Film Discussion Paper

Film Paper Assignment

This online paper is due on or before the date listed in your syllabus. The length of the paper should be four to five pages, using double-space type. The paper should be divided into different sections, each addressing question 1, question 2, etc, and the question being addressed needs to be written out before it is addressed. This is because I need to be clear which question is being addressed. Be sure that your online submission has a cover page (which doesn’t count as a page number) that states the name of the film you are discussing, your name, your email, the date, and the title “Film Discussion Paper for AMST-3100” on the cover.

Choose one of the following three movies from the 1960s, watch the movie, and address the set of questions for that movie in your paper. Of course you will need to rent, purchase, stream, or check the movie out from a library. These movies should be readily available. While you may discuss these movies all you like, your paper must reflect your own ideas and your own writing. Students may not team up to write this film paper.

I am also providing a link to a film analysis site that offers an excellent analysis of each of these movies to help get you into the analytical mode.

The grading criteria for your paper is as follows:
1. writing style and clarity.
2. substantive insights to the 1960s and critical thinking skills.
3. application of our textbooks, web notes, and outside resources to your points.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Film Discussion Questions.

1. Dr. Strangelove is a dark satire made at a time when there was a very real possibility of nuclear annihilation. Who or what was parodied in this movie? (Identify as many issues or themes as you can, and much of this parody involves Cold War leaders, assumptions, policies, etc).

2. Identify specific real events of the 1950s and early 1960s that are important backdrops to understanding Dr. Strangelove. Remember, this movie features the Cold War as the central backdrop. What are the important events that happened in the 1950s and early 60s that are relevant to this movie?

3. Before Dr. Strangelove, the public was given the notion that the two superpowers had achieved Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), and therefore it would be irrational for either side to initiate war. Presumably we should feel somewhat secure with this notion. How does the movie “Dr. Strangelove” respond to the argument that nuclear war is unlikely because it is “irrational”? (Hint: How are the leaders depicted in this movie? Are they rational? What does this say about the assumptions behind MAD?)

4. What does this movie suggest happens to a society when its members are placed in a constant state of apocalyptic fear, such as the case of “fear culture” or “panic culture” that we saw during the Cold War in the 1950s and early 60s, air raid shelters and all? Does such fear cause people to behave differently? What kinds of social and foreign policies are people likely to lean toward in a “panic culture”? Who benefits from this, and who loses? (For example, why were hawkish conservatives like Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC promoting fear culture in the 1950s? What did they and the military industrial complexes of the US and the USSR have to gain by promoting such fears? How did hawkish conservatives portray reform liberals like Martin Luther King, Jr and others who sought domestic reforms? Was there a hidden agenda here?)

The Graduate (1967)
Film Discussion Questions

1. How does this movie portray the generation gap? How is the older generation depicted, and why doesn’t Benjamin fit in well with the older generation? After all, they seem to have it made (in some ways), so why is Benjamin not interested in conforming to careerism and the materialistic way of life that his parents seek for him? What was different about so many young people in the emerging youth culture that their parent’s didn’t understand?

2. Simon and Garfunkel sing of the Sounds of Silence in the beginning of the movie:

…And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.
People writing songs that voices never shared, no one dared disturb the
sound of silence…

What is the meaning of this passage? What is it saying about the culture? Is it a culture divided by social conflicts in such a way that people are not really listening to each other? Who wasn’t listening? For example, did Ben’s parents actually listen to Ben?

3. Existential philosophy was particularly common and relevant for the era of the 1960s, and this movie provides a rich template for the application of this philosophy. If one’s meaning in life is defined by one’s actions, as the existentialists argue, how does the character of Benjamin reflect the existential crisis of identity and meaning – particularly in the early scenes of the movie – and how does Benjamin finally resolve his crisis by taking bold action (carpe diem) in a manner that existentialists would applaud? (Remember that existentialists find meaning in action. They are interested in the individual taking control over their own lives by owning their actions rather than mindlessly conforming to the meaningless rules of bureaucracy or some external authority like a boss or even a parent. Existentialists are interested in self-discovery and self-empowerment as a means to a meaningful life.)

4. What do the bold actions of Benjamin and Elaine at the end of the movie signify about the nature of the youth culture of that era? What have Benjamin and Elaine rejected as they sit on the bus in the last scene of this movie – and why is Mrs. Robinson so angry about this rejection? (Remember that Mrs. Robinson has her own history, she is a victim in a way, and that she has become a bitter and controlling person). Notice the facial expressions of Benjamin and Elaine in the very last scene on the bus. What is your interpretation of their expressions, given what has occurred? (Consider the existentialist issue discussed earlier. What are they finally free from? Where are they going now? Was their a clear roadmap for this new way of life?)

Easy Rider (1969)
Film Discussion Questions

1. How does the movie capture the spirit of the counterculture? Identify a scene that stands out for you in capturing the counterculture and discuss its significance.

2. What are the main characters in this movie in search of? What did they find? How did the movie capture the attractions and limits of dropping out? (Remember that a key theme in the youth culture of this era is self-discovery and the notion of being free to find oneself. But as this movie shows, there are risks and there may be no clear answers.)

3. Easy Rider rejects the idealism that characterized the earlier 1960s. How does this film portray a dystopic vision of “Amerika”? What are the real events that had occurred by late 1968 that help explain the dark tone of the movie? Discuss the ending of the movie and its symbolic significance to the end of an era of “high idealism.”

4. This film is noteworthy for its music. Identify a song from the movie and analyze the song’s sound and lyrics for its relevance to the 1960s. Link the song to some of the key themes of the 1960s.

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