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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A2 MEDIA STUDIES: THE FILM INDUSTRY

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The Cornerhouse, Manchester
The Cornerhouse, Manchester (Photo credit: dullhunk)
We will begin by studying the film industry and so it is advisable for you to look in your study guides and doing some background research its history and the people who influence this powerful and popular medium.

I enclose some links on how to study.  Some of you may think this is unnecessary given your impressive grades but there is always room for improvement.  





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Appeared on Any Questions a couple of weeks ago - as a member of the audience only I'm afraid but an audience is essential, especially on a radio show.  Eddie Mair hosted in the absence of a Dimbleby and took this photo of us before the show commenced.  Can you spot me?  No it's not the woman in the blue and white poco-dot dress!

TICKETS FOR THE TITANIC

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Saw these parodies on a website and thought they made a change from the twee sanctimonious posters dotted around. What do you think?  Do you feel inspired?
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TRYING NEW BLOG APP

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This one's called Blogger-droid. Proofs in the pudding...

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It works!

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For now...

Technology Eh?

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Summer is a time for rest and relaxation - NOT!  I sound like Borat! 

No.  It is of course a time for fiddling and experimenting with... new technology, well technology I might view as new but is probably seen as first generation to you good followers. So I'm using Blogger via a Google Nexus 7 to see if I can post from it. Fingers crossed. Oh why can't everything be simple quill and pen anymore? 

CONGRATULATIONS!

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A MASSIVE well done to all my classes for your excellent results.  All your hard-work and dedication certainly paid off.  Congratulations!

Even Cliff wanted to add his best wishes!  The quality widget on Youtube clearly did not work!





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Friday, 6 July 2012

STRETCH AND CHALLENGE

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Giving the students the opportunity to create their own media blog modelled on this one, has proven extremely engaging. This has formed part of their homework as they can post their independent research onto their blog.  We all become followers of each other's blogs and share information, making  it an independent yet collaborative activity.






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Thursday, 17 May 2012

ADVERTISING

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An example of detailed marketing stratedy by L'OREAL Netherlands.

Follow the link:

http://www.slideshare.net/ibzmir/loreal-marketing-strategy


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

DON'T FORGET!

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To AS Media Studies classes.  We're all meeting up in room G104 at 1 p.m.  Exam starts at 2 so we need to be in the rooms in plenty of time.




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Monday, 9 May 2011

X-FACTOR

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The X Factor: can the UK survive without Cheryl Cole?

As Simon Cowell confirms the Geordie lass is to join him in the US, will the singing show go the way of Britain's Got Talent?

Cheryl Cole confirmed as US X Factor judge
Poll: Will Cheryl Cole be a US success?

Finally it has been confirmed that Cheryl Cole, the formerly punchy but now ever-so-ladylike doyenne of British showbiz, is shipping out to Los Angeles to take her place on the US X Factor judging panel. After months of stories speculating on her suitability for the job, she is finally packing her Vuitton mega-trunks to sit at Simon Cowell's right hand, dishing out encouragement and verbal beatings in equal measure while gold bars are regularly delivered to her dressing room. She's made it.
But what will oor Cheryl bring to the US version of the show – and what does this mean for UK audiences who hang on each no-nonsense Geordie pronouncement; every flash of that entrancing dimple? And will the Americans understand her accent, because apparently some of her L'Oréal adverts have confused them a bit.

As a TV personality (let's put her music career aside for the moment) Cheryl's good qualities are many. She is incredibly, incredibly pretty. Pretty people can have any job they want as long as it's not as a vascular surgeon. She can cry at the drop of a hat without smudging her makeup. Gazing mesmerised at her delicate features gently leaking tears on to the desk, you forget she's a bit rough round the edges. She's one of those weeping angels from Doctor Who. While you're looking at her lovely face, everything is OK.

She has effectively been handed a gold ticket by Simon Cowell. A man who himself doesn't seem to know that much about music can sprinkle his stardust on practically anyone – Piers Morgan for god's sake – and they are instantly granted a licence to criticise, laugh at and belittle fellow members of the human race. And now Cheryl can do it on both sides of the Atlantic.

But will she bother with crappy old England now she's destined for Hollywood? When Dancing with the Stars took off in the US, Strictly judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli spent a fortune on transatlantic flights so they could appear on both shows at the same time. But something tells me Cheryl can't wait to be rid of this tired little country.

Where does that leave us? Witness if you will the latest incarnation of Britain's Got Talent. Michael McIntyre, Amanda Holden and David Hasselhoff are spray-tanned rats, clinging to a sinking ship. None of these shows have much of a shelf life without Cowell. Lord knows how but he's attained some sort of superpower which none of the other judges have and, without him, they have as much clout as Nick Clegg at a Tory party conference.

If the British X Factor carries on without Cowell and Cole, we'll be left with Dannii Minogue trying not to look utterly insulted that the US invitation was never proffered to her, Louis Walsh looking as happy as ever, unaware that anything is actually going on, and who? Sharon Osbourne? Pete Waterman? Dannii and Louis are set dressing. Who will scare the contestants and leave them gibbering with grateful awe now? And which one of the Saturdays will be groomed to take Cheryl's place? I think even the most ardent X Factor fan will find it hard to care.


