Midterm Paper Assignment – Do the Right Thing (1989)

Movie link https://digitalcampus.swankmp.net/schoolofartchicago358532/watch/3831E212C82B1647?referrer=direct

Over the last four weeks, you have learned how the various formal and stylistic components of film (e.g. mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound) help to convey, enhance, and/or complicate a film’s narrative meaning.

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For your midterm paper, you are required to select ONE of these stylistic components (e.g. mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, or sound) and analyze the way in which its use affects the communication of themes and narrative meaning in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). The most effective way to do this is to select one stylistic element on which your paper will focus, and one of the narrative’s many themes, and to then consider how your chosen style and theme relate to one another within the context of the film. Based on this, you should craft an original thesis statement (a unique persuasive argument about how style and narrative relate in this film) that will guide the overall trajectory of your essay.

Some themes you might choose from include: racism and bias, choice and morality (the tension between good and evil), dialectics or opposition, characterization, community, and character relationships, etc.

All papers must:

Be 3-4 pages in length (double-spaced, with 1” margins and 12 pt font).
Include a clear thesis statement (declaring your argument about the relationship between style and theme) at the end of your introductory paragraph.
Analyze at least one scene from the film, in detail, in a way that provides evidence for your thesis regarding style, theme, and narrative meaning. You should watch this scene multiple times while writing your paper, so your assessment of elements like mise-en-scène, camera angle, focal length, editing, and sound can be specific, as well as accurate. The film is available to stream through the Flaxman Library on the SWANK platform.
Include your name and page numbers in a document header.
Have an original title.

Other VERY IMPORTANT things to note:

To write a good paper, you may need to watch the movie more than once, and you will certainly need to watch the scene you are analyzing more than once.

Italicize film titles in your writing (Ex. In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing…

Use the character’s name with the name of the corresponding performer in parentheses when you first mention the character in your paper. Following this you can refer to the character using just the character name, without the name of the performer.

Scholarly papers should not sound like film reviews (avoid subjective, evaluative claims that the film is: exciting, awesome, great, boring, slow, etc.). Your paper should also exclude “I feel” or “I think” statements.

Art works, including films, are thought to exist in an eternal present. When writing about films, use an active, present tense. For example, if you were describing a scene from The Love Witch between Elaine and Trish, you would write, “When Elaine and Trish go to the Victorian tea room…” rather than, “When Elaine and Trish went to the Victorian tea room…”

Sites such as www.imdb.com are useful for finding the names of directors, performers, and other general production information.

If you have questions about how to write a thesis, organize your paper, select a theme, or any other concerns, please contact your TA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Lastly, your paper should be an ORIGINAL work that puts forth your own ideas on the film. You do not need to provide citations for information regarding production specifics (i.e. the director’s name, performer’s names etc.) if you look these up online. If you use ANY OTHER information about the film in your paper from another source, whether a direct quote or paraphrasing, you MUST provide a citation for your source. When in doubt, provide a citation.

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