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Film Instructions

Please note that these are not “extra credit” assignments; instead, these and other options are there to fulfill your “special duties.”  What you accumulate above 80 points is extra credit. Seeing a film is one of several ways to earn points.  You may see and discuss two films.  If you see and discuss a third film or several more, you may replace low grades with higher ones. So that I may see when you have seen the film and when your essay comes in, be sure to attach the stub to the cover page, which you should give to me separately, so that the date of the stub is showing. Please publish the report itself in the appropriate forum. Reports are due no later than four days after you have seen the film; if you submit an outline within those four days, you may take two additional days for completing the report.  Please do NOT narrate the film; I will not assign any film I have not seen already myself.  When you have completed the report, post it on the appropriate bulletin board, please. Here is what I am looking for when  I evaluate your submission. The more of these criteria you meet, the better your point count will be.

  1. Have you avoided narrating the film? A simple narration will typically draw only one or two points.

  2. Have you avoided simplifying the problem? We will not have any simple-answer problems! A simplistic view of the problem is keeping your count low.

  3. Have you presented the moral problem with all of its complexities? The greater your awareness, the greater the point accumulation.

  4. Have you managed to demonstrate that you are "up on" relevant facts of human psychology?

  5. Have you shown that you are informed about all other relevant facts without "making up facts" from bias and prejudice?

  6. Have you given evidence of what people might say who disagree with you about the solution to the moral problem?

  7. Have you given a satisfactory answer that has considered all nuances and facts that you have analyzed and without reverting back to simplistic notions that you might have held before? A good solution should have quite obviously GROWN from the facts and data under consideration.

  8. Have you backed up all assertions with evidence from the film?

Film Options for Spring of 2013: Do not select films in the grey areas. Make sure that the film is in theatres now.

 

Plan to attend the film about bullying; it will show Tuesday evening at 19h00 (7 p.m.) in the Miller Instructional Center's auditorium.

Note the following definition by Emily Bazelon writing for The New York Times, today, March 12, 2013: "The definition of bullying adopted by psychologists is physical or verbal abuse, repeated over time, and involving a power imbalance. In other words, it's about one person with more social status lording it over another, over and over again, to make him miserable." The film merely showed you patterns from schools, but these patterns also exist for other people in different circumstances. Once you have understood the tension between people with power and powerless persons, try to find evidence of bullying in circumstances other than schools. You may cite from the film, but I am ultimately looking for evidence that you have understood the pattern of abuse enough to see it elsewhere. Consider circumstances of abuse, intimidation, isolation, and disrespect; then bring the actual cases.

You may earn up to 15 points for a complete treatment of these patterns.

You may see the Oscar-winning film "Amour"; it is showing at the Cinematique Theatre on Beach Street. Look for Cinematique's web-site for the schedule.

The assignment is simple: See the film; then, using impressions from the film and other data and statistics, write about euthanasia and problems of aging. Be sure to address such issues as who should make such a decision. Also consider how that decision ought to be carried out. What was wrong or right about the action in the film? Be sure to be at the theatre in plenty of time: if you don't catch the first scenes, you might just not understand the plot of the film or its true outcome.

You may earn up to 15 points for a clear and convincing analysis.

You may see "Quartet." This film is unusual, so it won't be around for very long. If you want to see it, hustle.

The value of something is not really very clear until we've seen its end. For example, if you want to know if a cake is good, you probably need to see it completed to feast your eyes and to see it eaten if you want to feast your taste-buds. Is that the way things are with your life also? Must you see the end before you'll know its value? That end view is what "Quartet" is all about. See the film. Then, using ideas from the film, comment on what values you will take into your "golden years." The idea is to be guided by the film while being quite autobiographical in an anticipated sort of way.

You may earn up to 15 points in the category, so your score will be "n of 15" in the final calculation.

 

You may see Cloud Atlas; it may be playing in some theatres for another week or so. If you want to see it, don't wait.

Some allusions to watch for are "eternal recurrence of the same," which is a key idea in Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche's philosophy. The suggestion, briefly, is that archetypes display themselves in all human actions again and again. You will see evidence of that quite strongly throughout the film. Also, you will hear "soylent green is made of people," a phrase that comes from a post-apocalyptic science fiction film with Edgar G. Robinson--his last film--and Charlton Heston. The phrase alludes to the fact that human bodies are recycled into protein bars for food. Finally, "the rich feed; the poor bleed" is an expression that may remind you of "The Hunger Games" as well as class struggle in general. Tom Tykwer, a German director, made the film. If you have seen "Lola Runs" or "Winter Sleepers," you may already be familiar with Tykwer's playful use of improbabilities in unusual plot sequences. The film takes about three hours, so don't go to see it if you have a tendency to impatience. Time sequences involve Victorian England, the present, the immediate future, a futuristic Seoul--Metropolis-like, and a far-flung future in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii with an escape to another planet. Here's your essay: I would like for you to examine the idea of the eternal recurrence of the same. Does it decrease or increase one's sense of moral responsibility? Make your case with facts from the film as well as facts from the real world.

You may earn up to 15 points to figured into your participation score of 80 points total for an "A" in the category.

You may see "Flight." The film is playing in theatres around town now.

Focus on Whip, the main character. He is clearly not fully admirable from a virtues perspective. At the same time, he is admirably capable from a utilitarian perspective. One might speculate that he may have been derailed by his personal stresses although we might not have enough evidence to say so definitively. Admirable for his capabilities and abhorred for his addictions for sex, booze, and cocaine, the main character is faced with an overwhelming question at the end when his son asks him, "Who are you?" Clearly, the film does not answer that question. Discuss that question from two perspectives: a responsibility-lowering perspective of determinism and a responsibility-increasing perspective of autonomous decision-making. Note the the first perspective might help us increase compassion and the second perspective might help us increase the willingness to work on ourselves. Consider whether, as an airline owner and employer, one should look more for capabilities or for firm character--if one must prioritize? And, obviously, a convergence of the two elements would be ideal; however, do any of you live in a world where "ideal" happens? Try to be realistic.

You may earn up to 15 points for a exemplary essay.

You may see "The Master"; it's playing in theatres around town now.

If you don't know L. Ron Hubbard, take a look to find out more about him. Wouldn't hurt to read some of the reviews of this film also. Take a look at "external reviews" of the Imdb. Then focus on the following questions to develop your essay. Ask yourself whether the film has a happy or a sad ending. Is the central character cured at the end? Was the cure accidental or well engineered? What do you think about the "MASTER"? Finally, comment on the status of religions, cults, and psychology. If you look at the review, you will find that many critics are not entirely sure of what they saw. That gives you greater liberty of interpretation; however, it will not let you get off the hook to deliver a tightly argued essay.

You may earn a value of maximally 15 points for the essay.

Film Options for Summer B of 2012: Do not select films in the grey areas. Make sure that the film is in theatres now.

You may see "Moonrise Kingdom"; it's in several theatres around town and opened today, Friday, July 27.

The film moves from ludicrous to kiddy porn to absurd to bizarre. Am I sure that it deals with values: growing up, childhood pains, young love, disillusioned love, dysfunctional families, dysfunctional community? Of course. Am I very clear on what the film is saying about these values? Not really.  Sam's appearance at the end in a kind of young-police uniform makes some subtle comment. But what is that comment? Having recently made news again with their reaction against gays, the Scouts are not a truly impressive organization in the film, lampooned more than admired. The chain-smoking but somewhat effeminate scout-master? One wonders. So, surprise me, please. Tell me what ethical issues surface in that film; then convince me with evidence from the film that you are right. And trust me: I'll know a good and sound argument when I see it. I am also willing to bet that you'll have a wonderful and entertaining film-experience if you see it.

You may earn up to 15 points for this review; you'll do better if you tell me something new!

You may see Oliver Stone's "Savages"; it's in several theatres around town.

Take a friend to discuss the issues. You might also want to take some notes, if you can see well enough in the dark. And here's your task: List ten moral decisions, moral choices, or moral actions. Classify each one in terms of uses or misuses of the categorical imperative, the Utilitarian calculus, and character development. In addition, classify each incident in terms of its ethical perspectives in terms of this diagram. For example, Woody threatens to either kick my shin repeatedly or to reward me with great sums of money that I can use to buy a car for my daughter. All I have to do is to beat up Byron. If I do so, I have abrogated ethical autonomy (ignoring Kant's Categorical Imperative) since I claim that Woody made me do it. I have used Byron as a means to an end and not an end in himself (ignoring Kant's Categorical Imperative). Because I have sought an increase in pleasure for my daughter, I have used the Utilitarian calculus but with a narrow perspective on "friends and family." My character in all this may also have some flaws. For one, I might have been too self-indulgent in looking for the increase of pleasure for my own family, forgetting to tend to the Golden Mean in educating my own character.

 

You can gain two points for each incident--one point for narrating the incident very clearly in terms of its main features; the other, for offering a complete and clear analysis of the event. So, you may gain a total of 20 points for this exercise, the point value being the same as what you would gain for a presentation.

Film Options for Spring of 2012

You may see Hunger Games; it's running in several theatres right now.

When you see the film, remember that sci fi tries to solve problems of our lives by placing them into a different reality. It's sometimes easier to analyze and solve our problems without the prejudices that our own time is likely to attach to those problems. To understand those problems more clearly, you may want to look at a few other pieces of fiction. For example, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" may help you gain insights. Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" may help. Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" may help. Once you've done that research and have also read some comments about these other stories, you are ready to face "Hunger Games." What I want to see you develop in your essay is an idea of what contemporary problems the film addresses. Think about sports; think about military; think about lex talionis (revenge); think about economic justice; and so on. You get the best grades if you come up with something that convinces me and that I had not thought of myself before.

You may gain up to 15 points on the participation scale for this essay.

You may see "Life, Above all"; it's showing at the Cinematique Theatre at 100 Beach Street. Check the web-site of Cinematique for times or call.

Your essay should focus on wrong-doings. What forms of repression can you find in the film? Then try to determine whether these repressions come from moral wrongs of some sort. Try to classify these moral wrong-doings as motivated by villainy, by systemic errors, or by ignorance. Make a case for the wrongs that you can detect from your awareness of the film. In the process of answering those questions, you might also think about the theme song: What gates are opening? Are they really only the gates of heaven? Why is the film dedicated to all the Chandas of this world? [Stay long enough to see the dedication as part of the credits.] You will probably have to do a bit of research about HIV-AIDS in Africa. Know what people believe about that disease. Your points for the film will increase with the sophistication of your discussion.

You may earn up to 15 points for that essay.

You may see The Help. The film is showing in several theatres around town.

The film is based on a novel and thus is fiction; however, some accurate historical elements are woven into the action. Having lived through a few of those years myself, I also had the feeling that the "look and feel" of the times was awfully close to reality. Now, here's your challenge: What was wrong with social justice, racial justice, and gender justice at that time was pounded in with a sledgehammer and too obvious to comment. However, where matters are still skewed today is not quite so obvious. What I'd like for you to write about--using supporting evidence from the film--is how one should go about remedying such injustices. It's simple to say things like "the best person for the job" or "color should not matter" or "love solves all"--but that's not what I'm looking for. I want you to write some very practical solutions as to how to solve such injustices before the society unravels. Be a fair-minded social engineer; then tell us something that will work. Consider the real facts of human psychology in your suggestions. History may suggest some strategies that may have worked and some strategies that did not work at all. Racial, social, and gender justice may not be here yet. Where do we go from here? What will work? Don't be negative; it's cheap to shoot people down for efforts they make. I want to read about some methods that will work even if many people in the society are too thick-headed to see where their community should be going. And don't narrate the film.

You may get up to 15 points if you do a good and convincing job of this essay.

Cowboys and Aliens?

Don't bother. If I never see another film with grunting and flailing aliens coming out of a spaceship with sophisticated technology, it'll be too soon. It's a silly film that links with all the Its, Blobs, and Godzillas of the Fifties. Forget it.

You may see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." The film is showing at several theatres in the area.

