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Developing dynamic and moving performances can be one of the greatest challenges for actors and directors working in collaboration.  Let’s add to the mix another set of creators who generate performances in motion pictures: animators.

Here are some interesting resources that highlight the extensive work of animators in developing compelling and well-defined characters through drawn or CG images.  First, there is an excellent article on the work of Pixar animators for a new movie featuring a beloved character: Woody in Toy Story 4.  Along with Tom Hanks’s exceptional voice work, a team of animators led by director Josh Cooley (at least for this fourth installment of the franchise) worked diligently to capture the wide range of emotions and traits seen in Woody and the rest of the Toy Story gang, and this is explored extensively in this piece by journalist Darryn King.

To investigate the ties between acting and animated film, it is critical to explore the creations of the Japanese master director Hayao Miyazaki.  Here are two articles on Miyazaki: an interview from The Telegraph and an overview of his career and the films of Studio Ghibli.

From “Cumo” by Emily Fabrizi

Speaking of performance through animation, here are two films from students of mine.  Cumo is an exceptionally crafted and delightful piece of animation by high school senior Emily Fabrizi that is highly worthwhile to explore for its reliance on performance — and without dialogue!  Another animated movie that weaves a strong character-driven portrait — and once again without any dialogue — is this award-winning college project by my former student Brendan Kirschbaum: Solo.  Both shorts feature many elements worthy of study for nuances in performance, all crafted by animators.

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.

Get a grip!

Agnes Varda making first feature “La Pointe Courte”

Couldn’t resist that title.  In Chapter 8 of Moving Images, students explore the positions that correspond to the filmmaking tasks for which they have been developing skills throughout their work with the textbook.  These jobs have been in a pretty constant state of flux for a number of years as the processes of the digital media pipeline and business of media production continue to evolve and transform.

Recently a very interesting piece by Cara Buckley on gripping appeared in the New York Times: What is a Grip?  The Few Women Doing the Job in Hollywood Explain.”  Check out this article to find some answers along with insights and inspiration.

On a topic related to a core theme of this article, mediateacher.net notes the deeply sad news of the passing of Agnès Varda, one of the most important filmmakers of this era and a truly inspiring creator and visionary.

And to continue with another follow-up (related to the earlier references in multiple ways!) to working in the movie industry, here is an interview with Jessica Lee Gagné, the cinematographer of the stunningly shot Escape at Dannemora, a Showtime 7-part miniseries directed by Ben Stiller, released a few months ago to widespread acclaim.  Amazing work both behind and in front of the camera.

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.