Deep Thoughts from the Blogosphere

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Blogging Experience

Previous to taking Writing 340 I had never experienced online publishing. I had heard about blogging in discussions through the media and so the idea of having my very own website became both an exciting and terrifying concept. I was excited that I would have the ability to share my thoughts with the outside world, yet distressed over the medium. My primary concern was over the technological aspects of posting, but after the first two posts I settled in quite well. The next challenge I tackled was finding my voice in my essays. I concentrated my blogs on issues important to the entertainment industry not only because I am passionate about the subject matter, but also because I am a film student. This made my Writing 340 experience even better because it allowed me to apply and explore issues raised in my cinema and television classes.

Moreover, having taken Writing 140 the year before, it was important to me that I redefine my writing style so that it could be concise and easily understood by viewers. In taking Writing 340, Professor Middlebrook was a tremendous help in identifying my weakness as a writer. After reading his comments on my past essays, I became aware that I have a tendency to repeat words and transitions, use contractions and as well as not provide sufficient support of evidence or links. I feel that while the over all content in my blog’s is solid, they do require more evidence and links to make my arguments even stronger.

Even with that said, I am proud of the work I completed this semester. I enjoyed both the integration of content and graphics to make my points and support my arguments. It was much more exciting than writing a paper, because of the interactivity and creativity blogging allows for. In fact, I was surprised to discover that a user commented on my essay about Angelina Jolie. I did not have any expectations of getting feedback, and I was thrilled to learn that someone did take the time to read my essay. My experience has been so enjoyable that I plan to continue blogging. It has inspired me to share my thoughts with others who might share my opinions or open my eyes to new ways of looking at things. I have learned that the internet is not only a great way to share information or opinions, but it is also an excellent way to grow as an intellectual and a blogger.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Honorary Degree: Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie

An honorary degree is a decoration bestowed upon an individual who is esteemed to have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements or valuable contributions to society. The honorary award is given at commencement ceremonies that take place every spring across universities. In his book Liberal Education and the Public Interest, president emeritus of Dartmouth College and University of Iowa, James O. Freedman, writes, “Although no reliable count exists, in the aggregate several thousand honorary degrees are conferred every year by the nation’s more than three thousand colleges and universities” (118). Choosing an honorand is extremely important to universities because the individual must be deserving of merit since they embody and emphasize the values of the university. More importantly, the individual receiving the honorary award in turn generates publicity for the university and helps promote its values. The Role and Mission of USC is to “strive constantly for excellence in teaching knowledge and skills to our students, while at the same time helping them to acquire wisdom and insight, love of truth and beauty, moral discernment, understanding of self, and respect and appreciation for others.” Past honorary degree recipients USC has celebrated have been film composer John Williams and director Robert Zemeckis. Both Williams and Zemeckis were celebrated and recognized for their talents and contributions to film, as well as for creating new standards of excellence in their fields.

For the spring commencement ceremony of 2007, I feel strongly that USC should bestow an honorary degree to film actress Angelina Jolie. Though some may question Angelina Jolie’s contribution to the field of acting, her acting skills are not at the center of my reasons for celebrating her achievements. In fact, it is her humanitarian efforts with refugees that make her worthy of an honorary degree for Doctor of Humane Letters for being an Outstanding Citizen. As Freedman noted, “When student newspapers suggest names for honorands and speakers, the lists tend to be dominated by celebrities who may well prove to be, in Mark Twain’s words, 'of small and temporary notoriety': for example, Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Garry Trudeau, Madonna, Jay Leno, and Tom Hanks” (128). However, I have selected Jolie, because her personal ideals and moral concerns for others have helped millions of people in need. Jolie is not “of small and temporary notoriety” since she devoted much of her time and money to traveling around the world to meet with refugees.

While the tabloids may make Jolie appear strange by reporting on her fetish for knives, commenting on her bisexuality and covering thoroughly her love affairs with her co-stars, Angelina Jolie has a different side to her as well. She dares to be different and breaks the mold of a typical Hollywood actress. Jolie is a strong, independent and remarkably talented woman who at times may appear untamed, but has instead chosen to live her life honestly and openly. By Hollywood’s standards Jolie is a selfless and humble individual, which puts her at odds with her career. Hollywood is a cut throat business known for protecting its self-interests and celebrities are known to become affected by the fame and fortune. Angelina Jolie however is an exception to the rule. Not only has used her money to aide others, but she has devoted her time to the causes she believes in. As a matter of fact, Jolie devotes 1/3 of her income to savings, 1/3 to living expenses and 1/3 to charity.

