Old Jews Telling Jokes

April 29, 2010 by

oldjewstellingjokes.com/

This is an interesting website I came across. It’s a whole site of, as it is complexly described, old jews telling jokes. It’s not just a YouTube of jews though, each joke is shot and framed professionally. It’s a very interesting project that I felt belonged on this blog. Also, who doesn’t love an old yiddish man telling a joke about hospitals? No One. In the words of Woodie Allen, “Not all comedy is Jewish, but all Jewish is comedy.”

Sia’s “Clap Your Hands”

April 29, 2010 by

Sia’s music video for “Clap Your Hands” from her upcoming album, “We Are Born”, is odd to say the least. Sia’s typical quirkiness and creativity can be seen through the video, which resembles a child’s art project. Sia’s head is placed on top of various puppets, which take the form of a dancer, a koala bear, a construction worker, and possibly a bird (it’s kind of difficult to tell). This reminiscence of the Muppets and Gumby, is partly creepy and partly nostalgic for me. The crazy puppet costumes, paired with the happy, soft-electronic pop music oddly enough create an exciting, upbeat video. It is difficult to connect the different segments of the music video, as they all seem unusual and unrelated, and even more challenging to determine the meaning of it. The segment where one of the puppets seems to die and turn into a frog hopping from one lily pad to the next confused me most, as I cannot figure out if there is any particular meaning behind that. I also found the main puppet, with long pink hair holding onto a flag and seemingly humping it, odd and confusing. The video caught my eye as it is definitely original, to say the least.

It is interesting to me how in a time when everything is electronically enhanced and technologically savvy, Sia has decided to stick to a simple-looking, aesthetically odd video, that totally goes against the grain of modern society. I suppose the fact that her face is placed on these odd play dough-looking bodies requires modern technology, but the way it comes across to the viewer is not in a particularly modern fashion. Compared to most music videos out there, Sia’s is largely different as well as typical of her peculiar style in today’s technology driven society.

3 Music Videos By Modest Mouse

April 29, 2010 by

Modest Mouse – Missed the Boat, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Besides being a great song, what makes this video so interesting is, if you read what it says in the beginning of the video, a large portion of the video is actually fan created. The only portions of the music video that are not fan created are the ones featuring Modest Mouse itself, for obvious reasons. The fact that they allow their fans to articulate how the song is to be visualized toys with how the song itself should be understood. It changes the dynamic of the spectator to one of a more active role, much like the Abramovic installment in the MoMA (the performance one, not the naked one) forced a more direct involvement with the art. The whole purpose of the music video shifts from an explanation to an interpretation, not on the part of the viewer, but rather on the part of Modest Mouse, as they got the opportunity to see how their fans respond visually to their music, through the same medium that they ask their fans to understand visually. Also, it’s a crazy cool video! I mean, it’s got something for everyone, rooftop parties, mad scientists, robots, balloons with out-of-context messages, and even a Fisher-Price ViewMaster! Come on!

Modest Mouse – Dashboard, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

What comes to mind when watching this video is (1) “What?!” and (2) Isaac Brock (the storyteller) looks totally awesome with a white beard. Out of the 3 Modest Mouse music videos I’ve posted, this is probably the most normal, which says a lot about how they envision their music. In this particular music video, the story of the super big fish at the music-equipment-island with music-people (?) compliments the story of the song at a more basic level, on the grounds that the song’s story seems to match the emphatic attitude of the visual story. It’s a pretty cool pairing of music and video and it’s a concept that escapes most artist’s music video direction, as they tend to prefer the slow-motion eyebrow raise and pools shaped like Ferraris aesthetic. I think it’s an incredibly well done music video, and a story of a fisherman getting a prosthetic microphone for a hand while the winner of the 2009 Wilford Brimley look-alike contest laughs heartily in disbelief is awesome in and of itself.

Modest Mouse – King Rat, No One’s First and You’re Next

What’s probably coolest about this video is that it was actually directed by Heath Ledger. At this point, I would be wondering what’s with Modest Mouse’s strange obsession with fishing. To be fair, Heath Ledger directed it to raise awareness for the constant whaling that was going on off the coasts of Australia. But still, i guess they’re just fans of fishing. Obviously, the most noticeable part of the video is the role reversal between people and whales. It’s almost unbearable to watch at times, so kudos to Heath Ledger because this certainly raises awareness. Again, like Dashboard, the emphatic attitude and melody of the song line up nicely with video itself, making the message all that easier to receive. It’s interesting, though, that Ledger chose a music video to raise awareness, especially one that wasn’t released to MTV of VH1 (do they still play music videos?). The videos relentless approach to depicting the whaling (human-ing?) process in its full form is what I think makes it so successful at relaying the necessity of awareness. The song, in this case, is then stripped of a visual aid to help illustrate the song visually and is supplanted with a cautionary message, which, in turn, takes on the role of illustration. The end result of using a song as a vessel for policy is quite impressionable, and I think it’s pretty successful. I know I’m not going to go whaling any time soon. Also, it leaves a pretty pervasive thought in my mind that the sun is awfully creepy and whales are jerks.

