Friday, November 30, 2012

Lincoln Movie Review

When I was on vacation last week over Thanksgiving.  I ended up going on a Disney cruise so I had unlimited access to different movies that Disney has under their different companies which included the Steven Spielburg directed, Lincoln. I saw it twice.  It was absolutely phenomenal.  From the opening battle scene of the movie, you already have the sense of how historically accurate the movie is going to be just by the way they showed the battle scene.  It was ugly, it was brute, it was dark, and it was realistic.  It accurately reflected how most civil war battles actually ended up after the initial gun fire volleys.  Then, it cuts to a scene of two black men having a conversation with someone.  We do not see who that person is at first but, finally his face is reveled and it is Abraham Lincoln, played by Daniel Day-Lewis.  Day-Lewis' acting in one word was phenomenal.  At times, you forget you're watching a high budget movie and instead find yourself immersed in America's past.  You also meet many other characters from the countries past such as Preston Blair, Alexander Stevens, Ulysees S. Grant, and my favorite performance and home town hero for myself, Thaddeus Stevens played by an incredible and inspiring Tommy Lee Jones.  I can go on and on about that acting but you honestly need to see it for yourselves to experience some of the best acting I think I've honestly ever seen.  I personally loved the cinematography in the movie, even though I know some people wanted much more from it.  Personally, I felt it complimented the story and honestly, I don't think they wanted to take away one bit from the absolutely perfect acting.  Another thing that was great was the scenery, the props, the make up, and especially the costumes.  Clearly it was a period piece and they did it in such a way that it was natural and didn't feel like a period piece even though it was exactly as they did wear at the time.  Another thing that was incredible in this movie was the writing.  There were so many memorable lines which is one reason that I say this, but the other, is much more important.  The movie is long, extremely long, and also a period piece and historically correct at that.  Yet, with all of these constrictions, the writing managed to captivate the entire theater of all ages and even myself, who can find myself dosing off in many of movies especially period pieces.  You can obviously tell how I feel about this movie and I feel that I am understating how good this movie actually is.  You have to see it, absolutely.  It is a movie that will be used to teach the civil war, president lincoln, and civil rights in college classrooms and high school classrooms for the century to come, it is just that good, and historically accurate as well.  I think it deserves to win every category at the Academy Awards because it is the full package.  Now, stop reading this and go out and see it.


As a few of you know, David Bowie is my favorite recording artist of all time. Not only do I appreciate his music, he is one of my greatest inspirations as an icon. In my junior year of high school, the year I also decided I wanted to go into the film and television industry, I was at the peak of my obsession with Bowie. My friends made me a Ziggy Stardust cake for my birthday, I dressed up as him for Halloween, contributed to his fan sites, had a fish named Ziggy, watched hundreds of youtube videos, and watched a few of the movies he has appeared in. Since I have been listening to him practically non-stop for the past two weeks, I felt the need to talk about him so I will discuss his appearances in movies and television. As you know from a previous post, David Bowie was in Labyrinth, a film that was directed by Jim Henson and released in 1986. Some of the other movies he has been in include The Prestige (2006), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and The Hunger (1983). David Bowie also appeared in a television show years later with the same name in 1999.
The first time I saw him in The Prestige I barely recognized him at first! Before seeing the film somehow I had no idea that he was going to be in it. One of my friends had to say, "Hey Danielle, who is that?!" in order for me to come to the realization and scream at the top of my lungs because that is what happens when I see him unexpectedly.
For the others, however, I was expecting to see him when I watched The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger. Sadly, The Man Who Fell to Earth took me awhile to get through. For some reason I kept getting interrupted while watching it so I had to pause it quite a bit, but also some of the time I actually had little idea what was going on because it was hard to follow. Since David Bowie was very fascinated with aliens and even adopted an alien persona, Ziggy Stardust in 1972, with his concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, he was asked to play this alien character called Thomas Jerome Newton who is an alien who has 'fallen to Earth' from his home planet Anthea, which is suffering from a draught. On Earth he takes the form of a human and becomes head of a large technology corporation. One scene that I remember I enjoyed in particular was the scene where Bowie's character, Thomas, is watching about 30 television sets at once as a way to soak up knowledge about the Earth. I would really like to watch this movie again and I am ashamed I have only seen it once. It is a cult classic and I am proud to say that I have one of the original promotional film posters.
In The Hunger, Miriam, a centuries-old vampire played by Catherine Deneuve, has converted her lover John, played by David Bowie, into a vampire. Unfortunately, John unexpectedly begins to age and waste away one day. Miriam tries to find the source of this problem since this has happened to her lovers before. Although David Bowie is mainly just in the first half of the movie, I found the movie quite enjoyable because of the performances of Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and its Neo-Gothic style.
Although I have only seen one episode from the series, the television show of the same name was completely different from the film. In the episode that I saw there were no vampires just David Bowie playing this genius artist, Julian Priest, who had gone crazy. I must say it was a very disturbing episode for me at the time when I watched it in high school.
David Bowie, I will admit, is not the greatest actor, but I do highly recommend his music.

