When time passes after a national tragedy, new outrages fill the vacuum of attention. And attention on the first thing goes largely silent.
— William Barr’s Jumpy Polygraph Test (@bywillpollock) September 6, 2016
In the case of Sia’s “The Greatest,” the video brings the Orlando Massacre back in to full view—and is a masterclass in filmmaking, songwriting and choreography. I said the same about Adele’s “Hello” in that it pushed the bar higher in terms of multi-pronged excellence. In this case, though, Sia is on a mission to keep attention on an attack that’s all but faded from people’s Twitter timelines.
I was particularly smitten with Spencer Kornhaber’s take on “The Greatest” in The Atlantic, where he breaks down the meaning very well. In his mind, Sia is “pepping the listener up, but she’s also defining the value of life, marking the human potential that’s been lost.”
Choreography can be flashy and iconic—think Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation—but in the case of “The Greatest” it evokes would-be joy that’s been extinguished, a complexity in pop-dance I’ve never seen before. Kornhaber, again:
“Ryan Heffington’s choreography is maniacal but precise, with each of the 49 dancers on their own paths yet moving as a group, their individual actions often syncing up with the people around them during climactic points in the song.”
This video also is an homage to the directorial and editing longshot—where the camera trains on the subjects for an entire scene or scenes. In today’s cinematic storytelling, it’s all but banished to the dustbin of history—just ask Paul Greengrass giving me a Bourne migraine. Not in this video though.
“The video’s directors, Sia and Daniel Askill, use long tracking shots, peering around corners and swooping over the pack and zigzagging between the dancers,” Kornhaber writes. “Whenever the camera settles it has a portrait-like effect, facing the revelers in a moment of unison.”
I wrote a recap post of artists who paid homage to the Pulse nightclub shooting, and will continue to report on artists working to change and elevate conversations. In this case, though, Sia takes us a step further by spurring us to contemplate which awards this song and accompanying video will win.
“Sia’s shown us one vision of how glorious it can be for that sort of plea to go answered, and how deep a violation it is for the potential to answer to be taken away.”
(Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic)
Although I’ve had my issues with CBS News recently, this 9/11 piece has got to be one of the finest examples of TV journalism since Scott Pelley’s report on Deepwater Horizon (which has been adapted for the screen). The 15th anniversary of 9/11 brought up many feelings in me, as a native New Yorker, and the event has been politicized in disgusting ways.
But Martha Teichner’s report above is as elegant as it is poignant; storytelling with open-ended maturity. And mark my words: it will win awards.
While we’re on the subject of journalism, Keith Olbermann has always been a personal hero—he was one of the earliest and loudest critics of the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq. He’s back just in time for Election 2016 with a gig with GQ Digital.
Remembering Chris “Crusty” Haddle today with this little ditty from back in January. He used to imitate the band *NSYNC’s video choreography and we’d even do it during tennis matches. This is a fantastic cover, too, so make sure to check it out.
What if x-rays could speak?
That’s the question posed by “Love Has No Labels,” a spot by The Ad Council from Valentine’s Day 2015. As predicted by AdWeek, the spot won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Commercial. It’s the first such win by a PSA in Emmy history, according to AdWeek.
The reactions from people in the crowd are just as resonant as the people on stage.
That’s a wrap guys. We’ll see you back here next Thursday at 2 p.m.
Will Pollock is an Atlanta-based freelance multimedia journalist focusing on retail, real estate, travel, politics and human interest. He is the author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
Make sure to comment often—cranky loves company.