Hollywood on Hollywood@JFK-I Berlin


2007-2008: John F. Kennedy Institute, Freie University Berlin




Aims &Objectives:
– celebrate student’s skills in critical thinking, powers of analysis and individual initiative
– introduce students new &familiar to film studies to U.S cinema history &working practices
– explore aspects of genre, narrative &representation in mainstream film
– pinpoint and explore key moments in film theory
– critically engage with present U.S / international digital filmmaking production, exhibition and distribution networks

Course Content
The spine of the course will focus on key aspects of mainstream American cinema – the most influential and pervasive form of global mass media in the 20th Century. The course will balance introductory sessions on traditional industry, studio working practices and storytelling paradigms with core features of post-1958 film theory.

Applied practical criticism will focus on two renowned films on Hollywood itself – Vincent Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1954) and Robert Altman’s The Player (1992) -, which we will share as seminar texts. Documentary excerpts on film history, technology, genre and certain directors (Fuller, Hopper) will support the programme.

Close reference to contemporary global developments in digital filmmaking as emerging from the United States will inform our enquiries. Amongst other things, therefore, we will consider the viability &relevance of traditional film practice, industry and criticism in the 21st century.

– Attendance credits will be granted to 80% PLUS attendance, minimum 11 sessions;
– A full credit will be gained via 80% attendance plus a Research Paper (20 pages) as inspired by Film Studies / American Studies global conference lists for 2007/2008 and as then chosen by the student.

University record of the course is here http://myvv.fu-berlin.de/vorlesungsverzeichnis/ws0708/jfki/013003003001001001.shtml



The following course has now been completed, however, we have remaining business to attend to:-


  • Course essays and abstract proposals have been placed inside the Big White Envelope that resides in my  IN TRAY in the Kultur Office (Regina/Sabine). Congratulations to those student who wrote brilliantly on, for example,  Easy Rider, The Godfather, The Silence of the Lambs, The Magnificent Seven, The Young Philadelphians, The Player, The Searchers, The Bad and the Beautiful, Sex, Lies and Videotape, AFI Documentary on Mavericks…
  • Your attendance credits will be submitted to the same office and scheins will be authorised by the end of March.
  • Gradings for Research Papers will be submitted on March 16th, April 16th and, finally, May 16t, depending onwhen I recieve your work (PDF and hardcopy, please).

This wesbite page will remain in place for future reference…

Fall 2007- Winter 2008: “Hollywood on Hollywood”.

Congratulations to those prospective students of the Freie University of Berlin who have made it to the website page! Top grades all round.

As suggested in the title, our programme of study will cover the history, industry working practices of American mainstream hjsch-berlin-film.jpgcinema (‘Hollywood’).

I am delighted to note that that renowned Berlin film historian, Dr. Hans-Joaquim Schlegel has volunteered to attend at least one of our sessions: “Neben Lehraufträgen an Universitäten und Filmhochschulen des In-und Auslandes arbeitet er an internationalen Filmfestivals mit (Oberhausen, Nyon, Berlin, Venedig und Leipzig). Dr. Hans-Joachim Schlegel ist Mitglied der European Film Academy und des Konsultativrates des Moskauer Eisenstein-Zentrums für filmkulturelle Forschungen.”:-


The programme welcomes students new to Film Studies as a discipline; as such it will be the-player.jpggrounded on the close analysis of two film texts which are themselves focused on the studio system: Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful of 1953 and Robert Altman’s The Player of 1992. So, if necessary, the ground is ready for debates on ironic postmodern intertextualities.

Close film/textual analysis of films will support our study, as will a range of documentaries that will bridge to aspects of post-1958 film theories.b-b-minnelli.jpg

Course Credits

Students will be granted an attendance credit (80%, 12/14 plus) and, if they wish, a further credit for their Research Paper (20 pages, 5,000-5,500 words).

This will be inspired by titles chosen by students from Film Studies/American Studies/Media Studies global conferences as they are already listed for 2007/2008/2009:-

In addition, in the interest of securing all student’s basic written skills in visual sequence analysis, all participants will be required to:

  • write one short descriptive/analytic account of a sequence as directly accessible from this website, due December 10th.
  • and a short essay based on our viewing programme, due January 28th/Feb 4th.

Those students considering the Research Paper are strongly advised to purchase – and read carefully – Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing About Film (Short Guide Series) through Amazon.de.

For our fellow European Students/Researchers who are hoping/thinking/planning to study with us at the Freie University (ECTS?), you are more than welcome, but please see the University details here, in English http://www.fu-berlin.de/en/studium/

COURSE SUPPLEMENT. In addition, all students, staff and colleagues are invited to a season of Documentary Screenings on U.S culture, art, politics, music, law and media: Mondays, 6.15.pm, JFK-I: programm_jfki_2007-2008-at-docus.PDF




JFK-I Building, Lanstrasse, Mondays – Room 340, 10.15-11.45

The following is intended as a guide and, depending on the drift & intensity of interest, subject to some modification, but not much change.

