Monday, December 16, 2013

Film Aesthetics - The Conversation - Extra Credit Blog Post

Take one of the questions below and answer it in relation to The Conversation, but be sure to add how that element is FUNCTIONING in the film - what is it's purpose and what effects are achieved by the sonic manipulation?

 What sounds are present - music, dialogue, noise? How are loudness, pitch, and timbre used? Is the mixture sparse or dense? Modulated or abruptly changing?

 Is the sound related rhythmically to the image? If so, how?

 Is the sound faithful or unfaithful to its perceived source?

Where is the sound coming from? In the story’s space or outside it? Onscreen or offscreen? If offscreen, how is it shaping your response to what you’re seeing?

When is the sound occurring? Simultaneous with the story action? Before? After?

 How are the various sounds organized across a sequence or entire film? What patterns are formed, and how do they reinforce aspects of the film’s overall form? Sound motifs?

Extra Credit will be awarded if you turn this blog post in by 5pm on Friday, December 20th. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Film Aesthetics - Space Assignment

SPACE ASSIGNMENT:  Create a blog post that would engage a reader to demonstrate their understanding of the four types of space, surface divisions, and the concepts of closed and open space. Think of it as an assignment or test posted up as a blog post – how fancy you want to get is up to you.  Include aspects such as the cues that help create or identify types of space, the ways in which surface divisions can be created, and an exploration of how and why a filmmaker would use a chosen space and create divisions. The assignment/test must have a written component, but it does not have to be all written (it could include specific activities, demonstrations, etc). BLOG MUST BE POSTED BY DEC 2nd!

Make sure you include the time allotted for the test or assignment and how you as the teacher would grade or evaluate their understanding/performance.  We will be voting on the “best” assignment.  Michael and Andy as well as the two students who took the class last year will also put in their votes.  There will be prizes!

Voting criteria is not the hardest or most creative – it is the assignment that would best demonstrate a student’s understanding of the material!

You can find my "Aspects of Cinematography" Prezi HERE

Depth Cues:

Perspective/Longitudinal Planes
Size Difference
Object Movement (especially towards and away)
Camera Movement – dolly, track, boom
Textural Diffusion (creating differences)
Aerial Diffusion (only effective when there are some objects unaffected by diffusion)
Shape Change – with or without movement
Tonal Separation
Color Separation
Up/Down Position
Focus - deep

Flat Cues:

Frontal Planes (no perspective)
Size Consistency
Object Movement – parallel to the picture plane only!
Camera Movement – pan, tilt, zoom
Textural Diffusion (creating affinity)
Aerial Diffusion (diffusion overwhelms all depth cues)
No Shape Change
Tonal Separation – tonal range confined to only one third of gray scale, affinity
Color Separation – affinity over contrast
Up/Down Position eliminated
No Overlap
Focus - shallow

Limited Cues:

Same as Depth cues EXCEPT:
Longitudinal Planes – Frontal Planes instead
Movement toward or away from the camera – objects move parallel only

Ambiguous Space Created by:

Lack of Movement
Objects of Unknown Size or Shape
Tonal and Textural Patterns (that create confusion)
Mirrors and Reflections
Disorienting Camera Angles

Surface Divisions
Square on Rectangle

Closed and Open Space
Space on a screen within a frame is inherently CLOSED. The way to create open space is:

Project on a larger screenCreate Strong Visual Movement on screen
        random, multidirectional movement does the best
Camera movement can also create open space - but the more multidirectional it is the more open the     
        space will be (think of rotating the axis of the lens)
Eliminate Stationary Lines

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Film Aesthetics - American Splendor

In the film American Splendor the filmmakers tackle a story about a guy who writes stories about himself and his life in a comic book. In this article, cinematographer Terry Stacey talks about how the choices for the film were made to help reflect aspects of the original comic book they were adapting both in look and in its self-reflective nature. After reading this article please post up your thoughts on the film and it's look - both in mise-en-scene and in terms of cinematography. This does not have to be a very formal post - but please be sure to be specific with your ideas. Did you notice (or looking back can you remember) some of the things that Stacey points out? What other aspects helped to mirror the look of a comic book or the themes of real life reflected in a medium that we typically think of as "make-believe?"

