Readings for 5/5

This week’s readings had a lot to do with recent technologies.  Friedberg’s reading was probably one of my favorites so far this semester.  She brought up Marshall McLuhan’s famous words “the medium is the message”.  I’ve heard these words in every media studies class since I first started media studies, and always knew what it meant, but Friedberg’s reading intensified the meaning of the phrase.  McLuhan was right – content has a tendency to blind and skew our perception of the actual medium.  Cinema has been dramatically transformed and somewhat lost around all types of new technology.  I feel like it wasn’t until Avatar that people began to really appreciate everything that cinema has to offer.  Although I would love to say that watching it in the 3d experience is something you can only do in the movies, with the new techonology of 3D television, you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home.  Friedberg’s intial description of the VCR was great – “The Time-Shift Machine”.  This could not have been a more perfect title because she’s totally right!   VCR were first used to record things coming live off the air, and could now be enjoy at any time.  It also offered mass entertainment without any ethical or p0litical concerns.

On the other hand, Philip Rosen’s reading, for me, was a little bit hard to understand.  It seems as though his title “A Utopia of the Digital” isn’t atually a utopia at all.  He feels that there are hybridities between the indexical and the digital that can either define the digital as being purely nonindexical or make it difficul to define by means of “absolute categorization”.  Rosen talks about a digital utopia critic named Kevin Robins who claimed, “The essence of digital information is that it is inherently maleable.”  (p 817)  I thought this sentence was very interesting because digital information is constantly changing and constantly transforming into something else.  Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, then comes something like the IPad, right?  But Rosen is right – everything digital has stemmed from something that wasn’t digital to begin with.  “The digital utopia involved a constitutive mixture of old and new – something it does not always acknowledge” (p 822).  It is as if Rosen is trying to inform readers that just because something seems impressive because it’s digital, to remember that it stemmed from something that involved “older” and perhaps “less cool”media.  It seems as though he’s just trying to keep that in perspective for all of the technology buffs.  Am I wrong about this?

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Readings for 4/21

Hooks describes what it is like to be a black woman. She refers to “the gaze” quite a bit, and how black people that were enslaved were punished for gazing. She continues on to talk about how mainstream cinema and television enhance the misrepresentation of black people, and in a sense, sway the way society sees them. While I can agree that mainstream media does have a huge influence on the way that people think and feel, I also think that any stereotypes or feelings that people harbor has a lot to do with their upbringing. If children grow up with their parents and family members feeling a certain way, I think that the children will more than likely feel that way as well, only because that’s what they’re used to. It’s sad, but unfortunately, it works that way.

Dyer writes a lot about “whiteness” and representation of this “whiteness”. He brings up three films, and talks about how white people are usually represented as being rigid, original, and rational. What I thought was interesting about this reading is that Dyer writes “The prescence of black people in all three films allows one to see whiteness as whiteness…” This statement was very interesting to me. It seems as though Dyer meant that if there are black people in a film, it intensifies the “whiteness” that’s present. Dyer also discusses what he feels that white means. He think that white is “colorless” and “empty”. This to me seems like a metaphor that although the typical Leave it to Beaver family might seem happy and wonderful, maybe there’s more to meets the eye.

Diawara writes about a few Eddie Murphy movies like 48 hours and Beverly Hills Cop I and II. He brings up a good point that I’ve never really realized. Sometimes when it comes to comedies – I’m a little blind to whatever underlying meaning the movie has. He says that even though Eddie Murphy seems like a tough guy in these roles, he’s still subject to the dominantly white world. According to Diawara, it seemd as though Murphy was there to simply compliment Nick Nolte. When I read this, I immediately thought of Rush Hour. Even though Jackie Chan isn’t white, it still seemed as though Chris Tucker was there as his sidekick, while Jackie Chan did all the major fighting. I don’t know – maybe I’m wrong about that?

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Readings for 4/14

For my paper, I’m going to be researching “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock. The readings for this week were supposed to, in a sense, aid me in my research. However, the reading by Laura Mulvey kind of confused me. “The paradox of phallocentrism in all its manifestations is that it depends on the image of the castrated woman to give order and meaning to its world” (p711) Considering that was in just the second paragraph, I had to prepare myself for the rest of the reading.

What I did find interesting about the reading was section 3 “Woman as image, man as bearer of the look” I thought this section was really interesting because Mulvey hit the nail on the head. While men have a tendency to stare, women have a tendency to possess a look that has a very strong visual and erotic impact. We have a certain “to-be-looked-at-ness”, as Mulvey puts it. The image of a woman is material for the male fantasy. This, in a sense, solidifies the ideology that women have a certain power over men, although socially, men are considered to be more powerful.

