Monday, November 29, 2010

X-Men: Referencing the Battle of Alcatraz

X-Men: The Last Stand was a movie that was supposed to represent the guards versus the inmates. The mutant resistant were the inmates and the guards were the few mutants who were trying to protect the people. Everything went into chaos when the resistance tried to destroy Alcatraz. This fight can be thought of as the Battle of Alcatraz, the largest prisoner escape that went wrong on Alcatraz. The battle went on for 3 days and was the bloodiest Alcatraz has seen it. When looking back on this escape attempt, how the guards were outnumbered and taken by surprise until the Marines showed up, it can relate to X-Men. The mutant resistance wanted to destroy the vaccine that would get rid of the mutant gene. With the resistance storming Alcatraz that represented
the inmates taking control of weapons and taking control for the first part of the siege. Then once the the guards and the mutants helping the government came, that represents the guards realizing what has happened and them fight back. This plot line is not a very strong one, in my opinion but it makes a good action flick. Referring back to Alcatraz, they chose a good spot for a final battle, trying to represent the Battle of Alcatraz, was a smart idea.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Women Scorned: The Position of Women in X-Men

Perhaps at a glance you might think that in X-men: The Last Stand, women are finally given some credit as capable figures, movers and shakers. Phoenix is the most powerful of the Mutants, Storm is the new headmaster of Xavier’s school, and female Mutants generally can get things done just as well as the males. But you can also see that a significant part of their portrayal involves proneness to unplanned emotional impetus and to the influence of male leads.

Jean Grey is completely emotionally unstable; whenever anything makes her upset she goes on a destructive rampage. She ends up disintegrating her beloved boyfriend, immediately tries to have sex with another guy, and asks him to kill her when he says no. She disintegrates her mentor and joins forces with her ideological adversary, and ends up needing that other guy to go ahead and help her suicide. Not the strongest of
characters after all.

When Mystique gets abandoned by the man she’s devoted herself to, she goes and gets arrested by her ideological enemies just so she can betray him. Cunning Magneto anticipates this reaction and outsmarts her.

Even Storm, seemingly the most authoritative of the women in this film, acts largely on a reactionary basis. Her initial plans for the school she inherited were to close it, since she didn’t feel confident without Xavier. Only because a needy youth serendipitously walked in right at decision time did she decide not to just give up.

Females on the battlefield, at least, seem to be equally competent as their male counterparts (not to mention present at all) – a big step up from being a worried pregnant fiancĂ© who isn’t even present in the action. Kitty beat blockheaded Juggernaut and saved the little kid!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Frenemies: Magneto and Charles Xavier

While watching X-Men III The Last Stand the relationship between Magneto and Charles Xavier was what I found most intriguing about the film. Once old colleges, they fought for mutant rights and programs for mutant education. They worked as a team recruiting mutants from all over the country offering acceptance and shelter from the one sided view of mutants in the general society. But eventually Magnetos’ values shifted after slow success following Charles’ ideals to help mutants. Magneto believed that mutants should band together and fight violently for their rights. Although they are enemies they share great respect for one another. Xavier and Magneto are striving for the same goal yet taking different paths. The two would never directly murder one another as their history has intertwined so thoroughly that killing the other would be killing a part of themselves. Each also has gained invaluable perspective, knowledge, and insight from one another.

As Jean Grey AKA the phoenix is levitating Charles, about to what seems like evaporate him in this apocalyptic scenery Magneto is watching on in terror. He cannot believe what he is seeing and at one point a look of regret comes over his face of what he has unleashed. Right before Xavier is killed Magneto bursts out an urgent cry “Charrlleesss!!” and then he’s gone.

“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you’ll ever know; my single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – Magneto


"Unto our climatures and countrymen" : Hamlet on Alcatraz:

This Saturday I went to watch Hamlet on Alcatraz, the weather was nice up to the point of the ferry ride. That is when the chilling wind started to blow. Once we landed we were greeted by more freezing winds, the trees appeared to be mad which served the scene quite adequately (the ghostly figures were appearing). It appeared that throughout the play, the environment was another actor in the scenes since it enhanced the mood of the play and it made the production more dramatic.

