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S1E4, I’ll Try to Fix You – Proper Balancing For the Win

In my last Newsroom post, I discussed my opinions on the fact that the show seems to be very indecisive in terms of focusing on relationship/love triangle stories or focusing on news/media stories. All three prior episodes included both story types, but none of them seemed to balance them out too well. After having watched episode four, I can safely say that this is the first episode to balance the themes properly–to a certain extent!

“I’ll Try to Fix You” finally achieves the balance between romantic relationship and media studies that I’ve been wanting from the show. The story really centers around McAvoy and his newfound coworker relationship with MacKenzie. It’s horribly clear that McAvoy still has serious feelings for her, and I think it’s even more clear that things will EVENTUALLY work out between the two–somehow. However that’s not where this episode shines.

Where it really succeeds is in McAvoy’s “Mission to Civilize.” Will spends almost three-quarters of the episode meeting/dating new women–each woman brings with her a new set of radical problems. One is a take-down gossip reporter who makes the misery of others her life goal; another is a gossiper and physically attractive airhead; another is a far left Southern gal who has held one too many grudges. As Will spends time with each of these women, we not only learn more about his character and what he stands for, but we experience (through his eyes) multiple problems with the way the media affects and changes people. For example, shows like The Real Housewives of New Jersey seem to only piss Will off because of how irrelevant they are to life–when people keep mentioning the show and how Will continually mispronounces the title, he asks: “Who gives a shit anyway?”

One of the situations that arises from McAvoy's encounter with a gun-toting gal from the south. Also known as "Annie Oakley."

One of the situations that arises from McAvoy’s encounter with a gun-toting gal from the south. Also known as “Annie Oakley.” This comes back to bite Will on the butt rather quickly.

 

The dramatic highpoint of the episode is when things take a turn for the worse: Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford is shot in the head in Tuscon, Arizona. As soon as notice of this event surfaces in the newsroom, all relationship squablles hault. Even after McAvoy learns that the “people on the 44th floor” might be trying to take him down because of his recent attacks on the Tea Party (whose elite members and leaders have business with the president and owner of the network), this shooting is priority. To be more specific, Gifford’s life is the priority–at least in the case of ACN. Even though three other networks call Gifford deceased prematurely on live air, ACN holds back–and they’re ultimately right for doing so.

One of the gatekeepers of the show, the network owner’s son, ran into the broadcast room infuriated at the fact that McAvoy hadn’t called Gifford’s death yet. In a shocking moment of realization, it was Don, the true A’hole of the office, that said that the status of Gifford’s life is judged by a medical doctor, not by a network.

While Don’s bravery against the gatekeepers of the network (maybe I should say TEMPORARY bravery) was quite admirable, his ongoing relationship with Maggie is not. As I mentioned in my last episode review, the love triangle between Jim, Don and Maggie reminds re tremendously of Jim, Roy and Pam from The Office, and it holds in this episode. I feel that their relationship and the direction it’s moving in is extremely predictable. Again, like I stated last time, something is going to happen that separates one pair and unites the other. As TV reviewer Rae Alexandra (for SF Weekly) so eloquently puts it, “Drop this douche already!”

Personally, I feel that Mr. Sorkin and the show writers are finally getting to understand the direction the show SHOULD be going in to make it the best possible experience for everyone. Even Dan Rather agrees with this statement–in his review of episode four, Rather says, “Especially in this latest episode, the script is tight and meaty, the dialogue is crisp and the narrative moves along at a good pace.” Like me, Rather feels that the episodes are getting consecutively better as the writers and directors determine the direction action should move in through each week’s hour-long story. If the episodes continue to move in a direction that either balances the two worlds of romantic relationships and media/politics or just focuses on a new, individual matter every different time, I think the show will be better for it. 4/5.

 

References:

The Newsroom Episode Four Review, Dan Rather

Sexual Tension in The Newsroom Episode Four, Rae Alexandra

 

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S1E3, The 112th Congress – Choose One or the Other, Please

After watching episode three of The Newsroom, The 112th Congress, I think I’m starting to realize one of the maim problems with the show: it has two sides that it’s not always able to balance. There’s a political, mass media side that focuses on presenting information to the public, and there’s an emotional, romantic relationship side that focuses on office relationships between characters.

On the positive side, I think that when the show focuses on the political, mass media side, it does a fantastic job of presenting how the media works in the United States and who is really in power. On the negative side, I think that the office relationships are fairly stale and predictable. This episode is a particularly good example of my opinions/arguments.

