Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Dream - Reflection and Relation to Class

I recently had a dream that I found related to discussions that we have had in English 308J. Actually, it could probably be considered more of a nightmare, although I don’t often find myself frightened when I have what most people would consider scary dreams. I was aware that I was in danger in my dream, but I did not overreact or carry lingering effects from the dream when I woke up.

The dream I had took my place on the campus of Ohio University. It was a rainy day and the campus was empty, scarce. It found it very eerie as I walked around campus as I looked for somebody that I knew that I could speak to. I do not know why I was walking in the rain, where I was going, or what I was looking for. Looking back on my dream, I assume there was some danger or something wrong in Athens because I remember moving with caution everywhere I went. Finally, at the Convocation Center, where I hoped to find somebody from the baseball team, I spotted one of my teammates.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked him, once again leading me to believe that there was something wrong with being outside at this time. He responded saying that he had just gone to the locker room to gather a few of his things. We parted ways, and I headed towards an outside pool that I imagined was present on campus in my dream. I did not find this unordinary while I was dreaming, even when I noticed that the pool was not full of clean water, but instead about halfway filled with murky, brown, weathered water with leaves, dirt, and other debris in it. Then, curiously, I saw a person wading in the shallow end of the water. I don’t remember the brief conversation we had, but I remember finding him very creepy and cold, and I felt unwelcomed. I believe I asked him about the condition of the pool and he responded to me by telling me to just stay away. From this, I assumed that he was maybe a maintenance man, or that the pool was unhealthy. I proceeded to walk away.

As I walked past the deep end of the pool to head back towards the Convo, I caught a glimpse of something floating in the dirty water. I looked closer, and it was a head! I shot a look back down to the shallow end of the pool at the mysterious man I had just spoken with. He knew what I had seen. Panicking, I quickly jumped into the pool to try to help this unknown body emerge from the filthy water. Only when I reached the head, there was no body at all. From what I remember, it looked to be a rotten skull, but it did not have the appearance of human bone. It was softer and appeared to be grayer than the typical human skull. I contemplated why this man had this person’s skull in the pool. Was he preserving it? Had he killed this man? I had very little time to think after my horrifying discovery as I turned and found that the mysterious man had swam to the deep end of the pool and was reaching for me. I felt myself begin to submerge underneath the cold, thick brown water.

“I told you to just go away”, he said calmly, as I felt his strength upon me. And then I woke up.

Since I woke up as the man began pushing me under water, I assume that I died in my dream. I don’t distinctly remember the characteristics of the skull I pulled from the pool, or the appearance of the man. However, I remember clearly the layout of Ohio University’s campus and the location of this pool I had subconsciously placed near the athletic fields next to the Convo. My dream reminded me a lot of Black Swan because I was unable to clarify specifically who the other people in my dream were, just as Nina’s visions are sometimes unclear as to if she is seeing herself doing something, or seeing Lily doing something. The lighting in my dream was also dim and dull, since it was cloudy and rainy, similar to the lighting in Black Swan. I felt very unsure of what was going on in my dream, comparable to how Nina is confused about some of the images she sees and experiences she has as she goes through her odd transformation, although I cannot relate in the sense of personally experiencing anything strange with my body in my dream. I think my dream, or nightmare, was relevant to some of the discussions we have had about the mind in class, and I actually found myself quite entertained once I had awoken and remembered what I had dreamt.

