Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus
Availability Study Questions Film Analysis
Listservice Paper  


Film and Psychosis:

The Relations among Spectators, Actors, Writers

English 263 (07942-4): Introduction to Film

Spring 2002, M: 8:30 - 11:18 AM, W 8:30-10:18, Denney Hall 250

Film and Screenplay Availability

I'm providing this list so that you can review a film at your leisure for the final paper or rent it for a first viewing in the case of an emergency absence from class. Most of these films are not readily available at Blockbuster, so I advise you to attend class regularly.



Availability Screenplay
Barton Fink CML, OSU-JOU CML, Drew's Script-o-Rama
Being John Malkovich CML, OSU-JOU CML, OSU-RES, Drew's Script-o-Rama
Croupier Hollywood Video  
eXistenZ CML  
Mulholland Drive CML Script of the Pilot (not the movie)
Opera (NOT Phantom of the Opera) Clintonville Video, North Campus Video  
Sunset Boulevard CML, OSU-JOU CML, OSU-RES
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? CML, OSU-JOU  

Study Questions

Before each film, you are expected to read the required chapter(s) from the Philips text, which introduce a particular element of film. On the day of the film, I will provide study questions 1) to start your thinking about the film's subject matter and 2) to encourage you to apply the elements of film to the movie at hand. After each film, we'll use the study questions to open our conversation and move from formal analysis of technique to thematic consideration of the film.

Strategies for Viewing, Analyzing, and Writing about Film

Viewing Films

Analyzing the Elements of Films

mise en scène: the staging of the film


cinematography: film stock, lighting, and the camera




Writing about Film

Listserv Response

The goal of the listserv response is to practice actively watching movies and interpret them thematically. Although I'm only requiring that you turn in one, I suggest that you write these kinds of response for yourself after every movie we see in this class for doing so will greatly help you study for the quizzes and exams. Click here for the sign-up sheet.

1. Primary Questions

Your listserv response, of approximately 500 words and due in class after we watch the film and on the listserv later that day, should 1) give a brief summary of the basic scenes, 2) analyze the film thematically, 3) broach an issue for class discussion. Think of the following basic questions to get you started on the listserv.

  1. Scene Summary: Where is the story set?
    Thematic Analysis: How does the setting contribute to the meaning of the film?
  2. Scene Summary: Who are the main characters?
    Thematic Analysis: What are the main characters primary charecteristics, what are their issues?
  3. Scene Summary: What external conflicts motivate the action of the story?
    Thematic Analysis: How do the outer conflict relate to underlying, internal conflicts of the main characters?
  4. Scene Summary: How is the outer conflict resolved, if at all?
    Thematic Analysis: How is the inner conflict resolved, if at all?

2. Sample Answers

Here are sample answers for the film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982/2002, 116m).

  1. Scene Summary: The story is set in the home of a suburban California development that's still under construction and near a forest.
    Thematic Analysis: The juxtaposition of forest and development represents the difference between the child's fantasy world of possibilities in the forest and the adult world of society that the child doesn't yet fit into.
  2. Scene Summary: The story focuses on an stranded alien and a middle child boy in a single-mother family with two siblings.
    Thematic Analysis: The alien is cute and curious, almost petlike. The boy is left out and out of place in his family and the world.
  3. Scene Summary: An stranded alien being chased by the government hides out with a child, but must return home before being caught by the government or dying from being apart from his people. This outer conflict coincides with the inner conflict of the boy's need to come to terms with being abandoned by his father.
    Thematic Analysis: A boy who feels out of place in his own family because he hasn't dealt with being abandoned by his father must integrate himself back into the family and secure their love.
  4. Scene Analysis: The alien safely returns home.
    Thematic Analysis: The child's successfully mourns the loss of his father and rejoins his family.

3. Sample Response

Here's the final response that starts with the basic questions, but fills out the answers with an analysis of the major scenes and plot points. Note that is concludes with an issue for class discussion.