In episode three, the story revolves around McAvoy and MacKenzie beginning to really start giving honest, legitimate news to the people, regardless of ‘what’s hot’ or popular at the time. With the congressional district elections approaching rapidly, the team decides to focus on the Tea Party movement and figuring out what they really know about politics and the government. McAvoy shows his snarky, sadistic side by really starting to get inside the heads of political leaders and candidates of the Tea Party while MacKenzie focuses on pushing McAvoy to focus on the news and not what makes a good story.

On the political, mass media side, we not only see a battle between who knows more about the government and the way politics works (this kind of conflict really occurs between McAvoy and the representatives of the Tea Party movement that he chooses to interview, such as Sharron Angle and Spokeswomen Gloria Hansen), but we see a conflict between the media and the government. As Dan Rather says in a review of episode three, the episode “reveals the danger of big business being in bed with big government, whether the government is led by Republicans or Democrats.” As McAvoy starts getting more and more aggressive in an effort to bring the true, honest story to the people, the gatekeepers of News Night (the owner of the corporation and her son) threaten to fire him. Since the owner “has business” in front of the congress and people that McAvoy is attacking, she’s not happy at all.

The owner of the cable company that McAvoy's show airs on starts to play serious role as one of the gatekeepers--she decides what messages will be shown.

The owner of the cable company that McAvoy’s show airs on starts to play serious role as one of the gatekeepers–she decides what messages will be shown.

 

On the relationship side, things really start heating up (both aggressively and sexually) between McAvoy and MacKenzie as well as between Don and Maggie. McAvoy and MacKenzie’s relationship (both past and present) develops as it’s made clear that Will is still deeply hurt by how MacKenzie cheated on him. It’s not too clear whether or not the two are going to make up and reunite as the show goes on, and this kind of mystery is good for an on-screen relationship. As a member of the audience, you really start to wonder how things are going to play out between the two.

The relationship between Don and Maggie is where I begin to draw the line in terms of a well written and paced on-screen relationship. As Win Rosenfeld states in a review of the third episode, there’s an “obligatory love triangle” going on between Don, Maggie and Jim. This triangle is very over the top and very cliche, at least in my opinion. I’ve seen this kind of triangle on countless other narrative television shows (LOST, 24, The Office, etc.), and it’s really not bringing anything new to the table. Two people are in a semi-abusive (more emotionally and sociologically abusive than physically) relationship and one other character (could be male or female) sees the problem and tries his or her best to help one of the two people in the relationship. It’s blatantly clear that Dom and Maggie will eventually break up (or something will happen that will cause the two to break up) and Maggie and Jim will get together. Just like Jim fought to get and keep Pam from Roy in the first few seasons of The Office, it’s clear that that’s how this show’s love triangle will flow. The only difference is that we’re in a newsroom, not a paper company.

I truly enjoy watching the side of the show that focuses on the media and how it interacts with the government and political leaders, especially when network gatekeepers get involved. There’s clear tension there and a lot of potential for powerful messages in future episodes. However when it comes to the relationship aspect of the show, I become much less interested. Minus the hint of mystery and unclarity in McAvoy and MacKenzie’s relationship, the rest seems overdone and often overplayed. I feel that if the show places more of a focus on either one of these aspects in future episodes (maybe even in some kind of weekly pattern), it will be much better for it. 3.5/5.

 

References:

The 112th Congress Review, Dan Rather

Backstage Newsroom Episode Three Review, Win Rosenfeld

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“Discrimination Down to a Science” – Gattaca Review

In our Spring 2013 Mass Media class, we all watched the film Gattaca after taking our first exam. We were asked not to do any research about the film, but I will admit that the only thing I ‘Googled’ about it was its release date. The reason for that is because this film reminded me tremendously of other recent science fiction films that involve apocalyptic futures like Surrogates, i, Robot, Equilibrium and The Matrix. However, it turns out that Gattaca release in 1997, years before all of these other films.

Regardless of release date, the story of films like the ones mentioned above revolves around a future where some new type of being has been introduced into the world, and those beings are giving normal humans a serious run for their money. Whether it be the robots, machines or genetically superior bio-organisms, these beings pose one of two serious threats to average human beings: extinction or slavery.

