Choose one of the following documentaries for analysis:
- White Right: Meeting the Enemy*
- The Central Park 5 – (When They See Us does not count – though fantastic, this is a miniseries drama)
- The Social Dilemma
- The Game Changers
- West of Memphis
- Far from the tree
- The internet’s own boy
- You want to analyze and relate this film to concepts we’ve covered in Introduction to Communication (perception, identity, mass media, etc.). Why did you choose this particular film? Who made this film? Who directed this film? Who funded this film? What perceptions and cultural lenses do you bring to this topic? What did you know about this topic prior to watching the film? Do you agree with the messages of the film? Why or why not? Do you believe the film is biased? If not you think the film is fair, what makes you think this? If you think the film is biased, what are your reasons for thinking this? Has this film changed any of your perspectives or made you think differently? If not, why not? If so, how so? What messages are in the film about power, race, class, gender, and social structures?
Not write a plot summary. Critique & analysis is different from summary: summary is you tell me what happens, whereas critique and analysis is that you grapple with film concepts, point of view, music, framing, bias, etc.). Do not rely on any other film critiques of this film unless you are going to cite them (minimally) to bolster your own ideas (i.e., if you find documentation to support your ideas cite them – that is great; do not use the analyses of others as your own ideas). Remember, this is also a form of communication research.
You do not have to follow this method exactly, however, if you have never written a film review, this could be helpful to you in beginning and writing your review.
Step 1: Watch the movie. Obviously, to analyze a movie, you must watch it beforehand. Moreover, you have to watch it actively, not like an ordinary viewer. Have a notebook with you, so you can pause at some moments and take notes. Write down everything that catches your attention. There is no ultimate rule about what you must write about, it is your essay and it reflects the way you perceive things. So be confident, and note everything you like or dislike, any piece of dialog that got your attention or the way some character is dressed. Actively watching a movie/film means noticing how characters are framed within the shot, in relation to other characters, editing, sound, etc.
Step 2: Define the main elements. It is crucial for the success of your essay to identify the theme of the movie as soon as possible. Theme is so important, because it is like a prism through which events of the story are perceived. For example the film may revolve around such themes as unrequited love, revenge, survival, loneliness. Ultimately, there is no limit to the theme, it can be anything. Also it is important to define the genre of the movie, figure out the setting and the point of view. Analyzing a movie is very similar to analyzing a book.
Step 3: Look at the characters. While watching a movie, jot down in your notebook some notes about characters. Try to understand the purpose of each character in the story. Define the protagonist, antagonist and the supporting cast; what aspect of human nature each character represents. You should also consider the settings as an important element. Sometimes, for example in movies, such as human vs. wild nature, the setting can be represented as a leading character, too.
Step 4: The role of actors and director. When analyzing a movie, you must certainly take into account the people who created it. These are not only actors, directors and producers, but also music orchestra, camera operators, engineers, visual artists, etc. You don’t need to write about all of them, you just need to choose one angle to look at. Your focus would depend on the type of the movie and the elements you want to emphasize.
Step 5: Story short outline. Briefly write about the main story line. Don’t go too deep into all nuances and twists of the plot. The purpose of the movie critique essay is not to summarize the whole story, but to analyze it. So don’t spend much time on this step. All you need is to give your readers a close enough idea what the movie is about.
Step 6: Write your essay. After you have analyzed all the above elements of the movie and took short notes of them, it is finally time for you to start writing your essay. It will be easier and faster if you outline your essay beforehand. Just make a list of things you are going to mention in each paragraph.
Paragraph 1: State the movie title, director, the main idea of the movie, your thesis statement;
Paragraph 2:Brief outline of the story.
Paragraph 3: Settings, structure, style and point of view;
Paragraph 4: Analysis of deeper meaning, symbolism and cinematic devices;
Paragraph 5:Conclusion, restate your thesis and summarize.
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