Film criticism assignment

Categories: Assignments, Class Info

Although this is neither a writing or screening-centered course, there is one assignment in the first week to get you to watch an example of environmental film making, and think about the strategies used in such films. More beneath the fold…

Each student should claim one of these films that are on reserve in the library by commenting on this post with your choice of film:

The 11th hour [videorecording] / Warner Independent Pictures, Appian Way, Tree Media Group ; produce (no author) Main Reserves — GE195.7.E394 E448 2008D — AVAILABLE
Addicted to plastic [videorecording] / Cryptic Moth Productions presents ; produced & directed by Ia (no author) Main Reserves — TD798 .A33 2008D — AVAILABLE
Blue vinyl [videorecording] / Toxic Comedy Pictures ; produced in association with Home Box Office [ (no author) Main Reserves — HD9662.P62 B68 2007D — AVAILABLE
Energy crossroads [videorecording] : [a burning need to change course] / produced by Tiroir A Films (no author) Main Reserves — HD9502.A2 E54367 2007D — AVAILABLE
Food, Inc. [videorecording] / Magnolia Pictures ; Participant Media ; River Road Entertainment prese (no author) Main Reserves — Media M01 Mittell — AVAILABLE
The future of food [videorecording] / Lily Films presents ; directed, produced and written by Debora (no author) Main Reserves — TP248.65.F66 F88 2004 D c.2 — AVAILABLE
The garden [videorecording] / Oscilloscope Laboratories ; Black Valley Films in association with Kat (no author) Main Reserves — SB457.3 G373 2009D — AVAILABLE
Global warming [videorecording] : the signs and the science / [written by Michael Taylor and David (no author) Main Reserves — QC981.8.G56 G563 2005 D — AVAILABLE
Good food [videorecording] / written and directed by Melissa Young, Mark Dworkin ; produced by Melis (no author) Main Reserves — S449 .G66 2008D — AVAILABLE
The great squeeze [videorecording] : [surviving the human project] / Tiroir A Films presents ; direc (no author) Main Reserves — GE196 .G742 2008D — AVAILABLE
An inconvenient truth [videorecording] : a global warning / Paramount Classics and Participant Produ (no author) Main Reserves — QC981.8.G56 I536 2006 D c.3 — AVAILABLE
King corn [videorecording] : you are what you eat / Balcony Releasing presents a Mosaic Films produc (no author) Main Reserves — SB191.M2 K56 2008 D — AVAILABLE
Trashed [videorecording] / OXI Productions presents ; directed and produced by Bill Kirkos. (no author) Main Reserves — TD788 .T72 2007D — AVAILABLE
Weather report [videorecording] / director, Brenda Longfellow ; producers, Jennifer Kawaja … [et a (no author) Main Reserves — QC981.8.C5 W43 2008D — AVAILABLE
Who killed the electric car? [videorecording] / a Sony Pictures Classics release ; Electric Entertai (no author) Main Reserves — TL220 .W485 2006D — AVAILABLE

Once you have watched your film, compose a blog post that addresses these questions:

  • What is the topic of the film?
  • What are the specific intents of the film?
  • What are the approaches of the film? How do the approaches fit with the topic and intents?
  • What can we learn from this film, in terms of content, that might help us create Sustainable TV?
  • What can we learn from this film, in terms of media production, that might help us create Sustainable TV?

Please post these blog commentaries by Friday, January 8. And please read each others’ posts and add comments!

10 Responses to Film criticism assignment

  1. Pingback: Sustainable Television » Blog Archive » Day 1 – January 4

  2. I’ve got Food Inc. Been in my netflix queue for a while now … no time like the present.

  3. Kris says:

    I’ll take King Corn

  4. Jacqueline Faillace says:

    I’ll take The Garden

  5. Amanda says:

    I’ll take The Future of Food.

  6. Morgan says:

    The great squeeze!

  7. Ryan Kellett says:

    Inconvenient Truth.

  8. Lei Lei says:

    I’ll take Weather Report

  9. Neil says:

    11th Hour

  10. mboyles says:

    Still having trouble with the blog so here is the Film Criticism as a comment:

    The Great Squeeze
    “Surviving the Human Project”

    The Great Squeeze is a film that explores the converging crises of peak oil environmental degradation, climate change, population and food and water shortage. The filmmakers were very ambitious and though the film can flood the viewer with information, I believe that it is still able to carry a powerful message.

    The Great Squeeze focuses on how we have become accustomed a way of life with more wealth and technological knowledge than any other in the course of history. Our way of life has been made possible by the discovery and use of incredibly inexpensive energy in the form of fossil fuels. The energy in a gallon of gasoline contains about as much energy as eight to twelve weeks of hard human labor. The use of this cheap energy has shifted our society from man to machine. Where we live, what we eat, how we travel and most importantly how we think has been constructed around our consumption of oil. The experts in the film challenge the viewer to look at the dangerous direction we are taking as our society believes in the impossible dream of infinite growth within the reality of finite resources.

    The film was created with content that came almost exclusively from the 2008 conference called “The Aspen Environmental Forum” hosted by the Aspen Institute in Colorado. The theme of this conference was “Powering the Planet: Energy for the Long Run” The experts that appear in the film were presenters interviewed at this conference, content was also taken from many of their lectures.

    From the filmmakers perspective this was an excellent way to very quickly create a finished piece on a low budget. There was only one location to visit for just three days during the forum. The formula they chose to use in the edit was talking head cut to stock footage and then more talking head then cut to more stock footage. This style does work to a certain extent; however, it is overused and leaves the viewer lost in a sea of information that can easily overwhelm. The strong theme of energy and converging crisis found its way though the whole piece, though the nature of the presenters was to talk about their specialty topic which in all cases could easily be the topic of a film in its self.

    The film was organized into eight chapters: A Depleting World, The Emerging Crisis, Climate Change, Climate Change and the Global Economy, A Stressed Ecosystem, Warnings From the Past, The Great Change and Coming Together. Though this looks like a logical easy to follow sequence when presented on paper it does not translate well to film making the project it is hard to follow as a cohesive piece. The use of narration and clarifying text it held to a minimum this project suffered from too many storytellers. Each expert had a specialty that ranged from suburbia to water to marine ecosystems and each of the interviews were jammed full of the talking head attempting to pack all of their main points into five minutes.

    The film carries an important message and it leaves the viewer with a positive message at its end as the agronomist Lester Brown describes the massive economic and social changes that took place when our nation mobilized for WWII. I have seen many documentaries, which dramatically portray an issue that scares the audience leaving the audience with blaming a corporation or the government. Though this may be true when people leave the theater all they think about is that they are a small individual in a big scary world that they have little to no power to change. This film, however, does leave the viewer motivated with the feeling that positive action is possible.

    For our films we can be wary of the over use of talking heads though I can see several of our pieces leaning in that direction. This film does make creative use of stock footage and I would be interested into seeing what footage and free rights are available for educational use.


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