Gattaca is no exception to this sic-fi formula. The film is set in a future where discrimination has been down packed to a science–quite literally. In this future, science has progressed extremely rapidly, bounding past problems like genetic cloning, disease control, etc. There have also been numerous technological progressions as well, such as human transportation/space flight to all of the planets in our galaxy and immediate identification through blood, urine, saliva and visual fluid scans. Unfortunately, with these advancements came new ways to hate people–meaning genetic racism (or “genilism,” as the film calls it) and new forms of segregation.

All of these things combined (technological, scientific and social pushes forward) have created a society that is divided into several rigid classes, with the best of the best (custom ordered and built humans) on the top and normal-birth humans on the bottom. Vincent Anton is one of those normal-birth humans, and the entire story of the film revolves around his life and dream of being one of the elite few granted permission to rocket off the planet and explore the universe.

Vincent Anton roaming through the discriminative hallways at Gattaca.

Vincent Anton roaming through the discriminative hallways at Gattaca.

 

Without going too far into detail, the part of Vincent’s life that the movie focuses on is his becoming a “borrowed ladder.” Borrowed ladders are members of society that assume the identity of another person through taking their blood, urine, eyes (through contact lenses) and even skin and hair particles to fake the rest of society into believing that they are the person they’re saying they are. Vincent assumes the persona of Jerome, a man who was built perfectly, but ended up in a wheelchair after a car accident. Because he’s in the wheelchair, he feels that society doesn’t want him, so he offers up his identity to someone who might be able to make something of himself.

After a murder takes place at the Gattaca building (the place where the upper echelon members of society prepare to fly to space), the majority of the film’s best moments involve extremely tense situations. The whole time watching, audience members like me didn’t want Vincent or Jerome to be discovered. We wanted them to succeed, to achieve their goals. (Even though Jerome wouldn’t really be physically doing anything, he’d be living through Vincent’s actions.) So when Vincent was asked to give blood through the vein or wasn’t home when his doppelganger, Jerome was visited by a police detective, everyone was on the edges of their seats. It was really exhilarating to be put in the life of an outcast turned celebrity, while at the same time a fugitive.

Another aspect of the film that I like revolves around the way everyone acts. Just like in i, Robot and the films mentioned before, it seems that people in the future all walk and talk like robots and machines. They all have clear purposes and goals, and not conforming to the rest of society makes them stand out tremendously. In Gattaca, everyone who isn’t a borrowed ladder is living a life where all they do is deceive themselves on how messed up and disorganized the segregated society really is.

There's always that one character that stands out from the rest. In the case of i, Robot, Detective Spooner is very different from the "human robot" counterparts of society.

There’s always that one character that stands out from the rest. In the case of i, Robot, Detective Spooner is very different from the “human robot” counterparts of society.

 

I also really enjoyed the fact that Vincent needs glasses to see (since he was born naturally, he couldn’t be altered to have no visual acuity problems). It’s very ironic that the character who needs glasses to see is actually the one who sees society and the people who make it up the best. That, and it gave the filmmakers the chance to experiment with some extremely disorienting and nerve-wracking footage during a scene where Vincent needs to cross a busy street to regroup with his love interest while he doesn’t have his contacts on (he had to shed them at a police checkpoint).

Before the movie ended, I knew that there were only three real ways to make it happen: One, Vincent somehow achieves his goal (happy ending), Two, Vincent is somehow not allowed to achieve his goal or determines that he never will make it “upstairs” (sad ending), and Three, what happens to Vincent after the film ends is left for the audience members to decide. It’s safe to say that I was correct in that assessment, seeing as one of those three general outlines is how the film actually ends.

The way that Gattaca ties together so many aspects of a future society is very intriguing, and really makes viewers think about the way society is moving. Who knows how things will be in 50 to 100 years? Will robots or machines have taken over and developed/advanced past the intellectuality of human beings (the Matrix, i,Robot or Surrogates paths), or will society have developed a new breed of super humans that begin segregating themselves to the point of one class having total control and authority over everyone and everything else (the Gattaca, EquilibriumAoen Flux or Ultraviolet paths)? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see how things play out in the future.

 

 

*** SEMI-SPOLIER BELOW ***

 

 

By the way, why does that incinerator have a start switch on the inside!? I mean seriously, the people who designed the device thought there was a time and place where that might be a good, safe idea?

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All The President’s Drones – Investigative Journalism Everyday

Recently, President Obama has been getting ‘lots of heat’ for nominating John Brennan as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). All of this criticism, confusion and possible foul play begs the question: Should President Obama’s affiliation and support of John Brennan be investigated (could there be unspoken motives at work here)?

