March 26, 2012

Crash -Movie Review




  1.  What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.
The film uses two traffic accidents to reveal the collision of race and humanity in Los Angeles. In such a big city with so many vehicles, car crash is unavoidable; so as crash among people with different race and background in the city. The film reflects the complexity of human nature. Characters convert they role from justice to evil, from victim to perpetrator in 24 hours. The typical example from the film is the story happened to the two white police officers. The one with racial discrimination who abused his power by bullying the woman can become heroic when the woman in danger; while another who seems pretty nice and fair can become a killer under certain circumstance.
  1. If applicable , discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?
I don’t think this question is applicable to the movie. The film tells the stories about ordinary people with different races, culture and background living in the metropolitan city – Los Angeles.  Living and working with others, unavoidable, we face confliction every day. And racial discrimination, is just a fuse.
  1. Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film?
I searched online and found that the movie director and writer Paul Haggis began to work as a writer for television programs. Maybe because of his working experience, the structure of the film actually is like TV series. Parallel cues and cross cutting structure he used in the film may make audience feel novelty, however, is very common means to tell stories in TV series. Like Spin City.
  1. What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class, gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?
The peoples with difference races and colors may be offended, because director used racial discrimination as a fuse to start the story. Personally, I think the movie is more about discussion of humanity than racial discrimination. However, the imagines of back people, Persians and Asian are not really nice showed on the movie.
  1. What the movie added to your visual literacy?
At the movie lines at the beginning of the movie, the black officer talks to his peer when we see a car accident “In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.” It somehow reveals the main theme of the movie. People hurt each other in the confliction, but also help and comfort each other as well. I think it’s a good example of combination of visual language and verbal language.
  1. What kind of artistic and/or visual means did the director use in the movie to focus our attention?
The director used the parallel cues and cross cutting structure to attract audience’s attention. Each plot in the film is independent but related to each other and constitutes the main tone of the film. Using this kind of technique of expression helps to arouse audience’s curiosity to a large extent. The background music that used in the film is excellent, which is soothing throughout the entire movie even in the climax of the plot. The film Main Theme "crash" appears many times, a singer is crooned singing in Arabic. Los Angeles- a cultural and racial melting pot, is fraught with conflict. And the melody interprets well of the main theme of the film.

March 19, 2012

Movie review - Thank you for Smoking





1.    What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.

The story focuses on the career of successful tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor. According to plot of the main line of view, this is an ironical anti-tobacco movie. But it is not blindly preaching and criticism. It neither blames all on the lobbyists nor portrays them as evil spirits. Contrarily, the protagonist Nick was pictured as an ordinary people in the movie. He has family and has a lot of troubles to deal with like all of us. I was impressed with the plot that how Nick explained his work to his son. With his father’s wisdom, the little guy understood the means of being a lobbyist. More importantly, he learned how important it is to distinguish between true and false by one’s own judgment.

I think this movie is reflects of the personal values of the United States: There are a variety of dangers and pitfalls in the world. You must understand the consequence of your own choices. The government is not able to arrange everything for you. So if you fall into the trap, you have nothing to do expect blame yourself. We all know that smoking is bad to our health. However, attacking the tobacco companies blindly would not have any help. The most thorough and effective solution is parents' education. Tell children the dangers of smoking and let them make their own decisions.



2.    If applicable, discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?

This movie depicts the lobbyists vividly with character of "moral flexibility”. In the movie, there are three chief spokespeople meet weekly. They represent the interests of tobacco, alcohol and firearms industries. They compete with each other in daily number of deaths caused by the industries they represent. As top professional lobbyists, of course, their lives are always exciting: facing challenges all the time; ridiculing Rep and misleading media for commercial interests, and facing of the risk of murder from time to time. On the other hand, their lives are very boring: no one likes them and more hate him.



3.    Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film?

The film is directed by Jason Reitman. “Thank you for smoking” is his first feature  film made in 2005.  He is the comedy director Ivan Reitman’s son. He worked as a production assistant on his father’s films when he was 13. So he grew up on movie set and comfortable on sets. I think his family background provides him more opportunities to experience how to director film in his own willings. Consequently, he made such a successful film in his feature debut.



4.    What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class,gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?

I am not sure. But there are some interesting roles showed on the film.

The lobbyists: “Every week we meet here at Bert's. Together, we represent the chief spokespeople for the tobacco, alcohol and firearms industries. We call ourselves the MOD Squad. M-O-D, Merchants of Death.”

The journalist: who uses her body in exchange for valuable news from Nick for her career promotion, which is like a scandal to press field. 

The senator: Senator Autran’s position of anti-smoking seems the extremely firm in the film. However, although he acts opposed to the tobacco companies, he is really a hypocrite. The desk in his office is filled with all kinds of wines; there is a large cheese advertising handing on the wall. These products are definitely not healthy but the companies are his sponsors. His being opposed to smoking and supporting to print skull logo on cigarette packs is just for winning votes.


5.    What the movie added to your visual literacy?

Although this is a movie about anti-smoking, there is not a smoking scene in the movie. They use a lot visual symbols like posts, advertisings and logos to hint tobacco is ubiquitous. I noticed that the opening credits are very interesting and creative, which uses a lot cigarette packs to show the list. And background music in the movie is offered as mainly as a transitional element.


6.    What kind of artistic and/or visual means did the director use in the movie to focus our attention?

Director uses some movie sets to reflect film’s satirical observations, like the EGO building, the CEO’s luxury office, the club where Nick and his friends get together weekly. When showing the opening credits, using of voiceover and music successfully attract people’s attention at the very beginning of the movie.

