Saturday, 31 October 2009

Video Games are bigger than DVDs and Music sales in the UK

Yikes! They are important, and as a growth market, they must be making their investors rich. Media-wise, outside of publishing, they are now the biggest sector of all.

Videogames pull in more cash than Hollywood movies
Last year will go down in history as the point at which the UK videogames industry pulled decisively away from cinema, recorded music and DVD sales to become the country's most valuable purchased entertainment market, with combined software and hardware sales topping the £4bn mark for the first time: more than DVD and music sales combined, and more than four times cinema box office takings.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Narrative and Open Spaces in Grand Theft Auto

Try the brief audio in a left hand panel in on the Time site in which Dan Houser, the Vice President of Rockstar Leeds, explains how narrative in Grand Theft Auto "helps drive" and "serve the open spaces" and "the fake world" in the game. Notice also how the boundries between the cinema and video games are blurred and seem to overlap. Houser sees players engaging with "digital tourism" in his "fake", "open worlds": what gamers calls sandbox games or worlds.
New episodes are added to the game as add ons throughout the year. Much of the gangster element to this and previous games was influenced from the 1980s film, "Scarface". The game's "Liberty City" is intertextually like Batman's 'Gotham City' but perhaps even darker.,9171,1879194,00.html?iid=digg_share

Grand Theft Auto as Post Modern Satire on 21st Century Media

"Grand Theft Auto's" claim to be the first post modern video game to satirise the 21st century media, with its obsession with celebrity culture, money and status symbols, is examined here in this brief piece and accompanying video. It's an exercise in hyperbole.

And here is a story from the same source which reveals how a young player in Thailand was unable to tell the difference between reality and virtual reality because he carried out "a mission" from Grand Auto in real life!

The comments on how the US government might react if a similar thing happened in the US is worth noting.

Postmodernism and the Video Game (Part One)

The links for the remaining parts of this article can be found at the foot of each part.

Postmodernism and the Video Game (Part One)

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Immersion and Gameplay

Clear and helpful on immersion and game-players emotion and "feedback loops".

There are links worth exploring within theses pages.

Two studies which analyse "flow" and "immersion" in game-playing

A very useful study with well presented graphics representing the thoughts and views of game-players. The focus is on "immersion as a component of the gameplay experience".

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Grand Theft Auto Trailer

It gives a sense of the blurred boundries between the cinema and games. The graphics are also exceptional. Many of the song tracks are from the 80s and 90s. The song behind this trailer is "The Look" by Roxette from 1988. Games like this one are also influenced by 1980s gangster films such as Brian De Palma's "Scarface" from 1983.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Bricolage "Mad Men"

Key Terms for Post Modern Media
Try constructing one of these yourselves for either Mad Men or Grand Theft Auto IV. It'll help you remember the term bricolage. Bricolage – a collection or putting together of images, ideas etc to make a new piece of media art.

Click on the image to enlarge

Intertextual References in the Opening Credit Art Sequence of "Mad Men"

Saul Bass’s innovative title sequence to Alfred Hitchcock’s “North By North West”, set against Manhattan skyscraper (1959). Notice also how this is an early example of "reality" being reflected against the skyscraper, which is iconic of New York. There is certainly "a play" on images here.

Casino Royal's brilliant opening sequence was inspired by Maurice Binder's opening sequences for Bond Films from the 1960s-1980s. Binder died in 1991. The theme of identity is also reflected in the images and the song's lyrics.

The opening sequence to Alfred Hitchock’s “Notorious”. The second scene’s introduction of Carey Grant’s character influenced the cinematic style of Mad Men’s, Cinematographer, Phil Abraham’s repeated shots of Don Draper back portraying him as enigmatic and deceptive. The sequence to note begins three minutes in.

"911 and The Falling Man". Of course, skyscrapers have always been a key part of the iconography of New York.

Why We Love "Mad Men" - by Lauren M.E. Goodlad

Lauren M.E. Goodlad is an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois. Her article is academically thoughtful, crisp and insightful. It's a great read for students who want to understand how audiences in our time share similar issues with the programme's fictional characters of the early 1960s. "We also recognise that our lives are long Meditations In An Emergency".

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Reviews of Grand Theft Auto IV

A few things are mentioned here that are not referred to in the review below. For instance, the use of the internet, including Face-Book and even dating on the game!

Most of the review above is mentioned here but there are a few extra items worth viewing. It's difficult to say which review is best.

Charlie Brooker's Games-Wipe on Video Games - Simulacrum

Charlie Brooker's take is always worth tuning in for. This is a wide-ranging study on video games as simulacrum and virtual reality. Watch out for references to Grand Theft Auto IV as this will be the focus of our second case study on post modern media.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009

Parody and postmodernism

This is as good as any formal argument that sums up the pros and cons of post modernism

Click on the cartoon to enlarge.

