978-1457663543 Chapter 10

Document Type
Homework Help
Book Title
The Film Experience: An Introduction 4th Edition
Authors
Patricia White, Timothy Corrigan
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CHAPTER 10
MOVIE GENRES: CONVENTIONS, FORMULAS, AND AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS
KEY OBJECTIVES
Understand why film genres attract audiences.
Describe the historical origins of film genres, and explain how they can change over time.
Define what conventions, formulas, and expectations are seen in genre films.
Identify the six major genrescomedy, the western, melodrama, the musical, the horror film, the crime film
and their subgenres.
Summarize how audiences understand certain film types as a way of making meaning through genre.
CHAPTER OVERVIEW
Chapter 10 focuses on genre, which may be defined as a category or classification of a group of movies in
which the individual films share similar subject matter and similar ways of organizing the subject through narrative
and stylistic patterns. The film industry uses formulas and conventions as part of its economic strategy to attract
repeat audiences, but genres also appeal to the human need for archetypes, rituals, and communication. The chapter
begins with a short history of film genre that covers its connections with the genres used to classify works of
literature, theater, music, painting, and other art forms; its prominence in the studio system; the development of new
genres in the postwar period; and the rise of New Hollywood, sequels, and global genres since the 1970s. It then
groups the various conventions, formulas and myths, and audience expectations, on which film genres rely into six
paradigms: comedies, westerns, melodramas, musicals, and horror and crime films. Finally, the chapter considers
some of the cultural values and traditions that have influenced and evolved around these paradigms and how generic
displacement and generic reflexivity work to distinguish revisionist genres from their classical predecessors.
This chapter demonstrates to students that identifying films by genre helps to place them in their historical
context by connecting them to other films, plays, books, and works of art that have come before. It establishes the
idea that a film is a dialogue between filmmaker and audience, and genre is an unspoken agreement on the language.
TEACHING THE OPENING VIGNETTE
You might begin the lesson on film genre by screening the sequence in Shaun of the Dead (2004) in which
Shaun and his friend first realize that they are surrounded by zombies. You could talk about how the movie borrows
conventions from classics such as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and 28 Days Later (2002). For example, other films,
such as American Zombie (2007), use the zombie as social commentary, while the boy-meets-zombie
romances Make-Out with Violence (2008) and Life After Beth (2014) heighten the anxieties of adolescence that are typical
of teen movies. Or consider the decision to make the Shaun of the Dead zombies slow-moving as an example of the ways
in which the movie relies upon our knowing recognition of genre convention. Finally, ask students
whether they can articulate precisely why the concept of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is so funny or describe the
effect on viewers’ bodies of combining horror and comedydo they scream or laugh? How does their
knowledge of film genres and conventions allow them to feel in on the jokes?
TEACHINGTHE CHAPTER
Our understanding of movies is a function of genre expectations. A film genre
is a set of conventions and
formulas repeated and developed through film history. Narrative, documentary, and experimental films each have
particular genres associated with their respective organizations. Emphasize to students that films rely on repetitions
and rituals; they train their viewers to become experts in genre conventions. Genre often governs our decision to see
a movie, and we return to those films because of our knowledge of, and expectations about, characters, narrative,
and visual style.
It might be useful to ask the class to name examples of movies in their favorite genres, as well as those they avoid,
when teaching this chapter. Under what circumstances do they seek out different genres? How do they use movie genres
to express certain cultural values or enact certain rituals? Ask them how a “date movie,” for example, differs from one
they’d see as part of a group outing. Are there certain genres they consistently turn to when they need to be cheered up,
like comfort food?
Teaching Technical Vocabulary and Key Concepts
When teaching technical vocabulary for this section, encourage students to construct their own narratives by
asking them to write essays and journal entries that apply terminology learned in class to the films watched. The
mastery of the vocabulary presented in this chapter is especially important, as film genre affects our viewing
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experience in such profound, yet subtle, ways that it can often be difficult for students to find the appropriate words to
discuss these concepts.
