Saturday, November 22, 2008
Tropic Thunder is a movie about making a movie, similar to Singin’ In the Rain. Tropic Thunder is the story of actors on location making a movie about the Vietnam War. When the director is unhappy with his leading actors, he takes the advice of the film’s consultant, a Vietnam veteran, and rigs up a number of cameras in the jungle. The actors are flown via helicopter into the jungle, with no creature comforts, and are left to act out the movie. However, a local drug lord becomes convinced they are not actors but Drug Enforcement Agents. A series of comedic misadventures ensues. Dramatic irony plays a large role in the film; the audience knows a great deal more about what is happening than the characters in Tropic Thunder.
While the film is a feature, it begins with four short films. The short films are designed as a form of exposition, to alert the viewer as to the diverse cinematic backgrounds of the leading characters in the film. The short films are in the form of trailers for each of the actors most recent film. Based on the trailers, the audience of Tropic Thunder knows instantly what type of celebrity each of the main characters in the film is.
Alpa Chino is a rap star, with his own line of energy drinks. His commercial resembles a hip-hop music video, complete with female dancers in skimpy outfits. The next is a trailer for Tugg Speedman’s new film "SCORCHER 6: Global Meltdown," an action movie. The trailer mentions the previous movies in the Scorcher series, which implies that it is a long-running franchise. This trailer is followed by Jeff Portnoy’s "The Fatties: Fart 2." Based on the number of fart jokes in the trailer, it is quite apparent that it is a gross-out teen comedy.
The final trailer is for “Satan’s Alley,” which stars Kirk Lazarus, an actor who was won multiple Academy Awards. It features many medium close-ups of Kirk Lazarus and Toby McGuire. The music is highly dramatic, setting the movie apart from the others advertised in tone. The plot concerns a homosexual relationship between monks. There is a two shot which shows one of the actors playing with the others rosary beads, which acts as a form of flirting. This film has the distinction of winning the Beijing Film Festival’s Crying Monkey. This fictitious film festival and award sets up the idea that Kirk Lazarus is a serious actor, unlike the other cast members in the film within a film.
What these trailers demonstrate is that only are the types of film they advertise instantly recognizable genres, but also that the trailers themselves have a high degree of familiarity. A parody only works if the audience is familiar with the material being gently mocked. This series of short films points to the idea that trailers are their own genre, and that trailers could be considered short films
Directed by Jae-yong Kwak, Korea, 2001, approximately 2 minutes
A short film Sonagi, Rain Shower in English, appears in My Sassy Girl, one of my favorite Korean romantic-comedy films. My Sassy Girl tells the story of a male college student, Gyeon-woo (Tae-Hyun Cha), and the girl (Ji-hyun Jun) who is never named in the movie. The girl is an aspiring scriptwriter and keeps sending her scripts to film companies. Throughout the movie, three different short films from different genres are played, and Sonagi is one of them. Sonagi is a short story by Soon-won Hwang and is made to a film in My Sassy Girl. In Sonagi, the rain shower symbolizes the short but heart-rending love between the boy and the girl. They like each other, but they cannot tell what they cannot express what they feel. One day, they spend some time together and are caught in a shower on their way home. The girl, who has weak health, catches a serious cold and soon dies. Before she dies, she asks her grandfather to bury her with her clothes on, the clothes that she was wearing on the day she met the boy.
In My Sassy Girl, the girl writes a new version of Sonagi, in which changes the end. She says that it should not end like this as Gyeon-woo mentions that the Koreans love sad films because of Sonagi. She comes up with a wild perversion of the short film. The dying girl in Sonagi asks that her lover be buried along with her even though he is still alive. The resulting situation is not only quite humorous, but also shows the girl's unusual personality well. In addition to that, Sonagi gives a hint about the girl and Gyeon-woo's love story.
The girl in My Sassy Girl is very pretty and seems sweet and nice. In fact, the actress Ji-hyun Jun, who plays the girl, is always mentioned in the list of Korea’s most beautiful actress. However, contrary to her appearance, her personal characteristics are out of the common. For example, she makes her boy friend put on her high heels just because her feet hurt and she wants him to feel the same. Gyeon-woo cannot say no and puts on the heels without any complaint. She also slaps Gyeon-woo's face in the subway when he loses their bet. As the original Korean title That Bizzare Girl says, she is bizzare. The plotline of Sonagi is supposed to be very romantic, and has made a lot of Koreans cry because of the boy and the girl's touching love story. Nevertheless, the girl changes the ending into something like a horror film. That moment is the one of the scenes that clearly shows how bizzare she is.
In addition to that, the short film Sonagi also implies the short love story of the girl and Gyeon-woo. However, although Sonagi has a sad ending, My Sassy Girl ends with a happy ending. In the original version of Sonagi, the girl and the boy cannot confess their love to each other, and their love story ends as the girl dies. Their love is as short as a rain shower that soaks them on their way home. In My Sassy Girl, Gyeon-woo and the girl love each other but do not say it. They just hang out together like friends. The movie consists of Part One and Part Two, and in Part Two, the girl and Gyeon-woo break up because of the girl's father's demand although they have liked each other for a short period of time. Nonetheless, the story does not end in the way Sonagi does. They meet two years later by chance in a blind date through Gyeon-woo's aunt's mediation and live happily ever after.
