Category Archives: Movies

Underground Digital Story Telling

An interesting abstract from my advisor for an article about the semiotics of multimodality, or texts that utilize a variety of media. I have to get the article from inter-library loan so I haven’t read it but I did visit the D.U.S.T.Y. website to see some of the examples. What a wonderful project! I can’t embed the videos here so I’m going to have to rely on you to check them out…

Well, It Turns Out That Lonelygirl Really Wasn’t – New York Times

Well, It Turns Out That Lonelygirl Really Wasn’t – New York Times
“They were like the new Marshall McLuhan.”

I missed this one…don’t spend enough time at YouTube, I guess. Anyway, it turns out that the teen who has been videocasting from her laptop is actually a 20-something actress who is videocasting from someone else’s laptop.  The interesting piece of this from a media literacy standpoint is that the audience suspected all along that this wasn’t “real” yet were fascinated by the story as well as the mystery of who she really was.  There is a fine line between fiction and reality these days, isn’t there?

Disney Does 911


I haven’t seen any of the 9/11-related movies but this one is already generating controversy and is another perfect text to study in a media literacy class. ABC’s movie is a “fictionalized” account of history before 9/11 and evidently seems biased against the Clinton administration. Where’s the line between news and entertainment? Can you create fiction out of history when the main players are still alive and have any reason to stand up and say, “That’s not how it happened?” So, I wonder if this makes people think twice about all historical fiction, especially who is telling the story? Maybe it should even make them think about historical non-fiction 😉

NB: After I posted this, I read an article on defining documentary films by Dirk Eitzen that addresses the very issues at play here.  My notes on the article can be found at the wiki.

Independence Day

In one of those odd coincidences, I finished reading Mirtzoeff’s introduction to visual culture in which he discusses science fiction, in particular the movie Independence Day.  I’ve only ever seen bits and pieces of it so it was a pleasant surprise to find it just beginning as I say down late last night.

According to Mirtzoeff, the film includes all previous forms of science fiction: “Its cueing of the audience is both a symptom of visual sophistication in an audience nurtured on video rental and a means of supplying a short-hand visual history to its target teenage audience” (p. 208).  Mirtzoeff ties the film to a present-day concern with America’s global authority.  The president in the film is modeled on Bill Clinton and the ideas of colonization and assimilation are tied to immigration reform.  But, Mirtzoeff admits, “Yet for most viewers Independence Day was not a political film” (p. 209).  In fact, as I watched what wasn’t a great film, I wondered if I would have even thought of the political angles if I hadn’t just finished reading about visual culture.  Walter Jacobs would say that I was not media literate then, if I missed the larger themes and references.   I did think it was interesting that the Africans were portrayed just for a second in tribal dress, shaking spears in the air.  It was certainly cinematic shorthand but is it racist, perpetuating images that were not even real in the 1930s, according to Mirtzoeff.

I think what bothered me about the film was the somewhat cavalier attitude towards the death of the average American.  The president kept saying little things about people dying, but if you think about the scope of this…literally millions dead…and it was just too coincidental and silly that the two women survived along with that dog.  I kept thinking…where did they get gas to drive that truck?  Maybe I’m just too realistic for the movies.

So, is this part of media literacy, the interpretation?  There is a part of me that is a little cynical: let’s kill off the fun of movies by having classes in interpretation, just as we managed to make Shakespeare dull by pulling apart every phrase and idea, hunting for Meaning.