MISCELLANEOUS COURSE SYLLABI, EXERCISES, AND PAPER TOPICS FROM PROF. CARNEY'S CLASSES. THIS MATERIAL REPRESENTS ONLY A TINY SAMPLE OF THE AVAILABLE COURSE HANDOUTS, BUT IS PROVIDED TO GIVE AN IDEA OF HIS INTERESTS AND APPROACHES TO FILM AND THE OTHER ARTS.

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Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1 (undergraduates)
COM FT FT723 B1 (grad. students)
American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films
Tuesday 2:00 - 4:00pm SAR 102 (Sargent College)
Thursday 2:00 - 5:00 pm PHO 206 (Photonics Building)

=============================================================

This semester of American Independent Film will be devoted to viewing and discussing new, unreleased, or neglected recent American independent films. Very few of the works that will be viewed in the course are available on disk or tape, many of these films have not been screened outside of film festivals, and some have not even been screened in festivals. Many are being provided specially to the course by the filmmakers themselves. Films to be viewed and discussed will include: David Ball's Honey, David Barker's Afraid of Everything, Nick Peterson's Yellow and selected shorts, Randy Walker and Jennifer Shanin's Apart from That, Ronald Bronstein's Frownland, So Young Kim's In-Between Days, Mike Gibisser's Finally, Lillian and Dan, and others.

Note: Since the content of this course does not overlap with previous offerings of COM FT 533 A1 or COM FT FT723 A1 those who took previous versions of Prof. Carney's American Independent Film are allowed to take this new version for credit.

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CLASS SCHEDULE

Thurs.

Jan. 17

Introduction. What are the resources and possibilities?

Nick Peterson, Short films: one; two; three; Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague; Split Pea Soup; Contingent

Tues.

Jan. 22

Aaron Katz, Dance Party

Thurs.

Jan. 24

Aaron Katz, Quiet City


Tues.

Jan. 29

Matt Porterfield, Hamilton

Thurs.

Jan. 31

Nick Peterson, Yellow

Tues.

Feb. 5

So Young Kim and Bradly Rust Gray, In Between Days

Thurs.

Feb. 7

So Young Kim and Bradly Rust Gray, In Between Days

Tues.

Feb. 12

Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin, Apart From That

Thurs.

Feb. 14

Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin, Apart From That

Tues.

Feb. 19

*** No class - Substitute Monday schedule ***

Thurs.

Feb. 21

David Barker, Afraid of Everything


Tues.

Feb. 26

David Ball, Honey

Thurs.

Feb. 28

David Ball, Honey

Tues.

Mar. 4

Kelly Reichardt, Old Joy

Thurs.

Mar. 6

Kelly Reichardt, Old Joy

March

8- 16

*** Spring Break ***

Tues.

Mar. 18

A selection of short films by Jay Rosenblatt


Thurs.

Mar. 20

A selection of short films by Jay Rosenblatt

Tues.

Mar. 25

Craig Zobel, Great World of Sound

Thurs.

Mar. 27

Craig Zobel, Great World of Sound

Tues.

Apr. 1

Mark and Jay Duplass, This Is John, Scrapple, The Intervention (shorts)

Thurs.

Apr. 3

Mark and Jay Duplass, The Puffy Chair

Tues.

Apr. 8

Mary Bronstein, Yeast


Thurs.

Apr. 10

Ronald Bronstein, Frownland

Tues.

Apr. 15

Joe Swanberg, Hannah Takes the Stairs

Thurs.

Apr. 17

Joe Swanberg, Hannah Takes the Stairs

Tues.

Apr. 22

Mike Gibisser, Finally, Lillian and Dan


Thurs.

Apr. 24

Andrew Bujalski, Funny Ha Ha

Tues.

Apr. 29

Andrew Nehringher, Team Picture

Thurs.

May 1

Andrew Nehringher, Team Picture

Conclusions and reflections

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The Rules of the Game:

Attendance is required and will be taken. (If you are unable to make a class for an exceptional reason, you must speak to the T.A. at least one class prior to the absence and receive permission.) Please do not leave messages on my office machine or email me about absences. Each absence that is not officially approved and authorized will result in your final evaluation being lowered.

Promptness at all classes is absolutely mandatory to avoid disrupting class discussions or screenings. (Light and noise streaming in from opening and closing doors and bodies moving up and down rows and aisles are extremely distracting.) A reasonable degree of quiet and focus must be maintained during all class meetings, including during screenings. It is rude to your classmates to talk during screenings, unless it is a serious comment you would like to share with the entire class. Sleeping or other forms of inattentiveness during classes or screenings will be reflected in your final evaluation.

When you enter the classroom for the start of class, please have already attended to all personal needs (medications, rest room visits, drinks of water, food, need to smoke, cell phone calls or PDA entries, etc.) to avoid disrupting other members of the class or distracting yourself from class activities. Please note that your presence, attention, and focus is just as important when a film is being screened as it is during a discussion or presentation. In other words, you are not allowed to “step out” to make a call or do something else during a screening or any other part of the class. Whenever possible, I will schedule a 10-minute break at the halfway point in the class.

You will have three major outside-of-class duties/responsibilities:

1) You are responsible for writing a number of short (3 page) papers. Topics will be discussed and distributed during the course of the semester, based on subjects that come up in class discussions (or subjects that we do not have time to deal with adequately in class). No extensions may be given.

