Ninety-seven years ago, First Officer Murdoch shouted “Hard a-starboard!” over the Atlantic. This call was the futile command to try and divert the RMS Titanic from her famous course. At about twenty minutes to midnight, the ship struck an iceberg, guessed to be about 400 feet long. The iceberg crushed the metal paneling on the side of the ship, causing the panels’ top ends to bow outward, which allowed the water to get into the ship above the watertight compartments. The watertight compartments were a design innovation that embolden the White Star Line to advertise the ship as “unsinkable”. The compartments would have saved the ship if the hull and been torn, not crushed, and below the waterline; additionally, the design allowed for four of the compartments to be filled with water for the ship to still be afloat—upon impact, five compartments were taking on water. The first lifeboat, Boat 7, was launched forty minutes past midnight, an hour after having struck the berg. The boat launched with 28 people in it; it had the capacity for 65. The boats were loaded with the imperative of “Women and children first,” which was one of the reasons for launching many so empty. A combination of the partial lifeboats and the fact that the ship didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone on board, to begin with, was one of the major reasons for the high loss of life. At ten after two in the morning of April 15th, with two lifeboats still unlaunched, the bow of the ship had taken on more water than it could sustain and dipped, finally, under the surface, bringing the stern up and out of the water, as if in a final curtsey. The middle of the ship buckled under the weight and the bow twisted off and glided, silently, two miles to the bottom of the ocean. The stern followed, slipping gracefully under the waves. At four in the morning, the RMS Carpathia began picking up survivors and picked up the last at half past eight. The ship hadn’t been seen by anyone until 1985, when Robert Ballard found the wreck (see post).
The sinking of the Titanic is famous probably mostly for the irony of the “Unsinkable Ship” going down on her maiden voyage. A close second would be the loss of life caused by the lack of lifeboats. However, the Titanic was not only famous for being the “Unsinkable Ship”; the Titanic was launched in a time when immigrants were pouring into the United States. The Titanic was the largest, most luxurious ship built to date. Hopeful would-be-Americans saw the ship as the golden ticket; a way to get to the “promise land”. The sad part about that (other than the sinking) was that most immigrants (besides very wealthy, upper-class families) were put into third class and steerage. These people were crammed in tightly, with poor hygiene conditions and few accessibilities. During the sinking, the crew was ordered to send first and second class passengers off first, and there were rumors of many passengers being locked in the steerage decks because they were of “lower priority”. The sinking of the Titanic points out two important issues: The arrogance of a manufacturer and the immoralities of an archaic and arbitrary class system.
The Titanic was the first thing I ever got really into. By chance, I picked up a book about it in second grade and was immediately drawn in. Since then, I’ve read countless books and articles about the ship and its discovery. In the fourth grade, I read A Night to Remember, and I vowed that someday I will make my own film adaptation. So, indirectly, my interest in the Titanic is what gave me my interest in filmmaking, and got me to what I’m doing now. In the words of Matthew Lax, it all comes full-circle.
Just as an FYI, I’ve added comments to my Tumblr now. You can post comments using a Tumblr account, Google account (Blogger), or anonymously. That may help make things a little less confusing and convoluted.
Besides being the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War, the battle is controversial mostly for the Americans’ use of White Phosphorus as an offensive weapon. While not considered a chemical weapon by the Chemical Weapons Commission, many other groups consider it to be so. At first, the Department of Defense denied the use of the chemical as a weapon, then later admitted to using it during the battle.
The point of a video game is to tell a specific story through the audience interacting with the world itself; they are, in effect, living a specific fantasy designed by the developer of the game. The publisher of the game (Konami) state in the article that they want to make a “piece of entertainment”, and that’s how it’s going to read: The on-going war as entertainment.
Last night I got the chance to see my teacher Blake Carrington’s MFA show, called Cathedral Scan. He created a patch in Max/MSP/Jitter that took a MIDI input from a keyboard and sent the signal as a scan over the plans of Gothic Cathedrals; the different shapes of the plans affected the rhythm and timbre of the audio signal. The show was two hours long, and was completely mesmerizing. He showed in Hendricks Chapel at SU; he put a big projector at the altar, and put four speakers on each corner of the nave. On the projector, he had a visual complement to the audio: it was an animation of the sound signals scanning over the floorplan of the cathedrals. The scan lines started at the top of the plan, and went down to the bottom; the sound started at the front speakers, and as the scan went down the plan, the sound shifted to the back speakers. He played the sound composition live for the whole two hours. When it was done, it took me a little while to recollect my thoughts because they kind of wandered off a little too far and in too many different directions; it put you in this kind of trance. I went up to talk to Blake afterward, but his mind was definitely much more scattered than mine. Hopefully Blake will make an update on his blog about the show. I will post if he does.
