Facilitation – Communities, Identities, and Politics (Barry Brummett)

In this essay, Barry Brummett aims to refine the modern definition of rhetoric without compromising the integrity of the term, but through considering new forms of communication and media. Specifically, he examines political rhetoric through four 21st century changes: imaginary, commodified, local, and dialectic. 

Image is the publicly presented style of a person or group, and is carried in aesthetic materials and narratives. Ever since the development of TV and cinema, image has been the center of politics. Brummett gives the example of the commonly accepted viewpoint that John Kennedy won his election because of his good looks. Now, however, politics play games with images. Rather than being focused on policy and action, political campaigns are based upon rhetoric, statistics, polls, and attacks on image.

“Commodified” refers to the way that politics are reduced to terms of the market. Nearly any kind of struggle is framed as a product of a hurting economy, and the fastest way to better anything is to create jobs and money. This commodification essentially eliminates some of the country’s most pressing issues from discussion, in fear that they might stand in the way of economic growth and capitalism. People see political struggle and social issues as entertainment in their favorite TV shows, but these issues aren’t really addressed.

Political rhetoric is local in the sense that it can present personally engaged material (opposite to the “image” idea previously discussed), yet it creates an illusion of local involvement by discussing personal and domestic issues. For example, the largest news and media companies will mainly cover national news and issues, People sense a disconnect from large, national news and take the issues to a local level. Local protests or signs of support for national issues are often a way that people reduce the most complex issues down to a manageable level, often through some sort of material support. Brummett gives the example of the social struggle over the role of women, which Hillary Clinton embodies, and so supporters of this very large and complex issue simply support her as their way of feeling a part of the bigger women’s rights movement.

The most important aspect of dialectic is structure. This becomes very important in times of change and instability, where people search for structure in political language or ideas that gives them their sense of stability back. This explains why the creation of new ideas often pulls rhetors from the old idea. Brummett claims that many struggles over terminology, such as the term “Muslim terrorist” or the distinction between “terror” and “crime” are dialectic struggles which characterize this century’s political rhetoric.

A recent example of political rhetoric can be found in Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Campaign. In this video, Trump announces that he is running for President. He promptly commodifies the entire country, calling it a business and claiming that it can only be made great again by someone who knows how to make business deals. He cites claims that a successful person could never be elected into office but then attempts to reason that he knows he can, and that that attitude is what will get him elected. He is attempting to create his image but fails to use any sound logic or reasoning, yet he sets himself up as a candidate who has nothing in his way. Trump also uses the structure aspect of dialectic in his phrase “Make America Great Again.” Everyone knows that a new president entering office is a change, but the simple us of the word “again” makes his audience think that America was once great, and that he must have a plan because he’ll simply do whatever was done to make it great in the past.


Facilitation: “From Tony Soprano to Hannah Horvath: What Does a TV Show ‘Want’ You to Think of Its Characters?”

In this article written for TIME, James Poniewozik questions the average viewer’s need to sympathize with the protagonist of a TV show, even when their actions are disagreeable. He introduces this idea by examining audience responses to HBO’s Girls, specifically to creator Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath. Poniewozik writes that many negative reviews of Girls focus on how selfish Horvath is, and criticize the show for expecting the audience to approve of her. However, he argues that Girls’ attitude towards Horvath is more ambiguous than clear approval/disapproval, and suggests said ambiguity to be a source of critical dissent. This comes as no surprise to Poniewozik, as he recognizes that central characters in TV shows are typically made to be liked. Sure, they may have flaws, but shows tend to project a positive attitude towards them.

Another example Poniewozik uses of a lead character with questionable morals is Tony from The Sopranos. This show was, in Poniewozik’s words, the “watershed for TV antiheroes”, because it had a protagonist “whose goals you did not relate to, whom a decent person would, by and large, not cheer for”. Tony is a sociopath, and the show often depicts him doing cruel, selfish things; however, the viewer is also given intimate details about Tony’s life, some of which seem to provide context for his actions. The show doesn’t let the viewer comfortably hate him because, on some level, they understand him.

Much like when Hannah Horvath stole $20 from a maid, many people were very critical of Tony’s actions, and thus panned The Sopranos entirely on the grounds that it wanted you to approve of his crimes. Poniewozik says this response likely came from the assumption mentioned earlier in the article, that the main character is always who the viewer is supposed to root for. He suggests that the intended response is more nuanced than that–just because the viewer understands some of Tony’s motives doesn’t mean they have to praise his behavior. You aren’t supposed to sympathize with him most of the time, and though you may relate to him on various levels of the human experience, you aren’t supposed to be on his side.

Poniewozik writes that this constitutes the basic notion of the “antihero”, a trope which he claims has been extensively retooled and tinkered with over the years. Shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have their own versions of antiheroes, characters who behave nobly at times, yet continuously incite violence and manipulate others. While Hannah Horvath may not be as morally compromised as Walter White, Poniewozik argues that Girls resembles a “cable antihero drama” in how its characters are depicted. In certain situations, Hannah can be very caring and perceptive, and in others, she lacks the conscience not to steal from a housekeeper. Poniewozik argues that this kind of ambiguous characterization is still new territory for many comedies, as unlikeable characters are often more explicitly readable in funny TV shows. He writes that Girls is less about liking or approving of Hannah, and more about wanting to see her grow.

This idea of wanting to see characters grow reminded me of another HBO show, Six Feet Under. The show follows the lives of the Fisher family, who manage and inhabit a funeral home in Los Angeles. They are extremely dysfunctional, and the viewer is given a detailed view of their grievances with each other and interpersonal fallouts. They hurt each others’ feelings on numerous occasions, and their relationships are fraught with deep conflict. Though they all act on hot tempers, the viewer is aware of each one’s personal trauma, and in very poignant instances, gets to see them bond over it. There’s a payoff that comes with watching them grow closer, and it’s those moments of true connection that keep the viewer invested in their lives. Sure they’re bitter much of the time, but in the end, you want to see them become a happy family.

Dewberry and Conceiving Grizzly Man through the “Powers of the False” Facilitation

Eric Dewberry’s Conceiving Grizzly Man through the “Powers of the False” is about Werner Herzog’s documentary and how it engages in “creative falsification”. Dewberry states that “creative falsification” is “a cinematic concept theorized by Gilles Deleuze in which the filmmaker generates optical images which bond to virtual images (or images that evoke a people’s general past, fantasies, and dreams) to reveal some representation of the truth.”

Dewberry first mentions that film critics expressed unpleasant feelings about the documentary. Some critics complained that Herzog had bad editing, it was too staged, or that he should have let Timothy Treadwell’s photographs and videos speak for themselves. Herzog has been criticized before about previous documentaries and has even admitted to fabricating some of his documentaries.

This is where “creative falsification” comes in. Dewberry expands more about creative falsification and states that it brings out the “real” truth in situations because the actual series of events has the truth represented in discourse. By falsifying some of the story, the “real” truth comes out.

Herzog in the documentary uses other people along with all the footage kept by Treadwell to help portray Treadwell’s thoughts and ideas. Herzog even appears at one point during the documentary when he is listening to the footage that Treadwell had recorded during his attack. Herzog places interviews, pictures, and footage in a certain order to express certain ideals. For example, Herzog includes lots of footage with Treadwell talking about how dangerous it is to be this close to bears and even mentions that Treadwell was mauled to death by a brown bear to create “an intensified drama in the film, so that every close encounter with wild bears leaves the viewers waiting for an attack.”.

The whole concept of “creative falsification” makes me think of the term white lies, small little lies that usually support some sort of idea or story by the person using them. White lies most of the time don’t hinder anyone involved, however it is a form of lying that no one does anything about, People are told multiple white lies a day without realizing it. It can be something as simple as “Hey, have you seen this movie?” or “Hey, have you heard of this song,” or something a little more complicated such as the character of Santa Claus. Many parents will tell their kids Mickey Mouse and Cinderella are real people instead of a storybook characters to keep their imagination alive. .

Furthermore, at Disney World, Disney workers dress up as Disney princesses and other Disney characters to help little kids perceive their favorite storybook characters as real people. Even though Cinderella and Mickey Mouse, do not actually exist; Disney workers will not admit that they do not in the park around children. Disney workers who dress up as Disney princesses are not allowed to say “I dress up as Cinderella” or “I am Cinderella” outside of work; they are supposed to say that “I am friends with Cinderella” to keep the magic alive in the child’s imagination. White lies are helpful to these children in the sense that what they think is real has stayed real from a cartoon movie to a real world castle.

Facilitation: Narration as a human communication paradigm: the case of public moral argument

Fisher’s article “Narration as a human communication paradigm: the case of public moral argument” was very hard to understand, and I had a lot of trouble writing this facilitation.  But I think I finally figured it out, Fisher’s main statement is that mankind use books, movies, etc. to make emotional ties and create shared memories to embed influential, compelling theories. “The pursuit of Happyness” is a movie that has an emotional tie to it.

In this movie a struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional career. In this movie Will Smith plays the role of a single father that has been removed from his home, and has nowhere to go. The character Will plays is  “Chris Gardner ” eventually finds a job as an intern but it still pays no money. They go through many hard experiences throughout this movie, but no matter what they never give up hope. Many people can relate to this movie and can share emotional ties with it because a lot of people struggle to support their family.

I think another excellent concept was how books/movies are used to help people to believe and behave in particular ways (religion, political ideas, common manners, etc.) He explained how books have been used to create beliefs and interests, help others to understand, gain verification with a particular group, and bring organization to our experiences. Stories are so influential since almost all of them can connect with the attitudes, acts, or people in them. They’re seeking to develop our view of the world and the people surrounding us. One movie that helps support this idea is The Edge of the Seventeen.

The film tells a story about a young girl coping with change, depression, friends, family, and high school. A large number of young people can connect with the anxious and troubled teenage girl, or other characters in the movie.It helps the viewer grasp a number of different perspectives (a high school girl, a brother, a mother). Last but not least, this story helps the viewers to see the importance of friendship value, that it’s not always good to fall for a person just cause they are attractive, to appreciate, and to pardon others. This film was told as a story with a strong intimate and spiritual connection that was convincing, which compelled the viewer to aspire for joy and laughter in the final stages of social isolation and sorrow.

Lastly when Fisher talks about narrative paradigm he says, “Regardless of the form they may assume, recounting and accounting for are stories we tell to ourselves and each other to establish a meaningful-life world. The character of the narrator(s), the conflicts, the resolutions, and the style will vary, but each mode of recounting and accounting for is but a way of relating a “truth” about a human condition” (pg 6). This statement is saying that facts are just as persuasive to the viewer as emotions if the story conveys the same meaning. 

When I think of narrative paradigm I think of the use of movies and how they affect the viewpoint of children. Some kinds of movies that affect their viewpoint are superhero movies such as marvel movies or Disney’s big hero 6. Big hero 6 is a movie where kids look at themselves and say I want to be a hero too or I want to fight evil and save the world. Kids are inspired by these films to be better people and care for others. Narrative paradigms help shape what makes people good or bad and we are persuaded by their use of beneficial theories.

Narrative And The Rhetoric of Possibility Facilitation

Kirkwood argues that “all narrative may be said to disclose possibility” (p. 32)  meaning that narrative should introduce new ways of being to the audience. The rhetoric of possibility is crucial for moral argument and can display different types of communication. He talks about the four problems (p. 34) of disclosing possibilities and gives ways in which they can be solved.

The four problems are:

  1. The possibility only existing in the narrative worlds and therefore being difficult for the audience to apply to themselves. 
  2. The possibilities not appearing to be feasible by the audience.
  3. The difficulty of showing compelling performances that will illustrate possibilities to the audience. 
  4. Ambiguity of possibilities can make it easier for the audience to apply performance to their preexisting beliefs and thereby make it difficult to access new possibilities. 

We will address each problem and discuss how the solutions Kirkwood supplies to rhetors. 

A solution that Kirkwood provides for the first problem is clearly showing the states of minds the character undergoes thereby showing “the conduct they enable is possible” (p. 34).  He talks about nonrevealing and revealing accounts and gives an example of each (p. 35). Nonrevealing accounts do not divulge the character’s state of mind at the core of the performance and thereby does not show the virtue the audience should pursue while revealing accounts do just that, and thereby tell the audience the state of mind is feasible. This opens up the ability of a new possibility to go beyond the context and story. Nonrevealing accounts can lack narrative fidelity which occurs when values in a story are confirmed by one’s experiences (p. 30), however, because revealing accounts disclose states of mind, they do not depend on their narrative fidelity.

For the second problem, Kirkwood talks about how nonrevealing accounts that fail to disclose the reason for the character’s deed may not show the audience how they have the possibility is attainable for them because they can easily credit the deed to elements beyond their capacity. However, revealing accounts will equip the audience with the knowledge of the states of mind behind brave deeds, and potentially, they can practice the states of minds. 

An example of a revealing account I thought of was Disney’s Lion King. When Nala finds Simba and tries to convince him to return to Pride Rock, he is scared and refuses to. However, after seeing Mufasa’s ghost, he remembers who he is and decides to return to Pride Rock. The audience is able to see Simba’s state of mind when he is afraid and his state of mind when he gains courage. They are able to apply the possibilities outside the context of the movie and the possibilities of bravery are more attainable to them. 


For the third problem, Kirkwood gives two ways rhetors can give audiences compelling performances (p. 38). The first way is depicting other people’s performances–either factual or fictional–and giving the audience the possibility of a state of mind.

This reminds me of inspirational movies like The Greatest Showman. The movie is about a man who has faced financial hardships but perseveres to build a successful circus. Though the characters go through trials and tribulations like the circus fire that occurred before this scene, they do not give up. The lyrics of the songs–like in the video below– can call on the audience to actualize the possibilities of the states of minds in the movie. In this scene, they rebuild their circus after all hope seemed lost, potentially compelling the audience to keep on pushing through difficult situations in their own lives. 


The second way of solving the problem is to call forth the compelling performance from the audience and use the performance as a transforming tool. This can be achieved in two ways:

  1. Provoke reaction from the audience to show response which is the possibility to be uncovered.  
  2. Helping the audience achieve things considered impossible then revealing the effects of the performances.  

Calling forth performances for the audience rather than showing a character’s deeds seems to have 2 advantages:

  1. The audience knows the consequences of their actions more easily.
  2. Performances show what the audience has the ability to do. 

Next, Kirkwood provides ways rhetors can solve the last problem which is the issue of performances being too ambiguous, and thereby not challenging people’s sense of human capacities (p. 40). The two ways to resolve this issue are:

  1. Telling the audience the meaning of a person’s performance.
  2. Showing the meaning of a person’s performance. 

Giving commentary to an audience can bring attention to detail of the performance that might be neglected. Also, rhetors can bring attention to the behavior of the audience. Commentary can also help strengthen a possibility that the audience already noticed and demonstrate a new way to think about the performance. The commentary can be dispensed because people can reevaluate the story and display a new state of mind. Rhetors can tell audience possibility because the possibility might not be clear. The audience judges the commentary of a new possibility and if it agrees with their preexisting beliefs, they might agree with it. If the possibility is unfamiliar, they may decide to accept the word of the commentator. 

The second way to reduce ambiguity is by giving performances with little to no commentary (p. 42). When the rhetor gives key narrative details, the possibility of the story is revealed and not how true the story is or how credible the rhetor is. However, not giving commentary can lead to the inability of some listeners to identify the possibility because they do not reflect on the story. Some rhetorical advantages “showing” has over “telling” is the fact making the stories indicate the state of mind is possible and the audience discerning the state of mind demonstrates their capacity to do it. However, by giving commentary, rhetors can demonstrate that states of minds are possible and not only suggest them, and it can also evoke compelling performances from the audience. 

At the end of the paper, Kirkwood mentions that making the audience aware of unknown possibilities can create problems and he gives the example of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (p. 45). There are consequences for people that accept the new possibilities and he writes that preferably, rhetors who present new possibilities will help the audience cope with the new possible difficulties of the possibilities. 

Facilitation: Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument

The article Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument proposes a theory of human communication and the attainable notions of the narrative paradigm, which is demonstrated through the analysis of the current nuclear controversy and The Epic of Gilgamesh. The sole purpose of this piece is to compare and contrast the nuclear warfare, a public moral argument, and the rational world paradigm while suggesting that the narrative paradigm is the resolution to these issues. 