The rain began to pour down on us when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were introduced. After a couple more scenes we went inside. We were in for quite a while that we did not realize how drastically the weather had changed. When we were outside for the last outdoor scene (I do not remember which one) the weather was terrible. From the moment I stepped outside the entire surrounding landscape had disappeared, it was hidden by
the fog, it was as if we were in the middle of the ocean. We were taken somewhere for a scene and all that I could here were the crashing waves on the rocks and the thunder. The rain was pouring hard on us and the wind was so strong it literally pushed us and there were times when I moved solely because of the wind’s will, not mine. There was also lightening that illuminated the area, just enough to see the people around us. Finally, we were led back in.

The next scene was where Hamlet confronted his mother. Then the ghost of his father appeared, he was hidden behind some opaque windows. His appearance was illuminated by the lightening, making the scene creepy. Then at the moment when Hamlet struck Polonius there was raging thunder. The thunder, rain, lightening, and winds continued onto the final scene where most of the characters died. The audience, I included, were overcome by the special effects offered by the climate. It definitely made the scenes more vivid.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

X-Men: Parallels between Mutants and American Indians

There are quite a few parallels to notice between the mutants of the X-men universe and the American Indians. They are both repressed minorities fighting for the rights and status of their respective constituencies, at odds with government stances of intolerance and even termination/assimilation. Whether Indians are Americans / Mutants are Humans is controversial, and causes cognitive dissonance. In X-men, there is a governmental “Department of Mutant Affairs” whose role is to manage the policies and relationships with Mutants, but whose actual influence is seemingly not so strong. We see the various groupings of people in Like a Hurricane reincarnate as Mutants too. There are the those that try to serve their kin by joining the BIA/ DMA, trying to affect change from inside the government; there are AIM / Magneto’s vigilante-militant group that takes over places like Alcatraz, and strongly opposes the government’s handling of their affairs; and generally there are the Indians/Mutants that feel distant from the rest of the country and live off in their own communities.


X Men: A Unique Portrayal of Alcatraz

Looking past the action scenes that are expected in an X men movie, the main thing that jumped out at me throughout the course of this movie is the portrayal of Alcatraz. Although the island plays a lesser role in the movie when compared to other films we have watched, it serves a unique purpose contrary to that of its former role in history: “This site, which once was a famous prison, will now be the source of freedom for all mutants who choose it.” Previously home to the most dangerous criminals in our society, Alcatraz was now the site of a highly sophisticated lab. It is at this lab that a pharmaceutical company used a mutant to create a “cure” for the mutant X-gene.

They chose to create Worthington lab on Alcatraz because it was the safest location they could find. Now, instead of using its location to prevent criminals from escaping, Alcatraz is now perfectly situated to prevent the much-regarded cure of this disease from getting out to the public. Because of its highly potent and supposedly irreversible power, the medicine must be safely kept in the hands of those who created it. Like the prisoners who were formerly kept in cramped cells, if the medicine were to get out, it could pose a great danger to society. For this reason, the limited accessibility of Alcatraz makes it the perfect venue to safeguard this important medicine.

Similar to its past, Alcatraz is again the site of a major battle. Like we saw in The Birdman of Alcatraz, there is an attempted takeover of the island. Magneto and his brotherhood of mutants wish to destroy the lab and the child who helped create the cure for the mutant gene. In viewing their invasion, we are reminded that no matter how impenetrable Alcatraz was considered, it always seems to be the location of major, unanticipated conflicts.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Buckle Your Seatbelts: Opening credits analysis of The Rock

In the opening credits of the film The Rock we see a flurry of images among the names of the star-studded cast of Nicholas cage, Sean Connery, and others. To the untrained viewer this may look like another Michael Bay montage of fiery dramatic imagery simply for the purpose of gearing up the viewer for the thrill ride that is The Rock. But this dramatic imagery does indeed have a purpose.