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DECLINE IN ITV REVENUES

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ITV expected to report first decline in ad revenues for 18 months
ITV advertising revenues in May and June expected to have dropped by 7% and 20% respectively – the first fall since November 2009

Some analysts question whether ITV chief Adam Crozier has used his first year wisely to build for the future. Photograph Justin Williams/ Rex Features
Mark Sweney
The Guardian, Sun 8 May 2011 18.09 BST
Adam Crozier's first year at ITV has had something of an extended honeymoon feel to it thanks to the remarkable recovery in the TV advertising market. However, reality will bite on Wednesday when he announces that the broadcaster is set to report its first fall in ad revenue in 18 months.
Crozier revealed bumper results for 2010 in March, fuelled almost entirely by an outstanding market-beating TV ad sales performance: up 16% year-on-year. ITV's share price flourished this year, reaching four-year highs and it returned to the blue-chip firms of the FTSE 100 this spring – ITV had dropped out in 2008 with losses of £2.7bn.
However, ITV's trading update on Wednesday this week will not be so rosy. The first quarter is expected to look healthy, with TV ad revenues likely to be up about 12% year-on-year and April up about 6%. But May and June are likely to be down at least 7% and 20% respectively – ITV's first revenue fall since November 2009 .
The market has responded warily to reports of a tough summer with ITV's share price falling 25%, to about 72p, since the after-glow of ITV's bumper results pushed it to a three-year high of 95p. Nevertheless, UBS analyst Tamsin Garrity believes that last year's World Cup was going to be a tough act to follow. "What did anyone expect after TV advertising last June leapt more than 40% during the World Cup, an amazing feat by the sales team," she said. She pointed to a string of "catalyst-rich" positives including wiping out net debt, improving the credit rating and pension deficit position, the possible removal of advertising regulations governing ITV1 and next year's London Olympics for why the stock is well underpriced.
But before 2012 arrives, 2011 has to be endured. ITV has to contend with Simon Cowell's almost complete absence from Britain's Got Talent and, far more importantly, this year's X Factor. Viewing of this year's Got Talent is down 10% year-on-year, how much of this is due to the run of bank holidays and fine weather is not yet clear, a worrying erosion of audience but not enough to damage ITV's financial figures.
The recovery in TV advertising has given Crozier the breathing space to implement his five-year turnaround plan, space his embattled predecessors would have dearly loved, yet there is little evidence to date of a masterplan to fix ITV's fundamental problems. ITV remains reliant on cyclical TV advertising. The drive to establish a meaningful digital presence seems as distant as ever with online revenues last year an anaemic £28m of the total £1.77bn netted by the broadcasting and digital division. And ITV Studios, the maker of shows including Coronation Street and Come Dine With Me, went into reverse with revenues down 12.5% and earnings falling by 11%.
Crozier has made much of the need to revitalise the operation, pointing out that the division has not created a global entertainment hit since Dancing on Ice in 2006, and has bought in new talent and earmarked £12m to boost pilot projects. Yet there are those that want something more substantial, such as splashing some of ITV's £1bn cash pile on an acquisition of a production company. However, the chief executive has not warmed to the notion of snapping up All3Media, the heftily price-tagged maker of shows such as Skins and Shameless, and some believe he may look to make a number of smaller acquisitions or invest in a range of producers internationally.
The lack of progress, though, has left analysts with nagging doubts. "The slowdown is likely to shift the focus back to longer term structural pressures with upside increasingly contingent on management's ability to deliver its turnaround strategy," said Daniel Kerven, of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Crozier has had time to play with since he arrived, but the question is whether he has used his first year wisely to build for the future.


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Saturday, 8 January 2011

INSTITUTIONS: ITV

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ITV fights back as advertising rebounds

Revenues up by 11 per cent, but Crozier posts cautious outlook for 2011
By Nikhil Kumar

ITV's 'The X Factor' has proved to be a big hit with advertisersTALKBACK THAMES
ITV’s ‘The X Factor’ has proved to be a big hit with advertisers.

ITV finally gave investors some positive news yesterday as the country’s biggest commercial broadcaster, bolstered by shows such as The X Factor and Downton Abbey, posted higher revenues on the back of a strong rebound in advertising.
Revenues rose by 11 per cent to £1.46bn in the nine months to September, comfortably above the £1.31bn booked for the same period last year. Despite the upbeat results, however, management remained wary of the uncertain economic outlook and struck a note of caution.

The gains were spurred on by a 16 per cent increase in television-advertising revenues in the three months to September, a period which coincided with part of the football World Cup. ITV expects the figure to ease to 10 per cent in the final quarter.

The update comes against the backdrop of a string of successes which promise to underpin the business during the three months to December.

The X Factor has been an evident hit: the price of a 30-second advertising slot on the network during the show’s final weekend are reported to be running at up to £250,000. The broadcaster also drew audiences of 10 million for the finale of Downton Abbey, the period-drama series created by the Oscar-winning scriptwriter Julian Fellowes.
Adam Crozier, who took over as ITV’s chief executive after joining from Royal Mail earlier this year, was, however, careful to put the figures in perspective.
“The television-advertising market has continued to recover strongly,” he said. “However this does not disguise the significant challenges ITV faces and we remain focused on delivering the five-year transformation plan.”

That plan is Mr Crozier’s prescription for overhauling the broadcaster. It was announced during the summer and the strategy includes entering the pay-TV market to generate around half of the company’s revenues from sources beyond advertising.
“It is pretty obvious to me that being so reliant on one extremely volatile and declining source of income is not a healthy place for us to be in the long run,” Mr Crozier said in August. Yesterday, he signalled progress with the transformation drive.
“We have launched HD [high definition] versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 on the Sky platform, we have agreed a new three-year deal for both The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, and we have completed the sale of Screenvision,” he said.