In the original series, Dr. Zira makes the return journey and brings her offspring Cesar, who then brings the apes to power. The new film also begins with Cesar but without the time loop. This version tackles some very important topics that affect us today. Address the issues, narrating bits of the film only where it supports an issue. You will also need to do some research to speak competently about this film. And don't run off as soon as the credits seem to begin to roll; another very important clue comes up during the credits that gives you an idea about what happened to humanity. Consider whether animal experimentation is always good and useful. If so, analyze the film to see where it is useful and where it is not useful and where it might even be dangerous. Then relate these insights to real-life animal experimentation. The film incident has some very real parallels. Also, what rights do or should primates have? What about transgenic animals? [Remember the mouse with the human ear on its back? How human is that being? What are the dividing lines between animal and human? Are they instituted merely because we say so? On what basis should one draw the distinction? Think about it; if you don't come back with at least a humongous headache, you haven't done your job here.

For a good analysis with some solid research, you may earn up to 15 points in the participation category.

Film Options for Summer A of 2011: Grey Films Are Dead Films.

 

You may see My Perestroika; it is showing at the Cinematique Theatre. But it may be there only for a short while, so don't delay.

The film is in Russian with English sub-titles. Let's practice an "empathy" essay with that film. Try to understand what it might be like to have your country change its values radically and fundamentally on you. For your essay, suppose that a radical value-change has taken place in your country. Try to anticipate what that might feel like. As you see the film, try to envision parallel events in your town, in your school, in your childhood. Then suppose all those rituals and rites associated with these values are going by the wayside. What would that do to your orientation? Right now, you feel comfortable relying on those values that you have heard from teachers, preachers, and parents in your childhood. Now all's different. How might that have affected you?

For a good parallel imagination to show in your writing, you may manage up to 15 points in the participation category.

You may see Potiche; it is running at the Epic Theaters in St. Augustine, Palm Coast, and--perhaps--also in New Smyrna Beach; it's anticipated for June in the Cinematique Theatre in Beach Street.

The film is in French with English sub-titles. If you have read Astérix et Obélix, you may catch the allusion to Falbala. Anyway, focus on feminism. First discuss which form of feminism that film advocates; use evidence from the film to nail down your analysis of what the film tries to persuade you of. Next, debate with the film. Do you agree? Why or why not? For that part, use real evidence from the real world. For example, is it OK in your world of values for a woman to live as lively a promiscuity or assertiveness or leadership skills or diplomacy as a man? Why or why not? Don't forget that I am interested in your reasoning, not in some notion of "correct solution." 

You may earn up to 15 participation points for a good and clear analysis combined with solid points of debate.

You may see Water for Elephants; the film is playing at several theatres around town.

Focus on one of the several moral problems in the film. Analyze that problem thoroughly. You may have to do some research of that time to gain a better understanding. You need not deal with all the issues, but you will find evidence for animal morality, age discrimination, love and obsession, prohibition, poverty and abuse, health-care violations, worker exploitation, and so on. Focus on one or a cluster of related moral issues. Do not narrate the film; instead, focus on the moral issues so as to analyze them clearly with evidence drawn from the film. Draw parallels to REAL LIFE to make your points.

You may earn up to 15 points for a clear and well supported analysis.

You may see Vision; the film runs at the Cinematique Theatre at 100 S. Beach Street.

Take your student ID for discounts. The film will be available for only one week. Hildegard von Bingen was a woman ahead of her time. A visionary in every sense of the word, this famed 12th-century Benedictine nun was a Christian mystic, composer, philosopher, playwright, poet, naturalist, scientist, physician, herbalist and ecological activist. 111 minutes. In German with English subtitles. Enjoy the film; then ask yourself what values or morals you have seen that might not work for people today. Do NOT narrate the film; instead, analyze values that seem alienating to you and ask yourself why you see those values as alien to your way of thinking.

You may earn up to 15 points for a clear and well supported analysis. Be sure to do sufficient research to be convincing in what you observe.

Film Assignments for Spring 2011

You may see Broadcast Blues. The film is on reserve in the Media Center of the Library.

Please treat that copy kindly; it's my personal copy directly from the director, Sue Wilson. First, see the film. Preferably, try to see it with a group of people from the class so that you'll have some excuses to talk afterwards. Your task is simple: In a well-organized essay, tell me whether the press and news media in our country are free. Note that the most difficult part of this assignment is to come up with a very clear definition of what a "free media" really is. You can get lots of facts from the film. If those do not suffice, feel free to do research and to report research in MLA or APA format. Show how the facts lead to your point of view.

Depending on the cogency of your essay and your command of the related facts, you may earn up to 15 points for this activity.

You may see The Black Swan. It's playing at several theatres in the area.

But do NOT wait; the film is brilliant and will probably disappear soon here. Note also that the leading actress won a Golden Globe for her work in that film. If you have seen "Fight Club," you are way ahead. If you love Tchaikovsky's music, you are even more way ahead. If you have seen "Swan Lake" and loved it, you are most way ahead. If you don't qualify on any of these conditions, you may still love the film although you might have to take a look at a synopsis of some of these other works of art. Now about the essay: Ethical reasoning should consider all ethically relevant facts for any ethical decision. These facts also include all facts of human psychology. As it makes no sense to ask a person of weak condition to win a boxing match against a heavy-weight, so it makes no sense to ask a blind person to win a motorcycle race or a "morally blind" person to take responsibilities s/he cannot see. Understanding human psychology is not all that easy because we cannot BE another person; we always think about others in analogy to what we would be like under similar circumstances. So, what is happening in terms of human psychology in this film? Try to understand the main character's guilt and her troubled relationship to her mother. Perhaps you should read a bit about paranoid schizophrenia, about a parent's living vicariously through his/her child, and about the pressures of being the "good" kid as well as about the sometimes quite hostile separation from one's parents when one becomes a young adult. Try to become aware of some of your own experiences of that process. Then focus on ethically "wrong" or "questionable" or "abhorrent" behaviors that loom large in this film in those terms. In other words, analyze the ethics on the backdrop of the psychological conditions involved here.

Your essay may earn up to 15 points, depending on its relative sophistication.

Film Assignments for Fall of 2010

You may see The Social Network; the film is showing in almost all theatres around town.

Once you have seen the film, try to write an essay addressing key issues. Here are a few hints. When Mark Zuckerberg's lawyer leaves at the end of the film, she suggests that Mark is not really an ***hole but that he is trying so hard to be one. Is she right? What kind of character is Mark Zuckerberg, according to the film? Note that the film makers admit at the end that some characters, settings, and actions are somewhat fictionalized; but that the film essentially rests on fact. So, my questions here address the characters in the film; they are not making claims about any real people. Look at the people that Zuckerberg associates with. What kind of characters are they? Analyze them in terms of virtue theory. Take another close look at the  handout about Aristotle before you begin writing. You may also consider virtues of Stoics and religious traditions if you wish. Give reasons and quote from the film to make your case. Also, try to analyze whether your confidence in Facebook has increased or decreased after you have seen the film. Again, give some solid reasons for your view. This essay should be more than an opinion poll or questionnaire. Offer good reasoning.

You may earn up to 15 points for this essay--depending on the quality of your reasoning.

Film Assignments for Summer A of 2010

You may see City Island; it is showing at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna until this coming Thursday.

Call the theatre for times, but I believe the film shows at around 1 p.m., at 4:30 p.m., and around 7 p.m.

The family obviously has problems. You are a virtue theorist. Some virtues are obviously lacking; the family needs to develop those virtues. But the family also has a rock-bottom of admirable virtues; otherwise, they could never experience the final breakthrough at all. Analyze those virtues. What is it that the family are missing? What is the rock-bottom of their virtues? What's laudable about them? What could be better? Whom are they harming intentionally or unintentionally? What is the motivation for their lack of, particularly, the "honesty" virtue? Don't answer these questions discretely; don't narrate the film. Write a well developed essay while considering these questions as guidelines. 

A perspicacious analysis can make you up to 15 points.

You may see Un Prophéte; it is showing at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna until Thursday of this coming week.

The film is in French, Arabic, Corsican, and Italian--but do not despair: you can read it all in English at the bottom of each screen. Here's your thinking challenge: Using data and evidence from the film, explain what obligations the state has to people who are in jail. Explain which of these obligations the French state has not delivered on. Try to analyze the development of the main character. What is happening to him in terms of character development? In terms of all the various tensions in the film, consider also the contributions of the characters' ethnic backgrounds here. Does the film have a happy ending or not? Explain how you see that. Also try to come up with a reason for the title of the film. Is it just those deer? Is it the ESP experience of the dead character? Does it have something to do with self-fulfilling prophecy? What do you think?

You may earn up to 15 points for a good analysis; do not narrate the film because I have seen it already.

You may see Broken Embraces by Director Pedro Almodóvar with Penélope Cruz in Spanish with English sub-titles.

The film is showing at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna Beach and will be gone by Friday of this week.

The essay should focus on the question, "Who has wronged whom and why do you think that someone wronged anyone at all?" Note that you should not narrate the film; I've seen it already. But you should focus on the moral problems involved in the film. For example, is prostitution wrong even if money must be made or if a deadly sick parent needs money for a private clinic and private physicians? Where might prostitution become a wrong if it is not wrong to begin with? Is sexual exclusivity essential for any love relationship? Or is sexual non-exclusivity all right where people do not object to sexual non-exclusivity? What are the basic ingredients to a sincere sexual relationship? Is it enough to have helped a blind person across the street to become involved sexually with him? What should one's relationship be with one's children? Where has a movie maker gone too far? Does a film have greater value than the person sacrificed for that film? Take someone along to talk after you have seen the film. None of this will be obvious or jump out at you unless you explore these ideas with someone.

You may earn up to 15 points for a cogent analysis of this film. 

Film Assignments for Spring '10

You may see and write about "Avatar"; the film is running in several theatres around town. See it in 3-D or in simple format--depending on your cash resources.

The film considers several ethical problems. When you write about those problems, you may draw on evidence from the film. But you should NOT re-narrate the film. I have seen it, so I know what it contains. Focus on the moral issues. Consider specifically (1) the myth of the noble savage, (2) the myth of white man's burden, (3) colonial exploitation, (4) moral responsibility of soldiers and military loyalties, (5) the doctrine of pre-emptive strike, (6) sources of the film. Let me explain:

  1. You may have seen the "noble savage" in ads about our environment. There used to be some chief who'd squeeze out a tear as people were throwing their garbage along highways. However, the Anasazi (ancestors of the pueblo dwellers) have been found to have eaten human flesh as evidenced by petrified feces on ancient sites. The Colorado cliff-dwelling tribes left their areas most likely because they abused the soil; they had not figured out the four-acre system of the Europeans so that the soil would replenish itself with nutrients. Shaka Zulu may have had great visions for his tribe, but killing thousands was also part of his profile. Black Africans were ancillary in the enslavement of neighboring tribes. So what remains of the noble-savage myth? Germanic tribes butchered every single one of Varus' armies in the Teutoburg Forest. Would it not have been enough to defeat Varus? How realistic is the noble savage of "Avatar"? 

  2. You may have seen "Rabbit-Proof Fence" or you may be aware of so-called Indian Schools. The Australians and the US-Americans made an effort to re-educate natives in the traditions of white Europe. If you read about Indian schools and Aborigine schools, you may find that the Europeans held the view that they were somehow nearer to perfection than those dirty savages. It was up to the White Europeans to bring all these savages to the right religion, to the right way of thinking, and to the right civilization because the White European had the burden of right-educating the world of savages. The US-American dealing with natives of Hawaii or of Puerto Rico came close to the same stance. How true were those beliefs? Why did people believe these ideas? Do you know, for example, what happened to the native population of the Caribbean islands, where Columbus first landed?

  3. How did colonial exploitation work? Note that even today, developing countries export raw materials for a cheap prices. Developed countries add industrialization. Then the industrially modified goods are returned to the developing countries for a high price. That's the trade format that was essential for colonialism. How fair is that? Can you see the relationship between "white man's burden" and colonial exploitation? It's one thing we do and another we use to rationalize what we do, isn't it? Where were the spokespersons for these tensions in the film? What does the film say about these matters? How good do we feel about our world-wide corporations? Where do we feel as though we need to reign them in?

  4. What are the loyalties of soldiers in a war? Is it ever right for a soldier to point his or her rifle at his or her buddies? Would you have pointed your rifle at US-American soldiers if they had been ordered to shoot civilians as, for example, at No-Gun Ri of Korea or at My Lai of Vietnam? Is the German soldier of WWII blameworthy for what the German leadership demanded of him during that war? What about the soldier ordered to shoot civilians during a riot, as at Kent State University during the student riots of the sixties? How far must one evaluate one's orders to determine if the orders are morally sound? How about comparing the Avatar (cross-over) Jake Sully with an Arab-American? Several US-American soldiers of Arabic descent have turned their weapons against US-Americans. Were they as heroic as the film's avatar? Were they more courageous since they did not get immediate and unconditional recognition? How would you know when you are a justifiable and heroic avatar and when you are a blinking traitor?