This purpose being to inform the viewer of General Francis X Hummel’s motivation for taking 81 unsuspecting tourists hostage on the uninhabited island of Alcatraz. As the credits begin we see a grey ominous sky followed by dark figures in a smoke filled room. These first two images present a gloomy yet tension filled mood and set the stage for a tale of regret and sorrow. Next we see marching soldiers folding a flag, indicating that a military man or men have died. One by one we receive bits of information that progressively increase in clarity. In the next frame our protagonist is seen vigorously standing up from a seated position while radio communication concerning the rescue of troops behind enemy lines becomes audible. This indicates the connection between the dead military men and general Hummel, as they were once his troops who are now in some kind of trouble but cannot receive any help due to commands superior to Hummel’s. In addition, General Hummel’s ascension from his seated position foreshadows Hummel’s decision to take a stand for the marines who gave their life during combat

Putting all the pieces together we know now that something unjust happened to military men against the will of General Hummel that resulted in their deaths and now General Hummel plans to take action. This intro gives us some abstract knowledge of the motivations for Hummel’s actions, without giving away too much information. This keeps the viewer buckled in for the ride that is The Rock.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Rock: Overdramatized, but Realistic Representation of Alcatraz?

Many parts of the movie, The Rock (1996), are overdramatized, unrealistic, and fictionalized in order to create a greater appeal to an audience. However, even so, many pieces of this movie portray Alcatraz as the place of incarceration and torture that it is still remembered as today. In the second half of the movie, an FBI team, including convict Mason and biochemist Goodspeed, infiltrate Alcatraz in an attempt to prevent the Marines from launching the VX gas rockets into San Francisco. This leads to misunderstanding and unnecessary shooting, which culminates in the death of everyone on the island, except for Goodspeed, Mason, and the hostages. Although conveyed in an exaggerated manner, several scenes from The Rock draw parallels to the actual conditions of this infamous island.

For example, in the scene when the FBI team gains access into Alcatraz and the Marines and FBI members all have their guns aimed at one another, Commander Anderson says, “You are under oath as United States Marines. Have you forgotten that?” This scene parallels the real-life circumstances at Alcatraz by illustrating how people are driven to insanity, which results in a multitude of unnecessary deaths. Ironically, General Hummel says, “No one has to die here.” However, the FBI team and the Marines begin shooting at one another until the entire FBI team is dead, except for Goodspeed and Mason. This is analogous to how the horrific, injustice conditions of Alcatraz drove inmates to take extreme measures to escape from Alcatraz, which often ended in death or further torture.

In addition, the harsh conditions of Alcatraz drove prisoners to take significant risks because they had nothing to lose, just as at this point, the Marines have nothing to lose no matter what occurs on the island. Near the end of the movie, when the Marines decide that it is time to launch the rockets into San Francisco, Hummel sends the first one off-track so that no one is harmed. However, this causes the other remaining Marines to turn against him, because they argue that they have already come this far so they need to carry out their original plan.

Furthermore, the idea of unpreparedness, which is illustrated in our other texts and movies, seems to be prevalent in the plot of The Rock. Although initially the plan appears sound and carefully thought-out, it ultimately results in a chaotic mess. The idea propelling the takeover of Alcatraz was reasonable, but the actions taken to convey this message were not the best, as also seen in Like a Hurricane.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Alcatraz Reflections: When is a Rock just a Rock?

I actually liked the audio tour, much to my surprise. I was half expecting a propogandish PG-rated happy-place-for-tourists sort of thing, perhaps reminiscent of the photojournal we first read. But they didn’t leave the nitty gritty out (they even discribed the sound of a knife getting stabbed into someone (and then played that sound)), and they a decent amount of interview time and some interesting details that none of the books covered, like the actual quality of the food.

In general, I have a healthy distrust for the whole touristy business, so I’ll share one thing I thought was funny. Upon disembarking, the tour guides reminded us we weren’t allowed to take home rocks from The Rock – they’re pieces of the historic landmark, and not for you to take home as souvenirs to put with all your other rocks. You could, of course, buy them in the gift shop, and for only $8! They even came with their own fancy little plastic enclosures and child safety warnings: “This is not a toy. Not for children under the age of 5. Do not remove from enclosure.” Yes, that’s right parents, be careful not to let your kids ever get their hands on rocks. Or play with them. Also, this is actually not a rock – it’s a souvenir. I wonder if people really buy them.