Another approach to evaluating comprehension could be to administer a short quiz after the screening. Ask
students to identify the movie’s genre. Is it a hybrid, or does it belong to a distinct subgenre? Have them describe the
expectations, formulas, and conventions at work, and identify the values being prescribed or described, using as
much technical vocabulary as possible.
TEACHING THE VIEWING CUES
The Elements of Film Genre, p. 344
For a movie you have recently watched, identify the genre and describe three conventions typically associated with
this genre.
This Viewing Cue would prompt a productive class discussion. Collate the conventions the students describe
and reintroduce them in the post-screening discussion. How many did they predict accurately? Which were missing,
and why?
Formulas and Myths, p. 347
Reflect on a film trailer you recently saw. Based on the generic expectations triggered by the trailer, what
conventions or narrative formulas could you expect in the film itself?
Ask students to answer this question in a journal entry. Encourage them to make connections between the film
trailer they watched and other trailers for movies in the same genre. At the next class meeting, group students by
movie genre based on the trailers they watched (for example, the students who watched trailers for horror movies are
in one group, the students who watched trailers for romantic comedies are in another), and ask them to discuss and
compare their findings.
Six Movie Genres, p. 348
Think back to a film you recently watched. Can you identify it as a particular hybrid and/or subgenre?
This Viewing Cue would make an excellent journal prompt or prompt for in-class discussion, allowing the
students to demonstrate their mastery of the vocabulary and the concepts covered in the chapter.
Musicals, p. 359
Watch a clip of a musical number from the musical La La Land (2016). Does this appear to be an integrated
musical, a theatrical/backstage musical, or something else entirely? What cues hint at its musical subgenre?
Even students unfamiliar with the film will be able to recognize the freeway dance scene, “Another Day of
Sun,” as an example of the integrated musical, as the emphasis is on everyday actions and common situations
(commuters stuck in a traffic jam). Consider introducing your students to some of the aspects of the Hollywood
musical that Jane Feuer discusses in her seminal work, “The Self-Reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment”
(Quarterly Review of Film Studies, Vol. 2, No. 3, August 1977, pp. 313-336), particularly “the myth of
spontaneity.” While the theatrical/backstage musical situates its musical numbers in the context of performance and
rehearsal, the musical numbers of the integrated musical emerge from moments of spontaneous self-expression. One
way of putting it is that there is no reason for the commuters to burst into song, whereas in the “Start a Fire”
sequence from La La Land, the reason why Sebastian is performing is because he is live on stage playing keyboards
in Keith’s band. Point out the differences between these two sequences will help students understand that La La
Land combines elements of both the integrated and theatrical/backstage musicals. For further reference, consider
implementing Rick Altman’s work on the musical, specifically “The American Film Musical as Dual Focus
Narrative” (in The American Film Musical, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), which elaborates on the
narrative structure of many Hollywood musicals. In La La Land, the focus is on two people whose lives intersect:
Mia and Sebastian. Compare this with West Side Story (Maria and Tony), Gigi (Gigi and Gaston), Across the
Universe (Lucy and Jude), and others.
Westerns, p. 365
Watch a clip from The Searchers (1956) online. Which characteristics of this genre are most apparent in its
iconography? How does this sequence use these generic elements in its own way?
Consider using this Viewing Cue to jog students’ memories. Ask them to take a few minutes to write d own the
generic characteristics of westerns before watching the clip of LaunchPad for The Film Experience, then comment
afterwards on how The Searchers conformed to or upended their generic expectations. What stuck them about the
landscape, the soundscape, the gestures?
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Classical and Revisionist Traditions, p. 369
Watch a sequence from Unforgiven (1992) online, and identify those features that align it with a classical Western and
those features that suggest a revisionist perspective.
