Digital Prospector: Slo-Mo Guys, UWTV's Backstory sessions, Albert Brooks impersonation kit

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

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The downstairs crew from Downton Abbey. Credit:

Slow-Mo Guys
If, like me, you need to get stoned to watch Downton Abbey, you appreciate how a little ganja makes everything in a British accent seem even funnier. So you may want to fire up a fatty before tuning into YouTube’s The Slow-Mo Guys, two cheeky blokes who like to watch stuff explode, burst, pop and pulverize in extreme — super extreme — slow motion. Gav and Dan, dressed in rumpled lab coats and working out of their cluttered garage and suburban backyard, tweak their cameras to whirr at several thousand frames a second, point them at, say, a house made of Legos, and then blow it up. As the mass of kaleidoscopic colors shatters into a pixelated abstract, Gav exclaims, “That was top!” My personal favorite is the giant water balloon these two Pommy nutters shredded to bits after they belly flopped into it. The lads have been at this for two years already, which leads me to wonder if decades from now we’ll find them at  Ye Olde Folks Home, filming their own soup spittle. Pass the vaporizer, mate!

UWTV Backstory
Some viewers stumble upon UWTV while surfing the shopping networks. Pre-med students call it up online if they missed last week’s lecture on treating acetabular fractures. But others know the station by its magazine show UW360, its popular talk series Four Peaks, sports specials such as Husky Classics and something called Backstory: The Filmmaker’s Vision. Backstory, a smartly produced showcase for Pacific Northwest moviemakers, starts off with an interview segment hosted by Associate Drama Professor Andrew Tsao, who cares enough to actually watch the films he’s introducing and prepare probing questions for his guests. Local directors and producers share their filmmaking stories before their movies are shown in their entirety (full disclosure: two of my films have screened on the show). You can watch a short experimental piece by Rafael Flores called 23rd&Union, which attempts to illuminate the clashing forces provoking violence around that Central District intersection; 100% Off, a documentary by Shaun Scott about students graduating into an uncertain future; and Seattle’s breakout director, Lynn Shelton, on her first feature film, We Go Way Back. Some of the material here is unpolished and undernourished, but Backstory is a vital stage for an entire chorus of talented local artists.

Sea Change
As if we don’t have enough to worry about, along comes “ocean acidification.” This process, which is gradually destroying sea life, is due to rising levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which get dumped back into oceans as part of normal weather patterns. The highest Co2 levels occur closer to big cities, an especially troubling fact for Puget Sound’s diverse marine economy. This nine-minute film, co-produced by The Seattle Times and PBS’s News Hour, is subtitled “The Pacific’s Perilous Turn”, and perilous it is. Our world famous oyster harvest is slowly eroding due to acidification’s destructive effects on oyster larvae (most dangerous before the oyster can grow its protective shell). The huge pollock fishery, an important link in the undersea food chain, is diminishing. And down in Australia, acid build-up is dissolving away coral. Besides killing critters outright, carbon dioxide can also scramble a fish’s brain and play havoc with its metabolism. Sea Change boasts impressive underwater photography and a wide range of interviews, but is somewhat hampered by a dry, dispassionate narration. One gets the sinking feeling that ocean acidification is eating another hole in the leaky ship cruising toward environmental apocalypse.

Albert Brooks Impersonation Kit
Years ago I told my kids about a memorable segment from Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in which Albert Brooks performed an hysterical impersonation of Curly from The Three Stooges with the help of a baked potato. “Sounds awesome, Dad,” they said as they inched out of the room. The bit never turned up in any of the rights-controlled Greatest Hits DVDs the Carson estate sold online. But last week, in one of those “Aha!” moments that occur every time I try to think of something to Google rather than doing paying work, I typed: Johnny Carson, Albert Brooks, Curly, baked potato. Aha! The late ‘80s clip is titled The Albert Brooks Impersonation Kit, with Brooks toting a bag of Tupperware containing various foods. I’d forgotten the build-up, which started with Brooks popping a slice of a piping hot spud into his mouth to simulate a heavy breathing Burt Lancaster. Following up with another slice, a dash of hot pepper and the sound of a toy train, Brook’s whistling Curly sends Carson into spasms. Even my son enjoyed the clip (Johnny’s lovin’ it!). Besotted with this easy dose of Johnny Carson nostalgia, I’m wondering what else is out there. What happens if I Google “Johnny Carson, Burt Reynolds and whipped cream?”

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.