The Reel Thing

I. Course description

Although many may view film primarily for entertainment, this major will encourage scholars to critically view and analyze film—to develop media literacy. From Singin’ in the Rain to Psycho students will study the historic and current impact of film. In addition, scholars will examine the impact of production values, sound, and genre on films both past and present.

II. Instructor’s educational preparation and current employment

Teacher’s Name: Nancy R. Singer

Education: University of Missouri—Columbia, B.S. Ed., 1986; University of Missouri—Columbia, M.Ed., 1992.

III. Rationale for inclusion in a program for gifted students

Teachers have used the draw of visual media to illustrate their lessons for decades. After all, it is a medium with which our students are tremendously familiar and to which they are generally favorable. Just as we have an obligation to make students critical readers, writers, and thinkers, in today’s media-saturated world we must also make them critical viewers. Film provides a wonderful avenue to do the traditional things we already do in our humanities-based classes. That is, it provides a ripe context with which to analyze, discuss and write.

IV. Major topics covered

A genre study of film is the basis for this course. A sampling of the films used are listed below in “supplementary material.”

V. Prerequisite knowledge


VI. Learning objectives

At the conclusion of this course students should be able to:

  • Develop criteria for aesthetic awareness in film.
  • Apply analytical skills when “reading” a film.
  • Evaluate the nature of film as a distinctive art form and compare it to other art forms.
  • Recognize psychological and emotional responses to film.
  • Discuss with others the experience of seeing and hearing the medium of film.
VII. Primary source material

There is no primary text for this class. Listed below are resource materials that are used frequently.

Print Resources

  • Bone, Jan and Ron Johnson. Understanding the Film: An Introduction to Film Appreciation. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1997.
  • Bywater, Tim and Thomas Sobchack. Introduction to Film Criticism. New York: Longman, 1989.
  • Costanzo, William V. Reading the Movies: Twelve Great Films on Video and How to Teach Them. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1992.
  • Gianetti, Louis. Understanding Movies. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
  • Prince, Stephen. Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1997.
  • Sayles, John. Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie. Matewan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.
  • Teasley, Alan B. and Ann Wilder. Reel Conversations: Reading Films with Young Adults. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1997.
  • Wheeler, David. Ed. No, but I Saw the Movie: The Best Short Stories Ever Made into Film. New York: Penguin Books, 1989.
  • Wolff, Jurgen and Kerry Cox. Successful Scriptwriting. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1988.

Film Resources

  • An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge. Dir. Robert Enrico. Perf. Mercel Ichac, Paul de Roubaix. Concord Video, 1987.
  • Awakenings. Screenplay by Steven Zaillian. Dir. Penny Marshall. Perf. Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, John Heard, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller and Max Von Sydow. Columbia Pictures, 1991.
  • Battleship Potemkin. Dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1925.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Dir. George Roy Hill. Screenplay by William Goldman. Perf. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, George Furth, Cloris Leachman, Ted Cassidy, Kenneth Mars, Christopher Lloyd. Panavision, 1969.
  • Casablanca. Dir. Michael Curtiz. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet., 1942.
  • Citizen Kane. Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Evertee Sloane, Dorothy Comingore. RKO Pictures, 1941.
  • Empire of the Sun. Screenplay by Tom Stoppard. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, and Christian Bale. Warner Bros., 1987.
  • Psycho. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Screenplay by Joseph Stefano. Perf. Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, John Anderson, Frank Albertson, Patricia Hitchcock, 1960.
  • Rebel Without a Cause.Dir. Nicholas Ray. Screenplay by Stewart Stern. Perf. James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Corey Allen, William Hopper. Warner Brothers, 1955.
  • Roger & Me. Dir. Michael Moore. Warner Bros., 1989.
  • Singin’ in the Rain. Dir. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Perf. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen, Cyd Charisse, Millard Mitchell, Douglas Fowley, Madge Blake, Rita Moreno, 1952.
VIII. Supplementary source material
  • Teacher Handouts
  • Premier Magazine
  • Variety
IX. Computing and the Internet

Students tour the Advanced Technology Lab on campus. Although this department does not deal directly with film, they are cutting edge in terms of virtual reality and computer graphics.

Students will use computer lab facilities for researching and writing scripts and film reviews.