Don’t judge a film by its cover

“Critiquing Film” class now open to all students

Emy Wood

Grab your popcorn and notepad because this spring semester, Union is offering a course that any student can take: Critiquing Film in a Global Context (HONS 376 / HMNT 376).

Chris Blake and Dr. Mark Robison, both Union College English professors, invite you to learn about what lies behind a “good” film and, as an added bonus, how you can evaluate them from a global perspective.

“Most conversations only include ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like,’” said Robison, referencing the lack of depth many movie discussions suffer from. “We wanted to create a conversation beyond the personal preference.”

Through the course of weekly Wednesday night sessions (from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.), students will watch more than 200 film clips and view four full-length films. The goal? To expand your thinking.



“If we’re asking you to evaluate the use of language and violence, you need to go deeper than preference,” said Robison. “What we ask you to do in thinking and analyzing is higher level.”

While this class has a reputation for being difficult, there’s enjoyment to be found in the challenge. You may have to be engaged, your mind may be stretched, but you can have fun doing it.

“It really opened up my repertoire of films,” said Damie Elder-Hiscock, 2009 graduate and academic administrative assistant. “Some of my favorite films to this day I never heard of before taking this class.”

So how does one go about critiquing a film?  “You try to comprehend what it is the filmmakers are attempting to do,” said Robison.

“People watch movies all the time. But you don’t necessarily think about the process or the technical elements,” said Claudia Pech, 2008 graduate and Union’s TLC office manager and test coordinator. “It was probably one of my favorite classes at Union. It broke down something that is so common to us.”

Aside from the technical aspects of film, students are encouraged to ask questions like: Was their intent worth it? What is a responsible use of violence, sex and language? What makes a film unsuitable to watch?

“We have to look past the exterior,” said Pech. “We should think about what makes something quality, whether it’s a film or a book. You shouldn’t just swallow entertainment.”

In addition to evaluating films, students are required to create their own film to enter into Union’s Squirreldance Film Festival. “It’s internationally renowned,” joked Blake.

This festival, held on campus in the spring, will call for students in and outside the course to submit a film (up to five minutes long) for judging and public viewing.

If the intriguing course work doesn’t catch your eye, perhaps the dynamic teaching duo can change your mind. Why is this one of the few co-taught courses at Union?

“We’re insane, that’s why,” said Robison.

“We play off of each other,” said Blake. “Though we try not to show it, we’re friends.”

Robison and Blake describe the co-teaching experience—and the course as a whole—as stimulating, thoughtful and rewarding.

So, Union, take a chance and sign up for Critiquing Film in a Global Context. Stop by Blake’s or Robison’s office on the fourth floor of the Dick Building if you have questions.

Emy is a sophomore studying communication.