He also highlighted the clouded economic picture, telling investors that “the economic outlook for 2011 is uncertain and we continue to plan on a cautious basis”.
UBS analysts welcomed the chief executive’s tone, arguing that it “will ward off complacency”. Credit Suisse turned its attention to the challenges in the medium term, commending management for setting out a “credible long-term plan”, but giving warning that investors may have to wait until the first half of 2012 before the strategy starts to bear fruit.

“In 2011, the UK Government austerity measures… will make it much more difficult to sustain the positive momentum in advertising revenues,” the broker said, adding that, until the company’s next formal update in March, “ad hoc updates from media buyers on trading in the UK TV advertising market will be important catalysts” for the shares.
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INSTITUTIONS BBC

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02:  A general view of...Image by Getty Images via @daylife Bookmark and Share  From The Independent


More than 6,000 complaints about an Eastenders plot had been logged with the BBC last night and the number is expected to keep rising.

The public reaction was sparked by the storyline in which which Ronnie Branning, played by Samantha Womack, steals a newborn baby after her losing her own to cot death.
BBC executives were forced into defending the plot which was criticised as sensationalist and unrealistic. The website Mumsnet was among the critics. "We appreciate this is a challenging storyline," said executive producer Bryan Kirkwood.

The level of fury has been exceeded only once before – when more than 7,000 viewers objected to the death of Danielle Jones.

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ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA

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Link to excellent on-line study guide:

http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/xAntonyCleo.html#Antony

Sunday, 2 January 2011

INSTITUTIONS: MEDIA REPORTING

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Bookmark and Share Article from The Guardian on the Media's coverage of the Joanna Yeates murder investigation.


Joanna Yeates murder case puts media coverage in the spotlight

Joanna YeatesDavid and Theresa Yeates lay flowers at the spot close to Bristol and Clifton Golf Club where the body of their daughter Joanna Yeates was found. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PAMeet “Professor Strange”, aka “The Strange Mr Jefferies”, landlord of the murdered Joanna Yeates and a “suspect peeping Tom” – at least, and in order of quotation, according to the SunDaily Mail andDaily Mirror. See pictures of “the blue-rinse bachelor” and read (or watch or listen, because TV and radio are deep into this game, too) what any available neighbours will say about him. Then, make up your own mind…

No: don’t! Indeed, wipe your mind blank and hurry on by, becauseDominic Grieve, the attorney general, grows visibly alarmed. “We need to avoid a situation where trials cannot take place or are prejudiced as a result of irrelevant or improper material being published, whether in print form or on the internet, in such a way that a trial becomes impossible,” he warns. In short, the Contempt of Court Act is circling over the media, waiting to smite those who go too far.

But what is “too far”? In much of the world, not least the US, coverage of the Yeates case would seem tame stuff. The US sifts juries for bias then trusts them – and editors know where they stand. But, in England at least, nobody is quite sure any longer. Once upon a time, the moment anyone was charged with an offence, a blanket of enforced silence descended. But too many decades of hunting terrorists and serial killers – and asking the public for help in tracking them down – has widened involvement and pushed back the boundaries of what can be said.

Now any high-profile case can set reporters crawling all over acrime scene and media lawyers fretting at the office. If this or that detail is publicised, will it render a “fair” trial impossible?
It is becoming an impossible line to draw. You may not like “the strange Mr Jefferies” and similar lurid, semi-sourced stuff. You certainly won’t like the thought of trial by newspapers or TV. But how can the net – in a WikiLeaked world – report things that newspapers can’t say? Our own version of contempt is falling into contempt itself. It’s time to begin trusting the good sense of juries more – and begin marching the American way.



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INSTITUTIONS: AMERICAN TV AND HBO

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Bookmark and Share  Article from The Independent on cable TV station HBO.


Star names and big budgets are on the line as cable faces web rivals

Will the advent of internet TV sound the death knell for HBO’s success story?
By Andrew Johnson
Steve Buscemi stars in HBO's latest high-budget series, 'Boardwalk Empire', tracing organised crime in the 1920s
HBO
Steve Buscemi stars in HBO’s latest high-budget series, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, tracing organised crime in the 1920s