Please post this up by Monday 10/28.
Please be sure to comment on two other blog posts by Monday 11/4.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bugsy Malone

Urban streets, gunshots, dark alleyways, extravagant clubs, sharp suits: the conventions of the gangster genre are easy to spot in the 1976 film Bugsy Malone, including even specific references to other gangster films. But what about the themes of the classical depression-era gangster films? Can you see any influence of the allegorical "allure and potentially catastrophic consequences of untrammelled individualism" or issues of ethnic or class struggles? Or does the film alter this look on The American Dream by creating a world filled entirely with children and ending the gruesome final showdown with a showstopper? After all, the final words we are left with are:

"You give a little love and it all comes back to you, you know you're gonna be remembered for the things you say and do."

How do the aspects of the integrated music in the film change or add to the thematics of this gangster film? This film is an interesting mix of integrated and "backstage" musical numbers, with the added component of the voices being dubbed over by adults. What effect did all this have on the film as a whole, and can you relate that to the themes you feel it was exploring?

I know that's a lot - I'd like you to really think about this film and how the elements are working, not just post up an opinion piece about how you felt about it. As usual 400 words are the minimum. Due by Monday, May 13th and comments on two others due by Wed, May 15th (this is a bit of an extension than what was on your original assignment sheet).

Check out a piece of this documentary - "Bugsy Malone: After They Were Famous" 
Alan Parker talks about how his son was the one who had the idea to make a movie that was only kids. I believe you can find this whole documentary on youtube (as well as the whole film if you want to re-watch anything).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


My reason for choosing Annie as our "pure" musical example is mostly because the film takes place during the same time period and urban setting as the gangster films we watched. You can actually imagine that just blocks from the orphanage the gangsters are meeting and plotting, after all Miss Hannigan not only makes bathtub gin, Warbucks says she's been spotted hanging out with some guy named "Little Caesar" (an obvious reference to the gangster). You will also see that the film ties nicely to the mixed genre example we will be screening. The outstanding performances by Carol Burnett, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters, and Albert Finney (who was also one of our gangsters in Miller's Crossing) also factored into my choice.

For your blog post I'd like you to consider how the film explores the themes of the American Dream, greed, ambition, poverty and prosperity - all important ideas in the gangster genre as well. How do the musical numbers tie into the thematics of the film? And in what ways is the film an integrated musical, and does it stray into the realm of spectacle as well?

As always 400 words is the minimum - but please be sure to write until your points are proven. Post should be up by Tues, April 30th. No comments are required.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Miller's Crossing - Revisionist Gangster

Again, another straightforward blog post. 

In what ways does Miller's Crossing explore either classical or revisionist themes involving criticism of the American Dream, the effects of capitalism, and outlooks on society (this includes class and ethnic issues as well as government and business)? What other ways do the Coen brothers play with the conventions of the gangster genre, including the iconography associated with the gangsters themselves (costume, props, sounds, setting)? You could also, if you so wish, compare the gangster character of Tom to Scarface's Tony.

Blog post is due Wed, April 24th. No comments required. Minimum 400 words.

OPTIONAL CHOICE  - if you'd like to combine your Scarface and Miller's Crossing blog posts and compare the two gangster films you could do that, but the expectation is that your blog post would then be 800 words.  This post would still be due Wed, April 24th. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


This week's blog post is fairly simple.

The 1932 film Scarface was one of the films to help crystalize the classical period of the genre. With that in mind, and using your reading as reference, what are the specific conventions of the genre that you can identify within the film? Think about: character, setting, iconography, themes, stylistic attributes, and audience expectations. Please be specific with examples.

