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Matrix-fullA year ago, I wrote a post addressing new research and developments in ongoing analyses of the effects of media violence – from motion pictures to games and more – on young people (and everyone else too!).  Since then, an important new study has emerged that provides a new snapshot of attitudes from a variety of groups regarding the effects of media violence in its many forms.  Check out this article describing the Ohio State University study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture that indicates “there is a broad consensus that violent media increases child aggression.”

shortoftheweekLooking for some short films for new material in a variety of genres?  Check out Short of the Week, where there are many great selections here and the articles accompanying the movies are a real plus.  For starters, you might want to check out The Nobodies, by Greg Bratman and Dusty Brown, who are definitely not nobodies.  Navigate to “Playlists” for their award winners for the last few years as well as Sundance winners and such categories as sports and new media.

Bond…James Bond?

Bond…James Bond?

One of the primary uses of ADR – discussed in Chapter 3 (Sound and Image) of Moving Images is for dubbing the original voices of a movie into the language of the country in which that motion picture is being distributed, whether for cinemas, television, video games, or whatever platform for which it has been made.  For most Americans, the term “The Fine Art of Dubbing” might seem like a joke since it is not so prevalently used (except for animation) and a great deal of the dubbing that is done is not particularly effective (such as the longstanding tradition of ridiculously bad dubbing in certain Asian martial arts movies).  However, in much of the world dubbing is taken very seriously and the quality can be exceptional.  Here is a very interesting and eye-opening portrait of the work of a dubbing specialist, German actor Dietmar Wunder (the previous link is to the New York Times article and accompanying video; here is just the video).  He is most famous as the German voice of Daniel Craig’s James Bond.  Like with my previous blog posts about the work of the foley artist or sound designer, these resources can provide compelling explorations into the worlds of sound in moviemaking.

Opening Day!

Slide1Here is a copy of the opening day presentation – Media Literacy and Production Opening – for a course I teach that utilizes the first half of Moving Images.  Check it out!  (In addition, here is a fresh copy of iMovie Instructions if that may be of use.)

A few words on some of the links: Boxes is a movie made by one of my former students; it provides an exceptional example of visual storytelling and can be great for opening discussions.  I Forgot my Phone is used less for its storytelling and more about its thematic content.  I also added a few links to media literacy stories from this past summer, including ones that were discussed in posts on this blog.  I also linked to one of the most fun media events from this past summer: the week-long release of Weird Al’s videos in support of his album Mandatory Fun.  What are music videos – advertisements?  Artistic creations in their own right?  In this case, each song and video has been created not only as a parody or reflection of a musical style, but also in reference to a particular approach in visual communication, from the one-shot lip dub to stop-motion to white board animation and more.  And what do teens think?

IMG_0900The new school year is beginning!  (Or has begun a little while ago for some and will begin in a bit more time for others…)  So here is a new round of resources, concentrating on lesson plans, curriculum development materials, and perspectives concerning a variety of levels in media literacy education.  From the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island, here is a comprehensive page of links to valuable resources.  And you may also want to consult the site for Project Look Sharp, which provides curriculum kits and lesson plans that tend to focus on media literacy for younger grades.

In addition, educators looking for further resources dealing with the type of analytical skills detailed in my previous post about a recent work by artist and storyteller Asaf Hanuka should consult Close Reading of Media Texts by Frank Baker, which provides examples – mostly targeted to middle school contexts – related to advertising, photography, movies, and more.  There is also a link to an excellent article by William Kist, New Literacies and the Common Core.

realist227ENThe most recent installment in the Realist comic blog by Asaf Hanuka, the illustrator for the cover and splash pages of Moving Imagesoffers some great lessons in the range of competencies inherent in media literacy and the expressive potential of visual communication.  In a nine-panel, single page comic, Hanuka, an Israeli native, takes on one of the most challenging, complex, and controversial topics from the news of this past summer: the conflict between Israel and Gaza.  Without ever saying so directly.

