April 13, 2010

Charisma, Car Chases and Chocolate


The world of online video increases in complexity every day as networks, cable companies and media giants (not to mention amateur producers and directors) scramble to get in on the action. Join me every other week as I sift through the video universe to find quality clips worth watching.


Clip Pic #1. My life is: continually getting better

American Express and Tribeca Film Festival sponsored a 15-Second Clips competition, in which participants created a clip based on completing one of a variety of phrases ("My first job is...," "My wildest dream is...," "My biggest challenge is...," etc.).

I love this example of participatory media coming together with advertising because of its simplicity. The clips are short, yet each ends with a thoughtful, amusing or downright hilarious punch as the filmmaker wraps up his story with the completion of the sentence, "My life is (blank). My Card is American Express."

Consumers take the familiar slogan and make it their own. And for those of us who have no desire to create our own advertising messages, it's enough to smile at the clever workings of the minds of others.

For example, the clip that won Top Honors shows, in grainy sepia tones, a man hammering at an anvil, climbing a flight of iron stairs with something unwieldy tucked under his arm, crossing a rooftop in the rain. He stands on its edge, raising his arms to unfurl what one can only assume is a pair of homemade wings. The voiceover says, "My wildest dream is unfinished." The closing message: "My life is yours."

It's provocative, but my favorite of those in the finalists gallery has to be #12791, "My Indulgence Is Chocolate," in which a white bowl is placed on a counter and filled with Hershey's Syrup. A man dunks his face into the chocolate and rises up, dripping, with a sigh of satisfaction that even non-chocolate lovers can understand. The closing message: "My life is continually getting better." (To find the clip in the 15-Second Clips gallery, search by filmmaker Federico Hatoum.)


Clip Pic #2. "Treat Me Better"

Anyone who has ever played with Matchbox cars will love this clip.

Filmed to a driving beat from German techno band Northern Lite, Treat Me Better shows a robbery and resulting police chase. During the four-minute video, police cars slam into buildings, burst through fences, get crushed by bulldozers, and crash into the obstacles that the suspect's car manages to avoid. Predictably, the cops win out as the bad guy spins out of control into a police barricade. Dust flies, sirens wail and good prevails, as the suspect is apprehended in front of a billboard urging, "Serve your city. Join the police."

What makes the clip so wonderful is that the scenery is all handmade, the cars are the size of Matchbox cars, and they are "driven" by people's hands who steer and push them through their paces.

The clip is funny, but also haunting: in a subtle way it's a reenactment of childhood. It's exactly how I used to play with Matchbox cars, acting out high-speed chases, complete with mouth noises. But I could never get the cars to crash into each other in just the right way, and I never had such cool obstacles for the vehicles to crash into. The makers of Treat Me Better managed to make the Matchbox car chase look exactly as I envisioned it in my head all those times.


Clip Pic #3. CBS Fall Previews

Those who follow the media (but who don't get to head to New York for the upfront presentations) may be eager to see previews of the new fall shows that are being announced by the networks.

I was disappointed that CBS is the only network I found so far that showed video of next season's new shows -- I was hoping to see a clip of NBC's The Black Donnellys, about four Irish-American brothers who live a life of crime in Manhattan -- but I'm a sucker for previews and the nearly three-minute-long clip is worth watching if only to see James Woods, smarmy yet apparently likeable as a charismatic, self-confident attorney. (Spike Lee directs the pilot.)

Other shows previewed on the clip include The Class (which had me chuckling but made me wonder if it was one of those where all the funniest moments are in the preview) and Jericho.

But for those in-the-know, CBS hosts a site for the "CBS Upfront" which includes the entire schedule for next season plus some selected video clips, including one devoted to Shark alone and another really quite hilarious one for The Class.

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