Arguments for and against Postmodernism

Here are a few links to articles which consider the pros and cons of the theories and arguments of post modernism.

This is very helpful, particularly with arguments against post modernism

Post Modernism: what is it? And what is wrong with it?

Mad Men Essay Questions

In the exam you will need to discuss two or more media forms. To keep things for now we will examine one text for now.

Q. How would you define Mad Men as a post modern text? And explain why you would give this programme this label.


Q. Consider the ways in which post modern media challenge conventional relations between audience and text. Focus on Mad Men for your answer.

What follows is from page 39 of OCR's AS and A2

The four main prompt questions from the syllabus are as follows:

Post-modern Media

What are the different versions of post-modernism (historical period, style, theoretical approach)?
What are the arguments for and against understanding some forms of media as post-modern?
How do post-modern media texts challenge traditional text-reader relations and the concept of representation?
In what ways do media audiences and industries operate differently in a post-modern world?

Candidates might explore combinations of:
How post-modern media relate to genre and narrative across two media, computer / video games and new forms of representation, post-modern cinema, interactive media, reality TV, music video, advertising, post-modern audience theories, aspects of globalisation, parody and pastiche in media texts or a range of other applications of post-modern media theory.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Institutions and Audiences: a distribution concept map

Click on the image to enlarge
Part 2 of your case study:
Aim to research each of these areas and post about them in your blogs for your cast study institution and the same, recent film that you researched for production issues.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

RETRO: The Camera & 'Mad Men'

This is Jefferson Robbins's excellent video essay on the series which he originally posted on Film Freak Central. The video essay form is an exciting new way to analyse films and television. I've posted one or two from other authors on another blog,
In the near future film and media students might well be expected to try their hands at making video essays themselves.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

An essay plan for patterns and issues of an institution's ( film) production

This is a cut down version of a similar essay you will write which will later include the distribution and exhibition issues of your film institution. We will work on how you can discuss technological convergence and synergies across all three areas as you produce your blogs. Notice how I've tried to integrate arguments for them on each of the three parts of the institution case study.

Here is the essay question that you began in class. Remember to use its key words and phrases for your answer as you are not expected to reel off everything you know about the institution and a film it recently produced, distributed and exhibited:

The Essay Question

It is not the film industry; it the film business.
( Eric Fellner of Working Title Films )

Using detailed examples from your case studies discuss the issues and patterns which enables your institution to thrive as a film business.

Click on the image to enlarge. Oops! Missed out on the director. Still, the writer, Richard Curtis, also directed this film.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Research links for Technological Convergence for Film institutions

Why does convergence matter? (When you click on the link, scroll down. The page is really useful for definitions and issues, etc.) One of the issues it highlights is digital theft and how easy it is to use digital technology to steal films, etc.
Convergence Think Tank submission by the UK Film Council

Technogical convergence is attractive to the media industries as it will open multiple entry points into the consumption process and at the same time enable consumers to save time as they select what they want to watch (consume).

Technological convergence in the near future - an interesting article.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

What are the recurrent features of post modern style ?

"Postmodernism is cultural movement that came after modernism, also it follows our shift from being a industrial society to that of an information society, through globalization of capital. Markers of the postmodern culture include opposing hierarchy, diversifying and recycling culture, questioning scientific reasoning, and embracing paradox. Postmodernism is a term applied to a wide-ranging set of developments in critical theory, philosophy, architecture, art, literature, and culture, which are generally characterized as either emerging from, in reaction to, or superseding modernism"

"Postmodern style is often characterized by eclecticism, digression, collage, pastiche, and irony. Postmodern theorists see postmodern art as a conflation or reversal of well-established modernist systems, such as the roles of artist versus audience, seriousness versus play, or high culture versus kitsch."

By R. Lee from Media Studies 180 Hunter College, Sections 102, 103

Of course, intertextual references are often found in post modern texts.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Postmodern texts - their themes and issues

Post modern texts usually have something serious to say about themes and issues in our lives by setting these texts either in the present or in the recent or distant past. When we look at a "Banksy" there is a serious issue underlying each piece of his humorous, "guerilla art" which often ironically subverts figures of status, institutions, hypcritical attitudes towards morality, and so forth. He does this to foster more democratic attitudes and a questioning attitude towards authority figures and coventional ideas in our time.

Historical fiction texts, set in the recent and distant past, also have something to say about issues and themes that resonate and matter for us today - but are so often buried under the welter of our every-day lives that it is difficult for us to see them as clearly as might. "Mad Men" offers us an opportunity to examine how the following themes and issues were represented in the early 1960s: sexism, misogyny, drinking, smoking and drug-taking, early mass consumerism, various forms of love, homophobia, masculinity, femininity, racism, dubious family values, our responses to fads, fashions and social trends, ambition, identity, loneliness and, of course, alienation and how this affected society then and affects us today. No doubt, there are others.