Sonagi in My Sassy Girl appears about only 2 minutes in the movie. Still, the short film affects the story of My Sassy Girl. It provides a hilarious scene, as well as describes unusual personality of the girl by changing the ending of the film. No one would imagine the ending of Sonagi in that way. In addition to that, the film insinuates the relationship between the girl and Gyeon-woo. The story of Sonagi makes the viewers think that they will not get together and the movie will not end happily. However, in spite of Sonagi's sad ending, My Sassy Girl ends happily, and that makes the viewer satisfied after watching the movie.
Friday, November 21, 2008
If you want high quality: http://www.manvsmagnet.com/motion/album/album.mov
Director: Ugly Pictures (Rohitash Rao)
Running Time: 2:34
Source: YouTube & ManvsMagnet
Battle of the Album Covers wasn't intended to be an online success. It was a commissioned piece of work for the annual charity event in New York City called "Battle of the Ad Bands." Ugly Pictures co-founder Rohitash Rao had created a two and a half minute film the year before, where it featured people fighting in an alleyway with different instruments. For the 2006 show, Rohitash Rao wanted to go a different route. He worked with designer/artist ManvsMagnet (Matt Smithson) to create a film not with figurines, but with the album covers themselves.
The two minute film has a simple plot: the album covers fight against each other, and there's multiple fights to boot. Dead Kennedy's logo versus Van Halen's logo. AC/DC's cannon shooting down Def Leppard's building. Rick James shooting down Billy Joel. Ozzy Osbourne's Bark at the Moon biting the heads off of people. It's hilarious and wacky, styled in the way of Monty Python's images ala Holy Grail fame... meeting Celebrity Deathmatch.
“The reaction was so amazing — nobody could hear the sound because people were cheering so loud,” says Ugly Pictures’s co-founder Rohitash Rao in a interview with Boston newspaper The Phoenix. “Minutes after the screening was over, people demanded a copy. The next day, we tried to put it on YouTube and somebody had already put it on there.”
Ugly Pictures, ManvsMagnet and Rohitash Rao had no issues with their film being shown online before they did. Because of this, in 2006, the video became an online hit. Thousands of plays occurred and it was a top watched video on YouTube and the internet. It's still a viral favorite with many people, particularly in the teen and college age groups.
It's not very surprising that the video was already online before the creators themselves put it up. In this day and age, when a film is shown to the public and a high interest grows because of it, the video will be online within a couple of hours. But in the case of "Battle of the Album Covers," this happened before the creator's consent. It happened without the creators knowing this was already up.
In the film industry right now, there is a hot debate still brewing about the issue of copyright laws and the internet. People torrent films in the theaters right now, in order to avoid spending money. Industry folk blame illegal downloading to the lack of ticket sales and revenue occurring in the business right now. It's understandable how that applies to features, as millions of dollars are spent on some high-production quality movies. But does that philosophy apply to shorts?
Filmmakers have the right to put them on YouTube themselves. YouTube even has their own Screening Room for those who wish to watch high quality films made by reputable directors. But are filmmakers losing money because of online marketing? They are getting their name out, yes, as well as their film, but they are not receiving any kind of pension in return for their hardwork. Online fame leads to exposure, but no instant gratitude in cold hard cash.
So are these short film makers gaining any money to begin with? Does the nature of the short film industry bank on artistic license more than money making? Do the issues of copyright law and control apply to the short film industry? Is it because the shorts are so small in time, there is no need to be riled up about the lack of consent of showing a short?
As a filmmaker, I feel like those who make shorts should not only receive recognition for their hard work, but some sort of compensation in return for the hard work they do. In regards to "Battle of the Album Covers," I can see why Ugly Pictures had no issues with this short -- they were commissioned from the start to make this. I wonder what other directors would say about this issue, and if artistic consent does apply to shorts as it does to features.
Also, if you are wondering what the running order of album covers were in this short, here's the list.
24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot
Directed by Sam Reich, USA, 2007, 4:19
This short is an original short by collegehumor.com. CollegeHumor used to be a typical website to find goofy videos, articles, and pictures that were on the amateur side, but it's success has allowed the site to invest in creating high budget short films as part of its CHTV online series. Their originals are a step up from the average viral-video. One particular favorite of mine is the 24 parody about what the show would have been like if it took place in 1994 using 1994's technology. The videos has Jack Bauer on a mission to diffuse a bomb, but his success continuously gets side-lined by technology such as pay-phones, dial-up internet, the lack of ability to use the phone while on the internet, paper printers, and more.
