Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tudor, Deborah. “The Eye of the Frog: Questions of Space in Films Using Digital Processes.” Cinema Journal 48.1 (Fall): 90–110.

Deborah Tudor's "The Eye of the Frog: Questions of Space in Films Using Digital Processes" asks how the ways in which filmmakers have utilized digital processing in their own films has changed formal elements of film. She uses an array of films that break away from standard continuity editing--Time Code (2000), The Hulk (2003), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)--to show how “Films using digital processes to recapture approaches to cinema from a ‘classic’ era or to produce a look from another medium construct a form of cinematic nostalgia” (91). Her ultimate goal is to propose that films utilizing digital processing in this way (as opposed to films that use digital processing for special effects) should be considered as using an aesthetic system called ‘array aesthetics,’ which “reorganizes time, space, and narrative” (90).

Because this article never defines it, I will mention that continuity editing is the shooting and arrangement of scenes so that films follow a logical and realistic order that is easy for the audience to follow. An example of this is included in this scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds where we see Melanie looking forward, then we see the dock, we see her expression change, then see Mitch on the dock, then the bird, the bird attack, the bird leaving, her touching her head, and the blood. Even though these scenes were not shot in this order and show more than one perspective, they have been composed to make a narrative the audience can put together. For instance, we assume that when we look at the dock, we are seeing it from Melanie’s perspective.

Tudor then shows how these digitally processed films deny continuity editing for other rhetorical (though she never says the word rhetorical) purposes. The most interesting to me is her evaluation of Ang Lee’s The Hulk because it utilizes multiple windows in its shot composition* that resemble the windows used in comic books. The digital effect reminds us of where the Hulk character started and this new process is used to remind the audience of an older, static format. So, the 2003 film uses cutting edge technology to create something that feels like it’s from the 1960s (92). That’s the way the film plays with time. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this technique is that, while The Hulk did not do well, this digital tool is used in several other comic book films, such as Captain America (2011).
The film plays with continuity editing because these split screens make it unclear as to when many shots begin and end. With a number of screens playing all at once, does a shot begin when a new screen presents itself? When a screen shifts off to the side? Tudor mentions that one reason for this change in aesthetic is that we have become used to viewing multiple screens along with additional media thanks to computers. Our brains are programmed to receive multiple kinds of audio-video information at the same time (101-2). Continuity editing is one of many film elements that may not need as much anymore.

Space is the last element of the array aesthetics triangle and The Hulk uses several digital techniques to play with the sense of realistic space in the film. The multiple frames discussed above is one of them. Often, these multiple frames give the viewer several perspectives of the same scene (99). The Hulk also utilizes a cubing effect to shift between scenes that implies non-space on screen (100). This makes it look as though the ‘shots surround some other non-represented space” (100) and challenge traditional understandings of editing.

While Tudor never mentions rhetoric, she is certainly looking at the ways that these digital processes change the rhetorical space of a film. What we come to expect form these non-narrative elements in narrative film is important. Also, this notion of nostalgia, which is closely connected with imagined memory (92) is important to understanding Waltz With Bashir. Waltz With Bashir is animated in a way similar to how graphic novels are. They are pulling their own kind of nostalgia into the film. How that functions might be different from The Hulk, but this analysis of the process will be useful to my analysis.

*The internet has failed me and provided no good video examples of this phenomenon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Animation and War

Kornhaber, D. (2007). “Animating the War: The First World War and Children’s Cartoons.” The Lion and the Unicorn31(2), 132–146. doi:10.1353/uni.2007.0021

In “Animating the War: The First World War and Children’s Cartoons,” Kornhaber asks the question of why animated renderings of war during World War I are so different from those that follow in the 1920s and 1930s. Why do animated texts that appear after World War I seem so much more technical? She also wonders if this shift has anything to do with the medium of animation and its relationship to children (132).

Kornhaber takes a cultural/historical approach to analyzing these questions, looking at the histories of major animators during the period and the relationships between animation and children’s animation. Because many have argued that animation was not originally thought of as a children’s media, Kornhaber takes time to defend the role of cartoons for children, claiming that the first animation in 1910, Little Nemo in Slumberland is about “the fantastical dreams of a sleeping boy” (133). She also notes that the connection between animation and non-fiction have always been present, citing Gertie the Dinosaur as a cartoon that wanted to accurately portray the movements of a dinosaur (134).

After establishing cartoons as children’s material and scientifically driven, Kornhaber looks at animation done during and after World War I. She analyzes two cartoons, The Sinking of the Lusitania and A.W.O.L. Lusitania contains “fastidiously detailed depictions of the technologies involved” (135), but in A.W.O.L the setting of France during WWI shows no consequences of war (i.e. guns, soldires or destroyed buildings) (136). During WWI, cartoons seemed to fall into these categories of either realism or abstractionism.

