Rainy Saturday Links

Now that my first day of classes are done and I can stop fretting over syllabi, I’ve been catching up on a huge backlog of blog reading.  As usual, I now feel like I’m about a month behind everyone else, but here are some of the reads that have been inspiring me to think lately:

  • As I mull over ideas for my proposed South by Southwest blogging presentation, I’ve been finding myself becoming more acutely aware of debates about film criticism practices.  With that in mind, I found Vadim Rizov’s discussion of Rotten Tomatoes’ (RT) effect on film reviews to be rather compelling.  Rizov cites a Daniel Engber analysis in Slate that tracks the tendency toward critical consensus around major Hollywood films (identifying Armond White as a key exception).  Engber concludes that even White takes a contrarian view “only” 50% of the time (a number that seems rather significant to me, especially given how far he is from the rest of the critics who were analyzed).  Rizov is probably correct to argue that RT’s “aggregate authority” may shape how readers of film reviews find recommendations and make decisions about what they will see, and I think the aggregation of reviews in general (one might also add the Netflix recommendation algorithm here) probably has had some impact on how people find movies.
  • On a related note: Anne Thompson points to Michael Sragow’s recent entry in the “Twitter effect” discussion. Although I expressed some skepticism about the role of Twitter in effecting box office totals (among other things), there is a case to be made that Twitter has sped up the process by which word-of-mouth on a movie spreads.  More often than not, the Twitter effect is seen as negative–Twitter killed Bruno–but one of Sragow’s key points is that social media can help smaller or lesser-known films, such as Robert Kenner’s remarkable documentary, Food Inc.
  • Via Rick at EyeCube, a couple of intriguing SXSW panel recommendations (and, yes, I’ll disclose that I’m one of the recommenations).  I’m especially interested in Peter Kim’s “Sponsored Conversations: Good Strategy or Spam.”  But I’d also like to recommend some panels and presentations featuring friends and colleagues, including the “Hacking the Ivory Tower” panel, which features several MediaCommons and FlowTV pals and Mona Kasra’s panel on the 2009 Iran election.
  • Ted Hope points to a YouTube video that argues that a social media revolution is taking (or has taken) place.  The video throws lots of mind-blowing statistics about the large number of Facebook users, YouTube videos, and so on, but while I have little doubt that social media is becoming a crucial part of our mediated lives,  I have to wonder exactly what else is being sold in the video’s techno-utopian logic.  In fact the video sets up a false binary with its driving question: “Is social media just a fad or is it the biggest shift since the Inustrial Revolution?”  In a post written for The Symposium for the Future, an event sponsored by The New Media Consortium, danah boyd has recently offered some compelling reasons why we need to be way of such techno-utopian arguments, noting in particular how they give technology an inevitable, almost mystical power.
  • Also from Anne Thompson: more analysis of the ongoing power (and market share) of video rental service Redbox.
  • The Film Doctor has links to a couple of interesting articles. First, an argument that new media technologies are reducing our attention spans and, therefore, hurting traditional formats, one that spills over into an argument for adapting various forms of transmedia storytelling.  He also cites Peter Jackson’s recent assertion that “anyone” can pick up a camera and make a film. As Scott Kirsner points out in the above link, this potential has been discussed for some time (recall Coppola’s famous utopian claim that a “fat girl in Ohio” would someday be able to make movies on an equal footing with Hollywood studios), which raises questions about why this promised democratization continues to exist as a future horizon, twenty or thirty years down the road, in Jackson’s estimation.
  • That being said, the IFC blog points to Marc Price’s extremely low-budget film and widely-acclaimed film, Colin, made for the very low price of 75 bucks.  As Rizov points out, Colin foregrounds its low-budget status, using that as a marketing hook and turning it into “a home movie that’s getting a UK [theatrical] release.”  These marketing hooks tend to work only when the material itself is good, as was the case with Primer, Tarnation, and others.  And, as the debate over the actual budget of Tarnation indicates, these extremely low budgets often require some fuzzy math.

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