The Dim-Post

October 29, 2011

Truth 24 times a second

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:20 am

Film is not a new medium. Over the past century, film-makers have developed a solid understanding of how to portray subjects in a sympathetic and flattering light. Show them entering the frame and moving from left-to-right (the way our eyes move across a page). Film them from below to make them look large and authoritative, and from above to diminish them. When you cut, cut to a new angle instead of in-frame, or it confuses and agitates the viewer. Illuminate them with warm, soft lighting.

Some directors deliberately flout these conventions – like Jean-Luc Godard, with his famous ‘jump-cuts’, or whoever made the National Party’s opening address, which screened last night and contrived to make our most popular Prime Minister in modern history look sinister, elderly, weak and unwell. It took me back to National’s 2002 election campaign in which Bill English walked around a darkened, empty house warning about the dangers of crime while ominous, atonal music hummed in the background, the apparent subtext being that if you voted for the National Party, English would come into your home and harm your family.

The problems with Key’s opening address weren’t just technical. He’s a very popular politician, but National don’t seem to understand why he’s popular. The address showcased his powerful natural charisma and communications skills, but Key doesn’t actually have natural charisma or powerful communications skills. People like him because he’s like them, or, at least, presents to that effect. An address in which he gives scripted answers to patsy questions makes him look like an ordinary politician, and not a very accomplished one.

I haven’t seen the Green’s opening yet, and I caught about half of Labour’s – my impression was that it was exactly what it needed to be: an exercise in rebuilding the brand of the party, ie what they should have been doing for the last three years. I felt the high profile they gave to many of their new, high calibre at-risk, low list-MPs was a tacit admission that their party list was a huge strategic mistake. Everything else seemed pitch perfect.

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34 Comments »

  1. They kept having shots of him side on, and all I could think about was his big nose. I also played a drinking game based on how many times he said “aspirational” or blamed the previous government for EVERYTHING!!!!11! Needless to say I was drunk by the time tha lady asked the crime question.

    Also His pants didn’t match his suit Jacket, looked like he was trying to auction a house, sell a second hand BMW or Viagra. They have either sacked Crosby Textor a while back or will today, 6th form media studies class could do better with an iphone4 and a couple desk lamps.

    I am looking forward to tonight, Saturday night is craaazy night with opening addresses from the minor parties and Peter ‘the hair’ Dunne. Also makes sense why Brash is out of the country…..

    Comment by andy (the other one) — October 29, 2011 @ 7:28 am

  2. Couldn’t agree more. An incredible cinematic achievement by whichever Labour Party activist has infiltrated National’s campaign team offering to do video work. iPredict moved in Goff’s favour almost as soon as the ads when to air – see http://www.electionresults.co.nz/opinion/parties/labourgreen-axis-gets-boost-opening-night-ads

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — October 29, 2011 @ 7:36 am

  3. Actually, there is another explanation. National was deliberately trying to kill the audience for Labour and the Greens. Brilliant strategy, executed even better.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — October 29, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  4. How can you say that the Labour address was exactly what it needed to be when you only saw half of it?

    Comment by Peter Metcalfe — October 29, 2011 @ 8:04 am

  5. Did National really use The Feelers as intro music? That’s it, they’ve gotta go…

    Comment by garethw — October 29, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  6. Serious question: I wasn’t particularly impressed with either National or Labour’s effort. Yes, Labour’s was slick as the arse of a duck with the squits (and National’s was woeful) but where was the steak to go with the sizzle?

    Could this be the CGT fan-dance all over again. You know, it has political/media junkies like us jizzing in our pants, but everyone else yawned.

    Funny thing is, if the polls were opening in twenty minutes I’d party vote Green. Why? Norman and Turei vaguely annoying but at least they didn’t condescend to me.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — October 29, 2011 @ 8:41 am

  7. The message i got from National’s opening was one of utter complacency. They are going through some motions ahead of three years of assumed triumphalism.

    Labour was clever. I thought promoting their most telegenic MPs was clever because it shows they’ve finally worked out that the strategy of the indirect approach is the best way of combatting Keys popularity. And as you say – they are rebuilding the brand.

    I thought the Green opening was bland.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 29, 2011 @ 8:41 am

  8. Perhaps the Labour effort introduced the now generation to a whole lot of backstory they didn’t know existed? A pity if most of them were out at the pub.

    Comment by Galeandra — October 29, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  9. I missed National’s one, but Labour’s was pretty good until about two-thirds of the way through. I thought the historical review was a great idea because it built up quite a positive vibe – utterly unexpected – but once the present day policy explanations started, the positivity got a bit drowned out by visceral hatred of National, which could usefully have been dialled back a bit.

    Comment by Milla — October 29, 2011 @ 8:55 am

  10. Labour’s broadcast was “pretty good” in the sense that by waddling in history they avoided having to explain Phil Goff’s suitability to become Prime Minister.

    Comment by Peter Metcalfe — October 29, 2011 @ 9:11 am

  11. @Milla: A lefty friend of mine commented on Twitter “Now want to vote Labour – in 1935″. Not sure that was the intended effect. :)

    And, Tom, I guess one man’s “bland” is another man’s “welcome substance”. I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — October 29, 2011 @ 9:34 am

  12. And, Tom, I guess we’re “committed” partisans one way or t’other – so, on some level, it really doesn’t matter what we think. :)

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — October 29, 2011 @ 9:36 am

  13. Bring back a pension that is only given to those of good moral character!

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — October 29, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  14. But… But… the comments posted on YouTube are all awesome!! And look:

    “At least Nats allow people to comment on their videos. Shame on you Labour.”

    Comment by MikeM — October 29, 2011 @ 10:02 am

  15. Why o why did they think that Friday night was the ideal time for a campaign launch. With only political junkies and new parents to watch. With the great uncommitted vote out on the town…

    Comment by Leopold — October 29, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  16. I figured National were trying to address all those claims that John Key doesn’t front up to answer serious questions, that he can’t talk about policy. So they said, here he is, and he can!

    Of course, only in a really artificial scripted way and with way-too-loud-for-the-audience-size applause track.

    Yeah, terrible production. He didn’t look at me, he kept looking sideways, I kept thinking, why is he avoiding eye contact? In long shots he stood there like a wooden plank.

    Comment by MeToo — October 29, 2011 @ 10:41 am

  17. Bring back a pension that is only given to those of good moral character!

    Graeme: I don’t want to reflect on the moral characters of our Parliamentarians, but I don’t understand why our children (well, yours – perhaps) should be paying for John and Phil’s pension at all. *grab tin hat sprint for the nearest fire exit*

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — October 29, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  18. Matthew Hooton (#3) has the only plausible explanation. Trying to see that … thing … any other way will just leave your jaw fixed to the floor. Trust me, I’ve tried.

    The Razzie (Lifetime Achievement Award) has been claimed, for keeps. Gigli and Ishtar are now, officially, Citizen Kane.

    Comment by sammy — October 29, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

  19. They tried to make it look completely off-the-cuff, like it was some kind of town hall meeting with the general public or something. I’d like to think that everything was highly deliberate: they wanted to make this video look like it was being made without being scripted or without having too much effort put into it. which is pretty much how they want John to look. So in the sense of the video being an extension of Key’s brand, it worked well. It also had the added advantage of running with the ‘no money in the till’ theme, as if this even extends to party political broadcasts and election campaigns. It was designed to say ‘Hey New Zealand – we’re practising what we preach, and here’s a C grade party political broadcast to tell you how it really is.

    However, they failed on a few points. First, it was too much of an effort to look nonchalant, right down to the fuzzy feedback noises we got right at the start. That was going too far, because even live productions very rarely have that kind of technical mistake in them. By leaving in those errors, they actually gave me the impression that ‘we don’t care very much about getting this right for a huge broadcast’. It was the kind of technical nonchalance that reminded me of a guy in a black and white striped shirt in a mask walking away from a house with a sack, whistling.

    Secondly, the attempt at a blaze technical production made for a very uncomfortable juxtaposition with the actual content: the rent-a-crowd was a deliberate mixture of man, women, all ages and all genders; the questions they asked were banal, pointless and contained no difficulty or challenge; they were far too approving to be anything but National party shills; and the answers he gave were parroting the same stuff we’d heard in the policy announcements. The usual blame everyone else, and take responsibility for the great things that happened coincidentally while we’ve been in power, while denying any responsibility for the bad things that happened coincidentally while we’ve been in power – great themes.

