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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!

Infekted Minds

In an earlier post, mediateacher.net highlighted the New York Times teaching resource “Film Club.” There are many great shorts that they post along with discussion points and lesson plans, such as the recent post, Animated Life: Seeing the Invisible

For Media Literacy or Social Studies teachers, here is another exceptional new series of short videos that can be used as resources for debate of current events and  contemporary intersections of media, politics, and propaganda: Operation Infektion. These docs explore the longstanding practices of disinformation campaigns by Soviet and Russian secret services (such as the KGB) that have evolved over several decades and whose impacts appear to be quite substantial in America and many countries.  Below are links to the video series and an article by director and writer Adam Ellick.

Byte the Vine

Three years ago, on these pages was the post Snapchat 101. Haha, how quaint.  Right?  Heard about Bytedance lately?  Or Musical.ly?  (If not, check out this thoughtful piece by Anastasia Bell from Medium, if you hadn’t seen it earlier this year.) So what is the price of “meaningless stuff” — as some describe the content shared through apps like these?  We’ll be calculating these prices for a long, long time, I think.  Some things change, and some never will — like the elusive nature of trends and what new gotta-do-it twist will draw in teens and even younger viewers, and now creators, of media.  And while certain content of The Merchants of Cool might seem “old” by now — are the core messages of it really all that passé?

With more exciting news in our Resources category (such as the Prelinger Archives and Portraits of America posts this year), the Library of Congress has announced that the National Screening Room is now online and features extensive resources for media literacy education.  Many items from this vital national archive are now accessible to the general public and classrooms across the country (and world).  As noted in an article by CBS News, among its highlights are: the classic Edwin S. Porter short The Great Train Robbery (featured for study in Chapter 2), the 1953 feature The Hitch-Hiker by Ida Lupino (a prime director for study with Chapter 5), and a wide variety of diverse types of media such as advertisements, PSAs, and home movies that are discussed in such posts as What Exactly is that Movie? on mediateacher.net and in our investigations of motion picture language and screenwriting throughout Moving Images. 

In earlier posts, we have discussed documentaries about film and TV scoring; contemporary composers such as Jeff Beal, Cliff Martinez, and Bear McCreary; current uses of popular music with moving images such as in the work of the performer Stromae; and a wide variety of topics related to sound design.

Composer Ramin Djawadi conducting

Along with editing exercises that one can complete to develop an idea of the impact of music with scenes, here is an related video (by the YouTube channel Every Frame a Painting) that explores the use of music in a variety of Marvel superhero movies.  Many of the observations and questions raised here can be applied to a wide range of recent action movies, and the lessons about contemporary media creation have wide-ranging impacts on viewers and the messages being produced for viewers. And for students, they might want to explore the views of the actual composers of some of the movies referenced here, such as Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, Westworld, Game of Thrones) or Alan Silvestri (Avengers, Captain America).  

 

And if you find this interesting, check out this response to the Marvel Symphonic Universe video essay by Dan Golding: A Theory of Film Music(And it is critical to add that this essay is ripe for a rebuttal by anyone interested in exploring the long history of originality in film scoring — Golding’s approach is undoubtedly to use only lowest common denominator examples from throughout film history.) 

Here is a superb resource for media literacy courses: the “Film Club” Learning Network offered by The New York Times. From this site, you can find short documentary films, most under 10 minutes, and related discussion questions.

And here is a Reader Idea resource created by English teacher Michael Kellen that features lessons with the shorts Girl Boxer and Arctic Boyhood

This year, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation has added a new initiative to its The Story of Movies educational program: Portraits of America: Democracy on Film.  This eight-section curriculum was developed by the Film Foundation in partnership with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and with support from the Library of Congress.  Its modules include such themes as The Immigrant Experience, The American Laborer, The American Woman, and Politicians and Demagogues. Here are articles on the initiative from Indie Wire and Market Watch.