-Ben Etkin

Koyaanisqatsi

April 29, 2010 by

Koyaanisqatsi is an hour-and-a-half long documentary about the intersection between humanity, nature and industrialization. The word Koyaanisqatsi is derived from a Native American word meaning “life out of balance.” Directed by Godfrey Reggio and scored by the incomparable Phillip Glass, the film takes the viewer on a tour of human involvement in nature, and the “natural” world that we have created for ourselves. We see atomic bomb detonations in the Nevada desert, cumulus clouds moving across towering skyscrapers and decaying housing projects, and endless assembly lines manufacturing cars, jeans, and hot dogs.

The documentary attempts to connect our existence to technology. It relates to the roles we perform in our relationship to the endless daily industrial processes that encompass our lives, and our relationship to the grandeur of the natural world that we are destroying. Technology is ubiquitous in our existence. During several parts of the documentary, a trio of Hopi prophecies are intoned over the imagery we witness: “If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster,” “near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky,” and “a container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.” As Reggio comments on his film, “it’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” Koyaanisqatsi is an enthralling and visually arresting commentary on our disintegrating relationship with the world and with reality through our own self-destructive industrialization.

Goldman Sachs Senate Hearing

April 29, 2010 by

This hearing, which took place on Tuesday, sought to determine Goldman’s possible role in the financial crisis of 2008. The SEC  charged Goldman with fraud on Friday, arguing that the firm covered up important information that could have prevented the crisis. The hearing’s goal, supposedly, was to shed light on the plausibility of the SEC’s claim, as well as to inform the legislature on the issue of financial reform currently being debated in Washington. But this hearing proved to be no more than a media spectacle. As with most senate hearings, the Goldman hearing was simply a venue for senators to grab some much coveted national air time, asking emotionally charged, vague, and counterproductive questions to Goldman executives.

Further, the fact that this spectacle was televised at all was unnecessary; every questioned asked was submitted in writing after the hearing. My qualm is a basic media critique. It seems that television networks are using these senate hearings to profit from the emotional public, offering them numerous scapegoats for various national problems, regardless of innocence or guilt. Further, politicians use these spectacles to acquire free national publicity, which would otherwise be very expensive. The media is no longer a tool for the public to enforce accountability on its government; instead, it serves the interests of politicians and corporations.

M.I.A. “Born Free” Video Analyses

April 29, 2010 by

There’s no synchronized dancing, Cristal, or any other music video clichés but M.I.A. has still managed to create what will surely be the most talked about music video of the year with her latest single “Born Free.” Released this past Monday “Born Free” comes in at a brisk 9:00 minutes. Directed by Romain Garvas, “Born Free” tells the story of the ethnic cleansing of redheads in a rather grotesque manner. The video starts off with guards in full riot gear rounding up the gingers in a depressing project of some nameless American city. The guards brutishly gather up a busload of redheads and take them out to a dessert, perhaps in the southwest, to be executed. The video is sprinkled with a visually unappealing sex scene and some very monstrous violence, highlighted by a young redheaded boy being shot point blank in the head. M.I.A. gets an A+ for shock value and while the message of the movie is all too clear some subtlety would not have hurt. The music video is a critique of modern day military violence, prejudice and genocide all of which M.I.A. has experienced first hand in her home nation of Sri Lanka.

While the concept of the cleansing of redheads seems down right absurd and straight out of a South Park episode, the video does seem all to real and that is the targeting and extermination of a minority group. MTV news drew real-life parallels to the ongoing issue of immigration in US boarder states, the treatment of prisoners by U.S. troops in military prisons and the overall brutal tactics used against minorities by government forces all over the world.

I personally always felt the point of a music video was to enhance a song and with “Born Free” I felt it was less about the music and more about this in your face message.  This is a shame because the song itself is well worth the listen even without the exploding body parts.

