Archive for August, 2010

Saturday Links

Now that the semester is a little over a week old, things have settled down a bit, and hopefully I’ll have time to blog more consistently.  Here are some of the things I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the last few days:

  • Jonathan Gray has been blogging about the job search process for academics in media studies.  Thankfully, I’m not on the market this year, but I think this would have been incredibly useful for me when I was a graduate student.  His most recent post explains the very long and protracted time line for most searches, a process that almost makes electing a president seem efficient.  He introduces the series here.
  • I’m becoming increasingly fascinated and amused by the story about the Academy of Motion Pictures awarding Jean Luc Godard an honorary Oscar, alongside of Francis Ford Coppola (among others).  First, it’s nice to see Hollywood reward the director behind such challenging work, even when that work has often positioned itself in stark opposition to the Hollywood system.  But now that the news is out, the Academy can’t seem to find Godard, who has yet to comment on the recognition.  I can’t really imagine him actually attending the Oscars but will enjoy seeing this story play out.
  • Ralph Macchio (and others, including Molly Ringwald and Micheal Lerner) have fun with Macchio’s nice guy image in this Funny or Die video.  The “intervention” scene at the beginning is especially clever.
  • Cinematical has the latest on YouTube’s experiments with delivery of full length motion pictures.  The latest: it appears they are making more of an effort to enter into the Hulu model of “free” access to ad-supported movies.
  • On a related note, Anthony Kaufman announces a series of articles that will address whether new modes of delivery can save the mid-level indie film.  As Kaufman points out, there are no easy answers here.
  • Via Chris Becker’s indispensable “News for TV Majors,” Judy Shapiro’s discussion of our “six-screen” future, as screens multiply beyond today’s TVs, PCs, and mobile screens.
  • Anne Thompson passes along the very cool announcement of the launch of SnagLearning, a platform of approximately 125 documentaries for classroom use at the middle and high school level.  On a quick scroll through, many of these films are well-tailored to students and worth reviewing for teachers and others interested in education.
  • Thompson also mentions two other links that may be of interest: a short documentary on the future of digital distribution from Game Industry TV and a discussion of the rise (in the visibility of?) of non-profit micro-cinemas.  Hoping to review both of these in the future for a longer post.

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Blogging and Tenure

Cathy Davidson has a provocative post up on the HASTAC blog that considers whether blogs should toward promotion and tenure. Her conclusion: blogs should count, but as a form of academic service rather than as a publication.  In general, I agree with her, even while understanding the potential risks of broadening our definition of “service” well beyond its traditional boundaries.

As she acknowledges, peer-reviewed books and articles have already been “vetted” before they reach publication, whether through blind peer-review or through the crowdsourced approach used (experimentally) by Shakespeare Quarterly I mentioned yesterday.  Davidson adds that blogs are not peer-reviewed, and as a result, they offer academic writers greater freedom to explore topics freely.  This is certainly my experience: when I’ve been able to devote more time to the blog, it has provided space for me to develop and work through ideas. Or just to write for pleasure.

As one of my Facebook friends describes it, blogs offer room for mediated scholarly conversations.  Many of the discussions that may have taken place at conferences may now take place online.  And, of course, as blogging has evolved, new forms such as MediaCommons’ In Media Res posts (be sure to Check out Jennifer Holt’s recent post on net neutrality, Google, and Verizon).  The ideas in these posts often circulate well beyond the blogosphere, of course.  In my case, an exchange that started on IMR eventually led to a co-written, peer-reviewed journal article.    So the activity of blogging has been valuable for me, whether that’s defined as sparking scholarly conversation or as something else.

I think that part of what’s fascinating about Davidson’s comments–and the debate they are likely to spark–is that we are still having many of the same debates about blogs nearly a decade after they have become a visible form.  I referred to some of these issues back in 2004, when I was a relatively new blogger and there seems to be some of the same caution today, with many people arguing that we don’t know how to evaluate blogging or implying that blogs are a form of vanity publishing. These arguments, however, overlook the ways in which incoming links and citations function as a means of establishing credibility (a recent citation in The New Yorker’s Front Row blog is a testament to some of the very cool work being done by Anne Petersen on celebrity, to name one example).

Although I am happy to argue that we do (potentially) have mechanisms for judging blogs through incoming links citations and other criteria,  not unlike the peer review system that might judge an article based on how often its cited, I think the more fascinating point is that blogs as a form of academic activity remain difficult to categorize.  And perhaps that’s what makes blogging such an engaging activity for me (at least when I can find the time to write).

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Tuesday Links

I had no idea that it has been nearly two weeks since I last posted.  At some point, I’d like to get back to a more consistent blogging schedule, but the last few weeks have been dedicated to article revisions, frantic book chapter drafting, and even more frantic syllabus planning.  All good things, but also things that take away from blogging.  For now, here are a few recent links that others might have missed:

  • The New York Times has an interesting article about several indie rock labels that have taken on the role of film distributors.  What seems interesting about the article is the attempt to define screenings as “events,” and screening at non-theatrical venues.  Obviously, many of these practices have been around for a long time–filmmakers have done movie “tours” for ages–but there are some interesting connections here.
  • I think it’s brilliant that Star Wars: Uncut won a creative arts Emmy. Just for fun:  Here’s the trailer.
  • Scott Kirsner has a good overview of the New York Times series on the future of television.  One of Scott’s takeaways is that audiences seem relatively satisfied with the ways they currently access TV (or at least unwilling to change them), choosing to continue paying for cable rather than accessing TV online.  There’s also the requisite push for 3-D TV, with industry types hoping that 3-D TVs will account for half of all sales within five years.
  • Finally, there is also a terrific discussion in the Times of some of the work by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Dan Cohen and others to use the logic of the web to reimagine peer review.

