Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Norwich Castle

Norwich castle has a very interesting and long history. It is today a museum and has a diverse range of displays. There are quite a mixture of art and exhibition sections in the castle such as Anglo-Saxon and Viking, Modern Art, Crome and Cotman Art Gallery, Natural History Galleries, Decorative Arts, Boudica, Special Exhibitions and the Castle Keep. Additionally I have also been to the Battlements tour and the Dungeon tour which are added features to the museum.

The castle was built in 1066 and is over 900 years ago. The castle has been a royal palace, a prison and also a museum. In the museum it says ‘But this castle was much more than a military base. It was built to show wealth, power and prestige. It was a royal castle, fit for the King. During the King’s occasional visit, the government of the country took place here’. The castle represented power and the King could show off his wealth best here. There was a room made in the castle to represent specifically the wealth and power of the King. The castle was a place where the King could show off his power and money.

The castle was transformed into a prison in the 14th Century. Throughout this time the prisons were always overcrowded and conditions were awful up until the 18th Century. The walls in the cells were crumbling and there were no roofs. Rich prisoners though could rent bedding. One interesting thing about the museum is that you get a good idea of life in the prisons and what the prisoners ate and what they did with their time. From 1822-1827 prisoners were made to work by walking on treadmills, making shoes and tailoring sacks.

Norwich castle was also a place for public hangings and at times crowds from around 20,000 gathered around to see the event. Hangings eventually stopped in 1868 because people’s attitudes towards it were changing and people now thought that it was wrong.

In terms of food, the rich prisoners would get a better quality meal depending on what they have to offer to the prison officer. By the end of the 19thcentury however regulations changed and everyone had to eat the same food no matter what your wealth was.

I enjoyed the Battlemans tour in the castle because I was standing 120 feet of the ground and got a very nice view of Norwich. From the tour I learned that Norwich has over 30 medieval churches which a lot more than London or anywhere else in the UK. I also learnt that the market place was a lot bigger in the past.

The Dungeon tour gives you an idea of life for the prisoners. There were several forms of punishment in the dungeons such as Iron masks which were used for women who talk and nag too much. This was around the 1700-1800 period. In worst case scenarios some prisoners were left in dungeons that had no light or windows and only had one bucket.

The Crome and Cotman exhibitions were very interesting. One painting that I really liked was by Miles Edmund Cotman which is in this blog, the one with the trees and bull. Miles Edmund Cotman and John Joseph Cotman were sons of John Sell Cotman who is regarded as one of the greatest British artists ever alongside J.M.W Turner and constable. He was also the leading member of the Norwich school of artists.

The Natural History Galleries contains stuffed animals such as lions, dears, a polar bear and tigers.

Boudica was the queen of the iceni people who lived in the northern part of East Anglia. The Boudica exhibition talks about the upsiring of the iceni people and the attempts to overturn the Romans. Boudica destroyed Colchester, London and another city before eventually losing the battle.

The Timothy Gunner Gallery and the Anglo Saxon and Viking exhibition were also very impressive but I did not get enough time to look around and analyse these.

Overall I really enjoyed my visit to Norwich castle and it has taught me a lot about the city I currently live in. It has a lot of variety and character and you learn lots from it, had a good day.

I obtained this information from discussions inside the castle or from the exhibitions in the museum.

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at:

Gregory's myspace profile and his blog is at:

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Crime genre- The Usual Suspects

What are the conventions and features that make The Usual Suspects (1995) an identifiable crime film? Furthermore how does it challenge and play with conventions of the crime and thriller genre?

Gregory Rikowski

It has been generally agreed that genre is a word meaning a certain ‘type or ‘kind’ of film (Neale, 2000, p.6). There are certain conventions of the crime genre that make it familiar and identifiable to the audience (Neale, 2000, p.42). Aspects such as iconography ‘auteurism’ and other conventions place the crime genre into a particular ‘type’ of film (Neale, 2000, p.10, p.13). In this essay I will be arguing to why (The Usual Suspects, directed by Bryan Singer, 1995) has certain conventions and characteristics that make it different from other crime films. The genres of this film involve crime, mystery and suspense. Neale says that many of these genres can overlap and can cross over (Neale, 2000, p.72). The Usual Suspects uses different types of genres that complement each other. The clips from The Usual Suspects that I will mention will function to support my argument. It is said that The Usual Suspects uses suspense and the thriller genre to torment the audience (Mason, 2002, p.163). In general crime films are often thought of as having ‘victims’ of crime and also the life of a crime figure (Crime and Gangster films, p.1).