When the critically feted US television series Boardwalk Empire bursts on to British screens next month, it will make even the best of our home-grown small-screen dramas look dowdy by comparison.
The lavish serial could also prove a high-water mark in the renaissance of US television which has brought cinematic values – and budgets – to the small screen in recent years.
Analysts argue that the rise of internet television is eating into the business model which allowed the cable company HBO to spend huge sums on Boardwalk Empire and other serials, such as The Sopranos and The Wire, that redefined television over the past decade.
Boardwalk Empire, which will screen here on Sky1, stars Steve Buscemi and records the rise of organised crime in Atlanta, Georgia, during the 1920s. It cost an estimated $70m (45m) to make, with an hour-long, $17m (11m) pilot directed by Martin Scorsese. By contrast, the recent ITV hit drama Downton Abbey cost around 800,000 an hour to make, while the costs of the effect-laden Dr Who are around 1m an hour.
Despite HBO’s successes, according to Peter Bazalgette, who as creative director of Endemol was responsible for the UK hits Big Brother and Deal or No Deal, there is a “cloud on the horizon” for HBO.
The company makes around $1.2bn a year from its cable subscription service which reaches more homes in America – 28.6 million – than there are in the UK. But HBO has seen its subscribers dip for two consecutive quarters – for the first time in six years – and the figure of 28.6 million is its lowest for four years.
“A quarter of television sales in the US last year were internet enabled,” Mr Bazalgette said. “This year will see the launch of internet TV in the UK. The question is whether homeowners are going to pay a lot to subscribe to cable when they can pay as they go and ‘graze’ on the net. It leaves a question mark over the funding of premium content.” Nevertheless, HBO’s subscriber base will still allow it to attract the cream of Hollywood talent in the near future.
Next year, the actors Michael Gambon and Dustin Hoffman will star in the HBO drama Luck, about horse racing; while Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce will star in Mildred Pierce, a mini series based on James M Cain’s 1941 novel about a Depression-era housewife struggling to keep up appearances.
The other big hit for the channel last year, The Pacific, a mini series about the Second World War, was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, while You Don’t Know Jack, a made-for-television movie which aired in April, starred Al Pacino.
The costs may be high but so, too, are the rewards. The Pacific was nominated for 23 Emmys, winning eight. Boardwalk Empire made it into the top 10 of most TV critics’ lists of television series of the year, including that of the American Film Institute; and is nominated for three Golden Globe awards, including best TV drama.
“Boardwalk Empire lived up to both its hype and budget, weaving a complex story of good and evil as it crashed on to the shores of Atlantic City in the 1920s,” gushed The New York Times.
Peter White, the deputy editor of Television Business International, a leading industry magazine, said that more A-list stars are being drawn to HBO because it offers a creative freedom rare in Hollywood, and also supplies a film-size budget.
“I went to the industry screening for the first hour-and-a-half of Boardwalk Empire and it was like watching a movie,” he said. “It cost $17m and there’s no way the BBC can compete with that, and ITV doesn’t have to. Downton Abbey is a step in that direction, although it was partly financed by America’s NBC. A-listers have been working with HBO because they get creative freedom and also the chance to work on projects that result in 20 or 30 hours of screen time.”
GEMS AND TURKEYS
A brief guide to the HBO shows garlanded with critical acclaim and those that were critically panned and canned…
The Hits:
The Sopranos (1999-2007)
A mafia soap opera, based on the domestic and business challenges faced by kingpin Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini); set new standards for television drama.
Sex and the city (1998-2004)
Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her three New York pals tapped into the fantasies of the single, modern working girl.
The Wire (2002-2008)
A slow burner about the Baltimore drugs trade from street corner to mayor’s office; raised the bar higher for TV drama.
Six Feet Under (2001-2005)
A multiple Emmy-winning drama about a funeral-home family; laced with black humour.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-)
Larry David wowed the critics with this half-improvised, excruciating comedy about his alter ego.
True Blood (2008)
Created by Alan Ball, of Six Feet Under, True Blood examined the lives of vampires and humans coexisting in Louisiana.
The Pacific (2010)
This Spielberg-Hanks produced mini series about marines during WWII, raked in viewers and Emmys.
The Misses:
Deadwood (2004-2006)
Based on real events, this expensive series, starring Ian McShane, never took off despite sumptuous sets and photography.
John From Cincinnati (2007)
Not even Luke Perry and debuting after the final episode of The Sopranos could breathe life into this tale about the California surfer community. Cancelled after one season.
Lucky Louie (2006)
This vehicle for comedian Louie CK about a blue-collar family in Boston never rose above 1.5 million viewers.
The Comeback (2005)
Starring Friends actress Lisa Kudrow, written by her and Michael Patrick King. Low audiences did for it.
Unscripted (2005)
Produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, the improvised story of struggling actors with cameos from Brad Pitt and Uma Thurman, proved too much of a vanity project for viewers.
The Mind of the Married Man (2001-2002)
This take on family life from the viewpoint of three good friends in long-term marriages drew a mixed critical response.

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ADVERTISING

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Bookmark and Share Link to feature from The Independent on 10 adverts that shocked the world.



http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/advertising/ten-adverts-that-shocked-the-world-1909328.html

Saturday, 27 November 2010

MAGAZINES

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Why are men’s magazines being left on the shelf?

By Rhodri Marsden
Saturday, 27 November 2010
'Front is targeted at men who are bored in their bedrooms,' says its editor. But are those men now on Facebook?Rex Features
‘Front is targeted at men who are bored in their bedrooms,’ says its editor. But are those men now on Facebook?


