Today in seminar we had a cinema professor visit us.  She basically ran down the fundamentals of cinema and related them to numerous films, particularly Manhattan.  When we were watching the opening scene of Manhattan, I noticed a motif in the movie.

In the beginning of the movie, Woody Allen’s character, Isaac, talks about his view of New York City.  It was clear that Isaac had a lot of trouble making his views of the city clear.  In fact, as a character, Isaac seemed to be very indecisive.  Other than his talk about the city, Isaac had a lot of trouble making up his mind in his love life.

Throughout the film, Isaac jumped back and forth between Mary and Tracey.  It took him a few stumbles and a revelation towards the end of the movie to realize that he wanted to be with Tracey.  However, this does not mean he became a decisive character or anything like that.  In my opinion, it was not a hard choice for Isaac to pick Tracey because Mary made it clear that she was not romantically devoted to Isaac.

Essentially, the motif is Isaac’s indecisiveness.  It’s funny actually, whenever Isaac spoke, he never stated anything with certainty.  He talked and talked with a lot of wit until he got his point across.  This is especially relevant at the middle and end of the film in which Isaac tried to manipulate Tracey.  Both times, he kept blurting out excuses and reasons for Tracey to either leave him or come back to him, respectively.

I enjoyed this session of Seminar, talking about film is always a treat.  As a matter of fact, my Intro to Film class is my favorite class this semester.



Professor Diaz Lecture on Cinema – 11/28/12

In seminar yesterday, Professor Diaz came into our class to discuss the world of cinema. At first glance, I questioned to myself how someone could possibly be a cinema professor, but ten minutes into her lecture, I was amazed at how much goes into making a movie, as well as the major details that I casually look over and don’t analyze fully. I thought it was crazy, how a movie that is displayed for the audience, doesn’t represent the amount of time and hard work that goes into making the particular motion picture; unless professors in that respected field analyze it thoroughly such as, Professor Diaz.

Instead of going on and on about the terms that were discussed in the lecture, I would like to highlight some of the important ones; which happen to be mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sounds, and framing. Mise-en-scene is all of the elements that are placed in front of the camera to be photographed. Cinematography is simply the use of cameras and other machines to record images.The next term, editing is piecing together of individual shots. Sounds are the voices, effects, and music that blend on film’s sound track. Finally, framing is important because it actively defines the image for us. It’s not simply a neutral border. The frame, in cinema, imposes a certain vantage point onto the material within the image.

To be honest, I was kind of bored during the first half of Professor Diaz’s lecture only because she was just reciting cinema terms that didn’t really mean anything to me. But once she applied the new concepts to various well–renowned movies, I became interested and it definitely appealed to me. I never thought of movies such as the Godfather and other gangster movies in relation to the lighting and the clothing. I just took the movie for its face value and never dug deeper and examined the various terms that Professor Diaz discussed. Now I think of all movies in a different but unique manner. All of the concepts such as: lighting, clothing, scenery, color, storyboard enable me to formulate a more conceptual and idealistic view on the particular movie that can be supported by different scenes; instead of just coming up with a logical explanation without any concrete forms of evidence.

Manhattan Analysis: 11/28/12

In today’s seminar class, we had a guest speaker, Professor Diaz, one of the film professors.  She came in not only to further analyze the Woody Allen movie Manhattan for us, but also to give us a brief lesson on the basics of film technique and form.  I am currently taking a film class, so much of her lecture was review.  However, when I first watched Manhattan, I noticed some of the techniques used, but I mainly watched it for enjoyment purposes and to use in analyzing New York society at that time.  Today, as we analyzed the film in relation to modern cinematic techniques, I noticed that the observation of these techniques added to the film’s complexity and significance, and would be useful to all of us as we form opinions and ideas of the movie and its message.

