Sunday, October 28, 2007

Camera Angles from the Sea Inside

Shot and Meaning: high angle Cu on Ramon as he explains his wish to die, giving a feeling of judgment being placed upon him by Julia. This is followed by Statics of everyone in room as his voice carries over, saying "we all die"; the shots allow the director to show how Ramon's words have an effect on each individual, almost paralyzing them with the thought.
Significance: Ramon is being introduced, as well as the theme of the movie; the shots serve to bring you in and introduce you to the gravity of the situation and the grim idea of what is going on.

Shot and Meaning: Progressively closer eye level shots beginning at Medium distance, trading between Ramon and Julia as they each take their turns speaking. Each switch forces audience to focus on the speaker and what they have to say. As the shots get closer and closer, a feeling of intimacy and honesty is created as Ramon and Julia discuss.
Significance:Ramon is finally being open about the accident, and begins to tell Julia about it. The cinematography makes you feel that you, Julia, and Ramon are all becoming closer and closer emotionally as he continues with his story.

Shot and Meaning: CU on CD player then pan right as Nessun Dorma plays, establishing the source of the music-it's in the room, not coming from editing. Medium straight on of him as he backs up, and then runs towards the window, jumping out to fly away. Changes to 1st person view, trucking over the landscape as Pavarotti's voice blares, almost carrying Ramon on the waves of the music.
Significance: Ramon daydreams that he can leave his crippled body and do whatever he wishes, and so he begins by walking, then takes it further to flying to Julia.

The Sea Inside and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Compare and Contrast:
While The Sea Inside and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly had several things in common, i feel that they were very different variations of two similar creatures. To begin with the few similarities, the first, and most obvious is that both main characters are in a state of immobility; Jean-Dominique Bauby with a case of locked in syndrome, and Ramon Sampedro a quadriplegic. The second thing I observed was that they both felt a need to narrate their stories; JdB wrote a memoir, while Ramon made a video documenting how he went about guiding his friends through the steps necessary to kill him. A third similarity was their use of imagination to leave their bodies behind and do as they wish; Ramon flying over the Spain to Julia, while JdB would converse and chat with Napolean's wife. This is the point at which I feel the more prominent similarities end, and the differences stand out more; Ramon wanted to die, while JdB tried to find a way to survive and stay busy, so as to keep himself alive, and not just in the physical sense. Ramon also was able to speak and verbally communicate with those around him, while JdB was not; he could only blink. Their locations and tenures in their handicapped states were also quite different; Ramon stayed with family who cared for him over his 28 years, while JdB stayed at the Berck-Sur-Mer hospital for only a handful. These things added up to extract different feelings from me; The Sea Inside was much more powerful to me, because it was a visual portrait of the people and their feelings, while the drama loomed like the proverbial elephant in the room. I felt that because the issue was more controversial and had a darker feel, it only served to increase the gravity of the movie. Meanwhile, DBATB had more light, happy moments, as JdB attempted to find that silver lining as much as he could, and often employed his clever humor, which was paralleled by a darker, grim form of amusement in the Sea Inside. This is why the Sea inside held more weight for me in my head, compared to the DBATB.

The Sea Inside Reflection

Because of the powerful messages, acting, and cinematography, I truly enjoyed The Sea Inside. It was a simple movie based around a controversial theme, and it made me think, feel, and strongly react to what was occurring on the screen. Normally, I am against any one committing suicide, mainly because those who do it are not in the "right" state of mind; they are not thinking reasonably or using logic-instead they are caving to the tidal wave of emotions that is flooding their head. However, with Ramon Sampedro's story, i felt differently; he was a man fully in control of his mind, he knew what he wanted, and how he would have to get it. He was depressed and worn down, but this was no ordinary suicide; he was ashamed to be living in his current state, and wanted to be able to leave it behind. In a case like this, I feel that the courts should have given him legal consent to have someone assist in his suicide. They knew that he had been a quadraplegic for 28 years; this wasn't some spur of the moment decision. He had wanted to die for a long time, and had obviously thought it through. This alone should have been enough for him to be allowed to die. I greatly admire his friends who were brave enough to help him, knowing that they were contributing to a friend's death and doing something illegal simultaneously.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Final Week