What do men want? It’s an imponderable question which I feel strangely unqualified to answer. I suspect there are quite a few men who feel like me: I have an aversion to shopping, contempt for most advertising, only a vague notion of where I’m going in life, a bemused attitude to extreme sports, and a fairly strong conviction that repeatedly showing me images of semi-naked women will do nothing but make me feel depressed, frustrated and grubby. So when I leaf through a pile of men’s magazines, I can’t help wondering who they’re addressing.
But the inner dialogue of British men – their preoccupations, needs and neuroses – is something that editors on these magazines must spend untold hours pondering.
A stack of current issues reveals some of their attempts at connecting with me: FHM asks if I’ve ever paid for sex before telling me what it’s like to be a Californian firefighter; GQ enlists Piers Morgan to “undress” a “Hollywood hottie”, while Zoo prefers to show images of Jodie Marsh sucking a lollipop while a teddy bear obscures her genitals; Esquire gives a taste of what it’s like to freefall from space; Nuts shows some stills from horror films, and a camera-phone snap sent in by Laura (from Burnley) of her in the bathroom with her top off. Men’s Health, by contrast, tells me how to master the “one-arm chin-up”, something that I’ve never even come remotely close to attempting.
While this is obviously a cursory spin through, much of the content could be summed up as cars, tits, danger, six-packs, tits, booze, football, tits, and tits. How’s this approach working out? Not particularly well. The sector as a whole is selling 3.8 per cent fewer magazines than last year, but four titles in particular – FHM, Zoo, Nuts and Loaded – have shown a dramatic fall; FHM has slumped by 18.1 per cent year-on-year, while Zoo has seen a 27.9 per cent fall to 80,026 copies per week. Five years ago it was shifting 260,000.
Following their triumphant launch in the mid-1990s, the magazines that might loosely be termed “lads mags” now appear to be stuck in a decline that, for some, might prove to be terminal. While some of this is down to the fall in consumption of print media, the way that the sector’s decline is borne largely by these four titles has led to a debate about how relevant they are to the 21st-century bloke. Are we rejecting their swagger in a return to a more touchy-feely, new-man approach? Have we decided their portrayal of women is crass and insensitive? Or are we simply spending our cash on booze and protein shakes and getting our kicks from online porn? What does our wildly changeable magazine consumption say about our masculinity?
Drawing parallels between the sale of glossy printed paper and shifts in sexual politics inevitably involves sweeping generalisations and misplaced theories. But the focus groups employed by the industry have returned the same findings for the past few years: men don’t necessarily share the lads mags’ values any longer. Phil Hilton, formerly of Men’s Health, Nuts, and now the editorial director of free men’s weekly title Shortlist (the most widely-read men’s magazine in the UK) believes that much of this is down to the uncertainty faced by young men. “There’s been a social change for them – employment-wise, role-wise, relationship-wise,” he says. “A lot of certainties have faded away. They’re trying to build careers, they’re finding it nerve-racking, and I don’t think those magazines reflect the current mood so much. As for older men, our research shows an almost visceral hatred of that market. I think times are changing.”
Proving the suggestion that we’re more playboy in boom-time and more puritan in a recession is tricky. And it’s equally hard to interpret focus-group findings as broadly representative of men’s attitudes – after all, we’re enamoured enough with the range of men’s magazines to buy 2.12m copies of them every month. But journalist and sociologist, Natasha Radmehr, notes a shift in the portrayal of men in film and television that also runs contrary to the lad mag ethos. “Geeky, sensitive guys have become the new pin-up boys (or protagonists, at least) in a lot of film and TV,” she says. “They’re more attuned to how women feel, and this doesn’t sit well with that image of guys being beer-and-boob-obsessed oafs who need constant guidance on how to deal with the opposite sex.”
The presentation of women in lads mags has always been a controversial topic. I can almost hear the debate play out in my head as I open a copy of Nuts and look at pictures of the actress Maria Fowler. She’s undeniably beautiful, but seeing the legend “34E CHEST!” slapped across the photos makes me roll my eyes and adopt a pained expression.
“You can see the tone of contempt that runs throughout these magazines,” says Matt McCormack Evans, the 22-year-old founder of the campaigning group, The AntiPornMenProject. “Not just the objectification, but also the trivialisation of issues like prostitution. For socially-conscious young men, I think there’s a huge disconnect between what they’re presented with and what they think is right.”
But the publishers aren’t stupid; over many years they’ve established that putting a semi-naked woman on the cover of a men’s magazine is a surefire way of selling it. The issue of GQ I’ve got in front of me features a picture of a pouting, gently perspiring, slightly dishevelled Jessica Alba. Inside the magazine, meanwhile, is a thoughtful piece by The Independent’s Johann Hari exploring the reasons why speed cameras should remain stationed on our highways. The contrast between the two feels almost surreal.
Shortlist, as a free title handed out at railway stations, doesn’t have news-stand pressure and refrains from using such images. It would feel strange if they did; I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a man reading a copy of Nuts or Zoo on public transport, which may well be a quiet indicator of how we really feel about them. But while Phil Hilton stresses that Shortlist will only ever use cover images “that reflect well on the people holding them”, pretending that sex doesn’t sell magazines is ridiculous, according to Joe Barnes, editor of independent men’s magazine, Front.
In stark contrast to the rest of the sector, Front has seen its readership increase by 7.8 per cent in the past year, attracted by its mix of music coverage, irreverent humour, ladette-next-door photo features and a “no fake boobs” guarantee. “It’s depressing how people want to stick an axe in our back,” he says. “People seem to celebrate the demise of lads mags, but if they think they’re celebrating the end of men enjoying looking at naked women, they’re very wrong. I’m really proud of Front – I think it’s a really interesting, creative mag, targeted at young men who are bored in their bedrooms, who just want a bit of irreverence. And girls love it, too. If you could release a version of the mag for them, I think it would outsell Front.”
The almost unimaginable quantity of hardcore pornography on the internet is often cited as a reason why men may be rejecting the milder titillation on offer below the newsagent’s top shelf. But internet porn has been a constant throughout the lives of Nuts, Zoo and Front; they found their niche by focusing on “real women” that their readership might consider more attainable.