2) You are to keep a running “journal” (to be submitted at the end of the course) of your critical and artistic reactions to each of the films screened in class. This journal should not be merely a transcript of the notes you take while you watch the film. It should represent a summary and condensation of your impressions in a series of well-organized, well-written sentences and paragraphs. (500 words per film would be sufficient, but you are not constrained to limit yourself to this length.) It is up to you exactly what form the journal takes, but at a minimum it should contain: Separate pages (and entries) for each film, headed with the name of the film and the name of the director; critical and artistic observations about the overall “feel” of the style and mode of presentation of the film and its most interesting moments or scenes; critical and artistic observations about the film's greatest strengths or value; critical and artistic observations about the film's possible weaknesses, problems, or limitations (with possible comparisons and contrasts with other films being shown in the course); your recommendation for or against its inclusion in a future retrospective of the “greatest films of the first decade of the 21st century,” with reasons justifying your verdict. What makes a film matter? What makes a film great? (A suggestion: Use class discussions to “test” your ideas on your classmates and to pick their brains for new insights.)

3) You will be responsible for several outside writing assignments or “exercises,” which will be promulgated during specific classes, usually for completion by the following class. These assignments will often involve quick turn-arounds. They may, on occasion, require viewing copies of films in the Mugar Library viewing area. Some of these exercises will be collected on the day they are due, others will not. However, all exercises should be retained in a folder throughout the semester and turned in at the end of the semester.

With regard to your duties: Note that the screening schedule and exercise due dates on the syllabus are subject to change without notice. If you miss a class, come in late, or leave early, be certain you have contacted the teaching assistant or another student to familiarize yourself with what has been assigned for the following class. These assignments will be an important component of your final grade and must be done in time for the appropriate class since they will often be the basis for class discussion. There will be no opportunity to make up this work if it is not done when it is assigned. No extensions may be given.

Any wit, wisdom, and passion you bring to class discussion will count as “extra credit” to raise your grade. The reverse is also true: Missed classes, tardiness, inattentiveness during classes or screenings, and lackluster class participation will lower your grade.

A general point: Be expressively brave. Use your exercises, papers, and class comments to formulate and test new ideas. Consciousness cannot precede expression. Use class discussion to refine your consciousness.

There will be no mid-term or final exam. Your final evaluation will be based on your class participation and attentiveness, your exercises, and your papers.

============================

Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1/ FT723 B1
American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films
Mr. Carney

Exercise #1

As noted in class, Aaron Katz punctuates Quiet City with a series of static shots - views of trees, the sky, and cityscape streets and skylines.

Consider how these shots affect our experience of the film, and write a thoughtful but brief discussion of their effect on the viewing experience.

Be prepared to submit your response at the beginning of class on Tuesday, January 29.

Length: one page (250 words)

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Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1 / FT 723 B1
American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films
Mr. Carney

Out of Class viewing, part 1:
Attitude - Rob Nilsson
Quietly on By - Frank Ross
We Go Way Back - Lynn Shelton
Rick's Canoe - Jonathan Grossman
Dance Party USA - Aaron Katz
Compound Eye - Yahn Soon

Out of Class viewing, part 2:
The New Math - Michael Duffey
Space Disco 1 - Damon Packard
Dear Pillow - Bryan Poyser
Tyler B. Nice - Joe Lewis
Hohokam - Frank Ross
Vampires Die - Theodore Collatos
Smile Diaries - Paul Joffe
Orphans - Russo Young

Acting-up on film unit:
Rodrigo Garcia, writer and director:
Nine Lives
Ten Tiny Love Stories
Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her

Out of Class viewing, part 3:
Finally, Lillian and Dan - Mike Gibisser
Chalk - Mike Akel
Hamilton - Matt Porterfield
Present Company - Frank Ross
Mutual Appreciation - Andrew Bujalski

========================================================

Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1/ FT723 B1

American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films
Mr. Carney

Exercise/Paper #2

Preparation:

Step 1: Most mainstream films (and many independent films as well) are devoted to “flattering,” “impressing,” “pleasing,” or “entertaining” the viewer in various ways (both subtle and obvious). Make a list of the many different ways films can go about doing this. Think of famous, popular, or audience-pleasing works or bodies of work by famous or popular directors, and write down some of the ways the films or directors “flatter,” “impress,” “please,” or “entertain” the audience. (Include visual-, acoustic-, dialogue-, psychological-, emotional- and narrative-elements in your consideration.) Your list of qualities may but is not required to include specific film titles or cinematic examples for each quality.

Step 2: As you watch So Young Kim's In Between Days (co-written, co-edited, and co-produced by Bradley Rust Gray), note in what respects it proceeds differently from the kinds of films and filmic events you have considered in the preceding paragraph. Make a list of its alternative qualities, or the ways it violates the preceding tendency.

Step 3: Consider why a film would choose not to do what the films in the first list do. What is accomplished by not “flattering,” “impressing,” “pleasing,” or “entertaining” the viewer in those ways? What are the positive virtues of not doing those things?

Writing:

Write a well-organized discussion of the stylistic achievement of Kim's In Between Days, in which you contrast it with the mainstream sensibility. (If you are looking for an organizational suggestion for your essay, you might begin with your observations from Step 1 as your first few paragraphs, followed by your observations from Step 2 as you next few paragraphs, and conclude with you conclusions from Step 3 as your ending.)

As with every film we are looking at this semester, and every director we are considering, you are asked not to read any reviews and not to seek out or refer to any outside information about the film, filmmaker, screening history, or background of the film. Base your conclusions entirely on your own personal responses, ideas, and beliefs.

Be prepared to submit your written response at the beginning of class on Tuesday, February 12.

Length: two pages, double-spaced, and typed (approximately 500 words).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

An unrelated thought experiment only for the most daring or foolish (difficulty level - almost impossible): How is In Between Days different or distinctive because it was made by a woman, rather than a man (as most American indie works, and indeed most films in general, are)? You are allowed to add your conclusions to the preceding essay as a separate paragraph or two on a separate page, but there will be no penalty for not dealing with this issue.

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Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1/ FT723 B1
American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films
Mr. Carney

Paper #3 - Acting-up, acting out, acting against. Beats and ideas. Expressions anchored in the body, face, and voice. Making meanings in bodies, time, and space rather than in the imagination. Film and ideas. (Prompted by our discussion of David Ball's Honey.)

Preparation:

View three recent independent films by Rodrigo Garcia: Ten Tiny Love Stories, Things You Can Tell By Looking at Her, and Nine Lives. Multiple copies are available at the Mugar library reserve desk.

Pick a self-contained scene, moment, or episode from the film of your choice. (The moment you pick should generally be around ten to fifteen minutes in length.) Do not choose a moment discussed in class.

Make a second-by-second, moment-by-moment listing of the “beats” in the scene or moment you have picked, with the following items noted for each beat. Number your entries.

Writing:

1. Clearly identify the film and episode you have chosen.

2. Make a numbered list describing the emotional tone, mood, or quality of the individual “beats” as they occur sequentially in the scene and describing how they are created by the actor. Using time or narrative description, make sure it is clear to the reader what moment you are referring to in each item. (Note: Do not base your analysis on acts of “mind reading” - on abstract speculations about what you think a character is thinking or feeling. Base your description on tangible, physical, sensory events and make clear what events you are basing them on. E.g. Describe how the beat is created, changed, or adjusted by means of a pause, a glance, a tone of voice, a gesture, a form of body language, blocking, or physical movement, a facial expression, the vocal quality of a line delivery, etc.) For more advanced students: If there is more than one character involved in the scene, you may also mention who “leads” or “controls” the beats. Advanced students may, where applicable, also talk about “subtext” and how it is created, maintained, adjusted, and changed.

3. Where applicable and relevant (this need not be done for every single beat, but should be done as often as possible), for each beat in your list, describe the “idea” or “ideas” that are being expressed. A weak film “tells a story.” A weak film uses suspense and various forms of narrative incompletion to hold the viewer's attention. A good film is full of ideas. A great film is a cascade of rapidly shifting ideas, insights, and observations.

4. Optional - only for the most advanced or daring: Write a concluding final paragraph or two about the metaphysical or ontological differences between an “acted (embodied) cinema” and a “directed (imagined) cinema.”

Be prepared to submit your response at the beginning of class on Tuesday March 18.

Length: three pages or less, double-spaced and typed (approximately 750 words).

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Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1/ FT723 B1

American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films
Mr. Carney

Final Exercise/Paper:

Your task is to create a virtual film festival. Ideally the results of your efforts could be uploaded to YouTube or Facebook and (pending approval of the filmmakers) the festival you propose could actually be mounted on the internet. Any and all films viewed in class or placed on reserve in the library are eligible for inclusion in the series, but you must work within the time and scheduling constraints imposed by the festival. (See note 1 below.)

Please consult your screening journal and other notes and prepare the following material for submission to the “Director of the Boston Virtual Film Festival.” (Me.)

1. A listing of titles to create ten separate and independent screening events. (A screening event can consist of a single feature film or a feature and a single short, or a group of shorts whose total estimated running time would be of an appropriate length for an event.) This listing should show the order you would like the films to be presented. (Keep in mind that in a real film festival, in most cases, the filmmaker, starring actor, or producer will be present to say a word to the audience preceding the screening and to conduct a question-and-answer session following the screening. This means that even a fairly short feature film will be plenty long enough for a single event.)

2. A set of individual program notes for each screening event. Head each note with the film's title and the name of the director. (Before your notes are published, festival staff will add other information to each description - e.g. the film's main credits, the film's running time, and the name of the distributor, if relevant. You do not need to supply this information.) Keep in mind that the program notes will be “published” in two forms: 1) printed together in the festival catalogue and posted as a unit on the festival web site and 2) handed out individually to viewers, printed on separate sheets for each individual screening event. (Shoot to limit your notes to 100-200 words or less per title or event, since the credits and other information about the films will add enough additional material that the note would not otherwise fit onto one side of a sheet for handing out at the screening.)

3. A head-note introducing or summarizing the entire screening series. This will appear in the catalogue preceding the notes, will be posted on the festival's web site to entice viewers to buy a series pass, and will go out to reviewers in the form of a press release to guide journalistic coverage. Does the series have a “theme”? Is there anything that links the various works? Are there any groupings into which they fall? Are there any hints or suggestions you can offer viewers? (Try to keep your introduction to 1000 words or less.)

4. A letter to the Director, in which you explain the logic of the screening order you are recommending. You may (or, as you choose, may not) care to justify your order of presentation in strictly artistic terms, commercial terms, or other values, but please explain your logic. (Two or three hundred words or less should suffice.)

Two important notes:

A. The goal - of both your programming and your presentation - is to create the best, most intelligent, most valuable, most memorable filmgoing experience possible for the festival's viewers. Many existing film festivals do not do this. They make all sorts of commercial or bureaucratic compromises. They pander. They play to the audience's desires for “entertainment” or its fascination with “celebrity.” They shy away from real originality. They let an audience's desires for action and suspense and laughs affect their decision-making. Do not imitate the bad aspects of festival programming or presentation! Make your festival a model of excellence and intelligence! Help it become known as one of the best festivals of indie film in the world.

