CMS 301 A: Film and Media Studies: Analysis

Spring 2024
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm / SAV 264
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

CMS 301: Film and Media Studies Analysis

Course Information
Course Number: CMS 301
Course Title: Film and Media Studies: Analysis
Meeting Times/Location: Monday/Wednesday, 12:30 PM - 2:20 PM (SAV 264)
Credit Hours: 5

Instructor Information
Instructors: Cain Miller and Calac Nogueira
Office Hours:
Cain Miller: Mondays/Wednesdays 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM and by appointment (PDL B534)
Calac Nogueira: Wednesdays 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM and by appointment (PDL B202)
Email: and

Course Description: Designed for CMS majors, this course will introduce students to essential concepts, theories, and methods of study related to cinema and media analysis. The purpose of this course is to strengthen students’ formal analysis skills, as well as to explore the historical, social, and political implications visual media can have. Students will be exposed to a wide array of visual media including classical narrative cinema, television, experimental film, documentary, and new media.

Learning Objectives:

  • Read foundational essays from the field of film and media studies.
  • Write thoughtful, well-supported analyses connecting a film’s form and style with its larger themes.
  • Practice sequence analysis through writing and discussion.
  • Identify historical, political, and ideological implications of film and media texts.

Assignments/Grade Breakdown:

  • In-class writing assignments (10%): During every class meeting, students will participate in in-class writing assignments. These writings will be more informal and will focus on specific media texts shown in class. The instructors will drop the two lowest grades for this assignment.
  • Discussion board responses (15%): Every week students will submit a discussion board response that relates to the assigned films and readings for that week. Students have the option to submit a response to either Monday’s materials or Wednesday’s materials (not both). Responses to Monday’s materials should be submitted by that Monday at 12:00 PM; responses to Wednesday's materials should be submitted by Wednesday at 12:00 PM. Students can submit a written response (100-200 words) or an audio file (roughly 60 seconds) that answers the prompt.
  • Sequence analysis (20%): Students will write an analysis of one selected sequence from one of the assigned films from weeks 1 and 2. Analyses should focus on the significance of cinematography, mise-en-scene, editing, and sound within the sequence.
  • Short paper (25%): Students have the option to write a paper on either realism or genre or feminism, race, or queer film studies. Students will choose which paper they would like to write. Both papers will require students to choose from a selected assortment of films curated by the instructors and analyze the film in relation to the course materials. Both options will have different due dates.
  • Final project (30%): Students will create a short paper, video essay, or short film on documentary, experimental, or post-cinema. Projects should demonstrate understanding of the formal and thematic characteristics of one of these categories.

Course Policies

Course Delivery: This class is conducted in-person. Students are expected to regularly attend class and participate in discussions of the course materials. While attendance is not monitored, students are expected to consistently attend class meetings should they expect to perform well on assignments.

Late Work Policy: The instructors will accept late work, though the assignment can be subject to point deductions based on how late it was turned in after the scheduled deadline. Work submitted late by a student with an excused absence will not receive point deductions.

Disability: Students may request disability accommodations through UW Disability Resources for Students:

Religious Accommodation: Students may request absences for religious accommodations through the registrar:

Academic Integrity: All work submitted in this class should be original. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to, instances of plagiarism and cheating on exams. Instances of academic misconduct are a violation of the UW Student Conduct Code and may result in an F for the entire course and other possible consequences. Use of AI to write your work is considered plagiarism.

For more information, visit:

Statement on Mental Health and Wellness: UW recognizes that maintaining mental health and wellness is important for all students. UW encourages all students to utilize campus mental health resources. For more information, visit:

Content Warning: Some of the material in this course may represent complex and difficult subject matter, including depictions of violence and sexual content. In the interest of our collective learning and growth, we should do our best to make this classroom a space where we can engage bravely, empathetically, and thoughtfully with difficult content.

The Department of CMS prepares students to critically analyze a range of topics and media forms, including challenging and controversial materials. CMS courses contextualize and historicize these materials in ways that promote thoughtful and sensitive engagement. The materials for this class have been chosen carefully and with intent, based on the most recent and relevant research and scholarship in this discipline and in related fields. If you have questions about the material, please make an appointment to speak with one of us.

We urge you to take care of yourselves however and whenever it becomes necessary. If you know that you are consistently triggered by anything listed above, please familiarize yourself with the material on the syllabus in advance.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Course Introduction and Narrative Structure

Monday (3/25)

  1. Course introduction and syllabus overview
  2. Lecture on Stuart Hall, encoding/decoding, and form v. content

Wednesday (3/27)

  1. Lecture on narrative structure and style

Watch: Psycho (1960), dir. Alfred Hitchcock (109 min.)

Week 2: Formal Analysis

Monday (4/1)

  1. Lecture on cinematography
  2. Lecture on mise-en-scene

Reading: “Six Films by Douglas Sirk” - Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Watch: All That Heaven Allows (1955), dir. Douglas Sirk (89 min.)

Wednesday (4/3)

  1. Lecture on editing
  2. In-class viewing: A Corner in Wheat (1909), dir. D.W. Griffith (14 min.)
  3. Lecture on sound

Reading: “Continuity Editing” - David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson
Watch: Blow Out (1981), dir. Brian De Palma (108 min.)

*Due: Sequence Analysis April 7*

Week 3: Realism

Monday (4/8)

  1. Lecture on Bazin
  2. Discussion of Germany Year Zero

Reading: “Ontology of the Photographic Image” - Andre Bazin
Watch: Germany Year Zero (1948), dir. Roberto Rossellini (78 min.)

Wednesday (4/10)

  1. Lecture: Bazin and the Long Take
  2. Discussion of Elephant

Watch: Elephant (2003), dir. Gus Van Sant (81 min.)
Reading: “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema”  (excerpt) - Andre Bazin

Week 4: Genre

Monday (4/15)

  1. Lecture on genre: the Western

Reading: "A Semantic/Syntactic/Pragmatic Approach to Genre" - Rick Altman
Watch: The Searchers (1956), dir. John Ford (120 min.)

Wednesday (4/17)

  1. Lecture on genre: the musical

Reading: "Entertainment and Utopia" - Richard Dyer
Watch: The Gang’s All Here (1943), dir. Busby Berkeley (103 min.)

*Due: Short Paper 1 by Sunday, April 21*

Week 5: Feminist Film Studies

Monday (4/22)

  1. Lecture on the male gaze and early feminist film theory

Reading: “Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema” - Laura Mulvey
Watch: Rear Window (1954), dir. Alfred Hitchcock (111 min.)

Wednesday (4/24) 

  1. Lecture on feminist histories

Watch: Barbie (2023), dir. Greta Gerwig (114 min.)

Week 6: Race and Film

Monday (4/29)

  1. Lecture on early cinema race studies

Reading: “White” - Richard Dyer
Watch: Night of the Living Dead (1968), dir. George A. Romero (96 min.)

Wednesday (5/1)

  1. Lecture on racial stereotypes and Black performance

Read: “Plastic Representation” - Kristen J. Warner
Watch: Bamboozled (2000), dir. Spike Lee (135 min.)

Week 7: Queer Film Studies

Monday (5/6)

  1. Lecture on implicit queer meaning

Reading: “There’s Something Queer Here” - Alexander Doty
Watch: The Wizard of Oz (1939), dir. Victor Fleming (101 min.)

Wednesday (5/8) 

  1. Lecture on explicit queer meaning

Read: "New Queer Cinema" - B. Ruby Rich
Watch: Far from Heaven (2002), dir. Todd Haynes (107 min.)

*Due: Short Paper 2 by Sunday, May 12*

Week 8: Experimental Cinema

Monday (5/13)

  1. Lecture on experimental cinema
  2. Discussion of Meshes of the Afternoon

Reading: TBD
Watch: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), dir. Maya Deren (14 min.)

Wednesday (5/15)

  1. Lecture on experimental cinema: appropriation film and self-reflexive cinema
  2. In-class viewing: Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 1963), A Movie (Bruce Conner, 1958)

Reading: TBD

Week 9: Documentary and Post-Cinema

Monday (5/20)

  1. Lecture on documentary characteristics

Reading: “6 Modes of Documentary” - Bill Nichols
Watch: Moi, un noir (1958), dir. Jean Rouch (73 min.)

Wednesday (5/22)

  1. Lecture on Post-Cinema

Reading: “Perspective on Post-Cinema: An Introduction” - Shane Denson and Julia Leyda
Watch: Host (2020), dir. Rob Savage (56 min.)

Week 10: Final Projects

Monday (5/27)

Memorial Day: No Class

Wednesday (5/29)

  1. Work Day: No lecture

Week 11

*Due: Final Projects by Sunday, June 2*

Catalog Description:
Introduction to the analysis of film. Covers major aspects of cinematic form: mise en scene, framing and camera movement, editing, and sound and color. Considers how these elements are organized in traditional cinematic narrative and in alternative approaches.
Department Requirements Met:
Cinema & Media Studies Core
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
April 10, 2024 - 2:41 pm