Changes in my Filmic Perspective by Martin

Before entering this class, I have always considered myself an above average writer. For many of my classes, writing a paper on a weekly basis has been standard and routine. My conceptions and expectations of this course thus were based upon my past successes within writing and English. However, upon entering, I realized that the class consists of much more than having the ability to write and consequently, my inexperience with analyzing film was exposed. Although there were many discouragements throughout the course of the quarter, ultimately, there have been many positives and lessons to take away and put to use as my college career continues.
Before entering this class, my experiences with film and watching movies was very material and lacked depth. Aside from the sheer entertainment I experienced from a film, there was not much more consideration to its quality and makeup. Because many of my friends were interested in the study and analysis of film growing up in my hometown, I was aware that I differed from them in many aspects. I was confused as to why they enjoyed the movies they did and rarely ventured out of my favorite genres. At times I possessed a much too simple minded attitude when judging movies and usually was only focused on plot, dialogue, and my first impression in regard to acting and who was in the movie. Typically, if it wasn’t interesting to me before viewing it, I would rarely watch it and would instead do something else. Additionally, after watching a movie, I would not examine it on a deeper level and would often times pay little thought to my experience unless inquired about it. Consequently, much of my experience with film before entering this class, although in many aspects I could differentiate between respectable and poor movies, was surface based rather than profound.
The assignment that interested me the most was the analysis of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. Because I enjoyed the movie so much and was so intrigued with the performances of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, the movie was very easy to become immersed in. Additionally, the concept of memory and its connection with relationships in the story were very fascinating to me. It was very easy to relate to as it brought back nostalgic feelings of my own past and made me remember many things I had put out of my mind for a long time. Because this was the first movie we saw in class, I was given the opportunity to analyze its components in terms of ‘the mind’ and its correlation with our thoughts and how they can be manipulated and affected. Because this was our first assignment and first movie we viewed, it gave me a small forecast of what the class was possibly going to entail. Resulting from my personal connection to ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, I was able to effectively analyze its workings and because of its depth and portrayal of the complexity of humans and our relationships. Because of its inclusion of many different genres and elements such as science fiction, romance, comedy, and drama, this was also my favorite movie of the quarter and the most interesting to me.
As we continued to write about, discuss and research film, my opinions and ideas of the study changed greatly. Originally, my ideas were shallow and I lacked the necessary knowledge pertaining to the extent of making a solid movie. Through discussion, research and writing papers, I have begun to realize that there is much more to film than its initial entertainment value. Because of this increase in knowledge, I have gained much more respect for movie directors and the immense amount of work that goes into producing movies. With the use of a Formalist approach for analysis, my mindset in judging movies has definitely broadened and changed. Rather than solely rating movies based on aspects such as the actors’ performances and a believable plot, I am now able to effectively examine a film for its visual quality in regard to camera work and editing, ideology, genre, and also compare it to other movies within a historical approach. Because of this course, my perspective has lengthened and consequently, I am more able to effectively observe films that I would not have been able to before.
After the conclusion of this class, I will take a great deal of knowledge away that will be useful as I move forward with writing and college in general. Not only have I improved my writing style and voice, but I will also be more able to analyze and review films and literature more effectively and with better organization. Furthermore, I will take away the knowledge that I have a lot of improvements still to be made and that although I understand that I can write, I cannot become complacent because within the context of film, there is still a large amount of knowledge that I am lacking and it has shown in a number of my assignments. This class has taught me to venture out of my comfort zone and my familiar writing topics and take risks with what I explore in papers.
My writing style itself has not experienced a great deal of change as a result of the class, however, as a result of researching a completely foreign topic in film and further, ‘the mind’, I have gained a versatility that will assist me as I continue to write about a large realm of topics. I also gained a better idea about how to successfully state my thesis or what I am arguing in my introduction paragraph and allow my paper to follow my thesis points. In many of my early assignments such as my Inception and Amelie analyses, rather than arguing a specific point or facet of the movie, I instead described too many separate pieces and failed to efficiently analyze specifics. Because of this, my papers were much too general and lacked depth. However, after failing in my goals with these assignments, I learned that I need to limit my topics within an article and make it more focused rather than broad and shallow.
Overall, through this class, I have learned a great deal about myself in regard to writing and my knowledge of film. Although I have always had confidence in my writing ability, this class has made me re-examine my writing and has forced me to branch out of my comfort zone. Despite my inexperience in film analysis, I have gained useful knowledge about how to effectively view movies on a deeper level than in the past. I have found a more broad understanding of movies and a greater respect for directors and filmmakers. This class has therefore been successful in making me a better writer and student.

