I didn’t watch the Oscars. I wasn’t in the mood to see the creator of Family Guy’s take on 2012’s best films. Not that I’m above crude humor. I wish I was, but I’ve come to believe laughing at poop jokes becomes involuntary in the presence of the Y chromosome. It’s something I live with… in moderation.
My reason for not watching was simple. If a night is to be a celebration of the craft of filmmaking, it should be hosted by someone who has demonstrated even the slightest understanding of that craft. MacFarlane is not that person. Someone’s who’s greatest contribution to the public discourse is sneaking Urban Dictionary references into a second rate, sophomoric cartoon series isn’t someone I want to spend an evening in my living room.
Now post-Oscars I learn I missed a real treat. I missed the validation of sexism as viable form of entertainment. Imagine if we replaced every sexist joke or skit with a racist joke or skit. MacFarlane’s career would be over.
Hollywood’s not much better than society at large in its treatment of women, but I’ve always taken pride in the role women have been allowed to play in my original craft, editing. Granted, it was only because early 20th century filmmakers thought of editing as a small step up from clerical work. By the time they realized editing was a specialized craft, women had established themselves.
Articles in the New Yorker…
The Academy is supposedly a trade group, and yet it devoted its opening number to degrading a good part of its membership.
…and Salon put a proper spin on MacFarlane’s shameful performance.
Four of the films MacFarlane crooned about featured nudity during or immediately following violent depictions of rape and sexual assault, stripped of their context and played for laughs.
So what did I do Sunday night? I watched Raging Bull, edited by Thelma Shoonmaker. I wish I could say it was purposefully symbolic, but it was just a coincidence.
This week’s Economist features a brief article on the state of Hollywood. Though not a lot will be revelatory to those of us in the space, it does remind us of some interesting trends that many of could hardly imagine just a few years ago.
One example, rumors of television’s demise were premature.
TV is relatively stable and currently lucrative. TV networks earn money from advertising and from the fees that cable and satellite operators pay to carry their programmes. These fees amount to some $32 billion a year in America, and are growing by about 7% annually. People love watching TV, and, per hour, it is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment.
In contrast, film revenues are volatile. Attendance swings like the moods of Claire Danes’s bipolar character, Carrie Mathison, in the TV show “Homeland”. In 2011 American cinemas sold 1.28 billion tickets, the smallest number since 1995.
As studios continue to experiment with new distribution models, and companies like Netflix are getting into the content creation business, both the motion picture and television industries might be in for a period of growth.
Video professionals often discuss the need to include media literacy in education. That ship has sailed. The next generation of professionals, not just media professionals but the whole professional class, has filled that void with the likes of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show. In fact, the current generation of college students is more media literate than any other generation. They are not just media literate, but media fluent as well.
The proliferation of inexpensive cameras, inexpensive and free software, and free distribution channels has given them the tools to become visual communicators. Previously the tools used and materials consumed to craft a visual story were quite expensive. In order to become any good at photography and motion pictures a significant investment of time and money was needed. To put it in perspective, my part time job in high school yielded me enough disposable income to shoot at process two rolls of film (72 images) per week. To distribute those images to an audience outside my family and closest friends was cost prohibitive unless the school newspaper or yearbook wanted to pick them up.
The change over the past decade has been dramatic. For the past ten years I’ve taught a 500-level post production class at Boston University. Students no longer have to be instructed to use the rule of thirds. They know it instinctively. They’ve shot so many images on their phones they’ve discovered it on their own. I don’t have to tell them what works on the big screen doesn’t work when creating a mobile experience. They know that.
I still enjoy comparing the students’ first assignments of the semester to their final projects. The progression is amazing. The difference is that the first projects submitted by the class of 2012 rival the final projects of the class of 2002.
As this generation gets into the mainstream media business, its effect on it will be profound. Its effect on society will be more so. They have their FOX News decoder rings. The remaining question is what will be the new standard of Fair and Balanced.