In watching the film, I formed several different opinons of the characters, the message, Isaac’s beliefs, and the general theme.  Now I have evidence to support my beliefs and ideas.  The character of Isaac intrigued me and he is obviously the character I gave the most thought to.  To me, Isaac seems…complex.  It’s seems as if he knows what he wants, but something always stops him.  Sometimes, it is his own neurosis, his own personal hangups.  For example, he knows he wants Tracy, but for much of the movie, even when he is with her, his moral beliefs tell him he shouldn’t be.  His moral beliefs often set him apart from his friends and colleagues, which is noticeable in many scenes.  Even when he is with other people, the camera gives us a scene of just Isaac; for example, when he, Mary, Yale, and Yale’s wife are at the boat yard, reading the book his ex-wife wrote, the three leave the frame laughing and Isaac is left alone.  He feels that his ex-wife should not have even written the book because it is too personal and exposes too much information.  However, in his moral beliefs that writing the book was wrong, he is left alone with only his inner thoughts to grapple with.  In addition, there is always a subtle background line dividing Isaac from the people surrounding him until he comes to realize that he needs to have faith in people and stop setting such high standards for people to meet.

Sometimes, he fails to get what he wants just because of the way the world is.  He is idealistic and while this is often an admirable trait, it is also often a setup for disappointment and resentment.  At the start of the movie, the montage of shots of NYC show us nice buildings and the beautiful skyline – an idealistic, untouched picture of NYC.  It seemed to me like this is a metaphor for how Isaac wants life to be – untouched and perfect, or as perfect as it can be.  This is a perfect example of how mise-en-scene, or the setup of a scene, lends itself to the theme of the film, and how it relates to characters and their personalities.

In my opinion, Isaac’s complexity is furthered by the combination of these two character traits – not only does Isaac want the world and everyone in it to be perfect, but he wants it to be perfect according to his morals.  As he realizes that everyone around him fails to live according to his ideals, he begins to question the meaning of life.  What is his purpose?  The empty space that constantly surrounds him on screen is a good visual metaphor for this problem. Isaac is also always cast in a dark, shadowy light, suggesting that he is conflicted within himself, engaged in a constant inner battle of right versus wrong, morality versus immorality.  The fact that Isaac is never centered on the screen goes hand-in-hand with the constant shadowy lighting.  Everything Isaac says and does and the way he is portrayed is done in order to describe his personality minus the use of dialogue.

I thought that toward the end of the film, Isaac learned that life cannot always exist according to his wishes.  However, in looking at the scenery, mise en scene, placement of the characters, etc., it’s as if he is in the same place he started.  He is still not centered in the frame and as he says goodbye to Tracy, the lighting is still fairly dark on his face.  Isaac hasn’t moved forward, and with Tracy leaving, there will still be a void in his life.   Isaac still has this moral, idealistic view of life, and it is his downfall in his relationships with other people.  The fact that he ends up alone in the end, physically, emotionally, cinematically, shows that he pushed people away because of his own ideas on the world.  I think it’s a sad ending and yet, it portrays this inner struggle that everyone faces during their life–where do I fit in and how do my thoughts and opinions affect my relationships with others?


11/28/12 – Swathi Satty

Today, We had Professor Diaz come to analyze Manhattan with us and she spoke of cinematography,editing and sound. Sound is significant for the film Manhattan because of the use of music in integration with the plot. Mise en scene is all the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed which is basically what makes a movie as dynamic as it is. I found it interesting that Woody Allen used 2:35:1 for each scene because it fit with the broad nature of Manhattan. It allowed me as a viewer to understand the grandness of the city. The distance from the characters is important because it effects how the viewers understand the story. The more intimate a story line, the closer the camera is to the focus point of the characters. Close-up might be profound which was often close with scenes with Tracy because she was foil to Mary which allowed character development.

The lighting is just as important as the camera angles. In Manhattan, high key lighting is rare. Low key lighting creates stronger contrasts. Manhattan used it a lot as well as The Godfather and Citizen Kane. I think it allowed the viewers to focus on the dialogue rather than the surrounding. Also the relationship between Isaac and Mary is very low key and as dark as the atmosphere the low key lighting creates. The storyboard and color are vital parts of the film. The use of color or black and white is often symbolic. I think its to enhance the classic view of New York, as often depicted in various professional photos. Basic camera movements are pan, tilt and dolly or tracking shot. The dolly shots were mostly used to Manhattan, which is mostly used to make the viewers feel like they’re part of the conversation. A take was much longer when movie making was new than it is now because editing wasn’t as advanced as it is now. But some directors purposely use long takes. In Manhattan, I felt that long takes felt more natural because the concept of the film to convey a dynamic between characters. Any extra editing would take away from the strong dialogue usage.

