Author Archives: Jennifer R.

Mini Assignment 6: Make a Gif

There’s been a lot going on with my family lately, so we decided to take a little mini vacation over the long weekend. I’ve never gone on vacation in the middle of a semester, but I managed to do so without missing classes or falling behind!

Yes… that’s my mom eating a salad on Big Thunder Mountain. I love my crazy family.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018): Just Another Useless Remake (40%)

The 2018 reboot of The Grinch felt like nothing more than another thoughtless Hollywood remake created with the intentions of capitalizing on an already popular story. The original adaptation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, was an animated TV special released in 1966. Since it was a TV special, the runtime was approximately 20 minutes and the film was basically just an animated version of the book. It’s a great 20minute episode (my family still watches it almost every year). The live-action version starring Jim Carrey was released in 2000, and it has got to be one of the best Christmas movies to this day! The jokes are hysterical, the costumes are amazing, and the sets and props are surreal! I was super excited about the new film because I love both of the other adaptations, but it was incredibly disappointing.

Unfortunately, the new animated adaptation of The Grinch had very little to offer. It felt like they simply took the extended storyline of the live-action version and stripped out most of the jokes. One of the slight alterations made to the plot was that Cindy Lou wanted to deliver a letter to Santa asking for help for her mother. Her mother is depicted as an overworked and exhausted single parent trying to take care of three children while also working night shifts. In the end, the mother’s struggles feel unresolved and the focus remains on the Grinch and his feeling of belonging.

The new movie had several well-known actors, yet the voice actors didn’t add anything special to the film. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the Grinch, but the film may have been more entertaining if they had cast a comedian for the role. Steve Carell, for example, would’ve been a great pick. Carell actually alters his voice dramatically to make exciting characters (example: Gru from Despicable Me).

There were a couple of laughs throughout the movie, but on the whole there just wasn’t anything special or new. Children might enjoy The Grinch, but I don’t think it’s worth the admission rate. Save your money for better holiday movies coming soon to theatres.

“Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!” -How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

 

 

Week 10: The Analytical ABC’s and the Editing Blues

After weeks of making small and dramatic design changes to my blog, I finally feel ready to buckle down and start the next massive task: editing all of my posts. I began this tiresome (but necessary) task by going through my movie review posts and adding embedded videos. I wanted to add trailers to my content posts because I wanted to reduce my audience exit rate. Even though I don’t have information about why my audience exits my website, I understand that many people want to watch trailers, not just read reviews. If I did not have trailers available, people would have to leave my website to find them (and there’s no guarantee they’ll come back). Another simple but important change I made to some of my posts was adding links to other articles I’ve written. For example, in my review for SearchingI added a note stating, “If you enjoy mysteries, you may also enjoy the TV series The Five (available on Netflix).” I decided to link to other articles after hearing Monique Sherrett’s lecture on audience and analytics. Monique discussed the importance of user engagement: how long do people spend on each page, how many pages do they view before exiting, how many users return (Sherrett). Linking to other shows and movies users might like can help increase their engagement, and potentially increase their interest in my website.

(An example of the changes I made).

After Monique’s lecture for our class, I also began thinking more critically about goals and objectives for my blog. Monique explained that goals are broad statements about actions we want people to take, whereas objectives are measurable, specific, actionable, and achievable (Sherrett). My first goal is that I want to increase the page views for my TV Reviews category. In order to create a more specific, measurable and actionable objective, I looked at my Google analytics to better understand my viewers’ behaviours. I was surprised to see the TV Reviews category already had over 50 page views because I created this section more than halfway through the course. After checking the views, I created an objective: I want to have more than 100 views for the TV Reviews category on my blog by December 31, 2018.

I looked at the Acquisitions section of my Google analytics in order to create a plan to achieve my objective. The following graph shows the breakdown of how people enter my website:

This chart made me realize that no one is finding my website through social media because I have not linked my blog on my social media accounts. I originally avoiding providing a link to my blog because I felt nervous about my friends and family reading my work, but I’m going to try adding the link to see if this helps to increase the number of people entering my site.

In order to increase the interest in TV Reviews, I’m also going to try posting for this category more often. I focussed on my Movie Reviews for my weekly posts, but once the semester is over I will have more time to post more frequently in both categories. If I post more often, this might result in more viewers returning to see what’s new. I can also try linking more related TV shows to movie reviews. There are many ways to increase views!

 

Work Cited

Sherrett, Monique. SFU Publishing 101, 30 October 2018, Harbour Centre, Vancouver, BC. Guest Lecture.

Peer Review #3: “Lessons of a Design Student”

Jason Chung’s blog “Lessons of a Design Student” has the potential for marketing opportunities, but he may need to narrow down his target audience to better understand what type of marketing would be the most appropriate for his website. Currently, Jason hopes to target an audience of all ages, but it is difficult to make a design that appeals to both children and professionals.

