Having dedicated the final chapter of my doctoral thesis to examining the first two Spider-Man films as an exemplar of Artificial Culture, I really had to buy and watch the new Spider-Man 2.1 DVD, despite my constant annoyance at how these just-before-the-sequel extended edition DVD releases tend to disappoint. The 2.1 DVD set is advertised as having a new ‘Extended Cut’ of Spider-Man 2 with eight minutes new footage, while the second disc sports a bunch of ‘all-knew’ features. Sadly, the features on the extras DVD really don’t justify the creation of an disc. The ‘sneak peak’ and trailer for Spider-Man 3 don’t show anything not already floating around the legitimate parts of the internet, while the ‘VFX Breakdown’ is quite a laborious walk-through of the meshing of live-action, miniature and digital effects. I guess it’s hard to make these technical mini-docos all that interesting, but the Lord of the Rings DVDs did show it’s possible! I have the feeling VFX piece was shot for the original Spider-Man 2 DVD but cut since they’re just really dull.

Of more interest, the eight minutes of extra footage do change the tone of the film in important places. There’s a lot of extra character development for Harry and Mary-Jane; Harry’s friendship is reinforced in an extended version of Peter’s birthday party, while a new sequence between Mary-Jane and her friend highlights the fact that MJ is settling in her marriage rather than following her true love. Also, probably of more interest to the target audience, there are additional, CGI-heavy, shots added into Spider-Man’s fight sequences with Doctor Octopus. However, apart from some extra punches and scrapes, these don’t add anything notable to the story. Indeed, it’s worth pointing out this extended version isn’t labeled a ‘Director’s Cut’ as I suspect Rami was quite happy with the theatre-released version.

However, just when I thought the DVD was really quite a waste of money, I found myself laughing out loud at one unexpected sequence in which J Jonah Jameson “celebrates” Spider-Man’s retirement and The Bugle’s acquisition of the Spider-suit in an entirely unexpected but unforgettably funny way! Of course, the J Jonah Jameson clip is on YouTube: Be warned, though, this scene is much funnier in the context of the film. Forewarned, then, watching this clip by itself may prove less funny …

Since you’re no doubt just watched the clip anyway, I’d recommend against buying 2.1 – there’s nothing more to see.

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I’m away from the blog, away from the internet, away from Twitter and away from email until Tuesday next week as I simply must finish some writing and would also like to spend some real quality time with loved ones.

I hope everyone has a Happy Easter break, whether it’s of religious significance to you or just a welcome long weekend.

Although I posted it last year, I’m going to sign off for the next four days with my favourite (irreverent) Easter videoclip, The Easter Bunny Hates You

[Download Higher Quality .Mov Version]

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I’m not a huge Law and Order watcher, and I’ve no idea how far the Australian schedule differs from the US one, but I was fascinated to hear (somewhat after the fact) that in November last year the Criminal Intent version of the tv franchise featured an episode which built directly on hype around LonelyGirl15.

The episode — and the fictional videoblog series — was called ‘Weeping Willow’ (instead of lonelygirl15) and instead of YouTube it was said to feature on ‘YouLenz’.  I’d love to see the episode and will hunt it down one day, but what I found really impressive was the fact that the videoblog episodes created for Law and Order (still) appear online; check them out at FreeWillow17.com.  These videoblog clips mimic the style and substance of lg15 really well; from the (early) dynamic between Bree and Jonas to the use of a handpuppet and the bedroom set.  It was a little odd to see Buffy’s little sister (MichelleTrachtenberg) playing a character called Willow, but these are really well produced clips nevertheless.

If anyone knows when this episode will screen in Australia, please let me know!

[Via Whedonesque]

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In light of the recent tragic chatroom/webcam suicide, I wondered what an article “Ghosts of blogging haunt net cemetery” might have to say about the role of blogs after a blogger’s life. Alas, this has to be one of the worst, ignorant, mainstream-media puff pieces in a long time:

In the latest entry on her personal weblog, Lindsay Lohan, the hard-partying Hollywood actress, was in characteristically bubbly form. “Hey guys, I’m soooo sooo sorry I haven’t written in a while!!” she wrote. She was heading off to New York for two days of photo-shoots, then to Toronto in Canada for a week of filming, then back to Los Angeles again. The entry ended: “I just wanted to check in, I’ll try and write more … xx LL.” It has been a long wait for any Lohan fans who may be hoping for an update. That entry was posted on October 15, 2003.

Lohan’s blog has since taken its place in the internet’s fastest-growing graveyard – of an estimated 200 million blogs that have been started, then abandoned.

The extraordinary failure rate of online diaries and claims that interest in blogging will soon begin a precipitous slide are sparking an intriguing debate about the future of self-expression on the internet and whether blogs, once seen as revolutionary, are destined to become a footnote in the history of computing.

To the embarrassment of millions of internet users – from Hollywood celebrities such as Lohan, Melanie Griffith and Barbra Streisand to countless ordinary parents, workers and would-be poets – the evidence of failed diary-keeping cannot be easily erased from search engines that continue to provide links to blogs that have lain dormant for years.