  5. The military head of the expedition on the home tree announced that he would run a "pre-emptive strike." Is a "pre-emptive strike" ever justifiable? When is such a strike justifiable and when not? Suppose you must give your military buddies a good guideline on where to call foul on pre-emptive strikes. What guidelines would you give them?

  6.  Note that there is nothing particularly original about the film "Avatar." It relies solidly on matters historical. The giant tree that is home to the people occurs in Germanic myth as the world-ash Yggdrasil; a dragon is coiled around its roots to steady it. The goddess Eywa is the world soul of the earth "Gaya" or the goddess of pagans or Wiccans. You will recognize the native Na'vi as constructs from African natives and American natives and perhaps a bit of Australian natives. Is part of the film's appeal the deep collective guilt of our culture? The dragon riders come from Ursula K. LeGuin's dragon novels, and we've seen the jungle beasts respond to the call for help whenever we took a look at Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan. But despite that lack of originality, what appeals to us when we see that film? Would you have responded the same way to the GI with Arabic background who turns on his buddies?

The film contains many complex issues; it might not have done those complexities justice. You are here to tackle those complexities in essay format. There has been much discussion of this film on the Internet already. Guard against plagiarism, but do take a look at those sources also.

A well-developed essay that does justice to most or many of these moral issues may earn you up to 20 points. Note that 10 or 15 points are usual for relatively simple issues; this one is complex indeed.

 

Film Assignments for Fall '09

You may see 2012; it's showing in several theaters around town.

Option 1: When the earth is about to experience a global catastrophe, the rulers and managers of the world have foreseen the trouble to come. They have commissioned the building of several huge arks to make sure that the emergent globe will accommodate human continuation. Analyze the plan of stocking the arks from what you have seen in the film. Compare and contrast that plan with what you would see as a way to perpetuate the essence and meaning of humanity. Be sure to understand what, most likely, underlay the arks' contents in the making of the film; be sure to also give your reasons for what the ark looks like for you. And remember that, if you don't have it on the ark, you won't have it in the future world. No, you will not be able to take along all of the people. What values do you really have that would guide you here? Solve also the problem of where to get the money for that massive undertaking. What's the method in the film? What would be yours?

Option 2: Why do we take such great delight in destroying ourselves in so many different imaginative ways? Why do you like the film? What clues can you pick up on the delight of destruction by way of the joy or thrill that you might experience inside yourself? No, this cannot be a short answer of one paragraph or so. I want to see some sophistication in your analysis. Do we admire self-sacrifice? Why do we commit self-sacrifice? Might we need global catastrophe to give ourselves back the belief that people can be moral heroes, particularly because they're so scarce among us now?

For a thorough analysis and for sound reasoning, you may earn up to 15 points for each essay; NEITHER essay is likely to be a short one if you do good work.

You may see Men Who Stare at Goats; it's showing in several theaters around town.

The film is a spoof on a variety of themes, some of which are mainstays of US-American pop culture. Ask yourself what precisely is it that the film is spoofing. Is it making fun of the gullibility of our citizens in that they tend to believe all kinds of silly stuff from the likes of the sci-fi channel? Is it making fun of the US-American military? Is it making fun of the military's involvement in Iraq? Is it making fun of the media? What value does it lampoon, and what values does it hold high? Think about these questions. Then present a well-argued essay that persuades the reader with evidence from the film to believe that the film supports some values and that it attacks some others. While the film is funny, you may not find the humor to be very obvious. A bit of thinking and discussing may be necessary. Take a friend or two for the dialog.

For a convincing and thorough analysis, you may earn up to 15 points.

You may see "Surrogates."

It is running in several theaters around town. "Surrogates" is a science fiction film that raises some interesting questions of values and ethics. See it with a friend or with friends; then talk about it before you attempt to write about it. Science Fiction typically extrapolates from our own reality. We use surrogacy of many forms. When your legs don't get you there fast enough, you'll use a car, which is a surrogate for your legs. What other surrogates do we use consistently? Where do we draw the line between allowable surrogates and non-allowable surrogates? How much is too much? Are we not denying our humanness also when we put on glasses or night goggles? What about telecommuting, working at a job without being there? Where is a reasonable limit of what we can do or should do?

A thoughtful analysis may gain you up to 15 points. And I want evidence from real life to supplement your analysis. Do not narrate the film; I've seen it.

You may see Inglourious Basterds [sic]. The film is showing in several theatres around town.

I want you to think about what values the film persuades you to believe. In which directions of historical interpretation does that film push you? Has Tarentino treated this topic ethically responsible? Is the historical presentation pushing you to understanding human motivation? Or is the film pushing you to "us-them" and "we, good--them, bad" or "we, smart--them, stupid" kind of thinking? Does it help you deal with nations that go wrong? What might help you deal with the depiction of "THE ENEMIES" is to reflect about, say, Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun. Dr. von Braun worked with the rocket program of Peenemünde in the construction of the V1 and V2 missiles. Von Braun was a Sturmbannführer of the SS, a high ranking officer. According to some historical analyses, von Braun himself is said to have selected concentration camp inmates for slave labor. In fact, he may well have been guilty of having tolerated the death of some 20,000 inmates of the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora in northern Thuringia. And yet, we have never said anything about him critically when he worked with NASA. Would he fit the caricature-like evil people that the film depicts?  Less controversially than von Braun, Werner Heisenberg also was a high ranking officer in the SS. And yet, the fact rarely enters into our deliberations about his uncertainty principle, doesn't it? How would these people have fit into the film? The film also seems to indicate that the holocaust was a major motivation in the US entry into the war. Is that a correct view? Or is that a view one that we would like to believe? How fair is Tarentino in his historical deliberations? Do some research. Note that if von Braun and Heisenberg did not know of either the holocaust or, in von Braun's case, the death of the inmates of Mittelbau-Dora in his own project, who then SHOULD have known enough of the holocaust to fight a war or an underground war for it?

Those are some of my questions; perhaps you'll discover others. For a thoughtful analysis, you may gain up to 15 points.

You may see In Love We Trust. The film is showing at The Bookstore in Ormond Beach. The Bookstore is located next to D.B. Pickles about halfway between Granada and Hand Avenue. When you write your essay, be sure to indicate the nature of the moral problems in the film. Who are the moral agents--the ones who decide an action? Who are affected by the action? What does the culture contribute to the nature of the problem? What would you have done in similar circumstances? Why might your action be the same or different from what the moral agents in the film decided? Who has acted wrong? Who has acted right? What principles have been involved? And don't forget: Do NOT NARRATE the film; I've seen it. The film will show this week (August 22 to 25) only. For times, check out http://www.cinematique.org.

You may earn up to 15 points for your essay.

You may see District 9; it's playing at several theatres around town. Focus on the ideological content of the film What values do we share with the aliens? How are we different? Look for archetypes (patterns of events or behavior that display at different levels of our experiencing. For example, the strong hero who rescues weak maidens in distress is a kind of archetype; you'll see it again and again in variety of stories. Various forms of self-sacrifice may be archetypal.) What patterns do you see in this film? Note that science fiction extrapolates from our reality. It places our events into a different setting where we are less encumbered by our own social taboos and thus will think about problems in a more neutral way. What human events did you see? How about the notion that, because someone is different, that person must be somehow dumber than we are? Have you see that before? In what contexts did you see that? What does the film tell you about how we are to live? Go with a friend or two when you see the film, and plan to talk about it afterwards. Not everything is clear immediately. Ask yourself what lasting value the film conveys. I'm mainly looking for evidence that your essay deals with the questions I have raised, that you have some original insights, and that you have backed up your thoughts with evidence from the film. AND DO NOT NARRATE THE FILM; I've seen it.

You may earn up to 15 points for this film.

Film Assignments for Spring '09.

Today, Friday, March 6, 2009, you have two opportunities for gathering points.

(1) You may see Transsiberian.  The film is showing at The Bookstore in Ormond Beach on Nova near the intersection of Nova and Hand and the other intersection of Nova and Granada and opposite of D.B. Pickles restaurant. The film deals with several highly immoral issues. Some are seriously opposed to Kantian views; others are seriously challenging notions of character (Aristotle); others follow or challenge a Utilitarian ethics; and others yet deal with command-of-god issues. Even with a Utilitarian view, you may find justifications tough to come by when you frame the problems more widely: the young couple, the group of "friends," the Russian society, the world as a whole, the enforcers and their jobs. I am sure that the film will have you at the edge of your seats, but be sure to take a friend so as to engage in some discussions afterward. Be sure to bring a ticket-stub as your evidence. Visit www.cinematique.org to find out about the schedule, but I believe that the film will show tonight, next week Thursday, and next week Friday. You may gather up to 15 points for your essay, and I'll toss in another five points if I see that you have thoughtfully considered all four basic moral philosophies: Aristotle, Kant, Mill, and command-of-God.

(2) Major "Mac" McCallister, a consultant of the US Marines will speak on "Defeating the Iraqi Insurgency Thru [sic] Tribal Alliances: Winning Hearts and Minds Through Mutual Respect." By posting a report about a controversial issue that will crop up, you may earn up to ten points. If I see evidence of your engaging in dialog at the meeting, I'll toss in another five points. So, be sure to identify yourself to me.

If you saw the theatrical performance of "1984" in the IC Auditorium, you may write an essay exploring parallels between contemporary issues and the society of "1984." A successful essay will tell about original insights.  You may earn up to ten points for this essay, depending on the originality of your insights.

You may see Gran Torino; it's playing at several theatres around town.

Kowalski's neighbors are Hmong. Research the Hmong to find out all you can about them. Where do they live today if not in the US? What did they do during a US war? What did the US do for them at the end of that war? When you have researched everything you can learn about the Hmong, write the essay about how that new knowledge has affected your viewing of the film.

Depending on the sophistication and the extend of your research, you may end up with up to 15 points for this task.

You may see Valkyrie; it still is playing in some local theatres. Check the listings.

Ask yourself under what circumstances you would be willing to assassinate your commander in chief if you were a soldier. Note that Klaus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg was an officer and had sworn the oath that the film begins with. The film does not tell you much about why Colonel von Stauffenberg thought that Hitler needed to be assassinated. So, fill in the details. What were the circumstances that moved him? If you want to look at the "other side," you might also want to do a Google search for General Otto Ernst Reimer. Reimer was the one who struck down the Valkyrie rebellion. Who is right? Who is the hero? Stauffenberg or Reimer? Some of the footage of the accused before Judge Roland Freisler refers to the many murders that are going on. What indications do you have that the reference is to the holocaust? Is there evidence that the awareness of the holocaust motivates Stauffenberg? Hitler claimed that divine providence supported his cause; for that reason--he thought--none of the assassination attempts worked out. Would his view be a reasonable one, given the many assassination attempts? Was God looking out for him, as he believed? If he did have a divine mission, what might that have been? Be sure to do some background research in addition to the film.

Depending on the sophistication of your analysis, you may get up to 15 points for this essay.

You may see The Reader; it's playing at The Ormond 12 and at The Beacon 12. It's an outstanding film, so it won't be long in this area. If you decide to go for it, do so soonest.

The film is based quite faithfully on the novel by Bernhard Schlink entitled "Der Vorleser" [The Reader]. The book is available in English and in German; so if you don't like films, you may work with the novel in either German or English. This is not a simple film; it challenges all kinds of assumptions. Some issues to look for: Should a woman who is twenty years older than a fifteen-year-old proceed to have a love relationship with the fifteen-year-old? In the US, she'd spend time in jail. How does the relationship play out in the film? Does the young man suffer harm? Which is the more realistic view if you consider facts of human psychology also? What's your take? What's right? What's wrong? If I have to guard prisoners, what is my highest duty? Should I follow my duty as a guard and retain prisoners? Should I follow my duty as a human being and free prisoners under some circumstances? Are the facts always morally clear? How does one atone for a great wrong? What justice do the courts manage to develop in the face of the complexities of human beings? What was the duty of the young law-student and narrator at the trial? Consider matters of self-respect? Would you find it difficult to admit that you are illiterate? How far would you go to preserve your image of a literate person? Take stock at the end of the film? Whom do you have a great affinity with? Whom do you reject or criticize if anyone? Finally, how persuasive is the argument that Hitler did X in the process of discrediting X. Was that time in history morally perfectly clear? Or where the circumstances more murky than the "appeal to Hitler" argument would seem to imply? One word of advice: Take a friend; don't try to figure out this one on your own.

