Showing posts with label Zombies Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zombies Related. Show all posts

11 June 2018

A Guide To Different Zombies in Pop Culture

 A Walking Dead walker
A Walking Dead walker. (c) 2017 AMC Film Holdings LLC. All Rights Reserved.
For the past decade, the world has been entranced with the idea of zombies. From books to video games to TV, fans everywhere can't get enough.
The origins of the word 'zombie', according to the English Oxford Dictionary, come from West Africa. It's compared to the words 'zumbi', meaning 'fetish', and 'nzambi', meaning 'god'. The first recorded modern use of the word was by the poet Robert Southey in 1819, where he used it as 'zombi'.
It took a few decades for zombies to become mainstream -- the first known introduction of the zombie to popular media being the 1932 movie, White Zombie,which was inspired by Haitian myth involving voodoo. Since then, the living dead have come a long way, with it becoming difficult to keep up with all the zombie-related media cropping up. Of course, there are fan favorite standouts such as the Resident Evil franchise, Night of the Living Dead, and The Walking Dead series.
With all the love that zombies have been getting in pop culture, we've seen more and more kinds of them crop up. 
Zombies! (image via
Here's a basic guide to the different kind of zombies you may encounter in popular media:
1. Voodoo Zombies
These zombies are the earliest known versions of the modern horror staple. These are essentially bodies that have been reanimated by some sort of spell or voodoo by either priests or necromancers. Unlike the modern zombie, they didn't eat human flesh but were used to do the bidding of their masters or as an incredibly frightening army. 
Voodoo zombies can be seen in relatively early films like White Zombie or I Walked with a Zombie.
2. The Romero Zombie AKA the "Walkers"
The father of probably the most classic and popular zombie concept is writer-director George Romero, who created the idea of the slow moving, groaning, flesh-eating monsters we all know and love. 
His 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and 1978 film Dawn of the Dead propelled zombies into mainstream media.  Since then, his concept of the zombie has been a template for future zombie-creators to follow, be inspired by, and deviate from -- the following zombies on this list not being too far from his original ideas. 
Today, the most popular home of the slow zombie is in the hit TV show, The Walking Dead.
3. The Runners
If Romero zombies are slow moving shufflers, runners (as the name implies) are zombies who will sprint to attack their victims. These make them incredibly more threatening and terrifying. Another slight difference from the slow zombies is that while slow zombies usually work and attack in hordes, it's no uncommon for runners to break away from the pack in order to attack. 
Runners can be seen in World War Z, Dawn of the Dead, and the video game Left 4 Dead.
4. The Crawlers
While this could be considered a sub-type of zombie, it's worth noting simply because not all zombies can turn into crawlers. Crawlers are essentially zombies that have lost their lower appendages and will instead crawl with their arms towards their victims, innards spilling galore. They're usually depicted as low-profile but also incredibly important to keep an eye on. 
One of the most iconic portrayals of a crawler is in the premiere of The Walking Dead.
5. Zombies with Special Skills
Writers in recent years have gotten creative with the idea of the zombie, which resulted in giving them horrifying yet entertaining power-ups. 
While the variations are almost endless, the more common ones we see are screaming zombies (allowing them to attract their co-corpses), puking zombies (whose vomit can hurt and or infect), bursting zombies (who at one touch, could burst and infect), and armored or tank zombies (who have super strength and are impervious to regular attacks).
‘Lucille’, the baseball bat of the Walking Dead villain Negan (Image via
This list covers the only the basics of zombie categories, so there is a whole world of variations and permutations to be seen out there. These include infection type, intellect levels, and origin. But no matter what variant the zombie may be, one thing is for sure: zombies are a staple in some of the world's most beloved media. 
⏩ You can now get your fill of zombies with The Walking Dead on FOX+.

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18 May 2018

The Australian Zombie Horror 'Cargo' Is Burdened By Its Own Gravitas


In Cargo, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man who has to kill his wife after she turns into a zombie and travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back.
In Cargo, Martin Freeman plays Andy, a man who has to kill his wife after she turns into a zombie and travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back. (Addictive Pictures, Causeway Films, Head Gear Films)

Since the 1970s, some of the best horror films have been made in Australia. Something about the vastness of the continent, and its geographical remoteness from the northern and western hemispheres, lends itself to the kind of existential explorations of alienation that underpin the best examples of this genre.

Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) remains one of the great horror comedies, viciously lampooning small-town Australian life. Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback (1984) fully embraces the surreal-gothic potential of the Australian landscape, and the intense terror of Wolf Creek (2005) must have caused at least a few backpackers to reconsider their trips here.

But only one zombie film of note springs to mind, the Spierig Brothers’ brilliantly inventive Undead (2003). Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s recent Cargo, released in Australian cinemas and to Netflix today, is another one. Whereas the Spierig Brothers approached the genre with energy and mirth, Cargo is a much more sombre affair, favouring dramatic realism and an understated visual approach over the garishness more typical of the films of the genre.

The result is mixed. The first half hour is brilliant, slowly building up tension and suspense, but once the narrative kicks into full gear, the film becomes far less satisfying. It’s not that it’s a bad film, it is moderately enjoyable, but given the renowned cast – it stars Martin Freeman, Susie Porter (excellent in a limited role) and legend of the Australian screen, David Gulpilil – and the potential of the genre in an Australian context, it could have been a lot better.

The narrative follows Andy (Freeman), a man who has to kill his wife Kay (Porter) after she turns into a zombie in the opening part of the film, as he travels across country with baby daughter Rosie on his back (his “cargo”) and befriends a teenage girl, Thoomi (Simone Landers). His wife bites him before he dies, so he knows he has only 48 hours remaining as a human, after which he will become one of the intestine eaters (there is an appropriately gross amount of blood and guts in this).

His mission, in his remaining time as a human, is to get Rosie to the group of Aboriginal people to whom Thoomi is also returning. This group have returned to a “traditional” way of living off the land, and are best equipped to repel the zombies. They are presided over by cleverman Daku (Gulpilil), who appears from time to time looking ghostly and saying little. There’s a touch of the noble savage myth about this whole subplot, and the images of blackfella magic are frequently accompanied by mystical-sounding music.

The most interesting encounters in the film are between Andy and Toomi and the several brain-eaters that populate the Australia of the future, but, unfortunately, these are few and far between. Instead, the action is driven by their encounters with several stock Australian film characters.

There’s the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine, who seems too delicate to live in such an environment (played by Caren Pistorius in a wooden performance). There’s tough-as-nails Etta (Kris McQuade), an outback school teacher with a heart of gold. And there’s delusional tyrant Vic (played by Anthony Hayes, in a one-note and stilted performance) who is preparing to control Australia’s natural resources once order is restored. He gets his kicks doing really bad things like kidnapping Indigenous people and keeping them locked in cages in order to attract zombies who he then massacres for sport.

Caren Pistorius as the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine.
Caren Pistorius as the ethereal-woman in the outback, Lorraine. (Addictive Pictures, Causeway Films, Head Gear Films)

These are cliches, indeed, but this shouldn’t matter for this kind of genre film. And yet, with Cargo it does. Because it seems to be straining so hard for a sense of gravitas (built through its dramatic verisimilitude and realist style), these cliches become terribly visible and disrupt the viewer’s pleasure. It’s like the filmmakers have deliberately not embraced the ludicrous potential of the subject matter and there is thus an uncomfortable tension between its sombre tone, the absurdity of its premise, and the flatness of its cliched narrative.

The American zombie film, emerging in its contemporary form with the George Romero films beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968) is generally considered a critique of consumerism in the post-Vietnam era, and the most interesting element of Cargo is its attempt to reimagine the genre in an Australian context that reflects anxieties about the land and its destruction.

The film features scenes, for example, of abandoned fracking sites, and the fact that the whole thing becomes a kind of battle between a power-hungry mining type and Indigenous people could have provided grounds for incisive social and political commentary. But the treatment is unnecessarily sentimental, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any genuine emotional potency by the end. Even the sweeping panoramic shots of the Australian landscape feel contrived and unimpressive, almost like stock drone footage taken from an online tourist commercial.

Alas, Cargo seems like a made-for-Netflix movie – it makes sense, in this context, that it is premiering on Netflix – watchable but also forgettable, after its dazzling opening third. It was developed, furthermore, from a short film that went viral, and like a lot of films made from shorts (or from Saturday Night Live sketches), it feels like it lacks the legs to sustain the length of a feature.

