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Honr 259M-0101 Metropolis: The Cinematic City Wed 2-5 pm hbk 0108

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HONR 259M-0101 Metropolis: The Cinematic City Wed 2-5 PM HBK 0108
Prof. Tom Zaniello Office Hours: Tawes 1204 Wed. 12:30-1:30
The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in

Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin

A nuclear error, but I have no fear

‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river.
--The Clash, London Calling (1979)
I swear sometimes

when I put my head to his chest

I can hear the virus humming

like a refrigerator. --Mark Doty, Faith (2007)

  1. Introduction:

Metropolis is the cinematic projection of a city of great scale and complexity, sometimes existing in the present and sometimes in a fantastic or alternative or future reality.

A remarkable array of film genres take the measure of this Metropolis--post-apocalyptic films, science fiction and fantasy, film noir, horror films and thrillers, as well as dramas of epidemics, disaster, and catastrophe. Their distinctive cinematic look (their mise en scene) has its origins in both urban architecture and underground infrastructure, while their populace arises from patterns of immigration as well as evolutionary speculation. Films about New York, Los Angeles, and London dominate the list of Metropolis films, but the 21st century Megalopolis, such as Tokyo or Lagos, has star roles as well. Metropolis films featuring what appears to be a generic City of Future Ruins are common (with the identity of the “past” city sometimes revealed in the end).

We will discover that Metropolis is more complex, more confusing, more multi-cultural, and more surreal than most of us expect. It is this tension between the upper and lower populations, between the surface and the underground, between reality and myth, between fact and fantasy, between science and science fiction, that we will explore in this course through film, literature, lectures, and discussion.
B) Required Books

1) Jennifer Toth, The Mole People (Chicago Review Press, 1995, ISBN-10: 155652241X): available at University Book Center (UBC).

2) H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (Penguin Classics, 2005, ISBN-10: 0141439971): available at UBC, but you can use any other edition you wish.

3) Tom Zaniello, Movies, Film, Cinema: Selected Chapters (course packet) available at UBC.

C) HONR 259M will involve:

1) How films create the popular image of the metropolis.

2) The study of film genres as they pertain to the metropolis.

3) How metropolis and megalopolis differ.

4) How the films relate to popular and literary culture, including fiction and non-fiction.

D) Course Objectives:

1. Provide an introduction to film study (assessed by worksheets).

2. Develop critical thinking about the cinematic city through extensive writing and discussion (assessed by essays).

3. Develop critical and creative skills in analyzing (and re-imagining) Washington DC as a metropolis (assessed by essay).

4. Apply any of the 110 indicators of “From Metropolis to Megalopolis: A Gazetteer”

to any city or metropolis film (assessed by essay and Group Presentations).

E) Course Activities:

1. Viewing films in and out of class.

2. Worksheets on films.

3. Writing assignments.

4. Class discussions, with Group Presentations

5. Field trip to Washington D.C.

F) Guidelines for Film Viewing and Note Taking: Viewing a film IS different than studying a book: after seeing a film we often have the illusion that our visual memory has captured all of the important moments, but it actually takes a lot of effort to recall in detail and accurately even some selected sequences of a film (as opposed to simply opening a book to review a certain page or chapter.) All of this means that viewing a film in or for a class involves active engagement, at the very least by filling out a worksheet or taking notes on some specific issues. Please note that we will occasionally screen an R-rated film, with no substitutions of assignment possible. You are permitted to duck at certain moments if you wish, however. Even I do (sometimes).
G) Grades: There will be 5 grades all of equal value (with a bonus from Group Presentations). Persistently late papers incur grade reduction. Grade Bonus: the student who completes his/her share of three reports successfully will have any final borderline average adjusted upwards to the higher grade.
H) Field Trip: Is Washington DC a metropolis? On Sept. 29, meet at 2:30 PM (rain or shine!) at a Washington DC location to be announced. Maps and further directions will be provided in advance.
I) Attendance: Missing class in a course that meets once a week could not possibly be a good idea. Some of the films--but certainly not all--are available in Hornbake (Nonprint) Library and through Netflix or Blockbuster. Students are responsible for viewing any film or handing in any assignment if they miss class. (See University Attendance Policies below.)
J) Student Participation & In-Class Discussion Group Reports:

One of the best way I know how to teach cinematic note-taking skills while viewing films is to set specific questions/tasks for everyone before any film is screened.

Students will be asked to offer their views developed in small groups immediately after the film (and a break) concludes. To facilitate this I divide the class into 4 groups; each group will have to make a brief oral and written reports 3 times during the semester. A slightly extended break time helps this process.