Even though to some extent The Usual Suspects is typical of a classical Hollywood narrative in regard to the crime genre because of its logical and structured plot, it does have some key differences that can be looked at. Stephen Neale argues that most detective stories are resolved and that the criminal gets caught and punished (Neale, 2000, p.74). The Usual Suspects however is different because the story is unresolved and we do not know what happens to Keyser Soze or Verbal Kint who is hugely suspected in the end. The Usual Suspects has certain identifiable iconography uses such as guns, police cars, blood and hats (Neale, 2000, p.14). The film involves conflict between police and the criminals as well which is a common theme in crime films (Mason, 2002, p.163). What is unusual however is how the film conventions are being used. Audiences are familiar with seeing certain types of crime films that involve conventions which we are used to (Neale, 2000, p.9). Bryan Singer however makes this idea complicated. Crime and gangster films create a complicated moral scenario for the spectator (genre, p.1). The Usual Suspects has been linked very closely to Hollywood because of its stars and its connections and involvement with Hollywood, yet it is different from mainstream Hollywood filming (Neale, 2000,p.20). Fran Mason argues that because of The Usual Suspects’ mixing of codes like theft, suspense and conspiracy are used. They are so self-reflexive to an extent that these textualisations become the films narrative (Mason, 1996, p.164). The texts therefore overpower the narrative as a whole story. So the film The Usual Suspects therefore is not a straightforward narrative.

The criminal named Keyser Soze is a mastermind of a criminal who forces the main criminals to do a very dangerous job (Mason, 2002, p.163). When Kobayashi (actor Pete Postlethwaite) tells Verbal Kint (actor Kevin Spacey) and the other criminals about the job that is asked of them they become very fearful because of Keyser Soze’s because use of his high profile. It is almost like the criminals are becoming the victims of more of a dangerous organization, but are being paid for it. We know this because Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) got shot trying to run away. Earlier in the film Verbal explains this to Dave Kujan (actor Chazz Palminteri) about Keyser Soze.

‘‘It was Keyser Soze, Agent Kujan. I mean the Devil himself. How do you shoot the Devil in the back?’’ (Faber and Faber, 1996, p.122).

Keyser Soze adds mystery and suspense to The Usual Suspects because he is shown as a criminal who knows the act of crime better than anybody else. Additionally the way he is talked about throughout the film is as though he is fictional and not real. Keyser Soze is mentioned by Verbal Kint, Dave Kujan, and Daniel Metzheiser (actor Ron Gilbert) and many others but we do not hear from Soze himself. Mystery in the film is also used through the music which is suspenseful and mysterious and adds to the notion of uncertainty. Near the beginning for example, when the credits are being shown, the music is being played with the camera tracking along a river in the dark, to suggest something dangerous and mysterious.

Suspense thriller films focus on victims of crime or on isolated criminals (Neale, 2000, p.82). In The Usual Suspects for example the main criminals in the film become more and more isolated, especially when there is only Dean Keaton (actor Gabriel Byrne), Michael McManus (actor Stephen Baldwin) and Verbal Kint left near the end. It becomes very suspenseful at this point. The criminals are a team yet at the same time they are very individualistic and a few of them such as Dean Keaton and Todd Hockney (actor Kevin Pollack) create divisions through not caring about any of the team members as people. The surprising element to The Usual Suspects was the scene near the beginning where all the criminals are put into jail because of a truck that has been stolen. Dean Keaton refuses the job offer From Stephen McManus and says.

‘‘No you’re missing the point. I don’t want to hear anything from you. I don’t care about your ‘job’. I want nothing to do with any of you- I beg your pardon, but you can all go to hell’’ (Faber and Faber, 1996, p.28).