How does one weigh human life?: The Rock and Humanity

Aside from the outrageous car chases and gun battles particular to all Michael Bay films, I felt that the movie The Rock (1996) also offered some insightful moments on life and the human condition. During the President’s speech toward the end of the movie, he posed the question: “How does one weigh human life?” While this question has divided philosophers throughout the ages, this movie offers an opinion along the lines of not judging a book by its cover.

For example, if we were take Mason (Sean Connery’s character) at face value, we’d see a grimy convict and former inmate of Alcatraz who, at one time possessed the power to blackmail the American government. Any random person on the street would probably say that he deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life. If we were to assess General Hummel in the same fashion, we’d find one of the finest war heroes America has ever seen, receiving multiple purple hearts and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The point behind these assessments is because their roles are reversed in this film. In The Rock, the war hero is the one terrorizing America, and the lives of millions of people are dependent upon a team of soldiers led by a convict. In one particular scene of the movie, Mason is walking down Broadway, where all the hostages are imprisoned. The hostages are reaching out of their cells towards him, asking for help from this man who, in another circumstance, they would all gladly condemn to their same holding
cells. I think this scene shows that every human being is capable of good, even if his or her reputation speaks otherwise. So while there are several different ways people try to weigh one human life against another, the solution this film proposes is that it shouldn’t be done. Even the best of people are capable of evil, and a hero could be found in the most unlikely of places or circumstances.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alcatraz Reflections: Size and Scale

I had previously visited Alcatraz when I was around the age of 5. At the time I had very little knowledge about the island and its purpose, only that it previously housed “bad guys.” At the time I remember thinking of Alcatraz as a huge place. The movies we have watched so far helped to maintain my idea. The films always showed Broadway as being a wide runway and the cell blocks as being very tall. In actuality everything was much more confined. Besides the size, one of the few things that I remember from my initial trip was the recreation yard. I remember thinking it was such a huge area and that the steps along the side were so high up. While my opinion of the size of Alcatraz has changed, the rec yard still stood out to me but for a different reason. When I stepped through the doorway to the rec yard, I was surprised to see a gorgeous view of the San Francisco skyline. I kept thinking how tortuous it would have been to be given that little glimpse of freedom every time you were allowed outside. After that view, descending the stairs into the yard surround by towering, thick concrete walls seemed so overwhelming. It even made me a little claustrophobic and usually confined spaces don’t bother me. I just kept thinking about freedom on the other side of the wall. It gave me an appreciation of trapped feelings prisoners felt and how they would do almost anything to get out.


Alcatraz Reflections: A Transformation

One of the most shocking things about the island of Alcatraz was knowing that some of the prisoners have returned after their sentences there. If I were a prisoner I would try to avoid the place where I was locked away for years, so it comes to a great surprise that some of the inmates returned and even helped promote Alcatraz as a tourist attraction. In the audio tour we hear the voices of some of the criminals that were locked away there. One of them says that they had never seen the warden’s area until after they left Alcatraz.

I have also tried to see the island from their perspective, was it ironic to them that one of the most notorious prisons now serves to entertain a wide audience? For me this would be unimaginable; however, this was the case with Alcatraz. It underwent a complete transformation: from a place that nearly everyone wanted to avoid, to a place that nearly everyone is curious to explore.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reflections on The Rock (1996)

The Rock (1996) is an action-filled movie starring Nicolas Cage (as Stanley Goodspeed), Sean Connery (as John Mason), and Ed Harris (as General Hummel). The plot revolves around Stanley and Mason trying to disable the highly dangerous VX rockets to prevent General Hummel from bombing San Francisco and killing 80,000 people.

Throughout the movie, I wondered why the British intelligence would send a spy to dig up the dirt on US government. I also wondered how Mason retained his ability to make normal conversation with others, and also how he retained his athletic/physical abilities locked up in a prison. He seemed to be in a pretty amazing shape even for his age. Knowing that Mason knows all the dirty secrets about the US government, they probably didn't let anyone talk to him. One would think that someone locked up in a solitary confinement for decades would be driven insane long time ago. Even Al Capone was driven insane after only few years in Alcatraz.

