Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just Asking: A Cinegram

This is my latest 'cinegram.' It's about the kind of communication one sometimes wants to read too much into. We live with email and we type our thoughts quickly and sometimes, accidentally, we make something with meaning. Sometimes, by not putting things too specifically or too carefully, we say a little more than might have been intended. That's what this little film is about. There's no sound. Just the image.

Just Asking from Alessandro Cima on Vimeo.

This one was hard for me to get right. I felt that I was being too subtle and that there was a danger of the piece simply being a series of boring office shots. But I think I caught the feeling pretty well in the end. It's a mixture of attraction, anticipation, nervousness, doubt about the validity of one's own feelings, worries about offending someone, and an overriding need to write messages that are acceptable in an office environment. The modern American office is quite demonstrably a place where people work exceedingly hard at pretending love does not exist.

This cinegram is also about how difficult it is to speak plainly. It can also be interpreted as an entirely different kind of communication than I have described.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lull: An Animated Short That's Too Short

I'm normally extremely wary of posting about a film or filmmaker associated with a school or university. In my humble opinion, if you're in film school, you are quite possibly wasting your time and someone's money. I think filmmakers should hide those associations if they exist. But if they're going to boast about them, I'm going to jump all over it. Don't worry, I'll get to the animated short in a minute. The next Jean Luc Godard will not come from a school, he or she will come from YouTube. Not kidding. Buy a video camera, microphone, computer, drawing tablet, digital editor, Adobe Flash, and perhaps 5 books. That's all you need to learn filmmaking. Approximate cost: $4,000. New York University film school: over $35,000 a year just for tuition. Figure it out. Schools of art mainly exist for social networking purposes. They do not actually teach anything resembling the production of art. Go look at the theater scene. Everything is being 'workshopped.' This is something people learn in a school somewhere. As if you can 'workshop' a play and come out with something worth an ounce of spit. And these people are charging $15 - $25 dollars for you to sit and watch them rehearse. I wonder what all these writers and actors and directors are trying to figure out. It's a mystery. If you don't like what I'm saying here, man, you really don't want to hear what I have to say about film festivals. It all starts with two sinister words: Submission Fee. More about that some other time when I'm feeling really mean. But honestly, if you really need to meet people, go to a bar. It's cheaper.

Anyone can write a poem. Anyone can make a film.

That being said, here's a short animation that is adapted from a longer work by Lisa Barcy who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Film. Hmmm... well, ok... but her film is pretty cool. I love the roughly drawn cutout puppet technique. This kind of animation can be much more emotional than carefully drawn, well-timed animation. Very rarely does the Disney style of animation convey anything close to a human emotion. This kind of animation does. I have an affinity for work like this. It makes me want to draw and I start thinking about how to convey things with a simple stroke of a pen.

The film is very lonely. There's a guy walking around on a pier with a bucket of lobsters. There's a squid that seems to attract him. He floats around and generally rejects the society of men. Sort of an oceanic recluse, I suppose.

I just wish that the full version of Ms. Barcy's film was available. Here's more of what I'm talking about with schools. Go check the filmmaker's page at the School of the blah blah at Chicago. See what I mean. Every link to her work gives a 404 not found error. You can't run a school of film and 'new media' and pull crap like that. And how much for tuition again? What a nifty scam.

I found this little gem via a site called 'BadLit.' I'll work up a little post with more on that film site later. But the short of it is that you can find lots of cool stuff there and the guy writes as if he really enjoys writing. That's unusual for some reason.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I-Witness Video Battles Police State Tactics

I am falling in love with this group. I-Witness Video uses video to protect civil liberties. They probe police actions at First Amendment events like peaceful protests by videotaping what the police are up to at these events. They build a library of these videos, some of which are submitted by amateur videographers, in order to use them as evidence at trials to overturn bogus charges. Often it would seem that these charges are a blatant attempt by police to eliminate protests at events like political conventions.

Their work has largely involved the New York City Police Department which would seem to be making every possible effort to become an exceedingly dangerous fascist organization bent on squashing any form of dissent in New York City. I used to live there and I know there were some serious problems with abuses by the police. But over the past ten years, boy it has just become a sad joke of a department. It's shocking. It makes Los Angeles look like a bastion of free expression.

I-Witness Video has had huge success in turning its video against the police in order to get hundreds of charges dropped. It has exposed conspiracies within the NYPD to lie and make false charges. The group appears to have been involved in the shocking and illegal police raids in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area aimed at squashing any peaceful protests around the Republican National Convention. It is obvious that the St. Paul police do not want these people getting evidence that can be used aganst the department. These people at I-Witness are simply using video like nobody's business. They've got it right and their work is hugely important.

Here is something I found printed in one of the entries on their blog:

The rights of photographers under the Constitution are expressed in sparklingly clear language in a legal memorandum on the "Rights of Journalists on Public Streets" which is available on the website of the National Press Photographers Association. I will now quote liberally from this very helpful document.

In general, the right to take photographs on the street is the same for members of the public as it is for journalists. So, if you're a member of the public, rather than a journalist, most of this applies to you too.

Although not unlimited, the media [and the public] enjoys a broad right of access under the First Amendment to photograph in public places such as streets and sidewalks. These rights are rooted in the First Amendment's strong protection of speech within "public forums." A "public forum" refers to a public place historically associated with free expression. The most commonly recognized examples include streets, sidewalks and parks. Within these areas, the government's ability to limit the public's speech is extremely limited.
This is very useful information for anyone with a camera. Go I-Witness Video! You people kick serious ass.