Archive for September, 2012

How do we interpret this man? Motion Picture Language in Chapters 1 & 2

In the first chapter of Moving Images, students explore the basics of media communications through investigations of the concept of motion picture language.  As with all the units of work in this textbook, this is done through analysis, evaluation, creation, and other collaborative and critical means.  In a media literacy and digital production course I am teaching this fall, the students produced exceptionally interesting and well executed initial projects for this unit (featuring sharp match cuts, unique opening shots, distinctive camera operation, interesting approaches to an assigned script, and more), and I proposed that if some of them wanted to give permission, it might be fun for us to share these via YouTube or another means.  The response was an emphatic “No!”  They said, “Let’s do that when we make something better!  And with original scripts!”  Students 1, Teacher 0.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned returning with Chapter 1 materials.  Recently, my class watched a variety of movie openings for unit one, along with selected shorts, such as Inja (on our textbook DVD), Jake Scott’s Tooth Fairy and the French short I’ll Wait for the Next One.  Another movie that I have been using in recent years is Nanette Burstein‘s provocative, exceptional documentary American Teen.  This movie is quite rich for investigations of many issues associated with media creation, whether logistical, ethical, social, narrative, or concerning the use of motion picture language. Here is a Critical Thinking Sheet — Critical Notebook 1d — to be used for group discussions or writing prompts with this movie.

Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” one of the finest in Blake Edwards’ comedic series

As a final note, the flags at mediateacher.net will be flying at half mast to express our condolences for the passing of beloved actor Herbert Lom, who so brilliantly portrayed the long-suffering Chief Inspector Dreyfus in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther series, among many other great roles, such as in Alexander Mackendrick‘s The Ladykillers and a personal favorite, The Horse without a Head.  Rest in peace, Mr. Lom.

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As media professionals work on figuring out new ways to reach audiences and create sustainable business models, here is a new example that can be very useful for media educators: the I Files.  This YouTube channel, developed by the Center for Investigative Reporting, is looking “to make investigative reporting more web-centric, vibrant and social, in a way we hope attracts more viewers and interest for the enterprise journalism communities depend on,” according to Michael Maness of the Knight Foundation, which funds The I Files.  The site will serve as a conduit to investigative news reporting and will feature work not only from major media outlets but also by independent, web-based journalists.  Research has shown that news events are among the top searches on YouTube, and The I Files hopes to capitalize on this.  The channel is also offering The I Files Future Award, a contest for journalism students.

In their most recent postings, The I Files are highlighting current news and documentary Emmy nominees for non-fiction work.   These include Better This World (directed by Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega; about two Americans arrested as domestic terrorists during the 2008 Republican convention; see it here on PBS), Enemies of the People (directed by Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin, this feature doc concerns the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia), A National Disgrace (produced by Dan Rather reports, it is about challenges facing the Detroit School System), and a number of other highly rated contemporary documentaries worthy of investigation by educators.

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Stills from The Avengers with cinematography by Seamus McGarvey

Right now, the memeisphere seems to be abuzz with folks talking about where we are at with the state of the actual stuff called “film” and how media industries have become a digital game overall.  Here is a discussion (“Film is Dead?  Long Live Movies”) between the two chief movie critics for the New York Times, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis about what has been gained, what could be lost, and where things stand between practicality, economics, creativity, and other factors nestled between the pixels and emulsion of moving images.

In this interview, Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey talks about his work on the biggest hit of this moviegoing year, The Avengers.  He discusses shooting digitally, including significant use of greenscreen, and there are excellent perspectives on the use of 3D, particularly its limitations.  He has mentioned elsewhere that some shots in the movie were recorded with an iPhone 4.

Joss Whedon, Captain Avenger (Image credit: Zade Rosenthal)

Speaking of inventive use of the new landscapes of our fluxing world of moving images, here is where you can find some of the most recent mischief of the director of The Avengers, Joss Whedon (along with Ira Glass of This American Life and Mike Birbiglia, the star of Sleepwalk with Me).  As usual, great fun – and inspiration too – can be had when exploring Joss Whedon’s work as he messes around with genres and platforms and finds new ways to explore character, story, emotions, and creative expression in the rapidly evolving worlds of contemporary media (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Firefly to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – and its inventive DVD – to, of course, The Avengers).  And here is a revealing perspective from Samuel L. Jackson about his work with Whedon on The Avengers.  

One last note: yes, it’s the start of a new school year!  So, fellow teachers, here’s a promise: I will be back SOON with new support and ideas concerning Chapter 1 of Moving Images.  

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