Cinema Bite

genuine critiques that will quench your appetite for all things pop culture

Category: Pop Culture Misc.

A New Age of Comedy In 6 Seconds or Less

Vine, vine logoThanks to the Internet we now have various mediums and genres of humor. The first wave of mainstream Internet humor began with YouTube, which in essence brought the type comedy of from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to your fingertips. Finding something to laugh at online became a matter of searching for your own comedy treasures on YouTube for as long as your procrastinating heart desired.

Yet Internet humor has recently grown beyond YouTube and onto quicker, more immediate platforms. Instead of devoting time to watching videos of varying lengths, we can now be laughed to tears in six seconds or less. With the invention of Vine and the creation of memes and gifs, Internet humor has now become a wholly new language of its own and one that is constantly evolving.

Vines offer the ability to pack as many visuals and sounds as possible into videos of six seconds or less. A few years ago it might have seemed impossible to create something funny in such a limited length, but Vine users have found ways to make both hilarious and artful videos with the tool. While some utilize it to make inventive stop motion shorts, others manipulate pre-existing footage, enact spoofs of pop culture, imitate cultural norms, or capture candid moments. There are so many types of Vines now that they can grouped in sub-genre categories: Smack Cam Vines, White People vs. Black People Vines, Girls Vs. Guys Vines, Drive-Thru Prank Vines, Dubbed Music Vines, and many, many more.

Yet regardless of how many types of Vines exist, the phenomenon itself is what’s astounding. Instead of spending varying lengths of time watching funny YouTube videos — we’re all guilty of those binges — we can now get the same kind of comedy and entertainment in an instant. From watching a kid attempting to dance sexy only for his dog to hump him, to a terrible (yet incredibly hilarious) dub over a Beyonce performance, to a dog “dancing” to 50 Cent, these little gems make us laugh so hard with so little.

But here’s the Vine catch: you can’t just watch one. The first one’s hilarious, then the next isn’t quite as good so you keep clicking forward until over two hours have passed of non-stop Vine viewing (true story). With so much humor jam-packed into only six seconds you’ll find yourself craving more, curious about what other clever ways people have devised to make you laugh.

However, unlike a YouTube video that you can sit with for a while or watch singularly, Vine allows no time for a break. Since Vines are on auto-replay, as soon as one ends you can either watch it again (if it’s funny enough), skip to the next, or pause it (which is almost difficult since the videos are so quick). You may find yourself laughing at one Vine and clicking to next only to continue laughing more, leaving you a mere moment to catch your breath. In just a few minutes you can consume nearly 30 (give or take if you rewatch some) separate Vines; that’s 30 separate six second movies, or 180 seconds of unrelated footage, or 30 different ways of making you laugh or wowing you. That is a lot of activity for a mind to handle, so much that you probably couldn’t stop to name more than five you fully remembered.

The Internet has done a lot of miraculous things, but in the realm of immediate humor gratification it has succeeded to condense comedy to the tiniest, quickest fragment possible. If six seconds of comedy made by a stranger can make us laugh, will we continue to have the patience for a two hour stand-up special or a 90 minute comedy film.

Vine is fun, accessible, and rather genius; instant comedy for the man or woman on the go. However, it’s also vastly changing the way we consume comedy and entertainment, what we require to laugh, and our patience for humor. Technology may be changing comedy, but as long as it keeps us laughing it can’t be that bad, can it?

A version of this article was originally featured on RevUpTransmedia.com on October 7, 2013.

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The TV Binge: Watch at Your Own Risk

"Orange Is the New Black"Retrospectively I can chunk the last year of my life into TV binge phases. “Law and Order: SVU,” my go-to streaming show, remains at the core with other series like “Parks and Rec” or “Portlandia” highlighting summer or fall seasons. It even seems that I more easily remember these periods of my year mainly by what shows I was watching, by what I was spending the majority of my free time consuming.

“Portlandia” and “Parks & Rec” both shaped my 2012 streaming summer, the latter of which bled into the fall. My winter was equally divided between “Downton Abbey” and “American Horror Story,” a suitable pair to balance excessive streaming of the other — a cup of English Breakfast always soothes supernatural nightmares. However this past summer was my true initiation into my binge-watching addiction, instigated by the recently most binge-watched show ever, “Orange Is the New Black.”

When “Orange” debuted on Netflix in late June it was one of the few new series of the summertime hiatus and the only series where the entire first season premiered in full to stream. As many other critics have proclaimed, the first few episodes were semi-engaging, but nothing quite as addictive as the show turned out to be. Then after three days and many hours of sleep lost, I found myself starved for more lesbian prison drama. I had never watched an entire season start to finish, or any show until 2 a.m. for three consecutive days. This marked a new era of binge-watching and everyone was hooked.

When the first season of “Orange” was over I didn’t know what to do with myself so I transitioned my new binge habit to one of the many shows I’d never had the time to start before. Thus, my “Breaking Bad” addiction commenced. During the month of July watching the series became my usual evening/weekends routine, going from episode to episode as easily as Walt cooked one meth batch to the next, becoming addicted to a show that increasing became about addiction.

Sure, it can be said that TV binge watching devalues the quality of individual episodes. We absorb less when we watch four or five in one day and the suspense and anticipation that is characteristic of modern drama TV is eliminated. We probably even appreciate episodes less since it becomes harder to remember and cherish specific elements when we’re infiltrated by them at fast paces.

Yet this kind of speed watching is exactly what we want, to overdose on our favorite shows without having the previously mandatory patience from one weekly episode to the next. Our current expectations of immediate entertainment mean we want everything at once and at our fingertips. And once something runs out and we’re forced to be patient? As “Orange” revealed, we will be. Most people finished the first season in under a week, but didn’t know what to do next. Then the Internet blew up over the show for the remainder of the summer with bloggers continuing to dissect each and every angle of it.

So maybe then binge watching doesn’t mark a loss in quality or appreciation. This controlled type of binging, where we only get small doses at a time, floods us, but then squeezes us dry so that we have to return to re-watch and re-inspect what we may have missed. Just as we were only given one season of “Orange” at a time, we were also painfully teased with an 11 month intermission in the final season of “Breaking Bad.” Sure we can binge-watch the series all at once leading up to the premiere of fifth season’s second half, but then we’re still forced to watch the end of Walter White’s story in the traditional weekly episode manner. Of course once the full series is added to Netflix the case will be different, but there is nevertheless a game of push and pull here with networks serving us an unlimited buffet just to hold back the desert a little longer.

The modern age of television watching has become one big tease, and now unlike ever before it’s up to us how much we want to indulge in. We can cook one batch, space out our episode viewing, and walk away from the sooner-to-be addiction. Or we can take over the meth business, watch every available “Breaking Bad” episode as fast as possible, then sweat out the finale an episode at a time. Pick your TV poison.

A version of this article was originally featured on RevUpTransmedia.com on September 27, 2013.

The Dream of the 90s is Alive in 2013 (Pt. III)

The primary difference between the recent 90s obsession as compared to hipster praise of other eras is that, as Claire Suddath of Time pointed out, “This new nostalgia wave…is hitting the very people who lived through it for the first time.” Instead of embodying an era we originally had no existence in, we’re now mimicking our own youth.

This recent 90s wave first brings to mind the notion of irony. In a New York Times Op-Ed piece “How To Live Without Irony,” Christy Wampole calls the hipster a “contemporary urban harlequin [who] appropriates outmoded fashions.” For Wampole this obsession with the past, 90s or other, is due to the belief that innovation has been exhausted and that the present has little to offer. She understands hipster culture as an ironic way of living, in such that the millennial generation has regressed as of a sarcastic response to today. However, Wampole’s argument only gets at a small slice of what is really going on; there’s another ideology that has contributed to the 90s rebirth: nostalgia.

The term “nostalgia” dates back to the late 17th century when it was first coined as a severe kind of homesickness. In her essay on the topic author Linda Hutcheon describes nostalgia as a psychological longing for a time that we cannot obtain, as opposed to a place or location – specifically “a time of youth.” Along with Suddath’s insights, this hipster nostalgia can be understood as an emotional and psychological yearning for youth. Here is where nostalgia takes the place of irony: we are no longer ironically sporting the good and bad objects of our parents and grandparents’ youths, we genuinely miss those of our own.

But why exactly do we miss the 90s so much, since, in all honesty, it wasn’t that great to begin with? In “Notes on Camp” Susan Sontag maintained, “What was banal can, with the passage of time, become fantastic.” It is primarily this distance from our youth that enables it to become so much more desirable. The emotional response to such objects—and we all get emotional when we scroll through those 90s-themed BuzzFeed lists or when we watched *NSYNC at the VMAs—is caused by first by process of aging, and then a clashing of the present with the past, the modern with the antiquated.

This is literally what is happening with the current 90s rebirth: we’re using modern forms of technology to revisit our youth. From BuzzFeed lists like “55 Toys That Will Make 90s Girls Nostalgic” and the 90s-hashtag Tweets that caught Nickelodeon executives’ attention, to Instagram’s mimicking of analog photography, we revel in our childhood via the gadgets of our adulthood. Yet this fusion of the present and past is not single-handedly nostalgia; millennials undeniably long for a return, but they certainly don’t want to give up the many modern inventions contemporary culture has to offer.

The bizarre predicament of nostalgic hipsters is that they want a return to youth, but in their own self-fashioned, self-appropriated version of it. Hipsters have become the curators of the past, manipulating objects of their and other’s youth with modern technology to “pick and choose pop-culture mementos and toss the rest,” as Suddath proclaimed. Maybe nostalgia and irony are the only bearable methods of deflecting our current discontent. Maybe technology has just made an already existent nostalgia more apparent.

Yet when a longing for the past is not merely celebrated by consumers, but also exercised by artists, a more significant shift has occurred. Sure, pop culture is giving the public what they want—a return to a cherished youth—but history proves that innovation and the challenging of aesthetics are what further culture. It’s only a matter of time until we’re sick of the 90s again and craving something truly unprecedented. But who’s going to break the mold and finally define a new era?

This article was originally featured on RevUpTransmedia.com on September 18, 2013.

The Dream of the 90s is Alive in 2013 (Pt. II)

Icona PopJust because the past is celebrated doesn’t mean it’s suddenly relevant. But when emblems of the past replace contemporary aesthetics and when nostalgia becomes active rather than passive, that is when the real shift occurs.

While trends in television may reflect a current sentimental longing for the past, it is the Millennials, or contemporary hipsters, who are actually recreating the 90s and making it cool again.

When you turned on the radio this summer you undoubtedly heard Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It” endlessly. “Thrift Shop” unabashedly celebrates and pokes fun at the hipster nostalgia that Millennials are guilty of indulging it — thrifting and wearing styles of the past.

“I’ma take your grandpa’s style, I’ma take your grandpa’s style, No for real – ask your grandpa – can I have his hand-me-downs?”

While “Thrift Shop” may not necessarily praise 90s culture and fashions specifically, it marks a trend in recent pop music where a past decade is clearly thriving. But most importantly, people fucking love it. Did I mention that “Thrift Shop” was number one for six straight weeks, is currently the highest selling single this year, and is the best selling U.S. hip hop song to date? This of course isn’t because of what the song is about, Macklemore is incredibly talented and it’s a great pop song; but it does go to show how strongly our culture identifies with this nostalgic craze.

Take Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” the power anthem of the summer which every festival goer this year jumped up and down to screaming the catchy chorus. (Guilty). But what exactly do they and we love so damn much?

“You’re from the 70’s, but I’m a 90’s bitch!”

Ahh, that’s right, the new era of our obsession. Icona Pop is essentially the 1990s packaged and ready to go for 2013. Their sound, their lyrics, and even their look extols the decade — just look at Jawo’s signature bowl cut à la 90s Halle Berry and young Leo DiCaprio. If they don’t scream 90s then the songwriter behind “I Love It,” British artist Charli XCX certainly does. With her goth aesthetic and 80s-synth meets 90s-inspired sound (her debut album was named after Tarantino’s 1993 film True Romance and she samples from 90s staples The Craft, Cruel Intentions, and American Beauty in multiple songs), it is no doubt Pitchfork called her a “would-be 90s pop star.”

Yet 90s references in music aren’t only found in 2013’s mainstream artists, but in underground ones as well. Up-and-coming female rapper Brooke Candy exploits 90s fashions more than any rapper currently, flaunting skyscraper platform sneakers, gold teeth, and insanely long decorated fake nails. Brooke Candy’s “Das Me” video is pure 90s LA hip hop at its finest.



Although slightly more mainstream, rapper Azealia Banks channels a 90s influence through her fashion and music as well. Her (semi-)signature hair horns are a throwback to the Spice Girls and her “Atlantis” video is a time machine trip back to 90s computer graphics. 


From 2013’s biggest songs to its most unknown hip hop artists, the reemergence of the 90s couldn’t be clearer. We aren’t just putting on an old Nine Inch Nails album, we’re listening to their new singles that just dropped this summer. Passive nostalgic celebration has passed and been replaced by active recreation. 1990s aesthetics are popular once again and its hard to tell whether our culture is regressing or progressing in some uninspired backward sense. Here’s to 2014 to show us what’s next, if we haven’t already lived through it.

This article was originally featured on RevUpTransmedia.com on September 12, 2013.

The Dream of the 90s is Alive in 2013 (Pt. I)

Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, 'Portlandia,' IFC

IFC

The year is 2013, or is it? Hipster culture has, over the last several years, taken us on a history-lesson field trip through the past, injecting contemporary culture with nearly every era that can be appropriated. First there was the obsession with 1950s and 60s fashions spurred by Mad Men and still popular thanks to Lana Del Ray. Then there was the slight return of 1980’s fashion and music aesthetics in electro-pop (just think La Roux). But now a new era has returned and taken over 2013.

Simply take a trip to your local Urban Outfitters, which you’ll find stocked with acid-washed jean shorts, camo cropped tank tops, and platform sneakers. You’ll probably also hear early Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys playing on the loudspeaker. “Am I still in the 90s?” you’ll think to yourself confused.

That’s exactly what I thought a few months ago when I walked into an Urban Outfitters in Manhattan after randomly discovering a pile of abandoned VHS tapes on the sidewalk—admittedly much to my excitement. I started to think about those recent BuzzFeed “Best of the 90s” lists I’d spend far too much time enjoyably procrastinating with. I also remembered that two of my favorite 90s groups, Destiny’s Child and *NSYNC, briefly reunited this year, and that recently many of my favorite childhood shows had reappeared on TV.

It’s pretty apparent that remnants of the 90s have trickled back into the present day and one of the first and most obvious examples is in television. Back in 2011 TeenNick announced their new late night programming block The 90s Are All That. Thanks to millions of hardcore 90s Nickelodeon fans and the wonders of social media pestering à la Facebook pages, there were now nightly reruns of classic 90s shows like Clarissa Explains It All, Kenan & Kel, All That, The Amanda Show, Hey Arnold!, and more.

But this nostalgic celebration of old school cartoons and creative teen shows –honestly, have youths had anything as cool as Are You Afraid of the Darksince? – was only the beginning. The 90s didn’t just come back via TV reruns, they returned in every way from fashion to music to lifestyles. The perfect illustration of the 90s’ takeover of the early 2010s couldn’t be shown better than in the opening of IFC’s Portlandia pilot.

 

Portlandia was (and still is) genius for capturing how the aesthetics, hobbies, and trends of the 1990s have become popular again. The “Dream of the 90s” intro parodies how Portland, Oregon (and other hipster-populated cities like Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Silverlake, Los Angeles) has retrogressed. They sing about the trend of being unambitious and working at a coffee shop – for more evidence of this see Frances Ha – riding bikes over cars, the return of tattoos, piercings, and trendy non-prescription glasses.

This is the 90s and it’s back.

Stay turned for the second part of this essay on the 1990s’ reemergence in 2013’s pop music next week.

This article was originally featured on RevUpTransmedia.com on September 3, 2013.