The Contemporary Film Review

Subject: You will see and evaluate an “art” film now playing in the theatre–not a Hollywood blockbuster. For example, Transformers does not qualify as an art film. Many films playing at the Drexel on Main may qualify as an art film. The Wexner Center at OSU screens art films.

For our purposes here we will define art house cinema as noncommercial film, perhaps an indy, a film out of the mainstream. Such a film generally has a lower budget so it may lack special effects and well-known actors. It is generally a film not in wide-release and not widely advertised, but if it becomes popular, it may eventually show in mainstream theatres.

If you are an out-of-town student, consult the Drexel Theatre or Wexner Center play list on the external links page. Then locate those films at a theatre near you.

Please consult with me if you are unsure about a film’s appropriateness for the assignment. The film must be a new release and should not be available on DVD.

Value: 20 points. See attached instructor grading rubric (called Film Review Rubric) for the point distribution of this assignment.

Length: 250-350 words (use Word Count to be sure you are not over or under)


Include your name (last name first) and the name of the assignment at the top, right-hand corner of your assignment page, for example Jones, Mary Film Review.

This is a short essay comprised of 4 paragraphs.

Purpose: to summarize and to evaluate a film

Rationale: In general, your review should contain four paragraphs: 1) credit information, 2) a plot summary, 3) analysis of several developments in the film, and 4) a judgment about the film’s worth.

The overall selection of language and determination of audience is also important to the review.

Paragraph one begins your review with the credit information: title, director, literary source (if there is one), genre, and major actors. This will be a formal paragraph with complete sentences.

Secondly, paragraph two provides a plot summary, but it should not tell the climax or ending of the film.

Next in paragraph three, concentrate on the major developments of the film that impress you. For example, you might consider special effects, the cinematography, mise en scene, the music, the acting, the plot, the ideology, the script, the set, the costume, or political climate. This is the most important paragraph of the review. Cover at least 3 of the chapter topics in this paragraph.

The fourth paragraph of the review is the evaluation. Cast judgment on the film. You might write a rave review, a pan, or a mixed review. The majority of reviews are mixed.

Also, audience and language are important considerations as you write your review. Once you have determined your opinion, reflect your attitude about the film, such as playful, humorous, sarcastic, serious, or reverential, in the style of language you choose. You may use formal or informal language for this assignment, but it should build the attitude that you hope to portray. When making language choices, consider your audience. Do you imagine you are writing for Rolling Stone, The Other Paper, The Dispatch, Entertainment Tonight, or The New York Times? Read and listen to reviews from these sources. Find examples through your own research that you want to emulate.

Finally, choose a film with some substance! Read the papers. What films are the critics buzzing about? If you choose a film and find nothing in the film impresses you, what are you going to write in paragraph three? What kind of a grade will you receive on your review if the film does not give you the opportunity to showcase your film knowledge? The film review is your chance to write convincingly about film with precision, vision, and even wit.

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