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My Top 5 Hans Zimmer Scores

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2013 by Adam Broome

So just recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer. He has scored some of my favourite films of all time (and, as it transpires, a pretty awesome game as well). Nothing quite adds to an action scene like a heart-pumping soundtrack – get the music wrong, and it all falls apart. The thing with Hans Zimmer is that even with movies that didn’t do so well financially, the music was undisputedly top-bar. Every time.

Currently undergoing a slight nostalgia trip with his music, I feel it best to write my own ‘ode’ to this amazing composer, and cover my top 5 Hans Zimmer scores from some of my favourite-ever films. Even if you’re not a fan of their genres, these films are worth checking out for the merit of the music alone:

5. Inception

Clocking in at number 5 is one of the most popular movies in recent years. Inception – ‘that film about dreams’ – tells of the story of one man who infiltrates the dreams of another to place an idea deep inside his subconscious. Unfortunately, nothing is ever that easy, and it’s not long before the man’s subconscious starts fighting back, and then we have all manner of mountain assaults, zero-gravity corridors and freight trains chugging down Manhatten high-streets.

Amidst all the fun, Zimmer delivers one of his most easily-recognizable scores – the deep bass became synonymous with the film, and the film are the score were both highly regarded. Rightly so – ‘tis a brilliant film!

4. Modern Warfare 2 – Whiskey Hotel

In one of his first game projects, Zimmer scores Modern Warfare 2, which continued on from where the first game left off. Due to a political mess-up, Russia has declared war on the US, and invaded. ‘The Battle For Washington DC’ kicks off, and although the US Army spend several days defending it, it eventually becomes apparent that the first wave of the invasion alone is enough to bring the American infrastructure to it’s knees.

Just when all hope is lost (with the second and third Russian invasion waves flying over the skies), the British SAS save the day by launching a nuke directly at Washington, and detonating it in the upper hemisphere. The EMP triggered by the bomb sends the aerial invasion forces crashing down to Earth, and after dodging all manner of falling planes, jets and helicopters, an eerie walk around the ruins of Washington with the survivors follows. Soldiers run around lost – some looking for their units, some carrying messages. Amidst all the chaos, the surviving marines eventually get their final assignment – congregate at ‘Whiskey Hotel’. When you eventually get there and find out what the code-name is for, you realise ‘The Battle for Washington DC’ will be decided then and there. It makes for a very tense (and memorable) moment in gaming with a soundtrack all too fitting for it’s epic conclusion.

3. The Peacemaker – The Chase


This overlooked film made a fair impact upon release due to a highly-tense final act, where a middle-Eastern terrorist tries to detonate a nuclear bomb in New York. Back in ’97, that was just fiction, but subsequent real-life events rather pushed this film aside.

‘Gorgeous George’ Clooney and Nicole Kidman team up in two stereotypical roles as a solider and a government analyst trying to find a nuke and secure it before it goes off, chasing the theft of the device all over Europe, until the inevitable showdown in the US of A.

It did, for a long time, feature one of my all-time favourite car chases of any film (until I watched Ronin, that is). In that scene – to this soundtrack I might add – Clooney and Kidman are ambushed, and so drive into a town square, but find themselves surrounded by bad guys. At this point, amidst the erupting bullet storm, a hydrogen pump bursts, and turns the cobbled floors into an ice-rink. The cars slide and smash into each other like dogems, machine guns blazing. It’s very fun to watch, and very epic!

2. The Rock

One score that frequents many ‘Zimmer’ lists, The Rock tells the story of an American army officer’s attempt to bring government compensation to the families of his fallen comrades by hijacking chemical missiles and aiming them at San Francisco. Whilst we see the film through the viewpoint of the ‘good guys’ working for a corrupt American government, it isn’t until the closing ten minutes that the real bad guys are finally revealed. In one of Micheal Bay’s more complex and sensitive films (dare I say, ‘intelligent’) Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage storm the island prison of the title to save the city.

This particular part of the score plays at the opening, when we see the crazed army general steal the chemical weapons without killing anyone – yet losing one of his own men in the process. The scenes opens with the general standing over the grave of his deceased beloved, asking for forgiveness before the events of the films. It is a very unusual way to start an action film of this calibre, but is all the better for it!

1. Broken Arrow

One of my favourite all-time films, Broken Arrow is one of John Woo’s earlier American credentials. After ‘Hard Target’, Woo dropped Van-Damme, and invested a bigger-budget to tell a story of two American air-force pilots fighting in the Utah desert for custody of two nuclear missiles (again…) hijacked during a test flight.

The by-play between the two leads (Christian Slater and John Travolta) keeps things suitably theatric – with Travolta in particular reveling the role. A shoot-out in a collapsing mine, and a hand-to-hand fight on a train about to explode are featured to this soundtrack. When the music kicks in, you feel it, and I doubt that I would not have so much love for this movie were it not for Zimmer’s score. They complement Woo’s direction perfectly, and two come together famously for one of the best action films of all time, and my all-time number one guilty pleasure! (Listen hard, and you might even be able to hear the future ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ score coming through!)

Top 10 Most Epic Movie Scenes

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 by Adam Broome

I’m feeling rather bored tonight, so I’ve decided to entertain myself by watching some of the most epic moments in cinema on Youtube.  The powers-that-be have edited some truly awesome content off the web, but that hasn’t stopped me from pondering, and acquiring my favourite ‘top ten’ most epic scenes in cinema of all time.

To define ‘epic’, these aren’t strictly endings, sad scenes, twists, or moments of brilliant acting or scripting. These moments are just moments that literally made you crap yourself with their epic-ness. Some of these scenes are stereotypically epic, others not so much. It can be anything, from any genre. One scene, or clip, in a movie, that you just remember for years and years to come, which becomes a highlight of quality cinema that connects with you on every level. The creme de la creme. The absolute. Everyone has their own favourites (for example, there’s no Braveheart or Gladiator on mine here).

These are my top ten most epic moments in cinema history. SPOILERS ALERT

10: Scarface – ‘A Test In Masculinity’

What can be said about one of the most famous movie endings of all time? Drug kingpin Tony Montana has risen from street punk to Cuban crime lord, and taken out all of his competitors along the way in series of double-crosses and bloodbaths. During an assassination, Tony sabotages the operation to save a young girl, but his compassion has bloody consequences. The Cuban drug-syndicate’s private army turns up on his doorstep, but instead of going quietly, he grabs the biggest gun in the entire film and runs at them head on, quoting one of the most memorable lines ever in cinema:

9: 300 – ‘Never Threaten A Scotsman’

Here is another absolute classic, though for slightly more fundamental reasons. The film 300 can be quoted as epic, mediocre, childish, boring, gory, and many others. But one thing everyone can agree on is that it became culturally relevant in the rise of the meme generation on social media. ‘What is your profession?’, ‘Tonight we dine in hell’, and ‘Fight in the shade’, are all quotes that were heavily used from the film. Although it all seems a little old-hat nowadays, there is still one line that can’t help but raise a smile, when a messenger from Persia decides to warn the king of the Spartans to surrender to the invading forces, or suffer the consequences. Whoops:

8: Taken – ‘A Man Of His Word’

Why would anybody kidnap Liam Neeson’s daughter? He fought the English as Rob Roy and Michael Collins, and the Nazis as Oscar Schindler. He’s fought wolves, Sith Lords, government agents, and even Batman. He is Zeus, he is a Jedi, he is a ninja, and in this film he is an ex-CIA agent. Sadly, he’s on the phone to his daughter as she treks around France, when suddenly a bunch of criminals break into her home and kidnap her, to be sold as a sex slave. One of the kidnappers picks up the phone, and Mr Neeson proceeds with one of the clearest, cleanest threats of all time. It wasn’t quite as dark as ‘that scene’ from Dead Man’s Shoes, but it was certainly much more epic:

7: Star Trek 2 – ‘Yep, They’re Leaving Us’

The second Star Trek movie of 1982 followed on from an episode of the original series called ‘Space Seed’. In that episode, the crew of the Enterprise discovered a genetically engineered human called Khan, who became hellbent on conquering the galaxy. Before he took the ship, Kirk defeated him, and left him and his genetic army on a barren and hostile world, along with a female crew member who had fallen in love with him. This movie saw him recovered, and back on the war path, but it isn’t until this scene that Khan realises he may finally have achieved his revenge on James T Kirk and his crew. Whilst they’re inside an asteroid laboratory, Khan beams up a planetary weapon called ‘Genesis’, closes down the warp system, and flies off, leaving Kirk and his squad… as they left him:

6: Conan The Barbarian – ‘Prayer To Crom’

Schwarzennegger was always going to be on this list somewhere. Cooler than Stallone, and with more muscles than Willis, this dude was my childhood hero. One of his first-ever movies, ‘Conan’ achieved cult status as being the film that got him discovered, but people often overlook the epic soundtrack, special effects and James Earl Jones’s steeled performance as the villain. The scene in which Conan prays to his God Crom, before also insulting him, leads to the most epic battle of the film, with an epic build-up that never fails to get the heart racing:

5: True Romance – ‘Something He Didn’t Know’

Long before he was directing Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino was helping out with several projects, testing his ability as a writer. One such scene you’ll find his credentials in is True Romance, if only for one single scene (also the only scene in the film to feature Christopher Walken!). What you predict is probably what you’ll get – Dennis Hopper plays the father of a son who has stolen a stash of drugs and gone on the run with a prostitute to make some ‘big bucks’. The mafia track his dad down, and interrogate him. Knowing he probably wont escape alive, Hopper decides he has one last card to play. Sweet Jesus, is this acting good:

4: Watchmen – ‘A Real Superhero’

In a film that is predominantly about what would happen if normal people went out and fought crime, amidst the complex and intricate narrative, Dr. Manhattan is born out of a particle experiment gone wrong, and becomes the first real ‘superhero’. Every character has their own origin story, and the character Rorschach has all the best lines, but the best scene in the film bar none was this montage of Manhattan’s origins. The complete scene lasts about ten minutes, and is one of the most heart-stopping-ly epic moments in cinema you’ll ever see. Unfortunately it’s practically impossible to find on the internet, so here’s the crux of the matter:

3: Ip Man – ‘Chinese Pride’

This surprise emotional roller-coaster of a martial arts film clocks in at number three, as the peace-loving, world-weary Ip Man takes a back seat for the first hour of the movie. Although all those around him fight each other and challenge him, the only thing he actually does is have a friendly fight with a challenger inside his house. But then, the Japanese invade during World War Two, and are quick to ruin the heart and soul of the country – particularly through their martial arts. Ip Man’s friend beats a Japanese soldier one-to-one, and then decides to challenge three at once, just to see if he can win. He is shot, simply for trying to provoke hope within the Chinese people. Needless to say, Ip Man becomes upset, and enters the arena, asking to take on ten soldiers at once. Almost one hour in, he finally decides to unleash his full potential and show what he can do. Your heart is in your mouth:

2: Unforgiven – ‘His True Colours’

Throughout the entire duration of Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood’s old, broken, fragile old character tries to forget his past. Much like aforementioned Ip Man, his days of killing and kicking ass are over, but unlike Ip Man, he is a shadow of his former self. Poor, defeated, and failing to provide for his family, he accepts a job with his old pal Morgan Freeman to assassinate two men, but the duo find themselves dangerously out of step with the industry. Even as Eastwood suffers from withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, people hint at a recognition of him, and the monstrous things he did in his youth. Whereas Ip Man waited one hour, this time it’s not until the very last scene that Eastwood finds out that the town’s evil sheriff has killed his old friend, and mean to hunt him down too. Eastwood suddenly realises he must become the monster that he used to be, just one last time, to avenge his friend. He strolls into town, and finally grants everyone’s wish to see his true form. The stuff of nightmares:

1: Once Upon In The West – ‘The Duel’

It’s funny that the top two on this list are both westerns, but if Eastwood doesn’t do it for you, look no further than Sergio Leone’s masterpiece from 1968. Not only does this film not reveal the entire point of the two-and-a-half-hour story until the closing ten minutes, but you practically forget the story until you are reminded about it here. Although a film with many narratives, the opening scene introduces a simply principle – a man playing a harmonica wants to kill a man called Frank. We don’t know why. Frank doesn’t know why. Lots of stuff happens, hours fly by, and then ten minutes from the end, we get the showdown. It’s binary opposition film studies 1-0-1. It’s shot painfully slowly and beautifully, as both characters savour every camera angle as they prepare to settle the score once and for all. Again, you wont find the full scene anywhere easily, but this sets it up quite well:

 

The New-Age Blog: Scary Things

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 by Adam Broome

So, after a while out of action on the blogging front (anyone who does university nowadays probably knows why), I’m returning to my original wordpress address to continue a journey of worldwide travel, movie trivia and critical commentaries on all-things ‘cinema’. There are a few things in the pipeline over here in Nottingham (*cough* get a job *cough*), so here’s hoping to a summer expedition to the Netherlands, catching The Dark Knight Rises on the opening week, and the new fish in the pond – interaction with the Nottingham Poetry Society.

BUT before we go onto all that, I recently revisited one of the big movies of this year – The Woman In Black. After buying it on DVD last week, ‘me and me mam’ settled down for a bit of old-school Victorian haunting shenanigans, with my mum keen to see how it lived up to the play. After viewing, we both decided that once you know what’s happening in a horror story, it can never scare you the same way again.

But now I’m beginning to think a little more into that. Not being one to scare easily, I have to really think hard to find anything in cinema that ever scared me even remotely. The Wicker Man had one of the most hilarious endings to a horror film ever (Christopher Lee dancing around with a cheesy grin as the villagers chant and have a party – come on, it was side-splitting!), and Paranormal Activity is forever embedded as something I watched with my freshman year housemates, laughing all the way through. The Human Centipede got a much better reaction from us!

So sacred would films be to grace my ‘Top 5 Scariest Films’, I would have great difficulty in thinking that they were never able to scare me again upon the subsequent viewings. This is true in some cases (such as The Shining), but then there are always going to be films that constantly freak you out. What I was wondering was – what makes a film scary more than once? Not jump moments for darn sure – what makes a film so scary, it still scares the crap out of you even when you know what’s coming?

Here is my Top 5 Scariest Films, to find out what makes the horror genre tick:

5 – The Woman In Black

It even surprises me that such a modern film appears on this list. It’s probably because it was so much fun to watch! There’s a not a lot to add to the review in all honesty – it does what it says on the tin. Sometimes I get scared because of the unexpected, but in this case, you got plenty of warning in advance. The theory behind this film was that successful horrors had three factors:

1 – A character you care about (in this case, Arthur Kipps)

2 – An iconic villain you cannot stop (in this case, the ghost of the title)

3 – Children. Losing them, or being haunted by them, are the scariest things for a parent to go through. If people without kids can’t relate to the story, make sure they can relate to the main character, so they feel scared for him / her.

These three points came up in the ‘special features’ part of the DVD. I’m curious to see if they feature anywhere else on this list.

Scariest Scene – You put the baby in the bed, you wind up the toys, and you wait. Then a wall of darkness flies down the corridor outside towards you… and you know you’re f*cked.

