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I’ll Admit It… I Watched “Julie & Julia”

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So over Thanksgiving break while at home without my DVD collection, I was forced to raid my mother’s movie collection to get some entertainment.  I ended up watching Julie & Julia, which I had never seen.  Although I found the film entertaining, this post is not just a movie review…

The film is about a struggling writer, Julie, who begins writing a blog about her attempt to make her way through the Julia Child’s cook book.  Throughout the movie we see her blogging and hear what she is writing in her blog.  I could not help but think about how relevant this was to our class where we have been talking about audiences of online content such as blogs.

In the early days (or maybe weeks) or the character’s blog, she keeps writing things like “… but I’m pretty sure nobody is reading this…” or “…maybe I am just writing this for me…”   I found this representation of blogging culture very interesting because it brings up an idea that I have always pondered when it came to blogging or tweeting or whatever.  Who is the audience?  In the movie her blog ends up becoming popular enough that it builds a large fanbase and is eventually turned into a book  and a movie.  But what about the blogs that don’t get mainstream followers like this?  Is anyone reading my twitter?  Is anyone actually reading this blog?  Probably not many.  It just made me think about how this new online culture that we live in has created an environment where very small, specific audiences are formed.  Blogs about certain topics or about certain people where the only audience that would follow must be filled with people who know about that topic or know that person.  This is a new practice that did not exist in the early years of cinema.

My letter to FX that will never get read…

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I have always been a fan of FX programming, original series like Rescue Me, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, It’s Always Sunny In Phillidelphia and The League.  This year I have been enjoying their new series Terriers very much.  I find the writing, acting, and general feel of the show to be excellent and what I have come to expect from the FX network.

I am very sad to hear that the ratings for the show have not been very high and that as the first season is about to come to a close the show finds itself in danger of being canceled.  In doing a web search about the show and it’s soon-to-be-decided fate, I was linked to many “Save Terriers!” sites or blogs.  In one article it gave an email address at FX that fans of the show should send emails to asking for the show not to be canceled.  Despite the obvious logic that no one will ever read my email and that it will not affect the shows fate at all, I decided to write a brief email explaining how much I enjoy both FX and Terriers and asking “whom it may concern” to please not cancel the show.

I am not exactly sure why I decided to do this, or why fans continue to create these “Save ______!!!” websites that seem to never actually save the show.  It got me thinking about which kinds of audiences programmers are looking for, whether there is any upside to having a smaller but dedicated core audience who are so invested in your show that they will take the time to send emails to anonymous executives in order to keep it on the air, or if the only way a show can survive is if it is a major hit right away targeting the widest possible demographic.

I think I am really just wondering what the chances are that one of my new favorite show will have a second season or not…

Normative: Remix Culture’s Evolution

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While it was a little bit boring watching this video the day after watching Lessig’s Webside presentation (considering all of the clips and points that the former made were present in the latter’s).  That said, I do find his points valid and entertaining.  I also find the comments on youtube that follow to be quite funny; the way in which some people really do enjoy just hating on people who put their ideas out for the public.  Many of the commenters point out that they believe the Lisztomania example that normative uses is not in fact remix and nothing is original about it.  They would rather see an epic Girl Talk vid to show what a remix is.  I think that the cause for this anger is that their definition of remix is too narrow-minded.  It is true that the three videos that normative shows are all set to the same, unmixed soundtrack, but you cannot deny that each video is different in its own way and evokes different emotions while at the same time building on each other and giving a nod back to the video that came before it.

I think what makes normative’s video so relevant is not that he is giving a definition of what a “remix” is (which I think is what many of these angry commenters were looking for), but rather he is illustrating how the new remix culture has become a part of our culture.  The Brat Pack Lisztomania example is simple but really does get at the heart of what he is trying to show, which is communication, dialogue, creativity, and homage.

Juddery: Breaking the Sound Barrier

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Reading Juddery’s description of the coming of sound in cinema, it sounds like it was just chaos and panic on the industry side of the screen.  Actors’ careers were ending, screenwriters and directors did not know what they were doing, studios did not know how to handle the technology or their physical studios.  It kind of sounds like one big nightmare for the studios and actors that were finally starting to get comfortable with how the industry was to be run.

The fact that some actors had such difficulty making the shift to acting in talkies is one that surprises me.  Considering how today actors go back and forth between theater and screen, how people like professional athletes and rappers can appear in movies all the time and pull off acting, and considering that the silent film actors appeared to be so talented, it is hard to imagine some actors having to simply retire as a result of the technological shift.  I understand that there would be practices and methods to their acting that would need to change, but I guess I just kind of feel (maybe ignorantly) that if they were talented enough actors, who could in theory go back and forth between stage and screen, that the addition of sound and dialogue scenes would not be career enders.

The only concept that makes this huge downfall of many silent era stars seem plausible is the idea that fans had an idea/image of who these actors were, and to hear a voice that does not match that idea would be very jarring.  Today many fans base their likes and interests in films and actors based on what they hear about the actors and directors in the tabloids.  There persona and their careers are undeniably linked.  To suddenly add a brand new component to an actors persona (i.e. their voice) would definitely have a dramatic effect on their fans’ perception of them and inevitably their career.

At The Picture Show: Chpt. 2/3

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If there is one thing I took away from Fuller’s chapters 2 and 3 it was diversity.  Chapter 2 dealt with the diversity of audiences from a geographical point of view.  I thought particularly that the discussion of southern audiences was the most interesting primarily because of race issues at that time.  The fact that theaters were unwilling to allow black patrons, and that themes of films were considered too friendly (this latter idea I found very surprising) towards African-Americans seemed to be an important part in the history of cinema but one I have seen addressed very much (much of the racial discussions of cinema had to do more with Blacksploitation cinema later on in the 70′s).  The midwest and west also had interesting geographical characteristics whether it was the farmers in the midwest who had to drive 50 miles to see a film but gaining a sense of community that way, or the film patrons of the west who were seeing romanticized films of life out in the west.

The other way in which Fuller described diversity was the way in which Nickelodeons across America were so varied and different.  Different nickelodeon owners had different kind of attractions, different names, different atmospheres, all in an attempt to compete with other rival theaters and to establish repeat customers.

The reason I think I found this idea of diversity so interesting is because today the range of films for audiences and the style of actual movie theater is pretty homogeneous across the U.S.  Movie going habits are pretty much the same no matter where you go geographically, and with the exception of some special theaters (i.e. a cinema pub where food is served, or maybe an old classic converted theater cinema) large cinema chains make most theaters  very much alike.  From a business point of view it is clear that this shift towards larger theaters buying out the nickelodeons, and widespread similar themed chain cinemas is one that would happen naturally, that said reading about the nickelodeons before this trend gave me a warm fuzzy filming about the history of movie going (is it possible to be nostalgic for an era that you weren’t alive in?).