Archive for February, 2008

Movie Poster Analysis



This is a movie poster for the Japanese film, “My Neighbor Totoro”. I chose this poster because this is my one-year-old daughter’s favorite movie and because it is a very, very cute movie with an incredibly creative plot. This movie was originally written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 1988. It was re-released in English by Disney in 2007.

The lighting in this poster is very interesting. There appears to be a hard spotlight coming in from the left, leaving the top half of Totoro in the dark. It was done this way because they are standing at the bus stop and the light is meant to be coming from the bus (which, by the way, is a big furry cat with like 16 legs). The spot light creates a very fast falloff with dense cast and attached shadows. The light is shinning directly on the girl, Satsuki, which really brightens up the color of her outfit and umbrella, really the only color found in the whole poster (besides the title). This makes her the focal point. The spot light also accentuates how big Totoro is because he is so large that he only fits into a small portion of the light. It looks like there is also some background lighting. This draws some attention to the surroundings (which play a huge role in the story-line) and it provides a sense of depth.

The composition and framing of this picture are nice. The sign acts as a graphic vector, pointing to the sky, leading your eye to the title. I think it could be argued that the spots on Totoro’s chest and his ears could be graphic vertical vectors as well. These vertical vectors along with the large amount of headroom draw attention to the towering trees and the weather (rain). There is an equal amount of room left in the framing on both sides as well as the bottom which makes a nice, balanced composition. The lighting, composition, and framing of this picture all contribute to the creation of meaning in this poster. This movie is about becoming more in tune with nature and your surroundings. It is also a film that is meant to encourage you to use your imagination and become more aware of your child-like self. I think these are things that can be seen in this poster.

Some of the other meaningful things in this poster may not be quite as evident unless you are a big Totoro nerd like me. Both Satsuki and Totoro’s facial expressions suggest that they are surprised or shocked by something we cannot see. Their expressions are the signifier and the light, which is the cat bus is the signified. If you have not seen the movie, you would not know what the signified aspect of this sign is but, it may encourage you to see the movie so you can find out? I think it is funny that both characters are looking directly at the viewer rather than to the left or at each other because this emphasizes the mystery of the signified aspect of this sign. Most of the signs in this picture have paradigmatic relations because they create meaning through each other. For example, Totoro is a forest spirit (a symbolic part of nature) and he blends into the background whereas Satsuki, stands out. She has an umbrella to “protect” her from the rain while he has a small leaf that drips the rain onto his nose. There is also a very symbolic sign that I never noticed in this picture until now and that is, that Satsuki’s sister, Mei is not in the photo but she is still seen if you look closely. In the movie, Mei is sleeping on Satsuki’s back. Satsuki has short hair and Mei has longer hair worn in pigtails. If you look closely, you can see that Mei is not there and that Satsuki has Mei’s pigtails. This is a symbolic sign because the original 1988 movie was directed with only one girl. The story was later re-written with two and Mei was added into the film. There is some metonymy in this poster as well. It seems obvious that they are at a bus stop because of the sign that they are standing next to. We can determine this without even knowing what the sign says (unless you speak Japanese). It is possible that there is some connotation that I am not picking up on because this is a film from a different culture. But, a great movie!


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Album Art




This is the album cover for the Beatle’s 1969 album Abbey Road. This photo was done with high key lighting. The sun is shinning down from the top left, lighting up the group members and the road. It is obvious that there is not another light source because there are highly defined cast shadows and dense attached shadows everywhere. There is a lot of form and texture to be seen in this photo because of the attached shadows in their clothing and in the road itself.  

The composition and framing of this photo are very interesting. The white lines going down the center of the road create a graphic vector that lead your eye through the photo and into the background or horizon line. The direction the group members are facing and walking also create a vector that points to the right. Their position suggests movement but there was no lead room given in the framing. This makes the right side of the photo appear to be cut off too abruptly. It almost looks like John Lennon is going to run into something or have to stop walking. Their walking legs are in unison and also create two diagonal vectors that point to the bottom corners of the photo. This is a long shot where the framing allows for a lot of head room. This emphasizes the scenery and applies less direction to the band members. I think this was done on purpose to draw attention to “Abbey Road”. It also makes it seem like we are looking down on the Beatles and that they are weighed down by the top half of the photo. It is not necessarily what you would expect to see in a popular band’s album cover because they are looking away from the camera, they are far away, and they are only a small part of their surroundings. It is hard to feel any kind of connection with these band members. This brings us to the question of why? This composition and framing was obviously chosen purposefully so what meaning were they hoping to imply?

