Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Recent Rich-Related Social Media!

My Last Vlog:, "A Horse and a Kestral Appear in this Vlog"
My Audioboo (Audio Podcast): "Return of the Short Story?"
My Previous Blog: "Do Movies Miss the Vibe?"

You can also ask me a question at and I'll provide a video response.

And don't the blogs of my niece and nephew:

My niece Suz is a freelance writer and editor...and a zombie aficionado:   The World According to Suz 
My nephew Greg records his adventures in food.  Hint:  Don't count calories:    Greg's Gourmet.

Do Movies Miss the Vibe?

In my most recent vlog, I mention the availability of Kes, a 1969 British film by director Ken Loach. It's been unavailable in the US for quite some time, and this new release, restored and (in the edition I bought) clear as I've ever seen in blu-ray, is really a tribute to the truly beautiful independent film. As interviews in the new "Making of" documentary explain, this film was a landmark for British films in it's "naturalistic" style - shooting on actual locations - and with non-professional actors.

I find any great work of art contributed to or created by non-professionals to be happily subversive. That's why I like Kes.  To be clear, the filmmakers behind Kes were professionals - though this was one of Ken Loach's first feature films after a number of years producing BBC films.

Kes is powerful because of the deeply sensitive performances of many of the actors, particularly David Bradley, who played the lead, Casper.  In the "making of" documentary accompanying this edition, Loach describes a shooting style that pulled the camera and, as much as possible, the paraphernalia of filmmaking away from the actors as much as possible.  Loach created something that we rarely see on the screen.  Without impacting the flow of the film or it's watchability, we actually have the time, occasionally,  to study Casper's face - to gain an almost instinctual understanding of the central character.  As he trains the kestral, we're just as much watching him and the soaring bird.  When, in a classroom, he's yelled at by a teacher, we looking more closely at him than at the teacher.  It's not a question of pushing in to an intimate close-up, either - Loach often presents his characters very much in the midst of their environments.  We witness Casper's reaction to ridicule at his desk in the middle of a classroom, not in a single shot that isolates him from his surroundings.

In the "real" world, we get to know our friends and colleagues by words, actions - and the subtle hints of body language, facial expressions and the intangible "vibe."  In most films, we don't have the time to gather those signals - dialogue, camera placement and a well-written screenplay provide impressions to complete the experience.   After all, films by their very nature provide a shorthand perception of the world.  That said, I wonder if certain films lose some potential impact neglecting to craft an opportunity for the audience to  "read" the visual cues the govern human relationships.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Kid in A Candy Store

I think we're in an era, tech-wise, in which we're each the proverbial "kid in a candy store." Every year - month - day - we find another potentially game-changing technological development. Sure, most don't prove earth-shaking or even revolutionary, but in the totality of all of these changes, we're finding our day-to-day lives altered so dramatically that a visitor from just a decade ago would be stunned.

I'm writing this blog entry on my iPad. After just a couple of weeks with the device, I can say that I haven't been this excited about a computer since my first Commodore computers, the VIC-20 and the 64. As I was when those computers were revolutionary, I'm constantly exploring the possibilities of the iPad - in how many different and diverse ways can I put the iPad to work? How can it make my life easier? How can it streamline my current work, and create new opportunities?

Of course, as always, it's never about the device - it's about how to use it as a tool to achieve your goals and ambitions. It's in that respect that I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy store - overwhelmed with all the wonderful choices and wanting to devour everything I see.

Unlike a candy in a candy store store, the more people that use a particular tool, the more applications for that tool are discovered. Hammers can be used to build a house, or repair a machine, or even as a weapon. They can even be used to check reflexes, or, in their nerf incarnation, to pound others over the head.

Many apps claim to improve your productivity - but the majority make a simple task more complicated than it needs to be. One of my favorite new apps is something called Infinote, which allows the user to type simple notes and post them on a "wall" of limitless proportions. You can group them and move them around as you wish, and color-code both the wall (you can several separate walls) and the post-its, but the that's the extent of the program. It's nothing more than a digital version of what had been an analog process - and you can carry it around with you!

Other programs create an entirely new system of idea processing that require major shifts in absorbing and processing information. Evernote allows the user, across their iPhone, laptop and iPad, to keep track of ideas, concepts, audio and visual elements and even recorded audio notations in notes that are kept, naturally, in 'notebooks.' It seems to be quite a popular app, but for my current needs, it seems like overkill.

It's easy to get carried away with the possibilities - and just the fun of the the thing (I cannot tell a lie, I've become an iPad gamer!). The candy store is big and getting ever bigger. I can gorge myself in the infinite variety - but if I really want to have a good time, I'll see how they've improved my old favorites...

Chocolate apps, anyone?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Product Placement, Upside Down and Sideways - "Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang"

As Movies go, "Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang" is really standard kid's fare - a gang of kids on a mission, general moral lessons, and the standard hi-jinks. It's a well produced film, however, and the appealing cast and entertaining plot line that should keep kids engaged. It's set in the real-world upscale Texas community of Castle Hills, nicely presented as an ideal planned community. That's no accident.

"Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang" turns the idea of product placement upside down - for it is, in itself, a product created to promote the Castle Hills community. I discovered the film on Apple's trailer site - and found that it was available to view in full on at Was it some sore of a pay-per-view scheme, I wondered? A site from which to order the video? As it turned out, is the community's sales site - on which poster art for the sixty-minute film serves as a link to a page of links to playable 8-10 minute sections of the film, and a behind-the-scenes short. They play smoothly- even on my iPad..

Though Coooper, the the boy who film's central character, does talk about his community as being the best anywhere, and shares with us the general features that, in a kid's eyes anyway, make it a great place to live, most of the film is plot driven (and never, by the way, leaves the confines of Castle Hill). Like most kids in similar communities, he "owns" his community.

Yes, it's clearly a blatant advertisement for the community - but it never pretends to be otherwise. After all, as of this writing, it's only available to view by visiting the community's website. I find that infinitely more appealing than spending $10 or more for a movie in a theater and being bombarded with contant, endless product placement.

While this sort of arrangement might not work for other types of cinematic fare, I think the producers may be on to something here.

...and I'd love to know how they managed to have their trailer listed on the Apple site, alongside the theatrical releases...