B. Please re-read the following note (taken from a previous in-class handout and previously explained at length in class):

“As with every film we are looking at this semester, and every director we are considering, you are asked not to read any reviews and not to seek out or refer to any outside information about the film, filmmaker, screening history, or background of the film. Base your conclusions entirely on your own personal responses, ideas, and beliefs.”

In other words, you are (as with all of your other work in this class) “on your honor” not to consult outside sources, critical opinions, interviews, essays about or (in this instance) previous film festival descriptions of these films, etc. Your work in this assignment (and in all of the other assignments for this class) and your conclusions and interpretations should be based on what you personally see and hear and conclude when you watch a given film - not on outside information, critical opinions, and interpretations.

The program for the festival goes to the printer's on May 8 and will be posted on the festival web site shortly after that. The festival director has told you that he needs a hard copy of your text in his hands no later than 2 PM., Tuesday April 29.


Spring 2008
COM FT 533 B1/ FT723 B1
American Independent Film - New, Unreleased, or Neglected Films

Since a number of students have asked me about my own personal "rankings" of the various films and asked my opinions of some of them, I thought I'd share some of the things I've said in my office with everyone in the class, for what it is worth. But I want to emphasize that you do not (and did not) have to agree with me about any of this! There is (or was) no penalty for thinking differently! In fact, differences of opinion make life interesting and give us something to talk about. So here goes:

First, I admitted to a few students after the end of the semester that I deliberately included a few films in the course that were on my personal "worst movies ever made" list - clunkers that I could hardly stand to sit through to the end - just to see what you guys made of them. Two of those titles (in my opinion) are:

Space Disco 1
and
Vampire's Die.
Get them outta here! There are three others I'd put in the same category; but I'll leave them to your imagination.

At the opposite extreme, for obvious reasons, I tried to conceal my special fondness for a few of the titles. A few students have asked me which of the films are, in my view, the "very best" movies that I showed this semester. Here are the works that I think are at the absolute top of my own personal list:

Yeast (Mary Bronstein)
Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt)
In-Between Days (So Yong Kim)
and everything we saw by Jay Rosenblatt, Rodrigo Garcia, and Nick Peterson (yes, that last name is not a typo!)

Each of these filmmaker's films is totally different from each other's, but (in my opinion) they are masterpieces all, made by young artists whom I truly believe will be the great masters of the next generation of American independent filmmaking. If I were wealthy, I'd give money to each of them to make their next works.

At an only slightly lower level of achievement from the above works, I would nominate the following films as marking other careers to watch:

Chalk (Mike Akel)
Hannah Takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg)
Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation (Andrew Bujalski)

Finally, I wanted to mention, if you don't know it already, that Mark and Jay Duplass have a new film that should be opening in Boston and other major cities sometime in late July or early August: Baghead. I've been told it's a bit lighter than Puffy Chair, but it should still be worth a look.

All best wishes for a stimulating and creative summer! Keep writing. Keep thinking. Keep comparing and evaluating.

Prof. Carney


Spring 2008
AM 501 A1: Special Topic in American Studies:
Issues of Form, Genre, and Audience: Twentieth-Century Fiction on the Page and the Screen
Mr. Carney
Tues. and Thurs. 12:30 - 2:00 P.M.
Room B-06, 226 Bay State Road

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We will read fiction by important twentieth-century American authors and view selected cinematic (and television) adaptations of their work, attending to some of the artistic and cultural issues that arise when images replace words, corporate decision-making processes substitute for personal acts of creation, and idiosyncratic works of art are turned into movies and TV shows intended to appeal to mass audiences.

Authors whose works will be considered include Henry James, Dashell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, and William Burroughs.

This course fulfills the American studies senior research seminar requirement and is also open to graduate students (who will be required to complete a special research project).

=============================================================

Required texts:

Henry James, Daisy Miller and Other Stories, (Daisy Miller, “Pandora,” “The Patagonia,” and “Four Meetings”), Oxford World's Classics, 1985, ISBN 978-0-1-9283543-7

Henry James, Washington Square, Oxford World's Classics, 1982, ISBN 978-0-1-9283518-5

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories, (The Turn of the Screw, "Sir Edmund Orme," "Owen Wingrave," and "The Friends of the Friends," and journal entries, etc.), Oxford World's Classics, 1992, ISBN 978-0-1-9283404-1

Dashell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon, Random House, 1989, ISBN 978-0-6-7972264-9

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, Simon and Schuster, 1952, ISBN 978-0-6-8480122-3

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever, Random House, 1978, ISBN 978-0-3-7572442-8

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (Restored Text), Perseus D, 2001, ISBN 978-0-8-0214018-0

=============================================================

CLASS SCHEDULE (* indicates a film title)

Thurs.

Jan. 17

Introduction: Questions of form and genre

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Tues.

Jan. 22

Henry James, “Four Meetings” and “The Patagonia”

Thurs.

Jan. 24

Henry James, “Pandora”


Tues.

Jan. 29

Henry James, Daisy Miller

Thurs.

Jan. 31

Henry James, Daisy Miller

Tues.

Feb. 5

* Peter Bogdanovich, Daisy Miller

Thurs.

Feb. 7

* Peter Bogdanovich, Daisy Miller

Tues.

Feb. 12

Henry James, Washington Square

Thurs.

