Good title sequences are much rarer than they should be, an aesthetic often only considered by those making the opening credits of a Bond movie or the show True Detective. Title sequences are about setting a tone and style for a show and do so by doing either very little or a lot. The episodes and show may chance but the title sequence is the one item that ties everything up, alluding to what an audience knows and will find out if they stay tuned.
Art Of The Title knows this best and, to celebrate, they selected their top ten favorite title sequences of last year. The selections span from video games to movies to television shows and even promotional sequences. While just ten sounds paltry, their picks span a variety of styles and forms. For example the brilliant opening sequence for the decent game Alien: Isolation not only falls into an homage category, echoing the original Alien, but set the tone for a decidedly creepy (yet glacially slow) game. It’s place at number ten points out how stellar a year it was.
It’s a good little list, considering many of the titles were part of wonderfully considered and executed design efforts in entertainment (which is a rarity). There is even the wacky inclusion of “Too Many Cooks” which is just as absurd as the video but—hey—it truly is at its heart a title sequence.
Read the full list and see all the sequences in question by clicking here.
Last weekend the Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey aired, Carl Sagan’s masterpiece reimagined. In celebration, NASA unveiled a gallery of images, aptly titled “NASA Images of a Spacetime Odyssey.” It’s a gorgeous collection of some new, and some familiar images, from NASA’s repertoire of galactic exploration. More than that, this gallery is one of those beautiful moments when art converges with science, serving a dose of liberating reality, to aid in easing the troubles of our daily lives.
Richard Matheson passed away Sunday. We lost a good one. The 1958 Hugo Award winner might be one of the few people in the world to find such success in books, television, and film. At thirty-seven years old he released his first story in the long running Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he moved to California in 1951 and took to writing short stories and books.
Exquisite Corpse games produce surprising, bizarre, and often interesting results, especially under loose but clear constraints. Cartoon Network’s new summer ID spot takes the writing and drawing game into the fully animated realm, commissioning 6 different animators to create 10-second chunks which were then stitched together seamlessly to create a vibrant onslaught of hand-drawn animation.
Beat Making Lab is an incredible new PBS show devoted to music and empowering young people. Created by producer/DJ Stephen Levitin (aka the Apple Juice Kid) in partnership with professor and hip hop artist Pierce Freelon, who both teach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Beat Making Lab crew brings portable studios “small enough to fit in a backpack” to youths around the world. Their goal is to make a social impact by giving young people the tools to change their lives through making songs and beats. The first episode takes Freelon and Levitin—in collaboration with Yole!Africa—to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This week I stumbled across the work of Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker James Minchin. I was particularly enthralled by his series of photographs behind the scenes of AMC’s hit show Mad Men. At first I was just excited to catch a peek behind the curtain of one of my favorite shows. But upon further review found them to be not only a beautiful set of images, but a careful study of the nature of duality. They were surprising to say the least.
The series is presented in black and white, which adds a sense of nostalgia while at the same time giving the series a very modern feel. Minchin manages to marry the past and present in a way that is culturally relevant. The stark contrast of today’s America and the idealized US of the 60s is extremely engaging. They’re very delicately executed mashups.
I especially love the shot (below) of Harry Crane and Ken Cosgrove in all of their Madison Avenue, New York City in the 60s, misogynistic glory, huddled around a MacBook Pro. As well as the shot of Burt Cooper rocking a pair of awful Nike running shoes while wearing an impeccably cut, two button suit and a bow tie. It’s almost like watching these characters time travel. The effect is simultaneously disorienting and comforting.
In these images I see an interesting look at our tendency to be discontent with the present and fool ourselves into seeing a past that’s greater than we remember it to be. But maybe it’s just a cool collection of pictures about the making of Mad Men. Who’s to say?
Bobby and I have been watching an amazing documentary we found courtesy of PBS by way of Netflix: Circus. It sounded kind of like a silly premise for a documentary, just following a group of circus performers around as they perform, but once you watch this, you will be hooked into these remarkable people’s lives. Not only is the show so full of rich human stories, it also delves into many lost performance styles like trapeze, juggling, wire walking, clowning, and even dog training. Many of the performers shown have been born into families of international circus performers, who haven’t lived a life outside of the ring for generations.
The six part documentary follows New York’s Big Apple Circus during their 2008 season. You get a glimpse into the mechanics of how a circus works from the setup of the one ring Big Apple is known for to the planning of acts and, sometimes, cutting of acts. The production value of the series is really, really high and is everything that a reality television producer hopes for but never accomplishes: capturing truly special people doing truly special things and documenting them as they are–not as how you think they are. The documentary is doesn’t hold anything back and is quite beautiful.
The video above is the trailer for the series and is, admittedly, a little cheesy because of the music. However, it does give you a look into the series and how Big Apple’s circus conducts itself. You can catch the documentary on Netflix Instant Watch, which demands you clear six nights in a row so you can watch the documentary all the way through.
This may very well be the strangest post ever entered onto The Fox Is Black, but I wanted to take some time to speak about a show which I regard as the best show on television: America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Yeah, yeah, yeah: it’s cheesy, it’s very nineties, it’s incredibly crass, and is as low brow as it gets. I recently caught a few episodes this past weekend and was glued to the television for an hour before going to bed. The show is an easy, early reality show formula: viewers send in their caught-on-tape funnies to Bob Saget (later John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes and, currently, Tom Bergeron), viewers watch strung together videos, and the top three are awarded (small) amounts of cash. The show has been on the air since 1989 and just ended its 21st season three weeks ago.
What makes this show so impressive to me is that it was–and still is–proto-YouTube. Based off of a lot of caught-on-tape formats, AFV is one of the only shows to capitalize on the five second to five minute user generated video with incredible success. Like YouTube, the funniest videos aren’t the staged ones but rather the ones that celebrate schadenfreude or things that are silly-cute. Things like “David After Dentist” or “Keyboard Cat” would have been huge hits on AFV, but–instead–have found great lives on the Internet. One would think that YouTube would have already killed off AFV, yet the show seems to still be kicking it and reinventing the wheel (although the wheel is very, very cheesy).