Reading Film Assignment #2: Reviewing the Reviewers

Your task for this assignment is to develop a theory of how to tell a “good” film from a “bad” one. Imagine you come from a planet where the concept of a “film review” is a new one; on your home planet films are simply taken at face value. After visiting Earth on a college scholarship, you return home to a job at your local newspaper, writing its very first film review column. But before you begin, you need to convince your editor you can do a good job.

Drawing on social science disciplines such as sociology or anthropology, write for your editor a four-page “field report,” describing to her the range of beliefs about quality cinema that you found expressed in Earth film reviews. Your field report–a concept the class will define together–should (1) identify three shared concerns that different film reviewers have, (2) describe the particular rhetorical style of one film reviewer you like, and (3) present your own theory and method of reviewing films so as to distinguish “good” and “bad” film.

Audience: A skeptical but willing newspaper professional unfamiliar with evaluating films

Format: 4-5 pages, MLA style


Type: Analyze a single text to support an arguable thesis.

Rationale: This assignment takes a film review as its central text (item 2 in the enumerated list of tasks) and asks students to base an argument on that text through understanding its methods of argumentation rather than the content of its thesis. This gives the students practice making an argument about a text as well as developing their understanding of the variety of ways of making arguments.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. write a 400-word review of a recent film you saw
  2. write a review of a fairy tale from the point of view of a particular film critic
  3. write an objective “field report” of one class session
  4. as a class compile a list of criteria for what makes a “field report”

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