(Jason’s current target audience).

Matthew Stadler’s talk on “What is Publication?” could help Jason think about his audience more critically. At 1:20 in the video, Stadler (2010) explains that “publication is the creation of a public.” Stadler does not mean that everyone will be attracted to a website, but rather publication gives people the opportunity to create a certain type of public. Further on in the video at 5:35, Stadler (2010) also reminds viewers that “publication requires relationships and conversations.” In order for Jason to have meaningful conversations on his website (between himself and his readers), he should try targeting a certain age group or a group with a certain level of design competency. Since this blog is written clearly from the perspective of a “design student,” I would expect Jason’s target audience to be 18-25-year-old design students or people considering entering the design field, but it is possible to target a younger or older audience. He could also try looking at his Google Analytics to gain a better understanding of the audience he is already reaching (on Google Analytics, go to Audience, Demographics, Age).

If Jason’s target audience is interested in going into the design field, he will have a wide variety of marketing opportunities. He could potentially place a sponsored advertisement for a university that offers design courses, such as SFU. Jason could also have affiliate advertisements for software such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator (but this may be contradictory to his post “Design Software is Just Another Tool”). He could also have affiliate advertising for design books. If Jason decides to have any form of advertisement, I recommend he puts a disclaimer somewhere on his website that explains how he makes money from these advertisements. As Tom Bleymaier (2013) argues in his critical review on Maria Popvova’s advertising techniques, “it sure seems like [readers] should have all the information at hand to make their own choice.”

While Jason considers monetizing his blog, he should also consider altering his design to better indicate his desired audience. I recommend installing the plugin WP Hide Post. His POSIEL posts are not related to his blog’s topic, so I would recommend using this plugin to hide the process and assignment posts on his homepage. This will help his audience find his design posts faster. Jason should also consider adding colour, a header image, or a background image to give his website more flare. I have only taken one design course, but graphic design is very visual and, as of right now, Jason’s website is more text-heavy.

Beyond the lack of photos, there are lots of other design elements that are working well on Jason’s website. His website has a really strong sense of balance. The content is center-aligned, which leaves a lot of white space on the right and left sides of the screen (both on his homepage and on his blog posts). As Mauvé Page (2018) discussed in her design lecture to our class, white space is important for a variety of reasons. White space makes the page feel less cluttered, and also makes big blocks of texts feel less daunting for readers. Jason’s blog is mostly filled with text, but the white space makes the homepage feel clean and tidy rather than overwhelming or cluttered.

Even though the balance and use of white space are working well on Jason’s blog, he could use more contrast on his homepage and blog posts. Mauvé (2018) recommended “[using] contrast to create emphasis.” Contrast can be created through “colour, texture, size, and shapes” (Mauvé 2018). Jason could create contrast on his homepage by having an interesting header or background image. I noticed that Jason has a post called “Start with Sketching.” When I took IAT102 (Intro to Graphic Design) last summer, the course also emphasized the importance of sketching in graphic design. Since sketching is a big part of design, it might be interesting to have a bunch of different sketches as the background image. Just an idea!

Overall, Jason’s website is coming along nicely. Focusing more on his target audience and contrast on his homepage could help him increase his blog’s marketing potential.

 

Works Cited

  • Bleymaier, Tom. 2013On Advertising — Maria Popova. http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/
  • Page, Mauvé. October 2018. “Some Considerations for Web Design and Type On Screens.” Lecture at Simon Fraser University for Publishing 101.
  • Stadler, Matthew. 2010. “What is Publication?” Talk from the Richard Hugo House’s writer’s conference, Seattle, WA. May 21, 2010. https://vimeo.com/14888791

Bohemian Rhapsody: An Exciting Film but Inaccurate Queen Tribute (79%)

Bohemian Rhapsody will have you stomping your feet and singing in theatres, but it may also leave you irritated if you’re a devoted Queen fan. The movie follows the formation of the band with a focus on Freddie Mercury, capturing their experimentation with music and successes on tour. The film focuses closely on Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) as he struggles with his sexuality.

Looking at Bohemian Rhapsody strictly as a film, it was an exciting movie worth seeing on the big screen. The beginning of the film and band formation felt rushed; the movie quickly moved from concert to concert, which was entertaining but had me worried there wouldn’t be much of a storyline. In the first 20-30 minutes of the film, I began to wonder if this movie was just an excuse to have a cast dress up as the band and recreate their biggest moments. Fortunately, this feeling subsided as the movie progressed and the writing became more comedic and emotional.

The film had a strong cast that helped build up these comedic and emotional scenes. Rami Malek made the concert scenes feel real and energetic, while also making Mercury’s loneliness evident and overwhelming. Malek also manages to make record deals seem hilarious, but the humour in these scenes should also be attributed to Mike Meyers. That’s right—Mike Myers has a cameo. He plays the EMI executive Ray Foster. Though Myers’ screen time is brief, it was memorable.