Alice in Wonderland - A Trip into a Dream

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a colorful, dream-like movie that truly engages the audience into the magical land of Alice and all her friends. In the beginning of the movie, Alice is clearly unhappy with her life and her relationships with several people, including her mother. She runs off into the woods after spotting a rabbit wearing some sort of vest with a pocket watch. No one else sees this rabbit, so Alice is left to trust only her own vision. She acts upon this instinct because she possesses a great desire to find an escape from reality, and that is what she is able to do as she follows the rabbit down a hole before seeming to fall hundreds of feet before landing relatively unharmed in a strange room and eventually, in Wonderland.

Burton does an incredible job of drawing the audience in to the setting using bright colors, such as the plants in the forest and the color of the Mad Hatter’s face and hair. The weird creatures and animals accentuate the dream-like feel of the movie, and I was instantly drawn in. When I watch Alice in Wonderland, I feel like I am experiencing an escape from reality and it is very to indulge in such a feeling while watching a movie because I believe it enhances the viewer’s entertainment. I, too, find myself wondering if Alice will be accepted as The Alice that is required to slay the dragon, or wondering why the Mad Hatter is in such a fragile, kooky state for a majority of the movie. Her relationships with the other characters help to develop the mysteries and themes of the movie and as it progresses, it truly seems real. I find myself questioning if Wonderland is actually a reality for Alice, and how she will balance her two worlds. This is the effect that dreams often have on the mind; we involuntarily lose focus of what is real and what is not when we are dreaming. I often think dreams are real when I have them, and that is the reaction Alice in Wonderland draws from me.

This movie is certainly relevant to movies that we have watched in class, in such a way that we question the mind and the surroundings in the movies in order to try and decipher reality from imagination. However, I think Alice in Wonderland is different in that, as a viewer, I enjoy Alice’s trip through her dream-like experience. In other films we have watched that question reality, I found myself concerned for the characters’ well-being. While I remained curious while watching Burton’s film and the ending was suspenseful, the movie still felt like a dream more so than a nightmare. Along with all of the visual effects and Burton’s ability to take his characters along on Alice’s journey, I thoroughly enjoy watching Alice in Wonderland.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Creative Non-fiction Essay

Tyler Norris

Tools of Perception

The way in which one perceives a piece of art is almost an entirely subjective phenomenon. How a person relates with and understands a film comes from their personal experience and history with film. Before taking this course, I myself believed I had firmly grasped what it takes to truly understand a film. I had participated in many discussions on the underlying meaning of certain films, such as Fight Club and Groundhog Day. Although I previously possessed the ability to dig deeper into the meaning of certain films, my analysis was almost entirely limited to that of thematic elements. I had the ability to recognize subtleties and apply them to the theme of the film, but my experience with recognizing other cinematic elements was limited.

Throughout this class the tools of which I possessed to further understand film grew dramatically. Firstly, I became aware of the many different ways and perspectives to analyze film. I now understand there are six different ways to approach analyzing a film. A writer could approach a film through a historical method, known as film history. In this approach a writer would investigate the historical context in which a film fits and the historical developments surrounding its creation. Relating to, but not entirely similar to the historical approach is the method of analysis known as national cinema Writing through this method requires the author to pay close attention to the cultural and national circumstances under which the film was created. An author could also approach film analysis from a perspective that focuses on genre or type of film. The author uses films within the same genre as a reference point for analyzing the film, allowing them to draw conclusions from similarities and differences among them. Writers can also investigate films by analyzing different films from the same director; this is known as auteur criticism. Formalism is another type of film analysis. This method focuses on the style and structure of a film according to specific cinematic elements, such as editing or sound. Finally, an author can choose to analyze a film based upon its ideological principles. The writer using this method analyzes the political meaning or messages within a film. The discovery of these six different methods of approaching film analysis has helped me to better understand the films I watch. It does this by offering me a different perspective in which to view and analyze a film. No longer am I limited to simply picking and choosing random elements of a film to analyze. I am now able to choose a specific method of analysis which enables me to more thoroughly investigate subtleties within a film. These different methods have revealed to me a much more in depth way to enjoy film. I do not merely watch a film anymore, I try to understand the deeper meaning behind the film and how specific elements relate to that meaning.

