Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Fashion Favorites! 2012

Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen made a bold choice. Although black is always understated, the gold detailing on her dress was beautiful as were her flowing tresses and jewelry. Very unique and my favorite look of the night!
I loved Penelope Cruz's custom made Armani Prive dress. The fabric flowed and draped in such a flattering way on her voluptuous figure. I also thought her hair was very cute. The color was beautiful on her and I appreciated her understated  look; it hearkens back to the classic beauties of old Hollywood. We all know Cruz has great assets, it was nice that she didn't feel the need to flaunt them this year (unlike many of the other women on the red carpet *cough* JLo). A close second favorite overall look of the night.
Bridesmaid's Wendi McLendon- Covey in CB Haute Couture looks like a princess!
Leslie Mann in Roberto Cavalli. I love how the sequins add pizazz to the dark blue fabric. Her sophisticated ponytail was also very chic.
Bridesmaid's Ellie Kemper was a breath of fresh air in this bold Armani Prive metallic "rust" colored gown.
Octavia Spencer was radiant in this Tadashi Shoji sparkling gown. Her acceptance speech made me teary!
Kate Mara (who looked WAY better than her sister) in Jack Guisso (although many reports said it was Elie Saab- it is very Saab-ish, which is probably why I like it so much!)
Mila Jovovich SPOTTED in vintage Elie Saab!
Adorable Berenice Bejo SPOTTED in custom Elie Saab!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Steamboat Willie: An Analysis

