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Assignment #12

In the beginning of the 2003 film Shattered Glass, directed by Billy Ray, you feel almost immediately drawn to the charismatic character of Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen.) He is portrayed as intelligent, humorous, and from what the audience can see he is well-liked by almost all of his peers at The New Republic with perhaps the only exception being Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard.) Though there is never any direct mention of Chuck’s dislike of his co-worker, it is repeatedly implied through responses and actions but could be attributed to nothing more than a general distrust. The rest of his co-workers seem to enjoy his company, his advice, and his charm which is more visibly notable in the conference room for his pitches of stories– especially the pitch of his piece “Hack Heaven.” If I had not known beforehand the character and accusations against Glass, I could say that it would be easy to want to hang out with him as he is presented in the first ten or fifteen minutes of the film.
The ethical dilemmas that Glass is faced with throughout the film are whether or not to continue the lies that he has woven. He often seems a bit unsure of what to admit is not truth and when. His choices to continue lying to try to cover his previous untruths only prove to bring him as well as his editors and co-workers more trouble in the end. I think that for the publication which Stephen Glass was writing for, his actions cannot be excused. Had it been an isolated instance of smaller proportions that he had readily admitted to, I could see him possibly remaining with the publication. The amount of lies told, and then the direct lies to cover his tracks made his choices inexcusable, and appropriate actions were later taken against him, even by the very co-workers who had loved and respected him so much. The ethical dilemmas faced by Chuck Lane as Stephen’s editor were enormous as he was directly accountable for the articles published in the magazine. Chuck did what he could to help salvage Stephen’s career and image when he spoke with Forbe’s Digital’s editor directly. Unfortunately once Chuck discovered the extent of the web of deceit that Stephen had crafted, he had little choice but to let him go and hope that he could salvage the magazine’s image.
Stephen’s persuasiveness is presented many times throughout the film he uses rhetorical appeals with great ease. He interacts with his co-workers mostly by appealing to emotions by saying such things as “it’s probably nothing” and “it’s not very good, I probably won’t do it” by saying these things he seems greatly unsure of himself, making his lies all that much easier to believe. These things lead his co-workers to take his side, even after his story “Hack Heaven” is questioned. In the film in particular, Caitlin responds to Chuck firing Stephen in an angered way. Chuck responds by saying that it is Stephen’s own fault for what has happened, and tells her that he has fabricated more than just the story in question, and all of them being duped meant that they would all be held accountable, and would have to apologize accordingly.
Throughout the film there are scenes mixed in where Stephen is addressing a class at his former high school. These scenes turn out to be much like the scenes for the piece “Hack Heaven” which are merely fabrications of his imagination, or how he perceives things could have been. By this point in the film as an audience member I felt angry that I had been duped by someone who was so charming and seemingly so honest, no longer did I trust Stephen’s character.
After watching the interview with the real Stephen Glass, I can see the direct parallels that the film took to his character. He is charismatic, charming, and seemingly believable. I can also see him as someone who seems extremely apologetic. He still appeals to people’s emotions, and even in the brief points where former co-workers were presented they said that to this day they cannot find it in themselves to trust him, even if he has gone through five years of therapy. His journalistic nightmare still haunts him to this day, as even though he’s passed the New York bar exam, he has yet to be certified as a lawyer due to the questionable elements and fabrications of his past.
Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Stephen Glass was actually not so dissimilar to his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars II and III. Both characters, though they had many differences had many similarities as well. Each one lied to cover up portions of their life that they wanted no one to know of while continuing to be generally well-liked and charming. In the scenes where Glass was visibly upset, angry, or crying, I had trouble distinguishing him from Skywalker. I could almost hear the words “Love won’t save you, Padmé! Only my new powers can do that!”

Assignment #11

In the world today, we have become increasingly aware of just how many ethical issues exist and are presented to us through many mediums, especially the media. With so many existing issues to choose from, the upcoming assignment my class has been presented with should present little problem other than selecting an issue itself. In looking over many ethical issues that are presented through film, I settled on one in the category of crime. Film often portrays the criminal in a somewhat truthful light, and it can show the consequences people receive for their actions. Many other times, however, film sheds a spotlight on the criminal and glorifies their position, turning them from a despised villain into a likable hero. These instances are almost always accompanied by a tragic circumstance that leads the audience to sympathize with the criminal, and such is the case in the film “The Sting” which follows a lowly con artist as he struggles to accomplish ‘the big con’ and enact personal revenge against the man who ordered the death of a dear friend. His actions do not always seem justified, and often-times we are reminded of his criminal background, but in the end his overall goal is achieved. With this epiphany comes an admiration for the man who did what the cops would not, and took the law into his own hands. His actions would seem unjustified to very few, no matter how wrong they really are. So even though the ethical issue of crime is presented, the audience feels little more than sympathy and admiration for a man who robbed a man, and handed him a one-way ticket to prison, or to an early demise… all because his friend was killed by this same man first.