Project Update

Our group began filming our short film today and I have to say, I think we're off to a fantastic start. Footage looks great, everyone did they're jobs incredibly well, and we all made it through, relatively on schedule.

We all woke up at around 7 AM this morning and headed over to Ithaca's First Presbyterian church. The location was perfect. We needed no lighting equipment at all during the shooting of these scenes. Everything is naturally lit and looks wonderful.

We went to my friend's house to shoot a particularly impressive scene in terms of lighting. Since we didn't have a cop car at our disposal, we set up two lights with a red and blue gel on each one, then our grips each waved flags in front of them. It led to what looks like a very realistic cop car lighting effect, and I can't wait to show it off in the final product.

The actors we have did great; we have a particularly awesome Irish cop and our lead did excellent.

Overall we worked very well as both a team and a creative unit and I think we're all going to be proud of the final product we create. Hopefully we can maybe get into some festivals, but as for right now, we'll just focus on making it as good as possible.

And maybe we'll catch up on some sleep along the way.


No I'm not talking about the 2009 movie Paper Man starring Ryan Reynolds. I'm talking about the short animated movie that is shown before the animated film Wreck-It Ralph. The other week I had a blog post about Wreck-It Ralph so for this week I want to talk a bit about the short movie that went before it.

Paper Man is a seven minute film about a man and a woman, two strangers, who bump into each other at the train station on their way to work. They have a very brief encounter and then before the man knows it, she's gone. What happens next is a very simple story that is told in a not so conventional way. The filmmakers did an absolutely amazing job creating a beautifully told story in such a simple way.

The movie has no dialogue and it is completely action driven. Director John Karhs did a really great job at creating a piece that tell so much with so little. The two characters are instantly likable and you really want things to work out for them in the end.

The biggest emotional draw for this movie however; is the music. The music in this short is possibly the best I've ever heard in anything. It's a five minute piece by Christophe Beck and it's what makes this short so emotional. Every note hits at exactly the right moment to make you emotionally engaged in the short.

In all honestly I would recommend seeing Wreck-It Ralph just to see this short alone, although Wreck-It Ralph also a really great movie. You definitely won't regret it.

How many F**ks Do You Give?

Profanity seems to be increasingly more acceptable in the media as time goes on. The question is, does this help or hurt the final product? South Park released an episode in its fifth season that literally had a "shit-couter" that went up every time the uncensored word 'shit' was used. In total, there were 162 spoken shits, and 38 written shits, making an even 200 occurrences throughout the half hour time slot. This became one of the top ten South Park episodes that changed the world, according to a 2006 exclusive documentary. This pushed the boundaries of uncensored profanity in television, and set a new standard for producers in comedy. Now, in movies, 'shit' is a common word in any movie from PG-13 and up. 'Fuck,' however, is the more controversial word. According to a chart I found on Wikipedia, there is one movie that uses the word 824 times in its 93 minutes. This, however is a documentary about the word itself, so I don't think it should count. Second on the list, though, is a movie called Gutterballs, that uses it 625 times. Now, this is not a widely popular movie, however, if you continue down the list, you'll find some very well-known, and in some cases, award-winning movies.

For example:
Casino (398)
Goodfellas (300)
Jarhead (278)
Reservoir Dogs (269)
Pulp Fiction (265)
The Big Lebowski (260)
Boondock Saints (239)
The Departed (237)
American History X (214)
Scarface (207)
8 Mile (200)
and even Good Will Hunting (154)

The rest can be seen here:

As you can see, these are some very famous and successful movies that gave a lot of fucks (mostly gangster movies). But, in contrast to this, I skipped over quite a few movies that were far less successful, and that you've probably never even heard of. So, the moral of the story is that if you're going to fuck a movie, make sure you fuck it well. Back to my question - how many fucks do you give?

A Game of Thrones and The Hobbit

I recently just finished The Hobbit and started A Storm of Swords, the third book in A Song of Ice and Fire.  The Hobbit also recently had its worldwide premiere in New Zealand and is due out nationwide on December 14th and the third season of A Game of Thrones is set to air starting 3/31/13.  I like many other people are thrilled about both.

The trailer looks fantastic and I really like the songs the dwarves sing.   It gives me goosebumps.  Game of Thrones hasn't released a full trailer for the season yet, but they did release a teaser.

Since the Hobbit is now three movies I am very interested in how they are going to do it since it is not a very long book.  I have heard that they are going to follow Gandalf on some of his adventures and I would assume some time will be spent connecting it to Lord of the Rings.   The two things I am really excited to see are Gollum and the final battle.  In the book the Final battle consists of many different species and I can't wait to see how Peter Jackson brings the battle together.

When I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire last summer everyone told me that the third book or Storm of Swords was the best one in the series.  Now that I am finally there I am especially excited that I will finish reading it so close to the start of the third season.  As the war between the Stark's, Lannister's and Stannis start to heat up and Daenery's gets more powerful and Jon Snow learns more about the wildings I think this will be the perfect book and season.