Feb. 14

Henry James, Washington Square

Tues.

Feb. 19

*** No class - Substitute Monday schedule ***

Thurs.

Feb. 21

* William Wyler, The Heiress


Tues.

Feb. 26

* Agnieska Holland, Washington Square

read: Henry James, “Owen Wingrave,” “The Friends of the Friends”

Thurs.

Feb. 28

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Tues.

Mar. 4

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Thurs.

Mar. 6

* Jack Clayton, The Innocents

March

8- 16

*** Spring Break ***

Tues.

Mar. 18

* Dan Curtis, The Turn of the Screw / *Antonio Aloy, Presence of Mind


read: Dashell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Thurs.

Mar. 20

* Jack Clayton, The Innocents / * Dan Curtis, The Turn of the Screw / *Antonio Aloy, Presence of Mind

Tues.

Mar. 25

Dashell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Thurs.

Mar. 27

* John Huston, The Maltese Falcon

Tues.

Apr. 1

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Thurs.

Apr. 3

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Tues.

Apr. 8

* The Old Man and the Sea


Thurs.

Apr. 10

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

Tues.

Apr. 15

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

Thurs.

Apr. 17

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

Tues.

Apr. 22

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever (plus screening)


Thurs.

Apr. 24

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever (plus screening)

Tues.

Apr. 29

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever (plus screening)

Thurs.

May 1

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch

* David Cronenberg, Naked Lunch (The final paper assignment will be based on this book and film) Note: Two copies of the film are available on reserve in Mugar Library.

=============================================================

The Rules of the Game:

Attendance is required and will be taken. (If you are unable to make a class for an exceptional reason, you must let me know at least one class prior to the absence and receive permission.) Each absence that is not officially approved and authorized will result in your final evaluation being lowered.

Promptness is absolutely mandatory to avoid disrupting class discussions or screenings. (Light and noise streaming in from opening and closing doors and people finding seats during discussions and screenings are extremely distracting.)

When you enter the classroom for the start of class, please have already attended to all personal needs (medications, rest room visits, drinks of water, food, need to smoke, cell phone calls or PDA entries, etc.) to avoid disrupting other members of the class or distracting yourself from class activities. Please note that your presence, attention, and focus is just as important when a film is being screened as it is during a discussion or presentation.

You will have two major outside-of-class duties/responsibilities:

1) You are responsible for writing several papers. Topics will be discussed and promulgated during the course of the semester, based on subjects that come up in class discussions (or subjects that we do not have time to deal with adequately in class). No extensions may be given.

2) You are responsible for several outside reading, writing, or viewing assignments which will be promulgated during specific classes, usually for completion by the next class. Several of these assignments will involve quick turn-arounds of material handed out in the previous class. Several will require viewing tapes of independent films in the basement viewing area of Mugar Library. Some of these exercises will be collected on the day they are due, others will not. However, all exercises should be retained in a folder throughout the semester and turned in at the end of the semester.

With regard to the preceding duties: Note that the screening schedule and exercise due dates on the syllabus are subject to change without notice. If you miss a class, come in late, or leave early, be certain you have contacted another student to familiarize yourself with any changes or what has been assigned for the following class.

Any wit, wisdom, and passion you bring to class discussion will count as “extra credit” to raise your grade. The reverse is also true: Missed classes, tardiness, inattentiveness during classes or screenings, and lackluster class participation will lower your grade.

A general point: Be expressively brave. Use your exercises, papers, and class comments to formulate and test new ideas. Consciousness cannot precede expression. Use class discussion to refine your consciousness.

There will be no mid-term or final exam. Your final evaluation will be based on your class participation and attentiveness, your exercises, and your papers.

========================================================

Spring 2008
AM 501 A1: Special Topic in American Studies:
Issues of Form, Genre, and Audience: Twentieth-Century Fiction on the Page and the Screen
Mr. Carney

READING ASSIGNMENTS FOR THE CHEEVER STORIES
(revised)

Tues.

Apr. 8

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever:

“Goodbye, My Brother,” “The Enormous Radio,” “O City of Broken Dreams,” “The Summer Farmer,” “The Hartleys,” “The Sutton Place Story”


Thurs.

Apr. 10

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever:

“Torch Song,” “Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor,” “The Season of Divorce”


Tues.

Apr. 15

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever:

“The Pot of Gold,” “Clancy in the Tower of Babel,” “The Cure,” “The Chaste Clarissa,” “The Superintendent,” “The Day the Pig Fell into the Well”


Thurs.

Apr. 17

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever:

“The Housebreaker of Shady Hill,” “The Bus to Saint James,” “Just One More Time,” “The Worm in the Apple,” “The Death of Justina”


Tues.

Apr. 22

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever:

“The Country Husband,” “The Swimmer,” “Brimmer,” “The Golden Age,” “The Lowboy” “O Youth and Beauty” (plus screening of PBS “O Youth and Beauty”)


Thurs.

Apr. 24

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

“A Woman without a Country,” “The Seaside Houses,” “The Sorrows of Gin,” (plus screening of PBS “The Sorrows of Gin”)


Tues.

Apr. 29

John Cheever, The Stories of John Cheever

“The Brigadeer and the Golf Widow,” The Trouble of Marcie Flint,” “A Vision of the World,” “Reunion,” “The World of Apples,” “An Educated American Woman,” “The Five Forty-Eight” (plus screening of PBS “The Five Forty-Eight”)



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Spring 2008
CAS AM 501 A1: Special Topic in American Studies:
Issues of Form, Genre, and Audience: Twentieth-Century Fiction on the Page and the Screen
Mr. Carney

Those in the course fulfilling the American studies senior research seminar requirement are required to do a series of special research projects in addition to the regular papers required of everyone in the course.

