Legally Blonde and why the experimental method is the most effective form of research

Last week as a class we participated in an experiment that involved product placement, memory, and the 2001 film Legally Blonde. The experiment was designed to measure the lasting effects of product placement in media, and in this particular experiment group, we watched the first fifteen minutes or so of Legally Blonde. The experiment contained four parts, a couple of which that were put into place specifically to throw us off from trying to figure out what the experiment was looking for. I liked this aspect. In learning about experiments in Research Methods, we were taught about subjects trying to break through the experiment, and I admit the whole time I was wondering what it was about. In the Research Methods course, I thought it would be easy for students studying things like experiments to figure out what was going on half way through one, but I wasn’t aware until the final step of what was really being looked for in this experiment. The parts designed to throw us off had to do with ourselves, listing our personality traits and basic information. What better way to distract people in an experiment than to get them to discuss themselves?!

I think the design of the experiment, going back and forth from distracting questions to different ways of measuring the product placement we had just witnessed in the film, from a fill in the blank activity to a list of products to identify that were and were not in the film, was very effective. When we watched the extensive clip, I had no idea what to look for. I am in a fundamental writing for film and TV class right now, so I was preoccupied with notions of story, and how the images (which to me felt like one big montage of an opening) progressed the plot-line. It also probably helped that I had never seen the movie before (I know, right?). The fill in the blank portion should have made me aware of the product placement nature of the experiment, since I did fill in a couple of one’s based on products (‘bull’ for RedBull). However, the last part had me only recognizing only three of the products used in the film.

The experimental form of research is the most effective, surpassing the survey and content analysis methods. The main reason this method works the best, as our textbook puts it, is because, “… a researcher is able to make a case that all three of the criteria for documenting causal relationships have been met,” (Sparks 35). This occurs because of the controlled aspect of an experiment, eliminating other third party factors that could potentially skew results. The controlled aspect eliminates ambiguity and makes for more more clear and precise results.

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My thoughts on Content Analysis

I was honestly not expecting the Blue’s Clues activity last Monday, but I think it was tied in well with our chapter’s discussions on Content Analysis. Our group’s more detailed and specific findings can be read on Zach Fraser’s blog: http://zachfraser04.wordpress.com/

Even though the experience we had as a class on Monday trying to code the various instances of sign language in the episode of Blue’s Clues was frustrating and accurately described as sensory overload, I still think the method of content analysis is useful and can be applied to greater understandings. The book uses the example of listening to top Billboard songs and analyzing their content regarding sexual content and drug use, and more specifically, if any negative consequences of such actions were addressed. On Monday it was so overwhelming, but I imagine if you were to have a smaller team of coders and more time to pause, record and discuss the nature and value of certain signs over others, the process would be less stressful and the results more rewarding.

And as our book mentions, content analysis is usually only the beginning. Once you have successfully coded a piece of media, the real questions begin to take shape. “The facts themselves that come from a content analysis don’t ever permit us to answer the question about the effects of the content” (Sparks 21). So once you establish a coded system for something, you have to figure out if there is a causal relationship that makes it all happen.

Characteristics of Social Science Learning Device

In order to remember the eight characteristics of social science, I made up a one sentence story that incorporates the words in different ways. I will break it down.

The sentence is as follows: Spock, while open to modification, is general AND specific when determined to verify the IS Parsimonious.

Even though it is silly, is has the potential in my mind to be memorable and make some sense. I’ve never been a fan of Star Trek, but I associate the word logic with the character of Spock, so with that, I have a subject. General and Specific are easy to remember in that they can be seen as opposites. After coming up with this the other day, I tried to see which parts were hard to remember. Intersubjective I shortened to IS and put it with Parsimonious. Parsimonious is the easiest to remember, since it is the most fun to say, and therefore it is saved for the end of the sentence. And empirically verifiable was shortened simply to verify to make the sentence have a somewhat better flow.

Uses and Effects of Mass Media Pre-Course Thoughts ~ Phil Hogan

I started this blog about a year and a half ago with the intent to write film reviews regularly and post them on here, so I’ve never really used this blog for personal reflections and what not. I debated where I should put my name or even how to open this paragraph. I love over thinking things.

I have always been interested in how the media can shape public opinion, especially in terms of justice and how often times it seems they can help create the mentality of “guilty before being proven innocent”. An obvious example would be the Duke Lacrosse scandal that happened some years back. But also, something happened on Friday that made me think about it even more. The West Memphis 3 were released from prison under a bizarre plea agreement, after being behind bars for 18 years, with one of them on death row.

