Monday, February 28, 2011


On the day that I chose to go to the theatre to view a movie, the documentary Last Train Home was playing.  Unknown to me I think that the showing of this particular film was part of a Chinese film festival that was taking place.  The theatre was completely sold out and there were many different important program leaders that were there and introduced the film.
Describe and interpret the Establishing Shot of the film you viewed at the Nickelodeon. How did this set the stage for your experience with the film?
            The establishing shot of the movie was a scan of a particular area.  It began looking at what seemed to be an empty lot of sorts and then moved to the left revealing a large crowd of people that were are standing packed together in what was a great space leading the audience to interpret that there were many many individuals gathered in this one particular outdoor space.  This then raises the question of where are they and why are they all gathered in this particular area.  There were no particularly distinct people or objects that stood out in this scene either; the audience just gets this feeling of the crowded space of numerous people.
The way that this shot was taken set the audience up for the rest of the film.  The complexity of the area and the way that the people were crowed in such a small place led you to so many questions in the very beginning.  Throughout the video you come to realize that this is actually a very important event that these people actually build a period of their life around.  That being in this place determines something that means so much to them.  Also, of what you could see of the people that were standing in the lot, you could make out that they were some sort of Asian culture and that then also gives the audience context for the area that they are in and allows previous knowledge of the kind of culture we are about to witness become part of the background. 
I also think that the mood that was established from this first shot set up the tone for the rest of the video.  These people are all standing around in the rain and they do not look particularly happy but rather more distressed and worried.  This is seemingly true throughout the story that reaches deep places of hurt, pain, and struggle for these people who are just trying to make ends meet for their families.  Without this kind of set up for the people, I do not think that I would have gone into the rest of the video with the same mind set about the people and their situations.   
Describe any interesting camera angles that were seen in the film.
            I thought that the scenes that had a lot of people were particularly interesting.  It felt like you were particularly immersed in the lives of these people and that you were right there with them taking the journey as well. I felt that it gave me a more personal connection to the people and their story.  Because there were so many people it was also interesting to think about how these cameras would integrate themselves into the scene that they were trying to catch.  I am sure that they could not inform every other person in a particular shot so there were sometimes confused or puzzling looks from other people in the area.  
            They often chose angles to give a different perspective that gave insight to the situation rather than always shooting from the direct front or side of the particular subject of the shot.  I also liked that they would use a pan shot to give an overview and greater context to places that people were going or were in.  To me this gave me more to work with and a way to understand the greater meaning of a setting.
Describe and interpret the story line of the film. What scenes moved you, drew you in, made you feel uncomfortable, etc? Did you view any Mise-en-Scene or staging in the film?
Last Train Home follows the story of  a lower class Chinese family.  The film follows the lives that they lead and the story of how they got to where they are today.  Leaving home when their children were still young, the parents wert rung to make it so that their kids would be able to have a better life rather than follow in the footsteps of their parents just to make enough money to survive.  Because the parents have left home and moved to the city to find work, much of the story explores the process that has to be taken in order to return home for the Chinese New Year.  This is a similar story among many Chinese families because the Zhang family is one of about 130 million migrant workers that attempt to make this journey home for the New Year.  
The story follows the family for two years watching the affect that it has on the relationships of the family and the dynamics of the family and how things change with age and the financial situations that they face.  The relationships between the children and the parents are an important part of the story and so the beginning of the story moves back and forth from the city and the parents story/lifestyle with working in a factory and the countryside where the family farm is where the children live, work, and go to school under the grandparents watch.  From this we see the parents return home from the city for the New Year and the children especially the older daughter Qin grow and become more independent and wish to leave home as well.  Moving out into the workforce the documentary follows the life that Qin begins to lead. The struggles increase and the parents struggle to reach their daughter to convince her that school is the better path.  They also become more focused on their son Yang in hopes that he will not drop out of school and follow in his sister’s footsteps.     
            The pieces of the story that I most connected with were the ones that followed Qin and her struggles.  She was the most similar age and seemed to be going through things that I felt that I could relate to.  Trying to figure out where you fit in the world and what path is right for you seem to be as struggle that I find many people my age going through including myself.  It made me see that although we live in completely different places and with different ideals that we all go through similar struggles.  It also made me aware of the things that I do have that others don’t.  I have the support of both my parents both financially and emotionally and that help is irreplaceable that I am sure I could not be where I am without what they have given to me. 