The main criticism I’ve been gathering about this film is that there are major inaccuracies that were simply added as a means of making the movie dramatic. I must admit, I love Queen’s music but I didn’t know much about Freddie Mercury or any of the band members. Without much knowledge of the band, I genuinely enjoyed the story. Refusing to standby blissfully ignorant, I searched online for the main causes of frustration. This article highlights the two main concerns: the timing of Mercury’s HIV diagnosis, and portraying Mercury as a villain for quitting to make a solo album. Perhaps this is just a good reminder that even “true stories” in Hollywood are often, well, not the most truthful. I still recommend seeing this movie in theatres, but don’t walk away thinking the events portrayed are factual.

The most accurate fact highlighted in this movie was probably Freddie Mercury’s love of cats…

*If you’re interested in Bohemian Rhapsody, you may also enjoy A Star Is Born.

Week 9: Follow Me On My Data Trails

I must admit that I am not overly paranoid about the data trails I leave behind. I used to be extremely uncomfortable with the idea that I can be easily tracked, but for some reason that fear has subsided. Maybe that has something to do with the fact my data trail has not visibly affected my day-to-day life. Maybe that has something to do with how much work it is to avoid creating data trails. Maybe I’ve just given up. Regardless, I know Amazon, Google, Facebook, and more have absorbed mass amounts of information about me. I found Suzanne Norman’s (2015) article on “trying not to drop breadcrumbs in Amazon’s store” interesting because I didn’t expect the store not to accept cash. Our digital-focused world is increasing the difficulty to avoid leaving breadcrumbs.

I actually found it very interesting to discover how user data is analyzed from a business perspective. For this week’s lecture, we had Monique Sherrett present and discuss website monetization. Monique (2018) discussed how Google Analytics can provide information that can help improve your blog, such as knowing what people click on, how long they spend on pages, and what time people are typically accessing your website.

This lecture also led me to consider the possibility of monetizing my website. I don’t think my website would make any considerable amount of money, but I wouldn’t mind having affiliate ads or partnerships with specific theatres or movie companies. I don’t think these types of advertisements would take away from the integrity of my work because I am still focused on discussing movies, not theatres. If people were on my website and decided they wanted to buy tickets through my affiliate ads, great. If not, I’m fine with that too. Making money isn’t my focus.

Roshane encouraged us to consider what kinds of ads we would have on our websites. When I thought about different partnerships or affiliate advertisements I could have for my movie review blog, I thought of three potential companies: Cineplex, Landmark Cinemas, or Atom Tickets. Cineplex would be a great partnership because they are a large company and they often have a wider range of films than Landmark Cinemas (mostly because they have larger theatres). On the other hand, I have a more personal connection with Landmark Cinemas because I have worked at the Guildford location for just shy of seven years. Atom Tickets seems like a neutral company because their focus is allowing users to purchase tickets and concession in advance, skip the lines, and receive rewards. However, Atom Tickets currently only provides tickets for Landmark Cinemas, so these advertisements would still feel tied to Landmark.

I didn’t create an advertisement, but here is an example of my personal experience and love of Landmark.

I am in the red power ranger suit, and my coworker and manager are the other two power rangers. We did this promotion for the release of the new Power Rangers movie and had prize wheels, colouring stations, and more. I would be happy to partner with Landmark because they are a theatre that knows how to have fun and create “movie magic” for their guests.

 

Works Cited

  • Norman, Suzanne. 2015 “Trying not to drop breadcrumbs in Amazon’s store.” http://publishing.sfu.ca/2016/03/breadcrumbs-of-data/
  • Sherrett, Monique. October 2018. Presentation on monetization and Google Analytics. Lecture at Simon Fraser University for Publishing 101.

Beautiful Boy: A Compelling Real Story of Heartbreak and Addiction (73%)

Beautiful Boy captures the exhausting, cyclical nature of addiction and relapse. This movie is based on the real memoirs of father and son David and Nic Sheff, which follows Nic (Timothée Chalamet) as he struggles with his addiction to crystal meth. The film shows the relationship between the father and son through flashbacks, emphasizing the strength of their relationship and how it begins to crumble as the stressful, reoccurring heartbreak from addict behaviour becomes seemingly unstoppable.

Addiction is a sensitive subject to capture on screen, but the actors and director handled the subject with taste. Steve Carell demonstrated the breadth of his acting range, moving away from his typical roles in comedies to play Nic’s relentlessly loving father. Carell was also joined by his former costar from The Office, Amy Ryan, who plays the part of his ex-wife. Without a doubt, Chalamet deserves a round of applause (or perhaps an actual award) for his performance as Nic. It’s difficult to portray an addict, but Chalamet did an amazing job without ever feeling like he was overacting. Many actors have expressed the difficulty of portraying real people, but every actor, especially Chalamet, managed to do so in a convincing yet sensitive manner.