I won’t describe the case in detail, for I didn’t know anything about it until watching the news last Friday, but after reading about it all weekend, these boys seem to have suffered from media persecution which led to their guilty verdicts (as well as police misconduct), even though no physical evidence could be found against them. Perhaps I am being swayed now by a new media bias, but I found all of this very interesting and somewhat relevant to our courses. Here is a link about the case from the always reliable Wikipedia!

Yeah, okay, so maybe the above stuff is pretty morbid. But life is good! Enjoy this funk:

“Gozu” review

Gozu

**1/2 out of ****

Directed by: Takashi Miike

Starring: Hideki Sone, Shô Aikawa, and Kimika Yoshino

Released: July 12, 2003

Country: Japan

Runtime: 129 min

Reviewed by: Philip Hogan

Date: 02/09/10

Takasi Miike’s Gozu is a very hard film to review. It almost dares you not to review it. It is confusing for the sake of confusion; chaotic for the sake of chaos. While there may or may not be some underlying meaning and significance to the storyline and the overall symbolism, Gozu is the kind of film that if you want to try and make sense out of it, you can, but if you want to wallow in it’s excesses, then you are free to do that as well.

The whole thing opens with members of a Yakuza clan meeting in a little restaurant. One of the members informs the big boss, “Everything I’m about to tell you is a joke. Don’t take it seriously.” He then claims that the tiny dog leashed outside the restaurant is in fact a trained Yakuza killer, and then goes outside and beats the dog to death, to the bewilderment of everyone inside as well as the audience. Right away you are treated with the director’s purpose; a free flowing balls-to-the-wall excursion into violent surrealism. The Yakuza elements of the story serve only as a loose (make that very loose) framework, not unlike his Japanese counterpart Seijun Suzuki, who often dealt with oddball surrealism in his ‘60s Yakuza films. Miike’s approach feels more like a Japanese Mulholland Dr., only instead of a Hollywood fetish, there are multiple scenes featuring breast milk and disturbing ways of sexual gratification. And if this were not enough, it is only in the final act when the film starts to venture into ‘80s Cronenberg territory.

Surrealism is enchanting to a point, but at a running length over two hours, this film begins to wear pretty thin after awhile. Once one of the storylines is momentarily resolved, when a Yakuza discovers the fate of a missing brother, then the film feels like it has nowhere else to go. That one tinny tiny element of story that was driving the film further into bizzaro world ceased to exist, and was soon replaced by more outlandish aspects to address. By this point, the novelty of weird for the sake of being weird starts to diminish, and what follows in the rest of the film are issues of reincarnation and sexuality that not only do not make sense, but do not go well together at all. One death scene in particular rates up there at the top for the grossest, most painful to watch death scenes ever. I do not often watch things that I know will make me feel disgusted, so this might be tame to what else is out there, but I found it so sick that I could not enjoy the brilliance behind the final scene, because I was still in pain after watching the climatic death sequence.

The English translation for the title literally means “cow head”, the purpose for which becomes clear halfway through the film, in a bizarre encounter in a hotel. This also serves as the turning point for the film, where it goes from being interestingly weird to repetitive and boring, a criticism that I usually don’t use in a negative way. Fans of the Japanese horror movement of the past ten years will find much to enjoy in Gozu, though others might be best advised to stay away, especially if you have a low tolerance for gross out extremes in cinema.

“Nights of Cabiria” review

Nights of Cabiria

***1/2 out of ****

Directed by: Federico Fellini

Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, and Franca Marzi

Released: May 26, 1957

Country: Italy / France

Runtime: 117 min.

Reviewed by: Philip Hogan

Date: 02/08/10

Nights of Cabiria is one of the director’s transitional films. Fellini had co-written some of the most well known and important post-WWII Italian Neo-Realist films with landmark director Roberto Rossellini. When Fellini started his own directing career in the 1950s, his earlier films dealt with settings and themes reminiscent of the Neo-Realist movement, only hinting at the dreams of showbiz and nostalgia that would become rampant in the director’s later work. Nights of Cabiria is deeply rooted in the filmmaking tradition that Fellini was brought up on, but also showcase’s his desire to move into a different direction.