Cargo is worth watching, particularly for fans of horror cinema, but its aesthetic will be best served, I suspect, by the small screen.

About Today's Contributor:
Ari Mattes, Lecturer in Media Studies, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation

9 May 2018

STX Entertainment, Tencent Pictures And Free Association Join Forces On 'Zombie Brother' Feature Film

'Zombie Brother' - graphic
"Zombie Brother" - graphic (image via
STX EntertainmentRobert Simonds' next-generation media company, Tencent Pictures, the fast-expanding film and television arm of China'sinternet and social media giant Tencent, and Channing TatumReid Carolin and Peter Kiernan's Free Association production company announce a partnership to co-produce a film adaptation of the mega-hit "Zombie Brother," the top title on Tencent's digital comics and animation platform. 
⏩ Since 2011, the digital comic book has garnered more than 17 billion views over 348 episodes, and its animated series has attracted more than 3.7 billion views across its first two seasons. The franchise has also been adapted into a mobile game and a popular stage play. The stage play has had a record-breaking run of sold out shows across the region.
"Since its inception, STX Entertainment has been committed to producing, marketing and distributing universally resonant content across all platforms, with a particular focus on bridging the U.S. and Chinese markets," said Adam Fogelson, Chairman of STXfilms, a division of STX Entertainment. "As an early investor in STX, Tencent has been a strong strategic partner and we're honored to be collaborators in bringing its most valuable IP to new audiences around the world. With Tencent Pictures' awesome ecosystem of entertainment channels and Free Association's creative acumen, we think there is no end to the storytelling opportunities of this franchise.
"We are thrilled to be joining forces with STX Entertainment on one of Tencent Animation and Comics' excellent properties, 'Zombie Brother.' It has been an incredible pleasure to explore new possibilities with STX. Teamed alongside our gifted producers at Free Association, we look forward to bringing 'Zombie Brother' as a uniquely fun and fresh film for the enjoyment of audiences everywhere," said Edward Cheng, Vice President of Tencent and CEO of Tencent Pictures.
"We've long been inspired by STX's commitment to high quality storytelling that authentically speaks to audiences on both sides of the Pacific. We couldn't imagine better partners as we continue to work with Edward, Howard and the wonderful Tencent team on this beloved property. It's a pleasure to welcome them to the 'Zombie Brother' party," said Peter Kiernan of Free Association.

STX Entertainment Logo
STX Entertainment Logo (PRNewsfoto/STX Entertainment)

⏩STXfilms will distribute the film domestically and Tencent Pictures will distribute in ChinaChanning TatumReid CarolinPeter Kiernan and Michael Parets will produce for Free Association, and Edward ChengHoward Chen, and Conor Zorn will produce for Tencent Pictures. STXfilms' Chairman Adam Fogelson and head of production Sam Brown will oversee the film for the studio. 

29 March 2018

Bring On The Zombie Apocalypse: Five Reasons Why Survival Game Fortnite Is A Runaway Success


Epic Games
By Andrew James Reid, Glasgow Caledonian University
Fortnite,” says explainer website Vox, “is kind of like Minecraft meets The Walking Dead – with a bonus Battle Royale attached.” 
Seven years in the making, Epic Games’ 2017 launch – a zombie survival game available across most console and mobile platforms – has captured the imaginations of players worldwide.

Fortnite is divided into two game types: Battle Royale, a free, online arena where 100 players compete to be the last player or team on the battlefield, and Save the World, an offline story-driven campaign that must be purchased. It is the former that has attracted the attention of players and fans, with the number of online communities growing by the day.
A wide range of design decisions could be attributed to Fortnite’s success, but I’d like to focus on understanding the play experiences that entice players to keep on playing. By examining Fortnite through game analysis tool the Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics (MDA) Framework – an academically developed means to assess the design of experiences in games – we can identify the experiences on offer to players.

Fortnite offers something different for a whole range of players and the way they like to play games. This is what is known as the “aesthetics” of the game, which explains the emotional responses that players have as a result of play. These principles help to move the conversation from the abstract “games are fun” type of assessment to more concrete judgements about player experiences. In the context of Fortnite, using the MDA Framework, five aesthetics are at play which help to define its success: sensation, narrative, challenge, fellowship and pastime.

