The above is a video essay I've created about the significance of Captain America's assassination and rebirth with a gun on his belt (something the old Cap didn't have). Over the last three weeks plus, I've clocked anywhere from 2-6 hours a day on this puppy. I started by gathering video clips from YouTube and DVDs, along with soundbites from Podcasts, radio broadcasts, and special effects sound offline. I've got footage from all over the place in there: video blogs, fan news videos, Fox News, the Colbert Report, NPR, and film clips. Then there's the exorbitant amount of comic book stills and covers from DC and Marvel Comics.

After I gathered all the pieces, I spent a lot of time just playing around with how to organize it all. I decided to take a journalistic approach. I let the stills and video clips go first, telling a story of a character once revered to murdered. I originally planned on a voiceover but then I just kept creating it without one, everything seemed to just flow so well. Finally, I did run out of audio clips and decided that I wanted to insert my voice in it, vis-a-vi, voice of God style. I looked at the clips I'd created and wrapped my voice narration around the edited content already there. I recorded the audio with my iPod, using the voice memo application, and emailed myself the files when I was done. I did have to redo one clip because it peaked when recording (and you can probably tell which clip it is since I couldn't get it to sync). Before this project, I didn't know how to get images to move across screen, something I had to learn since I was dealing with vertical comic book covers over a horizontal visual space. Thankfully, somebody posted a YouTube tutorial to do just that. The second to last main piece was locating sound effects. The beeping sound at one part of the video in one beep copied and pasted many times over--and the military document that goes with it is several different frames, one for each new letter added to a sentence. Everything else was just learning how to structure it all. Thinking of essay form greatly helped with that process after several changes to the structure.
It was a conscious effort not to choose "Patriotic" songs because I wanted to show that what's been happening in the Captain America storyline is helping redefine how the character wears the American flag on his chest.
The last part of the puzzle was music. It was a conscious effort not to choose "Patriotic" songs because I wanted to show that what's been happening in the Captain America storyline is helping redefine how the character wears the American flag on his chest. Instead, I chose mood music from Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream), Cliff Martinez (Solaris), Nine Inch Nails, Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica), and The Appleseed Cast.

I used KeepVid to rip videos offline and Quicktime to convert them to use in Adobe Premiere. I also used Photoshop to prepare images for video, edit some images ("Dust and Speckle" helped me smooth out a few), and create some photo art as well. The biggest problem I encountered with this projects was Premiere's tendency just to shut off on occasion without warning...and more importantly a chance to save the work I'd done. This process alone added several hours of work. It was an exhausting process to create this film but I'm very broad of the final product. I've done other videos before but never without having to shoot anything. It was both a challenge to solely use other people's material and refreshing not to have to worry about importing.

We showed this videos in class today and I do agree with the criticism. The video moves very fast. This comes from both my frustration with online videos I'd seen that stay on any one image too long without moving and my love for fast-paced film (yes, I did like the new Star Trek, along with films like 300, but not Transformers 2, that's the line). There was just so much to say in 5 minutes. I realize that my familiarity with the material made it difficult for me to notice this but, at the same time, I created a video that would appeal to Captain America fans on the viral webscape. My intention was to create something that move quick for people that already have a working knowledge of Cap but also something short enough that it could be viewed multiple times and still have something new to offer the viewer. That said, I definitely should've spent more time showing the main image I address. If I were to do this video again, I'd redo the voiceover to it flows smoothly, spend more time on volume settings, and extend it to about 8-10 minutes. I have enough footage here with images alone to do that.

Boys Don't Cry and the Gaze

Posted by Tim Posada On 10:05 PM 0 comments
The head of the cultural studies department Dr. Eve Oishi (my Transnational Media Theory instructor for a class at Pitzer) guest spoke in my Visual Research Methods class last Wednesday. We discussed several readings from The Visual Culture Reader on sexuality. I fount our first class discussion on Judith Halberstam’s “The Transgender Gaze in Boys Don't Cry” to be the most intriguing. Halberstam’s essay discusses the transgender gaze of the film, as opposed to the male gaze, which dominates the majority of Hollywood films and reminds the viewers of the often-male point of view of most popular films. For an easy example of this, just check both Transformers films and try to tell me that the camera doesn’t exploit Megan Fox’s body much like an adolescent male would (targeted demographic for the film).