Through taking this course I not only gained a better appreciation and understanding of the films I enjoyed, but also developed a respect for all film. Prior to this class I was unaware of the immense task performed by a director in creating a film. I did not realize how meticulous many directors were about the placement of seemingly unimportant props. I had no idea of how precise each camera angle had to be to create the desired effect by the director. By analyzing and critiquing specific elements of film, the grandiose feat of directing and creating a film became apparent. I am very particular about the films I enjoy. And I now after taking this class have a greater respect for all films; including those I do not necessarily consider a favorite.

Although I have gained respect for many directors and the work they do, this class has also influenced me to hold films to a much higher standard than before. After learning multiple techniques for analyzing film I have developed a refined taste for what I personally consider a “good” movie. The bar has been raised to the least. I find myself turning my nose to blockbuster hits, and instead opting for films that I can dissect and learn something from. While I still enjoy the multi-million dollar special effects driven films, I am constantly picking them apart. I find that when films are not carefully constructed they become annoying to me. I dwell on the details and try to derive meaning from them, but when meaning is not present I am frankly disappointed. I have also found that I become irritated with people who hype up worthless, cookie-cutter type films, which are solely created to captivate a lazy audience. I do not think I am so much as irritated with them, as I am disappointed with their judgment. This disappointment in turn leads to irritation when I end up taking someone’s advice and waste two hours of my life witnessing some horrible film where nothing happens. Then I am disappointed in myself for actually thinking M. Night Shyamalan had made a decent film since The Sixth Sense. It is one thing to enjoy a film, it is a whole other story claiming that said film is “awesome.” Honestly, I feel like I’m being lied to when this happens, and I take it personally.

Prior to taking this course I believed I knew everything I needed to know about how to decide whether or not a film was of quality. I thought I had relatively good taste in film and I believed I understood those films better than most. To my surprise, I learned that my skills of analysis were in all reality quite weak. I used obvious elements of film to decide whether or not a film was good, but I was lacking an in depth understanding more subtle cinematic elements. This course allowed me to discover the subtle elements of film and in doing so I grasped the ability to critically analyze. I am now able to analyze specific elements of film from a specific perspective and draw in depth conclusions to the quality of the film.

Nostaglia from Scott Pilgrm

Video games have always been a very popular item in my family. We would always be getting a new game consul for Christmas. Between everyone in the house, we have had numerous gameboys, the original Nintendo, the Nintendo 64, X-box’s are more. If we were not outside doing something we would play each other in the virtual world. I am the only youngest of four and the only girl in my family. Having three older brothers made my childhood a little different than others. While all my friend were listening to the latest hit boy band, Back Street Boys or Nsync, I was usually playing some sort of either video game or bored game with all my brothers. One of my favorites was Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo. My brothers, on the other hand always preferred The Legend of Zelda. Growing up in this kind of atmosphere, I became a fan of video games and could recognize music and sounds from different ones.

While watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I started to notice a few of the music and sounds affects in the movie. The thing I noticed right off the bat was the Zelda music. My brothers were always playing this game and it gave me a sense of nostalgia. I remembered those times that my brothers and I would all gather around the television to play, but it also brought back the memory of the fights that would always pursues. Everything would start out just fine, but then we usually started arguing about who was next. Not shortly after this starts happening, my parents would come in and kick us off. Numerous times, we had the remotes taken from us. This movie is one of my brother’s personal favorites and I think this is because of the video game references that appear throughout the movie. This movie brings back memories from my past about the wonderful times that my brothers and I had as kids.

The Mind on Film - Reflection on Newly Aquired Knowledge

My ability to observe, analyze, and write about films that I have watched has definitely improved after taking English 308J - The Mind on Film. The task of watching a movie for entertainment while simultaneously trying to capture and interpret various aspects of the presentation is something I was unfamiliar with. My experience in The Mind on Film class was accentuated by making necessary adjustments and eventually gaining noticeable improvement in my writing, watching movies that I thoroughly enjoyed and discussing them during class, and retaining knowledge on analysis and writing that I will be valuable to me as a writer in the future.