High five
Sensation concerns the sense of pleasure derived from an experience that offers something unfamiliar to players. But Fortnite shares its range of “mechanics” – actions available to the player – with many other games. Shooting big guns, for example, is a common point-and-click experience popularised in many games, such as Doom and Quake.
Massive multiplayer online games have been around for decades, with World of Warcraft the best known. Fortnite’s building system, which allows players to construct forts and defensive walls, is not dissimilar to that in Minecraft. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Fortnite’s closest competitor within the Battle Royale genre, has had success in its own right with multiple awards.

So if Fortnite is not the first game to offer these characteristics, how does it stand out as a superlative gaming experience? It can be argued that this comes from the game’s feel: handling the survival hysteria of the game while forgiving players’ lack of precision in shooting; providing security for master-crafters who have taken time to master the art of building; allowing breathing space to form strategies; and creating a cartoon style that reminds players to enjoy the post-apocalyptic environment. This could only be achieved with rigorous testing during development.

Play sessions of Fortnite embody narrative – each game session has its own unique, player-centric story. One player holding down a fort with their teammates using an assorted arsenal of weapons is different to that of the sole wanderer gathering wood to build a sky bridge. Yet both types of players may feel similar levels of enjoyment and satisfaction in their accomplishments. This sense of satisfaction is what encourages players to play again and create new narratives.

The challenge, or set of obstacles to overcome, has little to do with Fortnite’s environment. A threatening atmosphere and difficult-to-master building techniques provide the only difficulties from the game’s perspective. The real challenge is the player’s understanding and use of available space and resources and their level of skill. There is a steady learning curve to each player action – movement, shooting, building, resource management – and their relationship to each other within a tense play session.

Mastery of such a system requires extensive time and effort, but these higher levels of competence are rewarded with social stature within the game, such as costumes and body armour that suggest a certain level of skill and experience.

At the beginning of Fortnite’s Battle Royale game, players must jump off the airborne battle bus to start their adventure
At the beginning of Fortnite’s Battle Royale game, players must jump off the airborne battle bus to start their adventure. Epic Games

There is no denying that Fortnite features some form of fellowship, a community of active participants. Game modes such as “Duo” and “Squad” allow players to team up with their friends or other players online. A hierarchy of skill recognises the “best-of-the-rest” as they rise to the top of the leaderboards. Curated videos and livestreams connect people with a shared interest in the game. This community presence has undoubtedly played a massive role in ensuring Fortnite’s recent success, and will continue to define the game’s meteoric trajectory so long as it is kept hydrated with stimulation.

Finally, Fortnite reinforces the mantra of games as a pastime – people are willing to put time and concentrated effort into playing it. This can also be determined by their consumption of wider networks related to the game itself, such as videos and livestreams, blogs and forums.

Free no-risk fun
We also cannot forget the free-to-play nature of Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode in encouraging players to adopt and stay. Beyond investing their time, there is little commercial risk for players when choosing to play the game. This has worked with other games, too – the limited-time free-to-play approach was instrumental in the success of soccer video game Rocket League.

Like all games, Fortnite will have its life cycle and then eventually retire to the annals of gaming folklore. Players and online personalities will continue to gun down zombies, fight over supply drops and construct pillars of vantage until someone becomes the very last last-player-standing.

The ConversationBut what it will leave behind is a recipe for success by being self-aware about where it stands in its gaming landscape, and how to harness the design of systems and play to foster sustainable player communities that continue to appreciate and enjoy the experience. The zombie battles will be running for a good while yet.

About Today's Contributor:
Andrew James Reid, Research Associate, Glasgow Caledonian University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

22 March 2017

Get Out: Why Racism Really Is Terrifying


Image 20170320 9114 1ghdzf0
© Universal Pictures
By Victoria Anderson, Cardiff University

Warning: this article contains spoilers The Conversation
Get Out is a comedy-inflected horror story about what it means to be black in America. It’s Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, and until now he has been more widely recognised as one half of comedy duo Key and Peele. But as a director, he makes this movie work – even a little too well. In fact, the only thing more scary than the film are some of the reviews.