All of the criticism stems surrounding Brennan stems from his history as the Deputy Executive Director of the CIA during the Bush administration, a time when torturing prisoners in the United States was legal. When Obama was first elected president, one of the main things that he did was to “drop the Bush administration’s torture policies” and make it illegal to torture prisoners. (Rachel Maddow Video) Regardless who though what about this policy change, everyone agrees that President Obama’s support of Brennan is extremely questionable. Rachel Maddow raises the point that it’s completely illogical that a president who makes it clear s/he is against torturing would support a man who was an integral part of the CIA during its torture days.

A screen-cap from Rachel Maddow's video about President Obama's potentially illegal actions regarding the use of drone strikes to kill American citizens.

A screen-cap from Rachel Maddow’s video about President Obama’s potentially illegal actions regarding the use of drone strikes to kill American citizens.

 

President Obama is also receiving a lot of criticism due to his support of Brennan being “the face of President Obama’s drone program”. (Rachel Maddow Video) Drone strikes have killed over 4,700 people since 2002 (according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism), most of whom were residing in countries like Pakistan. However some of these victims were American citizens, and this is where much of the current controversy begins. According to the NY Times, a secret 50-page document was published within the government that allows the president to kill US citizens via drone strikes. Unfortunately, this document has not been released and the government is very clearly against releasing it any time soon.

Further arising questions involve the media’s role in establishing whether or not the president is right in his support of Brennan and the joint drone program, as well as being allowed to kill US citizens. It’s clear that the NY Times was informed of a secret document conceptualized and created within the current administration, but anything further than that is just speculation. Investigative journalists and US citizens alike are “either with the president’s logic or can’t understand it at all.” (Media Versus The President Article)

Like investigative journalists Woodward and Bernstien did during the Nixon administration, investigative journalists must do today during the Obama administration. No matter the president, no matter the topic or concern, no matter the difficulty, these types of potential crimes against the United States and the country’s citizens must be investigated. Even if no real crime has been committed yet (meaning in any case involving a president not being clear and completely open to the public when asked about the deaths of American citizens), it’s the job of investigative journalists like Woodward and Bernstien to explore the case and develop a story.

Some might say that the actions of Woodward and Bernstien could not be replicated in today’s government and society, where it’s hard to keep a strong focus on a certain subject and the internet has become so integrated into people’s lives (an example of this type of person being Greg Krikorian, a reporter for the LA Times). However if Americans begin to take up this point of view, then nothing will be investigated. Maintaining the status quo is simply not enough in today’s world.

 

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is an example of someone who will not be content with the status quo. Today, he began filibustering the nomination of Brennan as the head of the CIA at 11:47 a.m. (Senator Rand Paul Filibuster Article) Whether or not anyone agrees with this particular politician’s views or beliefs should not be the main concern. What people should be concerned with is that fact that not as many politicians are acting the same way that Senator Paul is, and/or the fact that more Americans aren’t standing up for their rights to know why the current administration believes it might be alright to kill US citizens via drone strikes.

 

References:

Rachel Maddow – Drone Strikes on Americans (Video)

The Media (Investigative Jounralists) Versus The President (Article)

Woodward and Bernstien – Lighting the Fire (Video)

Senator Rand Paul Filibustering Brennan’s Election (Article/Video)

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Louie – Mr. C.K., The ‘King of Slow Comedy’

Pregnancy is never fun. Especially when you’re giving birth to a fart–no one wants to give birth to a fart.

Louie C.K. makes this pretty clear in the episode of Louie entitled (appropriately enough) “Pregnancy.” While trying hard to be a single parent, good father, professional chef, funny comedian and kind family member, Louie’s sister comes to visit him in his tiny New York City apartment. After a series of “hello’s” and “how are you’s,” night falls. As everyone is sleeping, a piercing scream rings out through the apartment–Louie’s sister is having the baby. As Louie freaks out over what to do, his two neighbors from across the hall come over to offer their help. After one neighbor stays to watch Louie’s daughters and the other neighbor helps Louie load his sister into an unmarked taxi, Louie’s sister is rushed to the hospital. Then, just as Louie’s sister is about to rushed into an operating room, an ultra loud fart is let out. Louie’s sister was giving birth to a fart that night, nothing more.

A still from the opening sequence of Louie.