Depending on the sophistication of your response, you may get up to 15 points for this analysis.

You may see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; it's playing at The Ormond 12 and at The Beacon 12.

The film  may also play at sundry other theaters; check the listings, please. Once you've seen the film, ask yourself what the point might be. OK, people do not ever grown young from being old; that doesn't happen. So what's the film trying to tell you? What attitudes might it change in you? What might you think differently about? What about the synchronicity between male and female? Compare real life with Benjamin Button's. What are the genuine and deep differences between real and this indeed curious case? Touch also on any social commentary that the film might contain. Do you agree or do you disagree with what the film is trying to get you to believe? If you prefer reading, you may read the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald instead of seeing the film . . . or do both.

Depending on the sophistication of your analysis, you may gain up to 15 points for this one.

Film Assignments for Fall '08! 

Last date to submit film reviews is November 30, 2008! 

If you are going  to see it anyway, you may write about Zack and Miri Make a Porno. If you are turned off by potty humor, raunchy language, and mild nudity, then--PLEASE!--don't go see that film. It's in several theatres around town. If you see it anyway and realize fully that I'm NOT MAKING you go there, you may ask yourself the following questions: What values about love and sex does the film advocate? Again, support your answer from what the film offers; then ask yourself how realistically and plausibly the film deals with matters of love and sex. Again, the answers will be quite obvious; the film does not require a Ph.D. to figure out deeper levels of metaphoric or allegorical meaning.

You may earn up to 10 points for this essay.

You may see The Grocer's Son

The film is showing at The Bookstore on Nova in Ormond Beach on Thursday evening and on Friday evening. Check on it on www.cinematique.org. The film is in French with English sub-titles. It's fairly easy to understand, so the top score on this one is 10 points. Here are the questions I want you to contemplate for your essay on this film: The main character finds meaning and value in his life. What meaning and what value does he find? Do you agree with these attitudes as being essential and most important? Support your answer with evidence from the film and from your REAL world.

You may earn up to 10 points for the essay.

You may see Religulous.

The film is playing in a few theaters in Winterpark and other places in Orlando. This is a Bill Maher film. You know Bill Maher for being quite sardonically critical of what many people regard as their most sincerely held views. Be ready for challenge if you decide to see the film. When you have seen the film, you'll probably be quite emotional in a variety of ways. Once you have settled back into a calmer outlook, decide whether you feel more strongly against Maher's points or for his points. If you want to support his view, show in a well reasoned essay with factual support and solid research in what ways Maher is right; if you oppose his views, show in a well reasoned essay with factual support and solid research in what ways Maher is wrong and what he has overlooked. Ultimately, state what you see as the right view, being sure that your view relies on solid evidence and coolly rational reasoning. Again, Maher attacks points that many people are very, very sensitive about. The book tells you that when we feel attacked in an area we hold dear, we are most likely to revert back to childish petulance and mindless aggression. But don't go there. Deal with these issues in a solidly rational way.

You may earn up to 15 points for the essay.

You may see The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher).

Check on www.cinematique.org for the proper times and dates; it will show again this week on Thursday, October 16, and on Friday, October 17. The film will show at The Bookstore on Nova Road in Ormond Beach, across the way from D.B.Pickles Restaurant. The film depicts a counterfeiter group working for the NAZI government in Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen, just outside of Berlin. The film poses some interesting moral dilemmas. Note that Sorowitsch is a criminal but has a "heart of gold" behavior toward those close to him. He does advocate some fairly strong principles. Take some notes while you see the film to remember some of those principles. Another inmate advocates for sabotage of the procedure of counterfeiting dollars, even if that sabotage might cost some lives. Several people--including the guards--advocate simply getting along with the system. Sturmbannführer Herzog advocates such a position: He "runs with" systems; he never really was a communist nor is he really a NAZI now, he claims. Aren't we all doing our jobs in response to some pressure and in response to our own work ethic? Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Which one of the characters would YOU REALISTICALLY be in such a setting? Which one of the characters would you LIKE TO BE in such a setting? Back up your reasoning with evidence from the film. The film will run again Thursday evening and Friday evening of the coming week. And that's it.

You may earn up to 15 points for the essay.

If you attended the dramatization of diversity issues, you may develop an essay based on content from that dramatization. If you have experienced situations that were like those dramatized, you may narrate what you have observed or what you have yourself experienced. If you thought that any aspect of the dramatization was in some way not really fair, make your case with evidence and reasoning. The essay is due no later than four days after the event; in other words, you must produce the essay by Friday evening. You can buy two more calendar days if you turn in a sentence outline in the appropriate forum. You then have two days after I have returned your sentence outline to produce the essay.

You may earn up to 15 points for your essay.

Film Assignments for Summer A '08! 

Last date to submit film reviews is June 16, 2008!  "Letters to the Editor" must be in print by the day of Thursday, June 19, 2008.

You may see "The Savages."

The film is playing at The Bookstore on Nova in Ormond Beach ONLY on May 30--tonight--on June 5 and 6, 2008. Bring your student ID for a reduced admission. Tell the person there that you need the ticket as evidence for your teacher. The film seems OK for all ages: no violence, some mild sexuality. Ask yourself what intergenerational harms and values the film addresses. What motivations do we have for love, guilt, and generosity? What stands in the way of our becoming all we can be? Consider Wendy's and Jon's respective relationships. What do you learn about them and their motivations? You see only one scene of the Wendy's play. What does it tell you? Why is Jon's preoccupation with Brecht so significant? Analyze the film so as to explain its moral issues clearly to someone who has seen but not understood the film in the way you have understood the film. Focus on what motivates people and on how they form character. By the way, one of the tunes of the "Three Penny Opera" by Bertolt Brecht ends with the line "all human striving and yearning is in the end self-deception and self-delusion [alles menschliche Streben ist am Ende Selbstbetrug]." Look on YouTube for other excerpts to get a feel for Brecht.

As always, you can earn up to 15 points for an astute analysis.

You may see "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

The film is playing at The Bookstore on Nova in Ormond Beach ONLY on May 16--tonight--on May 22 and 23, 2008. Bring your student ID for a reduced admission. Tell the person there that you need the ticket as evidence for your teacher. The film is in French with English sub-titles. It contains some mild nudity, so govern yourself in terms of what you believe you should or should not see.

Here is the task: Decide whether the film is optimistic or pessimistic. Then defend your choice with evidence from the film in support of your view. I am looking for an air-tight and consistent reasoning process here.

As always, you may earn up to 15 points for an astute analysis.

You may see Gone Baby Gone.

The film is playing at The Bookstore on Nova in Ormond Beach ONLY on May 8 and May 9, 2008, at 7 p.m. Bring your student ID for a reduced admission.  The film contains "raunchy" dialog and plenty of violence. Please use your own discretion in making your decision whether to see it or not. But if you decide to see it, here are a few pointers for you to reflect about. The film touches on many of the issues that we will discuss in our class: the relationship between religion and morality, feminist ethics of caring, masculine ethics of justice, poverty and blighted neighborhoods, motivations in crime, determinism vs. free will, victimizers and victims that meet in a kind of circular recurrence throughout life. Here are a few directions you might want to go into as you reflect about the film:

  • Suppose you are a social engineer. You can revise the social milieu as you would deem proper to remedy wrongs and to increase pleasure and happiness. What changes would you make? Is the society as it is depicted in the film depicted realistically? Or is the filmmaker painting a too dismal picture of reality? Where are the flaws? What are the systemic problems? What could happen to make all better?

  • Ask yourself if the film comes to a happy end since justice is done or if the film comes to an unhappy ending. Make your case by reference to character and plot. Ask yourself which people try to change or succeed to change? Do the people who die deserve to die? Do some psychological research: If the people who die have become the way they are because of their own role as victims, do they now nonetheless deserve to die? Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys in this film? Can we decide between a "good" morality and a "bad" morality by way of this film?

  • The film is full of religious icons and religious imagery. What's the point? Which icons and statues seem to predominate? Does this tie in with the conflict between feminist caring and masculine justice? Does the film indict religion? Or does it support religion? 

You may earn up to 15 points for a mature and intelligent analysis of the problems that are being dealt with by that film. I recommend that you do not try to see this film by yourself. Take a friend with whom you like to talk about difficult problems. You will have only a minor chance of picking up on all the nuances of that film if you try to manage by yourself. The film left me very pensive and reflective; let me know how you reacted to it.

Film Assignments for Spring '08! 

Last date to submit film reviews is April 14, 2008!  "Letters to the Editor" must be in print by the day of Saturday, April 26, 2008.

Well, all right! Here is the one that is so "last" that nothing else could possibly be "laster." You may see In the Shadow of the Moon.

This film is running only at The Bookstore in Ormond on Nova Road next to DB Pickles. You can see the film there on Friday, April 4, at 19h00; on Wednesday, April 9, at noon; on Thursday, April 10, at 19h00; or on Friday, April 11, at 19h00. For other films of similar quality, check http://www.cinematique.org. The organization is not for profit and so is not permitted to advertise its films. But you can find out at their web-site what they'll show. Focus on the problem of extraordinary expenditure for space flight when, at the same time, people go hungry and die of hunger on earth. Deal with the space program critically. What justifies it? What causes you to believe that it should not have taken place? What harms may come from spaceflight and flight? Balance the dilemma. Come to some clear conclusions that are well supported with reasoning. Try to grow beyond a mere assertion of your self-interest.

Again, for a perspicacious analysis, you may expect up to 15 points.

Well, OK. This is the "lastest one of them all"; it's a Joe Gallo selection: You may see "The Bank Job." [Thanks for the suggestion, Joe.]

The film is still in several theatres right now. Based on a true occurrence, the film nonetheless is heavily fictionalized. To find out, stick around long enough to read the credits. You may recognize Vogel; he is played by David Suchet, most famous for his portrayal of Belgian Inspector Poirot on the BBC/PBS series. Ask yourself why this film ends with what appears to be a kind of happy end when in fact he has made off with some people's hard-earned money. Hmmm. Or was it really their hard-earned money? How do we define hard-earned property? What characteristics of our society bequeath upon us ownership? Note that many of the people who lost the content of their safe boxes in the vault never claim the loss. Why is that? Why are cops bribable? Why are decent or sort-of decent people poor? Why do we think that when sort-of decent people take hard-earned property from not-so-sort-of decent people, the moral balance has been re-established, instead of really going down the tubes? What value system governs the folks that this film is all about? Do you see them as Kantian with universalizable rules that treat no human as a means to an end and complete autonomy of decision-making? Do you see them as Aristotelian character-builders? What about calculators of good and bad results with a strong favoring of the good-result side? How do these people make decisions? The woman who arranges the deal is doing so as a consequence of having made a deal with the establishment that caught her smuggling drugs. We still do that in our judicial system as we speak. Should one be able to "make deals" with the powers of the state? Or should we have some system of reliable and consistent penalties in place for breaches of law? While the film might be a bit on the sensationalist side, it still provides many opportunities for reflection--particularly in light of recent events with the governor of New York State. See what you can do with this one, and--as always--take a friend for dialog.

You may earn up to 15 points for this one.

This is the last film opportunity for the semester--MOST LIKELY.

You may see 10,000 B.C.

This film by Roland Emmerich and Harald Kloser is running in several theatres around town. If you liked 300, you might just like this one also. Emmerich and Kloser work with several legends and traditions. Plato told about a lost continent named Atlantis. Tall people who were remnants of that once powerful empire sought to establish themselves elsewhere. According to the film, they were not very successful but may have given rise to some other cultural traditions that would blossom much, much later. According to forensic anthropology and archeology, humans settled the earth by leaving Kenya many, many years ago. Probably some of these groups did not lose all contacts instantly with each other. And if the earth was not very populated, slave traders might indeed have had to do some traveling to find slaves. Oh, and it has been pointed out also that the main character's name is "D'Leh," which, when you read it backwards gives you the German word "Held," a word which means "hero." Emmerich and Kloser are both German. Now here are your tasks:

If you are in the science-fiction class, evaluate the film as low fantasy or high fantasy or alternate history. Which elements of the film come from which of these traditions? Is the film literarily good? Or is it not? Make a case for your evaluation using evidence from the film. Compare it appropriately to other stories and novels we've read.

