Our assignment this week was to create a short activity for teaching film. There's a class wiki where students in previous semesters have posted their ideas; it also has a bunch of useful external links, such as a New York Magazine article on becoming screen literate. So, here's my contribution:
Activity for Teaching Film: What makes a good movie?
Instructions for student groups: Pick a year and find out the five films that earned the most at the box office that year, as well as the films that were nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. For example, in 2008 the top five earning films were The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hancock, and WALL-E. The five Best Picture nominees were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, and Slumdog Millionaire.
Discuss the similarities and differences among these films. Features to discuss include budget, use of special effects, cast, director, genre, length, marketing (both for the original release and for the Oscar competition), and any other factors you can think of. If you choose a year that is not very recent, discuss which of the films you have seen or heard of – does either award nomination or box office success seem to predict longevity? What criteria do you think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are using to select nominees? What criteria do you think determine the financial success of a film? Why do you think various criteria do and don’t overlap in the two categories? What are your personal criteria for a “good” movie?