“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” Well, Hedy Lamarr did much more than that: along with being one of the most glamourous actresses of her era, once she had become bored with her life being typecast as an exotic seductress in movies she became a successful inventor; her early work brought forth versions of wireless technology that led eventually to what we know as wi-fi and bluetooth. The exceptional Google Doodle that is being unveiled today is a superb little movie in its own right and a fine homage to this inspiring and very interesting woman.
In earlier posts, a variety of exemplary female filmmakers have been discussed, from early pioneer Alice Guy Blaché to cinematographer Ellen Kuras to screenwriter Pamela Gray to casting director Marion Dougherty and many more. This year has seen more inspiring landmarks and creations in the exceptional life and career of Agnès Varda, one of the featured directors of Chapters 5 and 6 of Moving Images (and who showed notable generosity towards our project). From the Moving Images text, “director Agnès Varda has maintained a long career in which she has led her own production company and has made films that have established her highly personal integration of community life and a spontaneous method and style in her movies. Varda has created some of the most innovative and free-spirited short and feature films of her time shooting with an impressively wide range of approaches: feature productions in 35mm; documentaries in 16mm or other platforms; commercials and public service announcements; journal type projects in videotape and digital video, among others.”
At the Cannes Festival this past May, Varda received a lifetime achievement award — only the fourth given in the history of the festival — and more recently, she premiered a lively short film starring teenager Jasmine Thiré — Les 3 Boutons — that provides a neat introduction to her original approaches to moviemaking and storytelling. From casting to locations to editing to narrative digressions, it is pure Varda and a treat. She is a master of cinematic language through both image and sound. The Criterion Collection has also released a new box set of some of her less known work, and it includes such important and innovative shorts as Uncle Yanco and Black Panthers.
In an earlier post — Soderbergh Raids the Ark — I shared Steven Soderbergh’s very revealing experiment in which he turned Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark into a black & white silent movie. Right now I would like to highlight two recently published articles about these two very different and undoubtedly masterful directors. In Steven Spielberg on the Cold War and Other Hollywood Front Lines, Spielberg discusses his new historically based movie, Bridge of Spies, and many other topics with Cara Buckley of the New York Times. In The Binge Director (in New York magazine), Matt Zoller Seitz visits with Soderbergh on the set of his show The Knick. There are many interesting points for young filmmakers and media literacy educators in both of these superb articles.
Summary of points from the recent article The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production in the JMLE has appeared in Edutopia, the online magazine from the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
In an earlier post, I asked the question “What exactly is that movie?” in order to address forms of visual communication through a series of commercials. For those who may wish to explore the wilds of avant garde filmmaking, right now at the New York Film Festival, there is a retrospective titled Luminous Intimacy: The Cinema of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler. From the NYFF53 site, “For the last six decades, Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, partners in life and in cinema, have taken their cameras out into the world and filmed gestures, moods, atmospheres, states of being, light and darkness, movement and stillness. Hiler’s register is ecstatic and polyphonic, Dorsky’s devotional and poetic. And, simply put, they are two of the greatest filmmakers alive.” You can also check out a recent article by film critic Manohla Dargis about their work in The New York Times. Despite the access today’s students — and, in fact, all of us with Internet — have to the swirling miasma of videos streaming about the netverse (YouTube or otherwise), the mediascapes of avant grade or poetic or experimental cinema seem as distant as ever to the average media viewer, it would appear to me.*
Talking about maverick moviemakers, director Michel Gondry will be appearing at the festival next week for a free talk concerning his new film Microbe and Gasoline, a coming-of-age movie about two French teenage boys.
*That said, I did have to chuckle a bit at what seemed to me to be a very inventive homage to the avant-garde work of Derek Jarman in the recently released video of New Order’s song Restless, directed by the filmmaking collective NYSU.
This month, an article I authored on project-based learning has been published in the Journal of Media Literacy Education, an academic journal appearing bi-annually in coordination with the National Association for Media Literacy Education.
Titled The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production, the article shares collaborative learning case studies to explore a range of strategies and objectives in media literacy education and to highlight the importance of structured processes and assessments in project-based learning. Check it out!
Among the various concepts covered in editing, from my experience there is little question that some beginning media literacy students have enormous difficulties with what seems to be a very basic term: jump cut. To demonstrate an effective use of jump cuts, the piece I reference in Moving Images is the opening of the exceptional documentary Spellbound, in which a spelling bee champion wrestles with a word in a humorous, compelling jump-cut sequence that sets the stage for an enthralling, complex story of spelling bee competitors. However, I have found that even after seeing a number of examples, including that one, many students begin describing virtually any cut of any kind between two shots as a “jump cut.” So, what to do?
Well, in a short time, jump cuts have become the standard main course in the diet of the YouTuber generation. Just days ago, actress Maisie Williams (who has already been watched “growing up” as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones), opened a YouTube channel and quickly got the now-standard huge amounts of worldwide press and over a million views. And this, naturally, with a video made up of a single composition cut a bunch of times from what one would guess to be a few takes. It certainly could have been edited with iMovie, or even WeVideo: it is a single close shot with numerous jump cuts. So — are you looking for another simple lesson for the term “Jump Cut?” Here you go. As Fatboy Slim asked us, “Why try harder?” After all, just one shot in the bedroom confessing or preaching to the mirror has become chatting to millions through the looking glass — only cut it up for the best bits. Of course, make sure you have perfect skin — then it’s on to fame, adulation, and riches.