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History of American Film

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 11, 2016 - July 29, 20163M-F 12:15-3:05POpenNathan Lee10607

Course Description

This course examines American film-making from about 1920 through the present. Its main objective is to familiarize students with the history of American film, with a special focus on films that have been highly influential both culturally and aesthetically.

This course examines the history of American cinema from the silent era into the era of the studio monopolies and on through the contemporary blockbuster. Films will be studied for their artistic, cultural, and historical meanings. Screenings will include films from all genres (dramas, comedies, film noir, westerns, science fiction, etc.) and by directors such as Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, the Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, P.T. Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Kathryn Bigelow, etc. Students will also learn how to interpret film form (narrative structure, storytelling modes, etc.) and style (lighting, staging, acting, camerawork, editing, sound, etc.). This course provides a foundation of knowledge for aspiring movie makers, for students interested in further film study, and for those who simply desire a deeper appreciation of American cinema and mass culture.

By the end of the course, students will:

  • Identify major narrative and aesthetic trends in American film history, including the individual films/filmmakers that set or influences these trends.
  • Have a foundation for the discussion of film art, including the use of technical and critical vocabulary.
  • Understand the relationship between technology, art, and economics that forms the backbone of Hollywood cinema.
  • Analyze the relationship between American culture and American cinema, including some of the tensions and conflicts that the latter expresses.
  • Think, speak, and write critically about film and mass media in general.

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