An important way to examine the idea of "alienation" in Mad Men would be to focus on Don Draper's estrangement from his wife and family and his attitude towards his office. He is not the only character estranged in this way but he is the main protagonist. Consider alienation in the context of Don's identity and how he has "become someone else" and what this does to his way of seeing himself and others. Don's representation of masculinity is another way to explore his "alienation" from home and how he views himself in at his workplace, Sterling Cooper.

Much of this text's purpose is to make us think about how our society responds to issues and themes like these today. And it is presented at a pace which imitates the pace and rhythm of programmes from the early 1960s.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Notes and comments on "The Hobo Code" from the first series of "Mad Men"

This is worth a visit for its summary, explanations and analysis of episode 8, "The Hobo Code". There is also a short video summarising parts of this intriging episode.

This link offers the same information for an earlier episode (6) entitled "Babylon".

The same, useful information and analysis for episode 1, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes".

Chubby Checker in 1960 singing and doing "The Twist"

The song is featured in episode 8, "The Hobo Code" from "Mad Men". Notice the new dance's appeal for girls and young women constitute most of the audience. Some of them appear unused to any kind of movement, perhaps reflecting the "stiff", conventional society of the late 1950s. Notice also the ethnic origins of the audience. The representation of race and class in this video is particularly interesting. One wonders if Chubby did not dress in a jacket and tie he would have had the chance to perform on television! At first, with his teddy-boy hair-style one could mistake this African-American for being white.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

"Slumdog's" Danny Boyle and "The Wrestler's" Darren Aronofsky discuss new film technology

Danny Boyle, who directed "Slumdog Millionaire" discusses new technology that he used on the film while on set in India. Darren's Aronofsky's superb film, "The Wrestler", marks him out as a highly talented director. Quite useful for anyone finding out about technological convergence for Film 4 and how new digital technology is having an impact on film-making.

This is a link to Silicon Imaging who produced the cameras Danny Boyle talks about in this interview. ( It's well worth visiting to follow up this useful information for case studies for technological convergence.)

Read also this press release on Silicon Imaging's cameras used in Slumdog Millionaire and how they were used to produce superb images in tight spaces.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

"Mad Men's" opening credit sequence

Much of the following should prove very useful for anyone preparing and writing essays on opening credit sequence of "Mad Men" and why this series can be viewed as post modern.

Of course, there are scenes from a variety of episodes for which you could plan and write an essay:
  • the representation of signs and symbols (recurring motifs, camera shots/angles/movement, images, buildings, names, hobo signs, language, etc.);
  • the representation of gender through women and femininity and men and masculinity;
  • "Mad Men's" representation and intertextuality through camerawork;
  • the use of non linear narratives and the "bending" of time;
  • the representation of "truth and reality";
  • the representation of class, age and sexuality;
  • how alienation is represented through the themes of identity, home, ambition and loneliness;
  • the blurring of the genre conventions between television and cinema.
  • Any one or more of these issues can be studied in particular scenes. These issues regularly provoke post modern audiences into thinking about how they were thought about then (if at all) - and now. Mad Men's historical and fictional presentation of the recent "primitive" past invites post modern audiences to make comparisons between the attitudes and behaviour of early 1960s society with our own time.
For Research and for making notes

You might also examine and study the exchange of Web 2.0 offerings which have emerged out of the main text(s) over time, such as blog sites, AMC's "Mad Men's" website and what it has to offer, fan-sites, YouTube video compilations, video essays, websites such as "What Would Don Draper Do" (see an earlier post), reviews on Amazon and IMDB, newspaper and magazine reviews, retro-fashion of the series in stores, etc.

These links and essays should help you with the opening sequence and credit art of Mad Men and why it can be considered to be a post modern text.
The YouTube video of the opening sequence of "Mad Men":

Here's a brief, sharply drawn analysis by The Guardian's Mark Lawson from February 2009

"Mad Men (2007-)

The silhouette of a black-suited man falling out of an office and past skyscrapers
billboarded with advertising images invokes the glamorous past (alluding to Saul Bass's titles for Alfred Hitchcock and Maurice Binder's for James Bond) but also the terrible recent past: the helpless, plummeting bodies on 9/11. The music (using a synthesised instrumental by RJD2) is brooding and ominous. Yet the dropping body miraculously recovers to smoke a cigarette, thus setting up Don Draper's two main qualities: mystery and buoyancy."

Here's a link to a great essay and discussion on the opening credit sequence of "Mad Men":

"Mad Men's" creator, Matthew Weiner gives his ideas and views on the opening credit sequence:

On of the distinguishing post modern features of the programme is that it lends itself very readily to parody, "The Simpson's" pastiche of the opening sequence: