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Yes, the title of the movie being projected here is "Cock of the Air," a rediscovered Howard Hughes production from 1932. (Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times)

Yes, the title of the movie being projected here is “Cock of the Air,” a rediscovered Howard Hughes production from 1932. (Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times)

In a series of articles on mediateacher.net, the importance of how, where, and why media artifacts are accessed and preserved has been discussed from a variety of angles, not only in terms of films from the early years of cinema (or more recent examples like Lawrence of Arabia or the efforts of Christopher Nolan) but also related to students today and their own productions.  An article in today’s New York Times —The Race to Save the Films We Loveprovides a current update by Manohla Dargis on the state of film preservation, which includes topics related to economics, sound recording, chemistry, digital technologies, and a variety of other issues.

I am guessing that THIS will be the Seven Samurai reference (okay, it's six, but go with it) that will be remembered from this year.

I am guessing that THIS will be the Seven Samurai reference (okay, it’s six, but go with it) that will be remembered from this year.

The new trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One debuted during the Olympics coverage yesterday, and it looked pretty amazing.  (And it was even more enticing than the initial teaser, which already had fans energized.)  Just one point that I feel needs to be made for teachers gearing up for a new year of media literacy: Kurosawa.

The foremost acknowledged influence on Star Wars is Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden FortressAny student of moving images or educators who wish to explore the vital contemporary Star Wars universe is well advised to explore the singular power of director Akira Kurosawa and his influence on George Lucas.  For me, there appears to be some major inspiration from the universe of the Japanese cinematic master in the trailer for Rogue One (directed by Gareth Edwards), except in this case the references are to The Seven Samurai.  Whatever the inspirations, things appear to be looking good for the realm of Jedi, Force, and Dark Side.

KhizrkhanIn this Presidential election season (or perhaps we should start calling it “epoch” with the current length of campaigns in the U.S.), it is no surprise to return regularly to political topics through our posts following the recent “Ands” and thes” and things like that and the earlier Politics, Satire, and Media as well as Politics & Media 2.  Meanwhile, the recent flurry of media-fueled moments in the current Presidential campaign has generated moments of visual communication that appear to have all the earmarks of major historical images in the making.  The appearance of the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, killed in Iraq in 2004, at the Democratic National Convention has set off some of the most powerful political aftershocks seen in contemporary American politics.  There are many indications that the image of Mr. Khizr Khan pulling out a pocket-sized version of the American constitution from his jacket to punctuate a major point in his speech, with his wife Ghazala Khan standing stoically by his side, will stand as a striking image of our times.

UnknownAstonishingly, the Khans had already appeared in an acclaimed documentary from 2008 that featured families of slain American veterans: Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery.  In this piece appearing today on Democracy Now!, an excerpt from the film is shown which depicts the couple visiting their son’s grave and both Khizr and Ghazala Khan discussing the impact of his death and their visits to the cemetery on their lives.  There is also an interview with a co-director of the film, Jon Alpert.     

Squad Goals: ya better nail this one or else! Exec. Prod. and UPM of Suicide Squad on set.

Squad Goals : ya better nail this one or else !     Exec. Prod. & UPM of Suicide Squad on set.

Quick little follow-up to this week’s theme of summer blockbusters: what will be the latest flavors and trends to super-hero movies when Suicide Squad splashes (or maybe splatters) onto screens this week?  Batman v. Superman may have hauled in some cash, but it was quite roundly vilified by critics – check out this selection of quotes from reviews by major critics (and reviewing director Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, A.O. Scott commented “brutality is not merely part of Mr. Snyder’s repertory of effects; it is more like a cause, a principle, an ideology” — a cause to which the director applies himself in movie after movie, apparently).  It will be interesting to see how the reception of Suicide Squad plays itself out and impacts the ever-expanding D.C.-verse in moviedom, with Marvel watching from across the street (and next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy waiting in the wings).

P.S.: A week later, the reviews are in.  Not a big surprise, but still… it is rather funny.  Joe Morgenstern’s review for The Wall Street Journal is worth quoting: “In a word, Suicide Squad is trash. In two words, it’s ugly trash. Maybe no more words should be wasted on a movie that is, after all, only a movie, not a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Still, movies contribute to the collective awareness. They can color the way we feel about the life around us. This one deserves further attention by virtue of its exceptional cynicism and startling ineptitude. Suicide Squad amounts to an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment.” Or the title to Michael O’Sullivan’s for The Washington Post: ‘Suicide Squad’ is as bad as you’ve heard.

JAWS_PCC_ALT_1024x1024

In the beginning… (Mondo Poster for Jaws)

It’s beach time again!  Every summer, mediateacher.net has featured discussions of the ever-evolving — or oh-so-static — world of the summer blockbuster and the ways in which movie studios work lots of angles to prop up their tent poles, for better or worse.  We have discussed super-hero fare and Soderbergh talks, studio pitches, summer classics, and evolving tastes with tech and fx, among many other topics.

The ingredients...

The ingredients…

As students think about how stories are constructed and how studios approach the moviemaking process, for this month we recommend a revealing article that discusses Why Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass Couldn’t Quit Jason Bourne.”  One of the high priests of jump cut acrobatics, director Paul Greengrass, and the versatile actor / writer / producer /etc. Matt Damon have returned to the Bourne series after it had begun so many years ago with Doug Liman at the helm. (Hey! You should click that Doug Liman link — it’s an exceptional interview about Edge of Tomorrow and he also talks about The Bourne Identity.  Great reading about his work as a director and working in Hollywood.  And Limania.)

 

 

lateshowmtFor teachable moments, the Melania Trump speech will be known as quite a doozy.  And this week the work of Stephen Colbert for the Late Show has provided a laundry list of striking television images that have been second to none: from musical numbers to Hunger Games characters to James Bond silhouettes posing as the Trump RNC entrance to a riff on the infamous Melania speech, it has already been a treasure trove for media literacy.  Regarding the issue of plagiarism that was raised by the speech in question, a website well known to many teachers for dealing with student cheating, TurnItIn, has offered their own brilliant and thorough take on this specific case: Understanding Plagiarism to Avoid Controversy.  (To cite my source: the title of this post is a quote from Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.)

Obama cheeriosReady for some media literacy lessons?  Well chosen uses of insert shots, energetic cuts, sound editing, and more — and shot at the White House?  That’s not something that can be said too much in U.S. history, but President Obama’s tenure has been a game changer for media literate leadership.  And yet again, so fun.  So check out 5 Things That Are Harder Than Registering to Vote, Featuring President Obama.  

fallon obama(Okay, and here’s the “slow jam” Fallon appearance, which is more about performance than motion picture language, but those are some pretty sweet focus pulls.)

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