“Steamboat Willie” was made by Walt Disney Studios and premiered at the Colony Theater in New York on November 18, 1928 (production). This cartoon short was hugely influential for not only future Disney staffers, but the entire industry of animation (Aja).
            My initial reaction upon watching “Steamboat Willie” was a sense of nostalgia. Even though I grew up watching cartoons that were more sophisticated, it reminded me of my childhood, especially the Betty Boop cartoons I used to watch. The animated short was very whimsical, fun, and entertaining. Because all the characters are animals, some of which talk, their interaction is within a world of fantasy and make believe. Also, the simplistic music and use of the song “Turkey in the Straw” contributes to the appeal for children. In addition, all the animals aboard the steamboat, excluding Pete the captain cat, seemed to be enjoying the music and frivolity going on which creates enjoyment for the viewer. Overall, I enjoyed the cartoon, even as an adult, and laughed out loud at a few images within the short.  
However, I could not help but delve into the cartoon’s meaning deeper. I thought it was rather sexist that the crane “hook” on the steamboat lifted up Minnie’s skirt to grab her by her underwear to hoist her aboard to join Mickey. I found this inappropriate for children even if the character is a cartoon mouse. I also didn’t like the way that Mickey and Minnie were treating some of the other animals aboard the steamboat. Minnie “winds” the tail of a goat to play music treating it like a phonograph. Also, Mickey shoves hay down a cow’s throat, pulls the tail of a cat and then tosses it aside, “plays” a duck like a bagpipe, pulls on the tails of nursing baby piglets, and bangs on the teeth of the cow with a spoon.  It was odd to me that none of the animals seemed to mind this rough and degrading treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, “Steamboat Willie” was not the first cartoon to have sound or the first to feature Mickey Mouse; it was just the first to attract the attention of the mainstream public for its use of sound and star character (production). The cartoon opens with title cards which feature very primitive drawings of Mickey and Minnie that were most likely drawn by Disney himself (Aja). “Steamboat Willie” borrowed many gags from Disney’s previous silent cartoons; the Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, although neither cartoon’s characters had as much of an impact on audiences as Mickey in “Steamboat Willie” (Malone, Aja). The animation in “Steamboat Willie” is good, although some of the animation in the Oswald shorts was more inventive (Malone).
            Aside from Disney’s earlier cartoon shorts, “Steamboat Willie” was based on comedian Buster Keaton’s film Steamboat Billy Jr. (Aja). Following the success of “Steamboat Willie”, nearly every studio from Hollywood to New York borrowed from the animation style of the animals. The cartoon animals all had black bodies with simple facial features like Mickey which was a prime example of Disney’s earliest character designs (Aja).  The “Turkey in the Straw” musical segment marked what was to come later not only for Disney, but everyone else working in animation at that time (Finch 28, Aja). For example, early Looney Tunes cartoon episodes created by Warner Brothers featured nothing but musical numbers at first (Cartoon Review). 
 “Steamboat Willie” was created using black and white colors, standard animation with a thirty-five millimeter print format and cinematographic process, and an aspect ration of 1.37: 1 (Malone). Mickey was designed with a head, body, face, hands, feet and ears with circular attributions because it made him easier to animate (Finch 25). Use of “rubber hose animation” is evident in “Steamboat Willie” in instances such as when Pete, the cat captain of the boat, kicks himself in the behind due to the force of his kick. Another example of rubber hose animation is the moment that occurs just before when Pete warps Mickey’s torso by grabbing him and Mickey replaces his disfigured stomach neatly back into his shorts (Aja). This type of silly and exaggerated animation contributes to the comical and whimsical nature of the cartoon. It is an apt style within the cartooning medium to use to tell the fun message imbedded in the story of the piece.
To say that the quality of the animation is “good” in the context of the time is an understatement. There is really only one error in the entire cartoon which occurs when a tag worn around the cow’s neck momentarily disappears. Considering that this is only a half second blip in the seven minute cartoon speaks to the dedication of Disney and his animators to this project (Aja).
            The intention of the creators of the earliest Mickey Cartoons was to be funny before anything else. At that time, moral authority of the animation industry was left to the writers who obviously were not overly concerned with minor details that could be seen as offensive (Aja). Disney and his team of animators were responsible for making sure the material they were presenting was appropriate for children, which in some cases, it wasn’t.
There has been increasing displeasure of the way that Mickey treats the other animals on the steamboat in the past twenty years. Yet, even with Mickey’s apparent frustration or devious nature at times during the cartoon short, it is clear that the character was not abusing the animals out of meanness (Aja). Disney and his animators’ choices can be justified by saying that the treatment of the animals was “all in good fun”, but for some, the material was deemed inappropriate and needed to be censored.  
Some of the more “violent” scenes involving animals have been cut including the scenes when Mickey “plays” a nursing sows teats like an accordion keyboard (not able to be found online), when he swings a cat by its tail above his head, and when he uses a goose as a bagpipe all during the “Turkey in the Straw” segment (Malone). During the time of the Hays Code in which there was heavy censoring of material it was requested that the cow featured in the animated cartoon be utter-less and be properly dressed like Mickey and Minnie were (Finch 29).  
I don’t believe for a minute that Walt Disney and his team of animators were encouraging or endorsing violence towards animals. I also doubt that any viewers of this cartoon were influenced to mistreat animals. However, because of the lack of consideration by Disney to represent the animals in “Steamboat Willie” as being well treated, the people involved with the Hays code turned to utilitarianism ethics in a decision to censor material. Utilitarianism is an ethical idea that represents the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Censorship is needed to make this cartoon acceptable and appropriate for all audiences.  
            Prohibition caused many laws and traditions to be challenged and broken by Americans in the 1920’s (Jennings, Brewster 102). The story of “Steamboat Willie” mirrors this rule breaking behavior since Mickey and his companion Minnie both want to have fun aboard the steamboat without having to do any work, take on any responsibility, or care for any other's comforts.
Cultural symbols that help tell the story of the cartoon and are relevant to the time in which it was made include the tobacco chewed by Pete and the FOB tag around the cow’s neck. Early in the short, Pete chews an oversized stick of Star Tabacco which represents a popular habit at the time and perhaps made the character relatable to its contemporary viewers (Aja). However, in today’s society many people view chewing tobacco as a gross habit which makes Pete an undesirable character. This is appropriate since it helps communicate that he is the villain of the piece to contemporary audiences.
The letters FOB which appear on the tag worn around the cow’s neck mean “Free on Board” which denotes that the shipping charges have already been paid in full. This acronym is now unknown to viewers but was probably common knowledge to 1928’s audience and could have contributed a sense of realism to this fanciful cartoon (Aja).  
The 1920’s was a time when people in America were struggling with deciding between the exciting jazz age which called people into the streets of the city and a rural and simplistic traditional lifestyle (Jennings, Brewster 100). Mickey’s pleasure at the end of the cartoon when the pesky parrot that was mocking him towards the beginning of the cartoon drowns in the ocean, speaks to the fact that in the exciting days of 1928, nearly everything was fair game. This malice displayed by Mickey was quickly written out of his character for later cartoons (Aja). 
            “Steamboat Willie” is a cartoon short that is very important to the history of animation. It shaped what came next for the animators at Disney’s studio’s as well as everyone in the motion picture business. It is still important to study and view for those interested in the evolution of animation from a historical standpoint.
            The cartoon reflects the cultural ideas of the time which included a love of excitement, Jazz music, and challenging the rules of society. The message of the cartoon is about being carefree without being bogged down by daily duties. Perhaps the short doesn’t hold an apt message to influence children, but the intent of communicating a fun theme is successful.
The statement of the piece is not as important as the sum of its parts. The use of sound, style of animation, and the “Turkey in the Straw” musical segment were revolutionary. Aside from some debatable treatment of the animals aboard the steamboat (which have been cut from some versions of the cartoon short) it is a highly entertaining and significant piece of animation for both children and adults past and present.   