When I began watching the movie, I was not expecting a Hollywood action movie about weapon of mass destruction. I was rather fascinated by the chemical bomb and the biochemist Stanley's job. Although his job isn't exactly something that I would want, I envy his passion for biochemistry. I just hope that I don't hate biochemistry in the coming years, because it sucks to take classes that you hate.

I thought the occupation of Alcatraz by the Marines was rather unrealistic and incredible for the most part. Threatening the government with WMA was even more surprising. Their cause was understandable, and it is a great pity that the general's men died a tragic death, but really, I don't quite see how that leads to blackmailing the government to pay the dead soldiers' families by threatening to kill 80,000 innocent people. As Mason said, I think the General Hummel is "a f***ing idiot." I think they had better chance of getting what they wanted if they had not threatened the San Francisco City with WMA. In a sense, the situation is reminiscent of the Indian occupation of Alcatraz; like the Indians, the Marines had a good cause, but they were too idealistic. Their demands were unrealistic, and the occupations ended up as huge fiascos.


Rebirth Once More: Image Analysis in Murder in the First

When I first viewed Kevin Bacon’s character, Henri Young lying naked on the bottom of a dimly lit hole my mind was instantly directed towards the thought of an infant in the womb. As a baby, Young is in the nude and his body is somewhat in the fetal position: his back is curved, his head is bowed, and his limbs are bent and drawn up to the torso. In addition to being in a similar confined space that a baby experiences this parallel is visually successful once the elements are combined and left me tingling with excitement upon discovering the underlying narratives it could provide.

Continuing the movie we see this infant representation take shape. I did not make the connection until Christian Slater’s character, James Stamphill’s first day in court when he unleashes his groundbreaking argument. He says that Young’s time in the hole influenced and shaped him into a killer. This made me think of the womb once more as a place of rebirth and new life. Young was inside this figurative womb for months and was reborn into a psychotic madman. This confined space changed and formed Young much like a baby develops and forms within the womb. Lastly along with creating parallels this image creates a dichotomy between the positive connotations associated with childbirth and the negative connotations associated with solitary confinement. Creating this dichotomy also brings up an interesting dynamic where two very different subject matters connect through a certain medium.

"The Rock" versus The Rock

I did not understand the meaning of the title, "The Rock", when I first watched the movie. With no information on Alcatraz, I did not pay any attention to the role of the island in the film. To me, it was just some island where the story takes place. After studying about The Rock through different books and films, the island really stood out to me after I watched the movie for the second time. Not only does The Rock provides a foundation for the story to take place, it also constructs the frame of the movie and links the plot together. The similarity and difference between The Rock in the movie and The Rock in real life provide a different angle to take an in-depth look at the movie.

The Rock symbolizes fear. The image of The Rock is equally gruesome in both real history and in the fictional movie. In history, The Rock was a place that confines the most notorious inmates in the States. It is known to the citizens nowadays, that inhuman treatment to the prisoners used to take place on this island. In the movie, The Rock is a place that causes death. It is the base for a group of terrorists who threaten to kill millions of people in the San Francisco Bay Area. In both cases, The Rock is a place that generates fear, torture and possible death.

The Rock serves as a "warning". From the 1930's, this Federal Prison warns citizens not to commit crime, otherwise they would spend years in this horrible place. The Rock is still a kind of warning in the movie. But this time, it is a warning to the government. General Hummel uses the island to warn government that it has to do what he orders, otherwise millions of death would occur.

The Rock is place for protest. Both the Indians and General Hummel attracts attention from the government by occupying the island. In history, The Indians occupied the island to protest for their rights and lands. On the other hand, General Hummel uses the island to protest against injustice in military and government. He uses the island to deliver the message that injustice has to stop.

There are also differences between the role of The Rock in history and in the movie. Historically, The Rock housed dangerous prisoners. But in the movie, The Rock holds innocent civilians as hostages. In addition, the Rock is supposed to be a place to stop or decrease crime. Ironically, in the movie, The Rock is a place that serves as a foundation and base for crime. The exchange between good and evil makes the movie more
complex and interesting.

At the end, The Rock faces the same fate: It gets abandoned by the government. The government closes down the Federal Prison in the 1960's. In the movie, the government orders bombardment to The Rock in order to destroy the rockets and save lives. Probably it is true that "Alcatraz is no good for nobody." In both cases, The Rock fails to serve the purpose and goals that the administrators and occupiers originally want to achieve.


Alcatraz Reflections: Crossing of Space and Time

The Alcatraz tour officially began in the shower room, where tourists can get audio tour equipments. After I quickly received the audio player, I sat down on a bench against the wall and stared at the shower stalls. After Jennifer acquired hers, she came and sat beside me on the bench. Suddenly, she almost jumped up from the bench in excitement and said: "Oh my god, Al Capone had probably sat on this bench once!" Then two thoughts immediately hit me. First of all, Jennifer's comment made Al Capone felt like a celebrity or someone with great significance. Alcatraz had held many notorious inmates. But I wondered, did the inmates become significant in the U.S. penal history because they had once stayed in the famous Alcatraz prison? Or did the inmates themselves make Alcatraz famous and world renowned? The other thing was, Jennifer's words did ignite some kind of excitement and interest in me, because I just fully realized that I was touring a place where used to be a true creepy prison! This seemingly obvious remark is easily forgotten when one is surrounded by crowds of
curious tourists and kind tour guides, bathed under the Californian Sun, and walked past the beautiful newly-planted flowers and trees on the island. But after my late realization, the empty cells, which I toured later, did give me goosebumps as I imagined real living humans being caged inside. It is still the same concrete and stones, except the time has changed. I stood inside the solitary confinement cell, and was truly amazed by the crossing of space and time.


An Analysis of the Characters in The Rock

After looking past the numerous, and unrealistic, action scenes, one issue struck me as particularly interesting. Conformity is a subtle theme revealed throughout the course of this film. General Francis Hummel, agent Stanley Goodspeed, and FBI director Wommack all fit roles which appear to be in line with the conditioning they received from serving in military and government roles. Despite his disillusionment with the American government, Hummel, a renowned war hero, is driven by moral certainty and cannot bear to kill the lives of innocent citizens. He is proud of the service he has rendered his country and therefore cannot truly turn against it and the lives of the citizens he fought to protect. Goodspeed portrays the typical nerdy scientist whose only combat knowledge came from the brief field training he received in order to become an FBI agent. Thrust into the deep end, he is forced to learn quickly or thousands of innocent people will die. Director Wommack’s role is synonymous with that of many upper level politicians. He is hot-headed, malicious, and oblivious to the feelings of others. With a constant snarl on his face, it is easy to disapprove of his stubborn attitude.

The sole exception to these conformist roles is John Mason. A former British agent, he opposes the American government and is consequently punished for it. Instead of following every order he is given, he is apparently disillusioned by some aspect of government and steals its deepest, darkest secrets. Despite all this, he never appears to be the lethal, cold-blooded killer who is so dangerous, he technically does not even exist. Rather, he is solely the victim of having too much knowledge of government’s covert operations.

In addition, we are able to see the emotional and compassionate sides of each character before the action begins. Hummel makes sure that all children are off the island before beginning his takeover and Goodspeed shows his concern for his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn child when being assigned a role in the mission to land on Alcatraz. Also, Mason still cares about his daughter that he has never meant; she was the driving force behind his will to escape from The Rock in the first place. In contrast to these characters, Wommack is shown as a heartless, self-centered individual who has little respect for others.


Alcatraz Reflections: Seeing Alcatraz (Again)

A photo retrospective from J.K. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alcatraz Reflections: Seeing Alcatraz

A series of images from one of our class photographers (D.B.): Enjoy!

Final Essay Prompt

Choose from one of the following options:

Option A: Something Old

Select one of your previous essays to revise. You may choose from any one of the three major paper assignments, including your diagnostic essay. You must make significant revisions to create a polished essay. Paper Length: 4-5 pages.

Option B: Something New

Using the techniques we discussed in class, perform a close reading on any one of the texts that we’ve read, viewed, or listened to during the year. Make sure your essay has a clear argument. Paper Length: 3-4 pages.

General Guidelines:

Your essay must have a clearly stated thesis: don’t be afraid to telegraph this statement by including language like: “This essay argues/examines ___________.” Your essay will be evaluated on the clarity or your argument, the soundness of your evidence, and how well you use the close reading techniques we discussed in class. Be judicious in your choices, and make sure to select a text you can adequately analyze in 3-4 pages.

This essay should be in 11 or 12 pt Times New Roman font, with conventional margins. For other questions regarding stylistics or formatting, consult the link to Duke University’s MLA Style Guide on the course blog.

For any other questions, please email me.

As always, Good Luck!

Draft Due Date: November 23 (5%)
Final Revisions Due: December 2 (25%)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Alcatraz Reflections: Size and Space

It was an unusually warm day on Alcatraz Island on Sunday. The sky was blue and clear, and there was little wind. It was a very pleasant, balmy weather; I almost felt like I was on vacation. It almost seemed impossible that such a beautiful island could have once housed the country’s most dangerous criminals. I was also surprised by how small the building seemed. I imagined the structure to be much larger for some reason. I was also surprised by how the isolation chambers were right next to the D-block cells. I thought they would be in the basement, in the complete darkness. Overall, I had a hard time imagining people actually living in the old prison. The commercialization of the island has made the park feel more like a tourist attraction, something that is invented rather than preserved. I think the island would have felt very different if I had gone at night or when it’s cloudy and rainy.


Alcatraz Reflections: Looking, Seeing, Viewing

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the island of Alcatraz in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. I was pleasantly surprised and ecstatic about the clearness of the day. The air quality and views from the island were breathtaking. Views of the campanile in the East Bay, downtown San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge heading towards Marin were absolutely amazing. The ferry ride was also nice and easy in the morning. The only thing I was disappointed in was the lack of Indian history and the occupation on the island provided by the national park service. The prison and cell sizes were smaller than I pictured and remembered as a child. Overall a great time and experience on the


Religious Symbolism in Murder in the First

After revisiting the movie a second time, I noticed many religious symbols in the beginning of Murder in the First. Whether intentional or not, they add a different texture to the intended meanings in the movie.

Early in the movie, several inmates are led in the very famous Christian prayer, "Our Father." This is the most known prayer and it is said at every Sunday mass. Immediately following is a scene where Henry Young is being whipped and punished for trying to escape Alcatraz. This prayer is important during Reconciliation because it includes words like, 'forgive us for our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.' This prayer, in a way, is supposed to be able to renew one from their sins and give them a second chance. Henry Young is paying for trying to escape and this his first steps to reconciliation.

A bit later in the movie, there's a scene where the guards tie Henry Young's hands to the walls that him arms are completely outstretched, just like how Jesus's arms were outstretched on the cross right before he died. As a bold statement, Henry Young is being used as a metaphor for Jesus Christ. After you think about it, it makes sense because Young had to suffer in order for change had to happen within the penitentiary system. Henry Young died so that prisoners after him wouldn't have to suffer in solitary as bad as he did. Although difficult to see Young as a martyr, this blatant comparison tries to make a statement about the significant role he played in changing the penal system.

The movie also mentions Christmas, which is actually the birth of baby Jesus. In this Christmas on Alcatraz, some carolers are singing a tune one wouldn't expect from the cheer holiday. The song they are singing is a bit haunting making the audience feel a bit uncomfortable. This is the same time that Henry Young is first allowed out of solitary as he gets a haircut to symbolize his 'rebirth'. This could also be seen as the birth of the catatonic killer that has surfaced because of Alcatraz. Aside from the religious aspect, Christmas was just another chance to show how lonely Young is and how lonely he would be on Alcatraz.

Although some of these religious comparisons may be a bit stretched, they are still apparent in the movie. These symbols are able to add another layer of understanding of Henry Young and Alcatraz and the religious symbols they stand for.