Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

22 APRIL, 2009

Earth Day The Reel Way

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Just how stupid we really are, or what James Earl Jones and a giant humpback whale have in common.

It’s Earth Day, and instead of engaging in questionable eco initiatives, like watching Philly’s fountains turn green, why not call a few friends over for some essential viewing that will disturb, move, outrage and inspire you in that bitter-sweet way that An Inconvenient Truth did in 2006.

Here’s some help, with our selection of 5 new must-see films that explore our environmental sensibility.

THE COVE

2009 Sundance Audience Award Winner The Cove is a mixture of action, adventure, mystery and, as the tagline goes, “oh, and it’s a documentary”. The movie tells the story of a group of filmmakers, activists and free-divers, led by director Louie Psihoyos, who penetrate a hidden cove in Japan uncovering a terrible secret.

No spoilers here  — you’ll only know the secret after seeing the movie, but let’s just say that given the filmmakers are wanted by the Japanese authorities,  it’s going to be be good.

THE AGE OF STUPID

Director Franny Armstrong takes the scare approach to instill in us some eco sensibility. Half-fiction, half-documentary, The Age of Stupid shows Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite living alone on a devastated Earth in 2055. In this barren habitat, the only type of entertainment available to the poor guy is “old” documentary footage of us trashing the planet in the present day.

Troubled by questions like why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance, Pete suggests that the answer might simply be that we were really, really stupid. And he may have a point.

FUEL

Fuel is last year’s Sundance Best Documentary Award Winner, and covers a topic painfully familiar by now — America’s addiction to oil.

Director Josh Tickell drills the history behind the rising domination of the petrochemical industry — which may seem like a regurgitated discussion to some, but we believe these things simply need to be said until there is no longer a need for them to be.

Plus, there’s a cameo by one of our heroes — Sir Richard Branson — as well as other fascinating instigators like Josh Tickell himself and Robert Kennedy Jr.

EARTH

Sure, it may be unoriginally titled. But earth, out in the U.S. today, is a piece of remarkable visual storytelling about three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we all call home.

The film comes from directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the acclaimed creative team behind the Emmy-Award-winning Planet Earth. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s narrated by the one and only James Earl Jones.

It’s a story told through incredible action taking place on unimaginable scale at impossible locations. Full of mystery and intimacy and magic as we glimpse inside the worlds of our planet’s most elusive creatures, the film is an epic call for appreciation of the fragile world we inhabit, a moving plea for a new self-conception as actors in an intricate and brilliantly orchestrated system beyond our own existence.

You can catch the filmmakers hosting a special episode over at Current for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at their phenomenal adventure and creative process.

FOOD, INC.

By now, you know we’re big proponents of sustainable agriculture and permaculture. So it comes as no surprise that we find Robert Kenner‘s FOOD, INC. to be a compelling must-see. A merciless exposé on America’s food industry, it reveals all the hidden workings and often shocking truths of the government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA, lurking behind the consumer’s scope of vision.

The film features social entrepreneurs and sustainability visionaries like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface FarmsJoel Salatin, who together paint a grim picture of what we eat and how it ended up on our plates, brimming with an urgency to change what we eat in order to change where we end up.

For 13 more Earth-conscious must-sees, we highly recommend the selections in Yale’s Environmental Film Festival, as well as the two incredible forthcoming films presented at this year’s TED Conference and TEDPrize winner Sylvia Earle’s compelling talk on why blue is the real green.

07 APRIL, 2009

The MacGuffin Library

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The secret lives of props, or what Hitler and Mickey Mouse have in common.

Cinema history trivia: MacGuffin is a term, allegedly coined by Hitchcock, which stands for a cinematic plot device, most likely on object, whose only purpose and value lie in driving the filmic narrative.

So how would such an object — whose very essence, form and function are defined solely within the context of fictional circumstances — inhabit and relate to the real world? This is exactly what non-traditional product designer Onkar Kular explores with his project The MacGuffin Library.

The objects that he creates are neither products, nor sculptures, nor props, but a strange medley of all three, challenging the way we perceive art and design. They stand somewhat awkward and unsure of themselves, reminiscent, in all their black polymer resin glory, of Frankenstein’s monster.

Each MacGuffin comes with a one-page synopsis of a non-existent screenplay that inspired it. There is a plot for every taste as themes range from futuristic thrillers to midlife crisis dramas.

The exhibition is incredibly engaging since the role of each object is not specified in the adjacent synopses. Endless possibilities of interpretations and lively discussions arise.

Unlike other, more traditional art exhibits, where one sees, nods, and moves on, the enjoyment of The MacGuffin Library lies exclusively in the quantity and quality of the viewer’s own engagement. So go ahead, engage.

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11 MARCH, 2009

Interview with Chunnel.TV Founder Matthew Berman

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What Banksy, TED, and a global network of ad agencies have in common, or why the long tail is the shortest way to cultural revolution.

