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Blindspots
November 22, 2008 11:20 PM   Subscribe

Blindspots is a continually-updated collection of movie reviews based around one very interesting concept -- how accessible they are to the visually impaired.

Movies that score high in accessibility include "The American President" (10/10) and "Ghosts of Mississippi" (9/10). At the other end of the scale are "101 Dalmatians", "Buddy", and "Spawn", each receiving 2/10.
posted by flatluigi (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the blind, designed by the blind.
posted by roygbv at 12:23 AM on November 23, 2008


I maintain that Descriptive Video is sometimes the most awesome thing for sighted people. The additional narration is just killer.

"Maverick strides into the locker room, his blue eyes steely and his brow glistening with sweat..."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:31 AM on November 23, 2008


This site could also be useful for people who aren't blind. It's very difficult to imagine what life would be like without vision; this is one way to learn about it.

Another way would be to play around with a screen reader. Try to surf the web without using your eyes (or try this simulation of a screen reader).
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:40 AM on November 23, 2008


The site is definitely designed to be accessible and usable for the visually impaired and their automated reader -- which isn't so great for the rest of us who can see okay. But when in Rome (or something like that)

That said, I agree that it's an interesting site to get those of us with sight to look at the movies differently. However, it's really telling that many great movies that are visually interesting and tell stories in a way that only could be told by film by design have to receive low scores. The author, though, definitely realizes this and in many of them, seems sad about the fact, even if he has accepted it.

Thanks for the post. (Though I wish it had been updated more recently.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:48 AM on November 23, 2008


Fascinating.

The site is definitely designed to be accessible and usable for the visually impaired and their automated reader -- which isn't so great for the rest of us who can see okay.

I disagree completely! I'll take a site like this that presents its information without fuss and is easy to navigate over something pretty any day.
posted by jack_mo at 1:56 AM on November 23, 2008


For the blind, designed by the blind.

At least it has a professional white background.

I enjoyed reading the reviews. They're concise, descriptive, yet generous. And yeah, it's gonna make me think again about movies I see. I was hoping to see Clerks up there with a high rating, and found instead two average-rated Kevin Smith movies. And Tin Cup with a 7.
posted by carsonb at 2:28 AM on November 23, 2008


Years ago there was a movement to make people aware of the need to provide information in a way that would be accessible to a non-sighted person. This resulted in the passage of Section 503, which basically should have forced government contractors to make their websites usable by screen readers for the blind.

There were other benefits besides making it easier for the blind; when you structure a web page in a way that helps a screen reader you also structure it so that automated processes (scrapers, etc.) can locate the most relevant content more effectively. This could have benefited countless applications.

My recollection was that this was gaining momentum in 2001 but was severely displaced by 9/11. Most government contractors could claim that there were more important national priorities, so the effort the to "help the disabled" was ignored.

But there really was more to it than helping the disabled. If you consider the benefits of making television accessible to the deaf (close captioning - you know, the thing you read on the TV in a crowded bar) or the benefits of making stores accessible to people in wheelchairs (you know, those ramps that every parent pushing a stroller appreciates) you see that ease of use benefits more people than just those who need the easiest use.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:48 AM on November 23, 2008


The site is definitely designed to be accessible and usable for the visually impaired and their automated reader -- which isn't so great for the rest of us who can see okay. But when in Rome (or something like that)

The internet was better when most sites looked like this.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:21 AM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not just blind people, either.

I'm not blind. But I have eye trouble -- peripheral retinopathy in my right eye means I've effectively got tunnel vision (and no vision in poor light levels) on my right side, and surgery for a detached retina on my left eye means I can't focus on fine detail on the left. In everyday life this isn't too significant; I try not to drive on unlit roads after dark, and I lost the ability to speed read. But movies are another matter ...

The current style of movie making is big on special effects, frequent pans and zooms and scene changes, and luscious, complex backdrops. SFX and camerawork rule supreme, while plot and dialog takes a back seat. And I simply can't see that stuff. It takes me about twice as long to take in a photograph or a scene as someone with full vision in both eyes, and if the camerawork is twitchy I just can't keep up.

For example, I gave up on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series aftert "The Fellowship of the Ring"; it was just solid motion blur that I couldn't track. I could probably take it in if I stepped through the DVD at one-third normal speed ... but life's too short.