Dean Keaton is the person who wants to be isolated the most and not to be involved with the other criminals. Keaton does eventually join with McManus’s crime job. It is surprising to hear Keaton talk in such an overtly offensive manner especially when he has done criminal acts in the past himself. It is almost as though he thinks he is better than they are. The victim in this film appears to be Verbal Kint who seems to be quite a weak and pathetic person throughout the entire film. Audiences often associate criminals with having certain characteristics. According to Stephen Neale iconography means the objects, events and figures in films, and also their identification and description (Neale, 2000, p.14). The Usual Suspects has all of the basic iconographic features which make it a crime film. By looking at Verbal Kints identification, he seems to be a genuine victim. We do not normally associate cripples or people with disadvantages physically as being criminals. Criminals are labelled as being strong minded and willing to take risks. Verbal Kint does not give us any indication to why he could be a criminal. Except for the end where the camera focuses and tracks with him. His legs start walking in a straight line and he is no longer a cripple. His wrist also seems to be fine. He then gets in the car with Kobayashi, who in Verbal Kints words is Keyser Soze’s worker.

In conclusion The Usual Suspects shows conventions and features that make it a crime film. It has guns, police cars, blood and hats. It involves conflict between police officers and the criminals (Mason, 2002, p.163). Near the beginning of the film in particular, The Usual Suspects where conflict is clear. It is also about a crime figure and a victim of crime (Crime and gangster films, p.1). Additionally The Usual Suspects fits in with the notion of being an identifiable genre film because of the fact that Hollywood is often associated with genre (Neale, 2000, p.9). The plot is very logical and structured which makes it mainstream. It also has familiar conventions that we see associate with a crime film like suspense, mystery and detective genres and sub-genres for example (Neale, p.72, 76, 82). The role of Keyser Soze has a big role to play. The Usual Suspects challenges and plays with film conventions with the way the story is told. In most crime detective films the story normally has a solution to it but in The Usual Suspects there are still some unanswered questions (Neale, 2000, p.74). We do not know what happens to Keyser Soze and nor who he is exactly. The audience is also unsure of Verbal Kint near the end and who exactly he is. Furthermore The Usual Suspects is not a straight forward police and robber chase film (Mason, 2002, p.163). This is because the criminal organization of Keyser Soze forces the main criminals to work for him. The job involves them risking their lives. This makes it complicated and not simply a police and robber chase.


Crime and gangster films. Submission of work, 2009. Access online: http://www.filmsite.org/crimefilms2.html. American Movie Classics Company, LCC.

Genre (No date, no author). Access online: http://www.northallertoncoll.org.uk/media/media%20web/genretheory.htm

Mcquarrie, Christopher (edited by). (1996). The Usual Suspects. Faber and Faber. London and Boston.

Mason, Fran. (edited by). (2002). American Gangster Cinema. From Little Caesar to Pulp Fiction. Palgrave Macmilan, Great Britain.

Neale, Stephen (edited by). (2000). Genre and Hollywood. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. London and New York


Singer, Bryan. (1995). The Usual Suspects

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at:

Gregory's myspace profile and his blog is at:

Friday, 5 March 2010

New Media

Assessment 1: In this essay I will be using the internet in order to explain why this form of new media is innovative. I will also criticise this claim in various ways.

Gregory Rikowski

Innovation is something which needs to be new and that has a significant social and cultural effects on the society we live in (Mansell, 2009, p.3). New media has a connection with older forms of mediums whilst transforming them into something new (Marshall, 2004, p.2). New media today is based on digital media and refers to technologies such as computers and cameras, whereas old media forms in the past involve mediums such as typewriters and cassette players (Gitezman and Pingree, 2003, p.11).

In this essay I will be focusing on the internet which is a form of digital media that is popular. I will be focusing on ways that audiences engage with this form of media.

Additionally the aim of this essay will be to discuss claims that new media is innovative and I will also be critical of this idea.

One way of understanding new media today is by looking at technology and the effects that it has (Flew, 2008, p.2). A way of understanding new media and the effects it has is by looking at convergence (Flew, 2008, p.2). Because technology is today based on digital information, this means that new media is combined with different attributes (Flew, 2008, p.2). Statistics show that internet users worldwide have been continuously increasing from 1991-2006 (Flew, 2008, p.8). In 1991 there was an estimates 376,000 internet users compared to 2006 where there was an estimated 394,991,609 users (Flew, 2008, p.8).Innovation today means that:

‘‘The ability to invent and innovate that is to create knowledge and new ideas that are then embodied in products, processes and organizations, has always served to fuel development’’ (Mansell, 2009, p.3).

