Having used both the Bordwell-Thompson book (Film Art: An Introduction)
and the Giannetti book (Understanding Movies), I would suggest the latter.
It's been my experience that students find the former dry and hard to
relate to, in that it uses films they've never heard of as examples (of
camera angles, sound techniques, etc.); the latter uses more current
movies (Titanic, etc.) and seems to connect film technique to issues the
students care about.
While it's important to introduce students to "the classics" in a film
*history* class, in a intro to film class different issues are often at
center stage. For my money, it's much more effective to use a James
Cameron film as an example of a long take than "Magnificent Ambersons", at
least to a group of restless freshmen....
Daniel Isaac Humphrey
Department of Art & Art History
University of Rochester
424 Morey Hall
Rochester NY 14627-0456
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: http://www.tcf.ua.edu