This article clearly commits many of the most juvenile mistakes about writing regarding blogs — no, not all blogs are online diaries; no, celebrities who blog are no more typical of bloggers than they are of people — but even a journalist who has never read a blog should feel a little silly making the leap to describing the ‘extraordinary failure rate’ of blogs. Or are blogs, unlike regular diaries, or pretty much any other form of narrative or writing – the only form which is supposed to be endless? Blogs have been around for a long time and, like most other things, many blogs have had their natural lifespan, dictated by the purpose for which they were originally constructed. Some blogs are used in education – and thus often have a lifespan of a semester or two; some are issue-driven and may end when that issue is resolved; indeed some are diaries, but like hardcopy diaries, they tend to get left behind after a few years.

All of those gripes aside, the article did make two good points: firstly, that the exponential rise of blogging has to slow soon (because exponential means, quite literally, that there would have to be more blogs than people within a few years at recent growth rates); and secondly that citizens of a digital culture may be shifting their focus to other platforms like YouTube and MySpace. That’s not really an argument about the death of blogging, though – it’s more testimony to the maturing of the world of social software in that many more options available for those many networks of interest and friendship which life online can facilitate.

Of course, I wonder why no one writes about how many MySpace profiles are abandoned? (Far be it from me to points out that the same folk that own MySpace own The Australian).

I guess one has to ask The Australian, if blogs are on the decline, why does your blog section keep growing?

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The races for party nomination and the Presidential election in the US always tend to bring out the most creative political media and mashups. The first great political video of the 2008 race is definitely Hillary 1984, which mashes up one of Apple’s most famous advertisements from 1984, using the imagery of 1984, with Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch speach. (Actually, the Apple ad used is the updated version released in 2004, with the sledgehammer-weilding Anya Major given an iPod to wear as she attacks the projections of an Orwellian big brother.)

An article called ‘Political video smackdown’ in San Francisco Chronicle has these sparse details:

It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate — one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising. Yet the groundbreaking 74-second pitch for Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, which remixes the classic “1984” ad that introduced Apple computers to the world, is not on cable or network TV, but on the Internet. […]

The compelling “Hillary 1984” video recently introduced on YouTube represents “a new era, a new wave of politics … because it’s not about Obama,” said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank on politics and new media. “It’s about the end of the broadcast era.” […]

That theme — reflecting a generational change in the relationship between media, politics, candidates and voters — suggests that “Hillary 1984” could have the iconic power with the 21st century political generation that another classic political ad called “Daisy” represented to Baby Boomers, says Leyden. That 1964 spot for President Lyndon Johnson — featuring images of a child plucking a daisy, which morphed ominously into a nuclear mushroom cloud — battered GOP presidential candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater because it, too, portrayed “a shattering of the whole world” in both political leadership, and media.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama, said he is aware of the “Hillary 1984” video and has gotten calls from reporters on it — but he insisted that the campaign is not connected to it. “It’s somebody else’s creation,” he said, declining to comment on the ad’s biting content. […]

The ad is proof that “anybody can do powerful emotional ads … and the campaigns are no longer in control,” Rosenberg said. “It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that’s a 20th century broadcast model.”

Citizen media and participatory culture, indeed! 🙂 And the video itself:

[Via Rebecca Blood]

Update: For more on the politics on this mashup, see Chuck Tryon’s column ““Why 2008 Won’t Be Like 1984:” Viral Videos and Presidential Politics” in Flow. Also of interest is a statement in the Huffington Post by the video’s creator Phil de Vellis: I Made the “Vote Different” Ad.

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Here’s the blurb from Douglas Gayeton’s impressively edited, Second Life machinima short:

In January 2007, a man named Molotov Alva, dissapeared from his Californian home. Recently, a series of video dispatches by a Traveler of the same name have appeared within a popular online world called Second Life. Filmmaker Douglas Gayeton came across these video dispatches and put them together into a documentary of seven episodes.

And here’s the first episode:

It’s very well edited, telling a great story, and selling both the filmic potential of machinima based in Second Life, and the value of a good story in any medium. For educators using machinima to teach editing skills, and other machinima makers looking for great examples, check this series out. For everyone else: it’s a good story, so why not click the great big play button? [Via Boing Boing]

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The big news for YouTube watchers is that YouTube’s first megastar – New Zealander Jessica Rose aka Lonelygirl15 — is making the transition from the tube to the silver screen.
LonelyGirl15

As The Age notes:

Web video star Jessica Rose – better recognised by her YouTube alias Lonelygirl15 – will play a role in an upcoming film starring Lindsay Lohan. The film – I Know Who Killed Me – has reportedly been in production since late last year, and filming is scheduled to wrap up this month. A number of photos of Rose and Lohan on the set of the film have cropped up on celebrity gossip websites. It is a reassuring sign for budding filmmakers and actors seeking to use video-sharing sites such as YouTube as a launch pad for Hollywood success.

While not a huge shock, Lee’s move to the cinema will no doubt further fuel the millions of YouTubers hoping that their webcam home movies can be the beginning of a Hollywood career!

For background, see Lonelygirl15: The Story So Far…

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