Course Description

This course analyzes the various cultural, historical, ethnic, class and artistic dimensions of New York in feature films, such as The Crowd, Midnight Cowboy and Do the Right Thing, as well as in selected documentary and experimental films. The course also situates New York City within the corporate production and exhibition histories of American film. Particular attention is given to films produced in New York over the last two decades and the images of the city they project.

Learning Objectives

In this class, we will aim to master the following skills through our study of film and New York City.

  • analyze a wide variety of cultural, historical, ethnic, class and artistic images of New York in American film.
  • understand New York’s position in the corporate, production and distribution histories of American film.
  • interpret selected film themes, such as immigration and class relations, in the context of New York City history.
  • survey some major film directors who have made films in, and about, New York.
  • develop a typology whereby films about New York can be effectively categorized.
  • discover the relationships among film and other forms of popular entertainment (e.g., the amusement park, minstrelsy, vaudeville, the Broadway stage) that have arisen in New York
  • reinforce your understanding and use of basic cinematic terminology as a means of critical interpretation.

Writing Intensive Class

Philosophy for Writing Intensive Classes:

  • writing is a critical thinking process
  • writing is a tool for learning across disciplines
  • learning is collaborative among students and between students and teachers

The Writing Center at LaGuardia CC offers appointments for in-person and virtual tutoring. In-person tutoring takes place at B 200, and virtual tutoring is available through Zoom. I highly recommend connecting with them at least once this semester.

In-Person Course

This course will meet in-person each week.

  • Tuesdays
  • 5:45 – 10:15PM
  • Main 110

All course material, including links to graded assignments, is available on the course website at https://juanmonroy.com/filmandnyc.

We will not be using Blackboard.

Instructor

Juan Monroy

Office Hours

Office hours are held both in-person and remotely.

Sign up for an appointment at https://juanmonroy.com/officehours.

  • In-Person: Fridays, 12:30–1:30 PM, C–740
  • Remote via Microsoft Teams: I will email you a meeting link for you to join the meeting

Microsoft Teams

We will use Microsoft Teams to submit your assignments. We will not be using Blackboard.

To access our course on Microsoft Teams, follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://teams.microsoft.com
  2. When you see the Microsoft Sign In page, enter your @login.cuny.edu username: firstname.lastname##@login.cuny.edu. Note: This is not the same as your lagcc.edu username.
  3. When you see the CUNY Web Applications Login page, enter your CUNY Login username and password and complete the two-factor authentication.
  4. Locate our Team: Film and New York City, Spring 2023.

If you’re having trouble, note the following:

  • Make sure you’re logged into your @login.cuny.edu not your @live.lagcc.cuny.edu account. 
* You can add another account to switch to the correct @login.cuny.edu account.
  • Microsoft Teams doesn’t work on Mac or iOS Safari. You can download the Microsoft Teams apps or use another browser, such as Chrome or Firefox.
  • Make sure you’re not signing in to live.com domain. Those are for personal accounts. The correct URL is https://login.microsoft.com for your CUNY account.

Chromebooks Available To Borrow

You can borrow a Chromebook for the entire semester. See this page for more information: https://library.laguardia.edu/2022/05/13/can-i-borrow-a-chromebook/.

Modules

The learning activities are divided into twelve modules.

For each module, there are:

  • work you complete on your own outside of class
    • assigned readings, listed in the course schedule on the course website
    • occasional film screenings outside of class
    • visiting film sites in New York City
    • written responses to the films we studied in class
    • written essays on the course material we’ve studied in class
  • work we complete together during our class sessions
    • film screenings
    • lectures about the history and culture of New York contemporaneous to films we’ve studied
    • discussions and occasional group work reinforcing what we’ve learned in the module

Attendance and Attention

Attendance is required.

We will be trekking to each week to work together for this class. Let’s make it worth the effort and be present during the class session:

  • attend each class
  • arrive on time
  • put away the smartphone
  • silence the notifications on your computer
  • pay attention and contribute your own thoughts and insights about what you read in the textbook, what you heard the professor share, and what you saw in a film.

In other words, participate in the classroom experience.

Attendance and participation in class is a requirement and will be considered in the evaluation of student performance. The maximum number of unexcused absences is limited to 15% of the number of class hours (i.e., two classes meetings). Absences are counted from the first day of class even if they are a result of late registration or change of program.

Readings

Each module will have at least one assigned reading. Complete the readings before our live discussions session.

Most readings will be available in digital form from LaGuardia Library or one CUNY OneDrive. Sign in using your CUNY Login username and password. Your username ends in @login.cuny.edu and is how you access CUNYFirst.