Please check this section for Q & A updates:-

1. Sprechstunde? Yes, and no. Alan (hereafter Course Leader, CL) will be approachable in the library during Monday afternoons. 2. Contact? Yes: a.taylor@balliol.oxon.org But avoid extended biographies and subtext. 3. Registration? On the day. 4. MA Programme/Seminar? This course does tend to draw large numbers, that’s why we are in Room 340. So expect an engaged, organised delivery that is open to informed discussion. 5. Grading Criteria for written work? Yes, for what it is worth….at-jfki-ma-gradings-explained.pdf 6. Deadlines?: The deadline for the Sequence Analysis (link available below) is December 10th. The deadline for the Short Essay is January 28th, 2008. These will not be graded as such, but feedback will be made. Their submission will be requisite to each student’s overall attendance credit.

7. What/where is the sequence on which we are to write the first essay…?:-

YouTube link deleted.

8. How do I prepare? Reading list?. There is a recommended reading list (Corrigan, Bordwell, Monaco). However, students are expected to prepare by checking the links below for each week’s coverage. Our discussions will be better and more meaningful if some background reading and lines of enquiry have been made here. 9. The Research Paper? Once students have individually determined the subject of their Research Paper, as informed/inspired/prompted by a Conference subject, then it is time to target titles more suitable for their individual programme of study. This process will be sharpened with the writing of the one page Abstract/pitch for the RP. This, too, has a deadline: to be submitted on January 7th 2008. Feedback on this is intended to support the way towards a meaningful and relevant Research Paper. The deadline for that is two months after the end of the course (mid April).

Also, there are now up to 20 books that have been selected in the “Handelsapparat” section of the library that are directly related to our course. With the aim of developing and improvingupon written style, all students should make use of this list of international journals on sociology, literacy, media, communications and film: http://www.swan.ac.uk/german/bcla/clcwebjournal/library/mediastudiesjournals.html

Week 1. Oct 15th


  • Warm-Up Read: “The Self-Conscious Screen – Aspects of Reference to the Movies in the Movies” by Gloria Withalm. Conference Paper: Perception and Self-Consciousness in the Arts and Sciences, International Conference under the auspices of the IASS-AIS (26-28 September 1995; Associação Portuguesa de Semiótica; Porto) http://www.uni-ak.ac.at/culture/withalm/wit-texts/wit00-porto.html

  • Please note that we begin the course during real live dramas in Hollywood as the first screenwriter’s strike in twenty years puts film & tv drama production plans into a spin. Here’s an informed NPR podcast covering the issues at stake: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15315098

  • Alan’s PowerPoint presentation for this session is here, though do not expect uploadschump.jpg for each coming week. There will be a ‘highlights special’ at the end of the course. For now, though, this is where we are: hw-on-hw-week-1.ppt

WEEK 2. Oct 22nd


WEEK 3. Oct 29th

Still with Realism, here an interview with Al Pacino on the history and methods of New York’s Actor’s Studio


WEEK 4. Nov 5th

  • Focus: Screen Dramaturgy & Visual Analysis, incl: Intolerance (Griffith, 1916), Don’t Look Now (Roeg, 1973), The Godfather (Coppola, F.F, 1972) to Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1990). Preparation sequence analysis for next week from The Magnificent Seven (1960).

  • Link/s of the Week: http://www.filmsite.org/filmterms7.html

  • Of the several sequences analysed and discussed: The Godfather, 1 (1972)

  • Please Note: “Sie wird im Rahmen der Exzellenzinitiative des Bundes und der Länder gefördert und ist eine der herausragenden Ausbildungsstätten für Nachwuchswissenschaftler in Deutschland: Am 5. November 2007 wird die „Graduate School of North American Studies“ am John F. Kennedy-Institut der Freien Universität Berlin feierlich eröffnet.jfk-i-fischer-07-11-05_176.jpg

  • Den Festvortrag hält der ehemalige Bundesaußenminister Joschka Fischer.”:

  • http://www.jfki.fu-berlin.de/graduateschool/en/news/2007-11-12_opening.html

WEEK 5. Nov 12th

  • We hit the trail westwards: Frontier Myths, Narratives and Movies

  • Focus: Opening Gambits in the Western Genre, ie: The Searchers (Ford, 1955) & The Magnificent Seven (Sturges, 1960).

  • Link/s of the Week: The Screenplay Final Draft of The Searchers, (Sc: Frank Nugent) http://www.weeklyscript.com/Searchers,%20The.txt

  • To be discussed: the First Act display of chivalry in The Maginificent Seven (1960).

WEEK 6. Nov 19th: NO SESSION!!!!!!!!!!

However, students can be writing

1) Written Analysis on the chosen sequence from Vertigo (1958)

2) preparing one-page draft for the Research Paper, due Jan 7th.

WEEK 7. Nov 26th

  • Focus: Film Viewing & analysis The Bad and the Beautiful (1953), part one

  • Link/s of the Week: http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/04/minnelli.html

  • We have lost the sequence from The Bad and the Beautiful (1953), which we can put down as another learning experience. They are already fencing in the prairies of cyberspace. However, what should be of interest in our discussions about the auteur theory is the film which Vincente Minnelli later directed and again starring Kirk Douglas: Lust for Life. Here’s the trailer:-

  • [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/SoHVwAnw0hg" width="225" height="150" wmode="transparent" /]


WEEK 8. Dec 3rd


WEEK 9. Dec 10th

  • Focus: Review on film & consideration of film theories post 1950s.