From its title, “Spoiler Alert” – which uses the meaning of this phrase as a warning from a critic or other commentator regarding a reveal of the content of a media creation – to the references to a graphic novel (later made into a movie) to the precise use of visual information married to text, the reader must engage in media literate interpretation in order to process this work.  Since the artist puts the reclining figure of the narrator in the same position reading the same book in the first three panels, we instantly know that this is the same person seen over a sequence of years, much like in the examples described in Chapter 1 of Moving Images.  Then, the visually literate reader can also move to more subtle and detailed visual information conveyed to us by the artist: in movie terms, the art direction of the backgrounds (from a student’s room to an army scene to an adult’s comfortable bedroom with framed picture), the costume changes, and finally the cinematography of the lighting and lens changes in the second and third trios of images.  In fact, in the final three panels Hanuka creates the graphic novel equivalent of camera movement or a push in with the concluding images of this comic.  They underline and heighten the drama much like a comparative movement in filmmaking.

alan-moore-watchmenAll of these values serve the story and messages of this creation made up of words and pictures, which uses the narrator’s understanding and interpretation of the themes of the groundbreaking graphic novel Watchmen by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons as they shift and mature over his lifetime to express powerfully the moral dilemmas he sees in the world around him.  It is not a ridiculous leap to see it as a discussion of the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, particularly when one considers the context of The Realist blog which has dealt with related issues in a number of its preceding entries – while through its lack of specifically referring to these events it also calls to mind similarly thorny dilemmas in history and the contemporary world.  This example features a topic that is challenging for any educator to address because of its highly emotional and incendiary subject matter, but it points to the value of precise use of visual communication and the demonstrative impact of image-based media, whether through the sequential art of graphic novels or sequences of shots that make up moving images.

Poet and Story

Dead-poets-society-robin-williams-32089561-500-336This week’s incredible journey of virtual mourning for millions over the tragic death of Robin Williams (and personal, private mourning for his family and friends) has been quite powerful in its breadth and is anchored by this still recent ability to share media – like going down the cellar to take out the boxes of home movies and prepare them for family reminiscing – so quickly, so widely, and so interactively by both professionals and the general public.

One of the movies selected for study with Moving Images is Dead Poets Society, and a picture of Robin Williams as Charles Keating is featured on page 296 in a discussion of casting in the production process.  Interestingly, the first time I personally used the film in a media literacy course – because it is generally used in a sophomore English class at my school – was this past spring.  I had not seen it in a while, and I was struck in particular by Robin Williams’s performance, along with the entire cast.  If one is looking for lessons in directing of actors in a film from the past few decades, the work that Peter Weir did in this movie was extraordinary.  I have found that people tend to focus on the “antics” of Robin Williams’s performance in this role, but if that is the case, they aren’t looking very closely or with an open critical eye.  While general perception of this role has tended to focus on his behavior as a “teacher on stage,” Williams is able to convey the care that his character takes in trying to understand his students and pay attention to them as appropriate to the context of a private academy of the 1950’s.  His is a supporting role – and another great lesson for students learning from this film is to investigate and discuss the core dramatic issues of the screenplay: who is the main character?  when are the turning points of the story?  what are the objectives of all of the characters and where are the conflicts? –  and it is one that is quite subtle and honest; it is often best in the quiet moments, even ones without words.  This is not often enough said of Robin Williams performances, but I find it true here.  I highly recommend giving this movie a fresh viewing and doing it with an open critical mind; the poetry is in more than the book Williams is holding in this picture.

fool and flying shipOn the solely verbal side, I would like to recommend another Robin Williams performance that is not among his most famous: his narration of The Fool and the Flying Shipa children’s story for Rabbit Ears Records back in the 1980’s.  All of his voice gifts are there, along with the one-liners, the accents, the infectious energy, but as opposed to the ping-ponging, zipping here and there qualities of his stand-up work, here he is grounded by story.  And since he is narrating, the voices of individual characters have time to stay with us, come back into view, and form a distinct presence in the life of a narrative, which is a bit different than the quick blips of caricature that he would use in comedy performances, talk shows, and similar work.  He also narrated Pecos Bill, which is more well-known and is excellent as well in different ways, but I would encourage anyone interested to seek out the brilliant creation The Fool and the Flying Ship.  I must add a personal note that was rather unbelievable to my family and I: we listened to this story precisely four days ago.  This past Monday morning, the day of Robin Williams’s death, we had to drive to Boston for a medical appointment for two of our children.  On a whim, I grabbed a CD that we hadn’t listened to in many years, The Fool and the Flying Ship.  It was the first thing we listened to during our drive, and I remarked to my wife, “I think this is one of the best things Robin Williams has ever done.  It really brings together so many of his best qualities and he is just so on here.  It’s right up there with his most distinctive, natural performances.”  We just couldn’t believe it when we got the news that evening when we arrived home, which is clearly still the case across the globe.

As one final comment, in discussions of Williams’s work this week, I have not heard mention of Moscow on the Hudson, directed by Paul Mazursky.  It was his most acclaimed performance of his early feature film work and one that appeared to be very important to him.  It should certainly be listed among the defining titles of his filmography along with some of the later more famous, and perhaps not as distinctive, performances.

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