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2014-happy-new-year

May 2014 be less weird than 2013, or more weird but in a good way. Either’s fine.

 

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Over the years, I’ve created PowerPoints for many deeply unsavory reasons – to push pharmacological products using sketchy ‘data’ published by the parent company, as part of half-assed attempts on educators’ parts to get hip with technology and liven up rote classroom presentation (one of the few chunks of high school, along with forced learning to type without looking at our hands, that actually had real-world applications), to reinforce big business mentalities I did not believe in. Each of which falls under the standard use of PowerPoint, a program designed with the twofold goal of ‘snappy corporate presentations’ and ‘useability by the computer illiterate’.

In spite of, or rather because of the inherent weirdness at this intersection of Business and Flair, the program’s potential for pure art has been explored by several artists, most notably David Byrne’s E.E.E.I tour. I was going to say ‘accidental’ or ‘ironic’ art, but all that’s ever needed to turn something practical into art is to remove the practicality.

Which brings me to my recent, happier experiences with PowerPoint – created for a friend’s yearly salon of presentations on whatever we wanted, far from the boundaries of desks or logic, these slides were fun to create. No templates! The pure joy of random transitions! Finally using all the sound effects your supervisor expressly forbad! Unfortunately after the small gathering was over, the presentations languished on my computer. No more! I finally figured out how to time slides and export to a movie file, so that you, The Reader, may benefit from my research.

Admittedly quite a bit is lost in translation – no transitions, only one audio track and no sound effects, no me rambling on about a particular subject while accidentally skipping three slides ahead – but I’ve tried to make up for it with a dip into my recently acquired well of 50s instrumental tracks. Enjoy!

Mary Maxim: A Wearable (Mostly Canadian) History from Rarer Borealis on Vimeo.

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ephemera banner fall 1

Today I’m focusing on Ephemeral safety films featuring that all-knowing, all-judging voice of reason, The Narrator. This Paternalistic Condescender is the bridge between You, The Viewer and You, the Doofus on Screen. Unlike the overtly idiotic and risky Goofuses from the ‘Goofus and Gallant’-style videos, people in Paternalistic Condescender videos are relatable, identifiable, and make terrible choices. You, The Viewer are in the unique position of sharing the Narrator’s godlike omniscience and wisdom, while still capable of all the foibles of your onscreen counterparts. The idea is to see yourself in the mistakes onscreen, and listen to the literal Voice of Reason (almost always male) to avoid them yourself.

 

Before we start, remember how I mentioned the one time that guy caught everything on fire in ‘Hospital Safety’?

Hospital Safety no smoking

DUN DUN…

 

Hospital Safety see this is why no smoking

DUNNNNNNNN!

The narrator remains calm and impassive even as the ward burns to the ground.

  I’ve written a lot about ‘Live and Learn’ (and made several GIFs of children falling off cliffs), so I’ll let these additional images speak for themselves.

Live and Learn head bandage

Live and Learn scissors

 

What I didn’t know until recently is ‘Live and Learn’ had a sequel filmed 2 years later in color called  ‘Why Take Chances?’ It features the same Narrator remarking calmly on childrens’ foolish impulses and casually noting their grim injuries. ‘Why Take Chances’ goes a step further and features intertitled cartoon versions of the kids’ injuries. Somehow that seems like it would impress kids with the idea they’d only get ‘cartoon’ killed if they dropped a piano on a pal’s head.

Why Take Chances  kid slam

Why Take Chances  slam

Why Take Chances snapped foot

Why Take Chances oh snap

 

‘Time Out For Trouble’ is BANANAS. It features a rare female narrator, but since the entire premise of the film is how accidents are caused by EMOTIONS (instead of, you know, boiling water falling on you), of course they have a female narrator. When the narrator isn’t tsk-tsking couples in broken relationships for their psychological pain, the voiceover is provided by (I am not making this up) a psychotic clock bent on killing the leading lady through emotions for calling the clock an eyesore.

Time Out for Safety spooky clock

 

(Just one of the many ways the clock uses household items and rage to kill)

Time Out for Safety trip

 

1990′s ‘Range Safety’ is the ‘Don’t Do What Donny Don’t Does’ of gun safety. The narrator has all the outrage and breathless pace of a Hard Copy story intro at the many, many ways people incorrectly use guns.

Range Safety  locked loaded

Range Safety breaker breaker

Range Safety all in a row

 

Range Safety gunsight

 

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This October, I’m proud to present the latest entry in the EPHEMERA screenings: SAFETY FIRST!   Featuring safety and instructional videos from the 1930s to the early 2000s, SAFETY FIRST is what happens when a pile of vitally important and boring information has to be shown to an audience who doesn’t want to hear it. There’s a few general approaches, including The Paternal Condescender, The Shock and Awe (aka The GoreFest or ‘You’ll Poke Your Eye Out’), and The America’s Funniest Home Videos, but today I’ll focus on The Goofus And Gallant.

(Oh, and if you’d like to see more stills from all the films, I’ve also created a Pinterest board where you can see all the shining weirdness of these ephemeral films for yourself.)

Goofus and Gallant films feature a ‘Gallant’ – a Johnny Do-Right who follows all the rules to a T and is rewarded with health and prosperity. He’s often accompanied by a Goofus, some slacker who heightens Gallant’s proper example with his oafish slacking and blatant disregard for the rules. If he gets injured (usually he just comes perilously close), the violence is cartoonish and silly. Sometimes the relationship is supernatural, with Gallant being a guardian angel-type who must continually rescue the dimwitted Goofus from certain harm.