We will be using a print textbook throughout the semester.

Films

As this is a film class, we will be watching films each week. The films are linked below under each module in the course schedule:

  • narrative fiction
  • documentary
  • experimental/avant-garde films

Most films will be screened in class and available on Microsoft Teams for further study.

Some titles available on Kanopy for you to watch on your own and for further study. Contact the Library for information if you’re having trouble accessing Kanopy using your LaGuardia account.

Refer to my list of New York films on Letterboxd for other relevant films I included and couldn’t include for this course.

Writing About Movies Assignments

We will be developing our writing skills through a series of in-class assignments throughout the semester.

  1. Summarize and Evaluate an assigned film
  2. Shot Analysis Chart of a film sequence
  3. Formal Analysis of a film sequence
  4. Understanding Primary and Secondary Sources
  5. Cultural Analysis of a film sequence
  6. Organizing and Outlining
  7. Thesis and Topic Sentences

Submit your responses for these assignments on Microsoft Teams. No assignments will be accepted after they close on Microsoft Teams, one week after the deadline.

Film Research and Analysis

A 1200-word film research and analysis essay that analyzes the formal and cultural elements of a “New York” film, produced after 1920, that is listed in my “Film and NYC” list on Letterboxd. Your research should include the film itself and primary and secondary historical sources.

There are two parts to this assignment:

  1. Draft. This is an optional assignment. If you choose to submit a draft, you will receive feedback in time for you to incorporate my suggestions for submitting your Essay.
  2. Final. This is a required assignment for everyone.

If you do the Draft and Final parts of this assignment, you will receive separate grades for each. But if you only do a final essay, you will an overall grade that is weighed for both parts of the assignment.

No assignments will be accepted after they close on Microsoft Teams.

Film Responses

As we progress throughout the semester, there are film responses on Microsoft Teams that investigate a set of themes of the films listed below.

The questions are open-ended and are meant to regularly practice writing. There are no correct answers, but your response should be thoughtful, relevant to our studies, and demonstrate a proficiency in spelling and grammar.

Five of six responses are required: I will drop your lowest response grade.

No assignments will be accepted after they close on Microsoft Teams

Field Trips

On your own time during the semester, you are required to visit two film sites in New York City, and write a 500-word report for each field trip that describe your experience at each site.

Read the guidelines for this assignment.

If you do not live in the New York City metropolitan area, contact me for alternate arrangements.

No assignments will be accepted after they close on Microsoft Teams, one week after the deadline.

Grading

All assignments are weighted as follows:

Assignment Weight
Attendance and Attention 10%
Writing About Movies Assignments 25%
Film Research and Analysis, Draft 10%
Film Research and Analysis, Essay 10% with draft
20% without draft
Film Responses 25%
Field Trip 1 10%
Field Trip 2 10%

All assignments must be turned in on time in order to receive full credit. In addition, assignments will not be accepted after the assignment closes on Microsoft Teams. Please plan accordingly.

Course Schedule

Complete all the readings and screenings before each week’s class. All other assignments should be completed by the date noted below.

Module 1: Experimental Films, Mar 5

  • Read Murray Pomerance, “Prelude: To Wake Up in the City That Never Sleeps,” in City That Never Sleeps New York and the Filmic Imagination, edited by Murray Pomerance (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007) before class
  • Watch New York: Broadway at Union Square (Alexandre Promio, Lumière Brothers, 1896, 1 min.) in class
  • Watch Demolishing and Building Up the Star Theatre (Frederick S. Armitage, American Mutoscope and Biograph, 1901, 3 min.) in class
  • Watch Manhatta (Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler, USA, 1921, 12 min.) in class
  • Watch Twenty Four Dollar Island (Robert Flaherty, USA, 1927, 14 min.) on your own
  • Watch Skyscraper Symphony (Robert Florey, USA, 1929, 12 min.) in class
  • Watch Manhattan Medley (Bonney Powell, USA, 1931, 10 min.) on your own
  • Watch A Bronx Morning (Jay Leyda, USA, 1931, 11 min.) in class
  • Watch The Wonder Ring (Stan Brakhage, USA, 1955, 6 min.) in class
  • Watch Bridges Go Round (Shirley Clarke, USA, 1957, 4 min.) in class
  • Watch Go, Go, Go (Marie Menken, USA, 1964, 12 mins.) in class
  • Watch Stations of the Elevated (Manfred Kirchheimer, USA, 1980, 44 min.) in class
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 2: Opportunity: The Crowd and On the Bowery, Mar 12