If you are in the philosophy class, what is the good society, according to the film? What statement does it make about god, gods, priests, and the social order? What is the origin of moral philosophy, according to the film? Cite examples to make your case. Once you have the concepts that the film tries to convince you of, debate with the film's message. Do you agree or do you disagree with what it attempts to convince you of?

If you are in the ethics class, begin with establishing the origin of ethics as the film ses it. Explore the relationship between humans and animals in the film. What are the gradations of moral awareness in people? Do you agree or disagree with these gradations? Why or why not? Are these gradations valid today still? If so, give evidence and examples; if not, give counter-evidence and counter-examples. Using examples from REAL life, argue that the film is right or that it is wrong. Explore territory between those two poles of "right" and "wrong."

You may gain up to 15 points for this assignment, the points depending on the wealth of supporting evidence and convincing reasoning that you offer.

You may see "Accessory to Murder: Our  Culture's Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper."

The film will show  on Friday, March 7, 2008, in the IC Auditorium from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It is sponsored by the Gay Straight Alliance and the Interest Group of Delta Lambda Phi.

Your essay based on the film may draw up to 15 points. Don't report the film; support or challenge its ideas.

 You may see "There Will Be Blood"; it is running at several theatres around town. It's also up for several Oscars.

Look at the film in terms of values that it advocates. Our US-American culture can be thought of as having two strong undercurrents, one being a strong capitalist and money-oriented orientation and the other being a strong religious orientation. Film critic Roger Ebert speculates that Eli and Paul Sunday may perhaps be strangely identical. You might ask what has happened to Paul Sunday. Played by the same actor, are the twins really twins? Or are they schizophrenically the same person? What might either interpretation do to what the film is trying to tell us or to convince us of? If H.W. is indeed an adopted son, how does the film handle Kant's categorical imperative that says that one must not use people as means to another end? What ultimate statement does the film make about capitalism? What ultimate statement does it make about religion? What world of values does the film leave us with? I recommend that you see the film with a friend so that you can talk about it. This is not easy entertainment; this is a film that requires a bit of thought.

You may gain up to 15 points for the essay; the number of points will rely on the sophistication of your analysis.

You may see "The Lookout"; it's running only at The Bookstore on Nova Road in Ormond Beach. And it's only running at 19h00 in the evening of Friday, February 1, 2008. 

When you have seen the film, evaluate Chris Pratt morally. What place should he take in the Moral Community? Is he or was he ever a rationally competent moral agent? Consider the problem of determinism. Note that this is a far more difficult question than you might think. Reason out your answer and support it with evidence from the film. By the way, do take your student ID; Cinematique offers a reduced rate for students.

You may earn up to 15 points for this essay.

You may see "The Bucket List"; it is running at a variety of theatres in the region.

Ask yourself whether the kind of friendship that the film portrays is a likely one to come about. Note that the friendship is across lines of wealth and lines of "race." Come to a conclusion about whether you feel that the film is plausible or life-like or implausible. Consider the film in terms of human psychology and reasonable social expectations. Also focus on the bucket list. Do you agree with the choices? Would you make different choices? Comment on the significance of the ending. Remember that you have four days after you have seen the film to post your essay. If you want to buy more time, post a sentence outline first in the outline forum. You have two more days for the essay from the date when I return your outline.

You may earn up to 15 points for the film review.

Film Assignments for Fall '07! 

Last date to submit film reviews is November 28, 2007!  "Letters to the Editor" must be in print by the day of Saturday, December 3, 2007.

You may see Gone Baby Gone.

The film is playing at the Ormond 12 and at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna. The film contains "raunchy" dialog and plenty of violence. Please use your own discretion in making your decision whether to see it or not. But if you decide to see it, here are a few pointers for you to reflect about. The film touches on many of the issues that we have discussed in our class: the relationship between religion and morality, feminist ethics of caring, masculine ethics of justice, poverty and blighted neighborhoods, motivations in crime, determinism vs. free will, victimizers and victims that meet in a kind of circular recurrence throughout life. Here are a few directions you might go into as you reflect about the film:

  • Suppose you are a social engineer. You can revise the social milieu as you would deem proper to remedy wrongs and to increase pleasure and happiness. What changes would you make? Is the society as it is depicted in the film depicted realistically? Or is the filmmaker painting a too dismal picture of reality? Where are the flaws? What are the systemic problems? What could happen to make all better?

  • Ask yourself if the film comes to happy end since justice is done or if the film comes to a unhappy ending. Make your case by reference to character and plot. Ask yourself which people try to change or succeed to change? Do the people who die deserve to die? Do some psychological research: if the people who die have become the way they are because of their own role as victims, do they now nonetheless deserve to die? Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys in this film? Can we decide between a "good" morality and a "bad" morality by way of this film?

  • The film is full of religious icons and religious imagery. What's the point? Which icons and statues seem to predominate? Does this tie in with the conflict between feminist caring and masculine justice? Does the film indict religion? Or does it support religion? 

You may earn up to 15 points for a mature and intelligent analysis of the problems that are being dealt with by that film. I recommend that you do not try to see this film by yourself. Take a friend with whom you like to talk about difficult problems. You will have only a minor chance of picking up on all the nuances of that film if you try to manage by yourself. The film left me very pensive and reflective; let me know how you reacted to it.

You may see Knocked Up. 

It's playing at several theatres around town. You also have until Monday, June 18, 2007 no later than midnight to submit the essay. The film is a comedy but deals with a variety of human relationships. Consider what we've discussed about marriage, sex, love, caring, and abortion. What does the film want to tell us about those values? Try to interpret the film's point of view; use evidence from the film to make your points. You may earn up to 15 points for a cogent analysis.

The Great Match tells the adventurous story of three heroes, none of whom have ever met, but who nevertheless have two things in common: first, they all live in the farthest-flung corners of the planet and, second, they are all three determined to see the 2002 World Cup final between Germany and Brazil on TV. The protagonists in this ‘global’ comedy are: a family of Mongolian nomads, a camel caravan of Tuareg in the Sahara, and a group of Indios in the Amazon. They all live about 500 kilometers away from the next town – and the next television – making their task a particularly daunting one. Nevertheless, these inventive people possess the resourcefulness and the willpower to achieve their goal. Jonathan Holland of Variety.com described the film as “a visually breathtaking, gently comic homage to the indigenous communities that are its subject and to soccer’s power to penetrate lives.” Check out http://cinematique.org. Bring your student ID to get a price reduction.  Sit on the floor in front of the first row--if you want.

Your topic is to find ethical problems or ethical dilemmas in the film or that the film gives rise to in your thinking. You can see the film at The Bookstore in Ormond Beach. Showtimes: Wed.  June 6 @ Noon; Thu. June 7th @ 7pm 

When you have seen the film and are getting ready to reflect about it, ask yourself what elements bring people together and what elements push them apart? Who--if anyone--is prejudiced and who is not? Does prejudice hurt or hinder the alliances of people? Look also at the relationship between people and technology; you may consider more than the TV sets, which are obviously showing some interesting ambiguities. Note that the Tuareg are a once wealthy tribe in the Sahara, feared very much for their fierce fighting spirit. The songs of the Mongols may sound like instrumentals, but they are not. The sounds are formed in the back of their throats and have an eerie and unreal quality to them. In the 2006 World Cup, a shaman of the Indios of the Amazon actually did travel to Germany and attempted to cleanse the playing fields of bad spirits. The ritual did not help Brazil since Italy took first; France, second; and Germany, third place. In the 2002 World Cup, Brazil and Germany went up against each other for the first time in a final match. Oliver Kahn of Germany was elected best player--you will see a glimpse of him in the film. Between Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo, I get confused who was what, but I do know that Ronaldo did not put on a good show in 2006--in my most humble opinion. 

Film Assignments for Spring '07! Last date to submit film reviews is April 13, 2007!  "Letters to the Editor" must be in print by April 20.

Enjoy the popcorn and the thinking! 

You may see "300." It's showing all over the place and everywhere.

When you have seen the film, do some historical research to learn more about Persians and Spartans and Greeks and their religions [Ahura Mazda] and their modes of warfare, etc. Then try to decide which values that the film seems to highlight or to communicate to the audience are super-imposed values from our time and which values do come from the time of the historical battle of the Thermopylae. Don't forget to research Darius the Great in addition to Xerxes. Note that Persia was an advanced culture, Darius having created legal systems that were more stable than the rather wildly primitive system of Sparta. Do you suppose that this re-interpretation of history has the Persians upset? After all, the film seems to indicate that the level of morality of Sparta was high and that the level of civilized Persia was low? Is that really correct? Since the information for that time comes to us through Greek historians, might there have been some bias? Perhaps the highly civilized Persian empire might have done some good for the rather savage folks of Sparta, suppose?

At the same time, don't forget to research Sparta's dual-king system, something that the film tells you nothing about. That's an element that indicates that Sparta was not quite happy with an absolute ruler either.  Note also that the confederacy of Grecian states made common decisions; Leonidas was not quite the outsider and daredevil that he is depicted as. Reflect also about modern computer-animation in video games as possible sources for the spattering blood and the bizarrely dressed fighters. So, Wikipedia may be a good place to begin, but follow all its various links to find out more. 

Two scenes leaped out at me right away. In one scene, Leonidas stood in the middle of dying Persian fighters remarking about the great and glorious values that Spartans hold; that scene reminded me of Heinrich Himmler's [head of the SS] remark about the great moral fortitude of German soldiers in the midst of fields of dead. Another scene has Leonidas remark about the need to fight to the last drop of blood. That was the order of Hitler to the German Sixth Army surrounded in Stalingrad. I sort of wondered whether the film was militarism on speed. Where does the "hooah" yell come from? Somehow I can't quite picture that one as ancient Sparta. Oh, and why do you suppose the Persian soldiers were so much dressed in the high fashion of Muslim soldiers of about 1000 years later? And what about the reference to the "immortals"?  Don't we have some modern parallels there? Suppose that's something that got the Persians upset also? And what's the potential for realizing that Xerxes continues to fight his dad's war? 

Did all the misshapen folks escape from the darker episodes of  Lord of the Ring? I cannot wait until someone decides to take up the story of the Amazons. Think of the sadistic potential for the festivities where this city state of all females captured males to make all the warrior women pregnant, with the men to be promptly killed after the impregnations. Well, I'm sure someone is going to think of that sooner or later.

A perceptive and convincing analysis might get up to 15 points.

You may see "Pan's Labyrinth." It is showing at the Beacon and at the Ormond 12. The film is in Spanish with English sub-titles.

If you are not up on the historical background, find out more about the fascist regime of General Franco in Spain and about the resistance fighters that worked against that regime. Explore the contrast between wishful thinking and imagined worlds and the stark reality of that time. What benefit does the little girl have from her fantasies? Describe the ethical interaction between people in the film. Some call a halt to their action when they are forced beyond a certain threshold. What motivates them? What is the power-relationship between people? How do fantasy and reality interact in that film? What general point does the film make?

You may earn up to 15 points for a good review and a clear analysis.

You may see "Notes on a Scandal." It is showing at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna Beach--and, no, I do not get kickbacks from the theatre.

Try to analyze who in this story is victim and who is victimizer. What is the human need that underlies the characters' relationship to each other? Be circumspect in your analysis. Some information gets to the audience indirectly. For example, the elderly teacher suggests gently stroking arms because that is what she did in her youth also. What does that wish suggest about her youth? What is the significance of loneliness, love, affection, and coercion? Is the young man a victim, as his mother seems to think? Is the art teacher victim or victimizer? Does she have strong borders; in other words, does she draw clear lines beyond which she does not permit herself to be used by others? Reflect about Kant's second formulation of the categorical imperative: you should never use other people or yourself as means to another end; instead, you should treat all people, including yourself, as ends in themselves.

You may earn up to 15 points for a sophisticated analysis of this film.

You may see "Volver." It is showing at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna Beach.

Ask yourself whether the film is a greater tribute to the feminist ethics of "caring" or to the masculine ethics of "justice." What should be the justice for two women who kill or cover up the killing of their husbands? Build a case from documentation that the film provides. Can you feel compassion for the women in the film? Is this film a milestone of a lackadaisical sense of justice? Or is this film a milestone for feminism? Use evidence from the film, but do not narrate the film. Assume that your reader has seen the film also.

