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Assignment 3- Part 2 (2 features)

The following two film reviews were written for the ‘movies’ section of Salon.

Salon is part of the Salon Media Group, and it is an online magazine that covers a range of issues in American politics. It also reviews and produces articles about music, books and film.

A Christmas Carol’ the way Dickens envisioned it

Jim Carrey as Ebeneezer Scrooge in Disney's ‘A Christmas Carol’

Jim Carrey as Ebeneezer Scrooge in Disney's ‘A Christmas Carol’

Scrooge learns the Christmas lesson of giving in a dark portrayal of Dickens’ classic novel.

By Jennifer Sansolis

November 8| It’s that time of year again, for yet another remake of Charles Dickens’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ (movie trailer).

This time though, it’s darker and more frightening than any other version that I’ve seen before. One thing’s for sure, I wouldn’t recommend it to younger children who easily succumb to nightmares.

Ebeneezer Scrooge begins the holiday growling at his clerk, Bob Cratchit (voiced by Gary Oldman), and his merry nephew Fred (voiced by Colin Firth), until he is visited by his late business partner Joseph Marley (voiced by Gary Oldman), who warns Scrooge to break out of his heartlessness or end up paying the price in the afterlife.

This latest materialization of Dickens’ novel is not unique at all and strips down the classic tale to its bare bones. This may be what director Robert Zemeckis meant when he said that he attempted to make the film exactly as Charles Dickens wrote it (interview clip).

To Zemeckis, the novel already read like a movie script and only needed to be captured by a great actor on the big screen.

Since the film was all Computer Generated Imagery (also known as CGI), it was difficult to establish a connection with the characters. The characters facial features and eyes were lifeless and soulless, even though their physical appearance was life-like.

For anyone who saw Zemeckis’, ‘The Polar Express’, there is some improvement on the non-responsive eyes and malleable facial features, but a lot is still missing.

Aside from the non-inventive take on the classic novel, the film is outstanding in terms of its visual effects and life-like qualities. There is so much detail, that every hair and wrinkle on Scrooge’s substantial nose is noticeable.

The set design and overall appearance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is astonishing. The manufactured lighting, especially the image of a flickering candle in the dark appears genuinely convincing.

Jim Carrey’s acting brings out the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the three ghosts of Christmas brilliantly. Carrey was able to capture Scrooge’s cruel nature whilst also portraying the wonder of the ghost of Christmas Past, the joy in the ghost of Christmas Present, and the mysteriousness of the ghost of Christmases Yet to Come.

While Zemeckis has commented that no other actor could pull off what Jim Carrey did with the four characters (interview clip) with as much ease, it seems as though he could have very easily sought someone else. This is because Zemeckis did very little with Carrey’s natural performance and there was very little in terms of the comedy that is generally tied to Carrey.

The film’s visual is extraordinary, especially when watched in 3D. Yet, this was the only thing that made the experience unique, and it may take more than this to please some audiences.

If you’ve seen this movie, we’d like to know what you thought.


All About Steve‘: A Puzzle only Sandra Bullock can Solve

Sandra Bullock as a wacky stalker named Mary

Sandra Bullock as a wacky stalker named Mary

Brainy crossword puzzler and trivia fanatic takes a crack at the puzzle of love.

By Jennifer Sansolis

November 6, 2009| Produced by Sandra Bullock’s production company Fortis Films, and starring Bullock as the lead actress, ‘All About Steve’ (movie trailer) leaves audiences in an uncanny state of mind.

When the film opens, audiences are introduced to Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle creator (or as she likes to call herself, a ‘cruciverbalist‘). Living with her parents while her home is being fumigated, Mary’s only friend appears to be a pet rodent until she meets and falls in love with Steve (Bradley Cooper).

Essentially, ‘All About Steve’ is about what happens when an eccentric and babbling Mary goes on a blind date with a news cameraman and falls into an unrequited love.

When Mary and Steve first meet, the pair are smitten until just minutes into their first date, when an outburst of trivia from Mary overwhelms the passionate mood.

Steve is immediately alarmed at her personality and excuses himself, declaring that he was just assigned an assignment and really wishes Mary could be there, but he has to go.

Mary takes his excuse to heart, believing that Steve truly wants her to go to work with him and the stalking begins, as Mary follows one news disaster after another to be with Steve.

To make matters worse, Steve’s self-absorbed news correspondent, Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church), encourages and facilitates Mary’s stalking by leaving her notes about where Steve is headed next.

Mary is an irritating character who incessantly yammers about trivia to the discomfort of other characters in the film and possibly to the dislike of audiences too.

And throughout the movie, a companionless Mary struts around in a pair of fire-engine-red go-go boots because they make her feel like she’s wearing “ten friends on a camping trip”.

But, the problems with the film are not solely the character of Mary’s fault, nor a result of Bullock’s over-performed-craziness. The script, by Kim Barker (writer of License to Wed) is sloppy and filled satiric clichés about the media versus plain folks.

Additionally, director Phil Traill has a bad start to his first feature film, subtracting the comedy from most scenes, and instead presenting viewers with a display of over-hyped wackiness. This is clear in some of Bullock’s supposedly witty one-liners such as “Hey Norm, thanks for not raping me” as her character hitches a ride with a truck driver.

And as for the ‘romantic’ in the genre of romantic comedy, there’s none there. The only glimpse audiences get of romantic is when Steve is parked outside of Mary’s house and the pair attempt to have sex in his car.

