Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

26 AUGUST, 2011

Video Portraits of Resilience from Sri Lanka

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Three beautiful short films about ingenuity in the face of scarcity and hardship.

In the 1990s, the Sri Lankan government’s embargoes on fuel, medicines and food items in the north and east of Sri Lanka in an effort to frustrate the operations of a potent separatist militant group known as the Tamil Tigers reached their peak. In the face of dearth and hardship, the locals resorted to increasingly inventive ways of making do. From narrative multimedia journalist Kannan Arunasalam comes a beautiful and poignant series of video portraits of resilience, expression and survival, capturing the stories of the people of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and their remarkable ingenuity — a taxi drivers taking the sick to the hospital with no fuel, a lepers community persevering despite despair and isolation, a newspaper publishing without newsprint.

Watch all three of the terrific films below:

Paper brings to mind the world’s last 3 hand-written newspapers.

The project was supported by Sri Lankan citizen journalism platform GroundViews and captures the sort of next-gen storytelling we’ve previously seen News21 aspire to.

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23 AUGUST, 2011

The Myth of Popular Culture: Why ‘Highbrow’ & ‘Lowbrow’ Don’t Work

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From Dante to Dylan, or what nineteenth-century phrenology has to do with the codification of bigotry.

We’ve come to accept intellectual stimulation and pop culture fetishism as diametric opposites, frequently pulling us, our attention, and our personal growth in conflicting directions. But, it turns out, this might be a tragic oversimplification at best, if not a complete fallacy. In The Myth of Popular Culture: From Dante to Dylan, cultural critic Perry Meisel offers a bold defense of pop culture by arguing against the traditional, socialized distinction between “high” and “low” culture through a thoughtful analysis of three hallmarks of contemporary culture — the American novel, Hollywood, and British and American rock music. He traces back some 500 years of influences, sociopolitical anxieties and historical events, from the evolution of music genres like folk and soul to the legacy of political ideologies like Marxism to the social footprint of Freudian theory, ultimately showing how Bob Dylan — the epitome of pop culture — not only blurred but fully erased the line between “high” and “low” culture.

Meisel takes the seminal work of philosopher and critic Theodor Adorno and practically turns it against itself:

The myth of pop culture — Adorno’s myth — is that it is not dialectical. The truth is that it is. Like high art, pop, too — contra Adorno — has a conversation both with its sources, which it revises and transforms, and with cultural authority as a whole, which it also revises and transforms.”

(This idea, of course, isn’t entirely new. Five years prior to Meisel, Steven Johnson argued in Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter that IQ scores in the west have risen steadily in the past few decades not merely despite but because of pop culture.)

Among Meisel’s fascinating semi-asides is a discussion of the origins of “highbrow” and “lowbrow,” rooted in some of humanity’s most shameful episodes of socially condoned bigotry.

The terms ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’ come from phrenology, the nineteenth-century science of regarding the shape of the skull as a key to intelligence. A ‘high’ forehead meant intelligence; a ‘low’ one meant stupidity. Phrenology thrived as a popular science in the late nineteenth century and led eventually to the racial theories of the Nazis, for whom the Jewish cranium and pale, sunken face were clear indications of Jewish racial inferiority.”

Dense but remarkably articulate, with a formidable citations list spanning from the Sex Pistols to Susan Sontag, The Myth of Popular Culture spins a fascinating story of how our common culture came to be and why we should think twice about our intellectual reservations towards the products of pop culture.

HT The Atlantic; image via The Library of Congress

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19 AUGUST, 2011

Mod Odyssey: How The Beatles Revolutionized Animation in 1968

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From Homer to John Lennon, or what the “psychedelic 60s” can teach us about creativity in animation.

Animated music videos are about as common today as photos of cats on the internet and, tragically often, not that much more original. But there was a time when they were a pinnacle of creative innovation, breaking entirely new ground. Earlier this year, we looked at the work of 5 early animation pioneers who changed the course of animated storytelling, and today we turn to the intersection of film and music with Mod Odyssey, a fascinating featurette on the making of The Beatles’ groundbreaking 1968 animated feature film, Yellow Submarine. More than a decade before Pixar, the film was not only a technical feat of animation execution but also a seminal work in bringing more attention to animation as a serious art form, both for audiences and for creators.

For the first time in screen history, extremely real and enormously famous people were going to be animated into a feature film.”

‘Yellow Submarine’ breaks new ground in the art of animation. Just as Swift and Carroll changed the history of literature, as Chagall and Picasso brought new life to art, The Beatles are revitalizing the art of animation. It’s a truly mod world, where medium and message meld — the new art of the psychedelic 60s.”

For more on animating Lennon, don’t forget the excellent and timeless I Met The Walrus, recorded the year after Yellow Submarine and animated 39 years later.

via Dangerous Minds

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