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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?

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

As we wind down the school year, teachers in a variety of disciplines — particularly social studies and media literacy — might be trying to wrestle with the conflicting images of the President of the United States engaging in talks with the Supreme Leader of North Korea. Of particular interest to educators who deal with moviemaking and media messages was the rather unique video created to deliver a message of the American administration’s intentions to Kim Jong-un and his government.  Here are some useful resources and commentary on the sort of trailer/PSA created by the current American administration: a journalistic media-based commentary about “Trump’s Video Pitch to Kim,” the actual video as posted by the Wall Street Journal, and coverage of the event by a reporter for the Washington Post. 

And the question — or challenge — to ask of one’s students is certainly, “do you think you could do better?”

For those interested in other topics related to media literacy and social studies, there are a number of posts on mediateacher.net, including: Language and Literacy: Case 1 – “Fake” News and Language and Literacy: Case 2 – The Troll

Still from Charles Burnett’s classic Killer of Sheep

For Black History Month, film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott of the New York Times have compiled an interactive list of culturally, artistically, and historically important motion pictures.  This resource is quite valuable and can also serve as a springboard for interesting discussion.  Along with the movies they have chosen — one per day for the month of February — there are many others noted in their comments and footnotes.  Many directors and other figures from film history who are featured in Moving Images, such as Oscar Micheaux, Spike Lee, and Charles Burnett, are highlighted among the selections.

Today’s Google Doodle is dedicated to one of the true pioneers and master directors of cinema: Sergei Eisenstein.  In fact, the splash page illustration of Chapter 1 of Moving Images is inspired from one of Eisenstein’s most famous films, The Battleship Potemkin.  Funny enough, you can look to the last post on mediateacher.net to see a reference to the core of one of the key aspects of Eisenstein’s work and the innovations in editing that he and his peers were establishing in their work, montage style of editing and the meanings that can be forged through the relationships and juxtapositions of shots.  The example used there is expressed in the idea known as the Kuleshov Effect.  For more, here is a fine recent article on Eisenstein and another of his celebrated films, October, by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian

And for a YouTube essay on the function and form of the Kuleshov Effect, check out this video by Folding Ideas.

About a year and a half ago, I posted an end-of-the-summer piece titled A “stink bucket of disappointment” or just some criminally wacky fun? about the movie Suicide Squad, written and directed by David Ayer (whose latest is Bright) and edited by John Gilroy.  For a very interesting critical investigation of editing related to Suicide Squad, I highly recommend this video: The Art of Editing and Suicide Squad It is from the YouTube channel Folding Ideas (by Dan Olson), and you can start at 01’20” into the video where he starts getting into the analysis of the movie’s editing.  

In fact, the piece is as much about cohesive storytelling as it is about the craft of editing.  There are many excellent breakdowns of issues to consider in the process of editing, as discussed throughout Moving Images, particularly in Chapters 1 and 2.  And Olson even references the Kuleshov Effect (at 17’30”) to help explain glaring weaknesses to the opening of Suicide Squad.  It is a revealing example of analyzing the effect of composition choices with editing.  It is worth pointing out that for a full analysis of issues with story and the filmmaking process with Suicide Squad, it would be critical to reference the shooting script by David Ayer.  Many answers to issues posed in the editing analysis could be revealed there.

P.S.: And here is a vlog post by Folding Ideas specifically about The Kuleshov Effect.