When a group is scheduled, select a secretary and pool your responses to a select number of Continuities and/or the Question(s) of the Day in order to draft and present a solid paragraph (NOT just notes or an outline). The secretary should email me the result with the names of everyone who participated.

K) Metropolis or Megalopolis Worksheet: It is recommended that a worksheet (template in ELMS/Bb Course Information) be filled in for every film screened. Assignments will often draw from these worksheets.
L) Blackboard: I will use ELMS/Bb for posting on-line reading assignments and films accessed on-line, among other items that are supplements to this Syllabus.
M) Changes in the Syllabus: If this Syllabus is amended through substitutions, additions, or deletions, they will be announced by e-mail and posted on ELMS/Blackboard (Bb).
A) Ungraded Practice Writing Assignment: Send one solid paragraph by e-mail to by Sunday, Sept. 5, to receive feedback on your cinematic analysis. Respond to this question: How would you characterize the cinematic style of Kontrol? Discuss a specific example of a shot or sequence to support your view. Use at least 2 or 3 cinematic terms.
B) Class/Film Schedule and Reading Assignments:
By This Date Have

Date and Title Read These… And These from Course Packet:

9/1 Kontrol

9/8 Escape from New York; La Jetee The Time Machine Chapter 1 The Moving Image

9/15 Dark Days; Style Wars The Mole People Chapter 9 Z Glossary of Film Terms

9/22 Mimic “The Man Chapter 2 Film Genres +

Who Lived Underground”* Chapter 5 Literary Adaptations

9/29 DC Metropolis Field Trip Chapter 7 Miscellany of Charts

10/6 28 Hours Later

10/13 Blade Runner

10/20 Repo Man; Rize Chapter 4 The Mindscreen

10/27 The City/La Ciudad

11/3 Brother from Another Planet

11/10 Panic in the Streets

11/17 The Warriors

12/1 Lagos/Koolhaas; Merde “Tokyo Metropolitan Subway” **

“Baptizing the Gun”***

12/8 waydowntown

12/15 Final Paper Due

Sources of Additional Readings (Xerox or Websites):

*Richard Wright, from Eight Men.

**Haruki Murakami, from Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

***Uwem Akpan, from The New Yorker, January 4, 2010

C) Writing Assignments* Due:

All assignments to be graded must be printed … and handed in during the designated class session.

No e-mail submissions unless announced in advance. If an assignment is going to be late because of illness or other legitimate reason (see C below), please contact instructor in advance.
Sept 22 Kontrol; Escape from New York; La Jetee; Dark Days

Oct 13 Mimic; DC Metropolis Field Trip; 28 Hours Later [to be submitted by e-mail]

Nov 3 Blade Runner; Repo Man; The City/La Ciudad

Dec 1 Brother from Another Planet; Panic in the Streets; The Warriors

Dec 15 Lagos/Koolhaas; Merde; waydowntown
* Important Note: Some cinematic terminology MUST be used in every writing assignment.
A) Plagiarism & The Code of Academic Integrity:

1. Any plagiarized paper receives an F; if re-written successfully the highest grade it can receive is a C.

2.The Code of Academic Integrity is designed to ensure that the principle of academic honesty is upheld. While all members of the University share this responsibility, The Code of Academic Integrity is designed so that special responsibility for upholding the principle of academic honesty lies with the students. The University of Maryland honor system is fully described in the Code of Academic Council administered by an all-student Honor Integrity: see for details.
B) Student Course Evaluations: On-line.
C) University Attendance Policies: University policy excuses the absences of students for illness (self or dependent), religious observances, participation in University activities at the request of University authorities, and compelling circumstances beyond the student’s control. Students should contact the professor in advance if possible. For more information, see the University's Attendance and Assessment Policy (
D) Inclement Weather or Emergency Closure: Assignments will be rescheduled if necessary due to inclement weather and campus emergencies. Official closures and delays are announced on the campus website and snow phone line (301-405-SNOW) as well as local radio and TV stations.
E) Digital Devices: It is not considered academically appropriate to use cell phones or laptops to text or e-mail during class.
Wot's the point of working 'ard? Let the world roll round an’ round.

Wot's the good of gainin' riches? Wiv its hard-worked folk in fetters:

Money's mean and banks are bitches, All ‘oo think themselves yer betters,

Profit's just a prison yard. Money-mad and dooty-bound.
Sling yer ‘ook an’ sling it stealthy; --Ben the Tramp's Song, from Michael

Gob some grub an’ swig some booze, Larrabeiti, The Borribles Go for Broke (1981)

Find a place ter kip and snooze—

Now you’re ‘ealthy, wise an’ wealthy!

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