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Scott Pilgrim Knows the Weather

I’m becoming increasingly engaged by the Scott Pilgrim hype, in part because of the self-aware nature of much of the promotional material, including the “interactive trailer” that I mentioned a few days ago.  What seems to work well, for me at least, is that the advertising seems especially adept at engaging multiple audiences–Michael Cera fans, nostaglic gamers, fans of the original comic book–in pretty creative ways.  But one of the oddest bits of promotion I’ve seen features Jason Schwartzman and Micheal Cera doing the weather forecast for Atlanta’s Fox affiliate.  It’s funny and just a little strange, especially for me, as a former Atlanta resident.

Although this promotional segment can’t be said to have been “authored” by the filmmakers behind Scott Pilgrim, it’s fun to watch Schwartzman and Cera playing with the relatively naturalized codes we associate with weather forecasting: reading high and low temperatures, detailing the five-day forecast, and standing by as busy, often surreal graphics play in the background, with the two of them having the most fun with a school bus that incongruously shoots past several times. In places, Cera seems a little lost, standing on the periphery of the screen, but it did make me laugh several times.

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Sunday Links

Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching and playing over my Sunday morning coffee:

  • I’ll admit that I knew little about Scott Pilgrim comic book series before production on the film began, but now that it’s due to reach theaters, I’m intrigued by some of the clever marketing and promotional techniques they’re using.  The interactive trailer for the film seems to fit perfectly with Scott Pilgrim’s unapologetically geeky spirit.  What seems especially notable here is that much of the supplemental material that normally would have been put on the DVD (making-of documentaries, director’s remarks, cast interviews) is now being repurposed as promotional material (danger: you really could spend an afternoon playing with the interactive trailer).  NewTeeVee has an excellent discussion of how the interactive trailer was produced.  On a related note, these fictitious movie posters–based on the action-film career of one of the movie’s key characters–are also goofy fun.
  • Via Deadline Hollywood Daily, an interview with James Cameron about the Avatar sequels and about his process in producing some of the “extra” scenes for the Avatar DVD.
  • Cinematical also has a discussion of the trailer for “internet sensation” Fred Figglehorn (played by Lucas Cruikshank)  and the planned Nickelodeon movie, simply titled Fred: The Movie.  Fred’s videos receive millions of views on YouTube, which suggests this could turn into a sleeper hit.
  • Martin Scorsese discusses why he is doing more TV work, including directing episodes of a series for HBO.
  • Jim Emerson provides yet another overview of the responses to Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
  • Cinematical has a discussion of Fox’s decision to participate in BlogHer.  Money quote: Fox executive Mary Daily remarked that “”mommy bloggers are the most fertile marketing demo to come along since comic book geeks.”  Related: Steven Zeitchik discusses this week’s box office battle between Julia Roberts and Sylvester Stallone in terms of the genders of their target audiences.  Hoping to come back to this issue in a longer post later today.

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Wednesday Links

The latest and greatest from my blog reads over morning coffee:

  • I’m not really in the mood to revive the “film criticism is dead” debate that seems to take place every few months.  I pretty much covered it when I criticized Thomas Doherty’s Chronicle of Higher Education article on the subject a few months ago. But Paul Brunick’s discussion of the changes in film criticism is quite good, and he makes a point that others ignore: if some of the great ’70s critics, such as Pauline Kael, had access to the platforms available online, doesn’t it seem likely that they would have used them?  He also points out that the number of talented writers on the web deserve more institutional support, and dismissive articles about the state of film criticism may have the effect of making those voices less visible.
  • I’ve generally tried to avoid the Justin Bieber hype machine, so I don’t quite know what to make of the news that there are plans to produce a Bieber biopic in 3-D.  Some of the proclamations of impending doom seem sort of silly to me, given that there is a long history of using movies to promote popular musicians.  This film seems to fit neatly into the demographic most likely to see 3-D movies: tweens and their (likely unwilling) parents and seems unlikely to end the revival of 3-D, as the writer at NewTeeVee suggests.  Probably the oddest bit of news in the whole story is that Davis Guggenheim, the director of An Inconvenient Truth and the upcoming education documentary, Waiting for Superman, is planning to direct.
  • That being said, Anne Thompson has traced some resistance to 3-D, not just among fans but also among directors, including Christopher Nolan, who wisely avoided using 3-D for Inception.  Speaking of 3-D, this image is pretty funny.
  • David Poland has an interesting overview of the “new toys” that are now making more content available anytime, anywhere.  Poland’s concluding questions are well worth asking: “how much anything/anywhere is enough? When does everyone who is not in puberty get to too much/too many places?”
  • Speaking of on-demand, Mike Hale of The New York Times discusses the role of IFC On Demand in expanding access to movies that may not be available in major cities, while adding that more and more filmmakers are seeing on-demand as a “first option.”  Of course as Hale hastens to add, informing audiences about these films is a bigger issue: “The challenge for the viewer is to find what you’re looking for or, more likely, what you don’t yet know you’re looking for.”  I briefly address IFC’s on-demand service in my book, and although acceptance seems to be increasing, I think there is still work to be done to help audiences find some of these movies.
  • Slate did an interesting study of the curation of Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, using a computer program to monitor how many and what kinds of comments are taken down from the site.  See also the Wall Street Journal blog. In addition to negative comments about Palin and her family, the site’s monitors also deleted comments that criticized candidates Palin had endorsed, comments that promoted birtherism, and even comments that complain that she endorses too many women.

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