You may earn up to 15 points for a good review and a clear analysis.

You may see "Letters from Iwo Jima." It is showing at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna and at the Ormond 12 in Ormond Beach.

General Kuribayashi reads a letter from an American POW. The US soldier's mother writes, "Do what is right because it is right." General Kuribayashi later gives that advice to his soldiers who are quite doomed under the hugely overpowering onslaught of Americans. So, WHAT IS RIGHT? Look at the viewpoints on what life is all about, on what values matter in this film. Several characters have quite different viewpoints. Where do your viewpoints settle here? Has your view of the Japanese "enemy" changed any as a consequence of seeing this film? 

You may earn up to 15 points, depending on the sophistication of your analysis.

You may see "Children of Men."  It may still be showing at some area theatres.

This is a science-fiction film. But it tries to highlight social problems of our own. Ask yourself what it's all about. What points of social justice or ethics does the film make? Where are the heroes and where are the anti-heroes? Where are the "good" guys? Where are the "bad" guys? Are we humans likely to set that high a value in our children? Does life really become borderline meaningless if we have no children?

You may earn up to 15 points, depending on the sophistication of your analysis.

You may see "Little Miss Sunshine." The film is showing at several theatres around town. I saw it at the Ocean Walk. Take your pick.

You probably have seen several films about zany families traveling across the country. In many respects, this film is of the very same type. However, you will see evidence of all kinds of "family values" that range from dysfunctional to deeply affectionately loving. Evaluate what you see. What values does the film seem to advocate? What values does it seem to criticize? Do not narrate the film, please; I have seen it. Assume that you are talking to someone who simply didn't get it, who simply thought that this thing was poking fun at old VW Busses. What is such a person missing here? Write a persuasive essay to tell that person what the film REALLY was all about, OK? Reflect also about other knowledge you might have about what's going on. Perhaps some aspects of your own family are showing here. Perhaps some aspects of the news (Jon Benet) might have an affect on this film. Think about it; then write about it. I suggest taking a friend to see the movie. This kind of film is easier to think about when you can talk to someone about it also.

You may earn up to 15 points for this report, depending on the sophistication of your analysis.

Film Assignments for Spring '06! Last Chance to Submit Reports: April 19.

This will probably be the last opportunity of the semester.  You may see "Slither." 

This film, perhaps of somewhat dubious overall quality, is playing at several theatres around town. Take your pick.  The film begins by posing a central problem when the teacher writes on the board that the fittest survives and comments that "fittest" does not necessarily mean strongest or best looking or most intelligent.  Look at the ambience of the classroom.  This teacher is probably one who on ratemyprofessor.com would manage a red-hot chili-pepper or several  Look at the reaction of the guys in the class when they react on the basis of their "nature."  Who ultimately is the most fit in this film?  The monster may be ugly, but then look around at the town's people . . .  The monster may be a bit impulsive in his manners, but then look at the cursing mayor . . .  The monster may be a bit calloused toward other humans, but then look at the town's people hoopla about deer season . . .  The monster may not show much of a moral sensitivity about the interests of humans, but then look at how the secretary reacts to the mosquito that pesters her . . .   What's best adapted and most fit, the kind of collective herd of humanity or the collective mind of the monster?  The film borrows a bit much from Romero's "Night of the Living Dead"; but if you go for that sort of thing . . .  Are you repulsed by the meat-eating monsters?  Hmmmm. Look around when you go to propellers next time.  Are you repulsed by the grossness of the pregnant monster-host and by its demise for its brood?  But try to remember the life expectancy and the damage to human mothers in societies that are not as technically advanced as ours.  And what do all these slithering slugs looking for openings in the human body remind you of--if anything?   Well, take a look, think about it, and report back.

You may earn up to 15 points, depending on the sophistication of your analysis

If you are very mobile or have a group of friends with mobility, you may want to see "Winter Soldier."  

The film will play as a special performance only one night at the Rinker Auditorium in the Lynn Business Center at Stetson University.  The film will begin at 7 p.m. on April 6. It will show only one time.  I have some guidance and some questions about the film below under the Assignments for Fall '06.  

You may earn up to 15 points, depending on the quality of your analysis.

You may see Jerry Levy as Karl Marx in Marx in Soho by historian and activist Howard Zinn.

  • The play will be performed in the Willie Miller Auditorium on Friday, March 10 at 5 p.m.; it will be repeated on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian-Universalist Society in Ormond Beach at 56 N. Halifax.

  • You may write an essay about social justice from a Marxist perspective and agree or disagree with that philosophy.

Depending on the sophistication of your essay, you may earn up to 15 points.

You may see Nunsense II: The Second Coming at DBCC's Theater--The play will run until February 25.  Performances are at 7:30 p.m.

How far may a play go in being critical of religion?  At what point does "good fun" and "comedy" turn into disrespect of religion?  Compare your experience of the play with what you have learned about the depictions of Prophet Muhammad in the European newspapers.  Try to determine where the proper lines are beyond which freedom of speech turns into anti-religious hate.  Or do you endorse the view that rigorous debate about religious issues in the open marketplace of ideas is something to be desired?

You may earn up to 10 points, depending on the quality of your essay.  Again, do not narrate; I've seen the play.

You may see Mrs. Henderson Presents; the film is now exclusively at the Beacon 12 in New Smyrna.  Look out for it elsewhere.

Do an analysis of what right action, wrong action, permissible action, forbidden action, ideal behavior, wrong behavior are going on in the film.  What really is obscene here--if anything?  What is beautiful in the film--if anything?  What harm is being done?  Is the harm--if it is done--well justified?  Supply good reasons for each of your "should" statements.  Warning: This film contains explicit nudity; do not attend if you are offended by such depiction.  Do not narrate the film; I've seen it. Focus immediately on the ethical problems.

You may earn up to 15 points, depending on the quality of your essay.

You may see Brokeback Mountain; the film is playing at various theaters around town.

First determine what Ang Lee's perspective is on the subject matter.  What's the point of the huge mountains, the wide scenery, the high mountain-sky, the ubiquitous rivers, and--in contrast--the miniscule humans.  At the beginning and at the end of the film, you see a darkened landscape--fractal-like rolling irregularly into the background--in the foreground of which you see a single truck or other vehicle rolling alone through the terrain.  What's the point? What does that scenery want to convey to you?  Once you have stated clearly what Ang Lee is trying to persuade you to believe, weigh in with views of your own.  Where is there a matter of free choices? Where is the action of humans like a stream that rushes forth, might bend a little bit here or there, but on the whole must go into a certain direction?  When you have completely understood the film, when you have fully fathomed the violence in the film, when you have come to terms with what characters can do something about and what characters cannot do something about, then try to verbalize your own "should" statements.  And don't be too hasty to judgment, lest you, too, might be judged hastily.  Note that the violence is conjectural in the case of Jack Twist's death, and it's flashback in the case of the homosexual whom Ennis Del Mar saw in his childhood.

You may earn up to 15 points, depending on the quality of your essay.  And do not narrate the film; I've seen it. 

You may see Munich; the film is playing at various theaters around town.

Usually, people whom we consider to be "our own" command more of our obligations than people who are not "our own."  Note, for example, that people will think nothing of giving the gift of a fancy new car to a son or daughter graduating high school, although they may know that in far-away lands children are dying daily of hunger.  Why are such wealthy persons doing those kinds of apparent injustices?  Well, the high-school graduate is part of the "us"; the far-away suffering child is part of the "them."  While this caste-thinking or family-thinking may have its advantages for the survival of the clan, it may also be not entirely clean in some of its applications.  Think of the Mafioso, for example, who sets the "family" above all else; think of the warrior who sets obligation to his country above all else; think of the single-person operative who sets obligation to his or her ethnic group above all else; and so on.  You will find many allusion to this "us-them" problem throughout Spielberg's film.  Your task is to explain the "us-them" problem using specific examples from the film   Once you have done that, go beyond the film to suggest ways in which this world might improve ethically by growing beyond that problem in some way or other.  

  • Should we lose the distinction?  What would that entail? Recall John Lennon's song "Imagine" in that context.   

  • On the other hand, you may want to make the distinction between the "us" and the "them" stronger and more emphatic? What would that entail?  

  • How does Spielberg see this?  In other words, how effective is "us-them" in the context of the film ultimately?  

  • Note the final confrontation between Avner and Ephraim.  Who is going where in terms of this problem?

You may earn up to 15 points for an analysis of the film and the ethical problem.  Post your essay in the appropriate forum, please.

Film Assignments for Fall '06! Last Chance to Submit Reports: November 27.

You may see Guys and Balls [Männer wie wir] at the Daytona Beach Film Festival at the Museum of Arts and Sciences on Nova Road.

The film will show Sunday, November 6, at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, November 8, at 4 p.m.  Does the film give a fair portrayal of gays?  What--if any--universal values does the film show?  Is this a cheap comedy appealing to prurience? Or do we have something more substantial here.  What were your views about gays before the film? What were your views afterward? Did the film cause any changes in your thinking? You may earn up to 10 points for seeing this film and dealing with the values it seeks to communicate.

You may see Winter Soldier; it is showing at the Daytona Beach Film Festival at the Museum of Arts and Sciences on Nova Road.

The film will show at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9.  Ask yourself how soldiers modified the Moral Community in terms of their actions in Vietnam.  What can we do to avoid such developments?  Or should we learn to accept such developments?  What speaks for one or the other viewpoint?  Stay long enough to talk to the Scott Camill, who is one of the soldiers being interviewed in the film.  You may earn up to 15 points for a full development and a sound treatment of the dilemmas here.

For 8 points:

You may see Wallace, Gromit, and the Were-Rabbit.  

  • Discuss what values the film asserts about technological innovation and its relationship to nature and small-town mentality.  
  • The film also alludes to other films.  Do you know which ones?

You may see The Exorcism of Emily Rose at just about any theater around town.  

For as many as 15 points:

Write an essay to determine if the sentence is just and justified.  Consider--but do not answer one question at a time--the following problems:

  • Is it more important to be factually right or to be sincere and authentic?

  • Is it possible to be a "man of faith" in one context and a "man of facts" in another?  Note that this is a claim by the prosecuting attorney.

  • Is the defending attorney right in asserting that all is possible?  To establish possibility, consider the following problems.  [Note that a round square or any contradiction is not possible, so could any of the following problems move demon possession from "possible" to "impossible"?]

    • Can God cede powers to evil demons and not lose either his or her goodness or his or her omnipotence?

    • Is it possible that evil demons can resist God's command where God is omnipotent?  Or is the priest in some way a powerless representative of God?

    • Can evil demons speak a variety of languages?  And what is the point of an evil demon addressing someone in a language that the person does not comprehend?  In other words, if the evil spirit is so powerful, why is s/he so linguistically inept?

    • A strong tradition in ethical theory is the belief that we should not use other people or ourselves as means to another end but always as ends in them- or ourselves.  In other words, we should not "use" us or other others for other purposes that are fundamentally harmful to us even though the overall goal may be beneficial to others.  But in Emily's vision, Mary asks her to "instrumentalize" herself.  Is Mary likely to act against common morality?  Or is anything Mary does by virtue of her doing it morally right?  

By the way, I believe that the epitaph on Emily's tombstone is from Philippians 1:19.  Check it out; then let me know.  [I didn't take a notepad and probably should have.]

For full 20 points:

Do all the above.  Then consider that the film claims that it is based on an actual occurrence.  However, when the credits roll, the makers of the film end with the disclaimer that all events and persons are fictitious and that any similarity to any persons living or dead is purely accidental.  So, which is it?  Do your research; then write into your essay how far this is reliable stuff and how much is no more reliable than a fairy tale.  Then try to decide what ethical obligations the makers of films have to be truthful with their audiences.  Could an ill supported sensationalism harm an audience? How far can we allow poetic license to creators of popular fiction?  Note that Plato would have banned all creative writing from his ideal republic because he thought that such writing and theatrical plays would simply mess up the rational mind of the people.

You may earn up to 15  or even 20 credits for this one--depending on the sophistication and the breadth of your analysis.

You may see March of the Penguins at the Act One Theater [former N&S Cinemas] behind the mall.  

Try to determine whether animals--in this case, the penguins--act out of a sense of morality, instinct, evolved trait, or some other feature.  Try to show where people are different or alike.  Do we, too, use morality from an evolved and evolving natural tendency of our species?  What makes these penguins different from us?  Try to develop the basis of such a difference or the basis of the similarities. Defend them philosophically.

