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Intro to Cinema

As engineers, we all have to take the same core math and science classes required for our majors. Where we get more freedom of choice is with the Curriculum for Liberal Education (CLE) classes. One of my favorite CLE’s that I have taken so far here at VT is Introduction to Cinema (CINE 2054). It’s a three-credit hour area six CLE that deals with cinema as a medium for artistic expression. There are regular lectures like any other class where you learn about film techniques and methods, the different eras of film, film genres, and much more. My favorite part of the class are the weekly screenings where a film that demonstrates the topics discussed in class is presented. They are mix of old and relatively contemporary films; Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus (1928) is a silent film from the last year of the Silent Era before sound recording technology, while Winter’s Bone (2010) is from this decade. My favorite film that we have watched so far in the class is Do the Right Thing (1989), directed by and starring Spike Lee. One of the things I loved about the movie was the humor that worked unusually well in a film centered on bigotry and hate. Another classic film that I enjoyed was Bonnie and Clyde (1967), a gangster film centered in the Midwest about two of the most famous American bandits of all time. This film was screened for our in-class discussion of the gangster genre, which was the most interesting section to me because of the censorship and restrictions of the genre once it gained popularity. Studios were prohibited from doing things like displaying violence or showing criminals wielding automatic weapons; this forced directors to change their style of filming to work around the production code. All the material from class is tested on three exams, each worth one-third of the final grade. Each one is 50 multiple choice problems about topics discussed in class as well as the films screened. None of the exams are cumulative, and there’s no final, just the last test during the exam period but with the time constraints of a normal lecture (50 minutes). The hardest thing about the class is taking notes; the professor, Dr. Stephen Prince, gives extremely detailed notes but tends to move through them fairly quickly, and doesn’t make them available anywhere else. Other than that, the class is a breeze, and a huge GPA booster. If you’re considering what CLE’s to take and need an area six, Intro to Cinema is an interesting and easy option that anyone is sure to enjoy.

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