Film Review on Cocaine Unwrapped, dir. by Rachel Seifert (2013)

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Focus on how the film shapes understandings of drug use, abuse and trafficking.

The film review is not a summary. The film review will be two pages in length, double spaced, Times New Roman, 12 points.

A film review is not a "book report." A report is a statement or announcement. By definition, statements do not show through description and examples. They tell. And, frankly, nobody likes to be told anything very much. (Did you like that last sentence? Probably not. Why? Because I was telling you something.)

But we do like to be shown how things work using description and examples. So, how does the film you have chosen to review "work"? What does the director do to construct the film's meaning? Why should a prospective viewer even spend time watching the film you are reviewing? You have to show the potential viewer why they would want to watch the film -- or not!

To review means something rather different than report. Review means to "look at or over again." And, if you look at the first definitions that appear at the link at the beginning of this paragraph, you can see that a review is a more interesting thing, I think, than a report as you are meant to provide a "critical evaluation."

(Critical does not mean negative! The more appropriate word might be " criticism" or " critique.")

Criticism is an art. And it is closely aligned with scholarly writing, particularly the type of writing we are meant to be teaching you at the University.

Reading critical reviews is a crucial practice in educated culture.

Well written or composed critical reviews help a person (a reader, a member of an audience, a listener, a viewer) understand the importance and significance of a work, helping them rationalize whether it is worth their time, whether it will expose them to some new way of looking at something.

Capable, competent reviews help a person understand where a work came from, how a work was composed, and what the work amounts to.

Reviews are not vehicles for engaging in ad hominem expressions of opinion. Reviews, and this is really important, always take the work seriously that is under review. This means taking the author or creator seriously, not discounting what they are trying to create or show, but understanding the origin of the work, the method the work uses, and its significance.

What should you be doing in a book (or any other type of) review. Here are some guidelines that I have adapted from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Introduction

All good pieces of scholarly writing should have an introduction, and film reviews are no exception. Open with a general description of the topic and/or problem addressed by the work in question. Think, if possible, of a hook to draw your readers in. that hook should be about the film (and not anything else).

Summary of argument

Your review should, as concisely as possible, summarize the film's argument. Even edited collections and textbooks will have particular features intended to make them distinctive in the proverbial marketplace of ideas. What, ultimately, is this film’s reason for being? If there is an identifiable thesis statement, you may consider quoting it directly.

About the author(s)

Some basic biographical information about the directors(s) or editor(s) of the film you are reviewing is necessary. Who are they? What are they known for? What particular sorts of qualifications and expertise do they bring to the subject? How might the work you are reviewing fit into a wider research or career trajectory?

Summary of contents.

A reasonably thorough indication of the research methods used (if applicable) and of the range of substantive material covered in the film should be included.

Strength

Identify one particular area in which you think the film does well. This should, ideally, be its single greatest strength as a scholarly work. Usually this would be about the new understanding(s) that the film advances. Every book is an achievement: what type of achievement is it?

Weakness

Identify one particular area in which you think the film could be improved. While this weakness might be related to something you actually believe to be incorrect, it is more likely to be something that the director omitted, or neglected to address in sufficient detail.

Conclusion.

End your review with a concluding statement summarizing the film's significance. You should also explicitly identify a range of audiences whom you think would appreciate viewing or otherwise benefit from the film.

DO NOT USE THE FIRST PERSON, IN ANY FORM

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