You may earn up to 15 credits for this one--depending on the sophistication of your analysis.  Do go soon; the film has been running for quite a while.

Film Assignments for Spring '05: Last Chance on April 18!

Instructions: You may see The Downfall.  The film is also showing at the Act One Theatre behind the mall.
  • Write an essay that answers the following questions by way of drawing on evidence from the film:
  • What obligations do young people have for understanding and researching the possible wrongdoings of their country?
  • Where does loyalty stop, even if one has sworn an oath of loyalty?
  • What is the purpose in life? What really does ultimately matter?
  • Which, if any, people are truly villainous? Why do you think so?
  • Which, if any, people are truly moral heroes? Why do you think so?

You may earn up to 10 credit points for this one; the actual number depends on the sophistication of your analysis.

Instructions:  You may see The Woodsman.  The film is showing at the Act One Theatre [former N&S Cinemas] behind the mall.  Take your student ID; the Act One gives student discounts, I believe. Here are a few questions to get you started thinking.  Note that this film connects to our discussions about free will at the beginning of the semester.
  • What strategies does Walter use to preserve choices?
  • What influences can you detect on Walter's decision-making process?
  • Who is the woodsman?  Why does Walter turn into the woodsman?  [The woodsman is thought to be the person who rescues Little Red Riding Hood from the belly of the wolf, in some traditions of the fairy tale.]
  • Once you have understood Walter's motivation in becoming the woodsman, reflect about what people in our culture react to with heightened anger. What does that tell you about our culture and its motivations?  
  • As alternative, consider Vicki's reflections about the actions that her brothers did to her.  She says that she still loves her brothers.  Why does she not react with violence toward them?
  • Consider Walter's brother-in-law's violent response to Walter's asking about the brother-in-law's feelings about his own daughter. What does that tell you?
  • Why does Walter change his mind about having the little girl in the park sit on his lap?  Note that the beating scene happens immediately after his concern about the girl's relationship with her father.  
  • If you recall high-school cheerleaders and the film "American Beauty," you may want to pursue the cultural theme a bit further.
  • Listen also to Patti Labelle's song at the end of the film. This song about "watching me" sets up all kinds of ironic contrasts and tensions. Comment on those.  Who all is watching whom?  Is God really the big voyeur in the sky?  Or is He the divine equivalent of Sergeant Lucas, the parole officer?
  • Ultimately, try to determine whether Walter acts from free will, a kind of determinism, or a kind of soft determinism?  

You may earn up to 10 credit points for this one; the actual number depends on the sophistication of your analysis.

InstructionsYou may see Vera Drake.  It's playing at the Act One Cinema:   I want you to write an essay about the abortion issue, using elements of the film in the argument.

  • What kind of person is Vera Drake?  

    • What is her motivation?  

    • Is she genuine and sincere?  

    • Why does she endanger a person?  

    • Does she make money? 

    • What does she think she is doing? 

  • What kind of person is Lillian Gray, the woman who gets the contacts for Vera Drake? 

    • While she goes without punishment, how would you rate the two women--Vera and Lillian--on a scale of moral worth?  

  • Consider wealth and poverty.  

    • How did the wealthy young lady solve her "problem"?  

    • How do the poor solve their "problems"?  

    • Whom does the "person protection act of 1861" really protect? Whom does it hurt?  

    • Do we still  have elements of this kind of social unfairness in our systems today?  

    • What would the termination of abortion rights do to people, in your estimation? 

  • What is the relationship between Vera and the law?  

    • Are laws really so obviously clear to normal people?  

    • The judge justifies his sentence on the basis of deterrence?  Does that work?  

    • Consider the discussion in jail between Vera and the other two abortion helpers. What insights does that conversation give you about deterrence or recidivism?

  • Take another look at the abortion issue.  Where do you stand after you have seen the film?  Justify your stand.

You may earn up to 10 points for this assignment.

InstructionsYou may see Hotel Rwanda.  It's playing at the Act One Cinema but may come also to other theatres around town since it had Oscar nominations. I want you to do a list here, not an essay, so I do not offer the "outline first" service here

  • Make a list of all moral agents and other participants--and that should include also agents invisible, not present, in the background, etc.

  • Decide what specific acts these agents were responsible for or what acts they clearly were NOT responsible for and, thus, were clearly not blameworthy or praiseworthy for.

  • Classify the acts of agents in terms of the categories of how we judge moral action.  Take a look at the representation of such categories in the form of the relevant diagram.

  • What categories of human community do agents, victims, and other participants fall into?  To decide that matter, use categories from the form about human community.

You may earn up to 10 points for this assignment.

InstructionsYou may see Sideways.  It's playing at several theatres around town.  I want you to contemplate only one question: 

  • Does sex require commitment?  

  • Use information from the film to make your case one way or the other.  

  • You may also challenge the plausibility of the characters in the film; in other words, perhaps the director and the writer of that film skewed the facts away from what REAL LIFE is likely to be.  

  • Feel free to post an outline first.

You may earn up to 10 points for this assignment.

Instructions: You may see Kinsey.  I saw it at Act One Cinema [former N&S Cinema], but it may play at other theatres out of town also.  This film is interesting from the perspective of the social importance of scientific research.  The film is historically reasonably accurate.  You may still check out Alfred Kinsey's report at various libraries.  Once you have seen the film, reflect about the following before writing your essay:
  • Can the social sciences lead the way for moral development?  Why or why not?  Reflect about evidence from the film that might support your view here. 
  • Did Dr. Kinsey's report motivate us for a step forward or backward in terms of moral development?  
  • Depending on whether you see the report as a step forward or backward, reflect about what the point is of an ethical system. What are we trying to achieve?
  • Dr. Kinsey's father refers to his early masturbation-experience by mentioning a painful brace that he had to wear. This is accurate information.  Research the history of moral dealing with male masturbation to make sure that you understand Dr. Kinsey's father's reference.
  • What does Kinsey say about human sexual behavior in the most general terms?  Does he seem to draw the line somewhere?  Would he recognize something such as "deviant behavior"?
  • Kinsey alludes to the Bonobo Chimp.  If you don't know anything about Bonobos, look them up.  Several web-sites deal with this primate.  If we were to take lessons from the Bonobos in creating peaceful and non-violent societies, what would we have to do?  Would the result be a morally "good" society?

Think about all of these; then write an integrated essay.  Do NOT answer each question discretely.  You may earn up to 10 points for this report.

Don't forget that "rateyourprofessor.com" suggests that you begin early with these kinds of assignments in Schlieper's class. <grin>

Instructions: You may see Bright Leaves.  The film is playing at the ACT ONE CINEMA [former N&S Cinemas].  This film may be of particular interest to you if you come from one of the tobacco-producing states.  Note that Act-One Cinema offers reduced rates to students, so take your student ID with you.
  • This film appears to be full of ambivalences.  Try to determine the difference between good and evil in that film  
  • While the film discusses a variety of "evil" consequences, you may be hard pressed to try to pin one of those evil consequences on an evil person.  
  • Look for tensions between the religious values, the economic values, the social values, the entrepreneurial values, the interpersonal values, and so on.  
  • What is the overall message of the film?  
  • What is it trying to convince you of?  
  • As you make your case, cite evidence from the film in support of your view.

You may gain up to 10 points for this analysis.

Look below for films with yellow background: You may see the DVD of those films; however, you must also see all added features of the DVD.

Film Assignments for Fall '04: Last Chance on December 1!

Last-Chance Instructions I: You may see Hukkle at the N&S Cinemas.  The film is one of the most intriguing "whodunits" you have ever seen.  If you have read Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, you may find the film to be more easily accessible.  Ask yourself about why fairly massive wrong-doing does not appear to be much more than a hiccup in the placid environment of an idyllic countryside.  Give me evidence that you have understood the film by presenting similar occurrences from similar surroundings.  If you are not from a small town, this may not be a good topic for you.

If you show clearly that you have understood the film and that you can think beyond it, you may earn up to ten points for the essay.

Last-Chance Instructions II: You may see Motorcycle Diaries, also at the N&S Cinemas. The film is about a most interesting trip through South America on a 500cc Norton in the early 1950's.  

  • Why did the main character's later life turn out the way it did?  What experiences molded and shaped him?

  • Why was he murdered in 1967?  Why would the power that saw to his death dislike him so much?

  • What new insights did you get about the main character that you may have glossed over before?

  • Could you see yourself stepping into this character's footsteps?  Why or why not?

  • Are you now looking at the Cuban Revolution differently than you did before you saw the film?  What changes--if any--did you undergo?

  • Is the main character a moral low-life or a moral superhero?  Try to defend your analysis.

A thorough analysis may yield ten points for you with up to five bonus-points for any discussion of modern political moral implications.

Instructions: You may see The Incredibles.  It is playing at several theatres around town.  The N&S offers $5.00 matinees and student discounts.
  • Try to determine dominant values in the film.  What "family values" does the film portray?  Where have you seen such values before? Do any of these values or patterns appear in your own family?
  • Speculate about the superhero theme.  It's peculiarly US-American.  Why would this country develop such a theme?  Where might it come from?  What effect does it seem to have on US-American thinking in terms of ethical obligations to others?  What are the positive aspects of this thinking?  What are the negative flip-sides of this type of thinking?  Which US-Americans might see themselves  as superheroes?  What harms may come from such a vision?
  • Bonus: Look for visual references to other science-fiction or adventure films in The Incredibles.  There is at least one to 2001 and one to Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow.  Simply make a list of these allusions.  List the titles referred to and a brief description of the comparable scenes.

You may earn 10 points for this assignment, plus one half point for each successfully identified reference.

,,Als sie die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen - denn ich war ja kein Kommunist. Als sie die Sozialisten und Gewerkschafter geholt haben, habe ich geschwiegen - denn ich war ja keins von beiden. Als sie die Juden geholt haben, habe ich geschwiegen - denn ich war ja kein Jude. Als sie mich geholt haben, hat es niemanden mehr gegeben, der protestieren konnte."  [Pastor Martin Niemöller, der acht Jahre im KZ war.]
When they came for the Communists, I kept quiet--for I was no Communist.  When they came to get the Socialists and the union organizers, I kept quiet--for I was none of either.  When they came to get the Jews, I kept quiet--for I was no Jew.  And when they came to get me, there was no one left who might have protested.  [Pastor Martin Niemöller, who spent 8 years in a concentration camp.]
Instructions: You may see Rosenstraße.  The film is showing at the N&S Cinema behind the Volusia Mall.  

Set up clear ethical principles by which you can determine when your nation has stopped being a state of justice and has become a state of  injustice.  Once you have clear principles for such a condition--you can use examples from the film to make your case--decide what moral obligations you have if such a development occurs.  Do not  offer as principles that everyone starts to wear German uniforms, curses in German, and screams "Heil Hitler" while clicking heels.  If something like that were to happen, it won't announce itself in such a clumsily obvious way.

This is a difficult topic for which--if you are excellent!--you can earn up to 15 points.

Instructions: You may see A Dirty Shame.  The film is showing at the N&S Cinema behind the Volusia Mall.  The film purports to be a comedy and is distributed by Walt Disney's Buena Vista.  This film of perhaps somewhat questionable value is rated NC-17.  If you object to fairly explicit sexual material, don't go there.  I don't think that the film is likely to be showing for more than one week.
  • Try to determine whether anyone's rights of freedom of expression would be hurt if films such as this one were to be censored.  What is morally more desirable: suppressing such films or allowing rugged freedom of speech?
  • The film makes a joke of sexual addiction.  Do you think that sexual addiction is indeed an illness-like addiction or that it is more likely to be simply uncontrolled behavior.  You may have to do some research here in addition to seeing the film.  
  • What are our moral responsibilities in terms of sexual behavior?  What does the film say? What do you say?  Do you agree or disagree with the film?
  • The film also lampoons self-help groups for addictive behaviors.  Evaluate self-help groups.  Is the film right?  Or are those groups helpful?  Do these groups offer a form of morality by peer pressure perhaps?
  • What is the stance of clergy in this film?  Is the film right, or do you know of a different reality?

You may gain a maximum of 10 points for this assignment.

Instructions: You may see Control Room.  The film is showing at the N&S Cinema behind the Volusia Mall.  The film is a documentary that offers different perspectives on the war in Iraq, on media ethics, on the role of the USA, on Arab civilians in Iraq, and on official statements from the government, the military, and the media.  