The transition of scenes felt so natural in this film that I didn’t find it hard to keep up with the plot line. This makes sense because the most important thing about this film is character progression. I was able to pick up on the humor as well since there wasn’t much to concentrate on. There are so many components in a film which I wasn’t even aware of. Overall, I felt that Allen was very thorough with his ideas on how the movie should be filmed because it was effective in keeping the movie flowing and not making it confusing which would defeat the purpose. I never realized just how detailed the lay out of each film has to be but I certainly respect all the effort put in. I enjoyed the last scene of Manhattan because it brought it back to the beginning of the movie when Allen showed Manhattan in this grandiose manner. I felt that this finale basically implied that life goes on even with the ups and down Isaac had. This is important to be emphasized because New York City is the city that never sleeps.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/28/12

Today in class, Professor Diaz came and spoke to us about the movie Manhattan. She told us very common and useful film terminology. I thought it was interesting to think of one part of a movie as the “film space.” To me, a film is a moving object. It’s different to me to think that there is also a film frame. The camera’s viewpoint is also very thought about. Manhattan is in 2:85:1 because Woody Allen wanted to show the entire Manhattan skyline. Each shot is thought about in the film as well to show different things. For example, when Isaac broke up with Tracey, the camera zoomed in to her face to show her emotions. I never thought so deeply about movies in this way. Each frame and scene is very calculated and analyzed because the director wants to give off a message. The angles are very important in the same way. Each angle expresses a certain idea about the people, places, or things in the frame. Even the lighting has a very important effect on the movie because it highlights and lowlights certain relationships, dialogues, or even objects in the film. The movement of the camera helps to tell the story as well. Pan is when the camera “turns its head.” Tilt is when the camera’s “head” swivels up or down. This is how Professor Diaz described it. This is interesting to me because when watching A Bronx Tale I thought that the camera had a point of view that is its very own. In Manhattan, this was done to make the viewer feel as if he or she was with the characters. The camera’s viewpoint was the viewpoint of the audience. This was done successfully. I felt like I was with the characters in the movie and feeling the things that they were feeling. The 180 degree rule is when the camera turns its axis and stays on one side of the shot. The camera stays on one side of the characters. This also contributes to the idea that the viewer is part of the shot. When the characters were sitting in a restaurant, I felt like I was in a chair sitting with them because the camera’s view was from one side. It stayed in one place, like a person would in a chair. Even the sound was specifically chosen for a film. The sounds were very specifically picked to create a certain feel for the scene. I feel like I learned so much today about film and the different styles that cinematographers use. I am going to see every movie I watch very differently. I am going to be more aware of the choices the director made and try to figure out why they did what they did.


Today, in seminar we learned some general film vocabulary while we analyzed the movie Manhattan with Professor Diaz. We learned how to pay attention to certain aspects of movies that can be used to bring out details that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. Mise-en-scene is basically all the elements that are being placed on camera, including the props, costume, and framing. Cinematography is the use of cameras and other machines to record images. Editing is the piecing together of individual shots. Sound is the voices, effects, and music that blend on a film’s auto track. Framing can be used to capture a certain essence of a setting, for example capturing Manhattan’s skyline. Shots are used to capture certain details about characters or the setting.

I was most interested when I saw the first moving picture. It was fascinating to see how the still pictures of the house were put together to create a moving picture. That was the first idea that was later used to develop movies. We learned how movies evolved from what they began in 1895. The clips were much longer because there was no editing. However, as time passed and technology developed, the movie clips began getting shorter. Often camera cutting sequences were used in 1915 to tell the story. I especially liked seeing a wide array of examples that showed the advancements of the film industry through time.

We learned the difference in lighting which can be used to create stronger or weaker contrasts. In Manhattan, the director dimmed the lights for scenes where the dialogue was the focus. It brought all the attention to what exactly the director wanted you to see. The absence of color in Manhattan actually brought out the beauty of Manhattan by avoiding any possible distractions that can come from a colorful scene. It seemed to  get the view across more efficiently.