Django Unchained

I had posted earlier this semester about how I’m a huge fan of western movies, but I couldn’t help but express my excitement for Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming western, Django Unchained! As Quentin Tarantino has an incredible appreciation for the classic spaghetti westerns, I am eager to see what references and homages Django Unchained has in store.

The film stars Jamie Foxx as the Django, a slave living in the South who has been separated from his wife and sold in an auction. After being rescued by the German bounty hunter King Schultz, the two team up to take the bounty on the criminal Brittle Brothers and save his wife from the plantation owner Calvin Candie. 

Django Unchained has an incredible cast, including Foxx as Django, Christoph Waltz as Schultz, Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. The film even features a cameo by Franco Nero, who starred in the legendary spaghetti western Django as the titular character. What I found particularly interesting in this casting is that DiCaprio, who normally plays protagonists such as Romeo in Romeo + Juliet and Dom Cobb in Inception, is playing the villain in the film. I was also slightly surprised that Christoph Waltz was not cast as the villain after his incredible performance as Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds; as a huge fan of Waltz I am very excited to see his performance!

Django Unchained opens on Christmas Day; the trailer can be viewed here, and even features the Ennio Morricone song "L'estasi dell'oro" from the soundtrack of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

The Longest Two and a Half Hours of My Life.

Okay. Maybe not the longest. But it was pretty close. I saw Amber's post on Lincoln and thought I would respond with what I thought of the movie. Over the semester there's been a lot of things that Amber has posted and talked about in class that I completely agree with, and we seem to share a lot of the same tastes in some things. I think it's safe to say this movie was not one of them.

When I went to this movie I went in with high expectations. I went with a pretty large group of people on Thanksgiving night, and my group came out split in half. Half were on Amber's side, and the other half found it mildly painful.

I have to admit, the story was solid and the actors did a good job. Daniel Day-Lewis was a fantastic Lewis. While I'm getting somewhat tired of seeing Sally Field as the same crying mother over and over again, I'll even give an a-okay to her performance. My problem with the movie stemmed from other aspects of the film.

In class, we spent a lot of time talking about how camera movement should help tell the story. You want reasons for everything that's in frame and every movement you make. However, during the long stretches of dialogue the camera would slowly pan and move up and down the table. I found this movement more distracting than anything else. Not only that, but it made the five+ minute stretches of dialogue feel even longer. I felt that if you are confident in your dialogue you shouldn't need to lean on painfully slow pans to add some interest to the piece.

Another aspect that I found distracting throughout the whole thing, which kept me from paying attention to the story, was the continuity...or lack thereof. Throughout the entire film, the piece is battling with constant smoke filling every room. Between cigars, furnaces, lamp, etc...the stuff is everywhere. However, there were a few different part in the film where the smoke would completely disappear in an instant. In one shot a character is faced head on and he takes a puff of the cigar, and a giant plume comes out. The next shot, where less than a second has past, looks at his back towards Lincoln across the smoke to be found. In another scene a we find Lincoln's son outside by a flag that's blowing in the breeze. The next shot, also where less than a second has past, we see the same flag this time looking out of a window, and it's completely still. While these things don't seem that significant in the long-run, when you have a movie that is very dialogue heavy with very long scenes, little things like that can be very distracting. My brother's girlfriend who's never taken a film class in her life also mentioned these things, so I know I can't be the only one.

I would still recommend seeing this movie. I didn't absolutely despise it, and David Strathairn's role as Seward is enough to keep the movie afloat. I do think it did a good job at giving a bit of insight to a president that many people think is one of the best presidents to have ever led America, without really knowing much about him. I just think there were some...or many things that could have been better.

Learning Time-lapse Photography

Over the years I have always seen and been interested in beautiful landscapes and architecture in film and documentaries.  Often times in documentaries these shots incorporate a time lapse to add to the beauty of the shot, visually show the passage of time,  or to just add to the film's aesthetic.  Recently I decided that I wanted to learn how to do time-lapse photography/motion sequences.

Although it is possible to create a "time-lapse" using a camera's video mode and speeding it up in post it is not the most professional way.  I have found that in order to observe motion blur and to perform in low light areas taking still photographs creates a better end product.

What You Need:
-A Camera
-A tripod
-An external timer

Once you find a location you want to shoot you must set up your tripod exactly the way you want it and make sure it does not move.  Next adjust you're camera settings.  (since you are in photo mode you can adjust shutter speed below 1/30 to allow for motion blur).  Next set your external timer to the interval or rate you want your pictures to be take.  The interval you set should be directly related to the style you are interested in shooting as well as the speed at which what you are shooting is moving.  Some general guidelines for hows long of an interval to set are as follows:

1second intervals for moving traffic, fast-moving clouds, and driving.
1-3secs intervals for sunrises and sunsets, slow moving clouds, crowds of people
15-30secs intervals for shadows, the sun moving across the sky (with no clouds), and stars in the night sky
90-120seccs intervals  for fast growing plants
5mins-15mins  intervals for building construction

How long these intervals last should be related to how long you want the finished product to be.  In order to find out how long you need to shoot for to achieve your finished product there is a simple calculation.

