Film Analysis — The Help & Mudbound

Film Analysis: The Help and Mud Bound

Assignment: Choose an ideology and analyze how each film presents it. What is similar or different about each film’s approach to the ideology? 4-7 pages.

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In a film analysis, you are looking at the film as a whole and writing about the ideology as it is portrayed or developed over the course of the film. You will still need to choose specific scenes that help you make your point, but the goal is to look at the big picture. For a model, look at the examples in “Film and Ideology” posted in “Instructional Videos in the Content Library on Teams. Notice the use of film techniques such as theme, motif, or shot to get at the larger issue of what the film is about.

For your comparison of The Help and Mud Bound, choose an ideology that you can explore in both films. At first glance it may seem that the mainstream The Help lacks much ideology, but consider the work it is doing to construct a “normative” image. What structures does it use to create a normative ideal of the family, gender roles, race, sexuality, the American Dream? Does Mud Bound offer a similar or an alternative ideal?

Once you have chosen an ideology to explore, you should take notes while watching the movies and develop a thesis – a claim you are willing to make. As with the scene analysis, you will need to back up your claim with evidence drawn from specific scenes. For instance, if you are analyzing the ideology of “race” and looking at the way black women’s bodies are portrayed in both films, you would want to choose scenes that would let you talk about the mise-en-scène of casting (Octavia Spencer vs. Mary J. Blige), costume, make-up, figure placement, etc.

To keep your essay unified, make sure you stick to one ideology and write a strong thesis statement about it.

E.g. As a film released during World War II, Casablanca reinforces the ideology that personal sacrifice is necessary during war time.

Example 1: Women in Casablanca give up their personal possessions.

Example 2: Laszlo gives up his personal safety to fight for the resistance.

Example 3: Rick gives up Ilse in order to serve a greater good.

In this outline, each example would be fully developed, with discussion of the film techniques that enhance the idea of “sacrifice,” in order to help me prove my thesis.

While you will need to talk in detail about specific scenes, try not to get bogged down in the scene. Rather, keep your eye on the larger goal of explaining how the film works as a whole.

Suggestions.

1. Possible ideologies:

The American Dream

The Family

Race

Gender Roles

Masculinity

Sexuality

Work

2. What are the basic assumptions each film asks the viewer to accept as part of the ideology? Are those assumptions valid? What happens if we don’t accept the assumptions?

3. If a film is creating a “normative” ideology, how does it accomplish that? Does the normative ideology seem “natural” or artificial? Why?

4. If a film is challenging a normative ideology, how does it set about doing that? What kinds of alternative viewpoints does it offer? Are the alternative viewpoints unsettling? Acceptable? Why?

5. What can be gained from comparing the ideologies in these two films? Does watching them together help reveal the assumptions each is based on?

6. What specific techniques does each film use to reinforce its ideologies?

Grading Scale

A The paper has a clear thesis statement making a claim about one ideology. The thesis is well developed with specific examples from both films that point to the big picture of how each film handles the ideology. The examples include specific film techniques that reinforce the ideology. The comparison of the two films reaches a larger conclusion about the ideology. The writing is clear, vigorous, and free of error.

B The paper has a thesis statement focusing on one ideology. The thesis is supported with some examples from both films that point to the big picture of how each film handles the ideology. The examples include some film techniques that reinforce the ideology. The comparison of the two films may not reach a larger conclusion about the ideology. The writing is clear, but may contain some errors.

C The thesis statement mentions the ideology, but may not make a claim. The examples include specific film techniques from both films, but may not point to the bigger picture of how each film handles the ideology. The comparison of the two films is unbalanced, with one film receiving the majority of the attention. The comparison may fail to reach a conclusion. The writing lacks energy or contains a large number of errors.

D The paper lacks a thesis statement or is unclear about which ideology it is analyzing. The examples tend to describe scenes rather than explaining them, or they may lack specific film techniques. The comparison of the two films lacks connection and fails to reach a conclusion. The paper may get bogged down in looking at scenes and fail to talk about the big picture. The writing contains an unacceptable number of errors

F The paper is late, missing, or completely off topic. A paper that fails to explore ideology or that discusses only one of the films will receive an F.

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