The examination will consist of three questions, which I will select from those found below. These questions ask you to interpret the conception of political and social life expressed in these films. In doing this, please pay attention to both the story told and the manner in which it is told, in particular, the efforts of the director to give a visual style to the film. You need not endorse the interpretation of the films I have offered, but you should know them. You should definitely feel free to offer your own interpretations and reactions to these films. All reasonable (and not so reasonable) views will be welcomed. Whatever interpretation you offer, please be sure to defend your arguments with specific references to sequences and shots in the films. Above all, your answers should be as elaborate and detailed as you can make them.
Some of these questions asa for your opinion about or reaction to the films. You will not be graded on the content of your answer, but on the cogency, persuasiveness and detail of the argument you make for your view.
You will have three hours to take the examination, though you should not need all this time.
1. Political leadership and deception or moral compromise often seem to go hand in hand. Both Councilman Wynn in City of Hope and Reuben Warshasky in Norma Rae, deceive those they are trying to lead or compromise their own principles. Describe the process of political leadership as it is portrayed in these two films. Are the actions of Wynn and Warshasky justified?
. Political leaders often compromise their principles. Councilman Wynn and Mayor Baci in City of Hope certainly seem to do this. Yet, John Sayless attitude towards these two political figures is certainly different. Explain how Sayles views these two political leaders and why he thinks there is a moral difference between them. Do you think that Wynn a good model for politicians?
. A famous philosopher, Morris Raphael Cohen, once said:
There is no such thing as a self-made man. And anyone who thinks that he is self-made is no credit to his maker
A number of films in this class help us try to understand how the difficult political and social circumstances in which people are brought up constrain or limit them. Once we see these constraints, we are inclined to think that the larger polity and society must take action to help these people. And yet these films also suggest that men and women in these circumstances must take responsibility for their lives both as individuals and as members of a collectivity. Compare and contrast the ways in which the following films deal with these issues: City of Hope, Boyz 'n The Hood and either The Grapes of Wrath or Norma Rae.
. Collective political action, particularly on the part of small property owners and workers, has always been difficult in America. Describe these difficulties, as they are portrayed in two of the following films: City of Hope, The Grapes of Wrath or Norma Rae. All of these films want to make collective political action seem an appropriate response to difficulties in America. How do they do this? Do you find these films persuasive?
5. America is the land of individualism, in which each of us focuses primarily on our own advancement and well being and that of our immediate family. A number of the films we have seen have suggested that this view of political and social life is distorted or raises problems for us because our own well being depends upon our interactions with others in ways which we do not always see. And yet, few of these films fail to find something attractive about individualism in America. Discuss the tension between individual and collective life in Nashville and two of the following films: City of Hope, Boyz 'n The Hood, The Grapes of Wrath and Norma Rae.
6. In a number of films we have seen, a person who lacks much interest or knowledge in politics becomes caught up in political life. And, once involved, their lives change and they come to discover things about themselves that they had not known. They redefine their lives through political involvement. Discuss this theme as it appears in two of the following films: The Grapes of Wrath, Norma Rae and North by Northwest.
7. Many of the films we have seen suggest parallels between the quality of the lives of individuals in America and the quality of our public policies. Is North by Northwest such a film? One film critic has argued that
8. "Roger O. Thornhill and Eve Kendall have lived lives that are filled with deception of others while lacking in commitment to much beyond themselves. Both of them find themselves caught up in events that place them in danger, not so much because of the intrinsic importance of these events, but because they lack anything else to give their lives meaning."
Do you find this view of North by Northwest plausible? Explain, in some detail, why or why not. What does this view of the character and actions of Thornhill and Kendall suggest about the costs, consequences and reasons for American involvement in the cold war?
Why is comedy an appropriate vehicle for the kinds of social criticism found in Dr. Strangelove and Nashville?
0. We live, it is sometimes said, in a culture of celebrity. And sometimes the power of new forms of communication media, including photography, recording and film is credited with the creation of this culture. Discuss the role of celebrity and its connection to these new forms of media, as this is presented in Nashville and Love Crimes.
11. Trust in others depends upon a secure grasp on the difference between appearance and reality. Does this explain why trust in and commitment to others is so hard to sustain in our polity and society? Discuss in light of Nashville and North by Northwest.