Writer’s choice



Learning Objectives: 1) To learn how to evaluate all aspects of a film

2) To learn how to organize an essay based on topics in decreasing order of                                                            importance

3) To learn how to find and incorporate sources into your essay

4) To learn how to document sources using MLA documentation style

5) To learn how to revise and edit your through conferencing and peer review


Choose a full-length feature movie (no cartoons, documentaries, true life stories, independent films, foreign films, musicals, or television programs) that has been released in the past ten years or so.  You can also write on the film presented in class.  Find at least six film reviews from on-line sources.  The source must have an author’s name, a date, and a site affiliation.  Do not use blogs or customer reviews – you must use the work of professional critics.

The first time you refer to a critic, introduce his/her name and affiliation (e.g., According to Stephen Smith from the New York Times, . . . ) – thereafter, use only his/her last name without the site affiliation (e.g., Smith argues that . . . ).  Use brief quotations throughout the essay.  Compare your opinions of the film to those of other critics.  Use MLA documentation throughout and be sure to include an entry in the Works Cited page for the film that you are critiquing.  Present both negative and positive aspects of the film.  Your thesis is your overall opinion of the film and the major reason why you liked or disliked it.  Give the essay a snappy title that indicates your opinion of the film.

Your essay should have seven paragraphs structured as follows:

            •           Introduction

•           Present the name of the film, when it was released, its director, writer, and major actors.

•           Give a brief one or two sentence summary of the plot and a brief one or two sentence overview of the film’s themes (if it is a serious drama).

•           Explain the genre of the film (romance, action, fantasy, etc.).  Is it similar to some other films that you have seen?

•           Who is the audience for this film (age group, male/female, special interests, etc.)?

•           Briefly present the general pros and cons of the film as discussed by the critics (you do not need to use any quotations here – just give a general overview).

•           Present your own opinion of the film (your thesis).  Why did you like or dislike it?

•           In the second paragraph, provide a general summary of the plot.  Do not go on too long here.  If the plot is complicated, figure out how to simplify it for the reader.  You may have to forget about the subplots or some of the twists and turns.

•           In the third paragraph evaluate the film as a whole, including the writing.  Cite the opinions of at least four critics.  What do you think about these opinions?  What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the film?

•           In the fourth paragraph discuss the acting.  Cite the opinions of at least four critics.  Do you agree with their opinions?  Is the film well cast and acted?  You might mention other films that the actors have been in.  Give specific examples of the good or bad acting.

•           In the fifth paragraph discuss the directing and editing.  How has the director chosen to present the story?  Examine the pacing of the story and the various uses of the camera (interesting angles, close-ups, montages, panoramic views, cut-aways, slow motion, fast motion, changes in coloring, soft focus, etc.).  Give specific examples of the effective or ineffective use of the camera.  Give the opinion of at least two critics.

            •           Discuss the art direction – the costuming, the lighting, and the sets.  Describe the costumes and explain how they represent the characters’ personalities, profession, social class, etc.  Where is the film set?  Why is this important to the story?  What kind of lighting is used – daylight, night scenes, candlelight, etc. – and how does this affect the mood?  Are there special effects?  Explain what they are and why they were interesting, unusual, tedious, repetitious, excessive, etc.  You may have difficulty finding any critics’ opinion on this subject.

            •           Conclusion.  In the seventh paragraph summarize your evaluation of the film – its overall strengths and weaknesses.  Why should someone want or not want to see the film?


Be sure to begin each of the seven or eight paragraphs with a clear topic sentence that states your opinion.  Do not begin or end a paragraph with a quotation.  Instead, use the critics to develop the paragraph and use their opinions to compare and contrast with your own.  Some critics may with you but others will have other opinions about the film.  Present these differing points of view while maintaining your own opinion.