Digital Prospector: Girl power with Goldieblox. The Alexopoulus Effect. Sandra Bullock phones home.

Plus, the best of create-your-own-Seattle-ad-campaign.
Plus, the best of create-your-own-Seattle-ad-campaign.

Crosscut archive image.

Jonas Cuaron's short film Aningaaq is up for an Oscar.

This advertisement for GoldieBlox, a company specializing in hands-on toys for girls, has gone viral (7 million hits!) thanks to its peppy theme of girl empowerment, an eye-catching Rube Goldberg contraption and a reworked version of the Beastie Boys’ hit “Girls” which famously celebrated a woman’s skills at washing dishes, doing the laundry and generally cleaning up the morning after the Boys had fought so hard “for their right to party.” The ad is meant to encourage young girls in engineering and science. But the Beasties are none too happy with the not-so-subtle slam against their misogynistic manhood. Beastie lawyers have filed a copyright infringement suit, and they might just win, especially since the GoldieBlox ad may be in line for a 2014 Super Bowl slot.

Bringing Life to Still Images
I wouldn’t call Yorgo Alexopoulos a household name, but he invented a technique which has since become a ubiquitous, and rather annoying gimmick in theatrical and TV documentaries. The digital video artist devised a method for creating 3D spatial separation within a still photograph. (This allows parts of the picture to move while other sections don't.) The trick is a go-to godsend for filmmakers stuck working with archival photos, but unlike the sinuous slow zooms and fluid pans perfected by PBS director Ken Burns, the “Alexopoulus Effect” has become a distracting contrivance. In this video we meet the artist and learn how he came up with his revolutionary idea, which he debuted to startling effect in the 2002 documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, a sui generis portrait of the legendary 1970s producer Robert Evans (Chinatown, The Godfather).

Silent Scream
Okay, so it’s an ad for the AARP.  But anyone who has had to negotiate the bureaucratic hassles involved in dealing with the dementia and care of an aging parent will appreciate the agonizing, primal — and silent — screams from the sons and daughters in this 30-second PSA, part of AARP’s campaign during November’s National Family Caregiving month.

If you’ve watched Alfonso Cuarón’s spellbinding Gravity, you’ll recall a scene towards the end of the film when Sandra Bullock’s distress call connects with a disembodied voice in the stratosphere. A frustrating and garbled conversation ensues, involving an unrecognizable language, barking dogs and a crying baby. In this short film directed by Cuarón’s son — and Gravity co-screenwriter — Jonas, we see the other end of that conversation. An intriguing pan across an icy tundra reveals an Eskimo monitoring a rudimentary communications set-up which begins to crackle with Bullock’s mayday alert. Warner Brothers is entering Aningaaq in the Oscar race even though it was intended only as a special feature on the upcoming Blu-ray. The seven-minute film isn’t all that compelling, until the revealing moment when the camera tilts skyward for the final shot.

Commercial Seattle
This create-your-own-Seattle-ad-campaign link was recently featured in a New York Times piece, which tells you it must have been an exceptionally slow news day. As part of an initiative to encourage ad agencies to make more commercials in the state, Commercialize Seattle is mocking and ironic to the point of self-cancellation. The site invites visitors to twiddle with ad clichés and filming locations, resulting in a lot of pointless and silly scenarios that will never, ever be actually filmed. “The campaign spoofs the image of Seattle as a nirvana for the noncommercial and a haven for haters of hucksters,” says the Times, but you can find more humor and pay-off in a handful of those great Pemco bus cards that lovably skewer Northwest stereotypes. Their “We’re a lot like you ... a little different” campaign is still going strong. (Video 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.