Critical Review #2

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Santa Monica College Democracy and Di�erence Through the Aesthetics of Film Tahvildaran

           Assignment Objectives:  Enhance and/or improve critical thinking and media literacy skills by:                                    1. Developing a clear and concise thesis statement (an argument) in response to the                                      following question: Does the �lm have the power to transform political sensibilities?                                 2. Writing an outline for a �ve paragraph analytical essay building on a clear and                                      concise thesis statement, including topic sentences and secondary supports.                                 3. Identifying and explaining three scenes from the �lm text in support of the thesis                                      statement/argument.                                 4.  Writing an introductory paragraph for the outlined analytical essay

Be sure to read thoroughly the writing conventions below before beginning this assignment. Note: You are NOT writing a full essay; rather, you are outlining an analytical essay by completing the dialogue in the boxes below.

Writing a Critical Review (analytical) Essay

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  1. Every essay that you write for this course must have a clear thesis, placed (perhaps) somewhere near the end of the introductory paragraph. Simply stated, a THESIS (or ARGUMENT) expresses, preferably in a single sentence, the point you want to make about the text that is the subject of your essay. A THESIS should be an opinion or interpretation of the text, not merely a fact or observation. The best possible THESIS will answer some speci�c questions about the text. Very often the THESIS contains an outline of the major points to be covered in the essay. A possible thesis for an essay on character in Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come might read somewhat as follows:

The protagonist of THTC is not a hero in the epic sense of the word, but a self-centered young man bred of economic oppression and cultural dependency. The characters in this �lm have no real psychological depth, but are markers for a society of consumption and momentary glory.

(You might then go on to exemplify from the text and argue in favor or against this interpretation: your essay need not hold to only one perspective.)

What single, clear QUESTION does the above THESIS attempt to answer?

  1. Each essay should be organized into �ve (5) paragraphs, each based on one of two to four major ideas, which will comprise the BODY of the essay. Each paragraph must have a topic sentence, often (but not always) towards the beginning of the paragraph, which clearly states the ARGUMENT or point to be made in the paragraph. Following the thesis set forth above, the �rst paragraph might begin with a sentence like “Ivan’s desires and his destiny are signaled in the opening shots of the �lm, where the friendly, jumbled interior of the bus is contrasted with Ivan’s �rst view of the outer world: a world of shiny white cars and beautiful women.” Avoid topic sentences that fail to make an interpretative statement about the work or that merely state something any reader might observe; for example, “The �rst characters we see are country people on a bus to town.”

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  1. Underline the THESIS and each TOPIC SENTENCE in every critical review essay you submit. This exercise will force you to make certain that you have expressed and developed the ideas in your essay clearly and logically. (In other words, do not do this exercise �ve minutes before you submit the essay but, rather, as you are working on the very �rst draft.)
  2. Always use present tense verbs in your critical review essays about �lm texts. Present tense is the verb tense of analysis. Past tense, on the other hand, is the tense of narration. In each essay, you will be analyzing a particular text, not retelling or summarizing the story. If you �nd yourself slipping into past tense as you compose, you are probably narrating rather than analyzing.
  3. Use speci�c passages from the text to support each point that you make in your essay. You may simply refer to an event in the text, or you may paraphrase what a character or the narrator says. But the best EVIDENCE will most often be direct quotes from the text.
    The Introductory Paragraph – Some Approaches
    In your essay, an opening or introductory paragraph may not always be the �rst one you write. But it will be the �rst one your readers read and you need to engage your readers’ attention and interest and present all you need to make your thesis clear and convincing.

I. Some Pitfalls to Avoid

  1. Dictionary de�nitions: De�ne key terms and concepts in your opening paragraph, but don’t quote directly from the dictionary to do so. Use a dictionary – more than one dictionary – to formulate the de�nition in your own words.

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  1. Generalizations about “life,” “society,” “people today,” etc.: You don’t want to begin your essay with the kind of statement that teeters on that �ne line between opinion (those ideas you will go on to prove) and belief (those ideas unprovable with the evidence offered by the text). Rather than a statement like, “Almost every man has a sense of pride and will go to war to prove it,” try something more speci�c to the text you are analyzing. “The character of Roland exempli�es how personal pride and personal valor do not always lead to the most fortunate conclusion.”
  2. The painfully obvious: Avoid opening statements like “Dante’s Inferno is about a journey to hell,” or “Roland is the hero of The Song of Roland,” unless such statements are in some way controversial and challenging to traditional interpretations of the text. Try to avoid any kind of tautological formula – “something is something else” – in the opening sentence, especially, but also elsewhere as an “argument.”
  3. Try to distinguish between historical or biographical fact: “Dante’s Inferno was written in fourteenth-century Italy,” and interpretation, especially when you are considering the intention of an author: “Dante wrote his Inferno to expose the problem of Florentine political corruption to the world.” The latter may be a part of your theory or thesis (or conclusion) but if you use it as a statement of fact (an “intentional fallacy”) you will have to prove it rather than merely argue it – a slippery and di�cult and perhaps not particularly useful task. Beware also of using vague or imprecise generalizations of terms such as “dramatic,” “realistic,” or “critical,” which differ in their literary and historical signi�cance.