The professional aesthetic impressed first about the short. This isn't a bunch of college students in their dorm room. This short looks like a full-fledged production using real locations, hired actors, and expensive equipment. While these are all elements one would expect at a short film festival, in the age of YouTube, the expectations in the production quality of online shorts are lower. One can expect a shaky, crappy camera to be used, a lack of any real microphones, shot in someone's bedroom, etc. However, this short is as professional-looking as they get. The acting is well-done, and the Jack Bauer character actually looks like the real deal.
The video also happens to be very clever. It creates nostalgia for the viewer. I honestly forgot about those terrible printers where you had to tear off the edges of the paper or the fact that you can't use the phone while someone is on the internet. At the time, these were all coveted technologies, but they are laughable by today's standards when you can look at the internet ON your phone. Jack Bauer doesn't have a cell phone: to communicate with his boss; he gets a page on his beeper and has to leave the bomb to go find a pay-phone, and he even runs out of quarters. There are subtle references as well, such as when a character mentions they can't get on a Lycos page (remember Lycos?)
When one thinks of online-exclusive video, the perceptions of "no-budget" or "a teenager fooling with his friends after school" come to mind. Online-videos have no form of physical distribution. They aren't on TV. The expectations are usually low. One might think, "if it was actually so good, it probably would be seen elsewhere than the computer." However, this video shows that even some great great material can be isolated solely to the internet realm.
posted for Michael D. Cole
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Source: You Tube
Like most college students, I waste my time on youtube watching pointless videos (notice I say videos and not short films). The videos my roommates and I watch the most are the ones that are simply, quite stupid and yet hilarious. Sneezing Panda is just one of those videos. If you haven’t seen it, just watch it. It only eats up 16 seconds of your life. I have watched Sneezing Panda maybe 50 times (it just never gets old). The surprise of the mama panda is comical, and the fact that the baby panda sneezed so forcefully that its’ entire body jumped off the ground is a feat in itself. Despite the cuteness factor, obvious entertainment value, and its’ placement on a short films blog, this video is not what I consider a short film.
My definition of a short film is not the one that was established in class a few weeks ago, of anything put on youtube. To me, a short film requires an intension to be considered a short film. The budget doesn’t matter, nor the subject material, but there needs to be thought behind the making of the film and an intension for it to be a short film. Randomly filming something on your video phone and then uploading it onto youtube does not constitute a short film. Having a story, maybe actors, a director, and a purpose makes a short film. Even if the point of a short film is to have no point, it is still a short film because of the thought process behind it.
Youtube is a home to several different types of media, one of which is short films. But also housed on that website are home videos, video blogs, TV clips, movie clips, and tons and tons of pointless crap. Don’t get me wrong, I love the abundant pointless crap on youtube, but to call it all short films is taking it a step too far.
Whoever filmed Sneezing Panda was lucky to capture such a hilarious moment, but there was obviously no intention to make a short film while filming the mother and baby panda. The person wielding the camera was probably just filming the eating habits of an adult panda and just happened to get a priceless 16 second piece of film from it.
"Oh shit," I can hear you sighing to yourself upon discovering that there is such a thing as SwededFilms.com, "I am probably going to waste my entire night watching these things." Sorry in advance.
A sweded film is, according to Urban Dictionary, a "summarized recreation of popular pop-culture films using limited budgets and a camcorder." The swede phenomenon emerged as a tribute to Michel Gondry's 2008 classic (for in the viral age, the gestation period for determining what is to be "classic" is as brief as its viewer's attention spans) Be Kind Rewind. The movie is about two video store clerks (played Jack Black and Mos Def) who accidentally erase a bunch of videotapes and then re-film the lost movies using inventive -- if laughably cheap -- methods. Fans of the film began uploading their own swedes (named such because the characters lie to their customers and tell them the films were made in Sweden) to sites like Youtube, and shortly thereafter SwededFilms.com was born and the swede movement adopted a code of aesthetics all its own.
Swedes are fueled not by funding but by ingenuity and an embrace of the limitations of their form. A good swede wears its budget on its sleeve; it tries to find the cheapest and most amateurish-on-purpose way of filming things like special effects, iconic characters and memorable (and often convoluted) plots. As with any genre, conventions develop quickly. Extra points are always won for clumsy, a-capella renditions of famous instrumental soundtracks. And referring to characters by their actor's name is always good for a laugh (one of my favorite lines in the above Jurassic Park swede is "Jeff Goldblume, freeze!").
The best swedes are the ones that understand the fidgety attention span of the average Youtube enthusiast and cater to it with rapid-fire cutting. That's what I like so much about this particular Jurassic Park swede. It's not the only Jurassic Park swede on the internet, mind you (as evidenced by Youtube user MrFGC1's comment "Best Jurassic Park Sweded on youtube"; high praise indeed), but I think the editing in this one shows the filmmaker's intimate understanding of the form, which is critical to a successful swede. The editing is purposefully hyper-continuous, in that it assumes we are all so familiar with the plot of Jurassic Park that we could recite it in our sleep. The sweded Jurassic Park uses fragments of the intimately familiar and creates an entirely new text that makes our familiarity a punchline in itself. That we "get it" is contingent upon us being as familiar with Jurassic Park as the filmmakers are.