Blog post is due Wednesday, April 17th. No comments are required.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fido - Extra Credit Blog Post

From Bernice Murphy's essay "Imitations of Life: Zombies and the Suburban Gothic"

"Andrew Currie's 2006 movie Fido is an ambitious satire that combines elements of Sirkian melodrama, George A. Romero's Living Dead series and the "Timmy's down the well" plotting of heroic dog films such as Lassie and Old Yeller...As one reviewer put it, the film's depiction of 'an undead chattel class hits an authentic socio-political nerve. It seems to capture perfectly what 1950s upper-class suburbia might have looked like had slave labor still been available.' By projecting Romero's vision of zombie apocalypse slightly backward into a twenty-first-century vision of 1950s suburbia, Currie's film also manages to make some pertinent points about the containment culture of both that period and our own. The film evokes the upscale suburban developments of the present that rely on cheap migrant labor in the form of underpaid and often-illegal nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, and workers. Further, the security obsessed and manipulative conflation of the military-industrial complex epitomized in ZomCon evokes much-criticized elements of the presidency of George W. Bush."

What do you think about Murphy's take on the film's exploration of zombies in suburbia? Or what are your thoughts on how the zombie conventions placed in the midst of the 1950s boy and dog story fits into the zombie genre lexicon?

This being an extra credit post will be accepted up until the end of the semester. It is still a 400 word minimum to get full potential credit.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shaun of the Dead

Choose one of the two options to address in your blog post:

1) Give a thorough examination of both the screwball comedy and zombie genre conventions in the film Shaun of the Dead, and how the two work together put any new spins on those conventions. Please use specific examples from the film with your analysis. You may compare those elements to either of the films we screened in class or any other films from the two genres that you are familiar with, but this is not required. If you quote any of our reading please be sure to cite accordingly.

2) In the essay “Slacker Bites Back: Shaun of the Dead Finds New Life for Deadbeats” Lynn Pifer argues that the film is a commentary on society’s “willing workers” who have been “deadended by their jobs” in a capitalist society, and “provide[s] disenfranchised slackers like Shaun and Ed with a situation where they can not only survive, but also succeed in winning others’ respect (167).” Pifer goes on to try and prove that the movie celebrates the slacker lifestyle and allows for all that are in Shaun’s way to be zombified so they are no longer a bother in his slacker lifestyle, and that though he learns how to manage a life with a best friend and girlfriend he is still a loser and a slacker to the end.

Do you agree with Pifer’s thesis and understanding of the story, or do you have your own theories about Shaun's journey? Though I find a lot of the points and examples to be dead-on, I don’t completely agree, and in fact see Shaun’s journey as one that changes him quite a lot, and that the loss of the people in his life is what wakes him up to appreciate the things in his life that he once took for granted. Throughout the film, once Shaun finally realizes what is going on, we see him quick on his feet, calling for teamwork, and sticking his neck out for everyone else. We see others acting selfishly, being uncooperative, and putting everyone at risk. In fact, most of why Shaun’s plans go awry for them is from the mistakes of the others in the group. Sure, Shaun's plan is not as good a Yvonne's, but it's a plan. As Liz says when she forgives him: “You tried. You did something, that’s what counts.” So I would say the film is about how the zombie apocalypse is what it takes to make this slacker appreciate what is important in life, which, yes, sometimes includes simply playing a video game with your best friend.

What do you think? And no, you do not have to agree with me. Perhaps you have your own thesis to prove about the film.

Be sure to support your thoughts, whether you agree with Pifer or not, with plenty of examples. You can also cite from the essay as you would like, but make sure you do so properly.

As always 400 words MINIMUM for either choice, but remember to fully explain your points or the minimum still won’t cut it. Original posts are due Friday, April 5th. Response to at least 2 blog posts due by Tues, April 9th

Monday, March 11, 2013

Night of the Living Dead

The Museum of Modern Art screened Night of the Living Dead to recognize its cultural as well as historical value, citing that:

"Released at a time when disillusionment was running rampant in the country--spurred by the Vietnam War and the recent assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy--Americans identified with the film's shocking suggestion: death is random and without purpose. No one dies for the greater good or to further the survival of others. Instead, people die to feed faceless, ordinary America. A metaphor for societal anxiety, the sight of America literally devouring itself and the representation of the desecration of the wholesome American family...served as a release for the country's repressed trauma."

