Scrolling Headlines:

Third and 20 S2 Episode 8 -

September 29, 2016

Author, poet and ex-con gives talk on criminal justice reform -

September 29, 2016

Israeli writer Ari Shavit speaks at Integrative Learning Center -

September 29, 2016

Alex DeSantis continues strong play for UMass men’s soccer as season reaches midway point -

September 29, 2016

Andrew Ford looks to continue to lead UMass football’s torrid offensive passing attack -

September 29, 2016

Sunset Grill and Pizza adjusts as a new restaurant in Amherst -

September 29, 2016

UMass field hockey falls 8-1 to No. 1 UConn -

September 29, 2016

Offensive-oriented practices hold high hopes for UMass women’s soccer with A-10 opener Thursday -

September 29, 2016

Hyper-stress on college campuses: a culture of high achievement leads to increased rates of mental illnesses -

September 29, 2016

Race of candidates should not affect voter turnout -

September 29, 2016

Students share what keeps them happy during the fall -

September 29, 2016

Harvest’s millennial-pandering replacement to Chameleon Cold Brew leaves caffeine fans at a loss -

September 29, 2016

Guide to fall 5K races and beyond -

September 29, 2016

UMass Votes Coalition hosts voter registration event -

September 28, 2016

Brettell presents on U.S. immigration policies -

September 28, 2016

UMass field hockey team seeks revenge against undefeated UConn -

September 28, 2016

UMass running back Marquis Young looks to build off momentum gained against Mississippi State -

September 28, 2016

UMass hockey announces captains for 2016-17 season -

September 28, 2016

Andy Isabella finds his niche within the UMass football offense -

September 28, 2016

The EpiPen Crisis: How did this happen? -

September 28, 2016

Podos showcases ‘The Birds’ at Amherst Cinema

Matt Modica/Collegian

Matt Modica/Collegian

When watching a modern horror, it’s hard not to find a borrowed technique or reference of horror films past, particularly of Alfred Hitchcock – the father of the genre. Hitchcock’s distinct style has been analyzed and broken down by every spoken line, shot and cut, but what more can be learned from the stories of the “Master of Horror?

Amherst Cinema’s “Science on Screen” film series seeks a response to this question through guest lecturers who provide more perspective to classic films from a context of science. The theater began its film series on Tuesday night with Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” featuring guest lecturer and avian connoisseur Jeff Podos of the UMass Biology department.

Professor Podos has spent several years studying the intricacies of vocal behavior of birds and their evolutionary biology in Brazil, the eastern United States and the Galapagos Islands. He deals primarily with Darwinian Finches from the Galapagos region.

“It’s important to think about how science and filmmaking intersect,” said Podos. “[They] are more similar than one might think about. They are done by creative people that are attempting to search for common truths.” Likening science and its practice to filmmaking, Podos emphasized, “Both start with some vision about what needs to be achieved and then, a relentless pursuit of that particular vision.”

Podos asserted that Hitchcock had such vision and exemplified it in his ability to exploit people’s fears through his operational mastery and advancement in the special effects of his era.

“The movie is very human-centric … there’s this big mystery throughout the story about what’s going on with the birds and what’s driving them. What my research does is it takes the perspective of the bird – as in what does it see in its world and how does it interact with challenges it faces,” said Podos.

The professor provided a sample of what his research has found about the behaviors of birds and their evolutionary characteristics. He discussed his observations of varying Galapagos finches describing the way in which their respective environments have altered the shapes of their beaks and the ways they sing.

“We now know that when birds produce vocal signals, when they sing, they’re using their beak … something unappreciated about 30 years ago,” said Podos.

His research has also found that female finches of a particular species only respond to certain vocalizations of males of their species, and coincidentally, the beak shape of males plays a huge role in the sounds they produce.

The lecture provided some interesting context in the way that birds communicate and even reproduce. Upon watching the film after its screening, it seemed that the observations Podos has made didn’t entirely figure into Hitchcock’s portrayal of his villainous birds. The film depicts the sadistic creatures merely cawing like the screeches of worn tires in their relentless and inexplicable terrorizing.

Still, a biology lesson never hurt.

Adam Abdelmaksoud can be reached at aabdelma@student.umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “Podos showcases ‘The Birds’ at Amherst Cinema”
  1. Diane Maksoud says:

    Great piece, interesting when the biology is the focus!

  2. Diane Maksoud says:

    I enjoyed the biology of the birds interesting to incorporate that aspect. Good piece, Adam!

Leave A Comment