Do you thoroughly and thoughtfully analyze and explain how Morris uses his film to construct an argument? Do you isolate particular rhetorical strategies and explain Morris’s attempts to influence the audience’s thinking about the Randall Adams case? 

Analyze and explain how visual rhetoric works in a documentary film, especially to shape viewers’ responses to the film and the filmmaker’s argument. A secondary purpose is to understand the role of film criticism to involve viewers in a process of reflection and reconsideration of their cinematic experience. 

 

WRITING TASK

After careful consideration of Errol Morris’s documentary The Thin Blue Line, and a thorough reading of Richard Sherwin’s “The Postmodern Challenge:  A Case Study,” write a paper that 1.) analyzes and explains how Morris rhetorically constructs his film in an attempt to persuade his audience and 2.) defines Sherwin’s postmodern challenge and explains how it complicates Morris’s argument. 

 

Part 1:  In order to write this paper, you will first need to isolate particular rhetorical strategies that Morris employs and explain how he attempts to shape the audience’s thinking and attitudes.  Specifically, identify what Morris does to encourage the audience’s distrust of the criminal justice system, David Harris, and the eyewitnesses, and to elicit their sympathies for Randall Adams.  Identify at least three of Morris’s strategies, explain how they work in particular instances in the film, and explain the desired effects on his viewers. 

 

Part 2:  After the rhetorical analysis of Morris’s cinematic strategies, you should then transition to Richard Sherwin’s The Postmodern Challenge, explaining how it complicates viewers’ understanding of the film.  What non-linear, acausal narratives does Sherwin identify that complicate the case supporting Adams’s innocence, and why are they abandoned by the end of the film?  Why, according to Sherwin, do viewers disregard the non-linear, acausal narratives?  In other words, what expectations do viewers bring to criminal and courtroom narratives, and how do their expectations limit their ability to perceive and judge reality? 

Evaluative Criteria:

  1. Do you thoroughly and thoughtfully analyze and explain how Morris uses his film to construct an argument? Do you isolate particular rhetorical strategies and explain Morris’s attempts to influence the audience’s thinking about the Randall Adams case? 
  1. Do you smoothly transition to Richard Sherwin’s “The Postmodern Challenge,” accurately define the postmodern challenge, and thoroughly explain how it complicates Morris’s narrative?
  1. Have you chosen a structure for your ideas that will convince an audience of your argument most effectively? Do you lead the reader carefully from one idea to the next?  Are your paragraphs fully developed and cohesive?
  1. Sources: Do you incorporate examples from the film and quotations/paraphrasing from Sherwin successfully into the essay?  Do you strike an effective balance between their ideas and your own, moving smoothly between the two?
  1. Mechanics? Is your writing free of mechanical and grammatical errors that might interfere with a reader’s understanding?  Do you cite sources according to proper MLA conventions? 

 Alternative Film/Writing Assignment.

View either Christopher Nolan’s film Memento or Tom Tykwer’s film Run Lola Run and write a paper that 1.) analyzes and explains how Nolan/Tykwer rhetorically constructs his film in an attempt to persuade/guide his audience and 2.) defines Sherwin’s postmodern challenge and explains how it can be used as a lens to view either Memento or Run Lola Run.  NOTE:  “The Postmodern Challenge” was written in response to The Thin Blue Line but has some clear applications to both of the aforementioned films.  You will need to exercise some creative thinking to make these applications. 

 

Part 1:  In order to write this paper, you will first need to isolate particular rhetorical strategies that Nolan/Tykwer employs and explain how he attempts to shape the audience’s thinking and attitudes.  Specifically, identify what Nolan/Tykwer does to shape the audience’s belief in the protagonist and to encourage certain attitudes towards the film.  You might also ask, what is the larger argument of the film and how does the director construct the film in such a way to make this argument? 

 

Part 2:  After the rhetorical analysis of the director’s cinematic strategies, you should then transition to Richard Sherwin’s “The Postmodern Challenge,” explaining how it can be used a lens to clarify or explain certain aspects of the film.  As stated earlier, “The Postmodern Challenge” was written in response to The Thin Blue Line, but many creative applications to both films are certainly possible. 

 

Grading Rubric;

  1. Do you thoroughly and thoughtfully analyze and explain how Nolan/Tykwer uses his film to construct an argument? Do you isolate particular rhetorical strategies and explain the director’s attempts to influence the audience’s thinking/attitudes towards the protagonist and the narrative argument? 
  1. Do you smoothly transition to Richard Sherwin’s “The Postmodern Challenge,” accurately define the postmodern challenge, and offer creative applications to your chosen film?
  1. Have you chosen a structure for your ideas that will convince an audience of your argument most effectively? Do you lead the reader carefully from one idea to the next?  Are your paragraphs fully developed and cohesive?
  1. Sources: Do you incorporate examples from the film and quotations/paraphrasing from Sherwin successfully into the essay?  Do you strike an effective balance between their ideas and your own, moving smoothly between the two?
  1. Mechanics? Is your writing free of mechanical and grammatical errors that might interfere with a reader’s understanding?  Do you cite sources according to proper MLA conventions? 

 

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