Halberstam discusses that the first part of Boys Don’t Cry but transforms into a lesbian gaze at the pivotal moment in the film. Dr. Oishi played for us the clip in question and we engaged it. The clip of interest occurs after Lana (ChloĆ« Sevigny) learns that the man she had been dating, Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank), was not a biological man but a biological woman. Lana approaches Brandon in the secluded barn he lives in, not with anger but willing to accept him. However, the language used in this interaction changes the dynamic from a man and a woman to two women. With Brandon’s head in her lap, Lana says to him, “You’re very pretty,” something she wouldn’t have said prior to the reveal. The interaction here changes the way the two act and then turns the story from transgender to lesbian.

We also discussed the cinematic conventions used by the film that provide problems for interpretation. By earlier showing sex scenes and then, in this scene, fading to the aftermath, attempting to show the difference between showing sex on screen and implying making love, the film places itself within the tradition of other Hollywood films. In the end, Boys Don’t Cry sacrifices transgender politics for gay/lesbian ones. I must admit here, I have only viewed the scenes from class and haven’t scene the film, but I don’t imagine this is a far stretch. Gay and lesbian politics have won out in other cinematic examples as well, especially in the form of stories solely about white people, turning gay and lesbian issues into white issues of sexuality. Boys Don’t Cry then aligns with other Hollywood films because it simplifies something like sexuality, just as other films, like Crash or Pursuit of Happyness, simplify such things as race for the sake of a the story.

We ended this part of class talking about how most scholar, when analyzing films, tend to favor criticism based on how the film ends. I’ve noticed this feminist criticism of Thelma and Louise for ending with their deaths. The same criticism could be used here, as it ultimately ends with the death of Brandon Teena, leaving only assumedly heterosexual couples to find love without threat of death. Dr. Oishi discussed the Brandon’s home, an isolated little shack with nothing visible inside, just a bright view of the sky above when the door is open. The shack serves as a metaphor for Brandon; he won’t find hope in his life on earth, only in the sky. We discussed if just looking at the end should ignore the journey along the way of most films and I find myself torn.

Last Airbender at the Super Bowl

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:12 AM 0 comments

So I just watched the Super Bowl 30-second spot for The Last Airbender, otherwise known as Avatar, if it weren't for James Cameron's film nabbing the copyright before Viacom could with their Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. I find myself both intrigued and worried about this one. The initial film teaser looked interesting enough and the SB spot looks even better but one uncomfortable truth remains, M. Night Shyamalan is still the director. His films started out interesting enough peaking with Unbreakable, but Lady in the Water and The Happening proved his fallibility. The guy doesn't seem to like people telling him when he's got a bad film on his hands. In that way, he pulls a George Lucas, biting off far more than anyone wants to chew.

Regardless, the story of Avatar remains a rather fascinating one. It's rare for a children's cartoon to pull off a three-arch story like it did, providing an unexpected level of intelligence from the viewer. This one's good prove of Steven Johnson's thesis in his book Everything Bad is Good For You where he argues that popular culture is actually making its consumer smarter and reflecting that they're getting smarter as well. Johnson's optimism is both refreshing and uncomfortable at once. I find I want to believe him but the recent success such films as Transformers 2 don't bode well for such statements. Still, Avatar is proof that the fantasy genre remains an under tapped playground for real narrative engagement, as films such as El Laberinto del Fauno and Princess Mononoke proved. Avatar, whose creators have said they pulled much from Hayao Miyazaki's work, tells a fascinating story about the connection of the four tribes of the world all connected through the four elements. Certain members of each tribe can bend their designated element: earthbending, waterbending, firebending, and airbending. Over 100 years ago the fire nation attacked the rest of the world and have been trying to claim dominion ever since. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, can resolve this war. What's most interesting about this story is how the war comes to an end. I won't give it away, but it's quite unique and not what most would think or expect. Anyways, it's totally worth the viewing and it's my goal to get my nephew into the show.

Oscar Announcements

Posted by Tim Posada On 12:31 PM 0 comments
So they announced the Oscar nominees. Quite an odd list:

Best picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

I don't know what to do with this list. First off, I'm so apathetic to Inglourious Basterds. I imagine the competition's between Avatar and The Hurt Locker though Up in the Air and Precious are strong candidates as well. Personally, District 9 is my vote - an absolute delight that had me engaged the characters and the premise the entire way through, even with the bloody conclusion. Tarantino films lost it for me some time ago and this one just felt way to predictable. I don't know why I'm so stubborn about this but I have no desire to see The Blind Side. It just looks shallow, aiming for cheap emotions rather really addressing social change. Again I know I should see but there's so much more out there that I want to see and this isn't close. Anyways, I don't know if this was the best year for the Academy to switch to a 10-film Best Picture nomination but it should be interesting to see what happens.