COM 3410 Film Modes and Genres         Dr. Steve Lipkin

Spring 2008                            217 Sprau Tower

                                       387-3153; steven.lipkin@wmich.edu

                                       TR 8:30-9:30; W 1:30-2:30

                                       (or by appointment)

 

http://homepages.wmich.edu/lipkin

username:  kubrick

password:  camera                                                  

 

 

This course focuses on representative films from various modes of film communication (narrative vs. nonnarrative, fiction vs. nonfiction), film movements, and film genres.  This semester the particular emphasis will be on docudrama in film and television.

 

TEXTS: 

Coursepack #WMSP08-111 (readings noted below)

Steven N. Lipkin, Real Emotional Logic

 

REQUIREMENTS:

--Quizzes (in class writing assignments): 10 pts. each

--Midterm (50 points):  February 19

--Film Analysis Paper:  50 points (due Thursday, Apr. 10)

--Final Exam:   100 points:  Monday, April 21, 2:45-4:45

 

GRADING:  QUIZ AND EXAM POLICY:

1.  The grading scale for this course (both for individual assignments and for your final grades) is based on the following percentages:

 

            94-100      A           70-75       C

            88- 93      BA          64-69       DC

            82- 87      B           58-63       D

            76- 81      CB

 

2.  I will drop your lowest 10 point quiz grade in computing final grades for the course.

 

3.  Unannounced quizzes may not be "made up."

 

4.  Due to the nature of exams in this course (they may involve screenings) the mid-term and the final exam must be taken on the days they are assigned.  I will allow make-up exams in the most extreme cases, such as severe illness or a death in the immediate family.

 

5.    #4 also applies for "Incomplete" course grades.

 

6.    Final exam date and time is non-negotiable.

 

Attendance:

Since much of the work of this class is impossible to make up (e.g. screenings and discussions) your attendance is extremely important.  After one (1) unexcused absence, your final grade will be lowered ten (10) points for each subsequent unexcused absence.

 

There will be a sign-in sheet on the desk in front of the room---make sure you initial it when you come in.  Failure to sign in will, without exception count as an absence. 

 

You must document excused absences upon your return to class with a note from parents or doctor, explaining the nature of your illness or family emergency.

 

 

 

COURSE OVERVIEW:

 

I.  MODES:  NARRATIVE; MELODRAMA; DOCUMENTARY

 

1/8:  Introduction

 

1/10: Narrative:  Screen:  “La Jetee

 

Readings (in coursepack):

Thomas Schatz (1981).  Hollywood Genres.  “The Genius of the System,” pp. 3-13.

 

Steve Neale (2000).  Genre and Hollywood.  “Definition of Genre.”  pp. 9-29.

 

 

1/15:  Melodrama:  Screen: "Little Match Girl"

 

Reading (in coursepack):

John Belton (2005).  American Cinema American Culture.  “Silent Film Melodrama,” pp. 131-139.

 

1/17:  Documentary:  Screen:  “City of Gold

 

Reading (in coursepack):

Bill Nichols (1991).  Representing Reality.  “Telling Stories With Evidence and Argument,” pp. 107-133.

 

     

II.  MIXED MODES; DOCUDRAMA

     

1/22:  Drama documentary: Screen:  Target For Tonight

 

Reading (in coursepack):

Carl Plantinga (1997).  Rhetoric and Representation in the Nonfiction Film.  “What is Nonfiction Film?”  pp. 7-25.

 

 

1/24:  Documentary drama and Italian Neorealism:  Screen:  Rome Open City

 

Reading:

Lipkin, Chapt. 1, “Defining Docudrama”

 

1/29:  Post-war social problem film

 

1/31:  Twentieth Century-Fox and Semi-documentary:  Screen:  13 Rue Madeleine

 

Reading:

Lipkin, Chapt. 3, “Dramatic Evidence”

 

2/5;

2/7:  Docudrama as argument:  Screen:  Call Northside 777

 

Reading:

Lipkin, Chapt. 2, “All The Good Reasons”

 

 

III.  DOCUDRAMATIC REPRESENTATION OF THE REAL

 

2/12;

2/14:  Docudrama and Ethics:  Screen:  JFK

 

Reading: 

Lipkin, Chapt. 4, “Docudrama Ethics”

Robert A. Rosenstone (1995).  Visions of the Past.  “The Historical Film,” pp. 45-79. (in coursepack)

George F. Custen (1992).  Bio/Pics.  “Making History,” pp. 32-80. (in coursepack)

 

2/19:  MIDTERM

 

2/21:  Movie of the Week Docudrama:  Screen:  The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom

 

Reading:

Lipkin, Chapt. 5, “Rootable, Relatable, Promotable Docudrama”

 

2/26;

2/28: Screen:  The Pirates of Silicon Valley

 

3/11;

3/13: Screen:  Strange Justice

 

Reading:

Steve Neale (2000).  Genre and Hollywood.  “Genre Theory,” 207-230. (in coursepack)

 

 

IV.  CONTEMPORARY CAUTIONARY TALES; RECENT GENRE THEORY

 

3/18;

3/20:  Issues of Race and Justice:  Screen one of:  Rosewood, Amistad, Ghosts of Mississippi, Malcolm X, The Hurricane, Men of Honor, Antwone Fisher, Remember the Titans, Coach Carter

 

Reading:

Lipkin, Chapt. 6, “Recent Feature Film Docudrama”

Rick Altman, “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre” in Braudy, Film Theory and Criticism, pp. 680-690.

(in coursepack)

 

 

 

3/25;

3/27:  Issues of Health and the Environment:  Consider:  A Civil Action; The Insider; Erin Brockovich

      Events docudrama:  Screen United 93

 

4/1;

4/3:  Biography of Inspiration:  Screen one of:  Donnie Brasco, Hilary and Jackie; Shine; A Perfect Storm; A Beautiful Mind; Seabiscuit; Ray; Walk The Line; Good Night, and Good Luck

 

Reading:

Rick Altman, “Generic Products and the Recycling Process,” in Browne, Refiguring American Film Genres, pp. 1-41.

(in coursepack)

 

 

 

V.  DOCUDRAMA AND THE BUSH ERA CULTURE OF WAR

 

4/8:  Recent film and TV war docudrama:  Screen selections from:  Black Hawk Down, We Were Soldiers; Uprising; Nuremberg; Flags of Our Fathers

 

4/10:  Screen:  Band of Brothers, Chapt. 1

 

ANALYSIS PAPER DUE, 4/7

 

4/15;

4/17:  Screen:  Saving Jessica Lynch

 

FINAL EXAM:  MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2:45-4:45