But the biggest joke of all, and one common of all swedes, is one about the relationship between shorts and features. Can we take a two-hour blockbuster and condense it into a short that lasts only 5 minutes? 3 minutes? 2? The shorter duration in which a swede can tell a complicated story, the funnier it is. True, every swede is innately indebted to the film that inspired it, so we could say that this is yet another way in which shorts are viewed as subordinate to features. But I actually see an up-with-shorts mentality present in the swede phenomenon: within less than a year of their existence, swedes have adopted a language and a code of content so much their own that I actually think you can watch a good swede and, without having seen the original feature, find tremendous enjoyment in it. It's an homage to the inherent brevity of the short. It's a celebration of montage in ways that Eisenstein never dreamed.
Broke Back to the Future
Running Time 2:11
The true definition of an internet sensation is one that is forwarded through emails, linked on facebook pages, sent through AOL instant messenger, but never see the likes of the big screen. What great about this short is it's been in both realms. These trailers remade are an internet sensation amongst themselves not only just this one (but Brokeback Mountain is a popular choice). I chose this particular trailer out of thousands of remakes because of the use of two films that were once very popular films on the big screen and now have faded into TBS and our DVD players.
This trailer spoof takes the Back to the Future trilogy and splices them in a way that shows the two main characters in the film in a homosexual relationship. All of the clips that are used have slight sexual connotation to them, whether it's the Fox and Lloyd hugging or gazing into each other eyes. Needless to say all of the clips that are used are taken completely out of context. But put hem all together and throw the in the song The Wings by Gustavo Santoalla from Brokeback Mountain and the typical trailer music and you got yourself a completely different film.
I watched a few dozen of these trailers, from the very creative Good Will Hunted to the lesser Fight Club. But this short stood out the most for me because it's resemblance to an actual trailer, I think it even had some of the viewers who commented on it excited to see the feature length version of the film. What I noticed watching all of these spoof trailers is that they all seem to revolve around one central theme, which is Brokeback Mountain. Sure, there are plenty of other trailers that used different ideas to run with. But I think why so many of these trailers use homosexuality as their focus point is because it's so easy to run with. Take any film with two main characters that are men and run a some clips where they are looking at each other, play those in slow motion and have the song playing in background and there you have it a brokeback spoof.
This online only video is a simple home video that started with a dad who wanted to film the kids for his distant relatives. He posted this home video on youtube specifically for this purpose, and it was nothing short of a internet phenomenon that made the video as big as it is. Not only are this kids precious, but their interaction is hilarious. Specifically, the facial reactions of the older brother as he realizes that his finger is in fact being bit, and it does in fact hurt.
He jokingly puts his finger in Charlie's mouth for the camera. Charlie bites. It's funny, the brother is thinking, and so he goes along with it. But wait, it hurts. OK Charlie, older brother thinks, it's hurting, so stop. When his forehead crinkles and he lets out that "ohhoh," that's when genuine panic sets in. In my warped mind, and in the hearts of many millions, thats when the film really gets good. Charlie finally lets go, older brother gets mad and yells. His cute mini british accent just warms my ignorant American heart even more.
Then, unknowing to his older brother's anger, Charlie laughs. All of a sudden older brother is no longer pissed, he chuckles with Charlie. Again, completely oblivious to his previous emotional status.
The fact that this blog has far surpassed the lengths of my previous blogs should show that online only videos take on a fury and spirit of their own. I know when the topic came up this afternoon, my residents were suggesting all sorts of dumb, hilarious material that would have never reached such success with any other form of distribution.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Yacht Rock Episode 1: "What a Fool Believes"
Directed by JD Ryznar, 2005, 5 minutes
"Yacht Rock" is an online "tv series" detailing the days when the smooth sounds of Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates dominated the charts. In Episode 1, Michael McDonald has to write a hit song in one day, or else be kicked out of the Doobie Brothers. Kenny Loggins offers to help out, but Michael isn't sure because Kenny just ditched his former songwriting partner, Jim Messina. They visit Jim, who's now a drunk living in an alley, but inspiration strikes and Kenny and Michael end up writing "What a Fool Believes" together. The Doobies perform the song and all is well, until the belligerent Hall & Oates show up to challenge Kenny and Michael to a songwriting contest, setting up the scenario for the next episode.
"Yacht Rock" is a parody, and therefore is only really funny if you're familiar with the musicians they're poking fun at. (I am, because this is pretty much all my mom listens to.) But it still shares some characteristics with other online comedy films - for example, the low production values, such as John Oates' obviously fake afro and moustache, make it funnier. Personally I also enjoy the ridiculous nautical puns, and the effects that try to make it look like the series is actually from the 70s. (The rest of the series can be viewed here. Episode 2, which features a back-alley songwriting duel with tragic results, is my favorite.)