To summarise: a talented young black photographer called Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes on a trip with Rose, his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to visit her parents. Having already worried that the parents might be racist, Chris is disturbed to find that the seemingly-liberal family has a number of black “servants” who behave like zombies, seemingly controlled and manipulated by an unseen force. He is further unsettled by (mostly white) visitors to the house who make gauche, racially-charged and fetishising comments, crooning over Chris’s “frame and genetic make-up” and announcing “Black is in fashion!

Chris’s fears are realised, and worse. The Armitage family turn out not just to be racist, but to be pathological “negrophiles”. They have developed a horrifying system of abducting, brainwashing and ultimately brain-swapping black people, to use them as pets, sex slaves or repurposed body substitutes.

Rose’s hypnotherapist mother mesmerises Chris to make him believe that he is trapped at the bottom of a deep pit. And while Chris wonders how to escape without appearing rude, Rose’s neurosurgeon father auctions him off – to be stripped of his brain – to a blind art critic who wants nothing less than to “see through [his] eyes”.

Meet the parents. © Universal Pictures

Seasoned horror buffs will know that the standard resolution to a survival-horror film of this type (police turn up at the final hour, villain is dispatched, hero is saved, all’s well that ends well) is not to be anticipated. The “black guy always dies first” has become a self-reflexive horror-movie trope. And if Facebook Live videos have taught us anything, it’s that this uneasily applies to the real world as well.

Then again, we might also recall that other classic horror that happens to feature a black male protagonist. In George Romero’s 1968 film Night of The Living Dead the hero gets all the way to the end of the film, only to be shot dead by the authorities – just in time for the end credits.

The horrors of slavery
Coming in the wake of a slew of slavery-themed dramas such as Roots, Underground and Twelve Years a Slave, Get Out is a transparent nod to the genre. The slavery subtext is hinted at early on when we find that Rose’s liberal, professional mother goes by the name of “Missy”: a common appellation for the Mistress of a slave-holding. Yet the film’s subtle genius lies in its ability to trace almost invisible, yet indelible lines of continuity from the centuries-long slavery period to the present day.

Historically, anti-slavery rhetoric – which traces its own history back to the late 18th century – tended to focus on the inhuman physical conditions of the slave ship, and the moral incongruity of human chattel. There remains a cultural tendency to view the “horrors of slavery” in the same concretely objective terms, but it bears stating that white abolitionists were not necessarily of the opinion that blacks were equal to whites. They saw the practice of slavery as dehumanising and degrading to all those who participated in it. During the 19th century, slavery increasingly became both a liability and an embarrassment to what purported to be civilised societies.

Lobotomised. © Universal Pictures

This residual sense of embarrassment, shame and disavowal arguably persists in Western liberal democracies, where the recollection of slavery and its role in Western history is a source of discomfort. But this easy sense of revulsion doesn’t require one to address slavery’s underlying ideology of racial supremacy, much less the sexual fetishism and sadism that characterised much of its practice, as contemporary accounts will attest. What Peele’s film forces viewers to consider is whether such underlying power relations and warped desires remain wholly intact in our modern society.

What has often been missed in the discourse around slavery, and the persistence of post-slavery power relations, is the strategic and enduring psychology of slavery. It is this elusive quality that Peele’s film manages to capture.

The institution of slavery necessitated not just sailing and ironmongery skills, but a systematic regime – embedded in law, and lasting for centuries – of unrelenting terror, torture and dehumanisation resulting in absolute control over a cowed and docile workforce. Peele’s film parodies this on a micro-level. Rose’s family mentally break their victims using a multi-stage process that begins with hypnosis and ends with lobotomy. It is no accident that both Mr and Mrs Armitage are professional brain specialists.

Check your privilege
But what about those reviews? Variety calls it a “searing political statement” disguised as an “escape-the-crazies survival thriller” – where “the crazies are the liberal white elite, who dangerously overestimate the degree of their own enlightenment”. Since the “crazies” in question are complete psychopaths, I’d argue that they have very little investment in their own “enlightenment” – unless that term was intended as a pun.

Many reviews – this one included – describe Get Out exclusively as a satire on white liberal elitism, one which asks (white) viewers to “check their privilege”. But they are, perhaps, reading it from just such a privileged perspective. In so doing, they unwittingly repeat the dynamics parodied in the film, invalidating the black experience and ignoring the possibility that the film might not be primarily about the experience of whiteness, nor created specifically for the edification of white audiences.
But the Variety review gets worse. Besides a dubious comment about “love [being] color-blind”, the reviewer describes Chris as “a dark-skinned black man” – at which point I started making the same side-eyed facial expression that Chris makes when he first meets the liberally-racist parents. Why the need to doubly-emphasise his “darkness”?

