Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Trends in Animation

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-10-08-06-amEach year, mediateacher posts pieces that discuss Oscar nominees or winners — often focusing on those under-the-radar treats: animated, live action, and documentary shorts — and today will emphasize a standout category from this year: animated feature film.  The lineup of movies nominated in animation highlights a strikingly diverse quintet of movies, including two foreign selections, the French-language My Life as a Zucchini and non-dialogue The Red Turtle; along with a new stop-motion treasure from Laika studios, Kubo and the Two Strings; and two thought-provoking, delightfully spirited Disney CG offerings, Zootopia (discussed in this earlier post) and Moana

Interestingly, of the three movies, a majority are animated using (relatively) old-school techniquesdrawn, 2D animation and figure-based stop motion.  Yet again, when it appears that digital advances will steer moviemaking in a particular direction by making things “easier” for craftspeople or “more realistic” for viewers, such as with CG-based animation, filmmakers will return to — and reinvigorate or sometimes reinvent — traditional techniques that help them to communicate the most meaningful and emotionally vibrant expression of their stories.

Continuing in a series of posts about the importance of language in the work of media literacy, it is clear that the proper use of words will continue to be a topic of utmost importance to educators today.  In the previous post, the use — and more importantly, egregious misuse — of the term “fake news” was discussed.  Today, we investigate those greedy, fearsome creatures hiding under bridges in wait for all of the Internet’s unsuspecting billy goats, threatening to “gobble them up!” — the hideous Troll!

Regularly, many websites and public posts use terms to describe behaviors that evolved out of the use of digital social media: in this case, the verb “to troll” and the related personal description of “the troll.”  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a troll is “a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” and to troll is “to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.”  And, regularly, this behavior is done anonymously.  For teachers, these definitions are also important because these terms and the behavior they describe work with strong parallels to bullying, which is a topic of significant implications of professional and legal responsibility to educators.

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-1-06-38-pmHowever, as with a wide range of terms to describe behaviors that reflect the aggressive, damaging, and purposefully hurtful exchanges commonly viewed in web-based communicative platforms, the use of vocabulary can become twisted to minimize or distort the original meaning so that it becomes a hollow, warped, or virtually meaningless version of its original sense.  In practice, a word can just turn into a big joke.

On numerous recent occasions, I have witnessed the word “troll” used in this way.  Just this past weekend, President Donald Trump erroneously referred to “what’s happening last night in Sweden,” as if there had been a terrorist attack in this Scandinavian country.  Elected officials and media outlets in Europe — and in America — reacted with a mixture of bafflement, corrections, and derision.  Nonetheless, here is a follow-up headline from Yahoo News, echoed by many Internet sources: “Trump Trolled Over Remark About Sweden.”  In the articles that appeared with this description, the evidence given was typically that various public figures around the world made posts that corrected, questioned, or made light of the statement.  And that, somehow, the President of the United States was now “a victim.”

When any attempt at correction of a falsehood, personal or cultural attack, or distortion of factual evidence — or even any satiric message that is in response to falsehoods communicated to the general public — is described as “trolling,” this is quite problematic.  Particularly when the figure or group or entity responsible for the original false statement, message, or attack is in a place of power.  Yet again, it is clear that media literacy requires knowing our vocabulary and using it correctly.  And, moreover, being able to communicate effectively and understand clearly are at the heart of schools and communities and governments that are based on ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.

And remember, if students are as wise as our friends the Three Billy Goats Gruff, they can get away to enjoy the beautiful, bountiful fields on the other side of the bridge.

loveduckslogoArthur as a title has two great distinctions.  (Yes, and a big Dudley Moore hit from a few decades ago.  Kinda funny.  But odd, for sure.)  First, George Harrison’s inimitable punch line to “What do you call this haircut?” in the groundbreaking Richard Lester masterwork and Beatles-style celebration of life and music-making A Hard Day’s Night

And next, what is easily in the Top 5 of best-ever kids’ TV shows (and really one of the best of any shows): ArthurYup, the kids animated show.  Endlessly inventive, quirky, character-driven, wittily subversive and provocative, gentle, inspiring, dramatically solid, and consistently brilliant, Arthur is a treasure of children’s programming.  You want a major lesson in Media Literacy? — check out The Love Ducks from the episode That’s a Baby Show!

colbertarthurSo this recent piece by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert featuring his musical collaborator Jon Batiste and some special guests was a real treat.  Enjoy!