How long you want your final product to be (in seconds)

X(multiplied by)

The rate you want to play the clips back (fps)

= the number of shots you need to take

then take this answer ^ and multiply...

 The number of shots you need to take

X(multiplied by)

The time interval between each shot you set

= how long you need to shoot for

An example:
If you want a 15 second clip played back at 30fps with an interval of 2seconds between each shot. How long will it take you?

15 x 30 = 450
450 x 2 = 900seconds (the time it will take to shoot this scene)
900/60= 15mins

So it will take 900seconds or 15mins of shooting to get the end result you want.

After learning the basics for time-lapse photography I look forward to employing what I have learned in order to make more powerful and dynamic shots for future projects.


Spoiler Alert!

Over break I ended up seeing the new James Bond film, Skyfall, and I loved everything about it. It is one of the best Bond films ever made in my opinion. I thought their locations and production design were amazing. The whole scene with the abandoned island and then Bond's old home were the perfect locations. They showed the desolation that was needed for those scenes. Besides that, the cinematography was great. Roger Deakins is such an experienced cinematographer having shot other films such as No Country for Old Men, True Grit, The Shawshank Redemption, and now Skyfall. The only thing that stopped this film from being perfect I think is one scene towards the beginning when Bond shows up in M's office and Deakins' goes handheld I assume in order to show disarray and confusion, but I really didn't like the way he did it. He tilted off to the side and it didn't look like a standard handheld shot. That is the only flaw that I noticed watching this film. If you guys haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth a trip to the theater.

Sketch Comedy

   Next year, I plan to create an online sketch comedy show. I think that many sketch shows are truly hilarious (to me) but unfortunately, most of them get cancelled. For example, one of my favorite shows on MTV was Human Giant. This show was on from 2007 to 2008 and was written by comedians Aziz Ansari, Paul Scheer, and Rob Huebel. In a standup special, Aziz Ansari said that MTV let them have the creative control but then said,"Some shows on MTV are not my cup of tea. Mainly because I don't like huge pieces of shit in my tea." Human Giant was comprised of short skits that I found hilarious and compared to SNL, Human Giant was by far, higher up in the humor department.

    Nick Swardson's Pretend Time, another sketch show, premiered on Comedy Central but was then cancelled after only two years on the air. Nick Swardson's standup is hilarious and he changed his jokes into skits. The skits were quite immature but humorous nonetheless. Nick Swardson is still well-known in the stand-up community but he's yet to star in another Grandma's Boy type movie.

    Chapelle's Show was one of the greatest shows ever made in my opinion. It was only on for three years prior to Dave Chapelle's strange hiatus. The show was filled with hilarious skits and characters and Dave Chapelle would do stand-up bits during each episode. He poked fun at racial tension and his skits pushed boundaries and some would claim they went too far. The show made fun of real problems in the world and forced people to look at them differently.

Now, my new favorite sketch show is Comedy Central's Key And Peele. The shows stars comedians Keagan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. This show is similar to Chapelle's Show because it pokes fun at racial problems and stereotypes. Once again, it is boundary pushing comedy that causes people to think and pokes fun at problems to show the ridiculousness of their real life nature. The Nick Kroll Show, a Comedy Central sketch show, airs sometime next year and looks promising. The only downfall of sketch shows are that sketches can either be hit or miss. I would say that 1/3 of sketches during a sketch show are well written and humorous.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Piece of History in Two and a Half Hours

Last Saturday, my brother called and asked if my parents, my other brother, and I wanted to go see the recently released movie entitled Lincoln directed by Steven Spielberg. The rest of my family seemed very excited to go see it, and I never turn down the opportunity to go see a movie, especially one directed by such an accomplished and talented director. Besides that, I love history so I was already intrigued. So, following our usual routine we show up to the movie theater five minutes before the 6:40pm showing... and almost crash into a tall man in a heavy winter coat. The line to the ticket booth was incredibly long. As we slowly approached the counter, I realized that more and more people were buying tickets for Lincoln. Long story short, we ended up changing our tickets to the 10pm showing in order to spare our necks from the pain of having to stare up at a huge screen for about 2 and a half hours.

The theater was absolutely packed. I could only stand there in wonder. This movie has really gotten people excited, and after watching it myself I can see why. From the intricacies of Congress to his personal life, this portrayal of Lincoln and the brief span that is covered in the film was filled with rich detail. It was hard to catch it all in just one viewing. I was so impressed with the sets as well as the truly amazing talent of Daniel Day-Lewis who played Abraham Lincoln. Not to discount the rest of the cast and crew who, with all of their skill and hard work, truly made the story come alive. It was just his performance was done in such a way that captured what I would consider the essence of Lincoln. From the funny stories to the distraught husband and father, he really encompassed a complete character, right down to the walk. The cinematography was truly a work of art as well. The cuts and the camera movements themselves drew you into what was happening on the screen.

The effect of the movie was probably the best part though. I was waiting by the exit for my dad, when I overheard one woman who said she was going to go home and look up some more information on Lincoln and his family. All I could think was that this was part of the reason I wanted to go into this industry. The ability to create such a spark in people so that they leave the theater still thinking, still wondering, and better yet, actually act on that curiosity and learn something they may have never thought of before. Even my U.S. history teacher in high school, agreed that it was a great film and was pretty accurate historically (and mind you, this is no easy feat).