4 – Requiem For A Dream

This is the most iconic ‘love / hate’ film I think I’ve ever seen. Anyone who’s ever watched it will either say it didn’t do anything for them, or will refuse on all accounts to ever watch it again. I was one of the latter, though I have since watched it a second time, and despite knowing how crazy the ending got, the pure cinematography and visual style of replicating the drug-induced nightmarish visions of the characters more than justifies it’s position on this list.

The beauty here is that nobody can really tell you what to expect – the horror for me came from not really expecting to be scared. Some people decide to chase their ambitions, and every ambition involves drugs somewhere. That’s about it for the plot. I had no forewarning, so watching this just before going to bed left me with a sleepless night. Not wanting to state the obvious, but shock value is always added when you watch a film you know nothing about. It was cold sweat galore – ‘Requiem…’ is still a freaky film with a weird style, and although not strictly horror, it ranks up alongside Antichrist and A Serbian Film for me as a cinematic experience not to be approached lightly.

Main Characters – Several interlinking stories, you (should) care enough about all of them.

Iconic Villain – This film draws a blank. Drugs are apparently the enemy in this one.

Children – Nope, although one character is the son of another one… but he’s not a child.

Scariest Scene – The fridge wont let you give up food that easily.

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Shock Horrors

Some may say that all you need to do to make a scary film is to make something gross-out or violent. Everyone has a natural fear of death, so if you can make life seem even worse than death, surely that is scary? This was picked upon in the ‘torture-porn’ genre boom in the noughties – up until this point, we’d had x-rated films and films that ‘pushed the boundaries’ of what was an acceptable level of violence. After torture porn, the verdict really is out on this one. You have to go to the lengths of A Serbian Film to use old-fashioned shock tactics to scare experienced audiences with violence. Personally, I think the days of shock horror are over. I think modern society is too de-sensitized to anything violent, disturbing or primal. We see it in almost every BBC thriller, every hollywood horror, and if you go overseas things become even more lenient (evidently!!!)

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3 – The Haunting

One film that didn’t make this list was House On Haunted Hill, although it scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid (nowadays quite laughable!). That film reminded me a lot of Jacob’s Ladder, though most refer the inspiration back to this film from the 1960s. ‘The Haunting’ is on most people’s list as one of the scariest films ever made – and we’re not talking about that forgettable remake of the 90s.

The title should put your guard up straight away. A group of people stay overnight in a ‘supposed’ haunted house, just to see what happens and if paranormal activity does indeed occur. The main protagonist slowly loses her mind, and although a ghost is never seen throughout the whole film, threat is implied throughout.  This idea of the implied is interesting – you can still have a villain, even when there’s nothing there. This film was psychological horror – and possibly more effective for it.

Main Character – Eleanor. Timid, weak, helpless. Becomes a bit of psychopath. Should you care? Probably.

Iconic Villain – Hill House, or the architect Hugh Crain. All ghostly-goings on are implied, so no villain clearly identified here.

Children – Nope, although I have difficulty remembering if cherubs featured in this one or not?

Scariest Scene – What’s on the other side of that door?

2 – The Orphanage

Aside from The Woman In Black, this is the only other film on the list that I saw at a cinematic event. Funny that the top two of this list were films from overseas – evidently, the foreign film makers have a much easier ability to make a film seem ‘alien’ to an audience such as what I would represent. Though from the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, we all knew this film was going to be one to watch with the lights on.

Spielberg, after making Jaws, said that you can only make the audience jump once. The biggest (and best) ‘jump moment’ in cinema was in this film, and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

That for me, however, was not the real horror (jump moments never are). For a film about a haunted orphanage full of dead children, and a living child who goes missing, this more than adheres to the ‘include children’ rule. When a child goes missing, the parent automatically becomes a character you care about. It also helps if they’re down to earth – here in ‘Espana’, they believe in making films that are plausible, and sometimes sacrifice scares / ‘jumps’ just for a better sense of realism… which makes the finished piece all the more scary in all honesty! This film also had one of the best twists at the end of any film ever (maybe) – if it didn’t knot your stomach, you need help.

Main Character – Laura. Lost her child, determined to find him. You definitely care.

Iconic Villain – Surprisingly, yes. If Cillian Murphy’s ‘Scarecrow’ from Batman made you uncomfortable, just wait till you get a load of Tomas’s ghost!

Children – Most definitely yes!

Scariest Scene – You want to communicate with the dead, so you hire a psychic and rig up some cameras, then leave her in the house all alone. You get what you deserve…

1 – Ju:On – The Grudge ( / ‘the series’)

Probably no surprise to see this at the top of the list – it’s no small secret that ‘hair horrors’ sold very well over in the western markets, though sadly got (pardon the pun) murdered by less-effective remakes with dodgy acting. If you want the real scares, you need that aforementioned alienated feel to the film, and for that, always go for the originals. Ringu was good, but once you know the trick at the end of the film, it loses it’s horror-shock value. Here, on the other hand, we have a film that I’ve used to entertain many a film-buff friend over the years, and it also gave my nightmares for weeks ( / years)!

Much like most of the others on this list, this is classic haunted house stuff, brought up to present day. Once you go into the haunted house, you die. Again, that’s pretty much it for the plot. The ghostly threat primarily comes in the form of a murdered wife, and out of all the hair-horrors (and believe me, there’s a lot of ‘em), this was my choice of the lot.

Despite the weak attempt to make a central character, the truth is there are no central characters to care about in this film. They have about ten minutes each, and then they just… disappear. It’s not a violent film. It’s just… weird. That can add a level of ‘unexpected’, but for something that has become such a successful franchise nowadays, you should always approach cautiously!

Main Characters – Not really. Rika is probably the closest you get. Bothered? Not the slightest.

Iconic Villain – Oh wow. This hair-horror image is surely up there with Vader and Lecter?

Children – Yes. And they die. And then follow you home.

Scariest Scene – The bed covers wont save you.

The Ones That Didn’t Make It:

Predator is freaky the first time you see it, but how scared can you get when Arnold Schwarzenegger is the main protagonist? Let’s face it – Predator was a dead alien walking. Aliens was also quite scary (despite being an action movie, for me scarier than the first film). Were it not for Newt screaming through half of it, it might have actually made the list. Audition is good, but the slow first half is a lot more boring on the second and third viewings. The Exorcistoh please (sorry, I wasn’t born early enough for that to qualify). The Silence Of The Lambs should also get an honourable mention, though I always found Hannibal Lecter far too entertaining to be scary!

Iconic Villains – This is one of the most iconic of them all.

It seems in retrospect that children, unstoppable monsters and sympathetic characters are all guaranteed to add chill factors to any horror narrative, at least in relation to my list of Top 5. ‘Paranormal’ things cannot be explained (thus don’t try to explain it – it’s better if we don’t know / ‘less is more’). I think it’s important to also mention that the notion of ‘shock value’ is also harder to come by nowadays, though granted, for a low-budget film The Human Centipede still managed to gross people out to a notorious extent!

Theoretically, ‘end of post’. But then I had a funny idea – let’s compare my Top 5 scary films to my Top 5 scary VIDEO GAMES. I wonder if the narratives have anything in common:

5 – Portal

This was a toss-up between Condemned: Criminal Origins and this one. I decided to go with Portal for the simple fact that this game is still awesome – Condemned fell by the wayside ages ago, much like the Prey series. The games couldn’t be more different – whereas the former was a hunt for a serial killer who stalked serial killers using their own MOs to execute them, Portal was a ‘cute’ game about somebody trapped in an underground lab trying to escape.

Anyone who’s ever watched 2001: A Space Odyssey (or The Terminator, for that matter) will know exactly how scary and intimidating a cold, calculating machine can be when it wants to execute you. I often quote ‘343 Guilty Spark’ as one of my favourite villains of any video game franchise, just for his pure eccentricity. If he wanted to kill you, it wouldn’t be anything to do with emotion or affecting the future of the narrative – it’s simply statistically the logical thing to do.

