Digital Prospector: Scenes from a NW summer, Prom Queen's kitschy Kickstarter pitch, all-Retro news

Critic Rustin Thompson unearths the best - and worst - of online video.
Critic Rustin Thompson unearths the best - and worst - of online video.

Crosscut archive image.
Credit: Marcus Yam, The Seattle Times

Elements of Summer
Languid images from Seattle’s glorious summer comprise this short ode featuring the video work of Seattle Times’ still photographers. Set to music by Moby, leaps into Lake Washington, afternoon sun backlighting a woman’s stark white Mohawk, the corporeal smoke of a beach fire and other enchanting moments capture the unhurried evenings and lingering warmth of summer in the PNW. Elements of Summer is both an elegy to a season and an important reminder: In this age of budget cutbacks and workplace layoffs, nothing can replace the power of an exquisite image, or the talent of the pro who knows how to take it.

Prom Queen Kickstarter Campaign
The self-made video is the crucial piece in any Kickstarter campaign, whether you’re crowdfunding an actual film, a video game or an ankle sock with a built-in camera. The Kickstarter braintrust strongly suggests that campaigners put themselves in the video, a moment that too often displays the bedraggled fundee crammed into a corner of their Amazon cubicle, barely masking a desperate plea for rescue. They could learn a thing or two from Seattle musician and visual artist, Prom Queen. Her Kickstarter site touting the ambitious Cleopatra-meets-I-Dream-of-Jeannie music and video project, Midnight Veil, features a campaign film so retro-groovy you don’t just want to give her money, you want to work for her, even if it means washing the windows to her artistic soul. It's a kitschy quilt of lo-fi fuzz, Warholian artistes and Archie McPhee décor, set to a surf guitar soundtrack with some snippets of Prom Queen’s dulcet vocals. it all leads up to her big on-camera moment when she appears inside an antique TV set, like the host of that afternoon’s Big Money Movie. Need more proof of P.Q.’s artistic cred? Check out This Town Ain’t Big Enough.

Retro Report
This series of in-depth news reports is designed as an alternative to our 24/7 broadcast news cycle, which deems an issue “old news” immediately after the very first piece on it airs. Funded by self-proclaimed news junkie, Christopher Buck (his father founded the Subway sandwich chain) and airing on The New York Times website, these stories are intended to reintroduce us to an important news event or issue of the past — since swept under the heaping rug known as The Next Big Thing — and bring us up to date on where that issue stands now.  It sounds like a sleep aid for shut-ins, but these are thoughtful, probing pieces of excellent journalism packaged at a length (10 minutes!) that would make Wolf Blitzer tear out his silvery mane. Remember mandatory school busing? Tailhook? Tawana Brawley? The stories use of archival news footage fronted by the hallowed anchormen of the times (Rather, Brokaw, Jennings), and key players willing to share perspectives. The denouements, of course, are mostly depressing.  

No End in Sight
Since our do-nothing Congress has a lot of time on its hands deciding what not to do about Syria, perhaps they could nuke some Orville Redenbacher, log on to their Netflix Instant Play accounts and watch this powerful 2007 documentary recounting George W. Bush’s bungled invasion of Iraq. The power of Charles Ferguson’s film is not in its recitation of the many errors committed by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, — however mind-boggling — but in how the film brings together a veritable battering ram of expert opinion nullifying nearly every decision the administration made in the early days of the war. Ferguson (aided by Campbell Scott’s authoritative narration), explains with an ever-deepening rage how America was led into a disastrous escapade that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, and led to a new kind of extreme conservatism, which today holds a Kafkaesque stranglehold on our government. (See No End in Sight trailer on next page.)

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.