Today I was helping a work-study student down the hall from my office on a film studies essay. Her assignment was to analyze what critics had to say on Woody Allen, specifically whether his films were comedies or dramas.

She had only read one of three critics ( Carney) but it was interesting to map out with her what her finished assignment would look like; she was (as was typical of my undergraduate experience) unsure of what the final product would look like, other than a page count (12-15). I gave her my best idea I could of what I would expect:

Coming up with a thesis, even as simple as “Many critics disagree as to whether Woody Allen’s films are comedic or dramatic.”

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Then deconstruct and explain those elements in a logical fashion:

  1. Who is Woody Allen, what are his films and why do we care enough to write 12-15 pages on what other people think of him.
  2. Who are the said critics, what are their backgrounds and how may that affect their opinions (which we still aren’t sure we care about)?
  3. What defines a comedy or drama? Can they agree on that?(nope)
  4. What are they using to apply these definitions to? (the scenes). Describe and deconstruct.
  5. Restate what is now obvious (the thesis)
  6. Conclude with why all this is important? —this was my response to her confusion with the teacher asking for a personal reflection

I thought it was interesting how that one critic strongly seems to use fantasy (I only scanned the first few pages) to define a comedy. And that Woody Allen is masterful at creating squirmy, deep situations, and ending them prematurely before any sort of conclusion can be made (the non-dramatic part).