A still from the opening sequence of Louie.

This is the comedy style of Louis C.K.’s new show, Louie. It’s something that’s built up over the span of the entire half-hour episode, then pays off right around the ending. Along the way there’s hilarious acting and narrative scenes intertwined with funny jokes performed live by Louis C.K. at various comedy clubs around the city, sure, but the main joke and payoff is what everyone enjoys the most. This is the style of “slow comedy” that Mark Shafeek talks about in his article (SplitSider Article).

I personally saw the pregnancy fart joke coming from the start, but the slow comedy style still worked fantastically. It’s safe to say that building up a main joke throughout a full episode of a television show and then bringing it to a conclusion near the end has been done before, but Louie seems to have perfected it. By incorporating real events that take place in Louis C.K.’s real life in the real New York City, this television show appeals to many people. Unlike other comedy shows that focus on fictional narratives to carry the stories and jokes (a good example being The Office), Louie balances unscripted reality with scripted hilarity.

Jonathan Valania of The Huffington Post believes that Louis C.K. is “the perfect comic [for this] Age of Lessness that we’re in.” (HuffPost Article) Since our country is not only in a poor economical state, but a poor state of pride and respect (the psyches of most Americans are mentally exhausted and depressed after all of the bad that’s been going on in the country lately), it’s a good thing to know that Louie is around. While watching this episode, I felt an odd sense of feeling alright–no matter how bad the overall situation got, everything would be alright in the end. Louie’s personality is one that calms and soothes (chatting with his sister, talking about life), but it can prove to be dark and perverse when it wants to (cursing his daughters out during comedy sketches, giving the middle finger to family members behind their backs).

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S1E2, News Night 2.0 – Good TV, Bad Ex-Girlfriend?

“We don’t do good television, we do the news.” – MacKenzie

Most of the action that took place in the second episode of The Newsroom revolves around the battle between good news and good television (or just gossip/media that sells). In the first few minutes of the episode, MacKenzie and McAvoy debate over what makes ‘good television’ and what makes ‘good news.’ Good television, according to McAvoy, is what draws people in, gets ratings, gains popularity and makes money. Good news, MacKenzie states, is “what the people need,” not flashy, visually attractive pieces that have no real substance other than obtaining high ratings and jumping on the bandwagon with other news stations.

McAvoy’s and MacKenzie’s views on this subject of good news versus good television are particularly ironic, because they’re swapped in “News Night 2.0.” As both McAvoy and MacKenzie try to focus on revamping and recreating News Night (with the intention of giving it a fresh new take on news to make it stand out among other shows), they end up discussing experiences from their past life as a couple.

McAvoy becomes the person who hates flashy news that draws the attention of others–he makes it clear throughout the episode that he doesn’t want MacKenzie to bring up their past relationship in the office. On the opposite side, MacKenzie becomes a person who searches for publicity and the approval and ‘ratings’ of other people, in a sense–she wants the News Night team to learn that McAvoy isn’t the man they’re all making him out to be. Unfortunately, MacKenzie ends up taking this quest too far as she accidentally sends out a mass email to the office about her involvement with another person while still dating McAvoy.

MacKenzie watches McAvoy from a point of safety (debatably) while on air.

MacKenzie watches McAvoy from a point of safety (debatably) while on air.

This play on appearance versus reality is something that follows both McAvoy and MacKenzie throughout the whole episode, as well as other characters like Harper and Maggie. Harper and Maggie only know about one another based on what they’ve seen on the outside. As they work together on trying to secure an interviewee for the episode on illegal immigration in the United States, they discover that they both care for the news equally. They (as well as McAvoy, MacKenzie, and the rest of the News Night team) want to create a news show “to realign and refocus TV news journalism for the better.” (Shaffer, IGN)

New associate producers and interns were also introduced into the show during this episode as the new team behind the scenes (since News Night is being revamped and revitalized after it’s temporary discontinuation after McAvoy’s outburst). The news room is now starting to come together and work as a fully functional unit, but it’s not extremely well portrayed in this episode. There’s more of a focus placed on individual people and their relationships with one or two other people, instead of a focus being placed on the entire office and the many relationships going on all over the office.

