Select and watch an appropriate film (a feature-length fiction film made between 1940 – 1970)

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These essays are reaction papers, not plot summaries or research papers. Write what you have to say about the film, your observations, insights, and evaluations, not what others have said and notwhat you can learn by reading up on the film or the filmmaker online. Think carefully before you write, be creative, and apply what you have been learning in this course.

  • Part 1: Once you’ve watched your feature-length fiction film made between 1940 – 1970, write about…
    • The film’s genre: what genre (or genres) does it represent? What are some of the genre characteristics–as outlined in the learning resources–that you can identify in the film? Does it play with or deviate from these characteristics in any interesting ways?
    • The specific techniques used in the film: What are some examples of…
      • The camerawork (cinematography): i.e. camera angles, camera movement, framing, etc.
      • The editing: i.e. intercutting, montage, etc.
      • The sound (including music, sound effects, etc.)
    • The film’s quality: What did you like? What did you dislike? (Be sure to clearly express whyyou like the things you like or dislike with concrete examples)

  • Part 2: Draw some conclusions about the work of the director and one of the lead actors or actresses.
    • For example, let’s say you watched the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
      • What did you think about David Lean’s work as a filmmaker here? Explain your answer: were there specific choices you thought were especially brilliant? Did some of his choices not work for you?
      • Did you like Peter O’Toole in the role of Lawrence? Why, or why not?
    • End with your overall impression of the film, including how you see it as an example of its genre and time period. Considering its craft (use of cinematic techniques) and the context of its production (the time period when it was made), is the film a successful work of cinema? (Note: This is not the same as whether or not you liked it; it is entirely possible to like a film that is objectively not very good)

  • Part 3: On a separate page, under the heading “My Criteria for Quality in Film,” propose four general statements indicative of your personal taste in movies.
    • These statements should be numbered (1) through (4), and they should be written as complete sentences or as a short paragraph.
    • For example, if you commented in your essay that you liked the acting because it was realistic and you liked the script because it had a happy ending, you could propose these two statements as criteria for quality:
      • “(1) Excellent movies feature realistic acting,” and
      • “(2) A movie is more likely to be good if it ends happily.”
      • (Think carefully about what words such as “good,” “effective,” etc. actually mean to you in this context).
    • Be sure to save a copy of your “My Criteria” page to your computer or cloud—you will be resubmitting an expanded version of it for Review Essay #2 later this semester.


  1. Make all necessary arrangements to view the film(s) and write about them: Some of the films may be available for streaming via Netflix, Kanopy, or another online content provider; others may be available for checkout from your local public library or the UMGC library, while others may need to be rented. You are better off watching these films on the largest possible screen and at the highest possible resolution (if at all possible, please do not watch films on your phone–it will be much easier to catch the kinds of cinematic details you’re looking for on a bigger screen).

  2. Make Time to Complete the Assignment: Be sure to leave yourself enough time to watch the film (note that this is in addition to the other films you must watch this week), think about it, re-watch the film, write a first draft, edit, and revise.

  3. Turn your assignments in by their respective due dates to the correct assignment folder in LEO.

Helpful Hints & Reminders:

  • The film you select cannot be a film that you have seen before (and cannot be a film you will see later in this class).
  • Even if the filmmaker was active before and/or after 1970, make sure you are selecting a film made between 1940 and 1970!
  • Make sure the film is a feature-length fiction film (in other words, don’t select a documentary, and don’t select a short film!).
  • Suggestions include…
    • American directors such as Frank Capra, George Cukor, John Ford, George Stevens, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, or William Wyler.
    • Foreign directors such as Ingmar Bergman (Swedish), Luis Buñuel (Spanish), Claude Chabrol (French), Federico Fellini (Italian), Akira Kurosawa (Japanese), Lina Wertmuller (German)
    • For other possibilities, try:  


The essays will be graded based on:

  • Evidence that you are reading and viewing the course content, including (but not limited to)…
    • Comparisons to other relevant films you have seen (both in and outside of class)
    • Use of proper film vocabulary, as introduced in class, including terminology related to shot type (close-up, medium shot, long shot, etc.), camera movement (pan, tilt, tracking shot, etc.), lighting, and more.

  • College-level writing skills:
    • Correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar
    • Clarity of thought; ideas are well-organized
    • Titles are italicized and dates are accurate; the names of directors, actors, screenwriters, etc. are correctly spelled.

  • Clear presentation of your opinions and ideas, including reasonable explanations and justifications to support those opinions: In a 100-level course, you might be asked to write about what you watched on the screen, and in a 200-level course, you could be asked to express what you think about what you watched. In this 300-level course, you should explain why you think the way you do about the film and justify your opinions by drawing on the weekly learning resources and by giving concrete examples from the film.

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Select and watch an appropriate film (a feature-length fiction film made between 1940 – 1970)

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