This is an excellent opportunity for students to work collaboratively in small groups during class. Consider
having half the groups work on a list of the classical characteristics and the other half list the revisionist
characteristics and then ask each group to present evidence that proves on which side of the generic tradition the
film resides.
TEACHING HISTORY CLOSE UP, p. 370
While midnight movies exist outside of mainstream cinema, the practice of viewing them is a common ritual of
the film experience. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) enjoys packed midnight screenings regularlyand not
just around Halloween! Midnight movies challenge the ways we commonly think about film especially film
exhibition. While Pink Flamingoes could never find a home in a suburban multiplex due to its shocking and graphic
subject matter. Indeed, Waters’s early films were made precisely for a different market, and a different audience.
But not all midnight movies were. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) was produced by Warner Brothers and
distributed to mainstream theaters, yet it was a box office disappointment for the studio. But over time the film
became a cult hitrunning a remarkable 139 consecutive weeks as a midnight movie at New York City’s St. Mark’s
Theatre during the mid 1980s. For this and other reasons, the midnight movie has a unique and affectionate
relationship with its audience.
Discussion question: While many midnight movies are cult classics, it is useful to avoid conflating the two terms.
The term midnight movies” expressly appeals to a specific film experience, as the “History Close Up box states,
such films “historically were featured in the late-night screenings of small art or local cinemas.” What is the most
unusual time (and place) you have watched a movie, and what effect did it have on you as a spectator?
TEACHING THE FORM IN ACTION
Melodrama and In the Mood for Love (2000), p. 371
One of the most memorable things about Won Kar-wai’s film is its soundtrack, a mixture of classic songs by
Nat King Cole and original music by composer Michael Galasso. Crucial to the melodrama is the role of music the
term “melodrama” is a combination of “melody” and “drama, and the genre is rooted in the musical theatre of the
eighteenth century. Ask students to think about how music functions in Wong Kar-wai’s film, specifically Shigeru
Umebayashi’s “Yumeji’s Theme,” which recurs throughout the film in various forms. Music, both diegetic and non-
diegetic, can be used to heighten emotions and punctuate dramatic situations. Consider showing the “dance of
death” sequence from Douglas Sirk’s classic family melodrama, Written on the Wind, in which the wicked daughter
Marylee Hadley (Dorothy Malone) dances wildly to music from a record player while her bewailing father, in the
room below, suffers a massive heart attack. How does music function similarly in non-melodramas? Is it useful to
think of melodrama as a genre unto itself, or a dominant mode of all Hollywood films, regardless of genre? For
further reference, consider the work of Linda Williams, especially “Melodrama Revised” (in Refiguring American
Film Genres: History and Theory, ed. Nick Browne, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, pp. 42-88) and
“Mega-Melodrama: Vertical and Horizontal Suspensions of the ‘Classical’” (Modern Drama, Vol. 55, No. 4, Winter
2012, 523-543).
TEACHING THE FILM IN FOCUS
Crime Film Conventions and Formulas:
Chinatown
(1974), pp. 366-367
Chinatown represents the 1970s idea of 1930s hard-boiled detective fiction and 1940s film noir. Once they get
over how young Jack Nicholson is, students generally have an easy time describing how elements of the mise -en-
scène especially work to suggest earlier films, even if they’re a little shaky on when the story takes place. (Hint:
Point out Seabiscuit on Jake’s racing form when he’s waiting to hear Hollis Mulwray speak at the meeting.)
Discussion Question 1:
How do Chinatowns social and sexual attitudes diverge from what could be expressed
onscreen in the 1940s?
Discussion Question 2:
It is Jake Gittes’s job to look, to follow, to photograph. How does the act of seeing work in
Chinatown? What are some examples of clues that this private eye sees but fails to understand in time?