Needless to say, I enjoyed this film very much, and whether or not you are a history lover like myself, you should definitely go experience this wonderfully produced story. It may seem like an old one that we hear about all the time in history class, but to see it in such detail and with such strength, you may be surprised that you learned something new. I certainly was. Here is the trailer:
~Amber Capogrossi

Use of wide angle distortion in Fear and Loathing

This past weekend, I watched one of my favorite films of all time, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I always noticed that this film was disorienting to watch, but I never understood how they got this effect until I started taking film classes. I've learned that using an extreme wide angle lens creates this effect. The subject in the foreground looks very large and up close, while the background looks tiny and far away. This fit with the theme of the movie since the protagonists are always getting high on some type of drug, or tripping on something. They also tilted the camera slightly, creating an even more uneasy feeling. This got you into the mind state of the characters so the viewer can grasp what they're going through mentally. 

There is also a clear use of color gels while filming, which set the mood for certain scenes. This film definitely could have been done very crazily since most of it is hallucinations, but it isn't nauseating at all. Although plot wise, there isn't too much of a climax or excitement, it definitely engages you with the cinematography and characters. 

Color correction for the color blind!

Look at this picture below:

If you were unable to see one or more numbers hidden in the big circles, then congratulations! You are most likely colorblind. The number should be apparent.

If you are colorblind and in denial, this is the size of the numbers that you should be able to see.

So you are color blind, and if you work with photography, including video, this can be a major problem. Why? Well if you know how a camera works, you'd know that there are different light temperatures depending of the source of light that the camera can pick up more than our eye does. This results in different color tints on the picture than you want. And for a colorblind person it can be difficult to tell if the color os off, and how far off it is.

But have no fear! Someone found a way to color correct photos, even for a colorblind person in post-production. Colorblind photographer Chris Nicholson has developed a way to be able to color correct photos for colorblind people. 

It is a little time consuming, but considering how much it can enhance/save a photograph it is completely worth looking at. This especially becomes true when it is used to earn a living. So from one colorblind person to another, thank you Mr. Nicholson, and I recommend everyone to check out this tutorial.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Over the break I had watched the movie Abduction with Taylor Lautner and I was personally impressed. I've never been the biggest fan of him or his movies, but I was actually impressed on how this movie turned out.

The way that the movie had incorporated his story and his parents I thought was truly interesting. When he found out that he was adopted, I thought that that was such a good turn of events to bring about how his parents were not actually his parents.

When I watched this movie I had watched it with my mom. Now granted, she was probably asleep for some of it, she even said that she liked it and ought that it was a great movie. I didn't exactly think that it was a great movie but I liked how they incorporated everything into it.

In a weird way this movie sort of reminded me of a Taken type of movie. I only think this cause of the fighting scenes in the movie, even though it was a totally different base line.

But anyway, if you think that fighting and killing are awesome and just happen to like Taylor Lautner as a plus, this movie is for you.

Looking to the future

In the last hour, I've made two decent-sized leaps at nudging myself into the future: I set the foundations of starting a summer internship, and began the rough drafts of pre-producing a music video for an up-and-coming band over winter break.  Now I'm hoping that you guys will have some input.

First, the internship.  Over the summer, Andrew Jenks will be holding an annual film festival in New York City, which has been running for a decade now and has brought in keynote speakers like James Earl Jones (if that guy could narrate my life, I'd be one happy girl).  Though it's geared more towards high school age filmmakers, the opportunity to work as even a production assistant on something with Jenks is a step in the right direction.  He's been at this since a very young age and has made quite a name for himself (check out the linked bio, or just Google him), so I'm looking forward to this chance.  Also, he's looking for people to keep up a blog regarding the festival I believe; looks like Arturo knows what he's doing in making us write these every week.  If you want more information, let me know and I'll help you get in contact with the right people for a shot at this.

Next, the music video.  I've always had a love for music, especially because of the way it always sparks a montage in my mind as I listen.  Thus, I was asked to create More Than True's first music video of their career, and have already begun pre-production.  At the moment, I'm quite thankful for the links on this blog to necessary documents (ex: talent release forms), and I'd be interested to hear what anyone has to say about things to think of for production.  I'm also making an attempt at covering the majority of positions myself on this one, but I do have an entire week to shoot and more time to edit, so any and all advice is more than welcome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

