If you love movies and entertainment, then you probably tuned into the Academy Awards last Sunday night. And while you were probably gawking at Anne Hathaway’s constant costume changes and wondering why Nicole Kidman never ages, you may not have noticed that these Hollywood pros can actually help you get motivated too for Critical Reading. Hollywood employs some of the best critical readers around- screen writers, directors, and actors. Directors have to understand the nuances in the passages of a screenplay and make it a vision. Actors need to be able to read in-depth into their characters and their motivations. Last but not least, writers need to be able to get all of this information on paper, especially if they are adapting their screenplay from a book. Adapted screenplays are basically advanced exercises in critical reading. Here’s hoping that these movies will motivate you to excel (no pun intended) at critical reading.
Easy A (Theme): I am going to start off with an unconventional adaptation of a book. This movie is a modern high-school based retelling of The Scarlet Letter. The reason I bring this movie up is that the audience is able to grasp the main themes of the original book just by watching what seems like a teen movie. The movie explores the ideas of reputation, guilt, religion, and men vs. women just as the original book had. Despite taking place in modern-day California, Easy A grasped the Puritanical era. This is something you have to do as a test-taker. You don’t have to read every detail of a passage, but you do have to understand the recurring themes of a passage. This comes in handy for main idea questions.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tone & mood): One of the most critically acclaimed adaptations of the franchise so far, this particular film succeeded by capturing the original tone of the author. Rowling’s attitudes in the book towards scenes such as Ron’s departure were aptly captured by the acting and cinematography. Mood is not tone, but it helps us understand it. The movie’s darker sets and lighting set the stage for the viewer. Just as this director captured Rowling’s intentions, you must understand the author’s attitude to effectively grasp tone. Mood and diction are tools that can help.
The Social Network (Double Passage): This movie featured some crazy editing that allowed it to juxtapose two different lawsuits facing Mark Zuckerberg. It also used the lawsuits to follow Zuckerberg’s life chronologically. This movie uses the foil technique fairly liberally, and the audience finds themselves comparing characters or situations constantly: One Winklevoss twin to the other, Mark versus Sean Parker, Eduardo versus Sean Parker, and so on. However, the comparisons in the movie are never hard to elucidate because the director and writers have done a good job of making sure the main points of the movie are easy to follow. This is what you must do in double passages. You are asked to compare but you must still understand the basics of each passage such as main idea and tone.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Inference): Considered to be one of the best adaptations of young adult literature ever, this movie succeeds in taking events from the book and inferring what was said between the lines. It is easy to understand the characters’ motivations throughout the film. While the original book was fairly short anyways, the movie does a good job of taking the events and using them to find the deeper suggestions made by CS Lewis. The movie does not just jump from one action sequence to the next. Similarly, in inference-type questions use tools such as the area rule and diction to go deeper into the passage. Do not make logical leaps, but instead use the information available to get into the author’s head.
The Dark Knight (Find and Translate): Comic book adaptations are amazing examples of the find and translate rule you learned in class. Most comic book movies are based off years of actual comics. Naturally, you can’t use a decade of comics and fit it into a two hour movie. Therefore, the writers and director took parts of the Batman comics that were most relevant and put them together to make a cohesive story. This included the introduction of the Joker, and the new Gotham DA. In passages, you must use the area rule to hone in the parts of the passage that College Board wants you to find. Then translate it into one cohesive idea keeping in mind tone.
So if you’re ever confused on critical reading, just ask yourself: Would my answer make sense if it was a movie dialogue based on the passage I’m reading? If your answer is no, try again.