American Film History II, Summer 2014

Film 4960/Comm 6960, Summer 2014

Mondays & Wednesdays 1:50-4:20, Aderhold 324

Office: 25 Park Place South #1017





Course Description

How do movies reflect and influence American life? How has Hollywood shaped Americans’ image of the world, and the world’s view of Americans? What are the alternatives to Hollywood’s stories? What is the future of film in a digital age?

In attempting to answer these questions, this class will trace the history of American movies from the 1960s to the present. Along the way, we’ll look at the semiotics, aesthetics, economics, and politics of Hollywood movies and their independent alternatives.

Readings & Films

The assigned readings include a coursepack and online articles. The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South). The assigned films are all widely available to rent or stream.

Class Schedule



In-class screening: opening of Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998).


6/11Hollywood Today & Warm Bodies (Levine, 2013)

Rachel Dodes, “Why It Took Seven Years to See Mandy Lane,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2013:

David Bordwell, “Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary 

American Film,” Film Quarterly 55.3 (Spring 2002): 16-28.

Ashley Lutz, “These 6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media in America,” Business 

Insider, June 14, 2012 [infographic by Jason of]: 

Christopher Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired, December 2010:

Peter Suderman, “Save the Movie!”, Slate, July 19, 2013: 

Peter Suderman, “The Save the Cat Beat Sheet,” Slate, July 19, 2013: 

Scott Brown, “Nuke the Cat!”, New York, August 4, 2013:


6/16Body Genres & Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Robin Wood, “George Romero: Apocalypse Now,” Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 

and Beyond (Columbia UP, 2003), 101-119.

Thomas Schatz, “Film Genres and the Genre Film,” Hollywood Genres (McGraw-Hill, 

1981), 14-41.

Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself,” Men, Women and Chainsaws (Princeton UP, 1992), 21-64.

Linda Williams, “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre and Excess,” Film Quarterly 44.4 (Summer 1991), 2-13.

In-class screening: The American Nightmare (Simon, 2000).


6/18The Hollywood Renaissance & McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)

Richard Slotkin, “Introduction: The Significance of the Frontier Myth in American History,” 

Gunfighter Nation (Oklahoma UP, 1998), 1-26.

Pauline Kael, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller: Pipe Dream,” New Yorker, July 3, 1971.

Yannis Tzioumakis, “The New Hollywood and the Independent Hollywood,” American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Rutgers UP, 2006), 169-191.

In-class screening: American Cinema: The Film School Generation (Klarer, 2000).


6/23Crime Movies & The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

Robert Ray, “Introduction,” “Left and Right Cycles,” and “The Godfather and Taxi Driver,” A Certain Tendency in the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980 (Princeton UP, 1985), 3-21, 296-360.

Ed Guerrero, “The Rise and Fall of Blaxploitation,” from Framing Blackness: The African-American Image in Film, excerpted in Movies and American Society, ed. Steven J. Ross (Blackwell, 2002), 250-273.

In-class screening: Baadasssss Cinema (Julien, 2002).


6/25The New Hollywood & Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, “Introduction,” “The Hunter Myth” and “Jaws: Faces of the Shadow,” Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero in American Film (University of Chicago Press, 1995), 1-8, 52-99.

Thomas Schatz, “The New Hollywood,” in Jim Collins, Hilary Radner, and Ava Preacher Collins, eds., Film Theory Goes to the Movies (Routledge, 1993), 8-36.


6/30Teen Films & Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Heckerling, 1982)

Robin Wood, “Teens, Parties and Rollercoasters: A Genre of the 1990s,” Hollywood: From Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond (Columbia, 2003), 144-167, 309-332.

Susan Faludi, “Fatal and Fetal Visions: The Backlash in the Movies,” Backlash (Broadway Books, 1991), 112-139.


7/2Action Heroes & Top Gun (Scott, 1986)

Susan Jeffords, “Hard Bodies: The Reagan Heroes” and “The Movies are Looking for a Few Good White Men,” Hard Bodies (Rutgers UP, 1994): 24-63, 104-139.


