Friday, September 30, 2011

Cowboys & FreddieW (ft. Jon Favreau)

Cowboys & FreddieW (ft. Jon Favreau)

Directed by Freddie Wong

United States, 2011 (3 min 31 sec)

Freddie Wong is a popular Youtube filmmaker notable for his video game related videos and special effects. In this video, Freddie is accompanied by Jon Favreau on the set of a Universal backlot. A small western duel with some out of place gadgets and guns takes place.

This video is the result of Favreau contacting Freddie to do something related to “Cowboys and Aliens.” This video is clearly star driven as it deviates from Wong’s usual themes of video games. It seems to me that Favreau saw with as an opportunity to give a popular film maker more exposure while at the same time promote his new movie further. I think this video is worth looking at because I found it very interesting that a Hollywood actor and director would take notice of a Youtube star and provide him with a chance for more exposure. It's pretty shocking to see someone you follow on Youtube suddenly star in a video with a celebrity.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration

Directed by Tim Grant, Written by Emilia Grant
United States, 2010, 3 minutes and 22 seconds

This short film fits not only the week's theme of online-based but it's also a music video and a satirical parody (something we've read quite a bit about for online-based videos). This music video is a parody of the video Apologize by Timbaland/One Republic which can be seen here. In the video I'm looking at, it takes the original lyrics and premise of the song and puts a historical spin on it. In this video by Soomo Publishing, the song is sung by Thomas Jefferson (backed by other famous Founding Fathers including John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Benjamin Franklin) and how colonial America will never forgive England.

Soomo Publishing is a group of people who create online videos, assignments, articles, etc. in order to promote learning and education. This music video was the first of its kind for Soomo, straying dramatically away from the documentaries and interviews they had been used to.

This film, in a word, is brilliant. At least for me. As a history major, with a particular fondness of this time period, and Thomas Jefferson being my favorite historical figure of all time, when I first saw this, it became one of my favorite internet videos. I have to admit that I don't even know the original song anymore! When I hear this music, these are the lyrics I immediately begin singing. This is one of those videos that I continually go back to and watch if I haven't seen it in a while or need some sort of pick-me-up. I think that's an important aspect about internet videos - for most of them, they're always there to go back to and people often do that. No matter how many times they've seen it, they watch it again and again either because they get so much enjoyment from it or they want to show it to all their friends. The word viral is constant in the internet world and it's typically how most internet videos gain their fame and acknowledgement. Indeed, I didn't just search Thomas Jefferson on YouTube (as I've done before) and stumble upon this, I had a friend link it to me, telling me I had to watch it because I would fall in love instantly (hint: she knows me well). It may not have kept up its viral life as long as other videos but there was a time I saw it everywhere and it certainly remains one of my favorites after all this time.

When looking at the original music video it's based on, it's incredible to see what a flawless parody this is. It follows the original almost to a tee while putting a new spin on it. It's a fun representation of history, appreciating it without coming off in any way condescending or ignorant. There is something extremely endearing about this video in its representation of our history. It's something people all over the world are going to have some knowledge of and be able to show appreciation for.

In terms of a short film, it is one I greatly admire. It was shot beautifully and with such respect for the original content that it drew upon. I love the use of focusing and re-focusing the camera, as well as the silhouette of Thomas Jefferson. One could perhaps argue that it's shot are not impressive because the shots are not original. I would argue, however, that they are just as impressive because they were able to be shot so seamlessly from the original and still work as their own pieces of film. The writing of this film is absolute genius. It's all at once entertaining and impressive since they could not adjust the music in any way and had to adapt brand new lyrics for the video and make them flow, which they absolutely did.

Overall, there were so many internet videos I had been considering writing about. When this one came into my thoughts, however, I knew I had to do it. This is the video I return to most often and has really brought me the most joy which is something I think is a staple in terms of internet videos.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

EF - Live the Language - Paris

EF - Live the Language - Paris
Directed by Gustav Johansson, 2011

This video is actually an advertisement for EF International Language Centers, but to me it plays out like a short film. All of the EF videos play out in the same way, as they all follow a student who is immersing themselves in an EF language program somewhere in the world. In this video, we follow a young girl as she navigates through Paris, on the subway, through the market, tries traditional French cuisine, gets lost, and all the while learning the French language. The fact that we see a character from the beginning of her journey, a little unsure of her surroundings, to the point where she's become comfortable in this new setting makes the video a short film to me. I think for anything to be considered a film it has to have a narrative arc, and this little film does.