(Hopefully the video won’t be taken down as it has been banned from Youtube due to ” content like pornography or gratuitous violence.”

-Brad Anglum

Wilhelm Scream

April 28, 2010 by

The Wilhelm scream is a well known inside joke in the film industry. It is believed to have been recorded by actor/singer Sheb Wooley., who is well known for his song, “Flying Purple People Eater.” The scream originated in the 1951 movie, Distant Drums. Soldiers are wading through waist high water when one of them gets pulled under by an alligator. As he is falling, he screams the famous scream, and then proceeds to be eaten by several alligators. The next use of this scream was where it received its name. In Charge at Feather River, the scream is used three times, at least once in conjunction with a character named “Wilhelm.” It was here that sound designer Ben Burtt discovered the scream and decided to use it in the first Star Wars movie, Episode IV, A New Hope. He went on to name it after Wilhelm and use it in many of his other projects, including all of the Indiana Jones movies. As a result, many other sound designers picked up on it and decided to use it in their own projects, and so it became an inside joke of the sound industry. It has since gone on to appear in so many major motion pictures that it has become a bit of a sound cliche- well known to both those in and out of the film industry.

While studying sound editing, the Wilhelm scream immediately jumped to mind. It is a diegetic, external sound, which is post synchronized and dubbed to fit many different clips in many different movies. I think this youtube video is very interesting because it shows how a single sound clip can be put into all different types of scenes or genres without the audience noticing anything. I have seen many of the movies featured in this clip, but had no idea that the Wilhelm scream existed or that sound designers frequently reuse sounds from the archives until I saw this video.

Another interesting aspect of the clip and the use of the scream that makes it comical are the similarities between the character “screaming.” In almost every use, the individual is falling or getting hit by some explosion. The movies and scenes are different and range from Beauty and the Beast to Star Wars, but there is a consistency in how the scream is used. The way these clips are edited and put together in a montage exemplify the continuity and make the repeated use of the scream seem silly.

Film Review: Clash of the Titans

April 28, 2010 by

Action-packed blockbusters are a staple of modern American cinema.  When audiences go to see these movies, they expect to become lost in the dazzle and spectacle of a fantastical world for about two hours of solace from reality.  That’s exactly what my friends and I were expecting when we hiked down to the movie theater at midnight on a Friday night to see Clash of the Titans this spring.  The movie was packed with plenty of action and the ambiance of the film was very entrancing, but the film’s plot was so disjointed that it was nearly impossible to understand and get lost in the movie.

Clash of the Titans follows the story of a young man in ancient Greece named Perseus.  After his adoptive family is killed in a freak statue-related accident, Perseus is captured by troops from Argos and brought to their capital.  The King and Queen have decided to stick it to the Gods simply because they feel like it, and the Gods decide to put Argos in its place.  Hades comes to the capital and tells the King that he will send the Kraken to attack the city unless they sacrifice their daughter to the beast.  Perseus is there at the time and manages to not be injured by Hades (along with the majority of the court), so the king logically concludes that Perseus must be a demigod.  Perseus accepts this unquestioningly and decides to see the Fates to learn how to defeat the Kraken for the King.  Along with a ragtag band of some random guys, he travels through the desert and encounters a nasty, deformed guy, who happens to be Perseus’ mother’s husband, whose blood can turn into giant man-eating scorpions.  Perseus and his friends are almost defeated by the scorpions, but a band of desert-dwelling charcoal people emerge out of nowhere and defeat some of the scorpions.  (It turns out that the charcoal people were able to successfully domesticate the other scorpions during the ten minutes the scorpions have existed.)  The leader of the charcoal people joins Perseus, and the group reaches the Fates, who tell Perseus that Medusa’s head is the only thing that will slay the Kraken.  The team crosses the River Styx and reaches Medusa’s lair.  Most of Perseus’ men turn to stone at Medusa’s gaze… except for the charcoal guy.  He was immune to Medusa’s powers.  I know what you’re thinking: “Great!  He can kill Medusa!”  Or he can just explode for no reason whatsoever.  Perseus, the lone survivor of his group, kills Medusa, only to leave Medusa’s lair and see Hades kill Perseus’ new girlfriend (who is immortal…so I still don’t know how she was able to be murdered.)