Aja, Garrett. Steamboat Willie. Cartoon Review Site. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from

 Finch, C. (1975). The Art of Walt Disney. Burbank, C.A.: Harry N. Abrams Inc. 

 Jennings, C. Brewster, R. (1998). The Century. New York, N. Y.: Doubleday.

 Malone, Patrick. Steamboat Willie. The Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from

 Steamboat Willie Production Information. The Big Cartoon Database. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from

Why This but Not That?

 It's been a while since I made any observations in the goings on of the Media so here is goes!

So... I feel like a bad Film Student. I have hardly seen any of the films nominated for the Oscars this year. Nevertheless there is something that I HAVE to get off my chest. Two films I have seen are Harry Potter (duh) and Bridesmaids.

Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVED Bridesmaids, and thought it was hilarious. Kristen Wiig is awesome, but I DO NOT UNDERSTAND Melissa McCarthy's nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She was funny in a gross way and I understand all the "fan" award show nominations and even the Golden Globe, but Oscar??? Come on!!!

I do not understand why Alan Rickman could not have gotten a well deserved nomination for Supporting Actor for his haunting, riveting, and emotionally resonating portrayal of Snape for 8 films...It makes me downright sad. So, here is my rationalization of this. I get that there are separate categories for Supporting Actor and Actress and it isn't like Rickman could have taken McCarthy's place, but how can you nominate a gross comedic performance and snub a deep dramatic performance?

If we are now living in a world where farts and fatness are awarded yet mystery and loyalty are ignored then I don't know if I want to work in this industry after all... : (

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter: 20 Best and Worst Book to Movie Changes

20 Best Book to Movie Changes (in order of their appearance in the film series)

I. Sorcerer's Stone:
1. In the book Harry not only sees his parents in the Mirror of Erised, but many other relatives in the Mirror as well. I think that him just seeing his parents is much more intimate and really emphasizes the loneliness and tragedy of being an orphan.

II. Chamber of Secrets:

2.  In the films, the characters who change into someone else after drinking Polyjuice Potion keep their same voices. This may hinder a true disguise, but it helps a movie audience understand who is who and adds comedy. This was also done in Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2.

III. Prisoner of Azkaban:

3. The "shrunken heads" seen in the 3rd film are visually interesting and helped bring humor to this dark film. They fit right into Rowling's world even though they were not her creation. 

more heads...

4. The Hogwarts Frog Choir. Every school needs a choir right? I am sure the Great Hall has amazing acoustics and music is obviously a huge part of film so it was a wise addition that was absent from the books.
5. Harry's first flight on Buckbeak is much more thrilling and extended than the short scene written in the book. It was visually beautiful and uniquely magical!
6. The creation of the Hogwarts Bridge which is used in the subsequent films is a beautiful and romantic pathway to and from the castle. It was a visually striking set to hold scenes such as the one where Lupin tells Harry about his friendship with Harry's parents.

IV. Goblet of Fire:

7. The arrival of the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrange was dramatic and exciting. I also liked that they weren't co-ed like Hogwarts is, it added a great contrast; flirty French girls and rugged Russian men. In the book there is no grand choreographed entrance, but naturally you would want to make a grand entrance! 

"speak softly and carry a big stick..?"
V. Order of the Phoenix:
8. Having Sirius show Harry the photo of the original Order members was much more appropriate and meaningful than having Mad Eye Moody show it to him. It is a tender moment between Godson and Godfather that worked well onscreen to establish their close relationship in a short amount of time.

9. Evanna Lynch was perfectly cast as Luna and had great onscreen chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe. Having Luna show Harry the Thestrals and explain why they can each see them was a much more touching and emotional scene than having Hagrid introduce his class to them. 
10. The Weasley's fireworks were even more epic in the film than in the book and it was great to see Umbridge chased by them and then have all of her proclamations fall off the castle walls and come crashing to the ground.
11. Just before Sirius is killed near the end of the film, he accidentally calls Harry "James". In both the books and movies it is emphasized how much Harry looks like his father, but having Sirius actually call him by his father's name shows that he thinks of Harry more as his friend than his godson and would like to think he is James. 
12. In the book, Voldemort possess Harry for just a moment, but in the film there is a drawn out montage scene where Voldemort speaks to Dumbledore through Harry as flashbacks are shown. Harry fights back and tells Voldemort that he is wrong "you'll never know friendship or love, and I feel sorry for you." It is a riveting and emotional addition.
VI. Half Blood Prince:

13. The scene where Slughorn tells Harry the story about the pet fish Harry's mother Lily gave him and how it died the day she did is sad but beautiful. Harry also gives a great speech in this scene to convince Slughorn to give him the memory he needs about young Tom Riddle. The exchange of dialogue that happens between them in the book is not nearly as epic.

VII. Deathly Hallows Part 1:

14. It was emotional for us to get to actually see Hermione erasing herself from her parents memories. It makes her sacrifice more meaningful than just listening to her tell Ron and Harry that she made them forget they had a daughter like in the book.
15. The scene added towards the beginning of the film showing Harry trying to sneak out of the Burrow without Ron and Hermione shows how much he wants to keep everyone else safe and how alone he feels. Also the fact that Ron goes after him and is able to convince him to come back shows his strength, courage, and influence over Harry, a nice strong moment for Ron who was put in Gryffindor for a reason!

16. The destruction of the locket was even more epic in the film than in the book (thanks to some Hermione side boob). It was an incredible visual portrayal of part of Voldemort's soul being destroyed!

17. Obviously when Hermione reads the Tale of the Three Brothers in the book, the reader creates their own images in their mind, but the animated segment inserted in the film was beautiful and didn't disrupt the realism or cheapen the film in any way, which was very impressive.
VIII. Deathly Hallows Part 2:
18. Harry pops out of the crowd of Hogwarts students and confronts Snape and McGonagall helps defend him in the film. In the book Snape flees from McGonagall, Slughorn, and Flitwick who attack him in a corridor while Harry and Luna hide under the Invisibility Cloak.   
19. The creation of the dome shield by the teachers and students of Hogwarts was visually stunning. It was a great way to show the power of defensive magic by building a "barricade" by working together. Protective spells are cast in the book around the castle, but they are not "seen" by anyone and don't have the power to disintegrate Death Eaters.
20. The Prince's Tale was edited and acted beautifully. It was the best part of the film in my opinion, and the scene where Snape arrives at the house once Voldemort has gone and discovers Lily's body and caresses her while both he and Harry cry hysterically was not in the book at all. Snape wasn't supposed to have been there at all or have "discovered" what happened first, but it was a very emotional and fitting change.
20 Worst Book to Movie Changes (in order of their appearance in the film series)

I. Sorcerer's Stone:

1. One of the most exciting scenes in the book is when Harry and Ron have to sneak Norbert out of the castle. Ron's older brother Charlie, and some friends who work with Dragons, fly to the castle on broomsticks and sneak the (by this time very large) adolescent Norbert out of the castle.

II. Chamber of Secrets:

2. Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Weasley have a civilized conversation in the movie, whereas in the book some punches are thrown and a rambunctious scene occurs.

3. The ending to this film is almost too cheesy to stand (even when I watched it the first time as a non-cynical adolescent). Yes, everyone who was petrified was alright again, yes, the end of the year Exams were cancelled, and yes, Hagrid came back, but you don't have to have everyone clap and cry about it. Show them partying it up in the Great Hall with a giant slumber party like in the book!
III. Prisoner of Azkaban:
4. Neither Neville nor Ginny are in the compartment with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Lupin when the Dementors come onto the train like in the book. The way in which both of them react is very relevant later on, Neville's back story of his parents isn't revealed and Ginny having been possessed by Tom Riddle in the past movie isn't reemphasized.

5. The freeze frame on Harry's face screaming as he flies on his Firebolt for the first time is visually unattractive and an incredibly stupid end to a film. The whole subplot of him receiving the mysterious Firebolt (in the middle of the book) and Hermione being paranoid about it which leads to lots of controversy was totally thrown out.
IV. Goblet of Fire:
6. Dumbledore grabs Harry and violently shakes him when he asks him if he put his name in the Goblet of Fire. Dumbledore would NEVER grab a student, he is much kinder and usually very mild tempered. Harry does not fear him as he seems to in this scene.

7. Hermione PMS's throughout all of Movie Four. From start to finish she is either crying or yelling at Ron and Harry in nearly every scene. Or she is both crying and yelling like in the scene shown above. The Hermione in the books does get emotional and she does get tough with Harry and Ron at times, but Emma Watson was just downright mean and annoying throughout the film. Wizard Angst overload!

8. Not only was this visual effect REALLY bad, but it is incorrect, the effects department got it right in Movie 5 when they showed Sirius' face int he FLAMES instead of the EMBERS of the fire; it looked ugly and cheesy.

9. The Dragon Chase scene is overlong. Task One was not this drawn out or dangerous. The fact that the dragon crashes into the stands and nearly kills some of the spectators is really stupid and cheapens the sophistication of the Hogwarts teachers and Triwizard Staff's intelligence. I would have rather seen one of the several scenes they cut instead of this lame action scene.
10. All of the creatures and obstacles are missing from the Third Task maze. The series of challenges in the book is much more exciting and interesting than the vicious vines and creepy fog seen in the film. 
V. Order of the Phoenix:
11. At the start of the film, the "Order members" do not really introduce themselves. Nor is Lupin reintroduced when they arrive at headquarters, and nor is Tonks shape shifting abilities explained to be unique even for a witch or wizard.
12. I really missed the scene in St. Mungo's hospital when Harry, Hermione, and all of the Weasley's go and visit Mr. Weasley after the snake attack and they also meet Neville's parents who were tortured into insanity and there is also the reintroduction of Lockheart's character. It was an emotional and funny series of scenes in the book.
13. I was really disappointed that the Fountain characters did not come to life and protect Harry during his fight with Voldemort. As epic as the Dumbledore/ Tom Riddle; Water vs. Fire fight was. Statues coming to life would have been visually stunning I believe!
14. The anger Harry was feeling was really built up during this whole film, I was so sad that I didn't get to see him chuck and smash a bunch of objects in Dumbledore's office. Harry just sits there all emo and says "you don't understand" UG! I bet Daniel Radcliffe would have had a blast wrecking havoc to blow off all that anger and wizard angst! His godfather had just died too...wouldn't you want to smash something?
VI. Half Blood Prince:

15. HUGE-LY BOTCHED KISS!!! Words cannot describe how lame this kiss scene was. His first kiss with Cho was a lot...juicer? This is the girl he ends up falling in love with and MARRYING for MERLIN'S SAKE!!! This scene showed just a glorified peck that occurred in private, whereas in the book it occurs in front of the entire Gryffindor Common Room and it is very passionate and spontaneous. Also in the book they officially start dating and then Harry "breaks up" with her because he wants to protect her and he knows he has to go hunt for Horcruxes.  

VII. Deathly Hallows Part 1:

16. This was another botched Harry/Ginny moment. Sure, they tried to sex it up a bit with the whole "will you zip up my dress" bit, but in the book she asks him to come into her bedroom and then tells him she wanted to get him something special for his Birthday, but couldn't decide what so she pulls him in and lays one on him. Way hotter!
VIII. Deathly Hallows Part 2:

17. The back story of the Dumbledore family and Albus's relationship with Grindelwald is never fully explained. You know that their sister died, but don't learn that the brothers had a hand in her death, nor what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Dumbledore like in the book.

18. It was never established that Harry's invisibility cloak was a Hallow, nor that he has it with him when he faces Voldemort in the forest. This is part of the reason that he doesn't die. He becomes the Master of Death, because he drops the Resurrection Stone at his feet, he holds the wand that last defeated the true owner of the Elder Wand, AND he has his Cloak of Invisibility tucked inside his jacket! None of this is explained in the film. 

19. Pulling Voldemort off a cliff does not seem like a very smart thing to do. And then having Voldemort and Harry's faces mesh together made no sense. I get that they were trying to show visually how they are similar in many ways but yet are opposites. Also, the part of Voldemort's soul that was inside of Harry was already gone at this point, so it doesn't make as much sense that they "overlap" each other. None of this happens in the book, they just fight with wands...they don't try to kill each other with their bare hands; this is very un-wizard-y

20. The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort was thrilling, but the scene takes place in the Great Hall at sunrise so that the enchanted ceiling glows orange and all of the survivors of the battle watch as Harry and Voldemort walk circles around each other, Harry puts Voldemort in his place and tells him how foolish he is for believing that evil could actually triumph over good. What ACTUALLY kills Voldemort off is his own killing curse that he sends at Harry which rebounds off of the castle wall and hits him just as Harry disarms him and catches his wand, and he does not turn into confetti either!