Learning about the signified and signifier is something that I went over back in Media 300. The reading by Christian Metz definitely touches on those points. “What is characteristic of cinema, is no the imaginary that it may happen to represent, but the imaginary that is from the start, the imaginary that consitutes it as a signifier…” (p 695). This sentence, in a way, sums up what cinema is a signifier for in somewhat of a simplistic way. Aside from documentaries, cinema is used to represent something that isn’t real, and it isn’t real from beginning to end. Movies are something that someone creates in a controlled environment, not real life. However, Metz is correct in saying that there is a certain presence and certain absence of the imaginary. From what I gathered, I understood that on the one hand, there is the absence of real life, but there is also the presence of an idea created, and therefore signifies something else.

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Pitch for Research Project

I think I’m going to write my paper on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.  For it’s time, I thought it was an amazing movie and Hitchcock is definitely the original man of horror.  There are so many elements of the film that are debatable, especially when it comes to psychoanalysis.   The whole reason for the title Psycho was due to the mental illness that Norman Bates was suffering from, which has so much to do with psychoanalysis.  There also seem to be specific gender roles assigned which is also up for speculation.  Out of all of the recommended films, this seemed to be the one that I was most familiar with.  I figured, why not do more research into something that I already enjoyed and thought was really innovative?

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Readings for 3/17

Robert Stam’s “Colonialism, Racism, and Representation” was very interesting. Stam identified the victims of racism as “those whose identity was forged within the colonial process”. I had never heard of racism being described that way, mostly because I think of the present and how things are today. Also, before racism had even appeared on the screen and images appeared, it took place in Western literature, where the ideas originally came from. Stram also brings up a good point about racism in cinema – you can’t be too careful and you can’t be too bold. If you’re too careful, it seems like you’re “bending over backwards” and trying too hard to not make anyone made and, in a sense, shows a major lack of confidence in your work. However, if you make a movie where the usual victim of racism is suddenly the hero, it’s only to appease those who identify with the “oppressed” and want to see them in an upstanding role. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. I think that making a black man a hero, like in Shaft, is simply breaking away from what’s been done. I don’t think it’s to necessarily “appease” anyone. I think it’s just doing something different and hopefully being successful with the idea.

Peter Wollen wrote about Godard and his films. I, personally, have never even heard of this director. However, the way that Wollen writes about him is very interesting. It seems as though Godard had a way of making movies and it was very different from the Hollywood way of making movies. Wollen thinks that Godard is an innovator, and I dont think I can’t disagree. If there’s a director that is willing to defy what’s normally done and be successful and have followers, such as Wollen, I think Godard is doing something right. It’s hard to imagine what a film is like without using traditional cinema, so I think it would be very interesting to see some of his work.

At of all the readings for this week, I found “Reconceptualizing National Cinemas” to be the most interesting. Apparently, in the West, Hollywood is barely even spoken of. For someone that is so wrapped up in the Hollywood and “celebrity” aspect of films, it’s hard to understand how this could even be true. There are different types of cinema and the criteria of the “national cinema” is that they differ from Hollywood and don’t compete directly with them by targeting a different type of audience. It also says that European and Third World entertainment cinemas struggled against Hollywood with little or no success, and I think that kind of sucks. Just because a movie is made by someone more well known than another and it just happens to be outside the Hollywood realm, it doesn’t get recognized.

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Readings for 3/10

I found the readings for this week to be just as difficult as last week! They were a little hard to follow but hopefully I absorbed the right things out of them…

Kael’s “Circles and Squares” was definitely the most difficult reading, by far. From what I gathered, she has a negative view on the “school of criticism”. She describes the outter, middle, and inner circles of criticism, from what the critics themselves are actually doing. She doesn’t agree with the way the critics are coming their conclusions about certain directors and certain films, but it’s continuously happening.

Sarris seems to try and chime in and explain why Kael feels so stronly about criticism. He claims that, “Taste is a function of scale.” He writes for some of the same papers and these famous critics do, but he’s not sure if he should fall in line with the rest of them. He claims that all critics seem to think the same, which defeats the point of criticism itself. Why be a critic if you’re going to feel the same way about directors and films that everyone else does?

Reading this reminds me of the Academy Awards this past Sunday. The big winner, The Hurt Locker, took home 6 Oscars, yet it didn’t make that much money at the box office- not NEARLY enough as Avatar, yet this film won best picture because it was the critics favorite. I feel that award ceremonies like that are very bias. It all depends on the critics, not on the people who went out and paid money to watch them.

Am I understanding this correctly? Someone help.