Although "Yacht Rock" is available on YouTube, it was originally created for the website Channel101.com. Channel101 calls itself "the unavoidable future of entertainment": it is a website where the viewers determine which shows continue and which shows die. Each month, a screening is held in LA for the submissions selected to compete. The audience then votes for the shows it most wants to continue. The top five winners are allowed to submit their next episode for next month's screening, to compete against whatever pilots are submitted for the next month. All of the shorts must be 5 minutes or less. (Here is a more thorough explanation.)
Channel101 is interesting because it again blurs the line between short film and television. Generally speaking, the films on Channel101 can work as stand-alones, but they're also designed to leave the audience wanting more (so that they'll vote for a new episode.) In 2007, the site even sort of made a move onto actual TV when VH1 created Acceptable.tv. Acceptable.tv had the same basic premise as Channel101, but instead of screenings the shorts were aired on television, and viewers could then go to the website to vote for the shows they wanted to see next month. The creators of Acceptable.tv were, fittingly, people who got their start at Channel101. They are not the only success stories - before landing his gig on SNL, Andy Samberg & his writing partners created The 'Bu for Channel101, which ended up being one of the longest-running series on the site, and "Yacht Rock" itself now has periodic screenings across the country.
Chad Vader - Day Shift Manager
Blame Society Productions, USA, 2006, 4:47
The brainchild of Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, Chad Vader initially landed on the web via YouTube and MySpace in the summer of 2006, the first of eight episodes. The comic short series follows the adventures of Chad Vader, the younger, lesser-known and mostly inept brother of the arch-villian Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies.
Chad, in full black mask and suit (which apparently cost $600) works as the day manager of Empire Market, and has all the powers, the lightsaber (and voice) of Darth, and ill-fortune to deal with the earthbound and mundane struggles of grocery store managing life - lazy employees, demanding customers, the vagaries of the dating world, and a major conflict with night manager Clint. The latter relationship propels the arc of the series, as Chad is shunted to the night shift, quits the market, goes on a roaring drunk, fails at other jobs, and then duels Clint in Episode 8 to regain the vaunted position of day shift manager.
Chad Vader is both a good example of the viral power of the internet (I first heard about it through word of mouth, before it began spreading outward to Good Morning America and the BBC among other venues), and also of the "remediation effect" mentioned in our reading on YouTube, the practice of reusing or reworking material from one media in a different media, in this case generating comedy on the internet with an iconic film character. Viewers also have to be in on the culture of Star Wars to get the joke (the dialogue from the films and his powers are assumed knowledge).
I enjoyed the series when it came out, and it's got higher production values (and much more thought process) than many other YouTube bits, but in an odd way, it also feels "dated" by the standards of our national nanosecond attention span, swept aside in the great onrush forward. My current webseries obsession, which is still playing out this fall, is based here in DC.
Meanwhile, time will tell if Sloan and Yonda are one-hit wonders. They're still based out in Madison, Wisconsin (the set location for the series), have added merchandising to their repertoire, and are busy working on Series 2 of Chad Vader, just two more lucky lottery winners of this new world order (or third screen) of internet celebrity-dom.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The short tells the story of Pearl (the landlord) who is coming to claim the rent from Will Farrell early because she happens to be an alcoholic. This would be mundane event sparked an internet phenomenon of over 60 million views at www.funnyordie.com
The Landlord was an exclusive short for the website and also the website’s first one. The site was founded by Will Farrell and Adam McKay’s production company, Gary Sanchez Production. The uniqueness about the site (when compared to other sites such as YouTube.com), despite having its own creative team (the FunnyorDie Team or FODteam) and exclusive shorts from other well known celebrities such as Ben Stiller and Craig Robinson, is that viewers can decide if the video is funny or not (meaning should it die). This then allows for the videos to get categorized into: Immortal, Walking Tall, Kinda Cute, Uh-Oh, the Crypt and the Chosen One (this category in particular belongs to videos which received no votes at all. The Landlord is considered a Chosen One since it apparently never received any votes despite its popularity.
In the short, Pearl Mckay (who is the daughter of the director who also happens to be the man sitting with the VOGUE magazine talking to Will Farrell) overshadows Will Farrell whom as a viewer would be the one expected to be making the jokes instead of receiving them. Despite the fact that Mr. Farrell does start out as the one making the jokes (i.e. “my dad’s gay; the blood tests don’t lie”), he eventually looses that dominant position to Pearl. The reason for this can be seen in the irony of the narrative of the short. Normally you would not expect Will Farrell to be behind on his rent or have a landlord who is two years old that happens to negotiate the overdue rent with alcohol. But the fact that a two year old happens to be saying phrases like “I need to get my drink on”, “you are an asshole”, and “I’m just buzzed” with an innocent voice and a princess dress makes this mundane event much more enjoyable. Her parents must be proud.
Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Is 'Totally Badass'
The Onion News Network
"Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty is 'Totally Badass'"
The Onion is probably the most widely known satirical newspaper in circulation. Its headlines are poignant and clever and the articles that follow can often be funny but typically prove that it is unnecessary to go beyond the headlines. When The Onion began their website it seemed to be only a matter of time before they jumped on the viral video craze and brought their satirical talent to broadcast parodies. These videos show the depths of The Onion writing staff’s talent and their ability to go beyond just the headlines.