This is a minor point, to be sure – and the comment was no doubt made innocently. But the effectiveness of Peele’s film plays on the very real fear that behind every throwaway racial remark lies something of an entirely more sinister magnitude. This, by the way, is what makes the “n” word so explosive.

That is to say, each of these uncomfortable moments threatens to reveal a deeply-entrenched racial ideology that some would say has both underpinned and facilitated the cultural and economic development of Europe and America during the past 400 years. Success relied not just on forced labour and territorial expansion/exploitation, but on the carefully-wrought ideologies that enabled it: crucially, the ideological conceit and pseudo-science of race and white supremacy. Colonialism, slavery and Nazi Aryanism evolved from the same fundamental set of beliefs.

The terrorism of white supremacy is that it is not only an extremist movement. It is the spectre haunting Get Out, just as it is the spectre that continues to haunt our modern, liberal societies. And in the gaslight of Trump’s America it is, quite literally, terrifying.

About Today's Contributor:
Victoria Anderson, Researcher/Teacher in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. 

15 February 2017

The King of Pop Keeps Making History & Breaking Records!


Michael Jackson's Thriller has become the first album in RIAA Gold & Platinum Program history to be certified 33x Diamond for United States sales and streams, it was announced by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), the Estate of Michael Jackson, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings (the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment).  
Thriller is still the ONLY album ever to have surpassed the RIAA's 30x million mark in U.S. sales.
"Thirty five years later, Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' remains as timeless and iconic as ever," said Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "'Thriller' has now become the first and only album to achieve an RIAA 33X Diamond Award, a moment forever etched in Gold & Platinum Program history. Congratulations on another 'Thriller' milestone.
The same day as Thriller's record-breaking certification, Michael Jackson's Bad has also achieved RIAA 10x Diamond Award status in recognition of United States sales and streams of 10 million units.
With sales now topping more than 105 million copies worldwide, Thriller has solidified its status as the best-selling album of all-time while Michael Jackson's overall worldwide record sales exceed the 1 billion threshold. During his extraordinary career, Michael Jackson released 13 No.1 singles and became one of only a handful of artists to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Jackson as the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time and Thriller as the World's Top-Selling Album of All Time. His artistry, choreography and music continue to inspire generations of pop, soul, R&B and hip-hop artists and fans.
Executives from Sony Music Entertainment and the Estate of Michael Jackson were in Los Angeles in a special plaque presentation honoring the most recent RIAA Gold & Platinum Program milestones achieved by Thriller and Bad.  Featured in the photo left to right are:  Doug Morris (Chief Executive Officer, Sony Music), Rob Stringer (Chairman & CEO, Columbia Records), John Branca (Co-Executor of the Estate of Michael Jackson), Richard Story (President, Commercial Music Group), Antonio "L.A." Reid (Chairman & CEO, Epic Records), and Karen Langford (Estate of Michael Jackson).
About Thriller 
Michael Jackson's masterpiece Thriller, produced by Quincy Jones (and co-produced by Michael Jackson on his own songs), won a record setting 8 Grammys, more than any album ever, and has been earning awards and setting new standards of success since its release on November 30, 1982Thriller spent nearly 2 -1/2 years on the Billboard album chart and holds a modern day record of 37 weeks at #1. It was the first album in history to spend each of its first 80 weeks in the album chart's Top 10, a feat only reached by one other album in the more than three decades since. During its 112th week on Billboard's album chart, it became the first title ever to be certified RIAA 20x Diamond (October 30, 1984) and RIAA 30x Diamond (December 16, 2015). Worldwide, Thriller went to #1 in practically every country in the world, including the UK, FranceItalyAustraliaDenmarkBelgiumSouth AfricaSpainIrelandNew ZealandCanada and apartheid South Africa.
The importance of Thriller was recognized by Michael Jackson's industry peers at the Grammys. Thriller was nominated in a record breaking 12 categories, and won a history making eight, which stands as the record for most Grammy Awards to be won by any album. Seven of those Grammys that year were awarded to Michael for: Album of the Year; Record of the Year ("Beat It"); Best Male Pop Vocal Performance ("Thriller"); Best Pop Vocal Performance ("Thriller"); Best Male Rock Vocal Performance ("Beat It"); Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("Billie Jean"); Best R&B Song ("Billie Jean"). (Michael's eighth Grammy that year was in the Best Recording for Children - Single or Album, Musical or Spoken category for "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" which also gave Michael the record for the most Grammys won by a single artist in one year). That same year, Michael Jackson took home eight American Music Awards and three MTV Video Music Awards. 