 

First we have ‘Domestic Disturbance’, a training film for officers responding to domestic disturbance calls. In this case, the Gallants are in active danger from the Goofuses, and following the rules becomes doubly important as everyone’s safety is in the hands of the Gallants. The film acknowledges officers’ reluctance to respond to such calls – as one office says ‘at least with a standoff you know the situation…domestic disturbances are unpredictable’. ‘Domestic Disturbances’ was filmed in 1970s Minnesota, making for an unfortunate overlay of awkward clothing and accent distracting from the serious matter at hand.

personal space

Domestic Disturbance  calm direct

 

‘Safety: In Danger, Out of Doors’  was also obviously filmed in the 70s and features Guardiana, a crossing-guard-turned-superhero. Guardiana must rescue the stupid children around her from danger, but not before lengthy voiceovers pointing out every stupid step they’re taking towards getting themselves killed.

guardiana

guardiana 1

 

‘Christmas Tree Harvest Safety’ (2002) seems to be made for a multilingual audience. Voices are dimly heard and mostly hidden behind loud ‘ding ding ding!’ noises when something’s done right, or a car-alarm when something’s done wrong. The Goofus of this film is a lanky white guy who takes every possible opportunity to chop his leg off with a chainsaw, and the Gallant, a middle-aged Hispanic man, is the one pointing and gesturing the proper steps to take. I’m going to say the film’s continuous use of The Mexican Hat Dance whenever the Gallant points out correct action is probably racist.

Christmas tree safety

 

‘Hazards In Motion’ (2001) features an actual guardian angel, helping the film’s Goofus avoid certain death at the hands of mining equipment and his own blind confidence.

Hazards In Motion white overalls

 

‘Hospital Safety’ is mostly neutral, showing people repeating actions done wrong immediately (except for the one time that guy caught everything on fire).

Hospital Safety lift

Hospital Safety  body lift

 

‘Hands In Motion’ is 90% a Shock-And-Awe film, avoiding gore by using an adorable abstract hand cutout to show the many, many, many ways you can mangle your fingers. Here we see a Gallant of a glamour shot – proper glove-wearing for handling molten metals.

On Every Hand power glove

 

From ‘Days of Our Years’, the most depressing and moralizing of the films (available as an MST3K short which helps it go down a bit easier), we see the RIGHT way to approach someone wielding a giant torch: using ‘gentle touch’. Of course the protagonist was too excited to do that and got blinded before he ever saw his first child, but that’s just the way this movie rolls.

RR sparks

RR gentle touch

 

‘Stairwell Safety’ takes a look inside the mind of the modern secretary pool. Featuring a bee woman instructing fellow ‘drones’ on how to not get killed on the stairs, the inspiration for this likely came from a whimsical Hallmark calendar sitting on someone’s desk.

Stairwell Safety attention

Stairwell Safety seriously

 

I just included this image because office dress code is ok with ‘Big Dog’ t-shirts.

Stairwell Safety bee lady

Oh, ‘Will You Be Here Tomorrow’. You are the violentest, most over-the-top safety film I have ever seen. Here is one of the brief moments in this short film where someone is not actively losing a fake limb and spattering blood everywhere.

Will You Be Here voice of experience

 

The protagonist of ‘A Safe Day’ achieves a full 1000 days of safety, because he makes it his business to be safe. He’s the ultimate Gallant example, carefully thinking through every action and stopping potential injuries before they happen. Goofuses and their horrible manglings are bloodlessly shown through double exposure.

A Safe Day smiley

A Safe Day common sense

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It’s been a busy September, preparing for the best and spookiest month of all: OCTOBER. Yes, cool weather, warm beverages, cider donuts, haunted everything, costume planning, and horror films as far as the eye can see – October has it all*.

I’ve been doing my small part for Spectacle Theater’s run of amazing midnight movies – check out the trailer for SATAN’S BLOOD (aka ESCALOFRIO, which literally translated means ‘feverish chill’ or just ‘chill’ – I can see why the English title might want to push the Satanic angle a bit more).

 

Now, a warning for the prudish (aka, me): this movie has SO MUCH SATANIC NUDITY. So. Much. I cannot emphasize how much nudity in direct correlation to Satanic activities this movie contains. At least 1/2 of its full running time has people completely naked, with 1/3 of that directly tied to Satanic activities. I understand this movie comes from Europe, where perhaps the culture’s a little more relaxed about struttin’ around nude. I mean, part of what makes America the country it is is its strong foundation of Puritan frowniness on the physical (and the corresponding mixed messages layered on top of that). But still, if you are not prepared for it, the amount of full-frontal in Satan’s Blood comes as a shock. It’s a midnight movie, so I’m assuming their jaded audiences won’t even blink twice, but as the person who had to watch, re-watch, trim and edit this, it was a bit much.

 

*You may have caught my exclusion of ‘pumpkin-flavored ____’, another October ubiquity. However much I love pumpkin flavored stuff, the same gaggle of ladies that irritate me the rest of the year would stab a man for the last Pumpkin Spice Latte, so I’m leaving it off the list of pure October delights.

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