A personal favorite is a video from a News Room segment that covers a Supreme Court ruling over the death penalty. The Onion has never failed to attack the conservative side of the government and here they take a jab at the right wing stance toward death penalty. To a certain extent they are putting the Supreme Court on the same level as an adolescent boy who’s entertained purely by action movies. While The Daily Show and The Colbert Report pride themselves on being fake news shows, The Onion has the ability here to fully embrace that concept without the distractions of a studio audience. The deadpan faces and serious delivery of the story add to the absurdity and comedy of the entire piece. The attention to detail in this clip, specifically the courtroom sketches add another element of legitimacy to style.
This clip works because it reaches into the absurd while maintaining a purely serious tone. While the writers probably give the Supreme Court a little more credit with their intelligence, this heightened sense of reality is effective in that it uses the most trivial arguments for a major issue. They are not only trying to make use laugh but also ponder, the millionth time, where we stand on death penalty, but with this clip they have made it a little easier to delve into that topic.
Director: Simon Gibney
Script, Producer: Paddy Courtney
Don't Leave Me Hanging from Virtual Cinema on Vimeo.
I found this short film, Don’t Leave Me Hanging, on the Irish Film Board’s website in their virtual cinema section. I decided to write about it because this film stood out the most. The other films were funny or cute but this one had a strong message attached to it and the production quality helped to enhance this message.
Don’t Leave Me Hanging was made in part with an organization called Aware. This is a voluntary organization in Ireland which provides support for people battling depression. The video is focused on raising awareness for this issue. It sends a message to people who are not suffering from depression to be aware of others and literally not to leave them hanging.
In the film a young boy, Gary, walks home from school. It is obvious that he does not have very many friends and when he arrives at home his mother ignores him while she is cooking. The film would switch perspectives going from an “outsider” to Gary’s view. When this would happen there is an obvious switch in styles. The colors become less saturated and the vision less steady. The edges of the screen become black and fade to create a circle of vision and the audio is muffled by a hum.
In the end Gary hangs himself. This doesn’t really come as a surprise because it is built up the entire film. Especially with the dramatic switch of perspectives I feel the ending was not a shocker. But at the same time, I see that is the purpose of the film. Depression isn’t something that randomly hurts people. A lot of the time it is seen as a progression and without the help and understanding provided the end could be like Gary’s. That is the message I am gathering from this production by the Irish Film Board. It is important to talk to teenagers (Gary is 14) and make sure they understand that you are there for them. Clearly in this film, Gary’s mom was a busy person. When he walks into the house, she does not even say hi to him. The only line of dialogue in the film is her asking him to wait till she is done cooking. The disappointment on Gary’s face when he smiles at her and she doesn’t notice is heartbreaking.
I think it would be interesting to see this story in a longer narrative format and learn more about the characters but its message wouldn’t be as strong in a longer format. I feel the short film has a sense of power where it can strike hard and fast where a longer film would have to drag out the message. The story would be so built up and we as an audience would become so involved that Gary’s life would not represent the numerous amounts of people that struggle with depression. In a longer film, Gary’s life and depression would become his own and it would be harder to relate his story to others like him.
All in all, I enjoyed this production. I think it is a very important topic and this internet video was a strong way to promote awareness for this particular issue. The “internet video” is something that large amounts of people have access to and is a great source for viral marketing. Another reason this video works as an internet piece is because of its length. When it comes to the internet people want to be able to navigate as quickly as possible. If the movie was longer, their attention span might not last. This short film works to the internet users advantage with its short quick message allowing them to move on or to become inspired and check out the link at the bottom of the bio, directing them to www.aware.ie.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Directed by Stefan Nadelman, USA, 5 minutes 30 seconds
Source: Tourist Pictures
"Food Fight" is a really clever film made using (digital) stop-motion animation. The film traces the general history of "American-centric" warfare from World War I up to the second Gulf War, substituting food for human beings.
The foodstuff replacement functions on two levels: first, it preempts any offensive characterization (or, as some might see it, caricaturization) of entire nations by an outsider. In such a simple stop-motion animation film, it's absolutely necessary to depict the players in each war as sweeping generalizations, or to go even further, as symbols. Furthermore, in order for the viewer to be able to play the guessing game of figuring out the wars being shown, these symbols need to be radically different from one another and based in something culturally recognizable. In light of these necessities, if Nadelman had attempted to fashion clay figurines of Japanese people, for example, as an American director he would likely run the risk of being called out as racially insensitive. Food, however, is something we all know and love (...dare I use the much-maligned word "universal"?); anybody can identify at least one food item that is strongly associated with their native country, and most people can associate certain foods with those foods' respective countries of origin. To go back to the example of Japan, then, using sushi to symbolize Japan as an entire nation/military player, as Nadelman does, is a relatively innocuous symbolization that also dodges esotericism.