After WWI, however, cartoons took a different approach to depictions of war. Instead of being either realistic or abstract, “American animation would return to interplay of abstraction and mimesis in its treatments of the war” (137). One example is the animation Felix Turns the Tide, which features realistic artillery, but the battle is won when Felix, a butcher clerk calls in anthropomorphic hot dogs to save the day.  It is also a time when animation turned from being more universal to focusing on the audience of children, with tie-in merchandise. One of the reasons for this connection between war cartoons and very realistic depictions of violence (realistic anatomy and guns) was that many animators were employed by studios contracted by the military, including animators that would move on to work for Disney and Warner Brothers (138). Most of them started out drawing cartoons on cleaning and loading guns or basic first aid (138). So, they drew what they knew.

From YouTube

While Kornhaber is not directly relating her research to rhetoric, she is looking at the way that World War I was shown to the public. At the time, newsreels were important, but film quality meant that animation was a new and much needed technology. It also shows a connection between war and animation from a very early on in the media’s development, and can clue me into why Ari Folman chose to present his argument through animation. This interplay between mimesis and abstraction is particularly significant. In considering Waltz With Bashir, many parts of it are scientifically accurate; a scene with dying horses immediately comes to mind. Yet other parts, where interviewees are describing dreams or events they are unclear on, are more abstract and even surreal. This can better represent the feeling of those memories. Memory is key to Waltz With Bashir and in considering Nemo in Slumberland, the idea of dreams and disjointed memories haunts the piece. Animation is certainly a strong rhetorical resource for the film.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cinema, Television, and New Media

Kiwitt, P. (2012). What is Cinema in a Digital Age? Divergent Definitions From a Production Perspective. Journal of Film and Video , 64 (4), 3-22.

The research question in this article is what does cinematic mean in an age where the cinematic is conflated with cinema-esque television and broadcasting on instant streaming online applications? How should we encourage students along the paths of film, television, and new media production if we do not understand the differences?

Image by miss mass
To understand the differences between film, television and new media, Kiwitt plans to take “a pragmatic approach, built on defining terms, to what can otherwise be a vexing questions the nature of cinema” (4). He does this by first looking at the way that other theorists have defined cinema, then breaks down the differences between form and medium.  Finally, he looks at the history of intertwined cinema and television and then puts that relationship into the context of the digital convergence media.

Kiwitt considers the definitions that cinema greats like Robert Gessner (5) and Lev Manovich (6) have defined cinema and finds those definitions to be wanting. They easily conflate cinema and television and sometimes conflate cinema and painting. He notes that, as academics, we have a tendency to think distinctively about exhibition, when some of the biggest differences between the mediums lie at the production level  (7).  Kiwitt then separates cinema and television into form and medium (9).  Cinema form is “a form of expression composed of edited live-action moving images, ideally emphasizing artistic form or content” (9) though its medium demands that it be shown to an audience in public (11). Television form is “a form of expression composed of switched live-action moving images as well as edited live-action moving images emphasizing communication (11) while its medium is that it is show “separately and simultaneously” (12).  After making these differentiations, he looks at the development of cinema and television and, while cinema came first, the two have utilized and influenced each other for much of history. He then discusses convergence and how it is not new to new media. Film and television have practiced convergence with different levels of success for since their inceptions (16). This continues into new media mediums of distribution. Kiwitt concludes that it will be even more difficult to advise students on the correct discipline to study with new media. Students who want to make films or cinematic television (shows like Lost) should study film; students that want to make other kinds of television should study television; students who want to code movies for the web or produce online content should study new media.  He argues that students who should be studying cinema or television might study new media instead, but that it will not give them what they need to develop good film or television (18) and maybe not even enough skills to provide great productions in new media (19).

To be honest, I thought that this article would have a lot more to do with animation, rhetoric and digital film production, based on the abstract. However, what I learned from it, and what will be useful is the reminder that all these forms work differently and that their mode of production changes the resources and resources change the way rhetorical strategies are used. For instance, television shows are most often shot on three walled sets, with multiple stationary cameras (think about the fact that you never see one wall of most homes in situation comedies). Digital animation has these same limitations based on the engine a production company uses/creates. Considering the limitations will help me in analyzing the visual rhetoric of Waltz with Bashir.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marrying the classroom and the Cineplex

Plantinga, Carl. "The Sensual Medium." Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator's Experience. Berkley et al: University of California Press, 2009. Print.

Carl Plantinga's book, Moving Viewers is about the physical responses viewers have while watching films. In Chapter four, "The Sensual Medium," Plantinga starts by arguing against the idea of 'reading’ films because that puts the focus on the work the brain is doing while viewing (112). The really important reactions viewers have to films are their physical reactions: “That the film spectator isn’t merely a conscious thinker but also an embodied, biological human being has been the subject of considerable attention in film theory recently” (115).  

Plantinga continues on to show what those physical reactions to film are. The chapter explains the our natural inclination to mimic the actions and emotions of those around us.  Plantinga looks at how films use this human social conventions to create different emotions. He uses the close up as an example of this: “the film can affect the viewer through framing, editing, and camera movement. The close-up can be used to create intimacy with a protagonist or to elicit disgust and revulsion toward an unsympathetic character” (120). Here, film creators replicate how people create closeness naturally and use it to their advantage to create meaning. The term ‘emotional contagion’, what Plantinga describes as “the phenomenon of ‘catching’ the emotions of those around us or of those we observe” (125), sums up the biological situation that film exploits to connect readers and create pathos in film.