Module 3: World War II: On the Town and The Clock, Mar 19

Module 4: Fun City: Midnight Cowboy and Square Times, Mar 26

  • Read Writing About Movies, Chapter 2, “Looking at Movies” before class
  • Read James Sanders, “Nighttown: The Dark Side of the City,” in Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)
  • Read Jason Bailey, “Fun City, John Linsday, and Midnight Cowboy” in Fun City Cinema: New York City and the Movies that Made It (New York: Abrams, 2021)
  • Watch excerpt from American Experience: New York, “The City and the World, 1945–2000” (Ric Burns and James Sanders, USA, 2003, 78 min.) on your own
  • Watch Square Times (Rudy Burkhardt, USA, 1967, 6 min.) in class
  • Watch Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, USA, 1969, 113 min.) in class
    • Note: that this film was original rated X, but has since been rated R by the MPAA.
  • Complete Writing About Movies assignment: Shot Analysis on Microsoft Teams
    • Slides (PDF) about this assignment
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 5: Fear City: The Taking of Pelham of 1, 2, 3 and Taxi Driver, Apr 2

Module 6: Post-Apocalyptic City: The Warriors and Born in Flames, Apr 9

  • Read Writing About Movies, “Researching Movies” before class
  • Read Eric Ducker, “New York Mythology: An Oral History of The WarriorsFader October 3, 2005
  • Read David Desser, “When We See the Ocean, We Figure We’re Home: From Ritual to Romance in The Warriors,” in City That Never Sleeps New York and the Filmic Imagination, edited by Murray Pomerance (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007)
  • Read Lizzie Borden, “Born in Flames,” Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Arts & Politics no. 16 (1983): 10–16
  • Read Karen Jahne, “Review: Born in Flames,” Film Quarterly 37, no. 4 (Summer 1984): 22–24
    • Available from LaGuardia Library on JSTOR
  • Read Sophie Mayer, “Downtown Renegade,” Sight & Sound 26, no. 10 (October 2016): 50–51
  • Watch The Warriors (Walter Hill, USA, 1979, 92 min.) in class
  • Watch Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, USA, 1983, 90 min.) on your own
  • Complete Writing About Movies assignment: Understanding Primary and Secondary Sources in class and on Microsoft Teams
    • Slides (PDF) about this assignment
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 7: New York as Oz: The Wiz, Apr 16

  • Read Writing about Movies, “Cultural Analysis,” 55–100 before class
  • Read Alfred L. Martin, “Blackbusting Hollywood: Racialized Media Reception, Failure, and The Wiz as Black Blockbuster,” JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, 2021, Vol.60 (2), p.56–79
  • Read John Skow, “Cinema: Nowhere Over the Rainbow,” Time October 30, 1978
  • Watch “The Wiz (1978) movie review”, Sneak Previews with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel
  • Watch The Wiz (Sidney Lumet, USA, 1978, 134 min.) in class
  • Complete Writing About Movies assignment: Cultural Analysis in class and on Microsoft Teams
    • Slides (PDF) about this assignment
  • Complete Film Response 3 on Microsoft Teams
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 8: Puerto Ricans in New York: West Side Story and Los Sures, May 7

  • Read Writing about Movies, “Considering Structure and Organization” before class
  • Read Megan Woller, “‘This Is Our Turf!’: Puerto Rican Youths in the 1961 Film Adaptation of West Side Story,” Studies in Musical Theatre 8, no. 1 (March 2014): 27–41.
  • Read Lillian Jimenez, “Moving from the Margin to the Center,” in The Ethnic Eye: Latino Media Arts, ed. Chon A. Noriega and Ana M. Lopez (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996)
  • Read Joan Turner, “Review: Hell’s Kitchen Chronicle by Maren Erskine, Reed Erskine; Los Sures by Diego Echeverria; The Heart of Loisaida by Marci Reaven and Bienvenidas Matias” American Anthropologist 87, no. 4 (1985): 985–87.
  • Watch West Side Story (Robert Wise, USA, 1961, 151 min.) in class
  • Watch Los Sures (Diego Echevarria, USA, 1984, 57 min.)
    • Available from LaGuardia Library on Kanopy
    • Note: Watch only Episode 1, “Los Sures”
  • Complete Writing About Movies assignment: Organizing and Outlining on Microsoft Teams
    • Slides (PDF) about this assignment
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 9: Wall Street: Working Girl, May 14

Module 10: Crime and Independent Film: Laws of Gravity, May 21

Module 11: Brooklyn: Do the Right Thing and My Brooklyn, May 28

Queens: In Jackson Heights, Jun 4

Finals Week Meeting, Jun 11

We will be meeting today for our final meeting of the semester.