However, Portal took eccentricity to unfathomable heights – you have a bit barmy to even understand the humour for the most part. GlaDos is the machine that’s gone haywire, with you firmly trapped in the lab trying to run the portal simulation tests and escape before she succeeds in your execution. The puzzles were complex, the feeling was isolated, and a one-on-one showdown with a robot in an unfamiliar place ranks as my number 5 scariest (or is that, most bizarre) video game. The game achieved a well-deserved cult following, and a second game was released, which is a game I have to play!

Main Character – No idea.

Iconic Villain – GlaDos is as iconic as the turrets, companion cubes, and ‘the cake’.

Children – No, although the entire experience of this game has a very childish feel to it.

Scariest Scene – It’s all fun and games until you go behind a wall of one of the test chambers, and find a previous test subject has written clues to your escape in blood all over the walls. Oh dear.

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Man Vs. Machine

Ever since the HAL-9000, people have been freaked out by the idea that machines are going to eventually tun on the human race and wipe us out. It was once classed as science fiction, but as technology progresses, we become increasingly more aware that the idea could become a reality. There have been many ‘Man Vs. Machine’ type films over the years, and it hasn’t been any different in games. The Monitor from Halo and The Reapers from Mass Effect are but two examples of enemies that definitely creeped me the hell out. It’s the lack of emotion that does it – they’re computers. They don’t want to kill you out of revenge, envy or anything personal. It just… purely statistical. Heck, they almost convince you to kill yourself! They do it because their programming tells them to do it – it’s almost a post-modern commentary on religious ideals in and of itself!

Machines – Can’t be bargained with. Can’t be reasoned with. Will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead… but may become your best friend if their protocols suddenly change. Bloody weird stuff!

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4 – F.E.A.R 2

This game sits more convincingly on this list, as one of the last ‘survival horrors’ when the genre phased out in the mid-noughties. F.E.A.R stands for First Encounter Assault Recon, and follows the exploits of the initial FEAR team as they attempt to contain a powerful force named Alma – basically the psychic power of every Japanese hair-horror film you’ve ever seen. If The Grudge tipped my movie list, it’s no surprise FEAR will turn up here – the franchise was based around doing to hair horror what James Cameron did to Alien: blow stuff up. Somehow, when even the badasses get their asses kicked, you fear the antagonist even more!

Main Character – Beckett. Not featured in the first game. You don’t care.

Iconic Villain – Iconic in the video game world, I’d say so.

Children – Alma often takes the form of a child.

Scariest Scene – Level 2. After being knocked out in an explosion, you wake up in a hospital. You’re alone, your voice echoes down every corridor, and the whole hospital is empty… maybe.

3 – Majora’s Mask

In my childhood, one game sticks out very vividly for me as ‘scariest game ever’, and it will surprise some to know it was actually a game from the Zelda franchise. The sequel to one of the best games of it’s era, ‘The Ocarina Of Time’, this game picked up where ‘Ocarina…’ left off, with the main character Link going to search for his fairy companion Navi in a forest. He gets jumped by a homeless child wearing a mask (also stolen, coincidentally). But it seems the mask has got plans for all involved…

Majora’s Mask is just plain weird. That’s what makes it scary, and there’s just no clear way to put it. For a franchise that’s primarily mediaeval fantasy, this game adopted an almost ‘Steam Punk’ attitude to it’s visual style. The main character gets his ass whooped very early on, and his only friends seem to be another fairy called Tatl (originally allied with the mask), and a weird chinese man who originally owned the mask.

What made the game so amazing was that the power of Majora’s Mask caused the moon to crash into the planet, 72 hours after Link arrives in the other-worldly dimension. After retrieving the Ocarina Of Time, Link can rewind the clock back 72 hours earlier. The effect is like Groundhog Day – all puzzles reset, all progress undone, and all levels back to normal. The impending doom makes every character rather contemplative and depressed, and every time you help people and fix problems, you are simply forced to rewind the clock and return everyone back to their original distressed state anyway.

The levels and monsters were equally weird. Again, the feeling of isolation was key. Adding to this a very memorable soundtrack, and you have one of the biggest (and best) mindf*cks you can experience on a video game console.

Main Character – Link. He’s bland – you’re not really bothered.

Iconic Villain – Arguable, but the mask is recognizable in the gaming community. The eyes genuinely do freak you out after a while!

Children – Mate, it’s supposed to a kid’s game!

Scariest Scene – Spoilt for choice amidst this madness, but for imaginative design, activating the switch at the entrance to the fourth Temple. You wonder what it will do – then the whole level flips upside down and you almost fall into the sky. Sh*t a brick!

2 – Resident Evil

Time to pull out some of the all-time classics as we approach the end of this list. Sometimes, you just have to believe the hype, and Resident Evil is no exception to the rule. This quirky little game effectively invented the ‘survival horror’ genre, and it’s simple premise, about a lone group of marines trapped in a mansion surrounded by zombies, caught the imagination of many ‘a nineties kid.

The zombies never scared me, although they provided clues to something called the ‘T-Virus’ which has been infecting everything all over the forest surrounding the mansion. Eventually, you find the labs where the virus originated, and various animal test-subjects have been unleashed. You find giant lizards that chase you, giant wasps and hornets that fly in your face… and giant, twitching, furry tarantulas that crawl along the ceiling.

When you’re not slowly running out of ammo shooting everything that moves, you’re trying to solve the mystery of the family who used to own the house – sort of like ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, a mystery from many, many years back. The mansion is booby-trapped, the zombies are everywhere, and again, you feel very much alone, and way out of your depth.

Main Character – Depending on what you choose, it will still be a stereotypical ‘army’ type.

Iconic Villain – For the most part, the virus is the main villain. More of an idea than a physical threat.

Children – Not for the most part.

Scariest Scene – Again, hard choice. For arguments sake, that moment when you think the window will keep the rabid zombie dogs safely outside the mansion walls!

1 – Doom 3

The original Doom was way ahead of it’s time back in the early 90s, but by the year 2000, it’s graphics and gameplay style were already ancient history. Doom 3 set about re-vamping the original story, of a marine court-marshaled over disobeying orders, and sent to a work station on Mars as punishment. A science team on Mars is experimenting with teleportation, only they find the warps actually lead to a very sinister place indeed. The rest, as they say, is history, and became a solid classic of the survival-horror genre.

Doom 3 managed to keep to it’s classic FPS style of gameplay, whilst bringing on the hordes of monsters in increasingly nightmarish waves. Mars is plunged into darkness, blood is everywhere, and as one of the sole survivors, again their is a rather empty atmosphere to the game, with your only contact being a radio to your equally isolated sergeant. It is a definitive mans game, with tons of gore, lots of bravado, and a gun called the BFG-9000. It ensured to continue kicking ass, but for more disconcerting players, or those with a nervous disposition – it is possibly one of the scariest games you’re ever likely to play (even by today’s standards!).

Main Character – Surprisingly dull given his backstory.

Iconic Villain – Sadly not, unless you class the classic ‘Cyberdemon’ boss in this category.

Children – Babies from Hell start attacking half through.

Scariest Scene – Most will tell you the level ‘Administration’ when the giant pinky flies through the glass (quiet at the back please). For me, it’s much worse a few moments later – spiders appear that jump into your face from right across the room!

