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CMS 270 A: Perspectives on Film: Introduction

Meeting Time: 
MW 10:30am - 12:20pm
THO 101
Tweedie profile 21
James Tweedie

Syllabus Description:

Course Description: This course provides an introduction to New Hollywood cinema, with particular emphasis on its origins in the late 1960s and development in the 1970s and 1980s. It will consider both the new model of film production that emerged after the decline of the classical studio system and the artistic experiments that made this such a crucial period in the history of American cinema. Key figures covered in the course may include Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Warren Beatty, John Cassavetes, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet, the Maysles brothers, Mike Nichols, Gordon Parks, Jr., Arthur Penn, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, and many other directors, actors, writers, and producers. We will also examine the period’s revision of classical genres and the development of new ones, including the blaxploitation film, the rockumentary, and direct cinema. The course will conclude by examining the rise of the blockbuster as an industrial model and aesthetic form, as well as the emergence of an independent film sector, two phenomena that remain key elements of the movie world today.


Office Hours: Wed. 12:30-2:20

Office: B-519 Padelford 

TAs: Bronson Dowd: bronson.dowd@gmail.comGaurav Pai:



Lectures: The lectures will provide much of the historical and conceptual background necessary for this course. They will also introduce the type of film and sequence analysis that you will be asked to perform on the exams and possibly in your paper. You are strongly encouraged to attend all of the lectures. I will post the PowerPoint slides on the Canvas site after class (under “Files” and “Notes”) to help you review the material.

Reading: The reading will consist of essays and book excerpts available on our Canvas site as pdfs. This reading is designed to provide background or supplementary material that we won't cover in as much depth in class. It should usually be finished before the first class meeting each week, with one exception: essays that discuss individual films, which should be watched after the film. The exams will focus in part on material contained in the reading, so it’s important to remain current on these assignments.  

Screenings: The films are the foundation of this class. We will usually screen two films per week, moving in roughly chronological order from the 1960s to the early 1990s. There are no scheduled, in-class screenings for this course, but all of the films are available through UW Libraries and/or our Canvas site. I will post a link for each film on Canvas under “Discussions.” (I will show you how this works in class.) Most are also widely available through various online sources. (Nearly every film is available for rent from Amazon Instant Video. Some are available with a Netflix or Hulu subscription.) For additional basic information about the films (e.g., running time), see

Assignments: There will be two midterms held during regular class time, one on 02/05 (Monday) and one on 03/07 (the last Wednesday of class). Each midterm will count for 30% of the final grade. The exams will consist primarily of short answer or short essay questions focused on topics introduced in the lectures or reading and on clips from the films screened for this class. I will distribute a review sheet before each exam. There will NOT be an exam during Finals Week. An essay assignment (about 5 pages, double-spaced; 30% of final grade) will ask you to write a historical or critical analysis focused on the period covered in the course. A more detailed explanation of the essay assignment will be distributed midway through the quarter. The essay will be due on Canvas on [03/01] Extended to 03/02 by 11:59 p.m.

Active participation on the online discussion board is also required; it will account for the final 10% of the overall grade. Writing three posts of 100 words or more on the discussion board will count for full credit. Students are required to complete all evaluated assignments. Non-fulfillment of any written assignment listed above may result in a non-passing grade for the course.

Note on Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a serious offense. It undermines the fundamental mission of the university and sanctions are therefore severe. For information about plagiarism and academic misconduct, please see the UW Student Conduct Code: 

Disability-Related Needs: To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact UW Disability Resources for Students (DRS).


Reading and Screenings

All readings are available on this course’s Canvas site. Please watch the film or films listed for each week before the first class meeting that week. If you are unable to watch both films before Monday’s class, note that we will work through the films in the order they appear on the syllabus, so you should start with the first one and continue from there.


Week 1: What’s So New about New Hollywood?

01/03: Introduction to the Course

Reading: Geoff King, excerpts from New Hollywood Cinema.

