Monday, March 18, 2013

Minds and Movies

This past week, I have been slaving over a paper for a film history class,  While this experience was not particularly enjoyable, it did bring a few questions to my mind (questioning being something I rather DO enjoy), and one of them, I've realized pertains to this class quite well, really.

Reading Postman's book throughout the past ten weeks or so, the main point I've taken from it (and I believe everyone else has as well) is that the form of media controls the content that it portrays.  One of the side points that he makes, however (I believe in the "Typographic America" chapter), is that the form can also have an effect on the way that people think.  He uses the example of the Lincoln debates, citing that each ranged from 4 to 7 hours, and that their audiences sat (presumably) patiently through the entire thing each time.  Now, I don't remember if he contrasts this with today's audience, or if that was a result of discussion in class, but the sad truth is, not many nowadays would show up for such a lengthy debate, and among those who did, many would probably not stay til the end.  I would attribute this to our have-it-now culture, one that allows us to purchase items at the click of a button and have them delivered to our homes the next day if we only pay an arm and a leg, one that gives us instant information also at the click of a button online, one that is loathe to give us any television programming over two hours when even the two hour programs are lacerated with blips of advertisement every five minutes.

Now, the prevailing opinion I've heard in class is that this switch is the result of moving from a print culture to a media culture.  They function differently, and our way of thinking changes to match that.  My question is: do you think this switch can occur within a single form of media?

Let me explain.  Have any of you ever watched any old films?  I don't mean films from the 90s either, I mean ones from the 30s, 40's 50's, etc.  They're a little more difficult to sit through than Die Hard, am I right?  Yet, these films are the same form of media as the movies that we pay obscene amounts of money to go see today.  We pay so much to see modern film, we must love it.  It must be incredibly entertaining.  Why do we not always feel the same about older cinema?  Is it the quality of the picture?  That certainly has changed.  Is it the CGI?  We certainly didn't have that in the early-mid 1900s.  Perhaps it is the very stories themselves.  Are they drastically different?

It seems to me that the change in structure of thinking has occurred within the form of film, not from a switch to another, in this case.  What do you all think, and why?


  1. I think a lot of the reason movies and films have changed so much not only has to do with change in thinking as much as it had to do with the change in technology. All of the directors wanted their movies to look as real and believable as possible. With the introduction of CGI and other forms of editing in characters. With the technological boom came the ability to add more things like explosions and add more action. As you can see I don't necessarily always believe Postman and that our discourse has really changed as much. The difference was that we have the capability now to create this style because of the amount of money in the movie industry compared to the early 1900's to the amount of technology.

  2. I'll mention that it's also experience. The film industry has changed over the years through time and experience. They keep what is exciting and profitable and disregards the rest.

    Also, viewers want to see something new and exciting. With old movies, this wasn't too bad since everything at that time was new and different since there wasn't much to compare them with. Now, viewers want to watch something new and different otherwise they say, "Oh, this reminds me of an old movie. Why did I pay money to watch something I've already seen? *sighs*"

    With computer generated scenes, we've also been able to create more fantasy like situations and capture film creativity and input that fantasy into a "reality."

    As Postman has mentioned, Audiences want to see read and watch something new and exciting to capture our attention or else we arn't interested anymore. By creating more fantastical different and exciting scenes, film directors pull an audience into thearters

  3. Maybe I'm outside of the norm, but there are several older films that I have found entertaining, or even deeply engrossing. The Wizard of Oz, early Disney films like Snow White and Fantasia, and even the silent film Metropolis strike my fancy, and they were all made before 1940.

    I think that the advancement of technology has allowed for more advanced techniques such as CGI. But I don't think that the quality of movies has decreased, or have become more in line with Postman's view of today's society. For example, the recent Academy Award winning movie Life of Pi relies heavily on CGI, but still produces an excellent story.

  4. The structure of telling stories hasn't changed very much at all throughout the years, but the way that the stories are presented has changed a bit. I think comparing the changes in human discourse to the changes that have happened in film may be slightly problematic, as we can assume that for as long as human beings have been communicating, the ways in which discourse has played out has continued to change. Films, however, have not been around for very long. I believe that a lot of the changes that we saw occurring in film were directors and producers practicing and perfecting a craft that is still quite young when compared to other forms of art.

  5. I would agree with all of the above- it mainly comes down to technology. As someone who happens to love old black and white films I've thought about this before. Sometimes when I see an action packed movie - I feel as if all I'm really paying for is to see stuff blown up but what about the storyline? I could have just as easily watched a movie for free on TCM and have been equally engrossed.
    I think with technology - we have become accustomed to getting excited with the technology itself rather than what we may use it for. Back in the day they were excited because it helped them polish their craft -of movie-making. Nowadays, it lets us blow things up AND now we can see each individual piece of metal flying through the air. So, maybe if people were more obsessed with the craft rather than the technology - things would be a little different.