Conclusion

Well, there’s what makes me tick. I think by preference, the weird and the unexplained scare me a lot more than ‘tangible’ thrills. I have some fairly odd choices, such as ‘Portal’ and ‘Requiem’. Some may not have found them bad films to watch at all – this is merely a list of my own personal scares. Every piece should be honoured – not a lot scares me much at all on either platform! I think games are more effective with jump tactics – they make you panic, and then you die. It doesn’t work so well in films. Movies need character, and my point about shock horror only cements the fact that the horrors of today are about the unexplained and the unstoppable. Let’s get the test sheets in:

Sympathetic Main Character – 4/10 (all from the films – it is more important to care about leads in films than games)

Iconic Villain(s) – 6/10 (optional to have these – ideas, notions, or the psychology of the setting can replace physical villains)

Children – 8/10 (I’m being lenient with that score as some were hard to say, but it seems that one thing that brings all factors together at least is children)

So there you have it. Children have the most potential to creep people out, at least as far as my own list goes. Use clowns. Use dead children from beyond the grave. Make children psychopaths. Make them disappear, and re-appear, but not quite right in the head upon their return. Make them the devil’s son. I’m quite surprised at this result, as I wouldn’t have thought such matters would bother me yet – subconsciously, it appears I may be wrong!

I’m gonna finish of with this ‘thing‘ that did the rounds on 9Gag a while back. (I know I’ve got a few of you already with it haha!) Now if you don’t mind… I gotta make a call…

The Top 5 Best… And Worst (Redux)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2012 by Adam Broome

During my first year, I made a self-reflective blog post about my favourites and least favourites of media production. Now in my final year approaching graduation, I think it would be interesting to see if anything has changed…

The Top 5 Films

There have been some real changes to this line-up since last we looked. The Rock is still amongst my favourite action films, but somewhere in the past two years, I swapped action films for dramas, and the result is quite… ‘dramatic’:

5. 12 Angry Men

This all-time classic was recommended to me by a sailor in Tenerife. Although I usually groan at the sound of black and white films, this one was just – simply – a masterpiece. Henry Fonda (who I have much appreciation for – read on) led an all-star cast in this thriller from the late 1950s. The film is probably the most simple set-up I’ve ever seen on cinema – one teenager is accused of killing man. His sentence, death. The jury walk into a room to decide his fate. Eleven think he’s guilty. One thinks he’s innocent. In the next two hours of the film’s duration, the screen never leaves the room. You literally have what is one the tin – twelve men in a room, arguing. Sounds intense, but perhaps not the best film ever. All the same, in terms of films from the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’, this is by far my favourite yet, and it proves that all you need to make a good film is a good script.

4. Battle Royale

What was once my favourite film of all time has dropped several places since I’ve left school, but still sits in as the oldest surviving entry to my favourite films collection. What is to be said about this prediction of teenage violence spiraling out of control? One of the worst classes from one of the the worst schools in Japan get chosen to partake in ‘Battle Royale’, where they must fight to the death with only one left standing – or else explosive collars attached to their necks will detonate and kill everybody in the game within seventy-two hours. Although this could still be amusingly applied to my current Media Production course, it fails to leave you with the same ‘drained’ feeling as the first time you see it (especially when you’re at secondary school). It’s lost a lot of shock value for me now, particularly as I migrate to the ‘grown-up’ side of the film. But all the same, for a world-cinema experience, this is still in my eyes the unrivaled champion of nerve-wracking viewing.

4. Scarface

On the last account, this was number one, whereas two better films have come along since and entered my ‘Hall Of Fame’. Still, for a film this legendary, there isn’t a lot to be said. Al Pacino is Tony Montana, a small-time crook in Mexico who decides he’s going to make it all the way to the top of the drug-trafficking trade. From street assassinations with kitchen knives to heavy gunfights with the entire Cuban army, the film charts the rise and fall of perhaps one of the most notorious anti-heroes in cinematic history. This film still remains one of the best all-rounders in terms of humour, shocks, violence, tension, narrative, acting and script. It all comes together in a way that can only be described as poetic – and what is more, it teaches every male who watches it what it really takes to be a man in the face of overwhelming odds.

2. Educating Rita

With regards to the tensions of the previous mentioned titles, it may come as a surprise to see this film sitting so high on the chart. On a personal level, nothing has really captured the essence of my early stages of life on this planet quite as sensitively and emotionally accurately as this film has. The film tells the story of Rita – a working class girl at a hairdressing salon who wants to get a university degree and make a better life for herself. First she has to cut loose all her ties to her old life, and makes enemies of all of her friends she’s left behind. Then she has to face the upper class and their prejudices, and indeed her own low self-esteem in order to continue. But the the film’s denouement is built around her boozy lecturer Michael Caine, whom she builds a close friendship to through countless intimate  arguments – that is, that she has destroyed everything that made her an individual, and she has now become a ‘product of academia’, with nothing unique or lively about her left. Just from my own perspective, my life has run many parallels with this film, including the themes of alienation, romance, true friendship and prejudices. I believe this film will probably always be in my top five favourite films.

1. Once Upon A Time In The West

After finishing his ‘Dollars’ Trology with The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, director Sergio Leone returned with his brand of spaghetti western with this film, starring Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda as two conflicting gunslingers in the wild west. This classic film ticks all the boxes that Scarface does with regards to structure, but the subtle edginess of the film made it something of a haunting experience for me, which cut it above just about every film I’d ever seen. Charles Bronson is the nameless cowboy in white, stalking the wilderness and playing a haunting tune on a harmonica. He’s hunting for a gunslinger named Frank – played by Henry Fonda – who is involved in a twisting plot involving railroads, water wells, an outlaw and a feisty woman who’s husband has been killed in the feud. The film is at both times a cinematic masterpiece and a pinnacle of script writing. When nothing is being said, the dry, quiet heat of the desert permeates the scene. When characters do eventually talk, almost every line is a one-liner to quote in itself. The action is full of emotion and tension, the acting is some of the best I’ve ever seen, and every detail of the film has had very calculated and specific attention to it. And that is why this sits as my number one favourite film.

Top 5 Albums

As I have grown up, my music has matured more, and explored some of the older classic sounds as opposed to the modern and the gothic. However, despite the shuffle-round, very little still matches up to the imagination of those earlier sounds, leaving me with a perplexing situation:

5. Orchestra Of Wolves (Gallows)

This album just came in at the exact time I needed to hear it. The punk-core genre was relatively new to me, I’ve just made it to Coventry University, and the above mentioned ‘Rita’ thing was in full swing. What better way to equalize to the new environment than to attack social structure for everything it was worth – the unemployed youth were violent thugs, the women who had sex were sluts – society was a f*cking joke, the city was a f*cking joke, and only thing to do after screaming about it was laugh about it – after all, we never loved them anyway.

4. Brothers In Arms (Dire Straits)

Believe it or not, the most recent addition to this comes from Dire Straits. Normally, to experience such a band, I’d buy a best-of compilation, such as with Presley or Cash last year (epic albums, but running them out the competition). However, after seeing him warm up for Bob Dylan, this often-cited ‘guitar’ album got placed in my lap. Pretty much every track on it confirms it’s something your dads listened to in their youth, but all the same, the tunes are pure class guitar work. Every tune is catchy, all but one sits comfortably on my iPod without fear of moving, and indeed, the guitar work (as I have seen) is amongst the best available – no shredding here bro’, this is total immersive, emotional instrumental tune-age. The final song is the cherry on top.

3. Opheliac (Emilie Autumn)

When it comes to messed up music, in all fairness you need not look much further than this. I’d been a fan of Emilie Autumn for a long time before her ‘official’ debut came out in the form of Opheliac, and despite being one of the worst gigs I’d ever seen, the album rank as one of the best I’ve heard. It is certainly an acquired taste – her blending of gothic fantasy and unnerving realisations of reality are not for the faint hearted. Yet lyrically, she is at both times a poet and a songwriter who effecting blends classical violin playing with heavy industrial, to create her ‘Victoriandustrial’ genre of musical play. The re-writing of Tennyson, the psychotic screaming and raving, and the twisting imagery of the ‘beauty’ of misogyny, suicide and even pedophilia make this album one head-trip which is essentially the ‘Antichrist’ or ‘Salo’ of music – one not soon forgotten.