7/7Black Cinema & Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)

Nelson George, excerpts from Blackface: Reflections on African-Americans and the 

Movies (Perennial, 1995).

In-class screening: Classified X

Take-home Midterm due


7/9The Sundance Generation & Slacker (Linklater, 1991)

Michael Z. Newman, “Indie Cinema Viewing Strategies,” Indie: An American Film Culture   

(Columbia UP, 2011), 21-47.

Yannis Tzioumakis, “The Institutionalization of American Independent Cinema,” American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Rutgers UP, 2006), 246-280.


7/14Narrative Play & Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

David Foster Wallace, “David Lynch Keeps His Head,” A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll 

Never Do Again (Back Bay, 1998), 146-212.

Michael Z. Newman, “Games of Narrative Form,” Indie: An American Film Culture   

(Columbia, 2011), 182-220. 

Bill Wyman, Max Garrone and Andy Klein, “Everything You Were Afraid to Ask About Mulholland Drive,” Salon, October 24, 2001: 


7/16Hollywood Sexuality & Brokeback Mountain (Lee, 2005)

Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin, “Sexuality and American Film,” America on Film 

(Wiley-Blackwell, 2009): 303-355.

Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” Making Things Perfectly Queer 

(Minnesota UP, 1993), 1-16.

In-class screening: The Celluloid Closet


7/21War Films & Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2013)

Peter Bergen, “Zero Dark Thirty: Did Torture Really Net Bin Laden?”

December 11, 2012:

Jane Meyer, “Zero Conscience in Zero Dark Thirty,” New Yorker, December 14, 2012: 

Steve Coll, “‘Disturbing’ & ‘Misleading,’” New York Review of Books, February 7, 2013: 

Spencer Ackerman, “Two Cheers for Zero Dark Thirty,”, December 12, 2012: 



7/23Superheroes & Iron Man 3 (Black, 2013)

Readings TBA


Take-home Final due Jul 30




The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale: 



A 97-93B87-83C77-70F64-0



Director Presentation – 4960: 10 points; 6960: 5 points


You will research and present a 15-20 minute discussion of a contemporary American filmmaker. A list of potential directors is attached. The presentation should include the following parts:


1. Begin by presenting a brief overview of the director’s work, with an emphasis on key films which demonstrate what makes the director’s work distinctive and innovative. Focus on bringing to class up to speed on what they should know about the director in order to have an informed discussion of the clip. If at all possible, include a short clip (under 5 minutes) of the director discussing his or her own work, from a DVD Special Feature, YouTube clip, documentary, or other source.


2. Screen a short film clip (under 5 minutes) to exemplify the director’s style. Unless you choose the alternate presentation (discussed below), use one continuous clip.


3. Present a short analysis of the clip. Choose 1-3 film elements, and discuss in detail how each element functions in the clip. Rewind and replay selections from the clip, or pause on still images, to highlight key moments. (Be sure to prepare by noting in advance the time marks for moments you want to highlight.) 


4. Class discussion.


5. At the end of class, hand in a list of your group’s sources. At least five distinct sources are required. (You don’t need to specifically discuss all sources during your presentation – the goal is that you dig around enough to find the most useful material.) Possible sources include books, journal articles, interviews, documentaries, DVD commentary tracks, and YouTube videos. Wikipedia can be a useful launching pad for your research but does not in itself count towards your six sources. Other recommended resources:


Film & Television Literature Index:

“Gateways to Geekery,” The A.V. Club 

“The New Cult Canon,” The A.V. Club: 

Box Office Mojo: 

Internet Movie Database:

 Film Studies for Free:


Alternate presentation: if you choose, you may produce a video presentation on your director in place of the spoken presentation. Possible video projects include an edited selection of clips with commentary, interviews with viewers, a fan film, or a trailer mashup. Video equipment and training are available at GSU’s Digital Aquarium in the Student Center.


Book Presentation – 6960 only: 5 points

Graduate students will give an additional 15-20 minute presentation to the class on a scholarly book on American film.