For each of the films listed on the syllabus (both those we view in class in their entirety and others which we only view in excerpts or skip due to time constraints, with the exception of the Cheever titles, as noted below) please prepare a one- to two-page (250 - 500 word) document that does the following:

1) Summarizes the critical reception and interpretation of the film titles in the list at the bottom of this page. Consult both reviews from the period of the film's release and, where relevant and where available, more recent critical assessments of the value and significance of the film, both as an independent work of art, and as an adaptations of a literary work. Note whether the critical reception of the film has changed during the period covered by your research or stayed roughly the same. Note also that the sheer amount of criticism and commentary (or the relative sparsity or absence of criticism and commentary) about a particular title tells you something important about the history of taste and appreciation. Summarize your conclusions about that also, where relevant.

2) Includes a bibliography of major works in English following each individual summary. Make the bibliography as comprehensive as possible, even where you may not have been able to obtain and read a particular source. Follow each bibliographic entry with the indication “(Consulted)” or “(Not Consulted)” to indicate whether you were able to obtain and read that particular source.

This project will be broken into and due as shorter units throughout the semester.

Due dates:
March 27 for the five Henry James films on the syllabus
April 8 for the film version of The Maltese Falcon
April 15 for the film version of The Old Man and the Sea
May 1 for the film version of Naked Lunch

(Note : The films based on Cheever's short stories may be skipped)

Please hold onto the individual parts after they are returned to you, since they are intended to be gathered together at the end of the semester into one large research paper.

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Spring 2008
CAS AM 501 A1: Special Topic in American Studies:
Issues of Form, Genre, and Audience: Twentieth-Century Fiction on the Page and the Screen
Mr. Carney

Paper #1: Washington Square and The Heiress

Write a well-organized discussion of the relation of Henry James's Washington Square and William Wyler's The Heiress. Please attend to the following issues and any others you feel are relevant:

· Wyler's and Goetz's overall interpretation of James' novel.

· Additions to or subtractions from James's text - both of scenes and characters

· Changes in the tone of a scene or moment

· Changes in the order of presentation of material

· The effect of James's narrator on the understanding of events

· The effect of translating a work from the page to the screen

· The effect of the acting on the meanings created by a film

· The different ways in which a movie and a book make meanings and the different kinds of meanings that result from those differences

You are asked not to read or consult (and not to use in your paper) anything about the Wyler film or the James novella from outside the course (something on the internet or published in a book or essay). Please base all of your observations and conclusions on your own personal experience as a reader and a viewer of these two texts.

Four pages, double-spaced, typed on one side of the page. Due at the start of class on Thursday, February 21. No extensions may be granted. (Note that there will be no class on Tuesday Feb. 19 due to the BU Monday schedule.)

Also please note a change in the date of a reading assignment: When you come to class on Thursday, February 21, please have read the assignment that is on the syllabus for the following class meeting: Henry James, “Owen Wingrave” and “The Friends of the Friends” (in the Turn of the Screw volume).

Principal credits (for convenience of reference):

The Heiress

Director: William Wyler

Writer: Augustus Goetz (play)
Augustus Goetz (screenplay)

Cast:

Olivia de Havilland ... Catherine Sloper
Montgomery Clift ... Morris Townsend
Ralph Richardson ... Dr. Austin Sloper
Miriam Hopkins ... Lavinia Penniman
Vanessa Brown ... Maria
Betty Linley ... Mrs. Montgomery
Ray Collins ... Jefferson Almond
Mona Freeman ... Marian Almond
Selena Royle ... Elizabeth Almond
Paul Lees ... Arthur Townsend
Harry Antrim ... Mr. Abeel
Russ Conway ... Quintus
David Thursby ... Geier

American
Released: 1949

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Spring 2008
CAS AM 501 A1: Special Topic in American Studies:
Issues of Form, Genre, and Audience: Twentieth-Century Fiction on the Page and the Screen
Mr. Carney

Final paper: What is form?

Read the excerpts from Susan Cheever's Home Before Dark and Notes Found in a Bottle distributed in class. Your assignment is to compare the daughter's “stories” with the father's “stories” and talk about the relation of the two forms of writing. The daughter's writing is a memoir; the father's writing is fiction. What does fiction do that a memoir does not? How is fiction presented and organized differently from non-fiction? In short, talk about the fictional form. Attempt to dive as deeply as you can without getting the bends.

Four pages, double-spaced, typed on one side of the page. Due at the start of class on Tuesday, April 29. No extensions may be granted.


Spring 2008
COM FT 554 E
Special Topics:
The Films of Mike Leigh

Mr. Carney
Room B5
College of Communication
9:00-11:30 AM Tues. and Thurs.

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An in-depth examination of the work of one of the most important living English-language filmmakers. The course will survey Mike Leigh's entire dramatic oeuvre—including his radio work, his writing for the stage, his short films, and his features. We will read the scripts of several of his plays, the texts of a number of his interviews, and listen to tapes of several unpublished interviews. Films to be viewed will include: Bleak Moments, Hard Labour, Abigail's Party, Nuts in May, Home Sweet Home, “ Five-Minute Films” (selected shorts), A Sense of History, High Hopes, Life is Sweet, “The Short and Curlies,” Naked, Secrets and Lies, Topsy-Turvy, and more recent works.