New media today is based on digital media that combines and integrates data such as texts and sounds (Flew, 2008, p.2). One argument for the internet being innovative is that it is networkable (Flew, 2008, p.3). This emphasises computer communication and less on face to face interaction. Because of the internet you can now share and exchange information simultaneously which and you can now contact more than one person at a time. When emailing, for example you can email to more than one person at a time. Social networks like facebook allow you to write on your page so that your friends can see what your thoughts are. More than one person can read your message at a time. Before the internet was introduced this form of communication and interactivity was not possible (Flew, 2008, p.2). It could be argued that this type of communication is innovative because of its new dimensions. Some people however would argue that the use of internet in terms of networking is not innovative because it creates collective confusion and social disorder (Mansell, 2009, p.7). In regard to instant messaging for example you could be talking to somebody on the internet but another person may join in the discussion and interrupt what you have been talking about. It is also possible that when you are emailing to multiple people you could enter the wrong contact in without realising it thus creating confusion.

Another argument used to why the internet could not be seen as innovative is because it uses older forms of medium and so it can be questioned to what extent it is innovative (Marshall, 2004, p.4). In terms to Email for example it could be argued that it has been influenced by the telegraph, an existing old media form. Instant messaging was influenced by letters and text messaging. In order for something to be innovative it needs to be new and creative and the line between what is innovative and imitative can be vague (Mansell, 2009, p.3).

Another way of understanding today’s media in regard to digital media is to realise that it can be manipulable (Flew, 2008, p.3). This means that digital information can be changed easily and that it can be adaptable as well for all stages of creation, storage delivery and use (Flew, 2008, p.3). Ways in which digital media is manipulable and innovative is that it creates a new relationship between the authors and the texts being mentioned (Levy, 1997, p.366). Digital media can be changed and altered and it offers a new form of interactivity with the reader (Flew, 2008, p.3). This creates new forms of interaction and opportunities for participants (Mansell, 2009, p.7). The experience becomes more dynamic and it is more controllable and influenced by the user (The Digital Turn). Whilst searching on Wikipedia for example you may find that when you search for a topic, and when you search for the same thing over a different period of time the results may change. Websites can also be changed overtime and so can images, texts and sounds (Flew, 2008, p.3).

You could argue that the digital media being manipulable is innovative but you could also argue against this claim. For something to be innovative it needs to be original and Walter Benjamin argues that original pieces of work are more special than those which can be copied (Benjamin, 1985, p.680). He argues that mechanical reproduction today means that the concept of authenticity has become less influential (Benjamin, 1985, p.678). The internet for example is a copy and this means that it becomes less innovative because of this.

In conclusion I have discussed ways in which new media is innovative but I have also criticised it because of the fact that it relies on older forms of media (Marshall, 2004, p.4). New media is innovative in some ways because it is networkable. In regard to email you can send one email to lots of different people. One criticism towards the internet being networkable is that it creates social disorder and chaos (Mansell, 2009, p.7).

The internet being manipulable is positive because it becomes more dynamic and creates a new experience (The Digital Turn). It can be negative however because it is a copy which takes away its authenticity and becomes less innovative (Benjamin, 1985, p.678).


Flew, Terry (Edited by), 2008. New Media: an introduction (3rd edition). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Gitezman, Lisa and Pingree B. Geoffrey (Edited by), 2003. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press. London.

Levy, Pierre (Edited by), 1997. Collective intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. Plenum, New York.

Mansell Robin (Edited by), 2009. Power, Media Culture and New Media. University of Bremen, Germany.

Marshall, P. David (Edited by), 2004. New Media cultures. Oxford University Press. London; Arnold New York.

Mast Gerard and Cohen Marshall (Edited by), 1985. Walter Benjamin In Film Theory and Criticism. Columbic University Press. New York.

The Digital Turn: Week 3: University of East Anglia handout.

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at:

Gregory's myspace profile and his blog is at: