Kracauer Feb.18

Less than two hundred years ago people could only dream of the moving pictures we’ve taken for granted. I found it funny that people expected film to fit the role of a better camera, such as taking still time lapse videos of a flower blooming, focusing mainly on the natural capturing of an event on physical media or the content instead of what form the film presents the content in. They could have never expected the amount of control we express through the properties of film. Kracauer presents two groups of properties pertaining to film; there are basic components that cover film’s role as a means to capture the surrounding world, and there are technical properties to film that concern themselves with our manipulation of the images captured to present another world to audinces that differs from what’s filtered through the lens(Kracauer, pp.144-145). Kracauer believes editing to be an important and distinct technical property of film and I agree, namely because it grants filmmakers the ability to play with the meaning carried behind it. This reminded me of the example discussed in class where the scene of rich, well-dressed oligarchs eating a meal could go from hungry fine dining to voracious and pig-like by cutting to a scene of pigs eating slop from a trough and back to the people gorging on wine and steaks. The properties of film yield two tendencies of the medium, realistic and formative. Early film mainly capitalized on the realistic tendency and focused on the capture of natural movement (Kracauer, pp.145-148). Kracauer gives us the Lumière brothers as an example of this. Their works mainly focused on the capture of movement other than the camera’s, which Kracauer calls “external or ‘objective’, motion” (Kracauer, p.149). Lumière focused little to no effort in telling a story and tunneled into the capture of natural scenes’ movement as his contribution to film (Kracauer, p.146).  Lumière’s popularity soon declined, and Méliès brought something quite different to the scene (Kracauer, pp.145-146). Méliès brought the realm of fantasy to film, with various works featuring landscapes that could never occur or an artistic perspective of something similar to reality (Kracauer, pp.146-148). This is where the two tendencies split. The realistic tendency convinces audiences that the scenes they’re seeing come from the natural world, and scenes are staged in such a way that not only conveys an appropriate meaning as intended by the film maker but captures the essence of being real. Opposed to this is the formative tendency, which reaches into dimensions unique to film and the way film makers can bend away from the realistic tendency and present something distinct from what’s possible to see with the naked eye (Kracauer, pp.148,150). I gathered that the realism tendency does not refer only to the capture of real-world elements, and the formative tendency is not only concerned in fantasy and Kracauer supports this as both are often interrelated and cross over each other in various films (p. 151). A shining example of this is James Cameron’s Avatar. Although it presents us an imaginary future where we encroach on the natural resources of blue humanoid aliens who live on a planet home to bizarre creatures, the world is presented in a way that would mimic a camera capturing it if it really existed. In the video down below, we’re presented by these floating rock structures that breathe life through them. Of course, these rocky tendrils are unnatural, but the rocks themselves are jagged and cracked, and the vines clinging all around them look like they took centuries to grow. Through the use of CGI, this imaginary world was made a reality, and no detail was spared in order to create a sense of ‘realism’.

It looks almost plausible!

This distinction between content and the form it’s presented in is made apparent also in art. I’ve included two trees down below, one tree lives in the realm of realism, and the other comes from the impressionist style. Notice how the realistic tree focuses detail more on the actual content, such as the light bouncing off the water or the individual blades of grass. The impressionist painting contrasts this, by focusing more on detail such as the density of paint and the type of brushstroke used for different elements of the scene. Although these two images present to us the same basic content, a tree in mid fall overlooking a body of water, how we experience them are entirely different. It’s through form developed from countless years of experimentation that artists and filmmakers alike can make an audience feel their intent.

Aneurin Facilitation 2/18

In his article, “Perceptual Realism” Stephen Prince attempts to tackle the question of is there any risk to the realism of film as technology evolves? As technology becomes more and more capable, films begin to take on this realism that he mentions many times rivals that of real life and suddenly what’s being seen on screen is now perhaps more real than it should be. Prince believes that this creates real issues for film theorists.

The first topic that Prince discusses is the power of CGI and how it has changed the movie going experience. Film theory has long held the idea that anything seen on screen is something that could be seen in the real world, CGI has smashed through that idea.

This scene from Jurassic Park is a fitting example, this is not something that someone in 2020 would ever see, yet if you were to sit in a movie theater you would believe you are seeing a real dinosaur due to the power of CGI and how digital correspondence works in our brains.

  The most impactful part of CGI may be that in 2020 we believe this is what a Dinosaur looked like, not because a scientist said so, or because we saw bones but because Steven Spielberg and his talented team are able to convince us of that through film. This is the issue that film theorists must wrestle with, no longer is film simply a viewing but it’s now something that changes us as viewers and what we believe.

How could it be that Forrest Gump was able to run for years like he does in this scene back and forth across America? Of course,no one would be capable of this nor would it be possible for an actor to do this so quickly, but the power of film suspends any need for belief because in six minutes we see him do it.

This suspending of reality is something that has been happening even more Paul Walker  is an example of this. Paul Walker was an actor that starred in many of the Fast and Furious films and after his tragic death was brought back through his brother’s face and CGI to appear in one more film. This is now crossing the gap between a film and a truly emotional reaction, people who viewed all of the Fast and Furious films had built a relationship with the actors and Paul Walker’s tragic death caused them pain. His return postmortem caused an extraordinary reaction and truly did bring him back to life. This is a powerful moment in film as well as Paul Walker’s family is given the chance to see him alive on screen one more time. This emotional reaction is brought to life in the music video done by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.

The power of CGI is only growing as shown by the award-nominated film, The Irishman. In this film actors such as Robert De Niro plays a character at many different ages across decades. This suspends our idea of time and allows us to become fully involved in the story because we have seen Robert De Niro get older.

This is a short video that describes this process more in-depth and the kind of impact it may have on the film industry. 

Finally, many parts of technology have changed our lives for the better or worse. CGI should enhance our entertainment experience as long as we recognize its power. Prince warns about its influence on us and as long as we are aware of that we can keep enjoying our dinosaurs and young Robert De Niro.