2. Watershed (Opeth)

My two favourite bands have not changed – and thus neither has to the top two positions on this chart. This haunting album still remans a classic of the ‘heavy metal’ era I went through in my late teens. It is still Opeth’s best work in my opinion, and that makes it truly a force to be reckoned with. The ten-minute-odd freestyle with the dueling guitars sliding around the octaves make their unique sound a love-hate matter, but when you are on a level with this sort music, there is little that can rival it in terms of imagery, style, and overall quality of musicianship.

1. Dark Passion Play (Nightwish)

My favourite band doesn’t seem like they will ever change – having just released Imaginaerum after a near half-decade hiatus, they have still got the power to connect with me in ways that no other band has ever done since. You’ll never dance to their music in night clubs (unless your Finnish), but their musical mastery of blending various symphonic orchestras with their metal-fronted sound and dueling male and female vocalists make their every album a true treasure. Out of all of them though, Dark Passion Play still remains the gem of the series – it effectively saved the band’s career, and every song was completely different from the other one. The variety and mastery has not been matched since, even though their new album is indeed still far above other albums of the genre.

Top 5 Worst Films

There’s been a couple of good competitors on this front over the last two years – not least of all remakes that have completely murdered the originals. I’ll try and keep remakes to a minimum, but here goes:

5. Battle Royale 2: Reqiuem

Given my love of the first movie, thinking about it now this probably deserved to be here a long time ago. Everything that was intelligent about the first film gets taken out and the justification of the actions get lost in plot holes so big you could drive a truck through them. This time, it is another class of bad pupils who are sent to an island, but this time, to kill the survivors of the previous tournaments – including those of the first film. What started out as a satire on political regulations of youth becomes a war movie, where the mission – instead of killing to stay alive and win a game – is to gear up and go to war with other youngsters. There’s lots of shooting, lots of explosions, lots of loud things going on, and it has ‘cash-in’ written all over it. I have seen worse, but then to say the first film made such an impact on me, this rightfully deserves to sit on this list. If you want better ‘teenage cinema’ from the region, I’d recommend Death Note – you actually need a brain for that.

4. Friday 13th

I said I’d try and keep remakes out, but again I’ll have to go against my own rule to highlight this as the totally most epic shite remake of remakes. I went to the cinema to see this, and not only did it murder the first film, but it effectively murdered 2 and 3 as well. Such remakes inspired me to go to university and into the media industry (namely, to wipe them out). As I hate remakes so much, this little trip down ‘memory lane’ involving the resurrection of one Jason Vorhees, and his subsequent killing spree against all sexually active teenagers near Camp Crystal Lake was just a bloody joke. They took a classic of the slasher era of movies and turned it into a weak and not-very-gory piece of cinema. I actually saluted it from keeping the fore down at the time, but in retrospect, that would have given this film purpose. Not having shock value took away the only reason this film was made – without purpose, you waste two hours of your life watching it.

3. Kakera

Still here.

2. The Quest

JCVD averted the list last time with his film Derailed because it went straight to DVD. The Quest, however, did not. It was his first attempt at directing… which pretty much says it all. Jean Claude Van Damme leads the cast as a French pickpocket who embarks on a journey around the world, eventually teaming up with Roger Moore on his quest to win a world-class martial arts tournament to claim a precious scroll. Or something like that. The action was average-to-poorly handled, the slapstick was well out of place, corny and goofy. The final part of the film based around the tournament itself is extremely dull, which again destroys the build-up to what the audience was expecting. JCVD can do much better, and this ‘period action film’ is just poorly handled from start to finish. I thought the actual film ‘JCVD’ was actually quite good, but this is just a nightmare of film making. Finally, JCVD has made it onto the list – this was a cinematic box office flop, and here it sits proudly.

1. Broken Flowers

This movie will probably never change. If the previous list two years ago didn’t do it for you, this is basically everything I go against in terms of film making. It’s narrative, based around bachelor who may or may not have a son, who visits women who may or may not be the mothers, is simply the most boring and pointless piece of film making every created. It fits nicely into the art house genre, which further justifies why it is so stuck up it’s own a*se. In a nutshell, there’s not a lot to add to my previous comments from the previous blog post. This is commonly the one I refer to as ‘worst film ever made’. It’s filmed well, well acted, and cutely surreal. The insult to cinema cannot go unanswered though. If I had the balls, I may watch it again to see if my opinion has changed. But that is very unlikely, and until my memory of this piece of crap becomes more vague, it still remains as the absolute worst of worse films ever made (which is ironic, since I really liked Lost In Translation!)

Top 5 Saddest Cinematic Moments

Here’s a new one (and a brave one). I’m a tough nut to crack when it comes to provoking an emotional response regarding making me upset, yet I always come to realise that some of the most all-time effective moments in cinema to make me well up are actually films that most common weepy fans find quite an easy experience. All the same, time to man up, and simultaneously reduce my man points by a couple of hundred:

5. WALL-E

The Moment – ‘He’s back… or is he?’

The single most depressing thing about this whole movie was the one fact that the kids would not have understood – the inevitable fact that we as a species are doomed. Our only hope is to create machines, but evidently, the ones we make will reflect our failures as creators of design. Deep readings of this children’s film aside, the whole pessimism of fat, automated living in a society governed by rogue machines was in itself depressing. Enter into this f*ck up of social progress the cute little robot Wall-E, who ends up getting smashed to pieces trying to save humanity. Futuristic robot EVE rebuilds him, only to find that (albeit momentarily) Wall-E has lost his humanity – he’s alive, but has become a machine again, fulfilling his original purpose as a fully automated robot. The main character was alive, so technically the film could have left it there. If it had, this film would probably be even higher on this list!

4. Babe

The Moment – ‘That’ll do, pig.’

The oldest entry – and by far the most classic example of getting me to cry – is this little childhood film about the small-time happenings on a farm, seen through the eyes of a pig. The innocence of the narrative makes for a really uplifting feel good film, but things start to get serious when Babe – the aforementioned pig – decides he wants to be a sheepdog and enter the main British contests. Things go ‘champions league’, resulting in taking Babe away from the rural beginnings to be tested on the center stage. When he succeeds, farmer Hogget’s final words to his little companion is perhaps one of the nicest scenes of true friendship ever caught on screen.

3. Dumbo

The Moment – ‘Baby of Mine’

For an honourable mention, most people will remember that the saddest moment in their Disney-filled childhoods was either the dad dying in The Lion King, or the mum dying in Bambi. For me, it was Bambi… until this beast of a film came along. Dumbo is the story of an elephants with huge ears, set as a freak show in a circus. His mother tries to defend him from humans poking him with sticks, and subsequently gets locked up as a ‘crazy animal’. The only way Dumbo can see her again is to sneak out after hours, and ‘cuddle’ her through the bars. What made this so much worse was the fact that although the parent wasn’t dead, she was locked up and forced into living a very unhappy lifestyle. For me at least, that’s much worse!

2. Titanic

The Moment – ‘The Reunion’

Vital man points FLY away with this one, though do keep in mind that back in 1997, this was the best-selling film of all time. Nobody really cared that much when DiCaprio’s wimpy character ended up sinking below the waves, nor did they really care that the old lady had finally made peace with the whole affair all these years on. What really totaled almost everybody who watched the film though was the very last scene – when the old lady passes away, having found peace, and thrown a necklace she received on the ship back into the ocean. She passes away, but her soul sinks with the necklace back down into the ruins of the ship on the ocean floor, which suddenly comes back to life. Everyone who has died on the ship throughout the movie – including DiCaprio – has been waiting for her to return. All I will say is… I bet Billy Zane wasn’t clapping.

