EMST faculty give recommendations for shows, movies, games

Grady College encourages all students, faculty and staff to remain informed with the University of Georgia’s information and resources regarding coronavirus at: uga.edu/coronavirus.

In following the advice of national health officials to stay home, many people are searching for movies, shows and games to consume. Grady College asked entertainment and media studies professors which content they recommend others see. Here are their recommendations.

APPS:  

 

Taylor Miller

The Peabody Awards iOS app
“It curates a list of the previous four years of winners, citations by jurors for why they won and links to where they can be watched.”

JustWatch
“It is a search tool into which you can type a show and season and see which all streaming services carry it/or where it can be purchased.”

 

TELEVISION SHOWS:

 

Matthew Evans

“Seinfeld”
Streaming platform: Hulu
“Normally, I’d wax poetic on classic movies. But given today’s headlines, I recommend “Seinfeld.” Although there are “Best Of” lists available, you can pretty much pick up anywhere. They’re all hilarious, and at 22-minutes a pop, it’s a nice break without making a huge commitment. Sure, it feels like “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-lite, but that’s okay: we all know that Larry David was the real genius behind NBC’s hit. It’s the best way to distract yourself from living in a real-world version of “Contagion,” which I’d also recommend, by the way.”

Jay Hamilton

“Better Call Saul”
“New season of the best character study on TV since Mad Men. No need to watch its related show “Breaking Bad” to be immediately immersed and marvel at the writing and acting. Start with Season 1 if needed.”

Garland McLaurin

“Mad Men”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“It’s a good series that follows interesting characters over a period of time.”

“Pose”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“A great show that follows the 80’s ballroom culture.”

“Who Killed Malcolm X
Streaming platform: Netflix
“Great doc series about the facts surrounding the murder of Malcolm X”

Taylor Miller

“Chernobyl”
Streaming platform: HBO
“This Mini-Series asks a simple question: what is the cost of lies? With its incredible storytelling, an event from history is scripted into a powerful parable that could not be more prescient for this moment. I simply don’t know of a better mini-series. Make sure to listen to the accompanying podcast after each episode to learn why certain production choices were made, hosted by “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” host Peter Sagal.”

“Schitts Creek”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“While the first two seasons may seem a little slow, they set the important groundwork for a very funny show with way more heart than you’d imagine. If laughter through tears is your favorite emotion, you’ll love a refreshing swim up Schitts Creek.”

“The Golden Girls”
Streaming platform: Hulu
“With 180 episodes, there’s enough charm, humor, and good ol’-fashioned nostalgia to last you quite awhile! And the studio audience laughter will make you feel less alone.”

 

MOVIES:

 

Kate Fortmueller

Anyone who wants to watch great movies should at the very least sign up for the 14-day free trial for The Criterion Channel. This month they have a series called “Film Plays Itself,” which has movies like “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Player,” and “The Bad and the Beautiful.”

“The Player”
Streaming platform: Criterion Channel
“Satire of Hollywood filmmaking staring Tim Robbins. As with all Robert Altman films it has a stellar ensemble cast, overlapping dialogue, and a mix of genres (in this case black comedy/film noir). I like this film’s biting critique of Hollywood filmmaking and culture.”

“$”
Streaming platform: Criterion Channel
“Bank heist set in Germany starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn with a score by Quincy Jones. This is a stylish movie that combines Goldie Hawn’s quirky style of humor with a genuinely suspenseful bank heist.”

Jay Hamilton

“Lady Bird”
“Greta Gerwig’s breakout feature is infinitely better than “Little Women.” Lead Saoirse Ronan and the script captures the sassy turmoil between a single mom and her on-the-cusp young adult daughter. A paean to following your own path to find yourself.”

“I, Daniel Blake”
“Palme d’Or winner at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival by long-time gritty realist Ken Loach. The northern English accent may be tricky for American ears, but turn in the subtitles if you need to. A heartfelt, unyielding portrayal of the precarious times in which we live, plus the need for a deep human response to confront it.”

Garland McLaurin

“Purple Rain”
Streaming platform: Netflix
“You can’t go wrong with Prince.”