According to Fred Attenborough, a lecturer in media studies at Loughborough University, the competition is now coming from an entirely different internet source – and one that men may be equally unwilling to admit to focus groups. “For me, it’s all about Facebook,” he says. “It’s the interactive element. You have young men who were once looking at the girl-next-door in lads mags, now actually interacting with female friends of friends online. As someone who’s surrounded by teenagers at Loughborough, I know it’s going on. They just don’t need the mags anymore. It’s becoming a DIY culture.”
And faced with a long train journey, the lure of Facebook – along with games, the web, text messages, video etc – on a smartphone may be another reason why some magazines’ sales are declining. The more upmarket men’s mags are having an easier time than their lad-mag counterparts. Sales of GQ and Esquire are holding up, while Shortlist’s success – over half a million weekly copies distributed – incorporates similarly “intelligent” content.
All this may have inspired the decision by the publishing house Bauer to pilot a new weekly newsstand title for “successful” men (irritatingly) called Gaz7eta. Ella Dolphin, publisher of Grazia and overseer of the Gaz7eta project, says that focus groups revealed another strong current need for men: mentorship and guidance. “Our testing showed that men have a real interest in the idea of legends, mentors and advisors,” she says. “So our pilot issue has a back-page feature called ‘What I Learnt’, which features Lemmy from Motorhead passing on advice from genuine experience.”
I’m unsure as to whether Lemmy has anything to say to me about my life, but Gaz7eta isn’t alone in identifying some kind of need for mentorship. Hilton references one very popular section of Shortlist’s website, “Instant Improver”. “It partners a newish slot in the magazine called ‘Instructions for Men’, and I think there’s a hunger for this – the lost manly skills. With the end of a lot of industrial work, men are sitting around in offices – but we don’t know how to mend a plug or change a tyre. That makes us feel uncomfortable.”
Manlab, a current BBC2 series presented by James May, adopts a similar thread, while a clutch of American websites – The Art of Manliness, Made Possible, Man of the House and Good Men Project – are also proving popular, with a combination of witty writing and self-improvement tips.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis, a writer for The New York Times Magazine and editor of the Good Men Project, says that the website is something of a leap of faith. “By putting this out there, we’re saying that there are thoughtful men, men with a conscience, who aren’t currently being spoken to in any kind of intelligent or interesting way. So we’re starting an honest conversation about manhood, about what it means to be a good man in America. Twenty-five per cent of our profits go to charity to help at-risk boys, too, so we’re genuinely trying to do good across the board. This is an experiment that’s going on right now with us and other websites, and the signs are positive.”
My inability to wrestle with fuse wire without first consulting my dad doesn’t really bother me unduly; I find myself watching Manlab more because it’s gently funny and nicely researched. The author and journalist Mark Simpson also believes that this reclamation of masculinity is merely entertainment. He sees the only real evidence of self-improvement as being physical – as demonstrated by the huge success of Men’s Health. “The victory here is that a magazine with men’s tits on the cover has become Britain’s bestselling men’s magazine,” he says. “That’s happened because it focuses on men themselves, their neuroses – and particularly their own bodies.” It’s a title that’s celebrated within the industry because of the way its incredibly rigid formula – particularly its obsession with abdominal muscle development – has succeeded in getting almost a quarter of a million men to part with £3.99 every month. What’s less clear is the readers’ motivation for doing so.
Suraya Sidhu Singh, the editor of women’s erotic magazine Filament, isn’t sure that it’s about attracting women. She believes it’s a culmination of the growing issue of male vanity. “It’s strange: they’re marketing a body image, an appearance in men that women aren’t necessarily into. For some men, it’s become a competitiveness thing; I’m sure that some believe that it will make them hot for the girls, but it’s not necessarily the case.”
This comes as a relief to me; my own physique bears as much similarity to the front cover of Men’s Health as it does Angling Times. “I think this is more about how men feel about themselves when they look in the mirror,” says Simpson. “Men’s magazines today have to speak to men directly about their interests, and if the success of Men’s Health is anything to go by, they’re mostly interested in themselves.” Young men of the 1970s would probably regard their modern counterparts’ willingness to openly discuss the merits of various brands of hair gel utterly baffling.
Perhaps the feminist argument is right: men are now being put in the position that women have been in for decades (if not centuries), in that we’re being pressured to look a certain way, and persuaded that certain products are needed to achieve that. I can certainly find no other explanation for the quantity of Nivea-branded items in my bathroom. “I think men’s magazines have done what they were invented to do,” says Simpson, “and that’s to deliver high-end advertising to a market that had remained resolutely unpenetrated. Loaded came up with the formula for getting men to buy glossies. FHM perfected it. And now we’re buying the products they advertise. But we’re advertised at in a million different ways, now. So magazines are finding themselves caught in a pincer action between a lack of interest in print media, and the fact that they don’t really have a function anymore.”
The columnist Suzanne Moore believes that magazines will continue to struggle to speak to men. “Women are used to being identified as a consumer group,” she says. “We’ve been addressed this way for 50 years. But men identify themselves more by what they do, and I’m not sure that issuing them with instructions on how to be a man is something they necessarily appreciate. The magazines are almost becoming manuals. And I think men like to assume that they know what they’re doing – which of course they don’t.”
Do I want, or need, to be told how to be a man? For decades there’s supposed to have been some kind of crisis of masculinity, but there are so many cross-cutting discourses that it’s impossible to know exactly what that crisis is. Perhaps no wonder, then, that the failing magazines feel they’re on something of a wild-goose chase. But according to Phil Hilton, it’s simple. “It’s just about arming yourself up for relationships and working life, making the best of yourself. Find the right woman, try not to be a total shambles at work, look as if you know what you’re doing when you leave the house in the morning.” If that’s all that us men want, it’s a fairly modest ambition. But it’s one that Jodie Marsh, sucking on a lollipop, probably isn’t going to be able to help me with.

