American Film and Culture

Discussion Board: Week 1: American City / American Town

The following are just some things to consider, a start of the conversation. You certainly don’t need to address all of these directly. Responding to one or two points—and noting anything else you find salient—would be great. Above all, please refer to particular terms, concepts, or arguments from the week’s assigned texts. Quoting or paraphrasing key passages helps indicate a rigorous engagement, and is required for full credit. The readings are in the additional materials section.

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With the formal elements of classical Hollywood style—as presented by Belton—in mind, address some of the ways in which Shadow of a Doubt and/or It’s a Wonderful Life employ camera placement and/or movement, lighting, editing, mise-en-scène, sound, etc. in order to structure the narrative around the goals or perspectives of individual characters. You may also want to consider what this says about American ideology (i.e. values of the individual, beauty, action, etc.). Read more at

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Using Wood’s list of American capitalist values, address some of the ways in which these are employed in Shadow of a Doubt and/or It’s a Wonderful Life. What, in his analysis of these two films, stands out? In what ways, if at all, do these insights reveal the underlying ideologies of the films that you otherwise might not have noticed? Are there other aspects not addressed by Wood that you think would complicate or challenge his interpretations of the film/s?

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