Assignment #10

“Definitely, Maybe”, a Universal Pictures film, follows the story of Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) as he describes his prior serious romantic relationships to his young daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin.) Much of the film takes place in the past as Will spins a mostly truthful tale for his daughter, who began by questioning his relationship with her mother after a sex-ed class in school. The story is interrupted at points by Maya’s surfacing insecurities about her parents impending divorce, and she is reassured enough to pass on some relationship advice to her gloomy father.

A cute but predictable romantic comedy. Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin make a great father/daughter team, adding charm and believability to the story, as well as comic relief that will have you laughing out loud. The story lagged in places, with some portions almost completely irrelevant to the storyline. These deterring moments as well as characters left under-developed with the actress playing the three women (Fischer, Banks, and Weisz) unable to break out of cookie-cutter stereotypes handed to their characters, leaves the film a bit flat. All in all it’s a great date movie, with a little something for both guys and girls, and the cast did a fine job with what they were given to work with. Worth seeing if you have the time and the cash, but don’t expect a show-stopping performance that will leave you awed or inspired.

Assignment #9

The recent romantic comedy “27 Dresses”, a Fox 2000 Pictures film, Jane is a young woman who has been ‘in love’ with weddings since childhood, which is a good thing since she’s been a bridesmaid in 27 of them! Perpetually awaiting the day she receives any indication of affection from her boss George (Edward Burns), Jane encounters problems at the homecoming of her “prettier” sister Tess (Malin Akerman), who seems to steal the spotlight– and George’s affections. Jane’s life is further complicated by Kevin (James Marsden) a cynical writer with a soft spot for weddings. Hilarity ensues as Jane tries to sort out her emotions and her life, and learns that sometimes perceptions of love can be misconceptions.

Katherine Heigl doesn’t disappoint as Jane, the perpetually-single, always-a-bridesmaid, fawning-over-her-boss, walking cliché. She plays the part of the “ugly” sister well, and is just as witty and charming as she’s ever been. James Marsden was wonderful in his role as well, though the chemistry between the two wasn’t what I’d hoped. Judy Greer and Krysten Ritter make a great addition to the cast with their supporting roles as the best friend and the spacey secretary respectively. In the end, the film leaves you smiling no matter how contrived the storyline may be at times… and it gives you a whole new appreciation for just how brave those bridesmaids are!

Assignment #8

When one of my favorite television shows, The Office, ended its fourth season abruptly after only eight episodes, I have to admit that I was upset. The show halted not knowing when they would begin filming again, or even if the season would be completed, due to the Writers Guild of America’s strike. Now that many tv shows have run out of new episodes to air, and primetime television has turned to reruns or worse, more of America has stopped to take notice, and complain. I have to wonder how many of these people know the issues that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is striking over. The main concerns the writers have voiced is not receiving residuals for DVD sales and online video streams of the shows that they write. The studios make money off of the advertisements that go along with both, and the actors and actresses featured are paid accordingly. Now in talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the WGA has dropped the issue of union jurisdiction over reality and animation writers, and is now solely focusing on residuals for DVD sales (they want an increase to 0.6% of sales, up from 0.3%), and residuals for “new media” which applies to all future usage and distribution in any form over the internet. There is much promise to the current talks, and both parties hope to come to an amicable agreement prior to the 2008 Academy Awards ceremony, which could potentially be in jeopardy if the WGA continues striking. So far this strike has run for 13 weeks and counting, while the last strike the WGA had ran for 21 weeks. Thes strike is costing the industry over $1 billion, and could increase if an impasse is not met. With the writers not receiving near the amounts of money that actors or the studios get for the work or production of the scripts they write is completely unfair, and they should be allowed to see some of the money they are helping to generate. Support should be offered to the writers, and with any luck perhaps we’ll all see our favorite shows return to television in the fall of 2008.

Assignment #7

Rarely has there been so much buzz surrounding an animated film as there was this past year with Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studio’s Ratatouille. The storyline is simple enough, it follows a young rat into the city of Paris where he hopes (and later does) fulfill his dream of becoming a chef. So what is it about the film that has caused so much talk? Many critics feel that Ratatouille goes beyond what standards were set years ago for animated films, and that the category in which it’s nominated for “Best Animated Feature” at the upcoming Academy Awards limits the film’s worth. The article “Was ‘Ratatouille’ ripped off in Oscar race?” (credited to the New York Associated Press and linked below), takes a deeper look into some of the reasons that Ratatouille should have been nominated for other categories such as “Best Director” or “Best Film”, and how it’s limited by the “Best Animated Feature” category. Not only is Ratatouille made with traditional film making techniques in mind, but the film also has garnered higher ratings on such websites as ‘’ than films like Pulp Fiction and all of the current “Best Film” nominees (“No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Juno,” “Atonement,” and “Michael Clayton”. With a total of five Oscar nominations, Ratatouille is the most nominated computer animated film ever, and the second most nominated animated film behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. These Oscar nominations are proof that the academy does indeed like the film, as does the international body of critics. Overall Ratatouille has pulled in $206 million in the box office domestically, and went on to make $410 million internationally. This is more money than all of this year’s “Best Picture” nominees combined. In the end, with a film that has been enjoyed by millions, loved by critics, and nominated so widely for awards, is it safe to say that the “Best Animated Feature” category limits many of today’s animated films and should new steps be taken to ensure that such films get the recognition they rightly deserve?

