Digital Prospector: What's hot in online video.

Critic Rustin Thompson mines the ever rich online video vein: "Onion News Empire," dads (or at least "DadLabs") and the life of a Seattle woman vlogger.
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The star of the YouTube channel, ItsJudysTime, also has a blog.

Critic Rustin Thompson mines the ever rich online video vein: "Onion News Empire," dads (or at least "DadLabs") and the life of a Seattle woman vlogger.

Onion News Empire
Seattle-based Amazon asked viewers to vote on 14 original pilots for its new expedition into online TV programming. Turns out viewers did not rank Onion News Empire high enough for the show to make the cut, but the zippy pilot episode is still available for viewing. Combining the wacky sight gags of the classic Airplane!, the neurotic egos of 30 Rock and the supercilious posturing of The Newsroom, Onion News Empire proudly shares the print version’s mission of being an equal opportunity offender (fat Middle Eastern terrorists and blind children are just two of the targets). This polished behind-the-scenes look at the nightly Onion newscast stars the reliable Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show) as a pompous anchorman, the hilarious William Sadler as a put-upon news director, Laila Robins — channeling Faye Dunaway’s ball-busting role in Network  as his ruthless boss and a newsroom full of backstabbing narcissists.

In time for Father’s Day, two middle-aged guys calling themselves Daddy Clay and Daddy Brad offer parenting advice, cutesy home videos and well-subsidized (Dove Men+Care, Baby Bjorn) trips to father-centric seminars. Dressed in suburban dad casual and armed with spectacularly bad comic timing, they host videos such as “The Art of Bragging About Your Kid” and “Babies Are Amazing.” In their wincing how-to on toilet training, the charmless duo try to top each other with poop jokes as the screen wipes to a product roll-out of potty accessories. The segment is an embarrassing combination of Dr. Spock-era jocularity and South Park gross-out. Clay and Brad subtitle their website “Taking Back Paternity.” But if fatherhood means being this uncool, they can have it. 

Seattle mother, wife and make-up maven Judy Travis vlogs on her YouTube channel, ItsJudyTime. Clearly aimed at the lip gloss demographic, which falls between the ages of “LOL” and “OMG”, Judy demos mascara, rouge, eyelashes and whatever else tumbles from her bottomless swag bag of branded products. A hair salon-ready soundtrack of soft-rock accompanies her exploits, whether they’re staged within the comforts of her condo, on a bridal shop field trip or, in a case of “I just can’t wait to try this new Loreal Paris Infallible lipstick”, on the dashboard of her car. Judy's microphone is always propped someplace handy, in a sink or a sock drawer, and this low-fi quality only adds to her bubbly outlet mall appeal. She is also adventurous, experimenting with “lip tattoos” (hideous) so you won’t have to. That episode alone received 9 MILLION page views. I'm not making this up. She now has a second channel, ItsJudysLife, which started with her husband Benji chronicling her pregnancy. But IMHO that’s way TMI.

Raz Simone, “Sometimes I Don’t”
Seattle hip hop artist Raz Simone sang in church as a kid, and you can hear the years of training in this video from his new EP, Solomon Samuel Simone. Standing in the open sunroof of a car cruising through the Central District, Raz raps “I let the wind blow, beneath my wings, gliding through the town as I see my dreams.” It’s a wishful chorus of hope amid his downbeat poetic musings on fame, guns and drugs. The floating slow motion camerawork, unhurried editing and Raz’s charismatic presence add up to a melancholy urban road song for a lazy summer day.

Adam Goldberg’s Vines 
Vines are new Twitter Apps that allows users to produce and share six-second homemade movies with followers. Most of these are what you’d expect: shortsighted gags involving bodily fluids. But actor Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan) devised a freaky series of vines featuring himself as a cross-dressing doppelganger haunting the real Goldberg’s waking life. Think David Lynch’s Inland Empire meets Psycho. Goldberg, inspired by the famous Orson Welles line, “The absence of limitations is the enemy of art,” turns his no-budget quickies into creepy found footage snippets from the horror movie playing in his head. Click the repeat button on any one of these vines and they will worm straight into your cerebral cortex.

For more nuggets from the Digital Prospector, go here.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.