The last section of the chapter is dedicated to sound. He discusses how sound is used to heighten the affect of the film. The example of Vertigo is used as the soundtrack gets louder and softer, creating a sound match to the feeling of vertigo itself (131).  However, sound does not only develop emotion, it can foreshadow what is to come (136), like scary music before a girl is attacked in a horror movie. Music gives the viewer additional information.
The book is all about how film uses pathos appeals to create intimacy with the viewer. While the entire book is on film rhetoric, I chose this chapter because it is focused on instant physical reactions, the same ones my students will have and discuss in class. The book is focused on film rhetoric and theory and no mention is made of teaching. This is fine though. I looked at many composition based texts that talked about the ‘power of film’ but never really explained it. This book does a wonderful job of explaining just how film affects the viewer, what films strengths are, rhetorically speaking. My job is to marry film rhetoric with composition rhetoric for the purposes of this paper. It’s a great source. I plan to discuss the oral/aural nature of film in my final paper and appreciated his focus on this topic as well. Plantinga’s chapter notes the medical studies he’s referencing, which I may look at as I write my own paper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Conference Handout

Rhetoric and the Short

This paper looks at the use of film in the multi-modal freshman classroom. Arguments for multimodality claim that the use of different modes supports the learning environment because we learn in different ways. This paper takes on the mode of film because it is a very common media mode. Computers and projectors are available in most classes and access to short films and movie clips is near limitless because of movie sharing sites like YouTube.
The paper will look first at what film has to give as a social medium, both in the way it is created and consumed. It will look at ways in which the very social nature of watching a film affects the way we view it and what that has to say about evaluation. There are also implications in the teaching of process through the network film production creates.
After looking at how the structure supports composition strategies, the paper looks at ways to teach rhetoric using film rhetoric. The paper focuses on two examples: consideration of ethos through an examination of mise-en-scene and the power of pathos through visual cues and the close up. Both of these examples intend to expand these rhetorical strategies often usurped by logos heavy print. The hope is that the examination of rhetoric in this different mode helps students to apply the rhetorical conditions highlighted by them across modes and disciplines they might encounter outside of the freshman composition classroom.

Crawford, Gavin. "A Message from Severus Snape." 2011. Web.
Gilda. 1946. Columbia Pictures, March 15, 1946.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. 2010. Warner Bros., November 21, 2010.
Jewitt, Carey. "Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms." Review of Research in Education 32 (2008): 241-67. Print.
Plantinga, Carl. Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator's Experience. Berkley: University of California Press, 2009. Print.
Rice, Jeff. "Networks and New Media." College English 69.2 (2006): 127-33. Print.
The Shining. 1980. Warner Bros., May 26, 1980

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Network

Rice, Jeff. "Networks and New Media." College English 69.2 (2006): 127-33. Print.

Rice's article "Networks and New Media" argues that the focus of English studies should be new media and "the problems and demands new media pose for the work done in literary studies, film studies,cultural studies, composition studies, or other areas associated with college English, principally as these areas engage with writing" (127). What Rice specifically focuses on is new media's ability to network and to show connectivity. He argues that in our everyday lives we see everything as connected, but the idea of the writer is still one of the lone author: "English studies maintains a fixed point of view through a singular notion of writing as static, fixed, and individually composed (typically via the essay or the exam), taking place in a unified realm of thought deemed 'English'" (129). In explaining what these connections are, Rice gives the examples of “[a]ssociations, combinations, and juxtapositions” (130). So, if paper is the medium of creation for the individual, new media can become the place of interconnection and group texts.

Rice further argues that looking at writing through new media changes knowledge and notes that writing in new media is social and he calls it “a process of working with information” (131). If writing becomes a process it means that knowledge is in flux and “higher education has meant the mastery of a mostly stable body of information” (131). In Rice’s conclusion he asks the questions “How can we rethink a model based on connections and linkages rather than on individual identities (as English itself and its areas of thought still propose to be)?” (132).

Rice’s short article really gets at the heart of some of the issues with new media and mulit-modality in the English classroom, especially in writing. When we ask students to work in new media, we are asking them to work in different ways than they would in a more traditional classroom. To use new media is to argue for this fluctuation in thinking, which opens a lot of possibilities and (in my opinion) makes teaching more challenging, but more productive.

My project is on film, and while film straddles the fence of old and new media I think the way it’s often used in the classroom can be included in Rice’s argument (usually through the computer to allow for easy referencing and even the digital creation of student’s work) . At first, I thought this connection between new media and combination, juxtaposition, and association was odd because I had been taught these terms through print literature. Yet, being taught one way does not mean there can’t be a better way.  Certainly film is a great way to teach these concepts visually/aurally.

This article’s defense of how a new way of writing is a new way of thinking ties in well with Carey Jewitt’s article, the one I read for my first post. It will be very helpful for theorizing what I plan to write on.