To better understand and comprehend Fisher’s work, a definition of “narration” and “paradigm” are relevant. “Narration” is a series of actions or deeds that are separated into two traditional strands of rhetoric: argumentative, persuasive theme and the literary, aesthetic theme (Fisher, 1984). There are 5 presuppositions that structure the narrative paradigm located on page 7 and 8. In short, these presuppositions are the base of the narrative paradigm where humans find their nature as “reasoning-valuing animals” (Fisher, 1984). Furthermore, “Paradigm” is the entirety of human communication and public or social knowledge. Specifically, “The Rational World Paradigm” contains 5 presuppositions (found on page 4), which insinuates that humans are rational, but the ability to be competent in an argument is learned. In conclusion, Fisher suggests that narratives enable us to engage in personal interactions, because we all are raised amongst narratives that intertwine with our own. In contrast, the rational paradigm is a section of consciousness because we have been educated into it. Nevertheless, a narrative paradigm resolves the problems of the public argument because it is the ground for resolving the dualism of modernism and is a moral construct (Fisher, 1984). 

Now, “The case: public moral argument” is based on the ultimatum of life and death and refers to public controversies or moral debates. The book The Fate of the Earth brings into context the nuclear warfare controversy as an obvious case of a public moral argument (Fisher, 1984). The nuclear warfare controversy depicts the option for life over death as the characters lack a grasp on reality and national sovereignty when bearing witness to nuclear annihilation.  However, the distinct strategy is reaffirmation towards moral concern and a resolution to the group that the government and society may be publicly committed to (Fisher, 1984). Jonathan Schlell’s concluding argument in The Fate of the Earth is an example of a moral argument. Here he states, “Either we will sink into the final coma and end it all or, as I trust and believe, we will awaken to the truth of our peril, a truth as great as life itself…” (Schell, 2000, p.231)This example reminds me of the production Cinderella Man. In Cinderella Man, James J. Braddock was a day laborer barely making ends meet for his famished loved ones during the great depression. After winning a shocking upset in the boxing ring, he is dubbed the “Cinderella Man” for turning his rags into riches and therefore choosing “life over death” in regard to the public moral argument.

Lastly, Fisher explains that the main character in The Epic of Gilgamesh spends his youth in fame as a tragic hero until his soul mate, Enkidu, dies in an epic battle. His journey, filled with torturous challenges, comes to an end when he learns that death is inevitable (Fisher, 1984). Gilgamesh then saw the value of immortality in the monuments that one leaves behind, and that life is the fullest when love is received and reciprocated (Fisher, 1984). The Epic of Gilgamesh suggests similarities to the famous movie, The Wizard of Oz. In this classic, Dorthy learns valuable lessons from the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion, on her way back to kansas after her rigorous voyage. The renowned wizard even states, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

Link to the article: https://acpm14.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/fisher-narration-as-paradigm.pdf


Fisher, W. R. (1984). Narration as a human communication paradigm: The case of public moral

 argument. Communication Monographs, 51(1), 1-22. doi:10.1080/03637758409390180

Felming, V. (Director). (1939). The Wizard of Oz [Motion picture].

Howard, R. (Director). (2005). Cinderella Man [Motion picture].

Sandars, N. (1972). The Epic of Gilgamesh. London, CA: Penguin.

Schell, J. (2000). The Fate of the Earth: And, The Abolition. Redwood City, CA: Stanford

 University Press.

2/25: Morris Facilitation

Morris’ article, The Anti-Post-Modern Post-Modernist, is set to be an interview between Errol Morris and Homi Bhabha. Errol Morris, a film director, is a producer of numerous documentary films that are based on non-fictional stories, such as In Cold Blood, Dr. Death, and Thin Blue Line.

One of Morris’ most notable documentary films was Dr. Death. This film talks about a physician who was sentenced to death by electric chair after being suspected for the murder of his private patients. The most interesting part of this article was that Morris interviewed the titular “Dr. Death” and was intrigued with the fact that this physician was claiming innocence, even though there were five witnesses who testified against him. Unsurprisingly, “Dr. Death” was convicted of capital murder, which further intrigued Morris to create a documentary about such a scandal.

The next documentary produced by Errol Morris was Thin Blue Line, but it was criticized by numerous film reviewers because they thought that film was more of a re-enactment of Randall Adams’ conviction rather than an actual documentary. According to Homi Bhabha, an interviewer who grew up in Bombay (home of traditional pioneering documentaries and Bollywood), Morris’ films were described to be non-fiction feature films instead of a documentary, which explained the reviewers’ criticism.