Prior to taking this course, I had not done a lot of writing based on film viewing. I consider myself a quality and rider and an avid film fanatic, but I had never really combined these two hobbies. So, primarily, I had to work on analyzing elements of the film and then describing them thoroughly in my papers. It was new to me. Appreciating the entertainment of the movies while examining scenes and characterizations and editing was not terribly difficult for me, but it was a bit of a working progress. Furthermore, connecting these observations with a theme or thesis that I’ve created was also a key component in my improvement as a writer. I have always enjoyed watching movies and picking up on little subtleties in films, I just had to work on producing these assessments on paper and making them relevant.

The writing assignment I enjoyed the most during the class would probably have to be Amelie because of the unique style of this French film. I have never watched a French film before, and it was very interesting to watch the progression of this movie. I really had to think about my observations while watching the movie and attempt to determine what relevance some of the very small aspects had. Colors, character reactions, and specific events could not easily be summed up and directed towards a certain theme in the movie; it required careful analysis and connection of prior instances in the film with events later on.

The movie that most interested me would have to be either Amelie or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Before this class, I had not seen either of these movies, so watching something new obviously had a factor in my level of enjoyment over a movie I had previously seen such as Inception or Black Swan, although I think that both of those movies are great and I enjoy watching them as well. Amelie is a top preference of mine for the reasons I previously mentioned focusing on the distinct formalism of the movie. Scott Pilgrim most interested me because I really underestimated the quality of the movie before I had even seen it. It was a pleasant surprise. The humor of Scott Pilgrim and the unique plot, which mixed a real life problem of a young man’s attraction to a female with fantasy world conflicts and battles, made it an incredibly fun movie to watch.

I do not think that discussing and writing about the movies we watched in class changed my opinion about them. I was still able to enjoy the movies and gather relevant information from my observations that were significant in analyzing the purpose of the various films. However, researching actually helped me in this class in a way that I was exposed to someone else’s opinion about a specific movie. This either helped me to solidify my argument if I agreed with the source, or forced me to strengthen my argument if I disagreed. Additionally, research from credible sources brought aspects of the movie to my attention that I may have not have noticed, or included historical evidence that I may not have been aware of. In a movie such as Suspiria, background information on Dario Argento and his mindset in creating this movie was crucial in my understanding of his utilization of such noticeably vivid colors. It increased my ability to grasp the movie and the significance of each scene.

The knowledge that I am taking away from this class will be very advantageous in my writing in the future. I have learned how to construct a stronger, more focused thesis. By creating a thesis with three specific topics of discussion, my papers are now better organized. My writing has also changed a bit because I am able to implement small details more efficiently because of the improvement of my analysis skills. I am able to describe the significance of what I pick up and interpret while watching movies and base them in my arguments as key points or connectors. I know that I will effectively be able to continue to use these changes and improvements in my writing.

Reaction to class

When entering this class I really had no experience writing about film. I was more used to reading a book and having to write a paper on that, and films being a form of entertainment. I remember in school if we were learning about the civil war, then we would watch a movie on it just to reinforce what we were learning. I can’t remember ever being asked to write a paper on a film or analyze one. However, I did enjoy this class much more because we were analyzing films rather than books.

Out of all the assignments that we had in this class the one that interested me the most was the film review on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I preferred writing a review rather than an analysis because I just felt it was much easier. I could put my opinion in it and did not have to examine specific details, which is not something that I am used too. I would also have to say that this was also my favorite movie out of everything we watched. Eternal Sunshine had a lot of familiar faces and it was also a newer movie. It was just easier for me to follow with it being a newer film and the story line was not as complicated as some of the other movies in class.

With all of the writing, discussing and researching we did in this class about these films, for the most part, did not change my opinion about the movies. There was only one exception, I had seen Inception before, but after being forced to analyze it, I found that I did not enjoy it as much. I liked it strictly for entertainment purposes. For all of the other occasions it did not change my opinions when we would discuss these films. I found that something would spark my interest from the beginning and I would just go with it. Sometimes the discussing would help me understand the film better.

After this class I feel more comfortable writhing in MLA format. I feel this will be helpful in the future, knowing how to properly do the citations and works cited page. I also feel like when I watch movies now I will automatically analyze them. I also feel like my writing has changed for the better. I feel more comfortable with thesis statements and forming paragraphs. I also do not feel as intimidated by having to write a three page paper. Overall, this class was a positive experience and I would highly recommend it.