E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982/2002, 116m)


The film opens with a series of juxtapositions: on the one hand, the infinite possibility of the universe (a shot of the sky) on the other the dreamy, foggy wilderness of the mind (a shot of the forest); next, the feeling of childhood wonderment and sentimentality as the aliens are cute and curious like innocent, timid animals, on the other the feeling of terror as the adults are aggressively hunt the aliens. Jump to a nice house in the suburbs (significantly, the development is only half finished and still under construction), but the family inside is broken—the father has abandoned the family. Elliot, a lonely middle child with no group of friends of his own (his older brother and friends tease him), is passive-aggressive and attacks his mother for allowing the split. On an errand outside, he encounters E.T. in the shed (the father's space) and they play catch. E.T. is characterized not just as a pet or a friend but also as a surrogate father—one who Elliot leads into the home with candy and who will eventually return the favor symbollically. Elliot and E.T. don't simply bond, they share the same feelings—they become the same person, literally—they share a heartbeat—and symbollically. E.T. is E(llio)t abbreviated; E.T. is Elliot's double. Elliot is made whole with E.T.; and together they can do anything, even fly (literally, the sky's the limit.) When E.T. heals Elliot's "ouch" and animates the dead flowers, he symbolically begins healing his heart. However, Elliot's repressed conflict returns: "E.T. phone home" signifies that E.T. must return home in order to simply live, and so too must Elliot, or he will die spiritually. By helping E.T. return to his family, Elliot can rejoin his family. But first, Elliot must learn how to properly mourn. The problem: the government invades the home and disrupts the process. However, E.T., Elliot's surrogate father, dies and break the connection they share; Elliot has almost completed the mourning process. Once E.T. dies, he must be buried properly for Elliot to mourn successfully; again, the government interferes as they're going to dissect E.T. like a frog. But E.T. isn't really dead for his family are near and healing him. Elliot enlists the aide of his brother, who by this time has bonded with Elliot, and his friends to help smuggle E.T. to the safety of E.T.'s family. Once there, Elliot and E.T. have a proper goodbye and Elliot learns that E.T., like his real father, will remain in his mind forever. E.T. is not just the surrogate father; he is the transitional object who helps Elliot mourn the loss of his real father and re-finding his place in his family.


Issue: In the first 3/4 of the film, the adults/government are lurking and surveilling; and when they are finally introduced it's via a terrifying home invasion. But just moments later, the doctor takes off his mask and becomes a kind and gentle surrogate father to Elliot, and perhaps also to E.T. The doctor, or at least the military, soon become the enemy again as Elliot must rescue E.T. from becoming a lab experiment. How are we to read the film's radical attitude shifts toward the adult world?

4. Sign Up

Sign up for one slot (and refer back to this page so you don't forget that you signed up for it). Bring a hard copy of your response to class on the next class period when we discuss the film, as we'll base some class discussion on your response. Further, I ask that you post your response to the course listserv,, sans attachments, after class so your peers can peruse it at their leisure. Responses will be penalized two-letter grades for not being handed in at the beginning of class on the due date; responses will be further penalized four-letter grades for posts to the course-listserv after 12PM the day after the due date. As you know in advance when your response is due, it's your responsibility to set aside time to write it and have internet access with which to post it. I do not accept excuses like "I sent it to the wrong address," "I couldn't get internet access," "I forgot," or "My dog ate my disk." To make sure that your response went through, check the email address on which you receive the course listserv. Click here for assignment instructions and a sample response.


