If beginnings and endings alone made a great film, then Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity would shoot to the top. The opening’s breathtaking—in beauty, intricacy and duration—long take not only marks a quantum leap in CGI (computer-generated imagery) but also, in its glorious wedding of cinema and outer space, reminds us how the two were made for each other from the start. Continue reading
12 Years a Slave is clearly a must-see film for every American, especially young people and slavery romanticizers of all ages, to inform/enlighten the ignorant and factually resistant to the unspeakable horror, suffering, and injustice inflicted on African Americans, and of the prolonged damage—materially and psychologically—this national Original Sin has bequeathed to Blacks and non-Blacks alike. Continue reading
“Even the news needs a little showmanship,” the television producer in the movie Network proclaims. And, within bounds, the same opportunistic dictum applies to historical writing—no more so, perhaps, than in our publishing-challenged times. Ben Urwand thus can partly be forgiven for the sensationalism of the title, and thesis, of his new book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. Partly forgiven, that is—not completely. Thomas Doherty’s similarly themed Hollywood and Hitler: 1933 – 1939, meanwhile, by channeling showmanship into style rather than content, fares much the better for it. Both books are well worth reading, however, for the gaps in one that the other fills, and for the cautionary tale each provides—on confronting fascism and rewriting history.
Film festivals are a great way to see new and interesting movies from around the country and around the world, but what does it take to run a festival? To discuss film festivals in terms of their employment and behind-the-scenes job opportunities, the Mediascape Blog convened a roundtable of four film studies graduate students who have worked at festivals of various sizes. Their conversation can be read or listened to below, or downloaded in MP3 format.
Click to download “TheMediascapeRoundtable_WorkingAtFilmFestivals.mp3″ (60 minutes, 56.9 MB)
Moderator: J.M. Olejarz
Mediascape Blog: Hi, and welcome to the Mediascape Roundtable. My name is Josh Olejarz, and I’m coeditor of the Mediascape Blog. Today we’re going to be talking about film festivals. We have four people here with us today who have worked at festivals of various sizes, and they’re going to talk about their experiences. This is geared toward people who are interested in working at a festival but aren’t sure what that entails or how to go about getting a job at one, but also people who have maybe been to a festival and are interested in seeing behind the curtain, so to speak. I’ll have our experts here introduce themselves one at a time and then we’ll jump right in. Kim, can you start? Continue reading
Spoken by the young child Tatiana Grant at the end of Ryan Cooglers’s Fruitvale Station, “Where’s Daddy?” is destined to join “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown” as one of filmdom’s most memorable concluding lines. Indeed, Fruitvale’s dramatization of an actual, quite recent incident—compared to Chinatown’s allegorical compositing of several disparate and distant events—renders its “message” even more topically resonant.
Before we enter the theater (or view the film in any format), we all know the immediate answer to Tatiana’s query: her 22-year-old black father, Oscar Grant, was shot in the back and killed by a white BART police officer in the wee hours of New Year’s Day 2008 as Grant lay face down on the concrete floor at Oakland’s Fruitvale Station. Tragic enough, on an intensely personal level—so intense that one patron at the screening I attended actually shouted “No!” when the deadly shot rang out. Compounding the tragedy and worthy of another “No!” was the reduced 11-month sentence for involuntary manslaughter that the officer, Johannes Mehserle, received, based on his claim that he thought he had fired his taser, not his real gun.
Once the screen goes black, however, the larger, collective tragedy of “Where’s Daddy?”—and Fruitvale Station—begins to emerge. Continue reading
Video games routinely play with representation and the ways we engage with our own perception of the world around us. In this article, Cinema and Media Studies doctoral candidate David O’Grady pursues this line of thought further, examining what “Mexican” means in the context of the mainstream game ‘Guacamelee!’ (2012). The article was originally published on the UCLA Game Lab blog and we thank the author and editors for the right to share it here. —Matthias Stork
Mainstream videogames often shy away from interpretative ambiguity, finding commercial safety—and ludic economy—in well-worn generic personas and dramatic milieus. Terrorists, monsters, aliens, Nazis—these are the culturally uncomplicated enemies who, in stereotypical scenarios and archetypal narrative arcs, must be slain by the solitary hero (i.e., the player) on a quest to save the princess/community/world.
But what happens when a videogame uses people, places and contexts that aren’t so culturally clear-cut or historically remote? This is often the space in which indie and art-project videogames operate, offering through simulation various interpretations of real-life people, issues and events. When big-budget games do attempt to play with ongoing social conflicts, or with aspects of race, gender, class and other complex cultural representations, they do so at great financial risk and critical punishment. Certain titles justifiably earn our scorn for their cultural callowness: consider the first-person shooter Call of Juarez: The Cartel (Ubisoft, 2011), a game that twists the real horrors of cartel violence and human trafficking on the Mexican border into a racist, clichéd, fear-mongering narrative about white slavery. For a stirring takedown of the game—and remarkable analysis of the drug war in Ciudad Juárez—see the compelling Extra Credits review. Continue reading