1. Schindler’s List 

The Moment – ‘I Could Have Saved More Jews’

This nostalgia trip has made competition for this spot extremely high. Fortunately for Speilberg though, the one thing that’s more tragic than thousands of people dying on a ship, is an entire race of people being exterminated in world war two. Schindler’s List refers to the list of Jewish people that Oskar Schindler saved during the period of world war two, by employing jews as slaves from the concentration camps and saving them from the gas chambers. Come the end of the film (and indeed the war), Schindler decides it’s time to leave the place and close his factory, but not before every jew he has saved turns up as a crowd to thank him. Naturally, he breaks down into tears, but the heartbreaking argument of ‘did he save enough’ that occurs is – for me – the saddest moment in cinema I’ve ever seen. Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson both deserved awards for this final scene alone.

Three Questions To ‘Ponder’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 7, 2010 by Adam Broome
  1. How useful is the notion of genre for explaining the full range of modern media texts?
  2. Which types of cultural production appear to be the most generic and why? Which appear to be the least generic and why? How do these reflections tie into the work you are doing on your optional modules?
  3. Does the notion of genre aid our understanding of newer forms of cultural production such as online production? Does Adorno’s thesis still hold true given the ‘democratic’ nature of the internet?

Responses:

1. I think genre is still relevant to cinema, as there are modern trends within cinema (such as superhero movies) which follow conventions to target audiences if. If genre was not relevant, ‘trends’ and ‘fashions’ would not exist. However, user-generated content do not have audiences. ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ was put up on Youtube because the maker thought it was cute and decided to share it with the world. No profit was intending to be made from it. No audience needed to be targeted. Thus, genre is less relevant to such viral videos.

A lot of user generated content appeals to the masses. Genre is relevant in mainly targeting select groups of audiences. Unless a media artefact is created with the sole design of targeting an audience (for promotional purposes, profit or otherwise), genre is not so important. A lot of user generated content is put up because people have access to the internet, and nothing else. Equals Three reviews viral adverts, and can appeal to anyone above a certain age. Jon LaJoie also has a general audience above a certain age. The Annoying Orange doesn’t really target anyone in particular either – they’re just there for the taking. They all have comedy elements however – very little user generated content is serious (probably because of the low production values – comedy is cheap providing you have wit). The lack of serious production could affect why genre is lacking in these artefacts.

2.

The types of cultural production that are most reliant on genre are the ones that involve the most capital. Cinemas rely heavily on genre to target audiences, as do television shows and dramas. Video games also target specific niche markets of gamers, depending on the content. Music has it’s own genres. But again, the artefacts without target audiences are the ones least reliant on genre. Genre can be used via props, or via conventions. Props and conventions cost money to construct, which is why official broadcasters use genres more than user generated content does.

In terms of Formats, genre is important for highlighting target audiences for your show. We are creating quiz shows, that have a general audience, and that is reliant on humour, much in the same way as youtube viral videos. When targeting general audiences, comedy is always a good thing to use, as it’s cheap. It’s interesting to know that most quiz shows originated on the radio, and usually involved comedy and wit of some sort, because that’s cheap to make (which is desirable on pilot runs with no guarantee of success). Effectively, user-generated content will be at that level for a long time, cheap, cheerful, and reliant on humour.

The interesting part will happen when user-generated content starts becoming a viable source of income. As the money in that area of the industry goes up, so will production values. When things such as props can be afforded in user-generated media, genre will start to become more relevant. This ties in wth my prediction of an outbreak of ‘pirate media’, that will possibly occur within the next ten years. If user-generated media goes ‘professional’ (as it has already started doing), official broadcasters will have serious problems in the upcoming decades.

3.

As aforementioned, genre will not help us to understand online productions, unless they are designed to target audiences, or do that with which the idea of genre is imposed. Theodor Adorno mentioned the idea of the ‘authentic’, which is quite relevant to this topic.

Some may say that user-generated online media are nowadays more authentic than that of official broadcasters and publishers. Films and TV series are all about ‘representation’ through the media channels, with purposes to inform, or entertain. Formats and genres are used to allow audiences to identify with the material, but in using these, ‘authenticity’ is lost – the artefacts take a certain stance on a topic, or portray a certain point of view.

Online videos are uploaded perhaps to entertain, or perhaps to inform. ‘Two O Clock Reviews’ is a series in which people are interviewed at 2:00am, having just watched the late night premiers of the latest films. Those artefacts are to inform. The Escapist reviews games, and thus has a target audience there, but is not particularly part of any genre. As mentioned above, comedy and the purpose of entertainment always seems to be the driving force behind what gets uploaded to the internet. Battle At Kruger is not particularly comedic in nature, but it is entertaining.

One thing that is differentiating the authentic with the mainstream, besides production values, are timelines. Very little user-generated content lasts beyond fifteen minutes, whether it be reviews, films, or shows. Roughly six minutes is the average I deduce. This suggests that internet entertainment is more relevant to office hours than TV is. During the day, in lunch breaks, people tune in to their favourite internet shows, but by night, they want something ore substantial, and this tune in to the BBC or ITV. It is only a matter of time before the internet starts making better shows – people from all over the world need to get organised to make shows that rival those of the BBC, but I’m sure they’re out there.

Thus, to conclude, we can say that genre does not apply to online media yet. Online media holds a variety of things, from the controversial to the innocent. They may all be to entertain, but they are not aimed at any particular audience, and thus do not need to fit into a genre. This can account for the really random things one might find on the internet. Perhaps eventually people will start making big bucks by creating formats online. PERHAPS my prediction of Pirate TV and Pirate Radio through ‘pirate satellites’ on the internet will come true. The internet opens everyone up to all and sundry, and where there is cash to be made, people will do it. Genre is crucial to identifying target audiences, so once money is thrown into the mix, maybe one day genre will be more relevant to online medias.

Mini-Interview Evaluation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 26, 2010 by Adam Broome

Last week, we were set the task of creating a short interview, with the aim to experiment with different styles of interviewing. Much like the previous task, this one is again handed in rather late.

Originally, it started on a Monday. A group was made and the task was set. I grouped together with three other students, and we had an idea of interviewing a lesbian, who also happened to be of an ethnic minority. I knew the idea had a slim chance of success, as the idea seemed to be repeated 111MC last year in one single week, which did not suit the brief to the full extent. As a free thought, I came up with the idea of mis-represented media students, and how the rest of academia stereotype us as idiots. The notion was confirmed when one team member said a joke:

“In ten years, a chemistry student will find a cure for cancer. In ten years, a philosophy student will ask why life has meaning. In tern years, a maths studet will get humanity to Mars. In ten years, a media student will ask… ‘would you like fries with that?’ ”

I thought that quip was a rather good opening for our piece, yet we decided to try the lesbian character first anyway, as it seemed the more interesting of the two.

Forty eight hours later, and the lesbian has declined to do the interview. Then, one team member goes solo, leaving just the three of us to carry on the project alone. It is good that I had the idea for the back-up plan – we were able to meet up, and construct a plan straight away around our second option, which helped us a great deal in meeting the time restraints (read on).

During our mid-week meeting, we found out we all had so much work that none of us could make the same time to film. Thus, one team mate and myself met up the following day, and pulled various students from the nearby common room to take part in our interview. Now, the thing to note is that the idea was to collage all the faces together through various letter-box cutaways. We lined our interviewees up against a plain wall, and told them to look at the camera and keep their heads still. Needing to edit over the weekend, we knew we could not use the Avid suites (which was fine by me), and found a way to use Final Cut Pro.