One of my favorite television shows of all time is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This is a show on FX that is based off of a group of friends that own a bar together in Philadelphia. Outside of that basic plot line the show is not about much other than the characters themselves. When i asked a friend of mine a few years ago about the show and what it is about he explained it by saying "The show is about literally nothing. Its just about all the characters and how horrible they are as people." This description of the show is very accurate. Each episode is titled "The gang ______" They are very short and to the point explanations of each episode. This shows that the show is based around the characters and how they react to given situations as opposed to an actual continuing plot line. The show does not offer much in terms of a continuous plot other than several recurring characters who most of, if not all share one common thing. There lives have gotten considerably worse since there first interaction with the gang and they continue to get worse after every encounter. For example one of the recurring characters is Rickety Cricket. He started off as a priest who was in love with a member of the gang, Dee. In the most recent season, Cricket is shown as a homeless street rat who agrees to wrestle in a tournament against the gang just so he can throw sand in there eyes and beat them up as best he can. One of the reasons why this show is one of my favorites is because of the lack of continuous plot. It is a very character driven show and that is shown all the time. For those who have seen all of the seasons of It's Always Sunny know a lot about the characters themselves and the weird psyche of each character. One can almost geuss what they are going to do next by now. Not to say that they are predictable, but for someone who has seen a few episodes understands each character a little more. I have found that it is these types of character driven show's and films that i am more drawn to. They are a wonderful style of storytelling and what that i hope i can help make happen some day.

Rule 1: Cardio

Zombieland isn't very plot heavy or dramatic in any way. This movie is awesome because of the actions the characters have against zombies. One of the interesting parts of this film that I liked is how they named the characters, each of the four main characters are named based on where they want to go.  Except for Bill Murray who just plays as himself because he's awesome like that. Columbus, the wimpy teenager who is paranoid about everything and has rules to help him survive (such as cardio and wearing your seatbelt), feels bad for the zombies and doesn't like to hurt them. Tallahassee on the other hand is a big guy who will kill any zombie that is in his way of getting a twinkie.

This movie is full of moments where you're just like "what the f*** just happened?" adding to the comedy of it. Each of the four characters were casted perfectly to fit the personality and to add to the humor. Definitely a great movie that everyone should see (along with every other zombie movie I've posted about).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Revenge Hasn't Ever Looked So Good

I don't really know why I'm so into ABC dramas this year, but Sunday nights are turning out to be a pretty big deal for ABC. With Once Upon A Time scoring the network a highest rated drama, I think it's safe to say some network dramas are worth watching. But Once isn't the only ABC drama to be doing well. Airing Sunday nights after Once, Revenge is proving itself to be a drama of its own.

Revenge is kind of like Prison Break meets Gossip Girl. Sort of. Set in the Hamptons during the summer, it centers on a fantastically wealthy family who covered up a crime that left the main character, Emily Thorne, without her father. After blaming a terrorist attack on Emily's father when she was a child, Emily was forced to grow up in foster care, as well as a juvenile corrections facility. It is only when she reaches adulthood that she finds out the truth: her father was innocent.

After years of planning, Emily returns to the Hamptons (her real name was Amanda Clarke, she changed it to Emily Thorne to hide her true identity from her fathers employers) and sets out to get her revenge. 

The whole story is amazingly put together. It is somewhat reminiscent of Lost, however not nearly as complex, and the story is mostly told from the perspective of the main character. In flashbacks more and more of Emily's life is revealed and slowly the puzzle of vengeance is put together. 

It's an incredibly addicting show. I've almost finished the first season and its only been a week. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Plots Are Better Than One : Dexter and Series Television

I've noticed there are two types of shows on television, the first is shows that have concrete main characters but a new, unrelated plot every time .  These types of shows can be watched out of order with no actually progression of an overall plot.  This type of television show can usually be seen in children's programs for example "Spongebob" or "The Rugrats."  However as I have gotten older I have noticed another type of television programing as I started to become more interested in series television.
    The first television series that has gotten my attention enough to buy the first season DVD and start from the beginning, in order of the series, is "Dexter".  As I came to the completion of the first season I have started to notice a pattern in how the show is formatted.  For every episode there is an individual sub-plot (in this case a bad person Dexter must kill) and also an overarching plot pulling on pervious episodes and the episodes of the future (for example  Dexter's love life and the mystery of Ice Truck Serial Killer).  Once I noticed this pattern I began to think of other popular television shows (everything from Nickelodeon's Avatar to Glee to Spartacus)  and they all seem to follow this same format to one extent or another.
      I had to then ask myself why?  Well as a scriptwriter I looked at this from a storyline standpoint the sub-plot keeps every episode interesting and engaging for an audience that may not be familiar with the show but also heightens the engagement of dedicated followers.  The overarching plot however is what creates the "show followers" and drive to wait and watch the next episodes.  I believe this equates to the marketing of the show in a way.  The fact that a television show can be enjoyed by someone new to it is equally as important as to entertain someone who has watched it from the start.  Seeing a random episode of Dexter is what got me to start over from the beginning in order to understand what exactly was going on.  The usage of two story-lines to in a way to attract new watchers while furthering the entertainment of followers of the series seems to be extremely effective.
     Another interesting point I would like to add is about the story structure of each episode.  The basic outline of a conventional story is supposed to have an introduction, rising action, conflict, climax, falling action, and a conclusion…however as I have looked further into series television (or at least in the case of Dexter) this does not seem to be the case.  I feel as though every sub-plot follows this basic outline curve however the overarching plot provides it's most heightened sense of emotion at the end of every singular episode.  This climax at the conclusion if you will is what keeps audiences coming back and insights feeling of personal investment and connection within a series television program, turning first-timers into followers.
     It would seem from my experience and my research into series television programs this story-line format is at the core for creating a successful televisions series.  I have found that although some shows such as certain sitcoms and children's shows work on a per-episode basis, the shows that acquire the most "hype" and engage the audience most fully are those that utilize this idea that two plots are better than one.  After taking time to verbalize all of my thoughts and as someone who is interested in series television and the television business I have found that taking time to evaluate my own personal reactions as an audience may help to understand how audiences I may one day market to work as well.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Discoveries on Break