Although characters were introduced, relationships were elaborated upon and stories were developed on, I don’t believe this episode was quite as good as the first. This is mainly because of the lack of focus on the actual show. It’s clear that this was more of a character/relationship-driven episode (not a continuation of the theme from the first episode, one that involved mixing interpersonal relationships with the construction and design of a news program to tell people the honest news and nothing but it), a theme that’s seen in one of the first episodes of almost everyone narrative television show ever made. I give it a 3 out of 5, with hopes that future episodes will place more focus on the actual newsroom aspect of the show.

Reference Article: IGN News Night 2.0 Review, RL Shaffer

Reference Article: No White Noise New Night 2.0 Review, Michael Collado

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As Water Levels Rise, NYC Must Adjust

By Daniel Scarpati and Trevor Lee

Three and a half months ago, Hurricane Sandy tore up the northeastern coast of the United States. Anyone who lived in or around New York City (or knew someone who was affected by the storm) knows how devastating it was to the city and the country. Not only did it destroy neighborhoods and displace thousands of city residents, but it altered the social, economical and political standing of our fine city.

People who lived in Zone A areas like The Rockaways and Coney Island were under mandatory evacuation, however residents of Zone B and C areas were informed that they would not need to evacuate. These flood zones were based on a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zone map that was last updated in 1983 (Source 1). This version of the map did not account for rising sea levels, which is part of the reason that Sandy was so devastating. FEMA flood zone maps are not updated on a regular basis, which is something that many people have complained about. If this map had been updated with new sea level measurements, there’s a very good chance that a lot of the damages incurred by the storm would not have happened. Compared to a compilation of data like the US Census, which is updated every decade, the FEMA flood zone map seems very out of date.

Just last week, FEMA released new flood zone maps which have changed the boundaries between various flood zones across the five boroughs. In Brooklyn and Queens, Howard Beach, Gerritsen Beach and East Williamsburg are a few examples of neighborhoods that are now included in Zone A flood areas. What this means for people and businesses who are looking to buy property in these areas is that they will be required to purchase federal flood insurance. Unfortunately, this also means that it will be much harder for residents to sell property in Zone A areas. Insurance providers use location and income as two of the main factors when determining flood insurance rates (Source 2), and this is sure to present a problem for many people in the near future.

Flood zone area comparisons between FEMA's old map and the damages incurred by Hurricane Sandy. (Source 2)

Flood zone area comparisons between FEMA’s old map and the damages incurred by Hurricane Sandy. (Source 2)

 

According to the Queens Chronicle, Hannah Vick (a FEMA spokeswoman) said that more “accurate and complete versions of the maps will be released later this spring.” Residents of Zone A areas, as well as prospective landowners in these areas, are concerned whether or not these ‘more accurate and complete’ maps will account for projected sea level rises of up to two to five feet. According to a 2010 report by the NYC Panel on Climate Change, the sea level can rise anywhere from two to five feet in the next 60 years and cause more extensive coastal flooding for many parts of the five boroughs (Source 4). Ever more frightening is that fact that in this projected timeframe, “New York City would average one flood as high as Hurricane Sandy every 15 years,” and that’s not accounting for potentially stronger storms, surges and tropical hurricanes. (Source 5) Since it’s clear that the sea level situation around the city will only be getting worse, action must be taken sooner rather than later. The city has been devising multiple plans of action, ranging from installing new sea walls in bayside communities like the Rockaways to constructing water-tight barriers around lower Manhattan. Hopefully there will be enough time to identify the primary problems, formulate goals, assess consequences, relate consequences to values, and choose and put to action a plan (following along the Policy Analysis Urban Planning model).

 

References:

1) Queens Forum Article. Barkan, Ross.

2) FEMA.gov

3) Queens Chronicle Article. Rafter, Domenick.

4) NYC Panel on Climate Change – 2010 Report

5) NY Times Article. Struass, Benjamin; Kopp, Robert.

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S1E1, We Just Decided To – My Thoughts Exactly

I worked in a newsroom not too long ago. Only it was called “The War Room” in my case. It wasn’t for a televised news show like Atlantis Cable News, but for the Queens Chronicle, the most widely read and distributed print newspaper in Queens.

I’ll never forget the day that the paper’s editor-in-chief approached me and said that he wanted me to front a story for their website about Congressman Weiner’s expected resignation later that day. The E.I.C. gave me a press release that was still hot off the printer and asked me to get on it. What ensued was an experience not far from the one I just witnessed in the first episode of The Newsroom.