If you have heard anything about the meaning found in most Beatle’s albums after 1967 you would know that they are supposedly full of signs, mostly symbolic ones. There was a very drawn out of proportion rumor spread nationwide in 1967 that Paul McCartney was killed in a terrible car accident and secretly replaced by a look-alike, William Campbell. The album covers are filled with symbolic signs of Paul’s death that are still being talked about today. This album cover in particular contains several signs that are only noticed by people who know the debate about Paul’s death – that is why they are symbolic. The most obvious is how all of the members are with their left foot forward except Paul, he is the only one out of sync. Paul is the only one who is bare foot which is  a synecdoche that leads people to believe that he did in fact die because people are buried without shoes on in Europe. The clothing of all of the Beatle’s creates a syntagmatic relation because together, they represent deeper meaning. John Lennon is dressed in all white which represents a Christ-like figure or a minister. Next, Ringo is dressed in all black meaning he is the undertaker. Then, Paul who is dressed in an outdated suit with bare feet suggests he is a corpse. Last is George, wearing all denim suggesting that he is the grave digger. The license plate on the VW bug to the left says 28IF which is how old Paul would have been had he been alive. These are all displaced codes that were arguably intentional. It could also be argued that they are only there by coincidence but, these same type of symbolic signs are seen over and over again in other album covers, photographs, and song lyrics. Most people believe that the Beatle’s were just having fun leading people to believe the ridiculous rumor by adding these signs on purpose even though they have been known to deny it. These signs have developed a myth that is still highly debated today. 

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That’s Questionable!

On page 65, Lester says, “images can be used to persuade and to perpetuate ideas that words alone cannot”. I think there are many instances where words can have more meaning than an image. Words can explain things that may not be noticeable in an image. Words can be translated across cultures while often times an image without written explanation can be miscommunicated. I believe images can definitely be used to persuade and perpetuate ideas but, I think it is questionable to state that words alone cannot. For example, if I were to describe an image to someone without them being able to see it, couldn’t they possibly be persuaded to believe the message the image portrays? 

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That’s Questionable!

In chapter 3, Lester is analyzing the physiology of the eye and he says, “Humans are the only animals who cry”. Even though scientists DO believe that humans are the only animals who cry emotional tears, other animals still produce tears. It is impossible to really determine whether or not other animals produce emotional tears. And, there are a lot of animals who “cry” emotionally, they just don’t shed tears while doing so. In my opinion, Lester tends to make a lot of bold statements in this book. This just happened to be one of them that came across as interesting to me. I am sure that he meant to imply that other animals do not cry “emotional” tears but, he did not say that specifically which makes his statement questionable.

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Composition & Framing

This is a photograph of French soldiers patrolling the area around the airport in Ndjamena, Chad after rebels tried to overthrow their president, Idriss Deby. It is framed so that the tank has plenty of lead room. This, along with the horizontal index vector coming out of the tank give the photo a sense of movement. At first glance the focus of this photo does not seem to be directed in the way that you would expect because there is not a selective focus of the foreground. In other words the billboard in the background is fully focused and initially comes across as a distraction to what is thought to be important in this photo. However, once you find out that the billboard is actually a political poster of president Deby and his wife, it changes the meaning of the photo. While the poster clearly makes a statement about the message Deby is hoping the citizens of Chad will buy into, the French soldiers and the tank are there in contrast to control the people’s distaste for him. If the poster was of something with less or no significance, the composition of this photo would probably stay the same but they would most likely blur the background so that it would not distract the viewers attention away from the tank. The other element of this composition that makes this photograph a little unusual is the tree branch hanging down through the very center of the foreground. It could be considered a vertical vector because it draws attention and moves your eyes down the center of the photo but, it is distracting and it seems to divide the photo into two separate parts. In a sense, it also kind of provides a station point for the viewer. It makes you feel like you are standing under that tree, safely watching what is going on. The contrast in color between the left and the right side of the photo also contributes to its divisional aspects. The left side is bright, the lively green tree contrasts nicely with the blue sky, while the right side is darker with less contrasting colors and full of shadows. Overall, this is a nice composition because there is adequate headroom and it is equally weighed out because the tree behind the poster in the background fills in the left side of the composition, balancing out the weight of the tank on the right.   

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Fine Art – Lighting



I have selected two late 18th century paintings. The first is a self portrait by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun (1790) and the second is a portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley (1770). I chose these particular paintings because their naturalism provides images that are very similar to photography. The self portrait of Vigee-Lebrun is such a beautiful painting! She is glowing. The key light is coming in from the right and there is a very slow falloff because the rest of her face is softly lit by an evenly diffused light coming in from the left. The background light gives the painting depth while the back light illuminates her figure and highlights her white bonnet. The spot light creates attached shadows within her dress which gives it a soft, fluffy texture. The key light also casts her shadow onto the painting she is working on but, the diffused light from the left softens it. High key lighting was used in this painting because it is meant to stimulate and inspire the viewer. She is not smiling yet this painting is very cheerful. It provokes a sense of independence and self-reliance that is very refreshing and energetic. The Copley painting, on the other hand, is done in low key lighting which creates a much more contemplative, moody portrait. The main reason for attributing this painting to one with low key lighting is because there is no background light. The key light is coming in from the left and is harshly lighting the right side of his face, causing a fast falloff. The bold contrast between light and dark can be attributed to a very low intensity fill light coming in from the right. The Vigee-Lebrun painting makes me want to go out and accomplish something great while the Copley painting makes me want to sit and think about the great things I would like to accomplish.

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