Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This American Life

This week I was lucky enough to get to borrow This American Life Season 1 from Spiro's documentary collection and I have to say that I really love this show! And the two main things I love most are: the stories and the style.

I really like how each episode carries a different theme from week to week and that while they may seem to be ordinary themes (standing up for what you believe in, solutions to problems, etc.) they choose the most intriguing stories imaginable. For example, in the episode "My Way", which is about standing up for what you believe in, the first portion is about a man who visits his wife's grave everyday and hangs out with her, ten years after her death! Some of my favorite stories included the story in "God's Close Up" about an artist who painted pictures of Jesus and his disciples using models who were far from Christ-like, many of them being atheists and potheads. Other stories I found interesting included (from the episode we watched in class, "Reality Check") the story of a group of improv pranksters in New York who make a small town band believe they had the best show of their lives, and the episode "The Camera Man" where a young man decides to film his family to try to show their worst side and ends up with a revealing family portrait. These stories are all so unique and original! They are completely captivating and I can't help but want to watch them all back to back.

If the stories aren't powerful enough as it is, the style in which they are shot makes them even more beautiful. The introductions with Ira Glass are always interesting (seeing his desk set up in random places across America like it's no big deal) and help establish with the audience what these seemingly random stories have in common. The images are very clear, bright and colorful, which is reflexive of the unique and colorful stories being told. Most of the stories are told with a narration from Ira Glass but the interviews with the subjects tend to narrate a lot of the stories as well. I do wonder however, how the stories are spun by the editors and interviewers. Many of these stories make the subjects out to be crazy or radically different from what we consider "normal" but I question how our perspective would differ if these stories were completely told by the subjects. We might not think they are that unique after all.

This show is completely entertaining in every aspect, from stories to visuals, and I highly recommend borrowing it from Professor Spiro's library if you can!

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