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ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS
Alternative Activity
FILMS CITED
Across the Universe (2007)
Adam’s Rib (1949)
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Alien (1979)
All That Heaven Allows (1955) All
That Jazz (1979)
The American Friend (1977)
Annie Hall (1977)
Barbarosa (1982)
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Black Swan (2010)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Body Heat (1981)
The Boss (2016)
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Boyz N the Hood (1991)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Bridesmaids (2011)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Bring It On (2000)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West (1899)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Captain Fantastic (2016)
The Car (1977)
Carrie (1976)
Carrie (2013)
Carrie Nation Smashing a Saloon (1901)
Cecil B. Demented (2000)
Chinatown (1974)
Clueless (1995)
The Conjuring series (2013-2016)
The Covered Wagon (1923)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Daddy’s Home (2015)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Dark Victory (1939)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Departed (2006)
66
Desperate Living (1977)
Détective (1985)
Devdas (2002)
A Diary of Chuji’s Travels (1927)
Don’t Look Now (1973)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Dreamgirls (2006)
Drive (2011)
Easy A (2010)
Exiled (2006)
The Exorcist (1973)
Fantasia (1940)
Far from Heaven (2002)
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Female Trouble (1974)
42nd Street (1933)
Freaks (1932)
The French Connection (1971)
From Show Girl to Burlesque Queen (1903)
Frozen (2013)
Funny Games (2007)
The Furies (1950)
The General (1927)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
God Help the Girl (2014)
Godzilla (2014)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
The Golem (1920)
Goodfellas (1990)
Gravity (2013)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Hairspray (2007)
Halloween (1978)
Hana-bi (1997)
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)
Heathers (1989)
Heimat (1938)
Heimat (1984)
Hell or High Water (2016)
High Anxiety (1977)
High Plains Drifter (1973)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Host (2006)
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Hunting Scenes from Bavaria (1969)
Identity Thief (2013)
Imitation of Life (1934)
Imitation of Life (1959)
In the Mood for Love (2000)
Infernal Affairs (2003)
The Inheritors (1998)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) It
Follows (2015)
It Happened One Night (1934)
67
Jaws (1975)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Juice (1992)
Kwaidan (1964)
The Killer (1989)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
La La Land (2016)
The Last Wave (1977)
The Left-Handed Gun (1958)
Les Misérables (2012)
Lethal Weapon series (1987-1998)
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Love Crimes (1992)
Magnificent Obsession (1954)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Malcolm X (1992)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
Metropolis (1927)
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Nebraska (2013)
New Jack City (1991)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Ordinary People (1980)
Pacific Rim (2013)
Panoramic View of Niagara Falls in Winter (1899)
Patton (1970)
Pennies from Heaven (1981)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Pink Flamingos (1972)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1953)
Police Academy (1984)
Porky’s (1982)
The Priest from Kirchfeld (1914)
Prometheus (2012)
The Proposal (2009)
Psycho (1960)
The Public Enemy (1931)
Ran (1985)
Repo Man (1984)
The Revenant (2015)
Revere the Emperor (1927)
Road to Perdition (2002)
68
Rock of Ages (2012)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Saturday Afternoon (1926)
Saw (2004)
Scarface (1932)
Scarface (1983)
The Searchers (1956)
Shane (1953)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The Shining (1980)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Sin City (2005)
Sing Street (2016)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Small Town Girl (1936)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Spaceballs (1987)
Spider-Man films (2002-2007, 2012-2014, 2017)
Spy (2015)
Stagecoach (1939)
Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
Star Wars (1977)
The Stepfather (1987)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kombach (1971) The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Touch of Evil (1958)
The Trapp Family (1956)
Triplets of Belleville (2003)
12 Years a Slave (2013)
22 Jump Street (2014)
28 Days Later (2002)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Underworld (1927)
Unforgiven (1992)
Vampyre (1979)
Viridiana (1961)
Way Down East (1920)
West Side Story (1961)
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The World’s End (2013)
Written on the Wind (1956)
Yellow Submarine (1968)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
You’ve Got Mail (1998)

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