Unfortunately, my camera abilities met with several hardships. I decided to be the cameraman, yet turned up on the day of filming without a VT tape (luckily, my personal tape collection was only 5 minutes away). The other major problem was that I reset the Z1 camera, and set the sound to 48khz. Subsequently, I changed the recoding mode from HD to DV. We filmed our piece in it’s entirety, before realising that the sound automatically shifts back to 32khz when you change from HD to DV. Luckily, we were able to convert the file with little fuss. Lesson learned.

Shooting took just over an hour, and then the tape was shipped away in my team mate’s pocket to be edited. The footage was never again seen until today, and hence this late evaluation. All in all, given that this was a one-week task riddled with problems, all have been overcome, and I’m quite happy with the way it turned out. I had no part in the editing of the final piece, although I do aim to get Final Cut Pro in the imminent future (thus increasing the amount of time I spend editing, and my abilities doing as such). I don’t know what happened to the idea of the letterbox-created faces. After all that, the background looks rather bland. However, we had some humourous characters which saw the mini interview through, and all things considered (despite the spelling mistakes), it could have gone a lot worse!

In terms of my own piece, that also seems to have some problems with deadlines as well. My documentary will revolve around a protest march taking place two days after the deadline itself. Yet, I still feel I can pair these two projects up somehow. It is silly to make an artefact about the same topic, but not relate it to my personal media creation. Therefore, the final result will be something like half of the final piece, and I will hand that in to be marked as part of 260MC. Then, I will get the rest of the footage, and complete that as and when. The documentary on the march was always my own project – typically, when the media production course comes into it, deadlines and evaluations start kicking off, which can sometimes make me rush projects and limit their quality. That is not what my documentary will be like – I aim to push myself technically and creatively, but in my own time. I guess what I’m saying is, (in the nicest possible way), 260MC will get half my finished project as a completed one, and will just have to make do with it! 🙂

And The Other Stuff

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 9, 2010 by Adam Broome

On the front page of the letter we were given detailing the summer work, we were told to research two media themes: Media Forms and Storytelling. This research is to prepare us for a new module called Placing Your Media Production Into Context. I’m am unsure whether this task relates to my work on the radio shows, but out of sheer boredom I’ve decided to do this post as well.

Judging by my quick scan through the two books we were asked to buy, ‘context’ appears to be the main word that will run throughout the upcoming second year. Context seems to be the ‘thing’ that separates happy-go-lucky A-Level students from professional media producers in the industry. It seems to bridge the gap between our first and our final years. But the word ‘context’ seems to be being used very loosely at this moment in time. It could be used in many different ways.

One way my media is in context: cheap. I’m a student. I have no money. I don’t even drink that much, but I have no money. My media is cheap and cheerful, complete with a ‘reductionism’ attitude that I may pass off as my own artistic intention. The reality – I’m skint.

Thus, in that context, my media is quite low-budget. For many years, this would have been a problem. Only art-house, rich, posh, ‘horsy’-type people would buy into the media art you were creating:

“This film, which as you can see shows an apple rolling around on a table for three minutes, actually represents the isolation we each feel inside of us. It shows the confusion we experience in our lives as we struggle to find the right path. I chose an apple because it seemed so ordinary – yet it also represents the natural sin that is within us, which our society has forced us to repress.”

“Oh yes, yes! I must say, I do see it now!”

Rubiiiiiiiiishhhhhhh.

But we do have a way out nowadays. That is, the media converging on the internet. Professional mass media made by the masses is almost inevitably going to appear within the next ten years. Already we see internet TV shows that have thrived without the help of official broadcasters. It’s not a stretch to think that TV channels made solely for the internet will be appearing soon. I argued the case of TV integrating with the internet many a time last year, so I’ll move swiftly on.

This changes the context of my media, as it is perfectly possible that new talent can be showcased on various online forums. We do it with photography already, thus – make a channel whereby people sign up, and then showcase their videos, and potential employees could see portfolios of people’s work. Something tells my Youtube was originally designed to be just that – evidently something went wrong somewhere. But now we have Youtube, professional equivalents should soon be around somewhere, if they’re not already.

This brings about a lovely idea that has occurred to me over these summer holidays – Pirate Television. They did it to radio when radio waves were handed to the masses. If TV becomes at one with the internet, the resulting ‘rogue revolution’ will be inevitable. Free TV with free shows and movies – all low budget, of course. But not without purpose – either for showcasing talent, or making radical political points. Chances are such pirate channels will be broadcasting more interesting stuff than the official ones.

During the 111MC module last year, we had to think about how we would showcase our media products. The internet is the most obvious way, as detailed above. However, it also runs you head-on into the largest mass of competition. Showcasing your work online pits you up against… well, the world. Thus, old-school showcasing such as at festivals is never a bad idea either.

But we seem to have gone off ‘context’. What I mean to say is that, in the context that my media will be low-budget, distribution can only be achieved in a few ways – such as being taken on by people willing to help you and / or take a gamble on you. Being friendly and a nice person can help. Being equally ruthless can also help. But most of all, making a piece of media that is actually good is your best way in. As I remember thinking when I decided to enrol on this course: talent will out.

My problem is that I’m a bit too radical with my ideas (at least, I think so). I’m sure one such lecturer (no names) would love me to create an artefact of extreme controversy. It can go two ways – you can easily make something cheap that causes a stir (documentary or otherwise). You can get yourself noticed quickly, but you can also make a black mark on your CV before you’ve even found your feet. One person once said it was better to be infamous than not famous at all… no idea who said that, Google’s drawing a blank. But the funny thing is, I think the idea of controversy links to both media forms and storytelling.

As for actually conducting any research… well, it’s an odd thing to ask. Media Forms are all converging on the internet. Storytelling and narrative is largely open to originality and / or controversy. I did see something interesting a few days ago, however… more like a question: What is the oldest form of media?

One could argue that the term ‘media’ came around the 1920’s, along with ‘mass media’, the paparazzi and so forth. But, as we all know, newspapers have been about since the printing press of… the 1500s. Thereabouts. Somewhere. Maybe.

Newspapers are media form, and were no doubt subject to opinion leaders and mass media before the terms were actually coined. But then, I get an even more funky idea – what’s the earliest recorded example of opinion leaders or mass media? Look to religion and you have it all over the place. Can word of mouth be considered a form of media? It’s a form of mass-communication. It can be manipulated by opinion leaders (ie: people in power).

I mean, we all know Jesus Christ managed to use word-of-mouth to inspire an entire following. He did this to such an extent, he made a powerful challenge to the current opinion leader, who subsequently had him killed (arguably… I don’t ‘do’ religion, I’ll change topic). Religion goes back much further than Year Zero. Egyptians? Greeks? Did these ancient cultures use primitive forms of media to manipulate the masses? It sounds ludicrous on paper, but the idea is there – people could not always rule countries just because they followed a certain bloodline, or because everyone feared them. Broadcast an idea, religious or otherwise, via mass communication of word of mouth, and you can control and manipulate the masses.

Compare this hypothesis to the mass media of today, and you may notice not a lot has changed. We still have opinion leaders from the government, who use technology to manipulate general word-of-mouth.  I think the word I’m currently looking for is Hegemony, but still, it’s funny to think the idea has been around since the dawn of mankind. Of course, as mentioned, now that the ‘masses’ are gaining more control of the communication lines, things may change. But only to a certain degree – psychologically speaking, we as a species will always need an opinion leader to guide us and direct us. The internet will open up the communication links to the whole world. Opinion leaders will appear, probably in some way or another challenging the governments, preaching anti-NWO tales. Let us just hope it doesn’t turn nasty!