Today, we’re picking the brains behind Chunnel.TV — a revolutionary entertainment network for left-of-center creative content that acts as a global collaboration tool connecting underground artists and producers alike. A big idea, if we ever saw one.

q0

Hey Matt, good to have you. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your brand of curiosity.

Thanks for this opportunity. I’d like to start by saying how impressed I am by your site, your dedication to Brain Pickings, and your general good-taste.

Chunnel.tv Logo I’m Matthew Berman, co-founder and CMO of Chunnel.TV, an online distribution network for independent films, music, art, and other unique content. I first came about the Chunnel working as a freelance music producer composing tracks for various new media projects. That’s how I met Jake Septimus, whom I ended up interning for and then eventually starting Chunnel.TV with.

I’m originally from New York, but I moved to New Orleans to attend university. This past year, I’ve been to the Middle East, South America, Australia, and Asia.

I currently live in New Orleans, a city of dark whiskeys and dimly lit taverns, but our main office is in NYC. My passion is in music, guitar playing, composing, and recording.

q0

What was the first inspiration behind Chunnel? Take us to that very first brainstorming session, the proverbial paper napkin on which you jotted down the original idea.

The Chunnel evolved as a series of informal discussions between Jake Septimus and myself. On one hand we were noticing the proliferation of digital media tools, a rise in the quality and quantity of independent content, and a soft-spoken backlash against mainstream content (i.e. reality shows, teen dramas, etc).

On the other hand we were witnessing a rising trend towards video on the internet. There was so much content available on the web that neither one of us really knew how to cut through the static.

q2

The concept of “underground” is very murky these days. Even Banksy has a website. How do you define “underground” content in Chunnel terms?

We see “underground” media as being far on the fringe of mainstream, such that a majority of people wouldn’t know it exists — yet. The beauty of the internet, however, is that major communities can form around these seemingly niche concepts.

q3

We’re big believers in the power of human-curated content here. How do you decide what makes “the Chunnel cut” and what doesn’t? Your editorial filtration system, if you will.

Basically, the content has to pass an internal test. We have a team of hip, creative and unique people, and if we all think a piece of content is hot, interesting, or Chunnel-worthy, then we’ll post it up.

q4

What’s your relationship with WPP’s United Network? Does it predate Chunnel, or did they reach out to you once you were up and running?

WPP’s United Network gave us the money to start the site. Chunnel.TV was incubated from the NYC office of Berlin Cameron United, of United Network. Jake (Septimus) was working as Creative Director when I started doing intern/music work for him, so the relationship did exist prior to launch.

They don’t dictate what we put on the site, but they might have some pretty dope techie tools for us to experiment with in the future. We retain creative control and try to bring the user the best possible experience.

q5

It’s tricky to talk about commercial work in the context of “underground” culture, but you have a Commercial channel. We love seeing that – it shows the complex relationship content consumers have come to have with creativity in all its forms. How do you think people’s perception of creative authenticity has evolved in terms of all the great work out there that still falls within the commercial realm?

Banksy himself said:

The thing I hate most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative, and ambitious young people leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.

While I think most people find the majority of advertising to be nothing more than an annoyance, the stigma of ‘selling out’ has definitely dissipated within society. I also think creative authenticity depends on the product, budget, and client. People will give premium liquor or perfume ads more creative leeway than say Pine-sol, allowing the advertisers to do some really interesting work.

That being said, if an advertiser really gets pop culture they could create truly brilliant ads with nearly any brand.

q6

What’s your long-term vision for Chunnel and its growth as a cultural agent? Any exciting developments in the works?

We’d like Chunnel.TV to fill the void MTV left when they went mainstream. We hope to capture the imagination of the culturally curious, and introduce people to art, music, film or other content they might not have otherwise seen.

We’re working with indie filmmakers to bring exclusive shows to The Chunnel. Our first batch of shows are Reel Review, Jamaica Originates, and Duncan and Eddie, and we expect to have more.

We’re also going to open up our platform to guest bloggers and our user base. People are going to have the ability to post articles up on Chunnel.TV, which will be put up on review before published. Also, we’d like to implement a lot more interactive features so us like-minded people could better communicate.

It’s going to be an exciting few months for Chunnel.TV.

q7

If you could speak at TED, what would the title of your talk be? Will you get a Standing O?

Haha, I see you have a TED talk fetish as well. My favorite TED talk is Benjamin Zander on music and passion, so I’d like to perform in a similar vein. My talk would focus on leadership, the benefits and hardships of standing above the fray, and would end in a slow blues jam.

I think I’ll call it Electric Ladyland — unless that’s already been taken. As for the standing ovation, one can only hope.

q8

Well, thanks for letting us pick your brains. Any last thoughts left unpicked?

Again thanks for your time, I really do love your site.

As for everyone else, please check us out at Chunnel.TV and follow us on Twitter or MySpace. I can also be contacted at matt[at]chunnel.tv.

Take care.