May 15, 2013 1:19 pm
Hollywood has long had trouble depicting women. But for a while, things were looking up. Bridesmaids, a movie written by, for and about women, did well at the box office. The Hunger Games had a female heroine. Disney’s Brave won Oscars with a strong female protagonist. But don’t be fooled: women are still extremely underrepresented in Hollywood. According to a recent study, the representation of women is now at its lowest in five years.
The study looked at the top 500 grossing films from 2007 to 2012. In 2012, women represented less than one-third of the speaking characters. For every one female on screen, there are two and a half men. And when women were on the screen, a third of them were in skimpy, sexualized clothing. And 2012 was one of the worst years. Over 50 percent of female teens on screen in 2012 were shown in sexy clothing. So were nearly 40 percent of women between 21 and 39.
And it’s not just women on camera either. The study looked at the top 100 grossing films and found that only 16.7 percent of those films’ directors, writers and producers were women. The authors of the study have some ideas about why that might be. “Industry perceptions of the audience drive much of what we see on-screen,” study author Stacy L. Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “There is a perception that movies that pull male sell. Given that females go to the movies as much as males, the lack of change is likely due to entrenched ways of thinking and doing business that perpetuate the status quo.”
So why does it seem like things are getting better, when they’re not? Flavorwire hypothesizes that it’s because we notice and make a big deal of women lead movies:
We make a big deal when a breath of fresh air like Bridesmaids comes along but forget that every year we also get two braindead Adam Sandler vehicles where the only female role of note is a blankly smiling, blandly supportive wife. Katniss may be the star of The Hunger Games, but for every Collins adaptation, there are a dozen action blockbusters that only make room for women as eye candy. We only got Brave after more than a decade of male-led Pixar ensembles. And there’s certainly no big box-office equivalent to last year’s #5 and #13 movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Lincoln, each of which had two or fewer female roles.
And the idea that women should be depicted more in movies is questioned even by the L.A. Times, which headed the story by asking readers: “Should Hollywood put more and better female characters on screen?” Clearly Hollywood has some work to do.
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May 9, 2013 3:23 pm
There’s a showdown going on in the world of music perception—a question that’s been under investigation for millenia. What is it about music—unlike other types of sounds—that causes it to carry so much emotional baggage?
Forget the message carried by the lyrics of a love song or the chorus of a party anthem. How do the rise and fall of the melody or the pace of the tempo convey emotion? Is there something inherent to music, wrapped up in the way it interacts with our brains and the way we think that causes it to make us feel so many feelings? Or is the wail of the sad trombone just a piece of cultural baggage, something we’ve picked up from societal norms?
On their respective YouTube channels, It’s Okay To Be Smart‘s Joe Hanson and PBS Idea Channel’s Mike Rugnetta square off to tackle the issue. Hanson discusses a bit of new research which shows that similar types of sounds evoke similar emotions, even across cultural barriers.
Rugnetta, on the other hand, counters with the argument that though there is potentially some innate association between a certain tune and a general sense of well being, that anything more than this simple connection is just a matter of socialization.
“While people might be able to recognize emotion in music, even music from other cultures, it doesn’t mean that they actually feel that emotion. Or, even if it does affect them, it might not affect them in the same way or to the same degree with every listen. This challenges the idea that we are hardwired to respond to music in some way,” says Rugnetta.
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May 7, 2013 3:05 pm
Producer and animator Ray Harryhausen, who invented a kind of stop motion model animation called ‘dynamation’ and created special effects for classics such as Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C., died today, NPR reports.
A Facebook page managed by the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation broke the news two hours earlier today that Harryhausen passed away in London at the age of 92. Already, thousands of fans have responded, including the likes of directors Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and others. James Cameron commented, “I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”
George Lucas said simply, “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars.”
Harryhausen began working in stop motion after seeing and being inspired by King Kong in 1933. He began experimenting with animated short films using stop motion, getting his break in 1949 with Mighty Joe Young. The film took home the Academy Award for Best Special Effects later that year. From there, Harryhausen blazed a career producing and directing visual effects for just under two dozen films. The last movie he made was Clash of the Titans, in 1981.
Here, Harryhausen talks about his work in a 1974 interview:
And here is a collection of Harryhausen’s greatest stop motion animation creations:
And here, one of his most famous scenes – the skeleton fight from Jason and the Argonauts:
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May 7, 2013 1:17 pm
The U.S. government has decided to return looted national treasures to their respective countries. Mongolia will get a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar (a slightly smaller cousin to T. rex) skeleton back, and Cambodia will receive two life-sized 10th century Khmer statues called the Kneeling Attendants.
The reconstructed skeleton, which is 8 feet tall and 24 feet long, was unearthed in the Gobi desert in 1946 by a Soviet and Mongolian team, Reuters reports. In 2010, the skeleton arrived in the U.S. from the U.K. along with a customs document that falsely stated that the fossils originated in Britain and that they were only worth $15,000.
Mongolia demanded that the U.S. return the T. bataar skeleton after it was auctioned for $1.05 million last spring by Floridian Eric Prokopi. Here’s how the auction house described the item:
This is an incredible, complete skeleton, painstakingly excavated and prepared, and mounted in a dramatic, forward-leaning running pose. The quality of preservation is superb, with wonderful bone texture and delightfully mottled grayish bone color. In striking contrast are those deadly teeth, long and frightfully robust, in a warm woody brown color, the fearsome, bristling mouth and monstrous jaws leaving one in no doubt as to how the creature came to rule its food chain. Equally deadly and impressive are the large curving claws, with pronounced blood grooves. The body is 75% complete and the skull 80%…
Because of the kerfuffle, the sale was eventually canceled. Charges have since been filed against Prokopi, and the skeleton was returned to Mongolia on Monday. An official from the U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement told Reuters that this “is one of the most important repatriations of fossils in recent years.”
Cambodia, likewise, will soon be reunited with its missing relics. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City received the two sandstone statues, which came as separate broken heads and torsos, as gifts in 1987 and 1992, Archaeology reports. But over the years, evidence mounted that the statues had been looted from Cambodia’s Koh Ker temple during the tumultuous Cambodian Civil War in the 1970s. Witnesses, Archeology writes, can remember seeing the statues in the temple up until 1970 but that they were gone by 1975.
According to the New York Times, the museum assured Cambodia in a letter last month that the statues will be returned as soon as appropriate transit arrangements can be sorted out, though no timeline has been set.
The Met’s decision reflects the growing sensitivity by American museums to claims by foreign countries for the return of their cultural artifacts. Many items that have long been displayed in museums do not have precise paperwork showing how the pieces left their countries of origin. In recent years, at the urging of the Association of Art Museum Directors and scholars, many museums have applied more rigorous standards to their acquisitions.
Cambodian officials have asked the Met to examine another two dozen artifacts that may have been looted, and, according to Reuters, the U.S. is also helping to return additional fossils to Mongolia.
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May 1, 2013 10:59 am
In November 1999, Don Eigler proved that man had truly mastered the atom: not by way of a devastating explosion or constrained reaction, but with art. The physicist, working for IBM, spelled out the company’s name using 35 individual atoms of the element xenon using a scanning tunneling microscope.
Now, scientists use scanning tunneling microscopes “for more than just imaging surfaces. Physicists and chemists are able to use the probe to move molecules, and even individual atoms, around in a controlled way,” says physicist Jim Al-Khalili in a 2004 book. Fourteen years ago, Don Eigler was the first person to do so, an achievement that helped to open the door on the then-nascent field of nanotechnology.
Now IBM is back, and with fourteen more years playing with these techniques, scientists have moved from precisely positioning individual atoms to making them dance. In a new short stop-motion film, A Boy and His Atom, scientists manipulated thousands of individual atoms to make the “world’s smallest movie.” The movie exists on a plane 100,000,000 times smaller than the world as we know and experience it. The boy and his ball are made from molecules of carbon monoxide, and yet gives an image reminiscent of the video games of the early 1980s.
“Though the technology that the team discusses isn’t new,” says the Verge, “they were able to use it in a new way: the black-and-white images and playful music form a strong artistic style that’s reminiscent of early film, but at an entirely different scale.”
For more information about how the movie was made, IBM has released a behind-the-scenes video to accompany their animation.
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