Born June 4, 1975 to actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, Angelina Jolie was exposed at an early age to acting. It is no wonder that she would go on to win 3 Golden Globes consecutively, 2 SAG awards and an Academy Award. Jolie’s most notable films have been Girl, Interrupted (for which she won her Oscar), Gia, Tomb Raider and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. From 1997 on, Jolie grew as an actress and became tabloid fodder for her off-screen antics and more than interesting behavior. Most recently, she has been in the tabloids because of her romantic relationship with co-star Brad Pitt after his split from Jennifer Aniston. Currently the two are raising Jolie’s two adopted children, Maddox and Zahara, as well as their biological child Shiloh. Angelina Jolie’s image has metamorphosed throughout the years from knife collecting, bisexual sex symbol to mother and now humanitarian.

After filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia, Jolie became aware of humanitarian work and approached the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2001 to see how she could help. The UN Refugee Agency uses celebrity advocates to utilize their talent and fame to advocate for refugees. It should be noted that Jolie was not asked to volunteer her time and services, but rather she herself took the initiative to join the cause. The UNHCR is an organization that protects and supports refugees. Since approaching the UNHCR in 2001, Angelina Jolie has used the media to promote her causes. She has gone to over 20 countries on field operations, where she has documented her experiences in personal journals. When asked how she felt about her field operation visits, Jolie responded, “I was shocked by what I saw. We cannot close ourselves off to information and ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering. I honestly want to help. I don’t believe I feel differently from other people. I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us.” Obviously, Angelina Jolie’s dedication to helping refugees is of genuine concern to protect human rights and is an ample illustration of her personal ideals and character. Protecting human rights is a commitment that USC upholds in its Mission Statement, in order to respect the rights and dignity of all persons. With hopes of being a beacon of light for future generations, the university states in its nominating guidelines that prospective candidates are of exceptional merit having completed “acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the nation or world scene”. The character and motivation of Angelina Jolie is important to evaluate, because an individual being given an honorary degree should be a role model to graduating classes. In selecting honorands, universities must carefully examine the candidates so that their selections not be ill chosen. USC honors individuals who are widely known in their fields, in order to draw attention to its own achievements as an academic institution.

To measure the nominee’s attainments, it is helpful to use Mike Martin’s three categories which are derived from his book Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics. A Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University, Mike Martin lists three categories: craft, compensation and morals to define a profession. In the case of Angelina Jolie, her successful acting career affords her enough money to support her growing family as well as her philanthropic interests. Money is not Angelina Jolie's motivation. Jolie enjoys working so that she can provide for her growing family as well as support important causes that are meaningful to her. Jolie’s self-fulfillment comes through her service to helping others. According to Martin, “The motives are not artificially yoked together, but instead find a unified expression in commitments to communal goods such as justice, health, and learning-goods that are neither purely self-oriented(egoistic) nor purely other-oriented(altruistic), but are instead community goods for self-and-others” (31). The organization which Jolie is a part of has helped 50 million refugees restart their lives as of 2004. Angelina Jole took on the responsibility of protecting refuges on five continents. Her travels and visits to several countries led to her publication of a book “Notes from My Travels” and her journal entries were posted on the website. Rather than have her expenses paid by the UNHCR, Jolie has covered all of her expenses and donated over 3 million dollars to UNHCR programs. In addition, she has used her fame to attract the media to her causes in order to advocate for refugees. In fact, MTV gave Jolie her own special called The Diary of Angelina Jolie & Jeffrey Sacks. Moreover, when Jolie was pregnant with her child from Brad Pitt she arranged a deal with People Magazine that allowed them the rights to print the first picture of her pregnant for a $500,000 donation to Yele Haiti. She has also pledged $5 million for a wildlife sanctuary in North-Western province, plus in September 2006 she started the Jolie/Pitt Foundation to provide donations to Global Action for Children and Doctors Without Borders.

For her contributions to helping refugees, she was given the first UNCA Citizen of the World award by the United Nations Correspondents Association in October 2003. In 2005, she received the Global Humanitarian Action Award from the United Nations Association of the USA and the Business Council for the UN. It isn’t surprising that Angelina Jolie’s work has been acknowledged because in the five year she has helped the UNHCR she has traveled to regions including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Cambodia, Thailand, Ecuador, Kenya, Namibia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, the Russian Federation, Jordan, Egypt, Chad, Sudan’s Darfur region and Lebanon. In all of her travels she documented her personal thoughts and reflections in order to share them with the public. In her journal documenting her trip to Kosovo, Angelina writes honestly, “It was reported, no one was killed but 30 were injured. I worry about Mimi. (Marie-Noelle, a friend I first met when she was working for UNHCR in Cambodia and Thailand.) She was posted in Kosovo six months ago. I finally get her on the phone. We talk about the days we will spend and what we will be doing. I don’t mention the bombing. I can’t help but notice as I write how luxurious this room I am in is. How pampered I am here. ” With all of her traveling, Jolie has still managed to balance her acting career with motherhood and her humanitarian efforts. Her ability to manage all three facets of her life again illustrates her dedication and passion for life. It is also important that I note her participation with World Refugee Day (June 20). World Refugee Day is meant to urge the world not to forget about refugees. Jolie hopes her efforts with the World Refugee Day will help with legal counsel and assistance to refugees.

While some critics may view Angelina Jolie as merely a celebrity, honoring her with a degree will change people’s perceptions of actors as being merely entertainers. Angelina Jole has been able to use her acting career as a platform to something greater-protecting civil rights. She has utilized her talent and her fame to give a voice to millions of refugees that are in vulnerable circumstances.USC graduates would benefit greatly from having the opportunity to hear Angelina Jolie give a commencement speech in the spring of 2007. In my personal opinion, Angelina Jolie embodies the values that USC states in its personal mission. Her world travels have given her wisdom and insight, she has a profound love of truth and beauty, excellent moral discernment, understanding of self, and clearly as an advocate for refugees she has gained more respect and appreciation for others. In an interview, Angelina Jolie spoke of her experience of field operations where she said, “You go to these places and you realize what life’s really about and what people are really going through. These people are my heroes”. Jolie’s personal accounts with refugees and her insight are extremely valuable to USC graduates to take into the real world. Jolie can clearly articulate to the graduating class of 2007 about the impact they can make on the world by devoting their time and passion to a cause. Her wisdom will inspire graduates to live a meaningful life of service to others.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Movies.com: Using the Internet to the Film Industry's Advantage

In recent years, the internet has experienced great expansion and has become a major source for information and entertainment. According to the survey from Pew Internet & American Life Project, on an average day about 97 million people use the internet. While the internet serves many purposes, many people use the internet to download music, watch movies, and send emails. In Lee Rainie's presentation for Pew Internet & American Life Project, Rainie indicates that 84% of internet users look for information about movies or TV. While the internet can help the entertainment industry promote its intellectual property, piracy has had an effect on how officials relate to the internet. To combat illegal downloading as well as recognize new ways of promotion, countless websites devoted to entertainment news and movie promotions have surfaced. In this way, the film industry is able to use the internet to its advantage. Movies.com is one site in particular that is dedicated to the promotion of films. The site received a 2005 Web Award for Standard of Excellence. The WebAwards is an award program that acknowledges outstanding achievements in website development. Even with that said, I will consider the site's weaknesses so that improvements can be made in order to enhance the website's over all effectiveness.

Movies.com was launched in March 2000 with the purpose of providing users with news on current film releases and information on show time and ticket sales. The site exists to help aid internet users in making the right type of movie selection. The visual design of Movies.com is instantly appealing since it was designed to function as a commercial site. According to the Web Style Guide, it is important that a website have compelling graphics and text in its presentation in order to maintain audience interests. Immediately your attention is directed to the moving images that function as graphic image maps to direct browsers to different features. The site has excellent spatial organization and combines text and graphics in meaningful ways. The Web Style Guide also indicates that , "sophisticated designs combine graphic image maps and blocks of text-based links". At the top of the site, there is a search engine provided to help users find tickets and times to new movies. The search engine functions to find both movies in theaters and those on DVD and video.

To make exploring the site comfortable and easy for users, Movies.com prioritizes the information in menu lists. There are seven menu lists that direct users to particular areas of interest. The site is divided into the following interests: "The Buzz", "New & Upcoming", "Reviews", "On DVD", "Fan Forum", "Photos" and "Trailers & Clips". Based on the Structure and Navigation criteria used in the judging process, navigation on Movies.com is close to perfect. The Webby Awards defines good navigation as getting "you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth and depth of the site's content". Navigating through the site is made easier because of the consistency of the links on every page. For instance, the menus are provided both at the top and the bottom of the site. The design of the menus allows for convenience to the users, because they do not have to scroll back to the top of the menu after reading an article. This allows browsers to continue navigating through the site with ease and eliminates worry about where they are within the site domain.