Take-Home Midterm – 45 points

The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the films screened in the first half of the semester. Due in class July 7.


Take-Home Final – 45 points

The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering the second half of the semester. Due July 30.


Attendance Adjustment

As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.





Re-Writes and Makeup Tests

Opportunities for revision and improvement will be available for the midterm and the presentation. In addition, I will look at optional drafts of the final submitted on or before the last class. 


Late and Unsubmitted Papers

Late papers will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. Any unsubmitted papers will receive a 0. Likewise, any unanswered exam questions will receive a 0. So, if you answer only 2 out of 3 required exam questions, you will get a 0 on the third question.


Academic Honesty

The university’s policy on academic honesty is attached. The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to disciplinary sanctions. 


The Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but also easy to track down plagiarism. Bottom line: Don’t plagiarize. It’s wrong, and it’s not worth it. There’s always a better way. Cite all your sources, put all direct quotations in quotation marks, and clearly note when you are paraphrasing other authors’ work. 



Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.


Changes to the Syllabus

This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary. 


Course Evaluation

Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University.  Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation

pastedGraphic.pngDirector List


Note: This is only a partial list. Feel free to choose any other director who’s made English-language films since World War II, with one exception: directors of films screened for class are off limits, since they’re already covered. 



Woody Allen

Paul Thomas Anderson

Allison Anders

Kenneth Anger

Judd Apatow

Greg Araki

Darren Aronofsky

Hal Ashby

Ralph Bakshi

Paul Bartel

Noah Baumbach

Michael Bay

Luc Besson

Brad Bird

Lizzie Borden

Danny Boyle

Stan Brakhage

Albert Brooks

Mel Brooks

Charles Burnett

Tim Burton

James Cameron

Jane Campion

Shane Carruth

John Cassavetes

Joel & Ethan Coen

Martha Coolidge

Sofia Coppola

Roger Corman

Alex Cox

Wes Craven

David Cronenberg

Cameron Crowe

Julie Dash

Ossie Davis

Tamra Davis

Guillermo del Toro

Jonathan Demme

Brian DePalma

Tom DiCillo

Ernest Dickerson

Atom Egoyan

Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Jon Favreau

Abel Ferrara

David Fincher

Stephen Frears

William Friedkin

Sam Fuller

Terry Gilliam

Michael Gondry

F. Gary Gray

David Gordon Green

Paul Greengrass

Christopher Guest

James Gunn

Mary Harron

Hal Hartley

Amy Heckerling

Albert and Allen Hughes

Peter Jackson

Henry Jaglom

Rian Johnson

Spike Jonze

Neil Jordan

Jon Jost

Lloyd Kaufman

Harmony Korine

Stanley Kubrick

Neil LaBute

John Lassiter

David Lean

Barry Levinson

Doug Liman

Ken Loach

Sidney Lumet

Terrence Malick

Michael Mann

Elaine May

George Miller

Michael Moore

Errol Morris

Greg Mottola

Mira Nair

Gregory Nava

Mike Nichols

Victor Nunez

Alexander Payne

Sam Peckinpah

Arthur Penn

Sidney Poitier

Roman Polanski

Alex Proyas

Sam Raimi

Rob Reiner

Tim Robbins

Robert Rodriguez

Eli Roth

Alan Rudolph

David O. Russell

Nancy Savoca

John Sayles

Michael Schultz

Martin Scorcese

Susan Seidelman

M. Night Shyamalan

Bryan Singer

John Singleton

Jack Smith

Kevin Smith

Zach Snyder

Stephen Sodebergh

Todd Solondz

Penelope Spheeris

Andrew Stanton

Whit Stillman

Quentin Tarantino

Julien Temple

Rose Troche

Melvin Van Peebles

Gus Van Sandt

Lars von Trier

Lana & Andy Wachowski

Wayne Wang

Andy Warhol

John Waters

Forest Whitaker

Fredric Wiseman

John Woo

Edgar Wright

Boaz Yakin

Benh Zeitlin

Robert Zemeckis

Rob Zombie

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