I’ve been paying attention to the usual suspects who crop up on the various top ten movie lists I’ve posted here. And indeed the very silly amount of times I’ve done so has proven to be something of a boon in that the regularities say something about the salient features of the medium for me.
Movies are supposed to be “immersive.” You’re not supposed to be conscious of the fact that you’re watching a movie while you’re watching one – you’re supposed to be totally involved, with the sound and image in a theatrical setting completely dominating your field of view and aural sense of place. Usually, when you do become self-conscious during a movie, it’s because something has gone wrong: the acting is bad, or the special effects are off; something has happened to break the illusion. But a lot of the movies that pop up on my lists are movies that in some manner call attention to their very artifice, to the fact that they have a ‘surface’, so to speak.
Which goes a good way to explaining why, say, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch movies annoy a lot of people: they are in some respects actually bad movies, at least in terms of what I’ve described above. The experience is a little bit like reading a book or looking at a painting. You can, of course, aim for extreme realism in a painting, but the viewer is always aware of the frame and canvas, and needs to actively bring herself to imaginitively engage with it.
I wonder how far this notion can be stretched: you could make the case that the reason I prefer traditional 2D to 3D animation is how 2D much more explicitly has a surface, and that the reason why three strip Technicolor is my favourite kind of colour is because it seems more painted than real.
My theory isn’t too surprising, given how I typically prefer more stylized forms of art, but I guess it’s kinda neat to arrive at this conclusion in a more inductive manner.
Anyway, let’s do this.