Engagement, Psychological Fit, and Evolution in Movies on Our Minds

in Projections
Malcolm Turvey Department of History of Art and Architecture, Tufts University, Medford, USA

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Cutting's quantitative approach to analyzing films enables him to discover many fascinating and important design features of mainstream movies as well as how they have changed over cinema's history. Cutting also proposes plausible psychological explanations for some of these features and changes. However, Cutting places his empirical findings and his psychological explanations of them within a broader account of what he calls the evolution of cinematic engagement. For Cutting, movies have “evolved” to better “fit” our psychological capacities and have therefore become more “absorbing.” While some aspects of this account are plausible, others are less so. In this article, I therefore focus critically on Cutting's use of the concepts of “evolution,” “psychological fit,” and “engagement.”

Contributor Notes

Malcolm Turvey is Sol Gittleman Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Tufts University and was the founding director (2015–2021) of Tufts’ Film & Media Studies Program. He is also an editor of the journal October. He is the author of Doubting Vision: Film and the Revelationist Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2008) and The Filming of Modern Life: European Avant-Garde Film of the 1920s (MIT Press, 2011), and the co-editor of Wittgenstein, Theory, and the Arts (Routledge, 2001). His Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism was published by Columbia University Press in 2019. Email: malcolm.turvey@tufts.edu

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The Journal for Movies and Mind

  • Cutting, James E. 2021. Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement. New York: Oxford University Press.


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