songandsolitude3-1600x900-c-defaultIn 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.*

MicrobeTalking 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 Restlessdirected by the filmmaking collective NYSU.

6d92123020c07c0839cc20026e48254aThis 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!

Jump Cut

12:07 --- Batch ResizedAmong 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 Spellboundin 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?

MaisieYouTubeWell, 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.

Opening Days Again!

Slide1Perhaps school started for you recently or you are in the first days of a new school year — here’s a reminder that I have posted earlier pieces for starting off the year, including ones that feature links to media literacy coursework slideshows with linked videos, activities, and other useful resources.

Generation LikeMeanwhile, I was recently reviewing trending topics and reference points for new media, and I laughed when I saw the opening video to Tyler Oakley‘s YouTube page in which he gushes about the wonderful year he’s had  and that PBS “did a documentary about me!”  I guess it says it all about “Generation Like” that he declares it’s a documentary just about him when Douglas Rushkoff and the FrontLine producers create a new, insightful piece about “how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media — and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers.”  As Alissa Quart adds, “today, coolness is … like you have to be constantly selling yourself, showing yourself and marketing yourself… Instead of turning your back to the audience or wearing sunglasses at night, you’re taking off those sunglasses and you’re smiling into the camera.  The currency now is one of constant approval and a constant hum of self-assertion…”  Get it, Tyler?

Brothers Quay at work

Brothers Quay at work

Stop Motion is one of the most accessible and productive ways in which young filmmakers can explore visual communication and storytelling.  This is clearly demonstrated in the popularity of Brickfilms (for some particularly inspiring Lego work, check out Fell in Love with a Girl directed by music video maverick and eternal kid-at-heart Michel Gondry for The White Stripes) and the continued success of such studios as Laika and Aardman.  Right now at Film Forum in New York, a surprising partnership has emerged in the realm of stop-motion: Christopher Nolan, director of mega-blockbusters including the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, has made Quay, a short documentary about the Brothers Quay and their films, and curated a touring program showcasing their groundbreaking, influential, thematically challenging*, and technically astonishing body of work.

Still from Street of Crocodiles by Brothers Quay

Still from Street of Crocodiles by Brothers Quay

Earlier posts on this blog have highlighted the work of PES, Kirsten Lepore (see Stop Motion Restarted), Karel Zeman, Tim Burton, and other stop-motion creators, and another post presents a short documentary by one of my students, Frame-By-Frame, which provides an original, compelling introduction to stop-motion (and 2D animation, by extension).  In addition, for interested educators, The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation by Ken Priebe is an excellent resource for classroom use.

(*Or “extremely creepy,” as many of my students would say — although I have noted that for many kids today, anything in 3D animation that isn’t from the slick world of CG is almost automatically “creepy,” which is even more disturbing, I think.)

157641-161843In a recent blog post on the National Council of Teachers of English message board, NCTE Council Historian Paul Thomas discussed the topic of the degree to which false ideas persist in popular perceptions of scientific “truths” despite their having been thoroughly debunked, or never even been shown to be demonstrably true in the first place.  He wrote about the quite widely accepted but totally false idea that humans supposedly “only use 10% of their brains” and its use in the movie Lucy, directed by Luc Besson, as a reference point.  In a post from earlier this year — Getting All Black and Blue Over Media Literacy I discussed the degree to which falsehoods and distortions become accepted as fact by movie viewers, even if there is copious evidence — whether historical, social, scientific, or otherwise — that these false perceptions are indeed untrue.  Funny enough, the standard line of “it’s only a movie” should be more aptly referenced as “well, it’s in a movie, that’s why they believe it.”


Utterly false. Even in French.

There are few goals that must be more important to educators than tackling these ideas: how to seek out truth, how to ask questions of what is being presented to viewers or readers, and how to evaluate and produce material so that truth and authenticity are readily addressed and apparent.

For my own take on Luc Besson’s Lucy, please check out my earlier post Hi there, writers! 

Learning Centers

New York Mag Cosby WomenThe necessity for media literate citizens and creators continues to evolve at an astounding pace.  Most recently, the intensely developing story of the accusations against iconic comedian Bill Cosby has played out through a highly complex web of media platforms: scant coverage of allegations dating from about a decade ago; recent live performances from the comedian Hannibal Buress that were then uploaded to streaming video platforms; snowballing revelations through social media by victims of Cosby’s alleged abuse; and a major multimedia report in New York magazine that utilizes Internet interactivity to explore accusations against the performer by many women whose corroborative evidence has shocked people from across the globe.  The resources stemming from the New York article and more sources will serve as invaluable materials for social studies coursework, media literacy analysis, and a wide variety of evaluation of American values related to the legal system, sociology, women’s rights, and psychology in the months and years to come.  Finally, as direct primary resources that utilize digital media to express ideas, the streaming video testimonials set up to accompany the article by Noreen Malone and Amanda Demme are examples of profound uses of direct interviews to enhance stories already told through print and images.


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