In regards to cinematography, there are many slow scenes that focus on specific characters, emphasizing their personal emotions. These scenes capture the internal struggles people face in different artistic ways: making conversations around them inaudible as they try to smile and laugh along with others, adding music that resembles a train increasing in speed, showing people lying alone on washroom floors.

Beautiful Boy received a high motion picture rating (rated R in the United States), but the film would be an excellent watch for mature teenagers as a means of starting discussions around drug addiction and the effect on friends and family. It could be used as an educational tool because it is based on a real story and isn’t overly graphic.

Beautiful Boy is an emotional and personal story handling a heavy topic, but the most beautiful aspect of this movie is the undercurrent of hope throughout adversity.

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV): 80%

The Netflix original series A Series of Unfortunate Events artistically captures the bleak yet hilarious world that was first created by Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) in his novels. Even though the story focuses on the lives of three orphan children whose parents died in a fire, the casting, art direction, and writing make this show entertaining and appropriate for all ages.

The entire cast makes this show exciting and comedic, but Patrick Warburton and Neil Patrick Harris deserve additional praise. Warburton plays the narrator, Lemony Snicket, and faithfully captures the same charismatic style Daniel Handler executed throughout his novels. He constantly begs the audience to look away from the horror presented in the story, and he also offers definitions of words and phrases in his narration (exactly as the narrator does in the novels). Having Warburton walk through the various settings and engage directly with the camera further makes the narration engaging and compelling. Rather than having Snicket speak through voice-over, Warburton’s physical presence pushes his narration towards breaking the fourth wall.

In addition to Warburton’s character and performance, Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf perfectly. His character is goofy yet disturbing (perhaps it’s just the unibrow that’s off-putting). Harris emphasizes Olaf’s wit and silliness working alongside Esmé Squalor (Lucy Punch), Olaf’s trendy lover.

The sets, props, and costumes also contribute to the joys of watching this series. They make use of colour to better set the tone, using lots of greys to make scenes feel gloomy. The extravagance of some settings, such as Aunt Josephine’s house and Esmé’s “fashionable” penthouse, make the show more aesthetically pleasing and captivating. The props even bring to life some of the most unrealistic elements of Handler’s story — such as the self-sustaining hot air mobile home.

The costumes are also extravagant, and they add further comedy to the story as Olaf and his crew dress up time and time again to successfully conceal their identities. Olaf has some of the most absurd outfits . . . but I’ll let them be a surprise!

What makes this show a true piece of art is the writing. I like to attribute the wit and story to Handler, but adapting those novels into only a couple of episodes each is a difficult task that deserves praise. The episodes have a fluid, forward momentum; there are no filler episodes that leave you begging for them to get to the point. The story captures the style of Handler in a short picture of time.

If you enjoyed the book series, you have no excuse. Watch the first two seasons of this Netflix series as soon as possible!

 

*This article was originally written for SFU’s student newspaper, The Peak.

Week 8: Copyright

This week we had guest speaker Jon Festinger educate our class on copyright law. I was looking forward to this lecture because I have always found copyright law confusing, especially with people constantly taking items from the internet and doing almost anything they please. What surprised me most about this lecture was the amount of court cases that resulted in the copyright infringers walking away victorious (such as Preston v. 20th Century Fox regarding Ewoks). Clearly copyright can still be manipulated and benefits larger companies more than individuals.

Even though there have been some questionable court cases rewarding infringers, there has also been improvements in copyright laws. Jon Festinger (2018) briefly discussed the challenges of giving copyright for group stories that originated in oral storytelling communities. It was a relief to learn that royalties now go to the First Nations band instead of the author who transcribes their stories (Festinger 2018).

I was also interested in the discussion of moral rights and parodies. For some reason, I always forget that parodies and satire are allowed under copyright. This should be easy to remember with the abundance of memes on the internet, but there are also tons of mashup videos and reaction videos, which Festinger warned us against. I don’t typically think of the internet as a place following rules, so perhaps this is why I expected memes to be just another breach of copyright. I was also interested in moral right because I assumed that once you sold a work (specifically a commissioned art piece), it would no longer be your own. It makes sense, however, that you would have the right to the integrity of your work because you created the piece with an expectation for how it would be presented.

Overall, this presentation made me reflect on the content I have been posting on my blog and think about how I am giving credit where it is due. In the next couple of weeks before the end of the semester, I am planning to do a full review of my website to ensure I cite all academic and art pieces I use.

 

Work Cited

  • Festinger, Jon. October 2018. Presentation on Copyright Law. Lecture at Simon Fraser University for Publishing 101.