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Readings for 3/3

When thinking about the relation of cinema to reality, Belasz really made me see a connection with closeups. Belasz wrote, “The close-up has not onnly widened oru vision of life, it has also deepened it. In the days of silent film, it not only revealed new things, but showed us the meaning of the old.” (p 274). To me, this sentence shows that us, as viewers, have seen a lot in our lives, but have also overlooked a lot of things. We may pass flowers as we walk down the street, but a close-up really intensifies the way the flowers look, the texture, and even sometimes the way that it could smell. Close-ups really exude reality and sometimes we take what we see in person for granted. Authors like Bazin and Kracauer claim that reality is something that is “redeemed” and “revealed” through cinema, which I think reiterates what Belasz was trying to say. Kracauser also talks about the relationship between photography and cinema, and that one has helped the other develop. He claims that the physical properties of cinema are identical to those photoraphy and yet, it is “uniquely equipped to record and reavel physical reality and, hence, gravitates towards it.” He also claims, “If film grows out of photography, the realist sand formative tendencies must be operative in it also.” Kracauer was trying to state that photography itself harbored a lot of realism in pictures by capturing things on film that were real, even if they weren’t able to move. With the invention of film, they can not only capture these real things, but also have them move which makes that realism come to life.

Walter Benjamin’s essay focuses a lot on authenticity of artwork and how most of it is man-made and reproducible.  I absolutely agree with his views on him thinking that the value of the artwork is then depreciated because it doesn’t have the same kind of effort that went into it the first time.  The artist who made that artwork put a lot of creativity, thought, and time into their piece and someone else comes along years later and just takes the idea.  But on the other hand, Benjamin also writes about how maybe mechanical reproduction can be a good thing, “…for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual.”  To me, this sentence makes a statement.  I could be thinking about it incorrectly, but it seems as though he’s tired of art being so traditional and original; it’s a new age.   Reproduced art was now designed for more reproducibility.

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Epstein, Breton, Artaud, Duloc readings.

Surrealist cinema is a topic that I find quite interesting, especially that I took a surrealism class! People like Breton and Marcel Duchamp made surrealism truly what it is. Breton really set the stage for surrealism. According to him, the mind of a concious man is dangerous. They are rules that are followed from society and it shouldn’t be that way. You should be able to do as you wish, just as you would in a dream. There are many restrictions in the rational mind. Rationality was the true danger at the time. After WWI and being able to see all of the soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress is enough to make anyone wish they just stayed asleep and as if nothing had ever happened in those rough times. Breton also stated that “The mind of the dreaming man is fully satisfied with whatever happens to it.” I find this to be one of my favorite lines from Breton beacuse he couldn’t be more correct! In a dream, anything can happen. You can be with whoever you want, have a million dollars, the possibilities are endless!

Artaud is a fellow surrealist that agrees with Breton’s views. He states that “Dreams have more than their logic. They have their life, in which there appears an intelligent and somber truth.” This statement speaks volumes because dreams always manage to have a way to be able to portray harbored feelings in a way that can’t be depicted in real life because of restrictions of rationality. He continues to talk about a screenplay that is able to depict these types of “somber truths” that coming soley from the mind and not from a situation that they had originally developed from. He also called these dreams “the epidermis of reality” which I found to be quite clever, because is a quirky way, he’s right. Dreams are the surface in which real-life situations are acted out and is great materical for cinema!
Jean Epstein’s “Magnification” was also another interesting reading. He referred to the close-up as “the soul of cinema”. Until reading this, I never really understood what close-ups really did. Epstein really has a fascination with them and feels that it brings cinema to life. Being able to see wrinkles, or the way that a person’s eye moves is very interesting to him. I have to say that I don’t necessarily agree. I think that body language can speak volumes, not close-ups. While he is correct in saying that close-ups to limit and direct attention on one main object, I don’t think that a whole movie should consist of close-ups. He does mention a stroller passing by and bending down to sniff the flowers. I can absolutely agree that having a close-up on the flower is a brilliant idea. It shows us, the viewers, how beautiful the flower really is and from this stroller’s perspective.

Dulac’s “The Essence of Cinema” was a little bit more difficult to understand. What I gathered from the reading is that Dulac feels that cinema is like no other expression of art and should not be treated as so. There are things that can be expressed through cinema, like the stages of life of a flower, that cannot be expressed through any other artforms. Dulac states,”The cinema, as we conceive it today, is nothing but the mirror of the other arts. Well, it is too big a thing to remain only a mirror, it must be freed from its chains and be given its true personality. In its technique, nothing links it to the pre-existing arts.” This statement is able to show that Dulac thinks that it is time for cinema to be considered a whole new type of artform. It needs to stop being a mirror and stop hiding behind other types and branch out; make a name for itself. It is a magnificent invention and should be considered as so. However, he didn’t think that it was necessarily a good thing. According to “Aesthetics, Obstacles, Integral Cinegraphie”, Dulac describes cinema as being a lazy way for artists to reflect literature, music, sculptures, paintings, and architecture. Cinema has somehow found it’s way to being considered art. He also states that cinema had to “abandon its creative possibilities in order to be cast”. This sentence shows to be that perhaps he feels that cinema is a very rushed piece of works while artists and writers take a very long time to work on their works of art.

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