THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE

Task/Situation: THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE

We will watch the Ken Burns documentary The Central Park Five. Your task will be to review the film, focusing on how and why it resonates today (if it does—it does), given that the crime occurred in 1989. It is one of several spectacle crimes from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that were revived or reexamined in the Aughts (JonBenet Ramsay and the OJ Simpson trial are others). Each of these cases were hot-button issues with regard to race, class, and childhood. You will look at several reviews of documentaries about the other two aforementioned crimes to gain familiarity with the genre of the review. You will also learn some fundamental film vocabulary to help with your analysis and review. If you wish to compare this to the 2019 Netflix miniseries When They See Us, please do!

Evaluation Criteria:

This is a persuasive piece, one that would appear in an online publication or newspaper. The tone is one which would suit a public audience, but don’t be afraid to write in a style that fits who you are to some degree. The most famous critics are famous for being…themselves…Lester Bangs about music, Jonathan Gold about food in LA (or Anthony Bourdain anywhere)…or Roger Ebert for his terrible opinions about movies. We’ll look at one movie review, but we’ll also read some essays from these writers, because they did something weird, something I really want you to do. The review is a collision between you and the object, and the time and place. This is an extension of the first assignment. Our task is not that you learn to write “correctly” (what is that) but to get you to feel more confident in your written voice, so that you can bring more of it to the argumentative essay, which is a genre in which many students obscure their unique voice.

You want to sound convincing, but this isn’t a research paper or job application cover letter. Why does this film matter now, if it does? Where might it miss the mark? Why do you think it was made fairly recently? How does it communicate its thesis? Given that it is a documentary on a famous crime, you don’t have to worry about spoilers, but, as with the first project, you will need to consider what your audience would need to know about the film (and the crime) without having seen it first.

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