The following year, "The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller" took home the Best Video Album trophy at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards.
More than just an album, Thriller has remained a global cultural multi-media phenomenon for both the 20th and the 21st centuries, smashing musical barriers and changing the frontiers of pop music forever. The music on Thriller is so dynamic and singular that it defied any definition of rock, pop or soul that had gone before. "Beat It" was a new kind of pop-rock hybrid and demolished the longstanding segregation between black and white music with Eddie Van Halen's incendiary guitar. On "The Girl Is Mine," a black man and a white man bantered about the same girl. 
On the same album were songs like the African-rooted "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and the rhythm and blues-based "Billie Jean." No one had ever released an album with such a vast range of material.
"Perhaps Michael's most significant racial trailblazing came with music videos," wrote Joe Vogel in Man in the Music. Fascinated with the fledgling art form, Michael wanted to tell a story and entertain on a grand scale and, in fact, called these masterpieces "short films," not "music videos." Despite the luscious cinematography, dramatic narrative and spectacular choreography of "Billie Jean," a fledgling MTV, which was programming white rock artists almost exclusively, refused to play it. Epic persisted. 
Once the wall came crashing down, MTV's ratings soared and a door was opened for a generation of African American artists. "He was MTV's Jackie Robinson," said cultural critic Tour├ę. Next, came the unforgettable short film for "Beat It," which featured Michael bringing two gangs together through the power of music and dance. And then there was "Thriller." Premiered at the AVCO Theatre in Los Angeles in 1983, it sold out every night of its limited run.  
No other video before or since has generated such excitement and has such a hold on our attention, such that more than 30 years later we all share it as a collective memory and it remains the only music video to be inducted into the elite National Film Registry by the Library of Congress
About Bad 
One of the 30 top-selling albums of all-time, Michael Jackson's Bad--the artist's third solo studio collection for Epic Records and the eagerly-awaited successor to Thriller--was released on August 31, 1987, and generated a record setting five consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that took 25 years to match, with some of Michael's most iconic tracks.
The BAD album is "a fantastical, thematically eclectic, sonically innovative musical odyssey" and, along with Thriller, was one of the best and most influential pop albums of all time. It was monumental in many ways; Michael wrote nine of the album's eleven tracks and co-produced the entire album with Quincy Jones. The album was #1 around the world, made history with five consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard chart, produced ten chart-topping singles, nine ground breaking short films and to date, the Bad album has generated over 45 Million units in sales around the world. Bad was nominated for six Grammys and won two; the album earned Michael the first-ever Video Vanguard Award at the MTV VMA Awards. 
 Songs on the original album are:   "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Speed Demon," "Liberian Girl," "Just Good Friends" featuring Stevie Wonder, "Another Part of Me,"  "Man in the Mirror," "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Dirty Diana," "Smooth Criminal," with "Leave Me Alone" added to the CD version of the album once released.
SOURCE: Legacy Recordings

Bonus Video:

27 December 2016

VR Cinema Is Here – And Audiences Are In The Drivers' Seat

In virtual reality cinema, the audience chooses what to look at and when. What does this mean for traditional narrative storytelling? Virtual reality cinema in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Sander Koning/ANP
By Adam Daniel, Western Sydney University

A new kind of cinema has come to the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. Twelve comfy swivel chairs let the audience explore the entire 360 degrees visible through their headsets. This is proper virtual reality cinema, finally realised.

VR cinema has been a long-promised yet undelivered tease for cinephiles. The nascent boom in VR experimentation in the early 1990s was held back for decades by, among other issues, the technical limitations of creating media for this new form. In recent years, these have largely been overcome.