            The scene that most surprised me was that when Qin and her father got in a major fight where she used a word that was inappropriate and it turned into both a verbal and physical fight.  I was always under the impression that the Chinese people were very respectful of their elders and I did not ever expect that someone would step that far out of line and when confronted would continue to be disrespectful and do what they were asked not to do.  It also was uncomfortable because I would not be able to put myself in that position and the violence that took place was also something that I could not see happening in America.  Reality of the story and these people really hit me at this scene.  
            There was no staging in this film because of the nature of the story.  The cameras are meant to be in the story without being there.  I am sure that there was an amount of planning and research that was put into how and when certain aspects of the story would be filmed but as it was supposed to depict a family’s story I believe things just went as they went. 
            I would assume that there was no mise-en-scene, used because this was a documentary film.  However, there may have been planning in terms of what was in a particular shot and the way that cuts were made.  There also was probably careful choosing of film and parts of the story to include in the final product. 
Analyze the roles of the actors. Were they convincing in their depiction of the character they played? Why or why not?
This was a documentary so there were no actors but they were real people that were depicting their own lives. The main people that we watched were the daughter (Qin), the mother, and the father.  The secondary characters were the brother (Yang) and the grandmother.  I felt like the way that the cameras followed these people was not inferior at all but that the cameras were just there.  There was only one instance that the cameras were directly addressed.
How did the music or soundtrack of the film influence your interpretation and experience of the film?
Because this was a documentary there was no extra music throughout the film.  Rather than music that was added onto the story later, there were just the natural sounds of the people and the environment around them.  I really liked that it was all the natural sounds of the surroundings in the subject’s daily lives.  I feel that if there was a “soundtrack” that was added then it would have changed the way that different situations were perceived, with not having the extra music however the audience was able to get a more real picture of the lives of these people. 
Describe the genre of the film. (Refer to Chapter 10.)
The genre of the film was a documentary; it was intended to document an aspect of reality.  This particular story focused on the lives of a migrant worker family, which is a big part of the Chinese population as demonstrated throughout the film. 
Describe, analyze and interpret the context of the film. What message or meaning did you derive from the film?
The context of the film is the lives of migrant workers over a two year span.  The story follows the family from their farm to the city and all the aspects that their lives include.  The story presents a situation that many Chinese families struggle through and shows a specific position of the Chinese society.  Personally this was something that I was unaware of.  When I think of China, I mostly think of the hustle and bustle of the city and a very high society with many technological advances.  I think that as an American I am more aware of our “competition” in the world rather than all of the different situations that people of a society may be struggling through.  In the reverse I think that many people around the world as well as in America forget about the disparity and differences that there are in our society as well.     
            I think that the way that the directors presented this families story was very well done and really gave the audience an accurate account of what was going on.  The format and content was very descriptive and real.  The overview shots that gave a greater context, the way the subtitles were present instead of translating it, and the chosen pieces of the story really gave the audience the opportunity to feel like they knew and understood what was going on and what the family was going through. 
             I think that the purpose of sharing this story was to educate people about the culture of a large part of the Chinese society.  I think that like an American story there are many different ways and levels on which they can be told.  There are lots of different situations present even though they are all part of one country.  I think that there is a lack of knowledge about how different people live and that we generalize countries only to what we would consider their strengths rather than maybe looking at the struggles and the other pieces that make up a whole country.  I think that the authenticity of this story conveyed this desire for others to gain an understanding on what people can go through.           
            This story opened my eyes to the way a family communicates and made me realize that there are some things that we all experience even if they occur and come to be differently.  I was surprised at the amount of connection I felt to the daughter Qin and how much I could relate to the situations that she was going through.  It gave me the opportunity to step out of my tunnel vision of what I am used to seeing and gain an understanding about others and how things could be different for me. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Assignment 5: Music