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Required texts:

Ray Carney, The Films of Mike Leigh, Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-5-2148518-0

Howie Movshovitz, Mike Leigh: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2000, ISBN 978-1578060689

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CLASS SCHEDULE

Thurs.

Jan. 17

Introduction. What is a filmmaker interested in? What does he or she make us notice and care about? How does he or she do it? Mike Leigh, “The Five Minute Films” (shorts)

Tues.

Jan. 22

Mike Leigh, Bleak Moments

Thurs.

Jan. 24

Mike Leigh, Bleak Moments

Re-view Bleak Moments in Mugar Library

Tues.

Jan. 29

Mike Leigh, Nuts in May

Paper due about Bleak Moments (available on reserve in Mugar Library)

Thurs.

Jan. 31

Mike Leigh, Who's Who

have viewed Hard Labor (available on reserve in Mugar Library)

Tues.

Feb. 5

Mike Leigh, Grownups

Thurs.

Feb. 7

Mike Leigh, Grownups

have viewed Home Sweet Home (available on reserve in Mugar Library)

Tues.

Feb. 12

Mike Leigh, Abigail's Party

Thurs.

Feb. 14

Mike Leigh, Abigail's Party

Tues.

Feb. 19

*** No class - Substitute Monday schedule ***

Thurs.

Feb. 21

Mike Leigh, Kiss of Death

Have viewed Meantime (available in Mugar Library)

Paper due on Abigail's Party (available on reserve in Mugar Library)

Tues.

Feb. 26

Mike Leigh, Kiss of Death

Thurs.

Feb. 28

Mike Leigh, Meantime

Tues.

Mar. 4

Mike Leigh, High Hopes

Thurs.

Mar. 6

Mike Leigh, High Hopes

Have re-viewed Meantime in Mugar Library. Paper due on Meantime.

March

8- 16

*** Spring Break ***

Tues.

Mar. 18

Mike Leigh, Life is Sweet


Thurs.

Mar. 20

Mike Leigh, Life is Sweet


Tues.

Mar. 25

Mike Leigh, Naked

Have re-viewed Life is Sweet in Mugar Library. Paper due on Life is Sweet

Thurs.

Mar. 27

Mike Leigh, Naked

Tues.

Apr. 1

Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies

Thurs.

Apr. 3

Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies

Tues.

Apr. 8

Mike Leigh, Career Girls

Have viewed All or Nothing in Mugar Library.


Thurs.

Apr. 10

Mike Leigh, Career Girls

Tues.

Apr. 15

Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy

Paper due on All or Nothing (available in Mugar Library)

Thurs.

Apr. 17

Mike Leigh, Topsy-Turvy

Tues.

Apr. 22

Mike Leigh and Jim Broadbent, A Sense of History


Thurs.

Apr. 24

Mike Leigh, The Short and Curlies” and Vera Drake


Tues.

Apr. 29

Mike Leigh, Vera Drake

Thurs.

May 1

Conclusions and reflections

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The Rules of the Game:

Attendance is required and will be taken. (If you are unable to make a class for an exceptional reason, you must speak to the T.A. at least one class prior to the absence and receive permission.) Please do not leave messages on my office machine or email me about absences. Each absence that is not officially approved and authorized will result in your final evaluation being lowered.

Promptness at all classes is absolutely mandatory to avoid disrupting class discussions or screenings. (Light and noise streaming in from opening and closing doors and bodies moving up and down rows and aisles are extremely distracting.) A reasonable degree of quiet and focus must be maintained during all class meetings, including during screenings. It is rude to your classmates to talk during screenings, unless it is a serious comment you would like to share with the entire class. Sleeping or other forms of inattentiveness during classes or screenings will be reflected in your final evaluation.

When you enter the classroom for the start of class, please have already attended to all personal needs (medications, rest room visits, drinks of water, food, need to smoke, cell phone calls or PDA entries, etc.) to avoid disrupting other members of the class or distracting yourself from class activities. Please note that your presence, attention, and focus is just as important when a film is being screened as it is during a discussion or presentation. In other words, you are not allowed to “step out” to make a call or do something else during a screening or any other part of the class. Whenever possible, I will schedule a 10-minute break at the halfway point in the class.

You will have two major outside-of-class duties/responsibilities:

1) You are responsible for writing a number of papers. Topics will be discussed and distributed during the course of the semester, based on subjects that come up in class discussions (or subjects that we do not have time to deal with adequately in class). No extensions may be given.

2) You are responsible for a number of outside reading, writing, and viewing assignments which some of which are on the syllabus, others of which will be promulgated during class meetings, often for completion by the next class meeting. Many of these assignments will involve quick turn-arounds. Some of these exercises will be discussed or collected on the day they are due, others will not. However, all written exercises should be retained in a folder throughout the semester and turned in at the end of the semester.

With regard to the preceding duties: Note that the reading assignments, screening schedule, and paper or exercise due dates listed on the syllabus are subject to change without notice. If you miss a class, come in late, or leave early, be certain you have contacted the teaching assistant or another student in order to familiarize yourself with any changes in what has been assigned for the following class. These assignments will be an important component of your final grade and must be done in time for the appropriate class since they will often be the basis for class discussion. There will be no opportunity to make up this work if it is not done when it is assigned, and no extensions may be given.

Any wit, wisdom, and passion you bring to class discussion will count as “extra credit” to raise your grade. The reverse is also true: Missed classes, tardiness, inattentiveness during classes or screenings, and lackluster class participation will lower your grade.

