Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Second Life

   The concept behind Second Life has intrigued me since I first heard it mentioned years ago by Dwight on an old episode of “The Office.”  The idea is definitely an interesting one, and I think one that garners pretty diverse opinions.
    My personal opinion has always been that I would not want a “second life.”  On the introductory website, there is a short video explaining why people would use second life.  The words connect, work, explore, and love were all used in the description.  Wouldn’t doing all of these things be better in your “first life,” since they actually exist? 
    Now, I never have personally used Second Life, and to be fair I am sure that it possesses some sort of redeeming qualities for those who choose to spend their time there.  Perhaps it’s a way for people to make friends when they have social issues in the real world, or people just want to meed people from all over the globe, or possibly live out things that they would never get the opportunity to do, such as own their dream home.
    I am reminded of a clip I saw last semester from the Frontline documentary Digital Nation where they spoke to several people involved in the creation and carrying out of Second Life.  The creator mentioned how he had such an active first life that he wanted to carry out everything else he wanted to do through a virtual one.  While this may be the case for him, I doubt that that is the case for the majority of people who use the program. 
    Second life seems to have a heavy dose of escapism involved.  It seems like today more and more people are turning towards the internet and living digital lives instead of real, tangible ones.  It is not only the case with Second Life, but facebook, twitter, youtube, and a vast variety of other social media sites.  It is a complicated issue, because as people are being forced to go online to stay “connected” with others, we have to be careful to not let our “second lives” become our first.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Business of Being Born

   I can most definitely see why The Business of Being Born was on the “questions to ask ourselves” portion of the viewing list.  Before viewing this film, whenever I would talk to my friends about giving birth, I would have never even given a home birth a second chance, but this film has opened my eyes to aspects of the argument that I was not aware of before.
    I felt like the filmmaker’s storytelling approach was pretty successful.  It was clear from the beginning of the film the argument and perspective that was going to be portrayed, and the rest of the film followed up on that argument.  Perhaps in other documentaries a bit more of the risks of giving a home birth would have been explored to a greater capacity, but I felt like the level to which they brought up those risks in this film worked.  This was not a film that was trying to show both sides of the issue unbiasedly, and there was nothing wrong with this lean towards home births, because that is what they were arguing straightforwardly from the start. 
    There were several effective tools that were used in this film.  I think their strongest point was the fact that they got perspectives from all sorts of people involved in the issue.  It would have been a much weaker documentary if the only people arguing for the use of midwives were the midwives themselves.  The fact that they were able to get positive interview statements from midwives, women who had gone through the home birthing process, practicing doctors, as well as a celebrity really raised the influential factor up to the next level. 
    Overall, I felt it was a very enjoyable film while still making a persuasive argument.  Like I mentioned before, it was extremely effective for me.  Because I am the age and gender demographic that the film was most likely pandering towards, the fact that it made me think about something as monumental as birth in a different way really says something about the effectiveness of the film.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sherman's March

    I had heard about Ross McElwee’s film Sherman’s March for quite a while, and figured I had better finally devote the 2 hours and 27 minutes needed to watch this documentary.  Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
    Ross McElwee’s introspective style of storytelling is interesting to me, because while he is essentially just telling stories from his own life, he manages to broaden the ideas and themes to a wide and relatable state.  At times the story line did move a bit slow, but it almost seemed intentional.  If he had forced the doc to be fast paced with quick cuts and sudden camera movements, he would have sabotaged the feel of the slow, simple Southern life McElwee was able to achieve through long shots and fairly slow camera movements.
    McElwee puts himself in the place of “everyman” in the universal quest of love and loss.  The characterization of the women he comes in contact with was intriguing, because seeing the women directly compared one another brought out each of their respective eccentricities.  It may have been unfair for McElwee to put the various women on the screen for the audience to judge based on their minimal relative time with Ross.  At the same time, however, I think he did as accurate job as he could to portray these women.  In the end they may have come off as recognizable characters such as the hopeful actress, the Mormon, or the environmentalist hippie, but beyond these titles McElwee was able to show more of their character by sharing their intimate conversations, and his own thoughts on who they were and what they meant to him.
    In the end, I came to care about the filmmaker and the subjects.  I wondered what became of the actress or if Ross ever was able to find the right woman.  This was achieved through McElwee’s willingness to share himself.  This is a very critical idea, because I believe if you want to connect with your audience or subject on a deeper level, you have to be willing to put yourself on display, as well.