Lights, Camera, Action...Music: Critiquing Films Using Sight and Sound

Films can be much more than entertainment; they can also help students better understand themselves, their culture, and other forms of media. In this lesson, students view a scene from Good Morning, Vietnam in which the visuals and the music contradict each other. They then use a scene analysis framework to explore why the director chose the setting, camera angles, and music and what these choices do to create the scenes tone. Students reflect on the scene individually and in groups and then create their own scene to be presented to the rest of the class. Detailed lesson plan that leads students through the process of reading film, making them active viewers and allowing them to see the effects sound, lights, cameras, etc. can have on a visual work.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in...
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating...
Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding...
CLE 3005.7.1
Evaluate the aural, visual, and written images and other special effects used in television, radio, film, and the Internet for their ability to inform,...
CLE 3005.7.2
Examine the agreements and conflicts between the visual (e.g., media images, painting, film, graphic arts) and the verbal.
CLE 3005.7.3
Recognize how visual and sound techniques or design (e.g., special effects, camera angles, music) carry or influence messages in various media.
CLE 3005.7.4
Apply and adapt the principles of written composition to create coherent media productions.
Evaluate the topic or subject in multiple diverse formats and media.
Evaluate the topic, subject, and/or theme in multiple diverse formats and media, including how the version interprets the source text.
Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Students will:

  • Use their critical thinking skills to develop a new vocabulary for discussing and critiquing films
  • Develop evaluative and analytic skills by applying this new terminology to a scene in both classroom discussions and writing
  • Become more media literate by exploring how film texts are constructed and how camera angles and music impact a viewer's experience
  • Synthesize what they have learned by outlining a scene of their own and presenting it to the class
  • Participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical persons in respectful dialogue with one another during class discussions and while working in cooperative groups

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 
  • If you have access to film equipment, have students film their scenes.
  • There are a number of images in the scene from Good Morning, Vietnam that contradict the lyrics of the song; ask students to identify them using the interactive Venn diagram.
  • Have students visit MRQE (The Movie Review Query Engine), which allows them to enter film names and access numerous reviews. Ask them to look at various reviews and analyze how they are written before they write their own review of the film they selected as their favorite during Session 1.
  • Have students choose a movie or a movie segment and write an essay analyzing it using the Essay Map as a prewriting tool. 

Helpful Hints

Materials and Technology:

  • Good Morning, Vietnam, directed by Barry Levinson (1988)
  • DVD player or VCR
  • Chart paper
  • Student journals