Essay 3

Those of you who missed class Friday and/or Monday missed a couple of complete class periods of discussion about how to approach the final essay. I’ve included the basics below, but you need to be sure to read chapter four of your Writing about Film text closely to gain a better understanding of the many possible critical approaches you might apply to your selected film.

Due Wednesday, December 4
2500 words (about 7.5 pages)
MLA format
Research required, including MLA works cited and in-text citations

For this essay, you will select a single film and apply a critical approach to analyze it. While you will focus on one primary approach, other approaches may overlap – for instance, if you examine Blade Runner in the context of its place in the scifi or cyberpunk genre, you will likely want to do some formal analysis that explains how films of the genre work as well as some historical analysis of where the genre was at the time the film was made and, possibly, where it has gone since.

Chapter seven of Writing about Film will be an invaluable resource in finding the best available research materials to back up your arguments.

As ever, email me if you have any questions.


Week 15 Agenda

Week 15 (November 25-December 1)

Class Activity          Continue final essay discussion
Assignments           Wolcott, “Prime Time’s Graduation”
Haglund, “Stop Saying That TV Is Better Than Movies These Days”

Screening               Television pilots (optional)
Assignments           No blog post

Class Activity          NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING

Class Activity          NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING

Spirited Away

There is no better film to introduce oneself into Japanese anime than Hayao Miyazakis’ Spirited Away. The first time I saw this film, I instantly noticed the similarities between it and Alice in Wonderland. That means that the film is filled with themes of being on your own. This film is often overlooked in terms of its thematic brilliance, because of its stunning visuals, but the motifs and symbols in this film are really what make it great. One thing that I noticed this time I saw the film was how Chihiro is wearing the headband that Zeniba made for her when she walks off with her parents at the end. This shows how that even though her parents have no recollection of it, Chihiro went on an incredible adventure. Going back to the “being on your own” theme, when Chihiro first enters this new strange world, she is utterly on her own. Her parents are turned to pigs, and she is still able to rise above this and eventually save her parents and escape. I think Spirited Away is really a tale of resilience and adventure in its purest form.

Another difference I noticed from the first time I had seen this film was the stunning animation. I remember it being fine, but considering the film is hand-drawn animation, the image of the film is flawless. The motion is always in sync, and the film just looks better than most other animation I have seen.

All in all, Spirited Away is a tale of pure adventure and fun. It will blow you off your feet and make you feel like a kid again with its themes of self-reliance, resilience, and confidence. These themes are easy for viewers to identify with, and maybe that’s why everyone seems to love Spirited Away, oh and don’t forget the stunning animation.


Hugo, the inspirational tale of an orphaned child who attempts to unravel a great mystery in order to give closure and to connect with his late father, is most well known for its huge budget and masterful use of special effects. However, the film does in fact delve into older special effect techniques, as an homage to Georges Melies. For example, the train crash, as we watched, was done through a model, and the automaton was not done through effects, it was actually made. There’s always something interesting about a Martin Scorsese movie, and when it comes to Hugo, the topic of discussion is the marvelous style that the movie has through its special effects and cinematography. In my opinion, the film is   style over substance, and apart from the effects, it doesn’t really wow me. The acting and character progression, in particular, were two plot elements that I think could have been done better. Hugo and Isabelle were annoying and not likable, and the comic relief that the train inspector provided was unnecessary. The progression of the characters was also confusing. Isabelle and Hugo become best friends instantly, and seemingly for no reason. Georges Melies and his wife are the only interesting characters. The sequence where Melies explains his movie making career, and all of his previous works are shown on screen, is probably the best part of the entire film. The tinting of Melies’ old movies combined with the narration Melies provides makes this scene one of the most rememberable scenes, too. It is the most colorful part of the film, and it doesn’t even use CGI. From start to finish, Hugo is a decent film. It provides most of what an audience is looking for in excitement, fun, and a stylistic edge. however, It lacks the substance of a great film.


Hugo was to say the least, a fascinating movie with a very intricate plot. What I found most interesting was the symbolism. Hugo’s journey to find the key to the automaton and all of the people he met that had an impact on his fathers life is a metaphor for the building of a character. His father was the way he was because of everything that happened and every person he met throughout his life, almost like a mathematical equation. Through Hugo’s journey to find the key he finds out more about his father and exactly why he is who he is. When you look at life in terms of the way this film does, your personality and your character is a culmination of the people you have met and the things that have happened to you in your life along the way. It is a very interesting way to look at things. That in terms of your destiny, everything is so fragile and precise that one thing that maybe did or didn’t happen can change your life completely. Also the automaton is brilliant.