Second, replacing people with food items highlights the absurdity of war. Although I'm sure anyone would be much pressed to say that war is funny, I would call "Food Fight" a humorous film. Obviously the incessant barrage of war depictions also plays a crucial role in creating a farcical effect, but by separating warfare from human beings, Nadelman severs the profoundly emotional ties we as human beings may have to a specific war/conflict, to warfare in general, or to the more general idea of death and destruction. In halting these instinctual associations, we can momentarily distance ourselves from warfare--and if, like me, you think this is an antiwar film, we can see with more clarity the silliness of waging war and the unnecessary destruction it causes.
That said, I really enjoy the interactive nature of this film. Nadelman wrote on the website on which the film premiered (www.touristpictures.com) that he had received conflicting suggestions to have captions and to not have captions [specifying nations and wars], but ultimately decided to not have captions so as to let the viewer probe the depths of her gastronomical knowledge/high school history education for what each food fight sequence represents. I'll let you all decide if this film could function as propaganda, if it perpetuates an American imperialist agenda, insert-your-view-on-the-theory-of-history-here, but I won't talk anymore about it, because I think the best way to view "Food Fight" is to first go blindly into it, then afterwards look at the food fight cheat sheet and watch it again.
There's Only One Sun
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai, Hong Kong, 2007
Approx. 10 minutes
The most interesting thing about this short is its intent and means of distribution. Last year, the Philips electronics corporation planned to unveil an exciting new product for the home theater market. Called the Aurora, the product was a new high-definition television set with an interesting new feature. Philips' groundbreaking "ambilight" technology would read the colors at the frame's edge of whatever media is currently being played on the screen, and then project a light of matching color from behind the television set onto the walls and room surrounding it. The idea was to create a more immersive viewing experience, by expanding the presence of the material on screen into the greater space of the home. It's pretty cool stuff, and Philips was burdened with the task of adequately translating the appeal of this new feature through marketing.
This is where Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai steps into the picture. At the time, Wong's last film was a dark and beautiful romantic sequel to his critically acclaimed 60s period piece, In The Mood For Love (2001). The new film, entitled 2046, was also predominantly set in 1960s Hong Kong, but a large subplot of the film concerned itself with a strange futuristic fantasy story illustrating the writings of the film's main character. For those unfamiliar, Wong Kar-Wai (WKW from now on) has a propensity for creating intoxicatingly rich, dreamlike, sensual moving images in his films that compliment his improvisational production techniques as well as his usual themes of unfulfilled love, memory, and chance. So, having just released 2046 to critical acclaim and an admirable commercial success, Philips approached WKW to make an original short film in the style of his last feature to demonstrate the qualities of their new product.
The result is the film you can view above, a fantastically colorful and sexy piece, that virtually oozes WKW's signature dream-like atmosphere. Unfortunately, you can no longer view the film in the entirely unique manner in which Philips originally devised. The picture was released exclusively on the net, on a site devoted specifically to the launch of the new product. What made the project a unique success was a virtual simulation of the Aurora television itself, complete with simulated ambilight technology to demonstrate the practical functionality of the device. There's Only One Sun streamed on the website within its virtual television set, and as the extravagantly colorful scenes unfolded viewers could see the lighting render in real time. How better to demonstrate a new screening feature than to show it to the people? And how better to show it to as many people as possible than through the internet?
What's also fascinating is the lengthy pre-marketing-marketing that gradually build interest and hype for the reveal of the product and WKW's short film itself. Various stages of the website came online in the months leading up to the unveiling, featuring cryptic clues and savvy advertising lingo to get people excited. I believe at one point there was a sort of newsletter/fan-club section where members could access exclusive images from the film and other behind-the-scenes things like that (I can't say for sure what the exact sequence of pre-advertising consisted of since most of the website have long since closed down). On some date closer to the launch of the film, they even released a teaser trailer for the short featuring about 30 seconds of footage. The whole affair played out like a legitimate Hollywood pre-release strategy, though the entire thing unleashed online and for a short film.
lt's worth looking at the film itself a bit more closely as well, considering how it ties directly into the marketing theory of the whole ordeal. WKW has pretty openly embraced advertising within his feature films (His second film, Days of Being Wild, opens with Leslie Cheung buying a Coke, Fallen Angels sets a pivotal scene inside a McDonalds, and WKW even made one of those fun BMW "The Hire" shorts also made for the net) as well as worldly pop music and an ideology fully supportive of a capitalist Hong Kong. As such, it's not surprising that the Aurora television set itself plays a key role in the film it's advertising. The protagonist, having infiltrated the trust of a criminal mastermind in order to kill him, arrives at a strange organic-looking hallway bathed in light, the source of which being the Aurora. She muses on the power of the screen to sustain the life of memories indefinitely while they fade and die outside. WKW imbues the medium and technology itself with a sort of mystical appeal and value, the Philips product being a relevant and associatively forward-thinking construct of that power. The female spy missing "Light", her target and (this being a WKW film after all) love, presses her body up against the screen associating its warmth with that of her lost lover. If that doesn't sell a TV, I don't know what will.