1. Describe Jazz music. Where did it come from, and what makes it particularly unique to Americans?

Jazz music is a popular genre of music that is characterized by improvisation or popular melodies and a swinging rhythm.  It was originated by African American musicians in the early 1990s.  This style is particularly important to Americans because this style was created in South East America. 
2. In Peter and the Wolf, what instruments play Peter, the duck, the wolf, the bird, Grandfather and the Hunters?

In Peter and the Wolf the characters are recognizable by the different instruments that are scored to play the story. Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned to write a new musical symphony for children with the intent to cultivate musical taste in children in their first years of school. Specifically Peter is played by the strings, the duck by the oboe, the wolf by the flute, the wolf by the French horns, the grandfather by the bassoon, the car by the clarinet, and the hunters by the woodwinds along with gunshots by other instruments.   

3. Discuss Classical music. Who are some of the composers that are considered classical musicians?
Classical music is the period of music from about 1750-1810.  This style of music embodies clarity of form and logic of development.  Classical music is rooted in the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music. 

Some composers that are considered to be classical musicians are Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, among many more. 

My favorite classical composers are those that are used in the ballet.  I have grown up listening to different composers of the classical genre without even realizing it.  When you look at ballet music though it is all classical and only when we use more contemporary movement do we see more contemporary music.  However it is not unusual to see contemporary movement with classical music.  In all of the classical ballets, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, we get a wealth of these composers and the sounds of their wonderful music. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Assignment 4: Architecture

1.       1. 
      This is is the Sims Residence Hall a three story building on the University of South Carolina campus that was built in 1939.  It is situated in the heart of the campus.  This building is also situation in a quadrangle and the other buildings that surround it mimic a similar style and essence.  This served as my residence for both my freshman and sophomore years at the University.   

2.       2. 
     The  Sims Hall is built in the Architectural style of Greek Revival. The columns on the front of the building give it this look and feel of the particular style.  The columns that appear on the front of the building are also in a style of rounded Doric, they are very plain and there is minimal detail on the actual column.  Doric is the oldest and simplest of the Greek orders and the only one that normally has no base.  The capital (top of the column) is also with basic design and small details but nothing extremely elaborate.  On the top of the building there is a small steeple with a spire on top.  The steeple is the taller tower that appears in the middle of the top of the building, with the spire on top extending upward.  These structures are generally found on Christian churches and Cathedrals. (Demonstrated below in the picture of the Emmanuel Church of Boston)

AS     3.
      As mentioned above the building as a whole was constructed in a Greek Revival Style.  This architectural movement was present predominantly in Northern Europe and the United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  For Sims Hall the simplicity of this construction was desirable because of its construction after the Great Depression and was paid for by a Public Works Administration grant.   The designs of the buildings that were completed with the Pubilc Works grant were designed similarly to those built in the 1909-1930 period thus the low nature and the columns, being popular and built to match other surrounding buildings.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Assignment 3:

1. Do you remember how I talked about making a practical experience into an aesthetic experience? I would like for you to think about something that you do every day. Something that you do without thinking about it too much. Now, take that practical experience and turn it into an aesthetic experience. Use similes, metaphors and any other descriptive information from your English classes. Post a picture...
Every morning I put on eye makeup as a part of getting ready and prepared for the day ahead of me.  I chose the color of the eye shadow that I want to wear, usually something to match my outfit.  The brush is mixed into the color ever so carefully to be sure that it is on the correct side.  Dying the brush hairs a different color, giving it a flare.  Only for me to raise the brush to my eyes to gently stroke the brush onto my bare skin.  Taking a blank canvas and giving it a chance to shine and be bright and different for the day.  The powder falls softly off the brush and settles to my skin glistening and glowing in the light above.  Bringing attention and glow to my eyes the powder has found its home for the day.   

2. Post your picture that you drew in class when we listened to "Nessum Dorma" and drew what Pavarotti might have been singing about. What were some of the feelings that you thought while he was singing.

While Pavarotti was singing I was thinking longing and yearning.  There was a sense that he was almost calling to someone and there was a great connection that he had with the person that he was “calling” to.  To honest, when I was listening because it was not in English I was more focused on the instruments and the way that their sounds were moving and the patterns in which they followed.  I am a dancer so when I hear music I naturally think of the music in terms of dance and the steps that I would match to the piece of music that I am listening to.  It also helped that this was more of a classical piece with string instruments that created a nice flowing sound.  Overall, the picture that I drew was trying to follow the notes of the music as well as the inflection that the voice followed with crescendos.  I was impressed that with just the basic sounds and structure of the piece the class overall was able to get close to the real meaning of the song and the context in which it would have been sung. 

3. Describe the establishing shot in a movie. What is its purpose? What does it tell us as the viewers of a film? How important is the establishing shot in a movie?

An establishing shot sets up and establishes the context of a scene.  In order to do this they often share relationships between important figures and objects and using famous landmarks to indicate specific cities.  An establishing shot becomes very important so that the viewer has a basic understanding of where things are taking place and often it helps indicate what time period is being used as well which can make a difference in the story line and what was considered “normal”. Without an establishing shot a viewer’s comprehension of the story might take longer than what would be comfortable.