In this final section, Anthony Bourdain goes into detail on the life of Scott Bryan; a brilliant, successful chef who is a professional with an exceptional love affair with cooking. Bourdain compares Scott to himself, describing the dramatic contrasts in their methods and paths to their current positions; Scott was methodical, logical, and planned ahead, while Anthony was always chasing the money, and had to stack his failures one after another to create a stairway to success.
Bourdain then details his most recent adventure to the book being published-an exotic week spent in Tokyo, experiencing tastes, smells, textures, and styles he never knew existed. "We were brought frozen sake, thick, cloudy, utterly delicious. The first sip seemed to worm its way directly into my brain like an intoxicating ice-cream headache." (280) He then closes by first giving a checklist to aspiring chefs, and then reviewing his life, emphasizing the fact that it is nothing short of a miracle that he is alive and doing alright, thanks largely to the people around him, who he is very close to.

Literary Review:
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly was a creative, interesting memoir that the author Anthony Bourdain used to do many things- vent, love, laugh, and narrate-with the main focus being to give the reader an in depth, behind the scenes look at what took place in the kitchens for which he labored. His execution of imagery, tone, and word choice allowed him to effectively express his thoughts so as to properly paint the images and memories he needed to tell his story.
First of the trio comes imagery; Bourdain employs this method almost immediately, pulling you down into the depths of his memoir, describing his first realization that "food is good" when he first tasted the cold soup Vichyssoise..."I remember everything about the experience: the way our waiter ladled it from a silver tureen into my bowl; the crunch of tiny chopped chives he spooned on as garnish; the rich, creamy taste of leek and potato; the pleasurable shock, the surprise that it was cold."(10) Imagery was a common tool for describing important parts in his life, such as when he realized that he truly didn't have what it takes-he had made the foolish mistake of asking for a band aid, and so was shown up in front of the whole Mario-crew..."Tyrone turned slowly to me, looked down through bloodshot eyes, the sweat dripping off his nose, and said, "Whachoo want, white boy? Burn cream? A Band-Aid?" followed by Tyrone exhibiting his hands..."They looked like the claws of some monstrous science-fiction crustacean, knobby and calloused under wounds old and new. I watched, transfixed, as Tyrone-his eyes never leaving mine-reached slowly under the broiler and, with one naked hand, picked up a glowing-hot sizzle-platter, moved it over to the cutting board and set it down in front of me. He never flinched." (34)
The second tool Bourdain used to get his ideas across was tone, as shown here where he describes his former self with the disdain of someone looking down upon a lowly creature; "Stabilized on methadone, I became nearly unemployable by polite society: a shiftless, untrustworthy coke-sniffer, sneak thief and corner-cutting hack, toiling in obscurity in the culinary backwaters." (144) He could also use it to show the good times, of course, here describing his sous chef, hero, and friend Steven: "...behaves like an utter pig at times, freely discussing his every digestive, dermatological and sexual manifestation with anyone within hearing. And this...this, dear reader, is my closest and most trusted friend and associate." (218) Bourdain also used tone to create a relieved feeling as he looked back upon his years in the culinary game: "I was comfortably ensconsed in secure digs, with a wife who still-remarkably-found me to be amusing on occasion. I had a job I loved, in a successful restaurant...and i was alive, for chrissakes! I was still around!" (268)
Lastly, the third and final means of expression for Bourdain was word choice; his vocabulary would flucuate from being quite crude at times- "motherf***er"(224 and others) and "love-chunks" (225) on the softer end of the spectrum, to ornate and intelligent-sounding. " a Byzantine rondelay of transactions as the cooks settled up the previous week's drug debts.."(22) (even if the topic itself is crude). He also used loaded words to create specific ideas in the reader's head; "My simple Italian lunch, re-creating a home-cooked meal prepared by a gangster character in the book, must have looked to the chef like roadkill" (275)
In closing, Anthony Bourdain used countless variations of Imagery, Tone, and Word Choice to express the ideas and messages he desired, while creating detailed images in the reader's head. These methods, coupled with his rich experiences made for a very interesting memoir, allowing one to experience what it was truly like to be a chef in the dangerous world that is the culinary underbelly.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Week 5

Part I
comments are here:
and here:

Part II
In this section-Dessert-Anthony Bourdain spends more time describing the characters and relationships that take place in his kitchen. He begins by detailing what he desires in an ideal Sous-Chef, and tells of his closest friend Steven; a man of many talents, among them being a careful observer, an excellent cook, and a reliable person who gets anything and everything done, no matter what. There is also a "Level of Discourse". The manner of exchange in the kitchen is likened to that of a pirate ship; low class, complicated, and vulgar. There are dos and dont's, as well as several languages and common phrases that create what is known as the international language of cuisine. There are also other bodies in the restaurant besides cooks and waiters; they are the fullback-esque runners, the lonely and suspicious night porter, and "The Chef's Friend"; the bar tender. These are the final key cogs in the machinery that is a successful restaurant. The second to last chapter is focused on Adam; a friend of Steven's who Bourdain describes as [God's] "personal bread baker.." However, despite whatever greatness he possesses with the dough, Adam is a complete wreck; he's a vulgar, maniacal, megalomaniac of a fool who can't control his life, constantly getting into drugs, trouble, and debt. What Bourdain loves about this ultimate case of good-with-the-bad is that, no matter what goes wrong in Adam's life, he can always create the bread of the gods. Lastly, Bourdain describes what it takes to run a good ship, explaining his tough love attitude in the kitchen that is only surpassed by his fanatical loyalty to the members of his crew, forever endearing him to them.

I didn't really enjoy Bourdain's narrative of his beloved kitchen-speak, as i found it pretty dull and uninteresting. These people were simply using variations of swear words and sexual terms (amusing as they may be) as a replacement for language, which just dumbs down what you're doing. I've experienced this, and found i didn't like it when used in excess. The only thing i managed to squeeze out of this section was a review of spanish insults. I did like reading about Steven and Adam though; they were brilliant guys capable of amazing things, while being sub-human at best sometimes-their faults almost completely nullifying any success they had at moments. Bourdain's tales of their humor and achievements helped him to rebound after a somewhat bland (though i'm sure he meant it to be hilarious) previous chapter. As for the chapter of "other bodies", it was nice to read about, because it filled in the gaps of the restaurant, putting a name with a face, so to speak; adding in the final characters who the cooks interacted with. Bourdain also gave me a new way to look at a bar tender: he glamorized the man serving drinks and lending a sympathetic ear as a creature of power who was to be treated as an equal; he could supply free drinks after all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Week 4: Quote and Summary

"What do you know about meat?" (161)
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

This quote stood out to me because it served as a summary of what Bourdain experienced in the first half of his life: tough luck, foolish mistakes, and unproductive efforts. In this scene he is being interviewed for a steak house as chef, and everything is going swimmingly. He is rattling off all the right answers without flaw. However, as a final question, his potential employer asks him, "What do you know about meat?" but Bourdain misheard it through his thick Scottish accent as replacing "meat" with "me''. In a gamble requiring a little chutzpah, he responded "Next to nothing!" and so blew the interview.
Part 4 Summary:
In part 4, Bourdain goes through three experiences; his mistake at the steakhouse, a period of time spent as chef at a Tuscan business, and a narration of "a day in the life". As I already touched upon the steakhouse experience (see my quote above), i'll continue with the Tuscan business. This was an important point for Bourdain because he learned a lot about what he could do with simple, high quality ingredients in his brief interlude. He also learned more about running a kitchen and operating with upper management-things he carried over into his next section; a day in the life. He simply describes in extensive detail what he is thinking and doing during his shifts at the famous Les Halles restaurant in New York, where he is executive chef.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Reflection: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I very much liked The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby; it was an easy read that still used colorful imagery and elaborate wording. Being the former Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Elle, it makes sense that, even contained in his "diving bell", Bauby is still able to articulate his thoughts so clearly.
Although the topics of his book were simple-memories of friends, adventures, food-I still found his stories interesting to read about. He was able to make seemingly uninteresting topics such as a sponge bath evoke various feelings and emotions. At the same time, his recall of detail was impressive-he himself said that he had become very skilled in recycling memories, instead of leftovers in his current state. He has no difficulty in displaying this; describing "The sour smell of a New York bar. The odor of poverty in a Rangoon market." (103) or even his beloved sausage: "A knobbly Lyons rosette, for example, very dry and coarsely chopped. Every slice melts a little on your tongue before your start chewing..." (37) And, while i enjoyed his writing about every day thoughts and experiences, I would have liked to learn more about his memories though, rather than focusing on the present quite so much. Perhaps some stories of his work at Elle or his childhood would have done it for me.
At the end of the book, I realized that, during my time spent reading, it didn't really occur to me that Jean-Dominique would die in the end. The last few pages where he detailed his day of the stroke, and his thoughts really brought it home that the story was done; in the book and for him.
To close, I truly enjoyed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and though I don't think I will be reading it again anytime soon, it was definitely an interesting story that made me think; about the things I hadn't tried, the chances even now i haven't taken that I regret, and my ability to move through this world, to interact, and to communicate-such simple things, but now a little larger to me.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Week Three; Part 2

Part Two

Halfway through Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain has traveled through the first 25 years of his life, which has been almost entirely dedicated to cooking. This walk of destiny was started back off the coast of France on a small oyster boat, where Bourdain tried his first raw oyster, and loved it. He realized over time that food can do so many things, and he wanted to control food, so as to use these things. He has graduated from the CIA, and has proceeded to use that coveted degree, skills, and his work ethic to land job after job as chef of failing and flailing restaurants. He always comes in for the last gas, receiving his fat chef's pay check, blowing it on heroin and coke, and then skipping off to the next restaurant in need of aid. Bourdain himself regretted the time and money he wasted trying to be head chef and getting high; he could have taken an easier, lower paying job, worked his way up in a successful business, and been comfortably high up on the chain of command for as long as he pleased, but no-he had to get the big money now, the heroin now, the coke now. His lack of direction has really irritated me throughout this book, but it has had the effect of drawing me into the story. I'm glad to see his real-life character development unfolding however, as he is realizing he can't live the way he is if he ever expects to do what he wants to. It only seems logical that he makes some serious progress and changes in his life, considering where he is now in the world, with his own t.v. show, and the executive chef of Les Halles in New York.

Week Three; part 1

Part One

As of this third week, Bourdain has left the Culinary Institute of America with hopes, dreams, and big plans. He quickly lands a job at the exclusive Rainbow Room atop the Rockefeller Center, his "first experience in the big time." (105) He developed strong, if not odd, relationships with his fellow cooks, who eventually grew to respect him. Due to his skill and unmatched work ethic, Bourdain was eventually thrust into a small position of power as shop steward, but to his dismay, was swiftly "asked" to step down. Seeing just how things worked, Bourdain quickly jumped ship, heading off to make a name for himself elsewhere in the world of food. A good friend of his, Sam G. had begun to put together a kitchen, and soon Bourdain was neck deep in drugs, poor business decisions, and his first experience of full-scale failure. It wasn't long before he found himself toiling in one backwater dive after another, settling for terrible kitchens and crews in order to receive the larger paycheck that comes with the revered title of chef. He became "more of an undertaker than a doctor." (133) delivering several floundering restaurants down to the bottom. After a half-dozen failures, constant drug use, and no clue as to where his life was going, Bourdain decided "that it was time, really time, to try to climb out" of the hole he had dug himself.

Part One (II)
Anthony Bourdain was born in New York City on June 25th, 1956, but he was raised by his foodie parents in Leonia, New Jersey. When he was just a child in France he first began to experience and appreciate food, in all its forms and glories. He unproductively spent two years at Vassar College, while working in Provincetown, Massachusetts during the summer. It was here that he realized he had to learn and develop if he was to become anything in the world of food, so he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He has written numerous successful books, including Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, The Bobby Gold Stories, Bone in the Throat, and Gone Bamboo. His works on cooking, food, and general culinary operations have appeared in The New York Times, The Times, and The Observer, among many others. He also is currently a contributing authority for Food Arts magazine. Most recently, he is the Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles, and has a program (No Reservations) on the Travel Channel in which he tours the world, professing knowledge and advice to viewers.


Official Site of Anthony Bourdain. January, 2006. Bloomsbury Publishing. 10/6/2007.
Anthony Bourdain. 10/3/2007. Wikipedia. 10/6/2007.
Meet Anthony Bourdain. January, 2005. The Travel Channel. 10/6/2007.