ENG 112
Fall 2004
Paper III: Film Analysis


For your final essay, you will watch The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), a movie about a New Mexican community that rallies behind a farmer who unintentionally uses the water supply of a rich and powerful developer. 

This may be the first time that you have looked specifically at a film as a literary text. Films contain many of the same characteristics as traditional, printed literary texts: plot, point of view, characterization, symbolism, setting, tone, and theme. In addition, film includes such audio-visual elements as lighting, set design, costuming, cinematography, and music. 

Your goal for this essay is to isolate a particular aspect of The Milagro Beanfield War (a character, a scene, a literary/cinematic device) and then write an essay in which you analyze and interpret this element. You want to be sure to limit yourself to a very focused topic as this essay is rather short (see below).

As you analyze and write about film, remember that you aren't writing a review. Reviews are generally subjective: they explore an individual's response to a film and so do not require research, analysis, and so on. As a result, reviews are often both simplistic (thumbs up, thumbs down) and "clever" (employing the pun-driven or sensational turns of phrase of popular magazines). While reviews can be useful and even entertaining pieces of prose, they generally don't qualify as "academic writing."

You may want to rent (or check out from the library) the video to watch at home in order to find specific scenes and quotations. 

Credits: The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

Director: Robert Redford

Screenplay: David Ward and John Nichols

Based on the Novel by John Nichols

Studio: Universal Studios

Sheriff Montoya: Ruben Blades
Ladd Devine: Richard Bradford
Ruby Archuleta: Sonia Braga
Nancy Mondragon: Julie Carmen
Joe Mondragon: Chick Vennera
Kyril Montana: Christopher Walken
Herbie Platt: Daniel Stern
Charlie Bloom: John Heard
Flossie Devine: Melanie Griffith
Amarante Cordova: Carlos Riquelme




You will need to include:

√ A title that gives your readers a sense of your specific topic and argument.

√ A clear, interpretive thesis.

√ Examples from the text to support your points of analysis.

√ Four pages of text. (You need to be well onto the fourth page to fulfill assignment requirements.)

√ A Works Cited page that includes the film. (You do not need any outside sources for this paper, but if you use them, they also need to appear on your Works Cited page.)

            Because films do not have page numbers, parenthetical citations from the film

            will contain only the title.


            MLA Citations for Film:


[Title of the Film]. Dir. [name of Director]. Perf. [names of primary performers]. [Name

            of studio], [year of release].


It's a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel

            Barrymore. RKO, 1946.