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Film as the Engine for Learning

A Model to Assess Film's Interest Raising Potential

Winnifred Wijnker, Ed S. Tan, Arthur Bakker, Tamara A. J. M. van Gog, and Paul H. M. Drijvers

Abstract

Film has been used for education ever since educators recognized its powerful potential for learning. But its educational application has been criticized throughout the decades for underuse of the distinctive potential of film: to raise interest. To understand more fully film's potential for learning, we propose a dynamic model of viewer interest and its underlying cognitive and emotional mechanisms (film's interest raising mechanisms or FIRM model). In addition, we present an analysis method for assessing the interestingness of films in learning contexts. Our model marries interest theories from cognitive film theory and educational psychology and captures the dynamics of interestingness across a film as depending on a balance between challenge posed and coping potential provided.

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How Many Emotions Does Film Studies Need?

A Phenomenological Proposal

Julian Hanich

Abstract

A look at current emotion research in film studies, a field that has been thriving for over three decades, reveals three limitations: (1) Film scholars concentrate strongly on a restricted set of garden-variety emotions—some emotions are therefore neglected. (2) Their understanding of standard emotions is often too monolithic—some subtypes of these emotions are consequently overlooked. (3) The range of existing emotion terms does not seem fine-grained enough to cover the wide range of affective experiences viewers undergo when watching films—a number of emotions might thus be missed. Against this background, the article proposes at least four benefits of introducing a more granular emotion lexicon in film studies. As a remedy, the article suggests paying closer attention to the subjective-experience component of emotions. Here the descriptive method of phenomenology—including its particular subfield phenomenology of emotions—might have useful things to tell film scholars.

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The iAnimal Film Series

Activating Empathy Through Virtual Reality

Holly Cecil

Abstract

This article explores the innovative use of virtual reality (VR) technology in nonfiction documentary film formats by animal-advocacy organizations. I examine the potential of the VR medium to communicate the living and dying environments of factory-farmed animals, and to generate viewer empathy with the animal subjects in their short, commodified lives from birth to slaughterhouse. I present a case study of the iAnimal short film series produced by Animal Equality, which made its public debut at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Employing a critical animal studies framework, I engage Kathryn Gillespie's work on witnessing of the nonhuman condition as a method of academic research, and apply to it the embodied experience of virtual witnessing through virtual realty.

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Modernist Embodiment

Sisyphean Landscape Allegory in Cinema

David Melbye

Abstract

This article embarks from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's embodied understanding of metaphor in linguistic contexts and proceeds beyond merely an extended notion of “visual” metaphor toward an operational understanding of the term “allegory” in the cinematic context. Specifically, a pattern of Sisyphean landscape allegory in a global array of postwar narrative cinema is identified and explored, in which a psychologically conflicted protagonist struggles against a resistant natural landscape, connoting varying degrees of existential “futility.” The recurrent experiential configuration of this modernist allegory on screen, especially in terms of its haptic dimensions, is explored for its ability to “invoke” social critique—as felt, visceral content.

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Mr. Hulot's Invisible Gorilla

Jacques Tati and Inattentional Blindness

Eric Faden, Aaron Mitchel, Alexander Murph, Taylor Myers, and Nathan C. Ryan

Abstract

This article examines the work of mid-century French filmmaker Jacques Tati. Tati suggested that his films allow more visual freedom to audiences and that audiences discover new material upon multiple viewings of his films. We review the scholarship on Tati, especially in relation to critic André Bazin's theories of realism, and then propose another model for understanding Tati's films: the psychological concept of inattentional blindness. The article then discusses our experiment using eye tracking technology to study how subjects watch Tati's films versus other types of cinema and also how they re-watch films. Finally, we applied several statistical and mathematical tests to the eye tracking data to understand key differences between Tati's films and other filmmaking practices.

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Anthony Enns

Abstract

The nineteenth-century science of “optography” was based on the idea that an image of the last thing seen at the moment of death would be imprinted on the retina. This idea was inspired by the invention of photography, which reinforced the mechanistic notion of the eye as a camera, and it was frequently criticized in nineteenth-century literary texts, in which eyes more often record images generated from within the mind. Belief in optography began to wane at roughly the same time that cinema became a popular form of entertainment, but it continued to appear in several films in which severed eyes function as cameras or optical implants are used to record visual impressions that can be viewed after the death of the subject. This article examines how these optographic narratives continued to reinforce the mechanistic notion of visual perception on which film technology was thought to depend.

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Marissa C. de Baca

Erin Y. Huang. Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020). 288 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0809-5 / 978-1-4780-0679-4; (paperback, $26.95; hardback, $99.05)

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Gary Bettinson

Abstract

This article provides a stylistic examination of Sidney Lumet's thriller Deathtrap (1982), analyzing how its strategies of staging and performance generate narrational effects of suspense and surprise. It argues that Lumet anchors these performative strategies to a broad authorial program grounded in expressive subtlety; as such, Lumet's film reminds us of a waning tradition of US filmmaking in which stylistic ingenuity resides at the denotative and expressive (rather than the decorative or parametric) levels of stylistic discourse. The article treats Lumet's stylistic choices as creative solutions to a distinctive set of aesthetic problems. It canvasses—and identifies the functions of—the motivic staging schemas patterned throughout Deathtrap; and it illuminates how these schemas, actuated by star players, shape the viewer's cognitive uptake in substantive ways.

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Jessica Bay, Alaina Schempp, Daniela Schlütz, and R. Colin Tait

Smith, Anthony N., Storytelling Industries: Narrative Production in the 21st Century. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2018, 266 pp., $59.99 (eBook), ISBN: 978-3-319-70597-2.

Harrod, Mary, and Katarzyna Paszkiewicz, eds., Women Do Genre in Film and Television. New York: Routledge, 2018, 266 pp., $39.16 (paperback), ISBN: 9780367889845.

García, Alberto N. ed., Emotions in Contemporary TV Series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, 253 pp., $89.00, ISBN: 978-1-137-56885-4.

Dunleavy, Trisha. Complex Serial Drama and Multiplatform Television. New York: Routledge, 2019, 202 pp., $46.95, ISBN: 9781138927759.

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Editorial

From the Editor

Ted Nannicelli

Welcome to the first issue of Projections for 2021. After a brief hiatus from printing due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, we are once again publishing online and in print. (A reminder to members of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image [SCSMI]: an online subscription to Projections is now the default inclusion for memberships; members who would prefer to receive hard copies can do so by paying a small surcharge.) I would like to thank the team at Berghahn, especially Janine Latham, for their ongoing support. Thanks too are due to associate editors Aaron Taylor and Tim Smith, along with Katalin Bálint who covered for Tim while he was on leave. Finally, I would like to extend special thanks to our referees in 2020 who willing donated their time to support us during what was a very difficult year for everyone. The names of all referees for 2020 are listed below as an acknowledgment of their service.