While some might find the film hard to digest because Bullock’s character can be silly rather than comedic at times, there are a few laughs to be had at the stupidity of what’s being said and done if you’ll accept the film as eccentric and in a world of its own.

Though 2009 was good to both Bullock and Cooper with their roles in ‘The Proposal’ and ‘The Hangover’ respectively, with both receiving reasonable reviews, ‘All About Steve’ takes away all the credibility that they have built up in previous films.

Bullock defends her portrayal of Mary as a character that falls out of conventional Hollywood portrayals of women and says that the film was an attempt to re-define the normal (interview clip). Trouble is, not everyone will understand the normal reality presented in ‘All About Steve’.

If you’ve seen this movie, we’d like to know what you thought.



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For those who want their blogs to be read by more than their friends and family

October 19, 2009 1 comment

This will be the last blog post that I write for this class and I thought that after spending a semester writing blog entries, where does that leave us?

I’ve kind of become accustomed to writing one every week, so I thought, how can I transfer the skills that we’ve learned in class into the real world?

I realised that in order to be read by people other than our family or friends, we need to do more than simply produce great content because good content doesn’t necessarily translate into an audience. First we need to determine our audience and then find ways to reach them. I found a great article by Darren Rowse about 9 things that bloggers can do to be read by someone other than their mom and I just thought that I’d share the link.

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The blog: its origins

October 19, 2009 1 comment

While writing a post I wrote the other week, briefly comparing the origins of the newspaper and blogs, I must admit that it was quite difficult to find anything about the origins of the blog (maybe because most people disagree). This might be because people define ‘blogs‘ in different ways, and because there are different styles and types. For instance there are political blogs like Larvatus Prodeo (in Australia), fashion blogs like Manolo’s Shoe Blog, parenting blogs like Momania, and so on. There are all different kinds and each claim to be a blog, so it’s hard to tell who exactly the first blogger was.

However, I just stumbled across a video on youtube discussing the first blogger, which I found a little useful, so I’d like to share it.

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Has the term ‘blogger’ really been rendered meaningless?

October 19, 2009 2 comments

Hey guys, I came across an article by Scott Rosenberg the other day, debating Jay Rosen‘s suggestion that the term ‘blogger’ has become such a broad term that it will eventually render the term meaningless. More specifically, Rosen suggests that by referring to both journalists who blog and bloggers who aren’t the professional kind, the term will become too broad to be used.

However, Rosenberg rightly points out that the term ‘journalist’ has never faded away even though there are two ways of understanding the term: as a profession, and as a description of an activity. Thus, he maintains that the term blogger is unlikely to expire any time soon. What do you think?

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Is today’s blog modelled on yesterday’s newspaper?

October 14, 2009 5 comments

Who do you think can be called a journalist?

There are those who think that “real” journalists sit in offices, publish impressive layouts and have been credited with a sense of trust. It is this notion of credibility and trust that has got people debating about whether citizen journalism is a valid form of journalism.

However, if we go back to the creation of newspapers, we’ll find that those now large corporations once grew out of small groups, families and individuals of concerned citizens who wanted their voices heard. For instance, the New York Herald was founded in 1835 as an American newspaper that proclaimed complete political independence, which was different to other newspapers during that time.

Although, blogs are different to traditional ideas of journalism. Bloggers may not have all of the skills, or know-how, or the contacts that professional journalists have, but they do offer something more. Their opinions generally aren’t restricted by their editors or seniors because they have none. And they have the capacity to simply offer what they believe and contribute to public discussion in new and innovative ways (even if this isn’t always the case).

What I’m trying to say is that both blogs and newspapers originated with people, who wanted to publicize their views and be heard in the public domain, and it is only right that those who discredit blogs and citizen journalists begin to see that.

Here’s a great video explaining what exactly ‘citizen journalism‘ is.

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Murdoch versus Google

I just thought that I’d share that Rupert Murdoch launched an attack on Google and other search engines for stealing content last week.

Murdoch and Tom Curley (executive of AP) claim that Google is making money by using their content and running them out of business.

Yet, you have to wonder, are their complaints legitimate? If all that Google and other search engines are doing is linking to AP and News Corp. stories and providing people with brief teasers and headlines and then directing them to the newspaper website’s full story once clicked, then what did Google steal?

In fact, if AP and News Corp really didn’t want to be listed on Google searches, then all they’d need to do is type in a few keys and their sites would be removed and robots would be prevented from crawling their websites in the future.

Perhaps AP and Murdoch didn’t know that they could remove their websites from Google or maybe they do. Maybe the reason why they haven’t taken action to remove their websites from search engines is that search engines are doing news organizations a favour in providing some free traffic.

The ups and downs of social networking

October 12, 2009 1 comment

Social networking once meant meeting people face to face, sitting down and having a coffee. And it still does. Though the meaning of social networking has merely grown as lot of us have come to use social networking sites online. We read our friends profile pages, make comments and reply to the comments of others.

While some may believe that online social networking is a complete waste of time, studies have shown that using new media to socialize (whether on MySpace, Facebook, or in chatrooms) gives us better technological and literary skills to succeed in the contemporary world of new media.

But are these sites necessarily a good thing? A recent comment by a leader of the Catholic Church in England says that they aren’t.

He says that social networking sites lead us to develop brief relationships that lead us to feel suicidal.

While I admit that I’ve had random conversations with people I don’t know on the web, I don’t think that social networking sites equal suicide.

I’m no expert, but I think that most people use social networking sites to socialize with people that they already know and occasionally people they don’t.

How does social networking make you feel? What do you use social networking for?