Week 2: The End of Sentimentality

01/08: The Cinema of Sensation

01/10: Dropouts, Folk Heroes, and the Late 1960s

Screenings: Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967); The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)

Reading: “The Shock of Freedom in Films” (from Time Magazine); Robert Benton and David Newman, “The New Sentimentality” (from Esquire); Pauline Kael, “Bonnie and Clyde” (from The New Yorker); Jack Valenti, “Statement by Jack Valenti...” (from Screening Violence); Matthew Bernstein, “Perfecting the New Gangster” (from Film Quarterly).

Week 3: Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll (and Cinema)


01/17: Searching for America; Music and the Making of New Hollywood Cinema

Screenings: Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969); Gimme Shelter (David and Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1970)

Reading: Barbara Klinger, “The Road to Dystopia: Landscaping the Nation in Easy Rider” (from The Road Movie Book); Dave Saunders, excerpt from Direct Cinema.

Week 4: Old Genres, New Styles

01/22: New Cowboys and Gangsters

01/24: The New Documentary (part II)

Screenings: McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971); Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973); Harlan County, USA (Barbara Kopple, 1976)

Reading: None; note the extra screening this week.

Week 5: Guess Who’s Coming to Hollywood

01/29: Race, Politics, and Blaxploitation

01/31: The Margins of Hollywood

Screenings: Superfly (Gordon Parks, Jr., 1972); Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968)

Reading: Ed Guerrero, “The Rise and Fall of Blaxploitation” (from Framing Blackness); Ray Carney, excerpt from Cassavetes on Cassavetes; Todd Berliner, “Hollywood Movie Dialogue and the ‘Real Realism’ of John Cassavetes” (read only first half of essay; from Film Quarterly).

Week 6: The Godfather and New Hollywood

02/05: Film Schools and Cinephiles; MIDTERM #1

02/07: Offers and Refusals

Screenings: The Godfather (Frances Ford Coppola, 1972); The Godfather: Part II (Coppola, 1974)

Please note the length of the films (the first is almost three hours, the second is over three hours), and allow for enough time to see both of the films before class on Wednesday.

Reading: Stanley Corkin, “Longing for the Return of Vito Corleone: Race, Place, and the Ethnic City in The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972 and 1974), and Mean Streets (1973)” (from Starring New York).


Week 7: Martin Scorsese

02/12: Scorsese’s New York 

02/14: Scorsese’s Men

Screenings: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976); Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)

Reading: Robert Kolker, excerpt from A Cinema of Loneliness.

Week 8: American Art Cinema


02/21: Comic art; the second sound revolution

Screenings: Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977); The Conversation (Coppola, 1974)

Reading: Maurice Yacowar, excerpt from Loser Take All: The Comic Art of Woody Allen; Stig Björkman, excerpts from Woody Allen on Woody Allen.

Week 9: Conspiracy Theories

02/26: Stranger than Fiction

02/28: States of Exception

Screenings: All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976); Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1976)

Reading: Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (from Harper’s); John Walton, “Film Mystery as Urban History: The Case of Chinatown” (from Cinema and the City); John Cawelti, “Chinatown and Generic Transformation in Recent American Films” (from Film Genre Reader III).

Final Paper Due: [originally 03/01] Extended to 03/02 by 11:59 p.m. on Canvas

Week 10: Old and New Media

03/05: “Mad as Hell”; Blockbusters and Independents

03/07: Blockbusters and Independents (cont’d); MIDTERM #2

Screening: Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976); The Player (Altman, 1992)

Reading: Thomas Schatz, “The New Hollywood” (from Movie Blockbusters); Jon Lewis, “The Perfect Money Machine(s): George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Auteurism in the New Hollywood” (from Looking Past the Screen); David Bordwell, “A Stylish Style” (from The Way Hollywood Tells It).


Catalog Description: 
Introduction to film form, style, and techniques. Examples from silent film and from contemporary film.
Department Requirements Met: 
Pre-req to Declare Cinema & Media Studies Major
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 13, 2019 - 9:11pm