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In our series of posts about Women Pioneers of the Cinema, a few years ago we highlighted the work of one of the most important filmmakers in movie history: Alice Guy Blaché.  For some further information about this groundbreaking creator and studio head, you can check out this brief piece with video links from Open Culture.  Or, you can go straight to this short but informative video.  It is titled “The First Woman Filmmaker Nobody’s Heard Of” — well, that might be the case unless you learned about filmmaking and media literacy from Moving Images and mediateacher.net.  

And do you want an exciting piece of news?  There is a documentary in the works about this inspiring pioneer: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, directed by Pamela B. Green.

A moviemaker who blazed many trails, some of which that led to false paths and others that seemed to meander through Indiana Jones-styled jungle thickets or lost treasure labyrinths, Orson Welles continues to provide many lessons to directors, editors, sound designers, and everyone else involved in moving image creation.  Here is a highly recommended article on a lesser-known ahead-of-its-time innovation in his work: the video essay, as seen in F for Fake.  And the tale of rediscovering and rebuilding one of his “lost temples” of filmmaking (which was reported on in this blog a couple of years ago)— The Other Side of the Wind — goes on.   In a perfect 21st century twist worthy of the director of Citizen Kane, Netflix is the studio that has stepped in to finance this elusive, decades-old project through to fruition.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-6-50-48-pmThis article by Google (about their own initiative) highlights interesting work in technology applications used to study and evaluate gender roles onscreen in film and to use data to analyze screen time by gender in a variety of movies.  This resource can be of value in media literacy work that explores gender bias and social implications of media messages.  For further research, there are many resources available through the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

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.