LAWeekly September 15, 2011 : Page 12

BOOBS CAM | A Considerable Town // A Barbie Video Girl, an inspiration for fi lmmakers BY GENDY ALIMURUNG t the fi rst Barbie Film Festival, Barbie wasn’t just in front of the camera. She was the camera. The plastic doll has been a bride, a doctor, a computer engineer, a lifeguard, a ballet dancer, a baby sitter, a pizza chef, an architect, a news anchor and a veterinar-ian. Then, last year, deciding perhaps that not enough had occurred in the advancement of Barbie technology, parent company Mattel turned her into an actual working video cam-era — and a punch line waiting to happen. A tiny video lens is embed-ded just below Barbie Video Girl’s clavicle (at cleavage level, to be precise). A stamp-sized LCD screen is in her back. (Does Ken like to watch?) Power source? It’s in her thighs. Barbie takes two AAA batteries. You insert one into each leg — a location one direc-tor attending the festival characterized as “problematic.” “We could have made the batteries bigger,” admitted Rose O’Neil, Mattel’s director of marketing. “But the running joke among the engineers was they wanted to maintain the AAA to DDD ratio.” She might look it — with her boobs and blond hair and feet frozen in stiletto position — but Barbie Video Girl is not totally removed from a feminist agenda. “She allows young girls to get involved in the fi lmmaking process, a process otherwise dominated by men,” said Professor Tom Denove, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television’s vice chairman. The festival was his idea. Denove had seen video artist Brandon Bloch’s tongue-in-cheek fi lm Canon 7D vs. Barbie Video Girl as it made the Internet rounds. It would have been hard to miss: To date, Bloch’s viral video has been viewed 450,000 times since the doll’s debut last July. She’s possessed of a certain je ne sais quoi, that wacky video doll. She even gave the FBI pause. For a while, the feds worried about the doll being used to promote a pedophile agenda. The FBI cyber-crime alert, titled “Barbie ‘Video Girl’ a Possible Child Pornography Production Method,” noted her built-in hidden camera, her LCD screen: “The combination of these two in a single device presents a concern for investigators. ... Law enforcement is en-couraged to be aware of unconventional avenues for possible production and possession of child pornography, such as the Barbie Video Girl.” At the James Bridges Theater at UCLA’s Melnitz Hall, however, the doll was being used to nurture creative rather than prurient interests. There were 31 short videos, more than half made by women — a directorial ratio you’d be hard-pressed to fi nd at the box offi ce. Department staff and students submitted entries. Some were made by people with no prior fi lmmaking experi-ence. “Film is so much more democratic now,” Denove mused. “We can thank Barbie for that.” Comedy, horror, animation, noir, docu-mentary — Barbie spans many genres. In one fi lm, Barbie fi ghts a crocodile. In another, she goes on a series of terrible blind dates. In another, she turns into Amazing Rants by Sam Slovick MEMETIC EPICENTER Ranters: Short-statured, blond, male hairstylist in fl oral print shirt and cargo shorts with strabismus, and a client Location: Strip-mall hair salon, Ven-tura Boulevard in Woodland Hills Time: Fri., Sept. 2, 12:45 p.m. Subjects covered: Memetics, hairstyles, spiritual attacks, paint stores, anarchy, revolution, home improvement, cholos, painting supplies, failing U.S. economy Th e Rant: [Hairstylist cuts, Client sits.] Hairstylist: Very old people who have confided in me deeply say it’s very bad. Too fucked up. Too big to fi x. Th eir words, not mine, but that’s what I think. Client: Th at’s what I think, too. Hairstylist: How they’re doing it, it’s who they’re putting in there. Th e power base. Th at’s what I think. Client: Th at’s what I think, too. Hairstylist: It’s not like it’s in the water, you know? It’s messages. It’s coming at you in words. It’s memetics. Th ey all converge in your mind, and you can’t tell what’s happening. Th at’s how they want it. Th ey’re saturating us with mixed signals and diversions. Client: Not too long on the sides. I want it to look exactly like it does right now. Hairstylist: OK. I know what to do. Client: Please. Th ank you. Hairstylist: L.A. is the epicenter of me-metic activity. Undeniable. Th at’s why it seems so confusing. Th at’s what I think. Client: Th at’s what I think, too. Hairstylist: I’m an anarchist. Are you an anarchist? Client: I’m an anarchist. Hairstylist: Are you a revolutionary? I’m a revolutionary. Are you a revolu-tionary? Client: I’m a revolutionary. Hairstylist: It’s inevitable. Client: Hey, where is the paint store around here? Hairstylist: Oh, you’re gonna do some painting? Client: Yeah, I’m gonna paint. I need to get some buckets. Hairstylist: Go to the corner and take a right on Ventura. It’s a few blocks on the left . Can’t miss it. Client: Is there another one around here? Hairstylist: Th at’s the only one. Client: I can’t go there. Hairstylist: Too expensive? Client: I got attacked there. Hairstylist: Was it spiritual? Client: Yes. Hairstylist: Oh, yeah, I can see that. Th e big guy? Client: Yeah, the prison cholo with the tats. Hairstylist: Yeah, I can see that. He’s very powerful. Dark messages there. Client: I can’t go back. I was sick for a month. Hairstylist: You’re gonna have to go to Home Depot. It’s unavoidable. Barbie Video Girl “FILM IS SO MUCH MORE DEMOCRATIC NOW,” DENOVE MUSED. “WE CAN THANK BARBIE FOR THAT.” a zombie. One fi lm is a nod to The Twilight Zone . Another is shot entirely in French with subtitles. Some, like MFA animator Marika Boehler’s Bug Eye , are Wong Kar Wai– esque, oblique and dreamy. Others, like MFA director Soraya Selene’s The Ken Show , are parodies: Barbie is a famous actress discussing her steamiest fi lm roles on Ken’s talk show. She crosses and uncrosses her legs, exposing a slice of plastic crotch. Eat that, Verhoeven! During intermission, the direc-tors talked shop — project diffi culties, cinematic infl uences, budget woes. Minus the Barbie Video Girl’s $54.99 retail price, Judy Phu’s Audition for Barbie was made for a grand total of $26 (batteries, plus beer and cookies for the crew). Naturally, they also talked Barbie, specifi cally the 108 careers she’s plowed through in her lifetime. “Doesn’t look good on the résumé, does it?” joked Denove. It wasn’t quite the Oscars, but a hand-ful of directors still got to pad their résumés that evening. Undergraduate Susanna Ericsson took home Best Docu-mentary for Thanks, Barbie . She asked people how they felt about Barbie and fi lmed their responses. MFA director Tess Sweet brought home the Mattel Jury Prize for Little Punk , in which Barbie exacts revenge on the girl who chops off her hair. While every single fi lm was shot with the Barbie Video Girl, the festival’s Best Film is not even about Barbie. Instead, MFA student Simon Savelyev’s I, Room-ba is an elegant piece about a robotic vacuum cleaner that gains sentience. It escapes Savelyev’s apartment, scuttles around the city, marvels at the lights on the Santa Monica Pier. The audience practically weeps. Not bad for cleavage-cam. Some-times, the message does transcend the medium. PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTEL INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ( 12 ) LA Weekly / September 16-22 2011 / |

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