But what kind of cinema will emerge? Probably not traditional narrative productions: filmmakers must come up with new storytelling techniques to account for a technology that explodes the frame, placing the spectator inside the space of the film.

To explain briefly, VR cinema is filmed on a static camera that can record in 360 degrees. The unlimited perspectives of this camera allow a user wearing a headset to rotate and look at the complete 360 degrees, including along the vertical axis.

For a filmmaker, there are now new issues around such basic techniques as montage. Directors can no longer cut rapidly from image to image, compressing time and space. Audiences literally edit the film for themselves, by choosing what to look at and when.

Artists are already exploring these opportunities. Director Chris Milk’s 2015 work Clouds Over Sidra places the viewer inside the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, observing daily life. The film was made in conjunction with the United Nations to highlight the Syrian refugee crisis.

Chris Milk is the founder and CEO of virtual reality technology company, Within. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Milk, in his March 2015 TED talk, describes how he was driven by a desire to put the viewer not just “inside the frame”, but “through the window.” This desire was driven by what he saw as VR’s capacity to accentuate human connection: VR as an “empathy machine”.

The placement of those watching inside the space of the film prompts many VR filmmakers to directly address the viewer, as either a character or a kind of objective camera in the world of the narrative.

The horror short Escape The Living Dead, for example, initially places the viewer as one of a small group of survivors fleeing a zombie invasion in the back of a jeep. It even goes so far as to transform you, the viewer, into one of the zombie horde after you are bitten during the escape.

An inner monologue (addressed to the viewers through their headset) acknowledges “I’m turning!” as your normal vision begins to blur and black out. When you come to, your perception is distorted and licked by flames, and, as you glance from side to side, you realise you are now one of them: a zombie. As such, you now mindlessly pursue the final survivor, your wife, even as she fires bullet after bullet directly at you.

Virtual reality cinema isn’t passive watching but an active experience. Charles Platiau/Retuers

This complete breakdown of the “fourth wall” has tremendous implications for conventional cinematic storytelling. As directors grapple with newly available technology, audiences can perhaps expect to see more films that create “experiences” rather than “narratives”.

One group of filmmakers, the Oculus Story Studio, has recommended that VR cinema should “let go” of trying to direct viewers’ gaze, to avoid storytelling that feels “forced, staged and artificial.”

Where many early VR projects were inclined to attempt to draw spectators’ attention to one particular part of the 360 degree world, more contemporary projects have embraced its unique facility for immersion and interactivity.

Australian artist Lynette Wallworth used this capacity to help the viewer understand the implications of nuclear testing in the West Australian desert for the indigenous Martu tribe in her beautifully executed work Collisions.

Perhaps the most powerful potential of this “empathy machine” is the possibility for cinematic projects that are able to respond to and react to the viewer’s choices.

This would require database-style narratives, where an alternative path taken by a viewer – for example, where to look and when – would have different outcomes designated by the filmmaker.

This kind of cinema becomes similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, and has been experimented with in the past: 1967 Czech film Kinoautomat, for example, had a moderator who would allow the audience to make a choice between two narrative options at several points during the film. VR, however, could integrate this directly into the viewing experience based on where the viewer directs their attention.

Steven Spielberg is set to create a project solely for VR. Ian Langsdon/EPA

Experimentation in the field is continuing at a rapid pace, with Disney and Lucasfilm developing VR Star Wars projects. There has also been much speculation that Steven Spielberg, who previously signed on as an advisor with Virtual Reality Company, is making a project solely for VR.

New venues like Collingwood’s Virtual Reality cinema, which uses a custom Group VR system so the audience can see each other, as well as the film, are giving smaller filmmakers opportunities to develop and show VR work.

And the most important basic units of true VR – the immersive headsets, which need to be paired with separate hardware like a computer or phone – are becoming increasingly available to home audiences.

The commercial release of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets earlier this year, and the recent long-awaited release of the Playstation VR headset, will all undoubtedly encouraged further development in VR cinema, as will the Samsung GearVR and the upcoming Google Daydream.

Virtual reality will probably not replace conventional cinema. But it will create a whole new area of film that is less concerned about constructing a story in images. Instead, perhaps, it will be a realm where artists can immerse us inside imagined worlds in a whole new way.

The Conversation
About Today's Contributor:
Adam Daniel, Ph.d Candidate, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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