B. Write the summary using the present verb tense.
III. Analysis of Three Film Elements
A. Analyze one film element at a time. Sequence the elements according to their order of importance as you see them.
B. Use evidence from the film to show what you mean. Use the present verb tense in your analysis.
C. Within your analysis, refer to your sources: (1) the film—the primary source, and (2) the professional film review—the secondary sources. Quote at times from these sources. Use a signal phrase when you first use a source. Summarize from the sources. Do not rely on direct quotes too often. Use the present verb tense in your analysis, for example “Ebert writes,” not “Ebert wrote.”
D. Use clear topic sentences for each of your body paragraphs.
Example: The acting stands out in Harriet, especially Cynthia Erivo’s generating much of the pathos or pathetic appeal.
A. What is your overall judgment of the film? Why does the film succeed or not? Why does it matter or not? Does the story have a moral, social, psychological, or some other kind of value beyond entertainment? How? Is the entertainment value enough for you to recommend the film. Avoid summarizing in your analysis.
B. Use a hook to return to your introduction; repeat an idea or image.
C. Try to end with an especially well worded or thoughtful sentence.
Evaluation: Your grade will be determined by how well you do the following:
• Wrote an introduction that brings the reader quickly into the film
• Stated your view of the film in a clear claim statement (underlined)
• Provided background or contextual information
• Wrote a brief summary of the story containing only essential information that does not reveal or give away surprises, twists, or the ending
• Evaluated three (3) elements of the film
• Provided evidence to support your view of the film
• Wrote in a professional and lively voice, without using clichés
• Wrote for a specific audience
• Concluded strongly with a clear bottom-line evaluation of the film
• Attributed sources correctly, according to MLA format
• Edited the film review carefully for errors
Movie Review Sources
Academic Search Complete
Provides full-text articles from 5,300 magazines, journals, and newspapers. Use Advanced Search, with “movie title” and “motion picture reviews.”
Indexes articles in 2,089 full-text magazines, journals, and newspapers. Use Advance Search, with “movie title” and “motion picture reviews.”
Humanities Full Text
Contains full-text articles and images from 200+ scholarly journals and numerous art magazines. Select HI and RG full-text for options. Type “movie (motion picture).” Select “Subject” descriptor.
New York Times Newspaper
Provides full-text coverage of this newspaper, 1980+. From the “Advanced Search” screen, type “motion picture – title.” Select “Subject” descriptor.
All Movie Guide: <http://www.allmovie.com>
Film Critic: <http://www.filmcritic.com>
Independent Critics: <http://independentcritics.com>
Internet Movie Database.com: <http://www.imdb.com>
Movie Review Query Engine.com: <http://www.mrqe.com>
New York Times Film Reviews: <http://www.nytimes.com/library/filmarchive>
Rotten Tomatoes: <http://www.rottentomatoes.com./>
Guidelines for Writing a Film Review
• Good reviews briefly sketch an outline of the plot and inform (perhaps remind) readers about the characters.
• More importantly, good reviews look at both the weaknesses and strengths of the film. Consider whether to address weaknesses or strengths first. If you like a film, but see some weakness, it is usually best to present the weakness first and then concentrate on the strengths. Presenting weaknesses first will suggest to your readers that you are fair-minded. If you dislike a film but see some strengths in it, present the strengths first and then concentrate on the weaknesses. You can also offer criticisms and then rebuttals within paragraphs.
• Ideally, try to find some insight into the movie that most readers may not have considered before. A good review should help readers discover new and deeper understandings.
Elements of the Film
characters: In serious films, the characters are realistic, complex human beings with strengths and weaknesses. Real characters are an important part of the plot. The audience must care about the characters and what happens to them. When characters are too predictable or stereotypical, critics say that they are flat, cardboard characters. Are the characters believable? How?
acting: The more realistic an actor’s actions and reactions, the better the acting. If audiences think an actor is trying too hard to act, they will not value his or her performance. Is the acting natural, believable, credible? Is the acting particularly interesting or distinctive in some way? How?
setting: The time and place of the story is the setting—anything that creates the illusion of time and place: clothing, costuming, makeup, buildings, automobiles, countryside, backgrounds. How does the setting reinforce the plot, the characters, the theme?
pace: Few viewers enjoy a movie that takes too long to unfold its story. Does the movie’s pace work well or drag? Why?
music/sound: Sound, or the absence of it, helps create tone, mood, atmosphere. Sound reinforces special visual effects too—the music in Jaws warns you when the shark is coming. You believe what you see in part because of what you hear. How does the music, sound, or silence contribute to the film?
cinematography: Cinematography refers to the camera work. If you think of a movie as a series of still photographs, each “shot” set up perfectly to illustrate the setting, the plot development at that moment in the film, and so on, it may be easier to understand what the photographers and the technical crew contribute to the film. Movies are rarely filmed straight through from beginning to end; therefore, matching lighting and camera angles becomes important. Special effects, too, involve camera work. Many films are created with computer graphics. How does the cinematography contribute to the film?
director: The director is usually in charge of everything that you see and hear on the screen. The director, for example, usually sets up camera shots. The actors cannot see what they are doing, but the director can. Has the director done a skillful job? How?
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