Movies.com also encourages interactivity with users. Interactivity is another criteria used to distinguish website design in Webby Awards. Interactive elements must insist that you participate. Movies.com provides message boards, polls, quizzes as well as newsletters and alerts. Moreover, the site encourages moviegoers to write their own movie reviews and makes them available to other users to read. This feature eliminates bias and allows users to read both critic and fan reviews for determining which film to watch. Movies.com is wonderful because it offers users choices. When the user opens up the critics review site there is a video player that automatically plays with Ebert & Roeper. The video player is effective in grabbing a browser's attention, yet for those who may be distracted by its presence there is the option to turn off the auto play. Furthermore, Ebert and Roeper are highly regarded film critics. Their participation with Movies.com lends prestige to the site. The site allows browsers to search for reviews by actor, movie or specific date. Typing in actress Katie Holmes resulted in twelve listings. The most recent review was for Batman Begins, which Ebert & Roeper gave two thumbs up. There is also a section that provides parent reviews that offers a parent’s perspective, which may be of interest to some users with children. For the upcoming film release of Open Season, a parent posted on the website, “With a focus on comedy, the script presents some rude bathroom humor, moments of irresponsible behavior, and the portrayal of coffee and chocolate bar consumption as having an addictive and inebriating effect on animals". After reviewing the film, the parent also discusses what a parent should discuss with their children after viewing the film as well as provides alternative films that have similar messages and themes. Moreover, the link that Movies.com provides on its website is extremely helpful to parents because it also provides reviews on video games. This contributes to the site being well-rounded and having well developed ideas. Parents are a very important market that the film industry tries to reach and cater to. Therefore, having a section devoted for parents sets Movies.com apart from other film websites.

By and large, the content of Movies.com is appropriate material for its audience. However, I did find some of the material to be quite laughable and useless to the site. I was displeased with a feature called “Slap of the day…you know they really deserve this!” found in 'The Buzz section". The "Slap of the day" on September 19th featured an article on actress Katie Holmes. The feature explains the reason why the celebrity is being slapped, what the celebrity will be slapped with and how hard they should be slapped. This feature highlights a certain celebrity each day. I find this type of material to be pointless and not advantageous to Movies.com. The addition of the “Slap of the day” makes the site feel like a tabloid instead of being a resourceful website. This type of content does not do anything to forward the site's credibility or offer credence to Movies.com. The site should maintain its focus on providing users with information that can be useful to selecting a film to watch. Knowing about celebrity news is too trivial and should be avoided to maintain professionalism. Even with that said, it is understandable that Movies.com might use this feature to attract a younger audience. Therefore, it would be best if a target audience was established since it seems like the website is trying to appeal to both a younger audience as well as adults. In addition, I also feel that improvements can be made to the "Reviews" section. Movies.com encourages its users to write and post their own reviews, but finding the link is not that simple. Initially it took me a couple of minutes to search for the link. There are four links one must click in order to find the page to leave comments. A user should not have to search so thoroughly to leave a comment, because it may interrupt or discourage the interaction process. Therefore, I suggest that the "Reviews" section have a link available on the first page to encourage users to share their opinion.

Movies.com has few weaknesses. Small improvements made to links on the web page as well as defining its target audience will enhance the site's effectiveness. Over all, Movies.com provides an excellent experience for users and is an excellent tool for promoting films. Promoting films has become increasingly important since technology has changed the way people receive their information. Word of mouth and information spreading rapidly over the internet can make or break a film in its opening week at the box office. An interactive element that the site provides allows users to share their opinions, which may either influence or deter other people from watching certain films. It may make a difference in whether or not a person chooses to watch a film at the movie theater, wait for it to come out on DVD or even skip the movie all together. Movies.com has great significance to the well being of the film industry and offers essential information for movie lovers.





Monday, September 18, 2006

Movie Download Services and Piracy: New Challenges for the Entertainment Industry

This week, I thought it would be interesting to search through blogs that pertained to new technologies or services being provided that I believe are affecting the Entertainment Industry. The first post that caught my attention is titled “ Amazon.com Unbox-Movie Download Service”. The post is a piece about the new movie rental download site that is being released by the world’s biggest bookstore. I thought it would be beneficial to comment on this piece since earlier in the week Apple reported in a press release that they too would have movies available for download. It is exciting to see the changes being made within the industry to keep up with the changing times. Competition seems to be the driving force within the industry. As a result, more accommodations are being made for consumers who prefer to watch movies at home rather than at the Cineplex.