The trailer for Thin Blue Line tells the story of a man by the name of Randall Adams who shot and killed a DFW police officer, Robert Wood, and was convicted of that horrific crime. The true motive for the murder was when Adams got pulled over by Wood, he shot the officer out of fear of being confronted by the officer. So, Randall pulled out his gun and shot Officer Wood multiple times and drove away from the scene of the crime. During the introduction of the interview, Bhabha mentioned that Adams was released from prison after serving more than 12 years on death row. It was very surprising to the Dallas community, including the assistant district attorney, that Randall would be the first on death row to be released from prison because of the film’s release.

In The New York Times, Morris quoted that “if you want to believe some things, then we often find a way to do so, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Believing is seeing and not the other way around.” The film director wanted the audience to believe what they see onscreen, while watching the film. Bhabha described the director’s films to be his “disturbing works of truth, history, and art” because of Morris’ habits of wanting to produce non-fictional features onto the big screen and his idea of using cinema verite (truth cinema). For example, there are actually some people who gave up their limbs in order to collect their insurance policies, while filming Vernon, Florida. Mutilating people to look the part as a person without a limb is one step too far for a film director, which was a long time before many film producers began using green screen and CG effects. As punishment, Morris got beaten by the son of a mutilated person, thus teaching him a lesson.

Facilitation on Nicholas

by Cody Goggins

In the “Domain of Documentary” written by Nicholas, he brings forth Documentaries in order to examine them. To see what they are made of and how they are driven, viewed and used in our society. With Documentaries, they are given three formal definitions to be used and interpreted.

The first being Documentaries as an institutional practice. Essentially stating that in order for a filmmaker to get their point across by any means necessary. Even if that means manipulating the evidence in order for them to create the best possible argument. This can be seen in Katie Couric’s gun control documentary where she posses a question during an interview with several pro-gun people and there is a palpable silence in the room before the scene cuts and a revolver is being loaded. This was an example of recontextualization as in the original before editing one of the interviewees responds almost immediately. Now, it’s a recontextualization as if she allowed the interviewee to answer in her documentary it would’ve opened the door for a discussion or argument in this case but since she didn’t it was never allowed. Which in turn got her point across which is the whole point of documentaries as an institutional practice.

The second definition is through text; Corpus of Texts (as the text calls it). It revolves around informational Logic. Thus requiring a representation, argument and/or case about the purpose of the film whether it be about gun control, food shortages in 3rd world countries or teenage pregnancy and its consequences. With that being stated on how documentaries are structured in that sense it would lead to the actual documentary in 4 steps for the whole thing. 1st being the establishment of the documentary (what it’s about), discussing what it’s about in its current context in the world, the background of it, and then the conclusion where a solution is offered towards fixing the problem the documentary is about if there is one to fix at all. A great example of this being the Super Size Me documentary that we watched parts of as a class and the entirety of in our own time.

Then, of course, there are different types of Documentaries. Examples being Band of Brothers could be considered a historical documentary, while a documentary about how Trump won the 2016 election could be an informational documentary. There are many different types or “modes” as the text calls them for documentaries but they can still overlap each other and be compatible with one another. The two examples just used are an example of that. Both historical (although recent history, it is still history for one of them) and both informational. Link below for the Trump doc.

The final definition is through the viewers. How our psychology when watching a documentary and how that is exploited by a filmmaker make a documentary so much more powerful/influential. One such way is to give motivation. Mostly through realism, an example of this being the Beaches during D-day; specifically Omaha Beach. Link below if you haven’t seen the scene.

Moving on another way they do this is through “teach a lesson” within the documentary whether it involves history or anything else. A good example of this being in The Big Short

In short, the final definition for Documentaries is how exactly to affect the audience and influence them in order for them to learn from the documentary. In whatever manner that may be.

As for the core of what Nicholas was getting at; it is all about knowledge. The knowledge that comes from the documentaries we see, no matter where or what format they’re in. What we learn and subsequently “know” and how we use that “knowledge” we have. Where is our “knowledge” from and can we trust it? Knowledge then becomes a source of a guilty pleasure and can be manipulated.

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.