Here’s to Spock

Photo of Adam and Leonard Nimoy courtesy of Nimoy Archives/CBS

Photo of Adam and Leonard Nimoy courtesy  Nimoy Archives/CBS

In this time of  great tension, conflict, and debate related to issues of ethnicity, cultural understanding or lack thereof, and feelings of belonging to larger cultures among minority groups, a documentary released this month provides an interesting example of how these issues have been addressed in clever and innovative ways in American TV and movie history.  Among the many groundbreaking moments and characters from the Star Trek universe, from the kiss of Kirk and Uhura to the positive characters of Sulu and Chekov at times of intense conflict in Asia and across the Iron Curtain, it is clear that some of the most powerful explorations of diversity and of those whom many see as “different” or “outsiders” is embodied in the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock.  For the Love of Spocka documentary by his Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam, has been released this month, and it explores the powerful impact of Nimoy on those with whom he worked as well as the role of Spock as an “Outsider” at a time when that was rarely, if ever, seen in popular media platforms, particularly television.  Here is an interview with Adam Nimoy about his work creating this documentary, along with this new article by Robert Ito: Spock: Half-Vulcan, Half-Human, All Outsider Role Model.   And on these pages, there was an earlier post, To Live Long and Prosper, which celebrated the legacy of actor and multi-media creator Leonard Nimoy.

tim-burtonYes, it might seem obvious, “Oh, Tim Burton is directing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” — how sweet.  At mediateacher.net, we’ve explored Mr. Burton’s beguiling cinescapes before.

The powerful inspiration that Mr. Burton’s works have given to many young (and not-so-young) people for over a generation seems to renew its promise with this new feature.  And here is an answer to the “not phoning it in” title above:  The Making of a Film Fablean article by Mekado Murphy.

clinton-trumpThe debate today between the Democrat and Republican candidates for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is predicted to be the most watched contest in the history of televised debates since the game-changing moment between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon on September 26, 1960.  Yes, it was 56 years ago to the day.  And in 2016, as summed up in the New York Times, “Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are spoiling for an extraordinary clash over race and gender that could come as early as Monday’s debate, with both presidential candidates increasingly staking their fortunes on the cultural issues that are convulsing the nation.”

As a tool for educators, here is a comprehensive article authored by Frank Baker and Karen Zill that can be very useful for navigating the issues of watching and analyzing the debates: “Media Literacy: How to Watch the Debates.”  It also features downloadable debate analysis worksheets (here is one of them).

Gondry Protocol

the-white-stripes-city-lights-video-640x470Michel Gondry, one of the most inventive and utterly unique motion picture wizards of our time, has delivered again.  In an original gesture, he went and made a video on his own for the White Stripes song “City Lights” as a gift to Third Man Records (having made a number of legendary music videos together, including the Lego classic “Fell in Love with a Girl” and the Meg White-inspired masterstroke “The Hardest Button to Button“).  Lessons to learn from his music videos in general: a hefty dose of vision; planning, then planning and practice and planning; and execution.  And throw in a few dashes of visual and sonic magic.

mondo_microbe_and_gasoline_1600x1200_86d7a1ee-2ea0-4e41-a3b3-8990a90e4185_1024x1024Gondry’s book The Be Kind Rewind Protocol is great food for thought for filmmakers and educators alike, and of course there are his movies, notably that one featuring Mos Def, Jack Black, and Danny Glover; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his exceptional collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (and which I feel gets even better with age); The Thorn in the Heart, a documentary that grew out of a family story; an episode of Flight of the Conchords; and the mix of music videos, shorts, commercials, and odds and ends that have made up his twisting and turning career.

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.