  • Submisison from all registered students, our first short essay (description & analysis) on the sequence from Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958).This will be the subject of class analysis & discussion on January 7th 2008.

  • Based on questions from today: this is really an editing exercise, focusing on student’s own approach to academic writing. I assume students will have lots to write about. I suggest you bash out a first draft of around 5-6 sides. This will then be edited to two sides – 400 words each. Approach the material from whichever theoretical, technical, historical, industry angle, using close analysis to justify points raised. Bibilography, filmography, short appendix will be welcome. This will foreshadow our class analysis of the sequence in January, and lay the groundwork for the weeks beyond.


WEEK 10.Dec 17th



Wishing all Students and Fellow Staff A Peaceful and Productive Time


WEEK 11. Jan 7th, 2008

As mentioned, and in keeping with the season, we will devote our first session of 2008 with a reflective look back on recent work, and clarify the programme for the New Year.


  • Focus: Review week on films, theories & student interests. Written work in (Abstracts) and returned (First Essay), plus sequence analysis:-

  • Return of first essay & class viewing, discussion/analysis of Vertigo (1958)

  • Link/s of the week: Why Are the Movies So Bad, Pauline Kael – Seminal Essay, http://www.reel.com/content/reelimages/hollconf2001/kael_0905.html

  • Submission from students wishing to undertake the Research Paper, a single-side abstract as inspired by Conference headings covering American Studies & Film/Media – intro, theme, outline argument, sample text references/authors…

  • UPDATE: ESSAY NUMBER TWO: All students wishing to gain an attendance credit are now invited to write a second two page essay based only on our class viewings (films, documentaries, sequences) and from the viewpoint of one particluar Film/Media theory of your choice.

  • Please note: Due to unspoken popular demand, hard copy submission: January 28th or Feb 4th, 2008.


WEEK 12. Jan 14th, 2008



Berlin Update Latest & Highly Recommended: Andrea Hottmann has thoughtfully flaggged up this relevant and excellent series of films on US independent cinema due here at the FDK, Filmhaus/Arsenal, Potsdamerstrasse-http://www.fdk-berlin.de/arsenal/programm.html

& Reminder of the Monday Night Documentary Season that resumes with Michael Moore…

WEEK 13. Jan 21st, 2008

  • Focus: Film Viewing, The Player (1992), part 2


WEEK 14. Jan 28th, 2008sam_fuller_portrait.jpg

  • However…this was not the case! Instead we stayed with the theme with reference to developments in U.S. culture and politics as they had a bearing on Hollywood since 1980s.

WEEK 15. Feb 4th, 2008


  • Focus: The 21st century, & the challenge of the “digital insurgency”. The condition of film production, theory and reception in the 21st Century.

  • We will begin with further reflections on the US film industry 1980s-1990s and request that students share thoughts on the celebrated Pauline Kael essay: http://www.reel.com/content/reelimages/hollconf2001/kael_0905.html.

  • Two sequences from documentaries will be shown and our case study film analysis will be the first five minutes of Sex, Lies and Videotape (Soderbergh, 1989).


Question: Who’s the Auteur now?antics_logo.png


WEEK 16. Feb 11th, 2008


  • Focus: Roundup, Research Paper advice…& Adios Amigos

  • Second Essays returned, with comments/reflections/suggestions…

  • Finally, literature students can read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novelistic account of his times in Hollywood – The Last Tycoon of 1941, based largely on his observations & working experience of Irving Thalberg – here: http://www.archive.org/details/lasttycoonanunfi009450mbp. The book was later filmed in the 1970s staring Robert deNiro.


The Research Paper…

  • Deadline?: Friday May 16th, 2008.

  • Format? Hard Copies to AT address (see email signature when you write) and PDFS to a.taylor@balliol.oxon.org

  • Advice? Yes. To repeat the Mr Nasty PDF above: at-jfk-i-gradings-guide.pdf

  • Contact? I can be found in the library Monday afternoons. Alternatively, check through on the e-mail with functional questions/issues &/or the contact box is available below.


a-beautiful-mind-3.jpgSpring 2008: American Yodas

A future Film Studies programme at the JFK-I is under discussion that will hopefully consider the Representation of Education in U. S Film.

This will draw upon the JFK-I interdisciplinary remit to broaden and deepen skills & knowledge and Alan’s pedagogic groundings (The Department of Education, University of Oxford) and film training (the London Film School).

Full curricular details should be on this website page in March 2008

For the moment, though, this might be a useful primer:

“Denzel Washington directs and stars in the new film The Great Debaters, inspired by the true story of Wiley College’s winning debate team of the early 1930s. The film also stars Forest Whitaker.” Washington is here in discussion on NPR:-



… but, for now, Vaya Con Dios!