What makes this film different from other "fish out of water"-type films is the quality of the images and the titles and fonts the director used. The titles are clearly there to advertise the language-learning aspect of the program, but I think they add a quirky element to the film, as if the audience is learning the language with the girl.

I highly recommend that everyone check out the Vimeo page for EF - Live the Language; they have several beautiful videos shot in Barcelona, London, Los Angeles, Sydney and Vancouver.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Boys Will Be Girls

The comedy sketch Boys Will Be Girls is made by the Harvard Sailing Team, and it is a group of four guys imitating girl stereotypes, hilariously.

I was impressed because the quality of video is very good and the quality of humor is even better. I appreciate when a group can make fun of stereotypes without being too offensive or hurtful. They were spot on and very accurate in their depictions.

The film is entertaining, because, hey, who doesn't love guys making fun of their annoying girlfriends? It's so much easier to realize the problem with behaviors when it's presented to you in a funny way. Why shouldn't we be able to laugh at ourselves?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Drunk History Vol.5

Have you ever listened to a drunk friend try to tell you a story? Remember how they can't really remember the story, and get distracted by fun things like say... pants? Let's be honest you have, and it was hilarious. Well Jeremy Conner decided to take those stories and make them into short films. There's a twist - he gets bona fide historians, and then convinces A-list celebrities to act out the drunken story. The result is brilliant and extremely funny.

I think that this concept works because it is the opposite being singular (the concept Jacob mentioned in his previous post). That drunken friend is a universal story, and most people can relate to what they're seeing on screen. You aren't seeing one persons vision (or acid trip) you're seeing a societal experience. By 'interviewing' the historian, the whole concept of the interview becomes convoluted as well, and plays off of our expectation of a gray haired professor rambling on in monotone. Instead the audience sees an historical event as if it took place in the United States of Funny or Die. Simultaneously playing to and against our expectations works together to be surprising, ridiculous, and oh so funny.

Of course, the star power of this film can't be forgotten either. The production value is clearly high - the pantomime and acting is flawless, the music is perfect, and the editing is seamless. The big names and professional quality of this unknown filmmaker is pretty astonishing, and certainly is part of the draw. Will Farrel as Abe Lincoln? Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglas? The roles they play are hilarious own their own since we are familiar with their previous work, and the historical persons they are playing. The intersection of the two results in hilarity, once again because of its absurdity. The trashed narrator creating the scenario around all these characters, providing them with ridiculously inaccurate dialogue, further amps the absurdity, and is the icing on the cake.

The internet is the perfect venue for this film because it distinguishes itself. The majority of (legal) films and clips on internet tend to be of low quality, so films that have star power, high production value, and are well made stand out. This film has all three, and is made exclusively for internet, drawing attention to it.

An interesting side note: Although this films says 'funny or die exclusive' it was not originally on funny or die.

Also - Don Cheadles hair. That is all.

Salad Fingers

Salad Fingers Episode 2: Friends
David Firth, 2008

The link leads you to the second episode of a series of web-based comics called Salad Fingers. It is not at all necessary to watch the first episode in order to understand the second, because Salad Fingers makes no real sense no matter how much of it you've seen. I choose this episode because I think it best encapsulates the tone and composition of the entire series, and also because it is the most disturbing episode.

The first question most people have when watching Salad Fingers is, what is this? The simplest answer is that Salad Fingers is process art. It is strongly implied throughout the authors materials that all of his works are made under the influence of acid. Salad Fingers is a trip through one man's bad trip. But why would a video that is a simulation of a bad trip get 8 million views on Youtube?

I think that Salad Fingers is interesting because it reveals the way the online forms of film distribution tend to reward videos that are singular. Salad Fingers, in spite of any critique you might make of it, is not really like anything else that the average viewer has ever watched. Its like a point of view video of someone who is completely insane. It is worth noting that this episode is the only instance in Salad Fingers where a person appears to be normal, and they get cooked. The video series asks us to accept a character in Salad Fingers himself you is obviously a complete maniac as our anchor in watching this. It makes no narrative sense, and most of the design is intended to be as off-putting as possible. This is not a film that should be popular.

But Salad Fingers is popular, because it is singular. It is one man's twisted vision and that makes it interesting. And in an internet environment that gives you a million options all competing for your attention at once, something truly interesting, something that you can not stop watching, becomes a masterpiece of the form. Whatever you think of Salad Fingers, once you start watching it is hard to look away, and in the environment that it was created in and for, that is a triumph.