Movie Critic 101: A Summer Mini Course

I am so excited to teach a five-week online “mini course” on film criticism through my high school this summer! We provide this opportunity for our students as a way to “sustain connection with our school community during this unprecedented time.” These mini courses are free of cost and an ideal way to keep our students engaged, encourage a fulfilling hobby, and, of course, watch and talk movies!

Below is my Objective, Procedure, and Assessment for my prospective students:

Movie Critic 101: A Concise Exploration on How to Critique a Film

Objective: This mini course is designed to guide our students through the technical, historical, and aesthetic elements that make a movie tick and how it successfully (or unsuccessfully) appeals to a particular audience. Students will learn how to properly critique a movie and translate subjective opinion into professional and rationalized writing.

Procedure: Through live online video chats, we will discuss the historical evolution of cinematic elements, genre and audience marketing, and several writing techniques that grab the reader’s interest and elaborate on a movie’s value.

Assessment: Nothing is actually “due,” students are only asked to watch movies and have fun, and there is no letter grade. However, the video chats are extremely encouraged, along with optional movie review/capsule submissions, which will be evaluated and shared with students’ approval.

The key word for this mini course is “concise.” In only five weeks with five movie viewings, I intend to encapsulate an introductory lesson on cinematic elements (e.g. Directing, Cinematography, etc.) and guidelines on how to unveil these elements and critique them.

The fun challenge for me is choosing FIVE films that:

A. Embody a historical and revolutionary cinematic element of focus

B. Fall on or under the PG-13 rating (I have incoming freshmen registering, and I want to play it safe with the parents/guardians)

C. Represent as many genres as possible, and

D. Qualify as a subjectively, universally “good” movie!

It’s nearly impossible! (But, not impossible to be fun!)

Below are my current ideas. Please feel free to share your feedback and suggestions. Keep in mind the necessary regulations I will need to follow (sorry, horror movies) in five weeks with five viewings…

Rear Window (1954) – PG, Alfred Hitchcock Thriller/Mystery; Focus on Directing, subjective perspective, and the timely theme of quarantine life!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – PG, Steven Spielberg Adventure/Action Blockbuster; Focus on Sound and Music and Editing

Groundhog Day (1993) – PG, A Comedy/Romance with Focus on Screenplay and Acting Performance/Character Development

Persepolis (2007) – PG-13, Iranian Director Marjane Satrapi’s Adult Animated Adaptation in French with English Subtitles with themes of coming of age and female empowerment

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) – PG-13, Fantasy Drama “Indie” Film; Focus on Cinematography and successful filmmaking by amateurs with distribution limitations

Already, I see the Musical genre being left out, and I’m considering Singin’ in the Rain (1952) as an option because of the musical production qualities (obviously), its comedy traits, and the silent movie history within its plot line.

But, would a teenager appreciate this today?

The main question is: Can a classic movie such as Singin’ in the Rain be appreciated for its cinematic groundbreaking 68 years ago, or has its appeal and aesthetic aged beyond appreciation?

These questions and decisions have been a joy to consider as I prepare for this mini course, which starts on June 8th.

Again, please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this matter.

Thank you for reading and keep watching those movies!

Best, Reely Bernie

PS I totally left out the Sci-Fi genre too. This is tough!

“How can you forget Sci-Fi?” says the Groundhog Day of Sci-Fi

23 thoughts on “Movie Critic 101: A Summer Mini Course

Add yours

  1. What a completely and utterly cool course!

    I liked what previous commenters said about including Singin’ in the Rain, how it’s not a film teenagers might normally see, and I would definitely include it.

    Good luck with the course! First day is tomorrow, yes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we start up tomorrow with prompts and reflection questions on Rear Window! I just read your Roger Ebert post. “Good movies make good film critics; bad movies make bad critics.” He is a gem. Did you ever read “Life Itself?”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can say my teenage kids really like Singin’ in the Rain. I showed it to them a few years back and we have revisited it several times. They could be anomalies though. I would hope everyone who still appreciate the film but that’s probably not realistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen. I appreciate your feedback. I wonder – no matter how old or young – how much a viewer needs to keep in mind the age of a film and its relationship to its times compared to today’s molded mind. The dancing through the wall/“Make Them Laugh” scene, for example: It’s still funny, but with all the desensitizing and digitalizing we see today, is it still “funny” or just dated “funny?” I dunno. Great stuff to talk about…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate it. When I was their age (can’t believe I’m saying that), I looked at Roger Ebert’s Greatest Films list and went down it one by one. One of the best cinematic things I ever did 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And you can never guess what young people will like. Donen’s film has great comedy, energy and songs. If they don’t like it, Engame is still on streaming. But if you can ignite interest in older movies, there’s a goldmine!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right. It hits a lot of marks with one stone, and I’m glad you still appreciate it. The last time I saw it was when AFI came out with their 100 Years/100 Movies list in ‘99, and I loved it. I’m excited to watch again with my students’ viewpoints…Thanks, Isabelle!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Even though you have to be a registered student at my high school to participate in the video chats, I will still send you and my readers our movie viewing schedule, supplemental materials, and open this blog for feedback/observations. I’d love to hear your opinions on the movies we watch!

      Liked by 1 person

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