The Great Mouse Detective | Dir. Ron Clements & Burny Mattinson, 1986 | Probably the most immediate reason why The Great Mouse Detective stands out from most other Disney movies is that it is very dark (in multiple senses). The opening scene really pretty terrifying. Olivia, a young girl (mouse) witnesses her father getting abducted from their very modest home/toy shop. One interesting thing, also, about this film that’s fairly unique is that it takes place entirely at night, and plays heavily with shadows and silhouettes. It also deals with “underbelly” characters; that is to say, the villain is a gangster (voiced by Vincent Price), and the heroes have to go through a dockside bar/honky-tonk to get to him. The heroes, too, are very different. Instead of being princes, or even the proverbial pauper-prince (ie, Aladdin), they’re intellects and academics. They solve their dilemmas with wit and intelligence. This film is also very refreshing because it is not a musical (save one number, but in the bigger picture, that’s forgivable). The sound in general is really very well done. One scene in particular, the chase through Big Ben at the end, is sound effects only; there is no music. It’s just the loud and deep tick-tock of the mechanisms and gears in the clock (a motif throughout); in consequence, it makes the scene much more frightening and immediate. Another interesting aspect about the film as a whole is that it’s about the mice version of real people; the hero, Basil, is the mouse version of Sherlock Holmes, and he lives underneath the detective’s home (there’s a neat scene when they actually go into Holmes’ living room, and you get to see Watson and Sherlock’s shadows). The Great Mouse Detective (whole film) on YouTube>
The Rescuers | Dir. John Lounsbery & Wolfgang Reitherman, 1977 | This film, like The Great Mouse Detective, is very dark. Like many Disney films upon second viewing, The Rescuers is surprisingly adult; itdeals with some very serious themes. At its very core, the film is about child abuse and abduction (it also subtly touches on themes of sexism and feminism). The characters in this film stand out from most Disney films as well. They’re very real characters in the sense that they have very real faults. The villain, although her name is Medusa, isn’t necessarily painted as 100% pure evil. She is clearly a very bad person, but she isn’t the cliche trying-to-take-over-the-world villain. She’s psychotic, but realistically so—essentially, she could exist in real life. She thinks of herself as above where she actually is socially; she wears an excessive amount of make-up and wears clothes that would have been glamorous maybe 40 years prior. It’s very subtle, but she’s a very interesting and complicated character. The mice hero and heroine are an interesting dynamic. The female is clearly the braver, more confident character; the male is superstitious (he always counts the steps and announces when there are 13) and is very nervous, but pretends to be brave and believes that it’s his responsibility to protect the “woman”—but that sense is based entirely in etiquette rather than a superiority complex. The film provides for some genuinely frightening moments; moments that are insensitive to hero-status. To switch gears, now, to technical things, the sound effects are really tremendous, especially the recurring “cough” sound. Also, like The Great Mouse Detective, The Rescuers is not a musical. Instead, it uses songs—though, written for the film—in the background. The style of the animation, too, is very different than most Disney films—it has a heavy penciling influence. The Rescuers (whole film) on YouTube>
The Jungle Book | Dir. Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967 | Let’s get the obvious out of the way: it’s based on Rudyard Kipling’s classic anthology, which itself is an allegory for America’s relationship with Cuba in the 1890s (Mowgli represents Cuba). Each character is a very clear and deliberate metaphor for specific morals, temptations, and vices. It’s very heavy morally, even more so than most Disney movie, but, counter-intuitively, that’s what makes it better than other Disney films. The heavy-handedness becomes what the movie is really about rather than ideas subtly slipped in. The film, however, doesn’t become about “This is right,” and “This is wrong,” but rather it’s about the discussion of right and wrong. By making these themes actual characters in the story, the film leaves the viewer thinking about their own morals and why they chose them. The Jungle becomes an allegory for the territory of our own thinking and our own mind, and we are left thinking about our own relationships with each character. The Jungle Book (whole film) on YouTube>
The list may be slightly biased, as these were my three favorites growing up; but it’s also what makes this list that much more enjoyable.