And I wonder how badly this is affecting old folks, given how visual acuity generally deteriorates after middle age?
posted by cstross at 6:42 AM on November 23, 2008


No review of Blue?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:21 AM on November 23, 2008


cstross, as a young person without visual handicaps, I will say: you're not really missing much. Recently, I've gotten Netflix and have gone back to watch films by Kurosawa, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean-Luc Godard, and so forth, and there's just no comparison. The only movies coming out that are even in the same ballpark are the Coen brothers' movies and some foreign films like The Lives of Others.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:53 AM on November 23, 2008


I think I'd be annoyed if a blind person was watching a movie next to me and their "sighted assistant" was constantly explaining the visual parts.
posted by Bleusman at 7:56 AM on November 23, 2008


Wow. I can hardly believe you guys are snarking on the design of a site for blind people.
posted by nosila at 8:14 AM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


nosila, Metafilter would snark at the design of the Sistine Chapel if it were contemporary.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:59 AM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah. I suppose I should be getting my gawking-at-the-lack-of-humanity-on-the-internet phase.
posted by nosila at 9:04 AM on November 23, 2008


But seriously, what is up with the limp-wristed way Adam is reaching out to be touched by God? Maybe it really was Adam and Steve, if you know what I mean.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:39 AM on November 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I often think about this with regard to colorblindness and video games. Especially color-based puzzle matching games. Some are literally unplayable for the colorblind. Makes you think. Well, makes me think.
posted by Eideteker at 11:18 AM on November 23, 2008


Oh, and thanks for sharing, cstross. After Quantum of Solace, I can appreciate your perspective.
posted by Eideteker at 11:19 AM on November 23, 2008


By co-incidence I am reading this while "The Empire Strikes Back" plays in the next room. Aside from being an awesomely noisy sountrack I am struck by how much I can work out what is happening from the sounds alone: [laser fire, laser fire, explosion, {direct hit my the Millennium Falcon I think}, C3PO celebratory beeps, deep boom, steam escaping, chewbecca grunt, dark vader theme, english accents {oh oh!}...

I guess my point is that some of the best movies are ones where everything has its own iconic sound.
posted by rongorongo at 1:58 PM on November 23, 2008


cstross, as a young person without visual handicaps, I will say: you're not really missing much. Recently, I've gotten Netflix and have gone back to watch films by Kurosawa, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean-Luc Godard, and so forth, and there's just no comparison. The only movies coming out that are even in the same ballpark are the Coen brothers' movies and some foreign films like The Lives of Others.

I'm not sure foreign language films are really up for comparison, here.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:30 PM on November 23, 2008


Before I forget again, this came from the blog Lorem Ipsum.
posted by flatluigi at 5:57 PM on November 23, 2008


Ambrosia, cstross was talking about difficulty following films that are edited into fast cuts and so on. I think that for someone with his problem, subtitles aren't a major concern.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:02 PM on November 23, 2008


Well, that's an interesting idea, but it runs contrary to my experience of optical acuity and cinema. Your selection of filmmakers being all foreign and moderately experimental hardly made the point you were after (Pierrot Le Fou is hard enough to understand as it is). Makes more sense to focus on directors famous for staid long takes, or ingenious sound mixing. I'm thinking of Terence Malick and Robert Altman, here, but certainly the MGM Musicals and the works of Billy Wilder, John Ford, and Alfred Hitchcock and most of classical Hollywood are also good suggestions for people with limited sight, that don't rely on their ability to follow subtitles at the same time as action, or to glean a lot of information from details of the mise-en-scene. Classical presentation of action makes for easy reading, in short. Establishing shot. Shot, reverse shot. There's little you can't infer if you miss something.

It was because of constant exposure to subtitled films that I realized my eyesight was deteriorating, actually! I have to wear glasses for screenings now, and there I was thinking 35mm was overrated.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:48 PM on November 23, 2008


Actually, for a totally blind person, graphic design means nothing; structure and good HTML do. (Blindspots has relatively poor code.) A lot of low-vision people hate blinding white backgrounds.

Anyway, yes, this is one of the two sites that have blind guys writing movie reviews. I would have to dig the other one up from ancient bookmarks. (I believe they were both mentioned on MetaFilter.) The whole enterprise is indeed predicated on an absence of audio description.

TwoLeftFeet, you mean Section 508, not 503.
posted by joeclark at 4:47 AM on November 24, 2008


The other blind dude writes at Blindside. I saw this in the links at my cinema-access page, if anyone’s interested.

Note that both of those review sites really haven’t been updated lately.
posted by joeclark at 5:43 AM on November 24, 2008


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