Ultimately, I can't help but admire this short (being a devoted WKW fanatic) and its ingenious marketing plot (being... a savvy consumer?). There's one point where I realize I'm looking at a television set in a film... that's being shown within a virtual simulation of that same television set... that I'm then viewing on my computer monitor... that I sure as hell wish were a Philips Aurora television set, because those things are frickin' sexy!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The Shock Doctrine
Dir. Jonas Cuaron, USA, 2007, approx. 7 min
On the surface The Shock Doctrine seems to be a nice short documentary that uses archival footage and Banksy style of graphics to tell us how shock has been used to push through a free market agenda. But, in the deepness of its subject it turns around to be an advertisement for the book of the same name… or is it? At plain sight the answer might be yes, but let’s say the movie was stopped at min 6:03 right before “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein www.shockdoctrine.com” slate appears. Before it, the short holds on its own.
Archival footage from the 40s and instruction manuals from the CIA are cited as the source. Such footage and graphics explain how shock was used by the CIA to breakdown prisoners. The short then goes unto how natural disasters, wars, and terrorist attacks work in the same way but their effects distress entire societies and how Milton Friedman has promoted passing free market policies during such times. But, the major issue with the movie is not of content and whether or not you agree with it, after all people will be just as pro or con on the subject as they would with any feature length documentary. The Shock Doctrine seems to be trying to go beyond its economy smart target audience, it wants to go beyond the few young (liberal) readers of the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, etc. and grab the attention of those who fail to pay much attention to economic theories but have bought into the free market ideas of our generation, high consumer and most importantly internet junkies.
The short is clearly trying to indoctrinate or at least trying to get a generation wake up, to change. It sounds like a grandiose attempt to inscribe to a 6min short, but the attempt is there. Also there, is the fact that in criticizing the shock doctrine it uses the same technique to promote a book. But, considering the target audience it is not a far stretch. The most viewed online shorts are the most shocking ones, or otherwise it would be just another short that only the friends of its creator pay attention to. With a bunch of slightly ADD twenty-something they have got to deliver quickly, and use as many “relatable” info as possible. And while there is no comment from Foreign Policy the UK company responsible for the graphics, they do resemble Banksy’s style which will resonate with any rebel-leftist type and the modern art lovers. Its pace then propels the criticism that the short gives a bunch of facts without foundation, but the intent is to make the internet junkie generation go looking for more. And we are back at the beginning with the question of advertisement; yes Klein’s book will provide the missing content for the facts and yes it will make the viewers at least visit the website. But that does not necessarily makes the film an ad; it is more a book to film case. The difference here is that we aren’t given a one hour documentary it’s a short. It is our own tendency to see shorts as commercial snippets and calling cards that make us have an adverse reaction to it.
“Information is shock resistance. Arm yourself”
The Time Machine
Directed by Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and Rob Polonsky
2008, United States
Does everyone remember those "Choose Your Adventure" books where when you got to the end of the chapter you'd be given a choice of actions to take and that would determine where the story went? It seems that today's interactive media has kept this genre alive
Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and Rob Polonsky are a group of sketch comedians who have many other online videos to their credit, some of which have been shown off the internet. According to the blog on their website, their film "Chad Hates Aliens" is being featured at the Comic-Con Independent Film Festival, and "No Spoofs for Old Men" was submitted for the 2008 MTV Movie Award for Best Spoof.
"The Time Machine" tells the story of three guys in an office who have five minutes to get to a meeting. Chad and Matt are waiting impatiently for Rob, who has disappeared. Suddenly, Rob rushes in sweaty and breathing heavy, and tells them about a time machine that he found in the office. As Rob tells them that the stuff on his face is dinosaur spit, a group of men in black suits and sunglasses enters the office (a la "The Matrix", a bit shamefully if you ask me) and begins to chase them. After a short chase, they reach the "time machine", which looks like two large garbage bins. Rob jumps in one of the bins, while Chad and Matt try to hold back the agents banging down the door. The action freezes and you are given a choice to have Chad and Matt get in or not. And thus the adventure begins.
I don't want to ruin the rest for all of you, so I'll go as far as saying the choices you make determine how the rest of the film plays out. I think this film fits in very well with this week's theme because there is no other medium other than the internet that would allow an interactive experience like this. I've seen some other examples of this as well, but I enjoyed this one the most.
I liked how Chad, Matt, and Rob used some typical film cliches in their representation of the past and future. In the past there are knights going on quests to fight dragons with swords (a la pretty much every medieval movie I can think of) and the in the future, there's a rampant flesh-eating zombie outbreak (a la "I Am Legend"). Also, there's the black-suit government agent types following them around the whole time, who are straight out of "The Matrix".
I think the interactivity of the internet will change the way we view film on the internet. If audiences find a taste for it, internet filmmakers will be obliged to create more interactive films. Maybe there will be a time when online "films" become almost indistinguishable from an online computer game. Or maybe audiences will prefer a more familiar sit-back-and-enjoy experience and the interactive film will be just another gimmick. Either way, the internet has provided a new outlet for filmmakers to express themselves in new and exciting ways.