This break has definitely had its interesting moments. My grandmother is moving out of the house that my grandfather made with his own bare hands, so many of our days were spent in a sea of bubble wrap and packing peanuts, dozens of cardboard boxes and yards and yards of tape. With my grandfather deceased, every family member has had to jump in to help. It has always been interesting to go through my grandparents older relics. We have found so many interesting things from an old family tree records dating back to the 1700s and my great-grandfather's army outfit from WWI. So all in all this unpacking and packing it was not a shock to discover something else. What was shocking was the fact that it was so unexpected. We pried open a box only to discover my grandfather's old film and projector. The camera itself was a Brownie and Hawkeye camera, projector and a Bell & Howell film light kit. After some research I can only guess that the camera itself was the Brownie 127, which was sold between 1952 and 1967. This would make the most sense since my mother remember him receiving the camera as a gift and using it all the time for family movies. We have packed it all away in a box labeled so that I can get back to the equipment in the near future.

The second great thing that happened this break was a surprise from my brother. He bought us a 55inch, LED TV. The viewing experience was something completely new. The image is so clear that you feel like you are on set watching the action take place. It is great to notice the small details in the background that I normally miss. I still can't decide how I feel about it though. It is amazing to watch, but the fact that it is so clear almost makes everything else look so fake. With such high-tech TV that audiences can purchase, I wonder how much harder it is to make a film? Or is it better that all those little details that filmmakers spend so much time on are now clear to the audience? In any case, it was definitely an exciting experience.

~Amber Capogrossi


Skyfall is the latest entry in the James Bond franchise, directed by Sam Mendes. The film is unique in the respect that it is not a direct continuation of the story from Craig’s previous two Bond films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

The film's poster

The film notably brings back many “classic” elements to the franchise, with the inclusion of iconic Bond characters such as Moneypenny (played by Naomie Harris) and Q (played by Ben Whishaw). Being a departure from the previous films, Whishaw is the youngest actor to portray Q. Additionally, the end of the film shows MI6’s relocation to the classic Universal Exports building from previous films, with Ralph Fiennes succeeding Judi Dench as M.

Whishaw (left) as Q and Craig (right) as Bond

Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, the new M

Skyfall also includes the return of Bond’s spy gadgets. However, in keeping with the more realistic feel of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Q’s gadgets are simpler and more practical; upon meeting Bond, Q presents him with a miniature radio to signal for backup as well as a Walther PPK/S with palm print activation designed specifically for Bond.

Bond's Walther PPK/S
The rear of the gun; the circles turn red when someone other than Bond attempts to fire it

The film was shot in a diverse set of locations, including London, Glencoe, Istanbul, Adana and Macau. The scenes in Macau were based on Hashima Island in Japan, while sets were designed to recreate skyscrapers for the scenes taking place in Shanghai. Two of the most memorable shots take place in Adana and Glencoe: the former, where Bond is shot off a train crossing the Varda railway bridge in Adana, and the latter, where Silva’s helicopter assaults the Skyfall Manor in Scotland. 

The Varda railway bridge

Skyfall is an excellent addition to the Bond franchise, with Bardem’s Silva being a memorable villain that brings true depth to the story and its characters. I believe that Skyfall will appeal not only to classic Bond fans, but to new fans as well. I enjoyed the film, and I’m already looking forward to the next Bond movie!

Bardem as Raoul Silva, the film's antagonist

For more Bond, here’s the Skyfall trailer:

Coen Brothers

     I recently watched No Country For Old Men (2007), directed by the Coen Brothers, for the first time. This movie was on my list of movies to watch so I sat down by myself and enjoyed the film. There is mostly natural sound throughout the movie and no music to accompany the characters. The sounds of wind and the environment reflect the main character's motives and convey a feeling of isolation and loneliness. Javier Bardem plays the 'villian' in the movie and is truly insane and dynamic. After seeing Skyfall (2012) last weekend, I respect Bardem for playing such diverse characters and being able to become the character he is casted as. The movie is now on my list of favorite movies and accompanied by it are many other Coen Brothers movies. Ethan and Joel Coen are two of my favorite directors and I've been making an attempt to watch all of their movies. Thus far, I've seen No Country For Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski. I plan to watch True Grit and Burn After Reading. Why do I like their movies? The Coen brothers direct movies with the most unusual characters and unlikely stories. The cinematography is amazing and the actors featured in the movies are some of my favorite actors (John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Steve Buscemi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and many more). Below are Coen Brothers trailers for movies I've seen. Watch their movies.