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Saturday, 13 November 2010

MEDIA STUDIES - REPRESENTATION - VILLAINS WITH BRITISH ACCENTS

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Hannibal (2001)Image via Wikipedia Bookmark and Share  An interesting article from the BBC on why so many villains in American films have British accents.  
It has often been asked why the bad guy in (chiefly American) movies always speaks with an English accent. The answer has to do with two interlocking concepts: that of stereotype and that of the connotations of the English accent in America.
The Power and Convenience of Stereotypes
Most of the biggest-grossing Hollywood movies, for all their merits, are generally not replete with plotlines driven by unique or complex characters. The age of such productions as Lawrence of Arabia, in which the character of one of the most fascinating men ever to have lived is explored over the course of nearly four hours of film, is decidedly over. Today’s moviegoing audiences won’t stand for it, and even if they would, the big movie production houses are rarely willing to take the risk. They prefer to populate their movies with characters that are instantly recognisable: The Down-and-out Little Brother, the Amusing Ethnic Guy, and the Tough, Bitchy Battleaxe Who Is Revealed To Be Warm-Hearted At The End, Coming To The Aid Of Our Less Experienced Heroine. These are stereotypes, massive distillations of recognisable trends and tendencies. You may know people like this, but stereotypes have none of the uniqueness that makes the individual. Real battleaxes and ethnic guys you know are real and individual. Stereotypes provide the audience with prepackaged characters, often accessorized with easily recognisable motivations and predictable one-liners, sparing everyone (producers and audience both) the need to develop and understand a unique persona. With the valuable screen minutes thus saved, moviemakers can add more explosions and gratuitous sex scenes.
However one stereotypical character you’ve probably never met in real life is the Evil Genius. And this presents a problem for filmmakers.
The English Accent in America
The solution they came up with was admirably clever. Drawing on the legends of such gentlemanly criminals as Edward Pierce, and combining them with the American perception of the English accent1, the Sophisticated Evil Genius was born, to populate villainous roles in film on countless occasions.
The accent most commonly employed in this manner is received pronunciation (or RP). This and other English accents, and sometimes even Scottish or Welsh accents as well2, in America have a ring of sophistication and intelligence. This association possibly stems from frontier times, when among the rough and tumble talk of the wild west the less altered speak of genteel folks from the east stuck out conspicuously. It may have to do with the general impression of Great Britain as the ‘Old World’: a place of tradition and schooling and nobility. Also, the concept of the British as the ‘old masters’ and British influence as an unjust yoke to be thrown off is deeply ingrained in American cultural history. In any case, though most Americans don’t know what RP is, it sounds smart to them.
This phenomenon has led to the creative use of accents to be found in Robin Hood movies. Beginning with Errol Flynn’s classic portrayal, and leading up to Kevin Costner’s laughable (and anachronistic) accent in Prince of Thieves3, Hollywood Robin Hoods have had American accents. The Sheriffs of Nottingham have, naturally, spoken with English accents.
Star Wars: a Case Study
The original Star Wars trilogy4 is an interesting case. On the side of evil we have the Empire, whose officers sound quite British. The baddest of the bad, however, is Darth Vader, voiced by James Earl Jones, an American. It is interesting to note, though, that casting Jones was a decision that came late in the film and he merely overdubbed the lines of the British actor who played Darth Vader. Also, Vader was redeemed at the end of The Return of the Jedi, and imperial officers were not. On the side of good, most of the characters had American accents, including the über-American, space cowboy Han Solo. But there is an exception in the Star Wars movies, as well. Sir Alec Guinness gives the role of Obi-wan Kenobi his most deliciously wise English voice. He is a remnant of the old order, a mentor guiding our young brash hero, and is still in line with the prevailing stereotypes.
History of the Villainous Accent in American Film
In previous times, Hollywood stars were American, while character actors came from everywhere else. Your American star carried the film, and never played a villain because it might tarnish their image. The role of the villain was handed to a stock of character actors. Any US actor wanting to be a star some day might avoid the villainous role, whereas British character actors have always been more flexible. The same applied with crossing media. Once an American actor broke into films, it used to be seen as career death to go back to TV, but this limitation was rarely applied to the British.
The English accent in film has had a unique history. The casting of bad guys has often been politically motivated. During the first half of the century, they often had German accents, and during the Cold War, the thrillers of the era naturally had Russian bad guys. However, ever since film has become a popular medium has there been an overt political need to cast Britons as baddies. As mentioned above, the connotations of the accent come from centuries of anti-imperialistic fashionable thought. Even so, modern Americans don’t necessarily associate modern Britons with the big, bad Empire of yesteryear. It’s the accent that’s seen as evil, not the nationality5. It has become merely a stereotypical way of indicating the bad guy, a job once done by white and black cowboy hats or the glow of a cigarette in a dark alley.
While some people who speak with British accents in real life find this phenomenon offensive and yet another example of American arrogance, others see it differently. To quote one Researcher:
As an Englishman born and bred I have to say that I’m quite fond of the American tendency to cast my countrymen as the villain of the piece. He might always fall foul of the hero and/or his own devious plots at the end of the film, but he always gets the best lines and brings an impeccable style to the dance that you just can’t get with a US accent. Alan Rickman, Charles Dance, Jeremy Irons and many others always steal the scene away from the likes of Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks every time.
Some Examples
Please note - the following list contains potential spoilers, as even with the strong signifier that the character is English, the villainy of some of the ones listed below is only revealed as a late twist in the plot.
Gone in Sixty Seconds
Tango and Cash
The Aristocats
Alan Rickman in Die Hard (a case of an English actor playing a Germanic character with a slight accent), Help! I’m a Fish, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Quigley Down Under.
Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs6.
Basil Rathbone in Anna Karenina, David Copperfield, Son of Frankenstein and The Mark of Zorro7
Ben Kingsley in Sneakers.
Betty Lou Gerson as the definitive villainess, Cruella DeVille in 101 Dalmations (see also American actress Glenn Close playing the same role for the live-action remake).
Charles Dance in Last Action Hero.
Christopher Lee in (among many others) Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Claude Rains in Notorious8.
David Bowie in Labyrinth and The Last Temptation of Christ (in which all the non-Roman biblical characters are played by Americans).
Dougray Scott in Mission: Impossible 2.
George Sanders in Rebecca and Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book.
James Mason in North by Northwest , Salem’s Lot and The Verdict.
Jeremy Irons in Die Hard With a Vengeance (where again, it’s an English actor playing a Germanic character), The Lion King and The Time Machine.
John Lithgow in Cliffhanger and Shrek (American actor hamming as British, though Lithgow has also played his fair share of homegrown villains, too).
Jonathan Hyde in Jumanji
Joss Ackland in Lethal Weapon 2 (British actor, South African accent!)
Pam Ferris in Matilda
Patrick Stewart in Conspiracy Theory
Peter Cushing in Star Wars9 (an example of the Imperialism mentioned above being used as short-hand to differentiate between the old order (Jedis and the Empire) and the new (the Rebellion Alliance).
Pierce Brosnan in Mrs Doubtfire10.
Ray Milland in Dial M for Murder.
Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park (although his character in the film version was much more benign and unconsciously dangerous than in the books).
Sir Ian McKellen in X-Men11
Steven Berkoff in Beverly Hills Cop.
Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (alongside Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn, both sporting East-European accents).
Timothy Dalton in The Shadow.
Tom Wilkinson in Rush Hour.
1 Though we use the term ‘English’ throughout this entry, accents ranging from Scots to Boston Brahmin have been used in this manner.
2 The distinction between these is often difficult for American ears to discern.
3 This was later spoofed by Cary Elwes in the film Robin Hood: Men in Tights when he speaks the line ‘Unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent!’
4 Episodes IV-VI. While Episodes I and II (at time of writing) do present some interesting use of accents that are worthy of analysis, that is beyond the scope of this entry.
5 An exception to this use of accents occurs in historical dramas, such as Pocahontas, Braveheart or The Patriot (which all coincidentally star Mel Gibson) in which the British actually are the bad guys.
6 Although Hopkins is playing Lecter with an Anglicised American accent, to most he just sounds English. Which is strange, considering he’s Welsh
7 Though he more than made up for it by playing good guy Sherlock Holmes in lots of movies, too.
8 Though the hero, Cary Grant, is also English, his accent is not… quite.
9 The first film, later subtitled ‘A New Hope’.
10 An Irish actor ‘playing’ an Englishman.
11 Here, McKellen continues the tradition of playing Eastern-European characters with a cut-glass English accent, whereas his character in Apt Pupil, former Nazi officer Dussander, has a strong German accent. McKellen’s casting in both films was, however, almost certainly down to having a theatrical English knight for the respective parts.

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MEDIA STUDIES - ZOMBIES

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I'm really enjoying this series.  Just hope it maintains such high standards.  Plenty of British actors in it too which is a trend in American TV at the moment.  Below is a review from The Guardian.                
Sam Wollaston
They love us over there. There’s a new addition to the list of Brits who star, as Americans, in big American TV dramas, a list that already includes Hugh Laurie, Ian McShane, Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver, Idris Elba, Dominic West and Joseph Fiennes. Now add Andrew Lincoln. Yes, Egg from This Life and whatshisname from Teachers; now he’s Rick Grimes, a police officer in Georgia, with an awful lot on his plate. He’s having to deal with the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.
And he’s excellent. I’m not properly qualified to judge the accent – you’d need an American for that – but he’s convinced me. I’m not normally a massive fan of the zombie drama, apart from Shaun of the Dead, obviously. But The Walking Dead, based on the comic book of the same name, is quality. There’s an eeriness to it, a cinematic feel, and a languidness that both suits its southern setting, and is such a relief after all the manic attention-deficit dramas such as Fast Forward and The Event. It doesn’t mean things don’t happen – they do, majorly – but they happen in time. And because it’s not 100 mile-an-hour splatter-gun action, there’s time for the tension to gnaw away at you. There’s something of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road about it, as well as Dawn of the Dead.
And man is it grisly. The zombies’ state of decay varies, from a look that most of us can achieve the morning after a big night, to vile creatures that lack flesh and bottom halves and drag themselves along the ground trailing their entrails. I can’t believe they ate that poor horse, too! Maybe those ones were French zombies. Zeurmbeez.
It’s a shame The Waking Dead is hidden away on FX. But that’s where The Wire started, too; maybe it will be picked up by someone further to the left on the listings pages. Otherwise, if you haven’t got all the channels, it might be a case of waiting for the box set.
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