II. Challenges to Meet

  1. Try for a (syntactically) shapely and relevant opening sentence: be thoughtful and original and persuasive. Always look for interesting ways into your essay: an epigraph, perhaps, or an important episode

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that seems to set the stage for what you want to say, or a succinct comparison with another well-known work, which will help your reader understand the point you want to make.

  1. Always (particularly in a comparative essay) identify your texts early on. (Usually with full title, full authors’ names, and date/period of publication.)
  2. Think of your thesis statement as the logical goal of the �rst paragraph. Everything you say here should lead towards (or from) that thesis. Anything that doesn’t lead in that direction – unless you are presenting a view different from yours, which you want to argue against—doesn’t belong in your paragraph. Think of the paragraph as a funnel, where the contents are being concentrated and �ltered to one end.

Using proper MLA bibliographic formatting, cite the �lm text in the box to the right: guide/MLA/�lm

The most basic entry for a �lm consists of the title, director, distributor, year of release, and medium. You


How to cite a �lm in a bibliography using MLA
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may also choose to include the names of the writer(s), performer(s), and the producer(s), as well as the �lm’s original release date. Film title. Dir. First Name Last Name. Distributor, Year of Release. Medium.

  1. Develop a thesis sentence pertaining to the assigned �lm text and whether or not it, the �lm, in your view has the power to transform one’s political sensibilities. Your argument should express your point of view regarding the politics of difference, political sensibilities, and political transformation(s) as related to the �lm. Remember, you’re writing (developing) an analytical essay. Submit your thesis statement in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.


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  1. Develop three (3) topic sentences that articulate the major ideas that will comprise the body of your essay. Remember that your topic sentences should clearly state the argument or point to be made in the respective paragraphs and must map back to your thesis statement. Submit your topic sentences in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.


  1. Identify three (3) scenes from the �lm that support your thesis statement. Brie�y explain your choices of scenes and how the scenes speci�cally support your thesis statement. Also,


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provide the exact time the scenes begin and end within the �lm text. Submit your reply in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.

  1. Lastly, fully develop your introductory paragraph. Remember that the best possible thesis will answer some speci�c question about the text. In this case a question related to the �lm’s power to transform political sensibilities regarding difference. Your thesis sentence should appear parenthetically within the paragraph you present. Submit your answer in the box located to the right. Be sure to proofread your work.


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Before submitting your Critical Review make sure you have read these questions and that you fully understand the grading rubric: 1. Did I properly cite the �lm text using MLA format? Speci�cally, did I follow the example provided to me on the Democracy and Difference website? Did I click on the link to the BibMe website and review how to cite a �lm for a bibliography? Do I understand that any errors in the citation will result in a loss of points? Students who do not properly cite the �lm will see a reduction in points for this assignment 25/50. 2. Did I answer, directly, the professor’s question: “Does the �lm have the power to transform one’s political sensibilities?” Is it clear to the reader (the professor in this case) that I have taken a stand/made an argument pertaining to the assignment prompt? Again, “Does the �lm have the power to transform one’s political sensibilities?” Students should be sure to address: POWER, POLITICAL SENSIBILITES, and TRANSFORMATION in their thesis sentence/statements. Did I do this? Students who do not properly address this direct question will see a reduction in points for this assignment 25/50. 3. Did I provide the start and end times for each of the three scenes I chose in support of my thesis sentence/statement? And, did I explain explicitly why I chose those scenes? It is not su�cient to list scenes only. Did I explain clearly (and brie�y) why I chose the scene that I did and how they speci�cally advance my argument/thesis? Is it clear to the reader (the professor in this case) why I chose the scene I did? For example, did I write something like: “I chose the scene because it advances my argument by ….” or “I chose the scene because it clearly makes my point that …” Students who did not provide start and end times and/or explain their scene choices will see a reduction in points for this assignment 25/50. 4. Did I fully develop an introduction paragraph? And, in that paragraph did I insert my thesis sentence/statement? Did I use parentheses (to bracket my thesis statement/sentence) within the introduction paragraph? Students who did not fully develop this introduction paragraph and use parentheses (to bracket their thesis statement/sentence) will see a reduction in points for this assignment 25/50.


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