What are some specific examples in the film that you see support this interpretation? Please be sure to explain your examples clearly and fully.  Post is due Wed, April 3rd. No comments required. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Some Like it Hot - Screwball Indeed

Although Some Like It Hot was not made during the classic Screwball Comedy period of the 30s and 40s, it still includes many of the key elements of the genre. In your post please explain how those specific conventions are used in the film. Your post should definitely include an examination of the ways that male and female roles are explored in the film. You may also want to write about how the film could be seen as a bit of a mixed genre film - as it incorporates aspects of the classic gangster film.

Here's a great article on the film, with a lot of background information. Worth a read.

As usual at least 400 words minimum. But make sure that you thoroughly explain your points and examples and have a solid intro and closing. 400 words does not always mean a complete post.

The post is due Wed, March 13th. No comments are required.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Joss Whedon's Firefly

After reading Fred Erisman's article "Stagecoach in Space" please choose ONE of the following questions to address in your post. You only need to speak to the first episode that we watched, Serenity, but if you have more familiarity of the series you are welcome to bring up other episodes. Please be specific with any examples, and as always if you quote the reading make sure to cite it.

1) What are some of the specific conventions of the western and the science fiction genres that show up in Firefly, and how are these conventions handled (are they a continuation of the genre, do they put a new twist on things, etc)? Make sure you think about setting, character types, specific iconography, audience expectations and even thematic questions. You do not need to bring up every single convention, but you should speak to both genres in this mixed genre piece.

2) According to Erisman Malcolm Reynolds is a prime example of the Fordian Community's leader. What are some specific examples from Firefly (not brought up in the reading) that help to illustrate this point? How does Mal compare as the western hero to Ethan and Josey or any other western heroes you are familiar with?

3) Although Firefly heavily borrows from the western genre, it is not a story that could be told in the old west. How do the setting (time period included), the use of technology, and the concern for "the social chaos, the man-made disruption of social order, and threat to the harmony of civilized society going about it's business" affect the film as a part of the western genre?

Your original post is due by end of block Friday, March 1st. You should respond (using the ladder of feedback) to at least two other blog posts by Tuesday, March 5th.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Many have called Outland a film that is basically High Noon in outer space, borrowing key elements from the classic western and placing them in a futuristic space mining station. In fact, at one point the doctor says "here comes the calvary." What elements, if any, do you see as correlating to the western genre? How are the science fiction aspects handled in the film - in particular how is the space station (in lieu of the space ship) treated and what does it represent in this film? How is this film a part of the science fiction lexicon, and how are other aspects of technology handled? What conventions of either genre help to build suspense in the film?

For your post please make sure to address all questions, though do so in a complete and cohesive manner (please do not just answer them without explaining the questions somehow).  You should also note that for your blog posts for this class, you are welcome to do half of them in an more untraditional manner - for example as Vlog posts instead, though you should make sure that their content is still equal to the requirements of a written out post.

As always 400 words is the minimum. Post is due by Friday, Feb 22nd.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Western

Before you write this post please make sure you've read the article "Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales" by Robert C. Sickles, which is posted up in our Aspen page.

In his article, Sickles argues that The Searchers' Ethan and Josey can be compared as two very different versions of the western hero, and through examination tries to prove that the two characters and films therefore reflect the cultural values of the time periods they were made in.

Having watched both films do you agree with Sickles' points, and do you find his evidence compelling? Why or why not? Please be specific (and remember if you quote anything to be sure to cite accordingly). What other conventions, characters or iconography of the western can you compare/contrast between the two films, and how would these affect his argument? What about considering the comedic elements in both films and how they are handled?

Please be sure to write your post as best you can so that someone who has not seen the films or read the article could still follow your post.

Minimum word count is 400 and the post is due by end of block on Friday, February 15th. You need to read and respond using the ladder of feedback (Clarify, Value, Concerns, Suggestions) to at least two other blog posts by end of block on Tues, Feb 19th. Please also make sure to only respond to blog posts that have two or fewer responses already (so don't be the third to add a comment).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Welcome to the MPA Blog Homepage - check out the MPA student blogs (clink the links on the right side of the screen). Scroll down to see the assignments that have been given for the blog posts.