                                                     No Country For Old Men
                                                          The Big Lebowski
                                                 O Brother,Where Art Thou?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Macy's Day Parade

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope everyone is having a good vacation and relaxing with family and friends from home.

So, the annual Macy's Day Parade just ended. I watched most of it while doing some last minute cleaning and homework and watching it for the first time since being at school (I missed last year's), I had a whole new appreciation for the entire thing. After reading Rebecca's post earlier this week, I kept those little notes in mind. I can't even imagine directing something so massive. Deciding which of the twenty-two cameras would capture the perfect image in a split second? That's a lot of cameras to choose between.

The parade had the normal host of musical performers, many of whom seem to be popular, that I've never heard of, along with those I have. But the thing that caught my eye the most was how, every float had some different character, logo, or commercial something on it, with most recieving a line from the announcers about how, "so and so was brought to you by this company or that company."

The culture in America has always been very commercial. I remember stories that my grandmother told me about waiting every week for her Life Magazine to tell her all the newest fads and products. And while this commercial culture is a huge part of entertainment in America, I can't help to think that it's becoming a larger and larger part.

This year has been the one to showcase the creeping times of "Black Friday." Our need to consume has started encroaching on the holiday that has been reserved for family and thanks. K-Mart opened it's door Thanksgiving morning, selling out of some of the biggest deals by the time I woke up this morning. Others are opening at 8, which, doesn't seem that bad, as it still gives families time to have their feast and spend time together. However, if workers need to be at the store by 5 or 6 to set up, they have to start getting ready around 3 for work, which completely kills any chance they might have of having a relaxing day with their family. The majority of stores open at midnight, which is still earlier than the previous years' opening times of 2am or 3.

How early are these times going to be pushed up? Will it get to a point where this peaceful holiday is obliterated for the more stressful Christmas season? I hope not.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wii U

I'm looking forward the release of the Wii U on the 18th; the system really seems to be a return to Nintendo's roots with a broader selection of games for players of all ages. Assassin's Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition are some of the darker games that Nintendo has added to the Wii U's repertoire.

I've been very impressed by the Wii U GamePad, as it seems to have a lot of potential. The pad has a touchscreen, camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, sensor, and a built in microphone, which I hope will add many new ways to enjoy classic Nintendo franchises. A mini-map and inventory display on the GamePad would certainly be a fantastic addition to a new Zelda!

For those looking for a controller with less "bells and whistles," the Wii U also has a second controller: the Pro Controller. Some critics have noticed that the controller looks remarkably similar to the Xbox 360's controller, but I feel that older fans will find the Pro Controller to be refreshing and a welcome addition to the Wii U's arsenal of periphery devices.

While the Wii U certainly has many new additions, I believe the most exciting aspect of the console is that it is High Definition. I believe that games with rich and diverse landscapes and backgrounds like Pikmin will really benefit from this; it's no surprise that Pikmin 3 will be in the system's launch window!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving break. Nintendo has certainly given its fans something to be thankful for!

'Tis the season to...take camera twenty-two?!

Since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a part of many families’ holiday traditions, and in my household, it’s no different. For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always started off with the parade on TV at around nine in the morning and continued on until about midday, when more people would be in the house, preparing food and chatting and occasionally watching the program. It’s a comfortable memory that repeats itself annually, but this year, I can already feel the Parkie in my brain taking over.

I’ve never really thought about it before, but a lot of effort must go into producing this yearly piece. Between performers, floats, balloons, and the crowd, there are billions of things that could be focused on at once, and each also holds the potential to completely malfunction and throw off the plan of the day. In making live television, there’s no telling what will happen, so the people behind the parade broadcast must have some way of dealing with such a high-stress situation.

With a little help from everyone’s best friend, Google, I’ve come to find out some of the tricks of NBC-TV’s production when it comes to the Macy’s Parade. Over the span of a two and a half mile parade route, twenty-two cameras are stationed, including steadicam and helicopter mounts, with audio reception set up at each. Over two hundred crew members work on location for the big show, and are also required to rehearse both with and without talent for days before the event (these workers are legitimately doing run-throughs and checks up until fifteen minutes before the start of the show). Planning for the parade starts approximately three months in advance, which includes things from organizing the performers to pre-production for the broadcast. When it’s actually go time, the program is live switched in NBC’s New York HQ, with cameras and audio routed through the AMV truck.

The first hour of the parade focuses on the starting point and utilizes the cameras there, with occasional cuts back to hosts in a booth. The next two hours are more focused on the live performances farther down the parade route by Broadway groups, dancers, and marching bands, which go up until the end of the show, at which time Santa reaches his final destination in Herald Square (where, of course, cameras are waiting).

Knowing all of this, I’m probably going to watch the parade a little differently this time around, and will most likely keep a running commentary on what happens behind the scenes to family members who want to find out what kinds of things I’ve learned in school. At some point or another, I can assume I’ll be asked by a cousin to shut up for a poppy musical number, but until then, I’ll be calling shots as if someone at a switcher can actually hear me.

Have a good Thanksgiving, everyone, and enjoy break!