Assignment #6

One of the things that I find most disturbing about our culture in America today is our media outlets. Even the most credible of “news” channels has slanted views on political issues. Right-wing, left-wing, it doesn’t matter, in most cases there’s a slant in all politically oriented issues. The news has become a ratings race, they no longer care much for what they report. It’s now all about who’s reporting it, the prettiest, the handsomest. Hardly ever do you see someone who is just reporting the news to deliver current events. The news also has to be entertaining. No longer do Americans care about what may be important happenings in their country. Everything is up-to-the-minute coverage of Paris Hilton being released from prison… or returning. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of celebrity gossip here and there, and in today’s day in age it is hard to get away from, but there are “celebrity news” shows designed specifically for that purpose. Things have gotten to the point where I have personally heard friends complain that they can no longer watch American news broadcasts if they want to stay in touch with what is truly happening in our country. They turn to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for news. To have the news that we should be hearing, nay paying attention to, in our own country reported better by a company across the Atlantic should be an alarming wake-up call for everyone. The question remains, is anyone paying attention?

The ideas in this post can be best noted by the following:

Assignment #5

In Tuesday’s class we were given the question “Should you give a homeless person a dollar?” and after splitting into groups, we were to debate different answers. I would fall into the category of “never, but…” for several reasons. A few of these reasons are that I hardly ever carry cash, I may not necessarily trust the person in question’s motives in asking for the money, and lastly I find that a lot of homeless persons seem to wait until inconvenient times to ask for a donation.
With the luxury of having a debit card comes the tendency to carry less and less cash, if any at all. It keeps my wallet and my purchases much more organized, so when asked for a dollar, I can usually reply honestly when I say that I do not have any money on my person. With a debit card I could take the time to give the person food or water instead of giving them a dollar directly, which would solve my second problem of slight distrust. I have had the experience of a person turning down an offer for me to do so, which to me means that they most likely wanted the money for drugs or alcohol. Even when this may not be the case, I might not have the time to stop and give someone a dollar. As sad as that may seem, the homeless I’ve encountered seem to wait until the most inappropriate time to ask a person for money. Perhaps they think that if you’re in a rush you won’t have the time to stop and argue a point, or you’d prefer to give them something and be on your way. All in all, I rarely if ever give homeless persons a dollar since I usually do not carry cash, do not always trust their motives, and because I am sometimes asked at the most impossible times.

Assignment #4

Many people would argue that theatre productions make ridiculous feature films. Though the arguments for both sides include lists of good points, neither side seems ultimately correct. Through the recent years, many films have been made based off of theatre productions, usually of the musical variety. These films give opportunity to those who may not otherwise have a window into the world of fine arts, allowing them to experience a fusion of song, dance and acting otherwise not entirely common in Hollywood.
On the other hand, there is no experience quite like sitting in a theatre and watching a performance unfold before your eyes. It is most certainly a dazzling and unique feeling that washes over an audience member each time they sit in the auditorium. A person can feel all kinds of emotion and is often taken on a roller coaster tour of them throughout the entire production. Each audience member may feel or gather some different from each performance, allowing theatre enjoyment for as long as the person chooses.
In the spirit of the theatre, film makers attempt to capture some of the same essence into their productions. Though film has the ability to rework a scene until it is perfected, the entire cast and crew toils to make a believable transfer from the stage to the screen, even going so far as to sometimes use the original actors and actresses from a Broadway run of a production. This attention to detail allows the audience to be immersed in a world entirely different to that of the theatre, one where brilliant additions of computer graphics and special effects are available to enhance the viewer’s experience of the overall production.
In the end, both theatre and film are slightly different, each is a unique expression of the group of people embodied within, and each is viable in presenting to its audience a world otherwise unknown. Even though there is no way to describe the experience of witnessing a live production on stage, film is a widely more accessible media that helps many to witness the wonder and enjoyment of the stage through the distinctly different experience film offers.

Assignment #3

With all the political ads that Americans are bombarded by at this point in a presidential campaign, it takes drastic measures from each candidate to ensure that they capture your attention. Each candidate is different, and therefore each political ad is different as well, tailored to what the candidate wants to emulate. One such example is Mike Huckabee’s series of political ads featuring Chuck Norris. These ads, beginning back in late 2007, clearly appeal to authority in that Chuck Norris has very little authority to be making some of the conclusions that he does.
The ads feature Chuck Norris describing why Mike Huckabee would make the best president of the United States, likening him to Reagan and the elder Bush. Norris, being an actor by trade, and earning much of the money in his later years from the advertisement and sales of fitness equipment, does not seem to have the authority to draw these conclusions. He is entitled to his own opinion, as is everyone else in our country, but he insists that he has made a point of backing Huckabee because he feels that he has “the entire package.”
In the end, using a celebrity to appeal to authority or to create a bandwagon effect is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Americans see this tactic in almost every campaign, large or small. Unfortunately, as much as Chuck Norris may appeal to young people as a result of a string of jokes about him that began years ago, and to those who remember his acting career, he has little more credible authority than someone’s grandmother.