Archive for the 'documentary' Category

Anomie

Okay – I had to look up the definition.  But, once I did, it perfectly describes the Madoff scandal, and two really good movies: “Waltz with Bashir” (an animated documentary by Ari Folman) and “Standard Operating Procedure” (a documentary about Abu Ghraib by Errol Morris, maker of “Fog of War“).

Here’s the definition of “anomie” according to Merriam-Webster:

social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values ; also : personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals

Waltz with Bashir is about the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Israel’s war with Lebanon in the 1980’s.  And Errol Morris gets interviews with Lynndie England and the other “photographers” in Standard Operating Procedure.  

It seems like standards, values, and mores have deteriorated to new lows.  Or, maybe they’ve always been low, but are only now being exposed.

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Duchenne smile

What does a smile say?  Are you truly happy?  Are you uncomfortable?  Did a photographer tell you to say cheese?

In his book BlinkMalcolm Gladwell refers to research done by Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. Ekman is an expert on facial expressions and has written many books, including “Emotions Revealed, Unmasking the Face” and “Telling Lies.

(Oliver Sacks wrote, “No one in the world has studied facial expressions as deeply as Paul Ekman. In ‘Emotions Revealed’ he presents — clearly, vividly, and in the most accessible way — his fascinating observations about the covert expressions of emotions we all encounter hundreds of times daily, but so often misunderstand or fail to see. There has not been a book of such range and insight since Darwin’s famous ‘Expression of the Emotions’ more than a century ago.”)

(Copyright Paul Ekman 2003, “Emotions Revealed,” Owl Books, 2007.)

A Duchenne smile contracts the zygomatic muscles of the cheek and eye, forming crow’s feet. The crow’s feet indicate that the smile is genuine and that the smiler is truly happy. It was discovered by and is named after Guillaume Duchenne.

What got me started on this?  A fascinating blog post by Errol Morris, a documentary filmmaker, whose movie The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004 and the recently released Standard Operating Procedure, a documentary about the Abu Ghraib scandal.

What do the smiles on the faces of Lyndie England and Sabrina Harman mean?  How do you explain the smile? Not only are they smiling, they’re smiling with their thumbs-up – with tortured men and over a dead body. The photograph on the right suggests that Harman may have killed the guy, and she looks proud of it. She looks happy.   But, it’s not a Duchenne smile – there is much more to the story.  Keep reading.

 

Abject Expressionism

ron-english-abject-expressionism.jpg

Morgan Spurlock included paintings by Ron English in his 2004 documentary “Super Size Me”.  In December, English is publishing a coffee table retrospective of his work and the image, “MC Milkshake”, above is on the cover.  You can see more of his work at http://popaganda.com/.  Is it art?  Is English the new Warhol?  Either way I like it.

From Wikipedia:

 One aspect of his work involves ‘liberating’ commercial billboards with his own messages. Frequent targets of his work include Joe Camel, McDonalds, and Mickey Mouse. Ron English can be considered the “celebrated prankster father of agit-pop”, who wrangles carefully created corporate iconographies so that they are turned upside down, and are used against the very corporation they are meant to represent.

billboard.jpg


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