March 6, 2012

AHA! Journal- March, 2012



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Week 1, March 5, 2012


The above video is an 10 minutes introduction to China.  The introduction is amazingly comprehensive and concise. It shows culture, tradition,government, economy, education, people's habits and customs of this one of the biggest nation in the world. However, it was not made by Chinese people but a foreigner. Many Chinese people were surprised by the details that are revealed in the video- how a foreigner knows so much and deeply about China. Therefore, this video is widely circulated among major sites and personal blogs in China. I feel the reason why this video is so popular may attribute to its strong visual appeal. The graphic design in the video is vivid and meaningful, some characters are designed being stereotyped in order to add satiric or comic effects to the film. Through decoding the visual message in the film, people can easily gain the information which might be hard to understand only interpreted by verbal language. Making the abstract information straightforward and funny is the beauty of visuals.

The following are two similar videos which strongly rely on visuals to explain serious topics in a funny way.


                                     (Difference between Italian and European)



(U.S. Debt Crisis)

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Week 2, March 12, 2012 

A to Z from Ting Li on Vimeo.
Visual-spatial learning ( also known as right-brain learner )is the common phenomenon of thinking through visual processing using the part of the brain that is emotional and creative to organize information in an intuitive and simultaneous way. (Wikipedia)

The visual-spatial learner thinks primarily in pictures and images. They tend to perceive the big picture of environment, storing information in a non-sequential fashion. Their rich internal imagery makes them very imaginative and creative.  They learn best by seeing relationships among subjects and develop their own methods of problem solving, interestingly, their solutions to problems are often unusual.  In addition, visual-spatial learners have an excellent awareness of space. They enjoy geometry and physics. The spatial awareness also gives them skills in manipulating complex tasks.

Visual- spatial intelligence can be broken down further into two categories – these are innate and learned. Innate visual spatial intelligence is gifted when people were born and Learned visual-spatial intelligence involves improvement in the capactiy to recognize and organize patterns that comes with practice.

Learning styles 


  Right Brain VS. Left Brain Test


Use your strength to learn - for visual-spatial (right-brain) learners
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Week 3, March 19, 2012



This is a short animation named Humanity. It remains me the movie I just watched – Crash.  Crash reveals human nature by presenting stories happened among people with different races and cultures. It seems like human destiny is interrelated with each other and confliction is inevitable in social interpersonal relation. It’s hard to define whether a person is good or bad in the movie, people make decisions, doing things wrong and right. It’s the real world.
 When use animation to convey information, we are able to create something divorced from reality to convey ideas to audience.  This animation is a typical example. It shows humanity in a totally different perspective. There is not dialogue and background music in this short animation. It’s not even telling a story.  Generally, anthropomorphic approach is often used to shape cartoon characters in most animation movies. However, this animation goes to an opposite way, bringing us a strong impact on vision and imagine. People serve others and are served by others.  Do you ever think about your position in the society?


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Week 4, March 26, 2012

By Tang Yin's  (1470—1523)

 By Wang Xizhi (AD 303-361)

Chinese ink painting is a branch of traditional Chinese painting. Different from Western painting, calligraphy plays an essential role in Chinese ink painting. This kind of painting usually creates a strong cultural and historical visual impact to audience.   Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see that Chinese ink painting is integrated into visual design to form a unique visual appeal and establish a new visual image of traditional Chinese culture.


 (The above pictures are advertising post of a high-class real-estate)

Traditional Chinese ink painting is rooted in traditional Chinese culture, having long historical and cultural heritage.  It pays attention to artistic conception, reflecting the traditional thinking characteristics and charm of Chinese traditional arts. The unique feeling, vision and expression of Chinese ink painting wouldn’t be replaced by any other means of artistic expression.  It not only conveys wealth of information but also gives audience a wealth of space for imagination.  However, it also has its limitation – people without basic knowledge of Chinese culture may not get the accurate information and may misinterpret what designer want to express by using this kind of visual images with strong cultural elements.  


The above is one of the shows of CCTV 2012 Chinese lunar New Year Party. It tells a story about how Chinese new year comes from. The voice over is in Chinese. Without verbal cues, are you able to tell the story by interpreting meaning of visuals? How do you like the visual elements in the show?

March 5, 2012

Movie Review- City of God

  1. What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.
Through showing how people live in the slum called City of God in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, director discloses an extremely cruel world to us, which is a world without rules, regulations and manners. Killing and violence is everywhere. I see things happened there is like a circle, endless. It starts from the boy named Li'l Dice killed the old leaders of City of God and replaced them to become the new ruler, end up with his being killed by new generation. The movie ends, but the story starts over with different role players.
  1. If applicable, discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?
Yes, I think so. This movie tells a story about the minorities who live in City of God. It’s a slum full of drugs, illegal firearms trading, robbery, rape and killing, which is like a hell on earth. Children imitate adults’ behavior, committing crimes and killing people. Even police do the same thing here. In order to live in such a completely disordered society, people’s philosophy of life is also totally different from who live outside the city.
  1. Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film?
It doesn’t show us director’s background in the film.
  1. What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class, gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?
If the story in the film is happed in the real world, I think the police in the city would feel uncomfortable. Because the movie discloses how they do illegal things under the protection of law.
  1. What the movie added to your visual literacy?
I like the story rhythm that director used in the film. It seems every part of the story is separated but closed related to each other.