Topics for Paper One: You may write on any of the following topics, using any of the readings to address a problem in film and media theory that addresses two films, one of which e have seen in class with one of which we have not seen.
1. Looking Awry at the Mise-en-Scene (Jameson versus Kittler) : Children of Men documentary with Slavoj Zizek and documentary about Slavoj Zizek entitled Zizek!
2. The Political Thriller and Media Technologies: Blow Up or Blow Out and Bug, The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, National Treasure, The Shooter, The Bourne Ultimatum, or The Kingdom
3. Disaster Movie (Virillio): Children of Men or and World Trade Center, Airport 73, United 93, The Kingdom, or The Towering Inferno or The Train and Final Destination 3.
4. Notebooks: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and The Prestige
5. Narratological and Media Frames: Greenblatt and Jameson: Lost Highway and Bug or The Number 23
6. Docudrama and indexicality: Call Northside 777 and Alfred Hitchcock The Wrong Man or Blackmail
7. The Criminal Jusice System and Scientific Evidence: Call Northside 777 or Samuel Fuller, Shock Corridor and Fritz Lang, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
For the second paper, click here.
Topics for Paper Three: You may write on any of the following topics, using any of the readings to address a problem in film and media theory that addresses two films, one of which e have seen in class with one of which we have not seen.
1. Original release of Alexander and the extended version, comparing the director's audiocommentaries
2. 300 and Kingdom of Heaven, comparing the director's audiocommentaries.
3. Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven DVD editions.
4. Queer Theory: Mulholland Drive and Bound
5. The Uncanny and Narrative Framing: Inland Empire
6. Both versions of Kingdom of Heaven
NB: When you write your papers, I expect you to be able to "quote" images from the film. By "quote" I mean capture images and insert them into you word documents. In other words, you must be able to capture a image from the DVD of each shot and insert it into your text. I require screen captures because they actually help you "read" the film as well as give your reader more information. It's like writing about a poem from memory without being able to quote any lines versus having the poem in front of you and being able to reread it and quote lines from it.
1. Write an essay on a film theorist we have read and consider her or his history of film and new media in relation to Siegfried Kracauer and walter Benjamin's writings on historicism and photography. What do the conjunction of historicism and photography (both emerging at the same time) and Benjamin's metaphors of fog and flash for the history of photography do for our understanding of the history of cinema and new media? You might focus this broad question on a specific area of film and media theory. For example, none of the theorists we've read address image quality and the aspect ratio of the film image. There's an unquestioned assumption that the quality of the projected image in a movie theater is the same as the analogue video or laserdisc image and the same as the digital image. One aspect of new media is that image quality gets better in some ways (DVD is better than video, PAL video is better than NTSC video, and HD-DVD is better than DVD) and also , in some venues worse (online film clips that are compressed, for example). Another area would be interface aesthetics (Peter Krapp's essay might be helpful) in terms of media transparency and opacity. The development of new interfaces for film as well as the implications of their (graphic) design when a film is seen outside more theaters together constitute another blind spot in film studies with regard to the ways in which the temporality of film, photography, and new media does not fit into a historical narrative either grand (in which one event follows another in a cause and effect chain) or small (the anecdote). Loop, jump, detour, track, roundabout, spring, etc all might be metaphors for the routing of film and media history.
1A. You could take up the same issue with regard to amplification. Is the history of film and new media reducible to the amplification of potential already in place from or near the beginning (the museum of modern art archive and others, for example)? and extension? Again, you might focus these large questions on a specific area of film theory such as DVD and film restoration. Rosen's Change Mummified and Paolo Usai's The Death of Cinema would be relevant. If DVD introduces multiplicity (different versions of the same film), restoration of older films proceeds often by combining different cuts, collating them to produce, in some cases, a version of the film that never existed. (Editors of Shakespeare did this kind of thing with King Lear, combining the two quite different quarto and Folio editions of the play into a single version that was never published nor performed during Shakespeare's lifetime).
2. Film credits and film credibility in the historical film. Consider the specific kinds of credits and peritexts that occur in historical films: the historical / military advisors; "based on a true story" etc. Focusing on Alexander Revisited, you might consider how these credits play out in relation to the film's narrative frames and use of Ptolemy to question the historical veracity of the film and of any film about the past.
3. The politics of obliquity in film. Some films wear their politics on their sleeves and seem the worse for it (crudeness prevails). But even those films that do so may produce ambiguous effects: Is 300 pro-Bush or anti-Bush? is it gay macho film or a hetero macho film? Other films come at politics in a more oblique way. Ivan's Childhood is an anti-war film, for example, but it is hardly reducible to "war is bad." Some films serve up a combo of visible markers and enigmas. In Alexander Revisited, for example, Alexander kisses men and sleeps with them, yet he doesn't kiss or sleep with the man he loves. It's a gay / queer film. The politics of a film we didn't see, The Boy with Green Hair, are both obvious and impenetrable. The film openly preaches an anti-war message (the boy, played by Dean Stockwell, is a war orphan), but his green hair relates to his dead mother and a green plant in his home, green grass, and is linked in one line to race. it also seems to mark the boy as gay. The director was Joseph Losey. Other films have politics that are just plain weird. Check out another film we didn't see, Fritz Lang's Rancho Notorious, with Marlene Dietrich as a former prostitute who runs a den of thieves.
4. Surrealism and historicism. In the Representations version of "The Touch of the Real," Greenbatt distinguishes his brand of historicism from surrealism. Does historicism have to be anchored in the real? You might connect this topic with one above. What kinds of images count as real? Are they necessarily ahistorical or anti-historical?
5. Consider any of the three late Lynch films we have seen as American surrealist films. Here's a working definition of surrealism from Aul Wescher "The 'Idea' in Giuseppe Arcimboldo's Art" (1950):
From the surrealist standpoint, art expresses the double aspect of life: the contradiction and tension between a real and an imagined existence, the dual meaning of every arbitrary truth. The parallel between the art of Arcimboldo and that of the surrealists lies in the fact that in both, similar objects and elements of reality are composed to form a human image which combines reason with ideological fantasy."
Extending this definition to cinema defined in national terms, you might focus on the face and the close up and / or the cut and / or the ways in which narrative framing marks a scene as real or as fantasy (or fails to mark the difference). You might also want to discuss this topic in relation to the Quay Brothers' films and the automaton, which Wescher also addresses in his essay.
6. Collection and destruction, whole and fragment. Film before film and film after film. You might consider the way the Quay's Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer looks back to the library and wonder cabinet and index system (see also Renais's Tous les Memoires du Monde) and to the computer. What kinds of operations and archiving, what kinds of mechanisms are involved in making stop motion animation?
I don't offer technical assistance on how to capture DVD images and insert them into word documents, so please do not contact me to help you with technical issues. Also, I don't lend DVDs, so please don't ask to borrow them.
Here is all the technical help I can offer:
To capture images from DVDs for your film clip and research papers, you may download a VLC player that does this for free at
If you want to fork out the cash (around 40 dollars), you can get windvd. There's a free trial at
If you don't think you can do this, I recommend you seek technical support on campus or drop the class. Again, I do not provide technical support.