“Sorry to Bother You
Streaming platform: Hulu
“A great film from Boots Riley”

VIDEO GAMES:

 

Shira Chess

FREE MOBILE GAMES
“Dash Adventures”: “For those who have not previously played a game in the Dash franchise, you are in for a fast-paced treat. In “Dash Adventures,” you work through zany adventures as a waitress and entrepreneur, saving a town from a variety of disasters. Kicking in a little bit of money from time to time gives you more abilities to complete levels and areas. The level styles are varied and the challenges are fun and just a bit weird.”
“Hungry Babies Mania”
“Polar Pop Mania”

INEXPENSIVE MOBILE GAMES (under $5)
“Donut County”: “You play as a hole in the ground. Seriously. An army of racoon bros are destroying an area oddly similar to Los Angeles and the player guides a hole in the ground as it sucks up items, becoming larger with the more things that fall into it. In our chaotic times, there is something oddly cathartic about swallowing up everyone and everything into a hole in the ground.”
“Monument Valley (1 & 2)”
“Gorogoa”

MID-PRICE MOBILE GAMES ($5-$15)
“Stardew Valley” “For more involving play I cannot possibly recommend a game more than Stardew Valley. Stardew is what is referred to as “slow gaming” – you are farming, mining, fishing, and performing other tasks that seem relatively normal, on the surface. But the game is infused with some odd moments of magical realism (it’s like FarmVille but really weird). Also, you can have involved relationships with non-player characters. If you are looking for an absorbing experience to take you out of your doldrums or anxiety, I can’t recommend a better experience than Stardew Valley.”
“Ticket to Ride”
“Oxenfree”
“Broken Age”

“For those with iOS, getting a one month subscription to Apple Arcade gives free play for a long list of games that are included. Ticket to Ride (mentioned above) is a great asynchronous board game with a digital version. You can play with up to 4 friends over the course of hours/day/weeks.”

 

From the Peabody Awards:

 

Documentaries

“Independent Lens: Dolores”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: PBS
“Peter Bratt’s exhilarating portrait of activist and community organizer Dolores Huerta serves as a timely reminder of the power of collective action in service of social justice.”

“Blue Planet II”   [Peabody Nominee] Network/Platform: BBC AMERICA
“A view of our oceans using the latest diving and submarine technologies reveals we have more in common with, and are more connected than we ever imagined, to our deeply threatened seascapes.”

“The Jazz Ambassadors”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: PBS
“A story about the people, especially African Americans, who created jazz and the pivotal role their contributions played in cold-war diplomacy, American race relations, emerging black identities, and newly independent third world nations around the world.”

Entertainment

“The Americans”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: FX Networks, Hulu
“A rare show that has won two Peabody Awards, including one last year for its final season.  It tells the complex story of two Soviet spies deeply undercover as middle-class American parents dealing with patriotism, family, relationships, and duty.”

“Hannah Gadsby: Nanette”   [Peabody Winner] Network/Platform: Netflix
“A blistering treatise that finds the tragedy in comedy, in which Hannah Gadsby commands, breaks apart, and reconstructs the standup comedy special format all while delivering a powerful message.”

“My Brilliant Friend”   [Peabody Nominee] Network/Platform: HBO
“The adaptation of the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet novels follows two girls and their personal triumphs and tragedies against a setting that swirls with political, social, and cultural strife in post-war Naples, Italy.”

 

Making sense of fake news

(This feature was originally written for and printed in University of Georgia Research. It is reprinted with permission.)

A year ago, a contentious election culminated in a new president for the United States. It also introduced the country—and the world—to fake news.

From individual stories like Pizzagate (an online story alleging that a Washington, D.C., pizzeria was involved in a child sex ring led by Hillary Clinton) to examinations of its role in the presidential election, fake news has become a staple of headlines. Recent stories have explored how fake news is created, how it goes viral, and increasingly, how to combat it.

Some people believe all conspiracy theories, whether from the political left or right, and those people tend to have high levels of anxiety and low levels of trust, Hollander says. Photo: Terry Allen
Some people believe all conspiracy theories, whether from the political left or right, and those people tend to have high levels of anxiety and low levels of trust, Hollander says. Photo: Terry Allen

But the concept of fake news is not new. For perspective, Research Magazine turned to four experts at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication—faculty members Jay Hamilton, Bart Wojdynski and Barry Hollander and Ph.D. student Jessica Maddox. They approach the topic from different angles, but share at least one premise: Fake news means different things to different people.

The definition of fake news has expanded, the researchers said, from its original meaning—a story that’s deliberately made up for personal, political or economic gain. Fake news also may refer to a story that was true in its original form but was altered, accidentally or deliberately, through the process of being shared, usually through social networks. And it’s used as a pejorative term, applied by the user to discredit something he or she doesn’t agree with.

“Fake news is multiple things, and that’s what makes it so complicated,” said Jay Hamilton, cultural historian of communication and Jim Kennedy Professor of New Media.

Today’s concerns about fake news are informed by our nation’s experiences with news bias and propaganda, he said.

During the late 19th-century circulation battles, publishers like William Randolph Hearst sensationally slanted news (or invented it, as in the case of the sinking of the Maine in 1898) to increase newspaper readership and promote a particular political position. In the latter half of the 1930s, Father Charles Coughlin used his weekly national radio program to drum up anti-Semitic sentiment and consolidate a nationalist political program sympathetic to fascist governments.

Prevalent in these concerns, Hamilton said, is the idea that messages are powerful and people are susceptible. But there’s a big difference between news bias and fake news, according to Hamilton, head of the department of entertainment and media studies.

“One’s about standpoint and skew. That’s bias,” he said. Fake news “is about fabrication and completely nonsensical things that have never happened.”

And what’s driving the fake news phenomenon now is a hyper-competitive online media marketplace seeking to capitalize on internet users’ attention to bring in advertising dollars.

To address the problem, Hamilton recommends reforming the structure of online advertising sales and giving users tools to investigate content. He’s impressed with stopfake.org, a journalism project out of Ukraine that verifies facts and refutes false reports about events in Crimea covered in the media.

“It’s really instructive that such an innovative effort at combating fake news came out of a former Soviet republic,” he said. “Who else is going to be so skilled at wading through the crap than people who have had to deal with that for generations?”

Bart Wojdynski, assistant professor of journalism, wants to know how visual cues influence people when they’re evaluating information, particularly since readers increasingly view online information outside of its original context.

“A majority of people under 45 access news daily via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, where it’s interspersed with content from their friends, acquaintances and colleagues,” he said.

In this “news snacking” context, Wojdynski said, people are less likely to question the information or the source.

“We know that people consume news for different reasons, and sometimes there’s a diversion component,” he said. “If you’re trying to pass the time for two minutes while waiting in line, you’re probably not going to do a lot of in-depth research to verify the sources of a story—especially on a mobile device.”

It’s not just social media that’s blurred the lines between news, entertainment and advertising, according to Wojdynski, who serves as director of the Digital Media Attention and Cognition Lab.

“It makes sense that consumers don’t always think of investigative reporting when they think of news, because news organizations are involved in a whole lot more, like car sections and living guides,” he said. “That has diluted the perceived value of news.”

Wojdynski is exploring how people’s scrutiny of the news is driven by confirmation bias (information that confirms what they think) and desirability bias (information that they want to be true).

“Ultimately, I think that’s what it boils down to—the degree to which people question what they see and read,” he said.

Barry Hollander’s research involves people who question everything.

“I look at conspiracy theories—why people believe them, and what factors make them more likely to believe,” said Hollander, professor of journalism.

In a recent study, Hollander looked at theories of the left and right, who believes them and why. Some people, he found, believe in all conspiracy theories, regardless of which side they’re on, because they think the world is out to get them.

“It’s easy to make fun of people who believe in these crazy stories, but it tells us something about the way they make sense of the political world,” he said.

Hollander believes that readers adjust their standards of credibility based on their opinions.

“People hear what they want to hear. They believe what they want to believe,” he said. “That’s why fake news succeeds.”

“If you really hate Donald Trump, or if you really hate Hillary Clinton, you are much more likely to believe fake news that makes that person look bad.”

Trying to counter a fake news story is difficult when people believe the media is biased against their viewpoint. And even when readers don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, they still have a tendency to gravitate toward people who share similar views. While that clustering used to happen in geographic spaces—people who shared the same socioeconomic status and political views congregated in the same neighborhoods, for example—it now plays out in social media spaces.

“We all create these bubbles, but the lines of demarcation are much brighter now because of the fragmentation of the media,” he said. “We can now watch the cable news outlet that agrees with our point of view. We can have Facebook friends and follow people on Twitter who agree with our point of view.”

The rise of filter bubbles, which allow people to self-select who and what they’re exposed to, is part of the fake news problem, according to Jessica Maddox.

“If you normally watch CNN, flip to Fox News for a couple of minutes,” said Maddox, who expects to earn her Ph.D. next year. “It’s good to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to media.”

Maddox has explored memes—pieces of media that spread from person to person via the internet and are tweaked along the way. The concept is similar to the kids’ game of telephone, where the message heard by the last person bears virtually no resemblance to what was originally said.

“It’s almost done rather harmlessly,” she said. “You’re just moving this information along, but without stopping to check or evaluate, it can become something completely different in the end.”

At the root of the issue is not just media literacy, she said, but social media literacy.

“So many of us—millennials through baby boomers—never received any kind of social media training,” she said. “We were just thrown into it, and we all learned as we went.”

It’s not a partisan issue, according to Maddox. Everyone is susceptible to believing, and passing along, fake news. She once posted a fake news story on Facebook—about Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, then a nominee, starting a fascism club in college—and later learned it wasn’t true.

“That was a really humbling moment,” she said.

What we need now, Maddox said, is to apply critical thinking skills to social media. Before social media, it was easy to identify fake news—it was on the cover of the tabloid newspaper in the checkout line at the supermarket. These days, it’s not so easy.

“We need to realize that article about Cher’s alien baby can be on our social media feeds now,” she said. “We as responsible citizens should pause when we see something like that.”

No matter the medium—newspaper, broadcast news, Facebook—Maddox has the same advice: “Question the source—that’s what I always advise people to do.”