1. Course Overview and introductions
  2. Trivia Quiz 


  1. Reading: Excerpt from Seeing Through Movies by I.C. Jarvie (Read only first five pages of document)
  2. Discussion on the four academic modes of movies


  1. John Oliver video on State Assemblies (issues with streaming)
  2. Formed debate groups


  1. Debate Topics Posted here
  2. Discussion on America and Race.
    • Questions: Is America an inherently racist country? What is the difference between racism and institutional racism?
  3. HWK - Take one of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed by Harvard University. On Monday we will start our first film unit. The first unit deals with racism in America as depicted by Hollywood. 
    • If interested, check out HBO show on forced desegregation in Yonkers, NY

8/24/15 - 8/25/15

  1. 12 Angry Men

While watching the movie consider the following: 

  • What are the primary themes echoed throughout Sidney Lumet's 1957 film, 12 Angry Men
  • What is the intended symbolism of: 
    • The heat
    • The rain
    • The plainness of the room
    • The anonymity of the actors (no names)


  1. Finished 12 Angry Men. 
  2. Reflected and discussed the movie's allegorical themes. 
  3. IAT homework - shared experiences in taking it. (optional)
  4. Assigned readings:

  Video of Ta-Nehisi Coates discussing his groundbreaking piece "A Case for Reparations"

(**Postponed Issue with copy quality) Started watching "Native Son" 1951


Postponed Native Son because of poor copy quality. We will revisit later if possible. 

Moved onto "Do the Right Thing" by Spike Lee 1989

Questions to consider while watching the movie: 

  1. The heat in the film functions almost as a character.  What’s significant about the heat?  How does Spike Lee convey the concept of heat through the mise-en-scène?
  2. Color is used in interesting ways in this film.  Choose a color (red, for example), and look carefully at who/what that color is associated with.  What significance is there in the colors that are used?
  3. There are some very unusual camera angles in this film, especially canted angles. What do the canted angles communicate?
  4. Look again at the riot at the end of the film and how it connects to the title "Do the Right Thing".  Some viewers feel that Mookie definitely was not involved with doing "the right thing," yet others feel that the burning of Sal's pizzeria was inevitable. Don't get caught up in whether or not you "agree" with the riot or not, but instead look at what effect including the riot has on the film.
  5. What is the ideology of racial difference in this film?  Is this film affirming or denying the dominant culture of America in 1989? How so? 


  1. Continued watching "Do the Right Thing" 
  2. Questions posted above should be considered
  3. Reading on Do the Right Thing


  1. Debrief on "Do the Right Thing" 
  2. Collected Questions and Answers
  3. Discussed whether "looting is a form of protest"


  • Sub Day - Study Hall in class


**Warning: Dialogue moves at an alarming rate! No actually, the video is sped up.

9/9/15 - 9/11/15

  • Watched In the Heat of the Night DVD 
  • Online copy was not great quality so watch knowing dialogue is sped up. 


  • Ended the first themed unit that focused on how Hollywood has dealt with racism in film. 
  • Next unit started today: focus is on depictions of war in film
  • First movie of the unit: Casablanca

9/15/15 - 9/16/15


  • Discussion: Are political parties still necessary? Student reaction to Rep. Debate

9/21/15 - 9/23/15

  1. Film: Apocalypse Now
  2. Reading: The Spectacle of War
  3. Reading: "Know your Enemy"
  4. "Why We Fight" Frank Capra 
  5. Optional Reading: Operation Mind Control


In-class reflection on the film and how war is depicted. 

"It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished. Unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." - Voltaire

"Si vis pacem para bellum" If you want peace, prepare for war" Vegetius 

"There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to...." "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed." "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

In a typed 1-2 page write up - explain your thoughts as they pertain to the justification of war in history and by society. Some argue killing is killing - regardless if its for greed or nationhood. In American History, freedom has routinely been used as a justification for combat:  the Rev. War, the Civil War, WWII  and others. However, by definition taking another person's life is taking away their freedom to live. Furthermore, as we saw in Apocalypse Now a government ordering someone to go into a war and potentially die in combat is taking away their right to life also. 

