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Some Belated Thoughts on Emmy Categories

August 9th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

Emmy Statue

The 2009 Emmy nominees list has been out for a while now, and with it the griping about who has been overlooked is by now well-established. I have my own feelings about who got snubbed and who is over-rated (Mariska Hargitay gets nominated and January Jones doesn’t?! Weeds jumps the shark, or if we could offer a new phrase to signify the self-destruction of a series, “dates the Tijuana mob boss after burning down the suburb,” yet still gets nominations for seemingly everything but the one really good thing about it, Justin Kirk?!) … but instead of focusing on them, I want to discuss the boundaries between categories … after the fold
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Good News for the New Year

January 16th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

Just a stub, and self-promotion at that, but I recently received notice that my book, Television Entertainment (discussed here, if you want to know more), made Choice Magazine’s Outstanding Academic Titles list for 2008. Thanks to the good folks at the American Library Association. I still find it really exciting when I hear that anyone other than an official reviewer, my mum, or my wife has read anything of mine, so a tip of the hat like this is just icing on the cake (to mix hat and cake metaphors).

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The Best of 2008, 3: Film and Film Posters

December 31st, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Somehow I went a full year without seeing many films, so the competition wasn’t all that steep, though I’m still relatively happy with most of my top picks. Remember that they count if I saw them in 2008, hence some of the 2007 entries.

Movies

10. Enchanted. Silly but fun, and ideal for the second 9 hour leg of a trip to Malawi.

9. Sweeney Todd. I like Tim Burton’s aesthetic. Odd, dark, kinda cool.

8. The Bourne Ultimatum. If only I could move and fight like Bourne, my subway commute would be so much less of a hassle.

7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Admittedly, in other years, the movie that gifted the phrase “nuking the fridge” to movie criticism wouldn’t make the list, but it was fun, and it was great to see Harrison back in action. I spent a lot of playtime trying to be him as a kid, so he has a long leash.

6. Quantum of Solace. Not quite Casino Royale, but I’m intrigued by the decision to serialize the Bond films, and Daniel Craig is still easily the best Bond.

5. There Will Be Blood. By the time Daniel Day Lewis was drinking from the other dude’s milkshake, I was a little tired, since I also saw this on the way to Malawi, but it was gripping stuff. I wish I could’ve seen it on the big screen.

4. Cloverfield. A great ride. My sense is that New Yorkers liked this film more than others. I loved it. Wouldn’t want to own it or see it without a full theatre, but I really liked it.

3. No Country for Old Men. I have a real weak spot for totally dark, badass villains, so this movie hit all the right chords with me. And I love the Coen Bros. stuff.

2. Iron Man. Like Batman Begins, Iron Man has a brilliant first two acts, then falls quite flat. But its first two acts were really fun.

1. The Dark Knight. I know I’m not supposed to like it, because hype is bad, right? Well, much of Dark Knight‘s hype was really bad (a Gotham pepperoni pizza from Domino’s? Come on!). I think much of its marketing sucked. To the point that I was ready to dislike the film, and especially Heath Ledger’s performance. Instead, I really liked it. The IMAX screen helped, no doubt. But it was great fun. Let the haters hate, but I won’t. I’m even one of the only people I know who actually likes Christian Bale’s Batman voice.

Now for movie posters after the fold. Yes, I get to the extratextuals eventually …

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The Best of 2008, 2: Web Video and Music

December 31st, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Continuing with my Best Of 2008:

Web Video

10. “Too Drunk to Fuck.” I had my vid watching orgy in late 2007, but one of Luminosity’s 2008 offerings helps explain visually why Family Guy will never rival The Simpsons: Lisa and Marge are just so much better than FG‘s women.

9. “Talk to Your Parents About Voting Republican.” I’ve already posted about this, in the context of its political message, but I’m also a fan of its parodic attack on the earnestness of Talk to Your Kids videos that assume older people know better.

8. “Piece of Me.” Obsessive24’s vid about Britney Spears is excellent, and a 3m21 essay on celebrity exploitation and obsession.

7. Fox News Calls Ohio. I saw this after the fact, but it’s a sweet moment, as Brit Hume and Karl Rove see the writing on the wall, and Lurch delivers the news to the bald master of evil.

6. “Yes We Can.” Will.i.am’s video defined viral, and though I still laugh at its inclusion of some pretty C rate celebs (“hey look, there’s Ashley from Fresh Prince of Bel Air!”), it laid down a gauntlet to Obama’s contenders that they’d have to deliver online. They didn’t, and they lost.

More after the fold …

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The Best of 2008, 1: Television and Reading

December 30th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Inspired by Mike Newman’s fantastic and highly recommend Faves, 2008 list, and as a pale imitation, here are some media highlights from 2008, in installments.

First, though, a word on categorization – if I saw it in 2008, it’s on this list, even if it came out earlier; and if I saw it on the Internet, it’s web video not television.

Television

10. Chuck. The show is infinitely silly, but that’s the point. Like Pushing Daisies, it kept me sane in hard times. Adam Baldwin, Awesome, Lester – fun stuff.

9. Food Network in HD. I knew when I got my HDTV that I’d love travel shows all the more, and nature shows. But I didn’t count on how much food porn I could stomach on a daily basis, and how that threshold would increase with HD.

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Extratextuals’ 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, Pt. 4??

January 25th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

I had intended to post another installment of the awards, this one on movie posters, but in researching, I found a wonderful site, The Internet Movie Poster Awards. Not only does this site have awards dating back ten years, but they also boast a staggering 17,000+ movie posters in their galleries. I’ll wait till later to post more thoughts arrived at from browsing their galleries, and on some all-time favs, but first a taste of their 2008 award winners:

sweeney todd poster

Best Poster went to Sweeney Todd, with the explanation that “A menacing looking barber, razor at the ready, sitting in his blood-red barber chair, waiting for his next victim. The poster for Sweeney Todd is dark, disturbing, and surprisingly beautiful. A very rare combination. Little details like the family portrait in the background, the red coming from the floorboards, and the splash of blood across the title makes for a very memorable design.” It certainly has an alluring quality that makes me want to look at it multiple times. And though it announces itself as a Tim Burton film, it does so in a neat way.

charlie wilson’s war poster

Meanwhile, bringing up the rear is Charlie Wilson’s War: “Perhaps the worst thing about this poster is simply that it is bland. Three Oscar winning actors looking very awkward, especially Hoffman, who appears to have accidentally walked into the wrong photo shoot. People are more likely to see the movie in spite of the poster than because of it.” All the intrigue, excitement, comedy, and glamor of a stucco wall. If the critique errs anywhere, though, it’s in being kind enough to suggest this is the product of a photo shoot: looks more like a crappy frame-grab to me.

I Am Legend PosterBest Blockbuster Poster Award goes to I Am Legend: “A powerful image that conveys the plot of the film. The last man on earth set against the disturbing sight of a destroyed city in the background.” I still remember seeing a scene from this movie being filmed, and it was the oddest site: I walked into Washington Square at night and there was a bright white light. Moving closer, I saw about 300 people in silver green-screen suits running around. Think Cirque du Soleil meets Mean Streets. Luckily, this poster captures the gravity of the situation a little better.

Revenge of the Nerds posterOther categories (without winners listed. I don’t want to spoil them all, especially since each of the main categories has 5 nominees) include Best Teaser Poster, Worst Teaser Poster, Funniest, Bravest Poster (for posters with no faces of actors with big names), Creepiest, Best Character Set, Best Funny Tag Line, Best Serious Tag Line, and a spate of Not So Serious Awards, including Best Poster Ruined by Floating Heads, and this image from a Revenge of the Nerds remake teaser poster, winner of Best Poster for a Movie That Ceased to Exist. A poster without a movie? A true extratextual.

Neat site. Good picks. Spared me the work, too, so I’m happy.

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Extratextuals’ 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, Pt. 3

January 15th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Just before I start with our third installment, this one on TV opening credit sequences, I wanted to give a shout-out to Michael Newman’s fantastic blog post on the best of 2007 across media. His list makes no distinctions between media, and thus is chock-full of good extratextuals. It also preceded ours significantly, so don’t let my belated link suggest we got there first.

Anyways, kudos offered, let me proceed. The best opening credit sequences ready you for the program, performing the careful act of transferring you from your world to the show’s world. The best ones also bear out multiple viewings, becoming a favored announcement of the show, and a generator of anticipation. Think of the orchestra’s hum of tuning instruments before a performance, of the grand curtains being lifted at a theatre, of the “Let’s get ready to rumble” before a boxing match, or other ritualistic intros. Hence I divided this category into newer shows and long-running ones, since it’s something special when an older show can still do the business with its intro. First, the new recruits.

Best TV Opening Credit Sequence: Newer Show

Runner-Up: Chuck. One of my favorite new shows, and it has a very playful opening credit sequence that captures the silliness and fun of the show as a whole. Stick man spies seem to capture exactly what Chuck is. And the first spy falling out of Chuck’s nose cues the irreverence: Chuck doesn’t take itself seriously, and this is made clear from the very beginning. It’s perhaps worth noting, too, that the action is all shown to occur within the barcode on Chuck’s shirt lapel, appropriate for a program whose title character has a massive spy computer in his brain. The theme song’s fun, too. Moreover, it cues following an opening scene that sets up this week’s spy issue: very James Bond, yet clearly not James Bond at one and the same time.

Winner after the fold…

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Extratextuals’ 2007 Awards Extraordinaire, Pt. 2

January 11th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Derek’s first part is a hard act to follow, but I decided to focus on trailers, teasers, hype, and TV opening credit sequences. I’ll wage in later about the TV opening credit sequences, but for now, should the clip embedding work:

Best Movie Trailer
Trailers are one of the most underrated, under-appreciated art forms in the contemporary media environment. Indeed, it bears reminding that amidst enthusiastic discussion of YouTube debates, political satire, reporting, virals, etc., many of the most viewed videos on YouTube are trailers. Moreover, as media companies try to saturate our daily lives with trailers, so that we see them somewhere, they also need to be aware that many of us will see many trailers multiple times, and so there’s a fine art to making a trailer that hasn’t sickened you by the time you see it for the tenth time.

Runner-Up: Juno. Ideally, I’d have loved to pick two excellent trailers for bad movies here, but (a) I didn’t see many movies in 2007, so I don’t have much to work with, and (b) the point is that Juno’s trailer had me convinced that I’d like the film. The crispness of the script jumps out at you, and it offers a supremely recognizable (ie: real, not Saved By the Bell-ized) high school life. Ellen Page’s performance announces itself as fantastic, and the trailer chooses wonderful scenes to showcase two great cult properties in Rainn Wilson and Michael Cera. Plus it has Allison Janney/CJ Cregg in it. It pandered to everything I wanted, right down to being filmed in my hometown, Vancouver (which I can nearly always tell visually. No bullshit. It’s the quality of the green. All that rain. And the sky. And the houses).

Winner: Vantage Point. I already blogged about this, so let me just link to it here. But I haven’t seen it, and even if I don’t, or don’t like it, I think the trailer rocks.

More below the fold

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