Week 1


Due Wednesday, 4-3

Tiffany Boggs

Kimberly Childers

Alexis Doucet

Allison Walker

Week 2

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Due Wednesday, 4-10

Jennifer Brown

Lisa Hansen

Justin S. Malhotra

Christina Smith

Amanda Treleaven

Week 3

Barton Fink

Due Wednesday, 4-17

Stephany Bagby

Natalie Bucceri

Matthew Jehn

Melissa Landy

Marianne Tinnel

Beth Yost

Week 4

Being John Malkovich

Due Wednesday, 4-24

Jeremy George

Chris Holmes

Trevor James Hawes

Antonio Jara

Krissy Jones

Lisa Radigan

Week 5 Midterm Exam No Listservs
Week 6


Due Wednesday, 5-8

Jerome Brown

Allison Grupski

Wendy Hoop

Erin Lawson

Jeff Matcha

Leslie Phlipot

Anne Marie Thomas

Week 7


Due Wednesday, 5-15

Dave Cooney

Eliot Dow

John Weaver

Week 8

Mulholland Drive

Due Wednesday, 5-22

Nate Hahn

Matt Larson

Eric Kjellander

Dana Mangano

Adam Poe

Cory Vail

Week 9


Due Wednesday, 6-3

Christina Everhart

Natalie Liptak

Stephanie Rogers

Amy Schneider

Paul Warkentin

Week 10

The Usual Suspects

Due Friday, 6-7

Michelle Dungan

Justin Johnston

Finals Week Final Exam No Listservs

Final Paper

The films we've been screening in this course take for their explicit focus the psychological issues surrounding the world of film as film. In these movies we've met spectators, actors, and writers for whom the real world, harsh and chaotic, falls away as they, in their various quests and confusions, look to art—to film—for the peace of mind that only a structured sense of reality can afford. On the one hand, for these characters, the inward reality of desire and delusion overwhelms external reality; on the other, for these films, external reality becomes not only blurred but also put in question by fantastical and filmic reality. Below is a list of films that fit the focus of this course but did not make the final cut. For the final paper, compose an essay that rigorously compares and contrasts the main character and/or theme from a movie shown in class with a movie from the list below. Obviously, your essay cannot and should not cover every topic discussed above. Rather it should focus on one or two core problems. Some general questions you may choose from as you compose your focused reading of the films are: What are the character's core conflicts regarding the issues of spectatorship, acting, or writing in each movie? What theme does each movie make regarding these topics? How does the movie place the nature of reality (of the mind and/or of the physical world) up for debate? Finally, make sure that your essay conducts a scrupulous and tight interpretation of the two films by having a strong thesis/controlling idea, applying keen argumentation, and analyzing key evidence and formal elements. Avoid simple plot summary. If you've not taken 110 or 367 recently or written formal papers lately, this handout on argumentative and analytical papers may refresh your memory.


To limit your choices, I suggest consulting IMDb or AFI Film Institute Catalog for film summaries. I'm glad to offer feedback on possible pair ups and overall theses, especially face-to-face after class or during my office hours. If you want to use a movie not listed here, you must okay it with me, otherwise I will not accept it. (Films in bold denote movies I've not yet seen but plan to watch soon; according to what I've read about them, they fit the focus of the class.)


Typed, double-spaced essays of at least 1500 words long must conform to MLA format in general and my preferences for formal paper format in particular. Due Wednesday, May 29 at 8:30 A.M., you may turn in your paper in one of two ways: 1) hard copy printout or 2) on a PC-formatted 3.5" disk, Zip-100, or CDRW whose only file is the paper entitled by your last name, and written in either Microsoft Word for Windows or Word Perfect for Windows. I suggest using the following templates: Word or Word Perfect. Any diversion from these specifications will result in an automatic one-day late penalty and the penalty will continue to accumulate until you turn in the file in the proper, specified format.

In-Class Films (choose one)

Barton Fink (Joel Coen, 1991, 117m)

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999, 112m)

Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1999, 91m)

eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999, 97m)

Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001, 147m)

Opera (Dario Argento, 1987, 107m)

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966, 81m)

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950, 110m)

The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995, 106m)

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962, 132m)

Outside Films (choose one)

All about Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950, 138m)

American History X (Tony Kaye, 1998, 119m)

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000, 101m)

The Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, 1987, 108m)

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982, 118m)

Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985, 131m)

Celebrity (Woody Allen, 1998, 114m)

Chuck & Buck (Miguel Arteta, 2000, 96m)

Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppi Tornatore, 1988, 123m)

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971, 137m)

The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, 113m)

Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989, 104m)

Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998, 100m)

Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1996, 120m)

Death in Venice (Lucino Visconti, 1971, 130m)

Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen, 1997, 96m)

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001, 113m)

Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999, 154m)

Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999, 139m)

The Game (David Fincher, 1997, 128m)

Girl, Interrupted (James Mangold, 1999, 127m)

Man Bites Dog (Rémy Belvaux, 1992, 88m)

The Matrix (The Wachowski Brothers, 1999, 136m)

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2001, 116m)

Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990, 107m)

Open Your Eyes (Alejandro Amenábar, 1997, 117m)

Pi (Darren Aronofsky, 1998, 85m)

The Player (Robert Altman, 1992, 123m)

Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998, 123m)

Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, 112m)

Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001, 88m)

sex, lies, and videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989, 100m)

The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999, 107m)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, 142m)

Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995, 122m)

Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1987, 101m)

The Thirteenth Floor (Josef Rusnak, 1999, 100m)

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Pedro Almodóvar, 1990, 101m)

Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990, 109m)

The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998, 102m)

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958, 128m)

Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001, 114m)

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983, 90m)

With a Friend like Harry (Dominik Moll, 2000, 117m)

Completed Final Paper Film Comparisons

Barton Fink

American History X

Dead Man

The Shining



The Game

The Matrix

The Thirteenth Floor

Total Recall

Being John Malkovich

American Psycho

Donnie Darko

Fight Club


Rear Window

The Truman Show


Mulholland Dr.

American Psycho

Donnie Darko

Fight Club

Lost Highway


The Truman Show

Vanilla Sky


Fight Club

The Truman Show

Sunset Boulevard

All about Eve

American History X


The Piano


Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

All about Eve

American Psycho