Why Suspense is Better than Action: A Plea to Hollywood to Adopt Psychological Realism for Action Movies

old photo of theater audience in 3D glassesImage Credit: J.R. Eyerman

Part I: Analysis of the Problem

What ails action cinema? Why, it is Hollywood’s obsession with visual effect, which derives from a misunderstanding about how emotion is connected to looking.

The Decorah Eagles as Anthropomorphized Nuclear Family

Streaming Video by Ustream.TV

(Video Credit: Raptor Resource Project, UStream)

Over the past few months, the Raptor Resource Project has been hosting this live "nest cam" feed of a pair of eagles in Decorah, IA.  As of last week, the pair became the proud parents of three babies, and the drama of their incubating and hatching eggs has become a bit of an internet sensation.  The project is part of a conservation effort directed toward monitoring and understanding the nesting habits of avian raptors (eagles, falcons, owls, etc.), maintaining nesting sites, and educating the public.

Create, Skate, and Destroy: Architecture in Motion

Thrasher cover, Love square

Rodney Torres, 50-50 through Love Sculpture, image from Quartersnacks

Street skaters love architecture. Few people other than architects notice or appreciate the designs in concrete, marble, metal, and brick that comprise a city, but seen through a skater's eyes, lines of movement appear everywhere. Ledges, stairs, hand rails, and even (or especially) smooth concrete and marble elicit a joyful recognition of possibilities. Rather than an agglomeration of static structures, the city becomes an invitation to motion; the skater desires contact with the hard surfaces of the urban environment. Assemblage of body, board, and buildings: a intimate becoming, in love with (the) concrete.

War Games - Isao Hashimoto

"1945-1998" by Isao Hashimoto

Originally created in 2003 by the Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto, "1945-1998" maps all 2053 nuclear explosions during that period.

Super Bowl Car Commercials and the Uses of the Past

Now that our national gladiatorial spectacle has ended, we turn to the obligatory analysis of the major media event. How many Packers can get injured in a single season? Why, exactly, are the Black Eyed Peas popular? And, most importantly, what about the commercials? Rather than discuss which ones are the funniest, depict the most animal cruelty, or objectify women the worst, I'd like to discuss what seems like an odd coincidence: many of the car commercials use different visions of the past to sell their product.

<a href="" target="_new" title="">Mercedes: Diddy</a>

Mercedes: Diddy

Accessorizing Surveillance - Barbie Video Girl

Video Barbie advertising from website

Image Credit: screen shot from

H/T: Noel

From coloring books to glitter to unicorns, my viz. posts seem to be revolving around adult repurposing of the trappings of youth.  Naturally, we'll have to throw Barbie into the mix.  While she has certainly seen her share of fashion updates over her 50-year reign as fantasy icon extraordinaire, this creepy 21st-century update to Barbie's accessory collection reverses the gaze and turns Barbie’s body into a tool for surveillance.

Glitter re-visited (deadly and disembodied)

Image Credit: Norton

H / T to my mom for sending me the video in response to last week's post

Last week on Viz I posted about glitter as an undermining agent in images of solemnity.  In this commercial for Norton security software, the glitter use results in deadly (and delightful) consequences.

A Drop of Golden Sun

Let's get this semester started with some happy, shall we?  This is a 2009 video of a flash mob in Antwerp performing a choreographed dance to "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music.  This stunt was apparently orchestrated to promote a Belgian television show.  Though common sense tells you that this performance was meticulously organized and rehearsed, it's hard to deny the arrestingly joyous quality of the video.  As with most well-done flash mob videos, both the filming techniques and the performance itself promote the illusion that this was a spontaneous event.  The camera pans to individuals who appear to be regular by-standers, individuals who later join in the performance just for the sheer fun of it.  It's initially unclear whether the crowd of dancers rushing down the stairs is part of the performance or simply spectators trying to get a look at what's going on. 

New Media, Old-school Agriculture

Image Credit: screen capture from

I sat down in front of the television this Tuesday to watch the PBS premier of Dirt! The Movie on Independent Lens. I had been looking forward to seeing this documentary about the soil cylce and its importance on agriculture, health and geopolitics, and I had even planned to write about it for this week's post. As you can see, that plan fell through: I went in expecting a dirt-y movie, but mostly what I got was a mess. While there was plenty of titular soil in Dirt!, the film came across as a random collection of dirt-related vignettes that were either purely repetitive or entirely unrelated. In all fairness, cutting the film down to fit a one-hour running time may be responsible for the disjointed presentation, but most reviews of its Sundance screening agree that it is an unnecessarily rambling documentary. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but I had spent that morning talking to David Parry about the effects of internet technology and networked space on the established institutions of democracy, and as POV took over my television screen with its adapted running of Food, Inc., I began to think about documentary films-- and, in particular, films that intend to effect social and democratic change-- in the online time and space of the internet. Thinking about documentary film within a networked social space reminded me, fortuitously, of Cooking Up A Story, an internet hybrid that bills itself rather oddly as "an online television show and blog about people, food, and sustainable living." More about soil, sardines and the web-lives of food-docs (including video) after the break.

Satire Sandwiches: Stephen Colbert's Thought for Food

Image Credit: screen capture from

Food policy can be pretty disheartening stuff: anything that combines environmentalism, worker's rights and public health in a single topic is likely to include bad-to-terrible news pretty much every day. With the Senate underfunding the Child Nutrition Act, bluefin tuna set to go extinct and Dirt! The Movie preparing to air on PBS, even my fairly-high tolerance for crisis fatigue was wearing thin this week. Thankfully, Stephen Colbert was there to talk me off the ledge. As is often the case, Colbert managed to make life livable with his pringle-and-whipped-cream-like blend of irony and humor-- two remarkable human capacities that are often undervalued because they elude satisfactory explanation by rhetorical, literary or philosophical models. While even Jon Stewart's comedic analysis of politicians and pundits can often be as depressing as it is amusing, Colbert's satiric send-ups consistently manage to wink their way through all kinds of maddening news stories and leave me with a crisp, clean finish. His new "Thought for Food" segment lives up to those expectations. Rather than attempting (and almost certainly failing) to explain the jokes, I thought I'd share a few videos and comment as needed. More on Colbert, corn-surpluses, advertising and unholy sandwiches after the break.

Recent comments