In my case, preparing a story with such little notice was fairly easy, mainly due to the fact that Weiner had already made various statements and remarks about his situation. In the case of the oil drilling explosion and spill off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the first episode of The Newsroom, this was not so. Everyone had to work together as one efficient machine, no matter what people’s views were or how they felt about one another. They had to get along (or at least respect one another to some degree) to get the job done. Once the realized that, the pieces of the story almost fell into place by themselves.

The Newsroom perfectly portrays life in a bustling news room. Go figure!

The Newsroom perfectly portrays life in a bustling news room. Go figure!

In the beginning of the pilot episode, Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels, whom I felt a special connection to after recently visiting Gettysburg, PA and seeing him play the roll of Colonel Chamberlain in Gettysburg) admits that the United States is not the best country in the world; it’s far behind in so many areas, but just like it was the greatest country in the world at one point in time, it can be again. Unfortunately, McAvoy chooses to say this after cursing out liberals and conservatives during a political debate (as well as a “college frat girl”).

Viewers experience the debate in McAvoy’s point of view, which is achieved by having the camera rack in and out of focus on both sides of the debate floor while seeing McAvoy rub his temples and roll his eyes. Debates can often times be disorienting and hard to sit through, especially when childishness and name-calling is involved. This is how I sometimes feel during political debates involved presidential candidates, political parties, etc, so I was immediately able to associate with McAvoy. He didn’t have to say how he was feeling about the debate for people to understand that he doesn’t believe there’s any point to the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person/party/candidate makes (even though he goes on to do so a few minutes later).

Despite these facts, McAvoy’s main point is clear. Viewers start off wondering how McAvoy feels about the whole debate situation, then are confronted by an outburst of full-on rage (incited by a pugnacious debate moderator, might I add), and then are introduced to a caring, nostalgic, and somewhat mourning side of the man. Unfortunately, the media and his co-workers/employers twists his words and choose what part of his speech they want to listen to. For a majority of the rest of the episode, McAvoy feuds with Charlie Skinner (ACN news division president) and Don Keefer (the former executive producer of McAvoy’s show) about the direction of the show and the introduction of a new executive producer (which viewers find out is McAvoy’s ex-girlfriend). It’s only when, as mentioned before, the oil spill story surfaces that the team is forced to work together and put aside their differences for the good of the show and out of respect for the men and women who lost their lives in the explosion.

Despite their differences, the team learns that the show must go on.

Despite their differences, the team learns that the show must go on.

The main reason that this pilot episode works so well is because of its cleverness and likeliness to the work of George Orwell. In Animal Farm, Orwell uses various farm animals to make a sociopolitical and psychological statement about the nature of Soviet Russia after WWII. In “We Just Decided To,” Aaron Sorkin (the show’s creator) uses the colorful cast of a broadcast television newsroom to represent the state of the government in US and how things could be if people worked across to the aisle. This cast works in other realms of thought like racial stereotyping (the tech guy) and office relationships/love triangles (Don, Maggie and James), but it shines overall as a show that wants to get right to the point and get the work done.

Minus parts of the show that slow down the action just a tad towards the middle (like MacKenzie’s introduction back into the world of the news room and awkward bouts of tension between Don and James), I think this episode well deserves a 4.5/5 rating!

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By the way, this is a link to the article I eventually produced at the QC–just in case anyone is interested: QChron Weiner Resigns

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“One Way” Goes Live as Fall 2012 Semester Ends

Today, December 21, marks the official end of my third semester at college (not to mention the end of the Mayan calendar cycle). Things have been going very well so far, and I’ve only had issues with two of the classes I’ve taken in the past! All in all, not a bad first third of college, haha.

This date also marks the announcement of one of my newest short films, One Way. I wrote, directed and edited it, all for my Film Production 1 class at Brooklyn College. I originally had larger plans for it (I wanted to shoot over the span of two days to get lots of coverage and a few extra scenes), but Hurricane Sandy prevented me from doing that. Regardless, I’m very proud of the way it came out, and I’m even more proud that I can call it a film and know that’s what it is–it was shot on a 16mm Bolex film camera.

I sincerely hope you all enjoy the film. Please SHARE it with your friends, and LIKE my production company’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/PassingPlanesProductions.

 

UPDATE (12/22): One Way is now live and available to watch on Vimeo! Enjoy.

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Macaulay Trip to Ellis Island

This past Sunday, our Macaulay Seminar 2 class went on a trip to Ellis Island. I put together a short video highlighting some of the things we saw and learned along the way. Check it out below, and enjoy!