Perseus flies back to the capital on his Pegasus and, just as the princess and the city are about to be devoured by the Kraken, Perseus shows Medusa’s head to the Kraken and flings his magical glowing sword at the beast, slaying it.  (That’s right, the Kraken was only in the movie for five minutes.)  Hades, who had turned on the rest of the Gods, was defeated.  After defeating his enemies, Perseus rides on his winged horse across a beach as the sun sets behind him.  He meets up with his true father, Zeus, who congratulates him.  Zeus offers to let Perseus become a God on Mount Olympus, but Perseus tells him that he wants to live a normal, mortal life with his glowing sword and mythical winged horse.  Always a good sport, Zeus decides to give Perseus some company during his mortal life, so he brings Perseus’ special female friend back to life.  Let’s back up a second.  A long time ago, the girl resisted a God’s advances, so he cursed her… with immortality.  She had been alive for hundreds of years and had to watch loved ones die.  She expressed numerous times in the film how much this bothered her.  Nothing ever actually happened between Perseus and the girl throughout the week they knew each other, even though they did almost kiss before she told him to “ease your storm.”  Hades killed her – she had finally gotten her wish and died!  And less than a day later, Zeus brought her back to life.  I guess she just couldn’t catch a break.

Apart from the completely nonsensical plot, the film’s dialogue was so awful that it was hysterical.  When I was watching the film, the whole audience was cracking up throughout the entire movie, which was supposed to be serious.  The film was so ridiculous that we couldn’t help but laugh.  Improved editing would have made a difference to the film’s logic; the action sequences were too rapid and disjointed, and it’s likely that there are scenes on the cutting-room floor that would have explained many confusing aspects of the plot.  To give the film credit, the special effects were excellent and the authentic sets and costumes created a believable, captivating mise-en-scene.  That’s all it has going for it.

In short, don’t go to this film if you’re looking for a legitimately good movie.  You should see Clash of the Titans if you want to find some unexpected laughs and if you want to hear Liam Neeson yell “Release the Kraken!” at the top of his lungs.  I happened to learn a new one-liner that I intend on using if an over-eager guy ever gets a little too close for comfort: “Ease your storm, buddy.”

-Katie Avery

Sufjan Steven’s The BQE

April 27, 2010 by

A still from Sufjan Steven's city symphony The BQE

Sufjan Steven’s 2007 creation The BQE is a film originally commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the New Wave Film Festival. Using the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278) as its subject matter, The BQE is at heart a city symphony film similar to Man With a Movie Camera or Manhatta. However, while those films focus on the visual aspect, The BQE relies more on the accompanying music. Here, the images are choreographed to the composed symphony and not the other way around. The film is presented in 3 channels allowing for multiple images to be displayed at once side by side. This complexity of image reflected in the highly layered and intricate musical work. The result is an immersive film that makes one feel that they are dancing with the ebb and flow of traffic. Within the film there are also three interludes where super heroines with hula-hoops appear. While not explained in the film itself, they are part of a body of work that accompanies the film including a graphic novel and 3-D View Master reel. Their presentence reflects Steven’s whimsical side and notoriously off-beat sense of humor.

-David Pokorny

Bjork, Army of Me

April 27, 2010 by

Bjork’s music video for her single Army of Me is strange and fantastical, and to me seemed very reminiscent of much of Tim Burton’s earlier works we saw at the Museum of Modern Art. The video starts with a slow pan in on Bjork lying in a glass tube, through the back of which we can see unidentifiable lights and shapes. This shot, along with the music behind it, sets the scene for the video as dark, out-of-this-world, and slightly confusing. The shot that starts at 13 seconds in is arguably my favorite in the video, and I see it as an exemplar showing of how framing, zooming out and an upward pan can be used in combination to quickly give the viewers a certain idea of what is happening, only to show them how misled they really were. At first it is just a faceless person in a plain car. Quickly, however, we see that we are actually in a scene involving a monstrous, unrealistic car and odd flying bugs the size of arms. The view of Bjork’s truck is our first real intuition on the costume and setting aspects of the mise-en-scene in the video. The car quite obviously looks fake: not just in its shape and bearing, but in that it seems to be made of Styrofoam. This follows for the rest of the video, emphasizing the idea that this is not supposed to be something we have seen before. Those familiar with Bjork’s music will understand how this idea is pertinent to her whole philosophy. She has done her best throughout her music career to never replicate anyone else, and beyond that to always do things no one else has even thought of. Again, I see a parallel to Tim Burton. As a director and film maker he is constantly changing things and doing things in ways no one else would have thought of, including writing a story about the king of Halloween town who wants to be Santa of all people, and changing the loving childrens movie Willy Wonka into a darker, creepier film.