  • Try to determine what feelings the film gives rise to in you.  Why do you feel the way you do?  What reasons do you have for your support of that faction that you feel in support of?  

  • Several factions discuss lies and deceptions. What lies and deceptions do you see? Why? What are the reasons for your views?  

  • Try to pick up on some specific issues relevant to military ethics, political ethics, the just-war tradition, or media ethics.  What party seems to have those concepts right?  What party seems to be wrong?  Work through some specifics. 

  • Also, draw on some knowledge you may have had before you saw the film.

You may gain up to 10 points for this assignment.

Film Assignments for Summer B, 2004

Instructions: You may see Saved!  It's showing at the N&S Cinema behind the Volusia Mall.  No, I don't get kickbacks from the theatre. <grin>  

This film contrasts two notions of Christian values.  One set of those values, the film makes fun of--and some of the action is hilarious indeed.  The other set of values seems to emerge as the film proceeds.  Try to analyze very clearly what those two sets of values are.  Do you think that the criticism of the first set is reasonable and right?  Do you think that the second set of values is reasonable and right?  If Jesus is your moral hero, which values do you believe Jesus would identify with?  Why do you think so?  Use facts from the film while you analyze the film's main message.  Use facts from real life while you are trying to define what's right and what's wrong with what the film says.

You may gain up to 10 points for this assignment.

Instructions: You may see Goodbye, Lenin; it's showing at the N&S Cinema being the Volusia Mall.  If you go before 6 p.m., you can get in for $5.00 only.  The film is in German with English sub-titles.  

The film implicitly contrasts three systems of government and economics with specific ethical implications on the people who live under the system.  While capitalists frequently believe that the downfall of the East-European countries clearly shows the demise and ineffectiveness of Communism, the film makes a much more subtle point about distributive justice and injustice in an economic system.  At the end, the film points out that the central character was leaving a country and believed in a country that probably had never existed in her terms at all.  In other words, the communism of East Germany had a reality and an ideal.  When the East Germans  became "free" in the capitalist sense, many did not feel happy at all with that kind of freedom.  If capitalism is wrong and if the old system was wrong, what kind of country is it that the central character believes in but has never really experienced?  Where is the social justice the film does seem to support?  This may be a topic that is too difficult or perhaps too esoteric to be of general interest; but if you have had experience with East European views or if you have a thorough understanding of Marxism, you may find this a most interesting matter to think about.  Once you have analyzed what the film is saying, try to agree or disagree with the film, making sure that you have your facts and resources together.

You may gain up to 10 points for this assignment. 

Instructions: You may see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11; you may get the DVD for this assignment.  Note that the DVD has additional features that you have not seen in theatres.  I want to have you focus on the special features of the DVD in addition to the film.  Report what in the special features caused you to reflect more deeply, which features changed your mind about something, which features give you knowledge that you did not have before, and what the renewed exposure to this material has done for you.  
  • Your essay should focus on Moore's central charge of immorality: The current administration is using this country's poor people to fight another country's poor people so that the wealthy can lead very comfortable lives and get even wealthier without sacrificing anything whatsoever.
  • Do you agree with Michael Moore or do you disagree?  Note that you may find an essay of agreement easier to write since Moore gives you in the film all the ammunition you may need; if you disagree, you may have to do some digging and researching of your own.  
  • Remember that I do not want flat assertions: "He's wrong; the President is right; that's my opinion; like all people, I have a right to my opinion; and so you cannot give me anything but an "A" if I simply tell you my opinion."  That kind of an argument will draw an F-.

You may gain up to 15 points for this assignment as a DVD review. 

Instructions:  You may see I Robot; it's showing at a variety of theatres in the area.  Select one of the following options:
  • Try to decide what the film says about corporate motivation and corporate ethics.  Once you have a clear view of what the film says about corporate ethics, try to agree or disagree with some very specific and researched examples of your own.  
  • Try to come to terms with Artificial Intelligence.  What are the potentials of Artificial Intelligence? When do you know that a robot or a computer has stopped being a machine and has approached being a rationally competent moral agent?  If you have watched StarTrek's New Generation, you may recall the trial about Data's dismantling; those concepts might help.  The film also alludes to StarWars, to 2001, and to Tron [Tracer On--for BASIC programmers]; some helpful ideas may come from those films also.

Opportunity: Yes, you can write two essays about this film by selecting both options.  Maximal points for each essay: 10 points.

Instructions:  You may see Super Size; it's available on DVD with added features.  Be sure to see all the added features also.  Decide what the borders are between individual responsibility and corporate responsibility.  Is the fact that some corporations have a worldwide presence a problem or not?   Report what in the special features caused you to reflect more deeply, which features changed your mind about something, which features give you knowledge that you did not have before, and what the renewed exposure to this material has done for you.   
  • Focus on the moral agents: Individuals, corporations, government, health agencies, and physicians.  Who has what responsibility?  Who is experiencing harms?  
  • How are corporations motivated?  What is the value of honesty in dealing with corporations?  
  • What kind of research do corporations invest in?  
  • How much is the problem a problem typical of a capitalist society?  
  • Consider also media ethics.  What is the likely motivation of the maker of the film? 
  • What facts do you know of in the REAL world that will help you decide responsibilities, harms, and required changes?  Draw from your own experience.  
  • Finally, put all of what you see in the perspective of abundance in one part of the world and dire need in other parts of the world.  Where do we have responsibilities? Where are we doing harm?  
  • Compare the tobacco trials. If we know what we know here, why does the tobacco empire not do something in the Third World?  Are we doing likewise with fast food?  
  • Please do NOT answer question by question. Reflect about all; then write one coherent essay with one coherent thesis that is well supported with facts and evidence.  
  • For the summer only: you may go for a third report and get credit if you wish.  Note that you must collect a total of 80 credits for a full 100 percent in this category.  Do get your grade calculator to make sense of what you must do.

You may gain up to 15 points for this assignment, but I want to see dazzle and some great research for those 15 points.  Do this only if you are truly motivated.

 

Film Assignments for Spring 2004

Instructions: You may see Monster.   it's available on DVD with added features.  Be sure to see all the added features also.  Decide what the borders are between the rights of the society to protect itself and the right of the individual to have his or her dignity preserved.    Report what in the special features caused you to reflect more deeply, which features changed your mind about something, which features give you knowledge that you did not have before, and what the renewed exposure to this material has done for you.  When you argue that Wuornos exercised her free choices, ask yourself also where you place the "freedom" of choices in terms of this course's attendance policy.  Do you have a free choice to attend or not to attend family events, for example?  Or is your choice in that case already compelled and so the teacher's requirements unjust?  Draw some borders here that are universal and not merely a cushy set-up for matters that concern you only.

Do a moral analysis of the film.  As you do so, ask yourself the following questions, but don't answer the questions one item at a time.  Weave all into a coherent, persuasive, and cogently argued synthesis essay.  

  •  What genuine choices does Aileen Wuornos really have?  What does she seem to know about the operation of our society, its structures, and its opportunities?

  • What culpability does Aileen's lover have?  Review the "Prisoners' Dilemma."

  • Why did Aileen develop the way she did?  Compare your options and opportunities in life with hers.

  • What job opportunities does Aileen have?  What could one do to offer more genuine opportunities for someone in her position without causing harm to one's self?  Note that if we can lighten the harm for others without taking on harm for ourselves, we are probably under a greater onus for moral action than if we were to harm ourselves.

  • Try to understand compulsive action.  Have you ever acted compulsively?  Have you ever felt yourself acting while standing outside of yourself unable to intervene in what you were doing?  [OK, I know this sounds stupid and silly, but try really hard to find some emotional experiences where your action appeared to be that way.]

  • Practice empathy; put yourself in Aileen's shoes.  What would you have done differently at what point if you had only her education and her emotional make-up and her abuse?  If you find no point of genuinely free choice as a point of departure from what she did, can you truly find her culpable?

  • Do you feel that the death penalty was proper for Aileen Wuornos--knowing now about her what perhaps you did not know before?  If you were the ultimate dictator of this society, what structures might you change to accommodate people such as she?

  • Compare the people in the "Last Resort" to the kind of people you know. What's different and what's the same?

You may gain up to 15 points for this assignment because it is very, very difficult—if you take it seriously and think deeply about human psychology.

Instructions: You may see In America. The film is showing at N&S Cinemas behind the Volusia Mall.  Matinees cost $5.00; I believe the evening show costs $7.00.  

Do an analysis of the values depicted in the film:

  • What kinds of relationship values does the film show? 
  •  What is the value of 'caring' in the film? 
  •  Did you learn anything about values of family, poverty, immigration, 'race' relationships, and so on.

You may gain up to 10 points for this assignment.

Instructions: You may see House of Sand and Fog. The film is showing at N&S Cinemas behind the Volusia Mall.  Matinees cost $5.00; I believe the evening show costs $7.00.  

Do an analysis of the film.  

  • What choices have people have made to get themselves into the predicament they're in?  
  • It may be easy to pinpoint faults of various people, but consider the plausibility of their faults in light of their backgrounds also.  Would Col. Bahrani have made all the same decisions if he had not come from the Shah's failed regime, for example?  
  • What values do these characters project?  
  • What instances of "character"--in the Aristotelian sense--do you see in the film? Is anyone in the film all-out evil?  
  • How useful are the categories "evil" and "good" in the analysis of the film?  
  • What powerful pull is there from love, affection, emotion, and power relationships?  [If you have seen "Monster," you may be able to draw some comparisons here.]  Warning: This film is not for people who cannot take fairly strong feelings.  
  • This is not an "entertainment" film, I think; this is clearly a "thought" film.  As with all film analysis, don't forget that the screen writer and the director have a vision of what life and the world are like.  Do their views match yours?  Do you think that they're trying to sell you something implausible, something that simply could not be so?  
  • As always, be sure to research all your assertions.  Do not pull anything out of the "blue" of previous prejudices and assumptions.

You may gain up to 15 points for this assignment because it is very, very difficult—if you take it seriously and think deeply about human psychology and cultural dependence.

OK! I saw it!  You may analyze Butterfly Effect in terms of the ethical theories we have discussed. 
  • What kind of world does the film need to work out as it does? 
  • Must the world be a deterministic world?  
  • Must the world contain free will?  
  • What does the film say about "free will" . . . and don't consider only the main character here?  
  • The film plays with many "what if . . ." situations.  How believable are those "what if's" developed?  
  • Does the film have a moral message?  Or does it merely provide a cheap thrill?  

You may gain up to 10 points for this assignment.

Instructions: OK! I saw it!  I sat through the Crucifixion.  I was surprised at the many Arabic elements in Aramaic. Did you notice that Yeshua speaks Latin with Pontius Pilatus?  Did you notice that Judas' so-called betrayal was actually an attempt to force Yeshua into political action since he, like many others, expected Yeshua to be the political messiah?  So here are some challenging thoughts for your theological analysis: 
  • In terms of ethics:  Yeshua tells everyone to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, and to love each other as he had loved them.  Ignoring all other strongly socialist messages that Jesus gives also, how are Christians doing in terms of Yeshua's teaching?  I want a devastatingly honest appraisal here.  And I want consistency and no cheap outs like he knows us to be incapable of doing what he wants us to do.  I suspect he wouldn't have given the message if he hadn't thought we could do it.  As you discuss this, revisit several standard ethical problems: gay marriage, world hunger, military actions (he who uses the sword will die by the sword--Yeshua was a pacifist.], sharing, economic advancement, terrorism, smoking, sex, and so on.  I don't want the old diatribe, stand-by stuff; let's try really hard to figure out what Yeshua would want if he were to be around today.

This essay is about Christian ethics.  I want a full treatment.  Depending on how many problems you bring into this issue, you may gain up to 15 points.  But, again, I am looking for outstanding quality.

Instructions:  You may see Hidalgo.  This film is playing in several theatres.
  • Your essay should focus on the importance of a sense of ethnic identity in the development of a kind of Aristotelian self-realization.  In other words, can you be all you can be if you do not have a sense of ethnic identity. To understand the problem, see the film.  
  • To appreciate the problem, think also about yourself or other people you have daily contact with.  
  • I suspect that this assignment might be interesting to reflect about, but the issue in the film is fairly straightforward and relatively easy to understand.  

You may gain up to 10 points for this assignment.



Reinhold Schlieper