From the opening shot of our prostitute heroine Cabiria (played by Giulietta Masina, the director’s wife) strolling down an urban river bank with her young lover, the mood is set instantly to feature the harsh reality of living in post WWII Rome. With the theme of a prostitute trying to go straight and a camera that explores the seedy nightlife and poverty of the urban environment, Fellini is very much in tune with his realist side. The film is episodic in nature, not having much of a story until the last third of the film, leading to a gritty atmosphere in a world of prostitutes. One of Cabiria’s closest friends, Wanda (played by Franca Marzi), accompanies her on the corners at night, leading to some of the film’s most humorous moments as the prostitutes fighting it out over gossip and petty arguments. Wanda eventually gets Cabiria to join her for a large religious ceremony, which ends up becoming another opportunity for Fellini to confront his discontent with his Catholic upbringing.

But not all is of prostitutes and the slums. An extended sequence with Cabiria getting picked up by a movie star and taken to a surreal night club and later his mansion, feel like a dress rehearsal for La Dolce Vita. Another sequence serves to illustrate both sides to Fellini, featuring Cabiria following around a Good Samaritan at dawn as he delivers food and supplies to people living in holes and caves on the outskirts of Rome. In its silence, the sequence is oddly surreal, but it also serves as another Neo-Realist approach to the film.

Though the star of this film is not Fellini, but Giulietta Masina as Cabiria. The role is written as a mixture of street smart toughness with sweet sixteen naiveties. With her performance, Masina borrows a lot from silent film acting (particularly Charlie Chaplin), putting an emphasis on her adorable facial expressions and hand movements. She fully inhabits the spirit of her character, embodying the perfect blend of melancholy and blind optimism. The film’s funniest moments come from her performance, as do it’s saddest. Often in his later films, Fellini lost interest in featuring a strong protagonist that was not an extension of him, featuring bizarre and flamboyant surrealism made to order, or ensemble nostalgic pictures with great production values but little in the way of characters. Cabiria is the perfect showcase for his wife and Fellini’s greatest character. The final moments in the film will no doubt strike a cord in the viewer’s emotions, but it is Masina’s performance and smile that will remain in their mind.

“Romance of Astrea and Celadon” review

Romance of Astrea and Celadon

*** Out of ****

Directed by: Éric Rohmer

Starring: Andy Gillet, Stéphanie Crayencour, and Cécile Cassel

Released: September 2, 2007

Country: France / Italy / Spain

Runtime: 109 min

Reviewed by: Philip Hogan

Date: 02/05/10

The films of Éric Rohmer have a certain trademark about them. Rohmer, one of the founding directors of the French New Wave who died earlier this year at the age of 89, often made films revolving around the spoken word; dialogue fueled pictures with plenty of conversations used to drive the narratives forward. The contrast between the character’s spoken intentions, their actions, and how they truly feel inside are the driving forces behind his work. Often in a Rohmer film, there are no big moments that are memorable or stand out. Instead, his films are made up of quiet moments in a person’s everyday life. Because of this, his stories can come off as naturalistic, but the complicated dynamics between his characters cannot be denied.

Romance of Astrea and Celadon is the last film that Rohmer directed. While the surface setting of 5th Century Gaul might take some of his usual viewers by surprise, this is a Rohmer film through and through. The title characters are sheepherders who are secretly in love, despite a longstanding rift between their families. One day, Astrea mistakenly thinks she spots Celadon being unfaithful to her. Despite his claims, she will not believe him, and asks that he never speak to her again. Due to this sudden misery, Celadon immediately decides to drown himself in a nearby river, only to wash downstream and be rescued by a trio of nymphs. Astrea, who soon finds out that Celadon had been faithful all along, wallows in anguish at the belief that she has led her lover to his death. Meanwhile, Celadon is nursed back to health, though unwilling to reunite with his love after her wish to never speak to him again.

The story is very much of another time, framed through the perspective of the source material, a 16th century story written by French author Honoré d’Urfé. Rohmer adapts it straightforwardly, with inspired visuals resembling pastoral paintings of the time period (the film mostly takes place outdoors), and an acting method that comes close to the theatrical presentations of that era. When the film enters into odd territory in the final act, a cross dressing subplot with some undertones, one must understand Rohmer’s, at times distant, if not faithful adaptation of the time.

Other aspects of Rohmer’s style make an appearance in his final film. Most of his previous films lack a traditional musical score, while instead including music that only appears in front of the camera (i.e. radio, live band). Romance of Astrea and Celadon is no exception, showcasing what music from the time period (with a lyricist from 16th century France) might have sounded like, with some of the characters breaking out in song during certain parts of the film. Also, Rohmer’s use of inter-text titles to explain progression in the story and the passing of time is here as well, including the use of voiceover narration, which seems to appear at random. The film’s production values might appear to be non-existent, resembling the look of a TV movie at times, but in the end, Rohmer’s style comes shining through, especially in the abrupt ending.