In your write up - explain your thoughts regarding this paradox. Use specific examples from the movie or your own personal research to support your reasoning. 


  • No School - Power Outage


  • Attempted (and failed) to play Rebel Without a Cause


  • Switched over to Breakfast Club


  • Finished Breakfast Club

10/5/15 - 10/6/15

After film, we debriefed and I asked you to consider how these characters might play out at M-A? What student groups are represented by the actors? The film focuses on cliques, isolation, and something we now know as micro-aggression. 

For Monday - consider the following articles on the topic of micro-aggression. We will discuss as a class and reflect on how many of this issues tend to go unaddressed. 

  1. Time Magazine on Microaggression
  2. NY Times on Microaggression
  3. Microaggression Examples
  4. National Review Article on Microaggression

We will also look at a recent episode of ABC's Black-ish and discuss the controversy over the use of the N-word.

  1. Washington Post Project on the N-Word
  2. NPR - Gwyneth Paltrow as an example
  3. - on the N-Word
  4. Teaching Tolerance - Straight Talk About the N-Word
  5. Huffington Post - Obama on Using the N-Word


Debates!! (Whole Class Format)

Six rounds total (three per team x five minutes per round) A thirty-second follow up goes to the first team at the end. 

5 mins (A)    5 mins (B)

5 mins (A)    5 mins (B)

5 mins (A)    5 mins (B)

30 seconds (A)

**Clarifying questions can be asked in the second round only. 

Debate Prompt: Affirmative Action still needs to be based on race AND socio-economic status. Negate or Affirm?

Resources to get you started: 


Topic of Discussion: Poverty in America

  1. Frontline: Poor Kids in America
  2. Second Harvest Food Bank
  3. Huffington Post on Food
  4. NPR on Food Waste
  5. UNEP - Facts on Food Waste
  6. World Hunger Facts

Important Dates: 

  • Food Drive Starts 11/9
  • Ends 12/4
  • Distribution Day 12/5

Class Goal and Canned Food Drive Leader: TBD

10/13/15 - 10/20/15

Directions: Next unit is focused on the American prison system. Your homework over the next week is to read the Atlantic article by Ta-Nehisi Coates. We will discuss it's argument over the existing penal system and how it has devastated the African American family. 

Who is Daniel Patrick Moynihan and why is his "The Negro Family" or Moynihan Report such a critical link to the existing inequalities in the prison system? 

What are some long term repercussions that exist as a result of the failure of the Moynihan Report?  Think about race trends and how that can affect family structure, income, even disenfranchisement. 

In your opinion, what is the purpose of the American prison system? Is it to punish or to rehabilitate, or both? 

Movie: Cool Hand Luke, 1967

Reading: The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Optional Readings:

  1. Women in Prison:How it is with US by Assata Shakur
  2. NAACP Fact Sheet on Prison Population
  3. American Progress: Shocking Facts on Prison Population
  4. The Sentencing Project
  5. The Caging of America (New Yorker)
  6. Slavery and Prison by Kim Gilmore
  7. ACLU - Drug War is New Jim Crow
  8. Mental Illness and Incarceration

10/21/15-10/23/15:  Current Event

Debate Prompt: For decades, gun related violence has been on the decline - and yet, over that same period of time there has been a rapid growth of mass shootings at American schools. For awhile, the debate has focused on the issue of gun control vs. mental health, however, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that school shooters are increasingly 'normal' and rather the action/behavior of school shooting has become normalized. This would imply the issue is less about guns and more a problem with human behavior.  

Based on this new theory - it is fair to say that the increase in mass shootings on school campuses are more a byproduct of that behavior being less taboo and more 'normal' rather than a failure of the country to monitor mental health and gun possession. Affirm or refute. 

**Please download and have available the app Socrative before Friday's class. 

10/26/15 ~ Halloween Week!

  • - Halloween (Informational)
  • We are moving into how film has depicted mental and social disorders. Films of note for this unit are: A Street Car Named Desire, Ordinary People, Jacob's Ladder, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Rainman, Benny and Joon, Virgin Suicides, American Beauty, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Girl Interrupted, Black Swan, Fight Club, Taxi Driver, Still Alice, and of course One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. HOWEVER, since it is Halloween week, we are doing a slight detour within mental health to include horror as well!