Martin Scorsese’s Hugo was a beautiful film that can easily tap into the heart of any viewer.     In my opinion, it took a little bit more time than it should’ve to fully introduce all the characters. I like how Hugo’s tragic past was presented but believe it would’ve had a bigger impact if done in pieces.

I like how the movie plays into the concept of how each part whether in a machine or life comes together to make something whole. From the introduction of the movie as gears turning into the city to the specific heart-shaped key that fits in the back of the automaton. Hugo’s perseverance to find how he “fits” in society and aspiration of becoming more than just a piece within soceity is inspiring.

Another aspect of the film that is eye capturing is the mis-a-scene. From the set designs to the character customes. Every detail was accounted for and played together perfectly. The only thing I was confused about were the british accents in Paris. Was this to appeal to a bigger audience, being funny, or its just a big coincidence that the characters we are involved with are british.

Love and ambition I believe were the main themes of the movie. We really see this in the characters emotions and how they express themselves. I believe with the help of 3D filming  it played a huge role it capturing each of the actors expression during the many close ups within the movie. Overall, I enjoyed the film and found the message sent out to the audience really nice. Oh, and Sacha Baron Cohen is the man.

Week 14 Hugo

Hugo is another tale of a child stuck in the transition to an adult. The orphan caught up in the workforce is portrayed not only literally, but through the repetitive symbolism of machines.

Hugo asserts his independence early on in the movie. His encounter with Papa Georges proves that the is not new to thievery, and his reluctance to tell Papa Georges his reasoning behind stealing implies that Hugo has no guidance. Despite the lack of guidance, Hugo seems to know what he has to do to survive on his own, because he works hard to avoid the orphan catcher in order to continue tending to the clocks.

We learn that Hugo works the clocks because he feels that it is his duty in the world.  He compares the world to a big machine, with every part having a purpose- even him, an orphan. This analogy shows that Hugo has learned the harsh reality of the world- humans are just part of a big machine, working like parts of a clock.

Automatons extend the analogy of the machine even further. The automatons are almost human, yet they only serve one function: to preform their specified tasks. By the end of the movie, even Isabelle has made the the connection between Hugo and the working automaton.

A Clockwork Hugo

“”Hugo” is unlike any other film Martin Scorsese has ever made, and yet possibly the closest to his heart: a big-budget, family epic in 3-D, and in some ways, a mirror of his own life.”- Roger Ebert

I have to disagree this film is not his most personal, I thought it was his semi-autobiographical masterpiece Mean Streets. However being the cinephile that Scorsese is I can see why this might be put up to debate. This film caught me off guard but in the best way possible. I guess you can equate it to a Tarantino musical. I don’t think it would happen but i sure as hell pray.

This animation reminded me of the work in the newest Great Gatsby. I love watching all movies but I am not particularly fond of digital animation granted the digital animation did enhance the fantasy of the film but it also took away a great sense of depth. This film was 170,000,000 dollars to make. The Great Gatsby was 105,000,000 to make. Digital is expensive.

I think the money is what made the film great not the story. The story premise felt average to me. The movie didn’t make me think like Spirited Away did. I just sat there mesmerized like a blob mainly because everything felt given to me. I guess the audience is based for children should be not dumbed down, but more easily understood.

I think Hugo was a tribute to early cinema but i feel that one shot I would have loved would be the face of the girl mesmerized by her first movie. I didn’t really grasp her reaction or maybe i was busy tweeting.

All in all Hugo felt simple to me. But simple is hard to do. Just as a clock hand moves the devil is in its details.


Either I just really need some inspiration in my life or I really like children’s movies, haven’t decided which quite yet. I think that Hugo did a great job of appealing to multiple audiences so appropriately. With such a well-known director and I’m sure a big budget, it was probably a smart decision to make the movie something that’s genuinely for the whole family.

I was also very fascinated by the movie’s ability to look so new and modern in terms of technology, but still make the viewers feel as if it was really taking place in the 1930s. It is very rare that we would see the filmmaking process of an old silent film in a way other than what is preserved on black and white film that we have today. The film being as modern as it is definitely gave the filmmakers more capabilities and more freedom to expand the film into an adventurous and very storybook-esque feeling.

The main theme seemed to be man’s connection with technology or mechanics or something in that general field. This was very interesting because, although the clock motif was a bit overused, it still drove home pretty important general ideas that complimented the rest of the film quite well. I think something to consider when criticizing this film is that it really was intended for viewers of all ages and for kids, it was probably a good idea to emphasize and reemphasize the same things so that they could actually gain something a little bit deeper from watching the film as well. I think that the usage of a somewhat stereotypical young duo was turned into something pretty creative. That being said, I think that all of the characters in the movie were very well developed and all complicated each other very well so that it all came together and made sense in the end. Incorporating real history into the film was definitely a great idea and made the film very unique.