Where is Yemen?

nojoomDo you know the answer to the question?  If you are a teacher, do your students?  An earlier post on mediateacher.net presented the first female Yemeni director, Khadija Al-Salami — She is a Yemeni Filmmaker in France — and her highly educational and eye-opening movies, including A Stranger in Her Own City (which is featured in Moving Imagesand Amina, a portrait of an eleven-year-old Yemeni bride who was accused of murdering her husband at fourteen.  For further information from my earlier post, this excellent article titled For the Love of Her Country (by Olivia Snaije) provides powerful insights into the challenges of documentary filmmaking in the context of the intense conflicts that Al-Salami’s war-torn homeland and its people face today, particularly its women.

Across countless societies throughout history, teachers have regularly occupied highly scrutinized positions relative to their impact on young people and the expectations of their roles in terms of what they can and cannot say to their students.

Among the issues that define our relation to each other, language is undoubtedly one of the most important.  It is vital that words are used appropriately and precisely.  The study of cultures and societies often can revolve around the use and impact of words to describe human behavior and social currents.

Fake = Fabricated, Intentionally Fictitious

Fake = Fabricated, Intentionally Fictitious

During the past year, a notable phenomenon has arisen that has some history in print journalism but has taken on new meanings and uses in the age of the Internet and digital social media: “fake news.”  The basic definition of this practice as it quickly evolved in recent times is that stories and articles would be fabricated and posted through fictional, anonymous, or proxy web entities.  The content is completely fictional in nature.  Made up.  Quite often based on the talking points, trending topics, and attack ads of the moment.  By now, this has been a highly documented practice, sometimes from blighted enclaves in Macedonia or from “Cameron Harris, a new college graduate with a fervent interest in Maryland Republican politics and a need for cash,” as reported by actual journalist Scott Shane.

To be literate means to understand vehicles of communication – linguistic, visual, mathematical, and much more.  When methods of communication are twisted and used to distort or blind to the truth or the search for truth, this is quite serious and potentially extremely damaging.  As history has shown us, it can, indeed, be fatal.  When one’s leaders twist, misuse, or distort words, and particularly those that describe vital topics of the day, this can also be lethal to societies and to democracy.

park_row_10

A Free Press Classic by Sam Fuller

As Thomas Jefferson said, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Language, words, and visual communication are very important, and so is our ability to interpret the various messages that are on the pages and various sized screens in front of us.  This is at the heart of what we call media literacy.  Teachers must continue to strive to enable our students to scrutinize the statements of those who represent us, of those with whom we engage in discussion and debate, and of those who research and report the stories that depict, interpret, and impact the world that we inhabit.

A little touch of Caddyshack in the Oval Office?

A little touch of Caddyshack in the Oval Office?

Pictures can be worth many words, and as we reflect upon the close of this year, here are a few powerful ones from the White House (and its soon-to-be-leaving inhabitants).  Many lessons to be learned here.  There are so many legacies to this presidency, so much to be debated and learned and reflected upon for educators and students — and for all citizens of the world, in fact.  (And the full photo album by Chief White House Photographer Pete Souza is here.)

tvWondering what to do with the old curved-screen TV in the corner of the cellar or the school’s repurposed A/V closet?  Maybe it’s time for an art installation — although you may need the “arcane knowledge” (as NYTimes reporter Jaime Joyce puts it) of a TV repairman (well, at least one as masterful as Chi-Tien Lui).