More importantly, attention has been given to the fact
that more people like the option of being able to rent movies as well as TV shows online. Yet as I discussed in my past posts, problems have arisen with piracy. That is why the post titled Embedded RFID to smack-down DVD piracy” caught my eye. This post discusses how major studios, such as Warner, Fox and Disney are wanting to embed RFID chips in DVDs for copy right protection. Both articles are very interesting because they show new directions in which the Entertainment Industry is heading. So many changes are in store for us!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Low Attendance: Why Are People Not Going To The Movies?

Advances in technology have changed the landscape of television and film by creating competition with more entertainment options. People no longer have to settle between watching TV at home and going to the movie theater. Unfortunately, the film industry has been more devastated than the television industry by new technologies.

Larger television screens, Digital Cable with movie package options, as well as new Home Entertainment Systems have led to a drop in ticket sales. The film industry faces a new challenge in keeping its audience. Watching a movie on the big screen no longer seems to be a valued experience since attendance has declined gradually every year. One reason moviegoers avoid the theater is because of ticket prices. While attendance has gone down every year, movie ticket prices have gone up in order to cover theater costs. This has created a problem for the film industry because movies are released on DVD within three to six months after being released in theaters. Therefore, moviegoers can save their $13 and either rent or purchase the DVD at a better cost. In fact, consumers do not even need to leave their homes to rent or purchase a DVD, because the Internet has led the way for businesses like Netflix, Amazon.com and Blockbuster to rent and sell movies over the World Wide Web.

Moreover, the Internet has created even more problems for the film industry because people illegally download movies. After illegally downloading a film, a person has the ability to burn the movie onto a DVD and sell it on the street. Piracy has been a huge problem among teenagers who have the means available as well as their knowledge of the Internet to steal from the film industry. This is also an illustration of the lack of respect present in our society. Many people avoid going to the theater because the experience has been tainted by people answering cell phone calls, text messaging and people getting up to use the restroom during the film. Moviegoers feel it is more convenient to stay within the comfort of their home and avoid distractions as well as rude people. As mentioned earlier, television screens have become larger so that movies can be enjoyed in widescreen format as screened in theaters. In addition, surround sound in Home Entertainment Systems have become quite popular and affordable. Technology has enabled people to have their own personal theater within their home. The sound is excellent along with the picture clarity.

If the film industry wants to keep its audience there must be changes and incentives made to lure back moviegoers. Lowering ticket prices, creating more stadium seat theaters and promotional give aways could be measures taken to slowly gain back the audience it has lost over time.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ratings Decline: A New Trend in Network Television

The telecast of the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which aired on NBC August 27th, brought in the second lowest ratings since 1990. According to NBC, the network estimated that only 16.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the ceremony that evening. The ratings went down 15% from last year’s ceremony, which was televised by CBS.

While the Emmys were designed to be a night that celebrates the best talents within the television industry, few and fewer viewers are tuning in each year. The drop in audience viewers could be blamed on the length of the show, which normally runs over three hours due to long acceptance speeches and commercial breaks. However, it is unlikely that this is the main reason for the drop in ratings. During the ceremony, host Conan O'Brien joked, "At this very moment your kids are on You Tube watching a cat on a toilet instead of watching that footage where it belongs: on the Fox network". O'Brien's remark while said in jest does ring true, because there has been a noticeable decline not only in network viewing, but to the television medium as a whole. The television industry is no longer a dominant entertainment medium, because the Internet has lured viewers away.


The popularity of the Internet and access to alternative forms of entertainment and leisure may be the biggest contributing factor to low ratings. Television has seen quite a change since the introduction of new technologies. Besides the Internet, television has been affected by Digital Video Recorders like Tivo. These new media devices allow viewers to take control of what they watch. For instance, a viewer is able to record a live show, while viewing another at the same exact time. Moreover, with such a device, a viewer is enabled to fast forward through commercials or parts of shows that are of little interest to them. This device and new technologies make television even more fragmented.


In addition to the Internet, the major networks have faced ratings declines because of access to more cable television outlets. Rather than only having four networks to choose programming from, the expansion of television outlets has given viewers more options. Therefore, the major networks have to vie for large audiences. Drop in ratings are a new problem that network television executives must deal with. Only time will tell how the television medium will be able to compete with growing outlets and new technologies so that they don't lose their audience.