Movie - The All Time Fright Classic - Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock




Unit: Continue with focus on depictions of mental health on film. 

Movie: Taxi Driver, 1977



  • Watch Taxi Driver
  • Students sign up for M-A Canned Food Drive. Goal is 20,000 total cans


  • Continue with Taxi Driver


  1. Finish Taxi Driver
  2. DUE: Essay on Prison Reform
  • Please turn in paper copy as well as submit to
    • Class ID: 11073191
    • Password: hollywood

3. Debrief film. Discuss using questions provided. 

4. Lighthearted movie to end the week: Benny and Joon, 1992

11/9 - 11/13/15


  • Current Event Discussion - China wants to rank its citizens. Should America do the same in the name of resource preservation? 

The announced program’s intended goals include “establishing the idea of a sincerity culture, and carrying forward sincerity and traditional virtues.”

Tuesday - Min Day (no class)

Wednesday - No School - Veterans Day

Friday (Weds Block)

Current Events Discussion: If the Republicans win the 2016 Presidential Election, which candidate is most favorable to the Democratic party?


Monday - Sub Day

  • In-class study hall

Tuesday - Sub Day (II)

  • Please read the article given to you by the sub. If you lost it or need an additional copy it is posted here
  • We will debrief the article, as well as the recent events in Paris on Wednesday. The topic is still very raw and so I'd ask that Wednesday you be thoughtful and respectful as students share. 
  • There are countless articles on the Paris attacks. I chose this one as an entry point to the topic and also because of the unique connection it has to the bay area (social media and govt access) However, if you would like to educate yourself further, I have provided additional links. 
  • A Call to Arms in France
  • A Darker Mood towards Muslims
  • A Call to Amend the Constitution in France
  • GOP Governors Vow to Close Borders to Muslims

Wednesday - Friday

The events that occurred on Friday 11/13 are being mentioned as France's 9/11. Given that the attacks were the deadliest in Paris since WWII (as 9/11 was to the US since Pearl Harbor) I'd like to hear your thoughts or reflections on the events and how you feel they will impact you going forward. 

Considering the circumstances, we will also watch a documentary on 9/11, ironically done by a French film crew comprised of two brothers. We will continue to discuss the political, social and economic impact of 9/11 on Friday and what lessons can be learned for France going forward. 

11/23-11/24/15 Thanksgiving Week

A short week but we are starting a new (and likely final) unit on Sex/Gender Depictions on Film. 

For this short, holiday week, we will start with a comedy classic and plays into the "Cult of Domesticity" notion of women and men not being able to contain themselves in certain situations. 


Film: The Seven Year Itch

1. Why is comedy so often used to show gender stereotypes in film/media? 

2. Does comedic portrayals of gender norms help or hinder social progress and understanding? 


Monday - Class Discussion and reading on Vocal Fry and Upspeak and the issue of prejudice facing women has it becomes more common place. 

Film: Boys Don't Cry, 1999


Block Day

  1. Finish Boys Don't Cry
  2. Review Questions on Movie

Friday - Debrief

Questions to answer on Sex/Gender Depictions on Film - 1/2 page to 1 page total. 

1. List/think of all the different ways that Brandon is perceived. What gender does the film privilege? 

2. What is the "truth" of gender as depicted in the film? How do the characters in the film, including Brandon, struggle with gender truths. Consider the language, the violence and the tone from the main characters.

3. A major criticism and glaring omission from the film is the third victim, Philip Devine, an African American male, from the story. The removal of Devine allows the story to be viewed as a romantic love story with women as "sympathetic victims." The director, Kimberley Pierce, said she removed Devine's character as she was concerned his death would take away from the story's focus and impact. However, critics argue it 'white washes' the story. 

In your opinion, what are some of the difficulties in a story that involves multiple examples of injustice (racial, LGBT)? Does it force a hierarchy of sympathy from the audience? How might this complicate injustices for racial minorities in the LGBT community?