A general point: Be expressively brave. Use your exercises, papers, and class comments to formulate and test new ideas. Consciousness cannot precede expression. Use class discussion to refine your consciousness.

There will be no mid-term or final exam. Your final evaluation will be based on your class participation and attentiveness, your exercises, and your papers.

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Spring 2008
COM FT 554 E
Special Topics: The Films of Mike Leigh
Mr. Carney

Paper #1 (in four parts):

1. Re-view Bleak Moments in Mugar Library. As you do it -

2. Make a list of the “jokes” that Sylvia tells, does, or plays in Bleak Moments. The list need not be exhaustive. But make sure that it contains at least ten entries.

3. Make a list of the “jokes” that Mike Leigh presents in Bleak Moments. The list need not be exhaustive. But make sure that it contains at least five entries.

4. Write about Sylvia's sense of humor in Bleak Moments. Some issues you are encouraged to discuss or deal with:

a) Which characters employ humor and which do not?
b) What is the reaction of the non-joking characters to the jokes of the other group of characters?
c) What does a character's use of humor tell us about him or her?
d) What does a character's lack of humor tell us about him or her?
e) Where does Mike Leigh use humor in the film (i.e. not where a character uses it, but where the director/writer uses it)?
f) What does Mike Leigh's sense of humor tell us about his view of experience?

Write a well-organized 3-page discussion of Sylvia's sense of humor in Bleak Moments. Be prepared to turn-in your paper and your two lists at the beginning of class on Tuesday, January 29.

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Spring 2008
COM FT 554 E
Special Topics: The Films of Mike Leigh
Mr. Carney

Paper #2: Life is motion. Experience unfolds in time. Being flows. Film is a temporal art like music, not a static art like painting or sculpture. Dealing with the time of a relationship:

Preparation:

1. Re-view Home Sweet Home, on reserve in Mugar Library. (As previously noted in the course, please do not read the chapter in The Films of Mike Leigh about this work until you have been asked to do so. And do not read anything else about the film or Mike Leigh's work prior to doing this exercise.)

2. Note, specifically, the temporal presentation of two characters in the film - Stan and June - scene by scene, moment by moment. How are we introduced to them? What do we know about them at what points in the film? How do we feel about them and understand them in particular scenes?

3. Looking over your notes, and re-viewing specific scenes where necessary, focus on how our view of these two characters is adjusted from scene to scene and within individual scenes. Note how Leigh changes our feelings and understandings about Stan and June in the course of the film.

Writing:

Write a well-organized discussion of the temporality of cinematic experience, based on how Leigh adjusts our view of one or both of the above characters. You may write about June, about Stan, or about both June and Stan, as you choose. You may deal with the entire path of either or both characters' presentations or may limit your attention to a smaller number of important scenes (one or two or three) to make your points about the step-by-step, temporal nature of cinematic knowledge and craftsmanship.

Three pages, double-spaced, and typed on one side of the page. Due at the beginning of class on Thursday, February 21. No extensions may be granted. (Note that there is no class on Tuesday Feb. 19 due to the BU Monday schedule.)

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Spring 2008
COM FT 554 E
Special Topics: The Films of Mike Leigh
Mr. Carney

Final Paper: How would film reviews be written if we lived in a sane and intelligent world?

Pretend the year is 2002 and you are reviewing Mike Leigh's new film All or Nothing, which premiered at Cannes in May of that year, was released in the U.K. a few months later, and played in the U.S. at the end of the year and early 2003.

Write a discussion of the film which views it in the context of Leigh's entire oeuvre and career. Do not imitate the silliest, most banal aspects of most contemporary film reviews - the tedious plot-summaries, the breathless (and vapid) superlatives (or pejoratives), and the ridiculous reduction of a complex artistic experience to a matter of glove-salesmanship or star-counting. Rather, write a thoughtful, insightful, analytic essay that throws light on the meaning of the film and its place in Leigh's career. Describe what it tells us about Mike Leigh, our culture, and ourselves - and the ultimate importance and success (or lack of importance and success) of its effort of consciousness.

Three to four pages, double-spaced, and typed on one side of the page (750 - 1000 words). Due at the beginning of the final class on Thursday, May 1. No extensions may be granted.


COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION STATEMENT ON PLAGIARISM

Plagiarism is the act of representing someone else's creative and/or academic work as your own, in full or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those words, pictures or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes, or sources, other than that created in a work of fiction, is also plagiarism.

Each student is responsible for performing all of his or her own work. All quotations, paraphrases, or borrowings from others (whether they originally appeared in printed, broadcast, or oral sources) must be formally acknowledged in a footnote or citation. If you are in doubt, be certain you acknowledge or explain the borrowing or indebtedness at the time the work is submitted.

Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension or expulsion.

(An addition by Prof. Carney: Plagiarism also occurs when you borrow or recycle statements made by other teachers or classmates. If your spoken or written observations in this class borrow someone else's comments, whether spoken or written, be sure to acknowledge that fact.)

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STATEMENT ON RECORDINGS DURING CLASS

Please note that, due to copyright laws, privacy regulations, the need to minimize the distraction from ambient sounds and ancillary activities, and general classroom policies, mechanical recording devices (including laptop computers and cell phones) are not allowed to be used in the classroom, the viewing booth, or any other spaces connected with the classroom or screening area, except with the instructor's explicit, advance written permission on specific dates and times. Note also that in rare cases where permission for recording has been granted, specific classroom proceedings (but not film screenings) may be recorded.


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© Text Copyright 2008 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.