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The title to this post notwithstanding, it seems that there’s not much that can be described as “business as usual” these days in the world of motion picture media.  Those interested in connections between media production and the business of creating motion pictures and reaching viewers — particularly related to streaming platforms and television (or cable) production — will be very interested in this new article from the New York Times: The Great Race to Rule Streaming TV, by Jonah Weiner.

In the Video and Television Production course that I teach, students complete research-based presentations on today’s media platforms and motion picture creators (particularly those working outside of traditional media structures, as well as television-based figures such as show runners), and this article would serve as a good source for initiating discussion of ongoing trends and contexts of current media production.  In addition, students can consider the very important point of how the behavior of viewers (particularly them!) profoundly impacts these tremendous shifts in the creation of content for motion pictures.

In previous posts, the impact of The Uncanny Valley (or Uncatty Valleys) was discussed through a variety of examples of how CGI can be used to create or alter human forms or other living creatures, along with the impact of such sights on viewers.

In recent months, there were many strong reactions to just how many uses of AI “creatures” were seen in commercials during 2019, such as during the Super Bowl.  Whether they are reflecting current fears or aspirations, or if they are being used to shape perceptions and obsessions with technology and its role in people’s lives, there is no question that how audiences are able to process and decipher digitally-created and manipulated images, particularly those of humans, is a key media question for viewers today.  And for young people, who are generally well-versed in “personal branding” and the current career choice of “influencer,” they might even wonder if those being selected to influence them are even real.

In earlier posts, there has been exploration of such phenomena as the use and misuse of the terms “fake news” and “trolls,” along with the many impacts of covert disinformation campaigns, contemporary propaganda, and other phenomena of distorting or negating truth-telling through media manipulation and dissemination of outright falsehoods.  A major media event has just occurred in which a video was surreptitiously altered through digital editing and shared in an attempt to make it seem as if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was “stumbling over and slurring her words” in a recent interview.  This doctored video was spread through social media, including by President Trump and figures connected to him.  Here is an article in the New York Times that includes video reporting of the story, and another from the Washington Post.

Brie Larson stepping into the fray in Captain Marvel

Popular Culture revolves around so many factors, and simply being popular is certainly high among them. This generally requires appealing to a wide audience, and how a media creation can do so seems to balance on some pretty thin tightropes these days.  This article by Cara Buckley about how the release of the movie Captain Marvel has played out through digital media discusses the impact of critical platforms, trends in social norms, and trolling on the reception of movies and their place in our culture. Indeed, even their right to develop a healthy existence, or at least as much as the metrics and contributors to Rotten Tomatoes allow them to.

One year ago, a mediateacher.net post shared a Black History Month Interactive Resource, which can be a useful start to exploring many culturally and artistically significant related to this theme from film history.  As a follow up, here is a related highlight from this year’s Academy Awards ceremony: Spike Lee receiving the award for Outstanding Adapted Screenplay (along with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott) for BlacKkKlansman and delivering a passionate, dramatic acceptance speech that was rooted in his own personal history.  You can read it here.  For those interested in more about Ron Stallworth and the true story on which BlacKkKlansman is based, I recommend checking out this excellent Snap Judgment podcast.

By Sunday January 20, a whirlwind of events that could aptly be described as a nightmarish mix of cultural conflict and media-based miscommunication and distortion began to be seen as “a fuller and more complicated picture … of the videotaped encounter between a Native American man and a throng of high school boys wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ gear outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.” (New York Times, Sarah Mervosh and Emily S. Rueb)  For interested educators, here is a link to a highly developed lesson plan related to intersections between social studies and media literacy that concerns this controversial current event: from PBS Newshour’s Daily Video – Lesson plan: Covington Catholic incident through a media literacy lens. For another piece on media literacy related to how news can be distorted or how actual video sources of news reporting can skew reactions to events, you can also consult the piece Media Literacy and the problem with the term “fake news,” with NAMLE executive director Michelle Ciulia Lipkin.  Finally, for perspectives on how this intense encounter became a viral moment, check out this podcast from The Daily, The Confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial

What’s your Pick?

For some interesting discussion and debate, the end of the year is the time for lots of lists!  Create a framework so that you can have some healthy debate about what has been exciting, inspiring, moving, thought-provoking, or even repelling in this year’s media creations, from movies to series (TV or through other platforms) to various streaming formats. Seek out some other reference points too, whether critics, vloggers, or bloggers, and develop some objectives for the discourse.

In the meantime, here is an interesting piece for some historical perspective that might be eye-opening to students: a recent Washington Post piece in which critics  weighed in on the best year for movies. It’s fun reading and great for debate.  And for classrooms right now?  How about having everyone create similar lists or opinion pieces related to YouTubing or games or whatever types or genres of media that you want to target in order to share perspectives or opinions. Go for it as you might be wrapping up a course or starting a new one!