Sita Sings the Blues

Art, Media, Liberty 2009-07-26 08:39

Sita Sings the Blues is a feature-length, animated film that I found unique and entertaining.

The creator, Nina Paley, wrote, animated, directed, and produced the whole thing. A film of this caliber could only have come from a Hollywood studio at a budget of million a decade ago. Now one (admittedly very talented, ambitious, hard-working) person can do nearly the whole thing herself.

It’s licensed under the Creative Commons License. If you’re not familiar with the CC licenses, recall the FBI warning at the beginning of most DVDs: it states that you’ll go to jail if you give a copy of the movie to your friend, or show it to a group of people in a public place (a “screening”). Now, imagine the exact opposite of the FBI warning. That’s the Creative Commons License. It encourages you to freely share, copy, and remix the work in any way you like.


Media 2009-05-01 01:10

Nanocrowd introduces the concept of nanogenre: three keywords that describe a movie. (I’ve used a system like this for categorizing music and found it to be extremely effective.)

Read more »

Con Artists

Media 2009-04-15 08:06

What’s the fascination with con artists, such that they are glamourized in popular media like Ocean’s 11, Matchstick Men, 21, and Hustle? I certainly enjoy a good heist flick, so I had to do a little analysis.

I think it’s that con artists - at least, the Hollywood kind - combine so many traits that we all seek in ourselves. To be successful, they must be clever and charismatic. They have a plan, but also think on their feet when the plan is inevitably derailed by unforseen complications. Most of all, they display unwavering self-confidence and poise, brazenly walking into places they aren’t supposed to be, acting as if they belong there. All told, they make the perfect anti-hero for modern audiences.
Read more »


Art, Media 2009-04-07 01:58

Validation is an entertaining a clever mini-movie. Take the time to watch it all the way through, it’s worth it.

Physical Media, Farewell

Infinite Series, Media 2009-04-06 01:26

Borders stock is down 97% since 2005, and may be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange soon. Even during a recession, that’s a pretty serious loss - nearly total, in fact.

Dare I say it? “Physical media is just so 2005.”

The Triplets of Belleville

Art, Media 2009-03-28 08:20

A good movie you probably haven’t seen: The Triplets of Belleville.
Read more »

Some Good Movies

Media 2009-03-16 12:57
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Twelve Monkeys
  • The Prestige
  • Mulholand Drive
  • Fight Club
  • Kissing Jessica Stein
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Amelie
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Big Fish
  • Memento
  • Dangerous Liasons
  • Snatch
  • The Wrestler
  • There Will Be Blood

If you’re wondering, my criteria for “good movie” is: intellectually stimulating; shows me something new about the world; challenges the cultural status quo.

A dark visual aesthetic, a nonlinear timeline, and poly or lesbian themes sweeten the pot.


Culture, Media 2009-02-07 05:58

You’ve probably seen Photoshop Disasters, which pokes fun (and a bit of scorn) at the photomanipulation mistakes that appear in modern advertising. This article takes a fascinating in-depth look, including using some algorithmic tools to spot photo manipulations.

What I find most interesting about this is not the mistakes, but the fact that photo manipulation has become some pervasive. Dove’s Evolution of a Model video captures it nicely: the images of beautiful people we see every day are often borderline fraudulent.

I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with using modern technology to modify images. But we all have to keep in mind that comparing your own physical beauty to these images is as pointless (and potentially unhealthy) as comparing yourself to a painting.


Media 2009-01-25 05:14

Jason Kottke calls the new breed of television shows “megamovies,” a term invented by Vincent Canby:

“Megamovies take television seriously as a medium. They have dramatic arcs that last longer than single episodes or seasons. Megamovies often explore themes and ideas relevant to contemporary society — there’s more going on than just the plot — without resorting to ‘very special episodes.’ Repeat viewing and close scrutiny is rewarded with a deeper understanding of the material and its themes. They’re shot cinematically and utilize good actors. Plot details sprawl out over multiple episodes, with viewers sometimes having to wait weeks to fit what might have seemed a throwaway line into the larger narrative puzzle.”

My favorite megamovies are The Wire, Mad Men, Carnivale, Rome, and Deadwood. (Honorable mentions go to Entourage, Desparate Housewives, the West Wing, and Six Feet Under.)

The Wire is perhaps the smartest, most subtle, and most politically poignant of all these. Merlin Mann gushes about it, particularly its use of long story arcs, which is the centerpiece of what differs between megamovies and ordinary episodic TV:

“This is a show that uses previous story arcs to deepen and expand on current stories. It uses things you’d never noticed from previous viewings as the centerpiece for a whole new story. It suggests grace notes that are barely audible unless you’ve been listening carefully for a very long time.

In sum, The Wire pays back the attention you invest in it like few pieces of art created in my lifetime. It’s vicious about telling every letter of the story with muscular precision.”

How to Snag Embedded Media

Internet, Media 2009-01-20 05:28

Want to grab a copy of a song that plays through an embedded media player on a site? “View source” sometimes works, but a technique that works even for highly dynamic players is Firebug.

Go to the page with the media player, open Firebug, click the Net checkbox, then click Enable. Now click the play button on the media player. This should cause a couple of net requests to appear in the console. Look for the one that ends in .mp3, right click (or ctrl-click on OS X) and select Copy Location. Now open a new browser window, select the location bar, and press Ctrl-V (or Apple-V). To download it, open a terminal, type wget, and then paste in the url and press enter.