    I’m not utterly sure that anyone else is in the National Party at the moment. Because all I see is John Key. And I’m not sure what he’s an expert on, but I certainly haven’t been convinced that it’s any of the areas he spoke about on that video.

    Comment by Dizzy — October 29, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  20. “They tried to make it look completely off-the-cuff, like it was some kind of town hall meeting with the general public or something. I’d like to think that everything was highly deliberate: they wanted to make this video look like it was being made without being scripted or without having too much effort put into it.”

    But the problem is they didn’t succeed AT ALL in making it look unscripted. It looked utterly and obviously contrived. I guess your theory might explain why the lighting was poorly done – they didn’t want it to look like ‘slick’ studio lighting – but nothing else about it. It doesn’t explain the shitty editing, for example. It’s not just that their ad looked cheaply and quickly made; it’s that it looked incompetently made. And doing things incompetently is surely not a good ‘on message’ way to start.

    Comment by Steve Parkes — October 29, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  21. The Greens pitch was pretty lacklustre, which I thought was a shame.
    Terrible script.
    Also appeared to be shot on Brian’s digital handycam as his submission for a visual arts course at Whitirea.

    Maybe it’s just me but if your Party leaders have to introduce themselves verbally, you’re wasting valuable visual message time.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 29, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  22. I thought Turei and Norman saying something about their backgrounds was good as they’re not well-known and Turei has been using the “I was a solo mum on the DPB who got ahead thanks to study support from the taxpayer” for policy purposes.

    But the opening thing for the Greens was awkward. Hate to be so superficial but their clothes were ill-fitting which didn’t help.

    Comment by MeToo — October 29, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  23. Pity, for Labour, no-one with a life was watching and critiquing the opening forays.

    Comment by little_stevie — October 29, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  24. l_s,

    Probably true. But no-one with a life pays any real attention to politics until they have to (much less turns up on blog comment threads decrying those who do pay such attention). At which point, they rely on those without lives to help them understand and interpret what is going on (step forward NZ’s political committariat). And amongst that committariat, these things get fed into the overall narrative of “how the parties are performing”. So Labour doing something quite good (for once), and doing it in a rather surprising and fresh way, helps break the by-now-set mantra of “Labour just sucks while National is coasting to victory”.

    Enough to change November’s outcome? Probably not. But then again, it may well help Labour get on a track that saves it from a 2002-type meltdown. Which may be as much as it can hope for.

    Comment by Grassed Up — October 29, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

  25. G_U,

    I’d pay much more attention to you if you hadn’t used the words committariat & narrative – makes you sound like a party person.

    Thanks.

    l_s.

    Comment by little_stevie — October 29, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

  26. Yeah, ’cause “narrative” is such a partisan/political word.

    **Oops** look at the time. I obviously have no life, what with being on the interweb on a Saturday night, and having just watched the last of the opening addresses.

    ACT needs to promote Catherine Judd. Although her voice is a little strange, she has a presence the others don’t. And less baggage (despite dead husband/former ACT presidency.)

    Comment by MeToo — October 29, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  27. god. i needed that chuckle.

    good to have you back danyl

    Comment by Che Tibby — October 29, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

  28. l_s,

    I’m a 24 hour party person plastic face can’t smile the white out.

    (Ask your Mum or Dad what that means).

    G_U

    Comment by Grassed Up — October 29, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

  29. ACT confirmed they are a party of blogging no friend Nigels, sitting alone at the kitchen table for their birthday after their one “friend” moved to Melbourne to get away from them.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 30, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  30. @ Sanc

    the ‘friend’ who moved was his Mum. She had to leave the country so he could say he ‘finally moved out of home’.

    Comment by andy (the other one) — October 30, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  31. ACT’s broadcast made me want to move to Australia

    Comment by NN — October 31, 2011 @ 7:57 am

  32. while ominous, atonal music hummed in the background

    Coldplay does have a new record out.

    Comment by Paul Rowe — October 31, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  33. @Steve Parkes

    Yes. That’s what I said in the next paragraph.

    Comment by Dizzy — October 31, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  34. you can tell Labour’s doing ok when Craig R and Mat Hooton start commenting this much…!

    Comment by waddle — October 31, 2011 @ 11:02 pm


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