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Jess Dorrance

Abstract

This article analyzes the film and installation Toxic (2012) by Berlin-based artists Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz in order to reflect upon the politics of racialized queer and trans subjects becoming images and to consider the ways we might care for these images in the archives of history. I revisit my original argument about Toxic, which positioned the artwork as an intersectional “archive of feelings” that was paradigmatic of a moment in the late 2000s and early 2010s when many Western antiracist queer/trans communities were focused on critiquing the violences of gay pride assimilationism and its politics of transparency. I then turn to Christina Sharpe's “ethics of care” and Eric Stanley's work on opacity to analyze how this reading may work toward the politics of transparency it seeks to critique. In response, I develop the concept of queer/trans messiness as a set of aesthetic, performative, affective, and historiographical strategies present in Toxic, which produce different grammars of seeing and being seen, different ways of navigating the incommensurability between struggles for social justice, and different modes of representing antiracist queer/trans history.

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Beyond the Individual Body

Spinoza's Radical Enactivism and You Were Never Really Here

Francesco Sticchi

Abstract

Since the emergence of embodied cognitive theories, there has been an ever-growing interest in the application of these theories to media studies, generating a large number of analyses focusing on the affective and intellectual features of viewers’ participation. The body of the viewer has become the central object of study for film and media scholars, who examine the conceptual physicality of the viewing experience by associating body states with parallel intellectual and moral constructions. In this article, I contribute to the study of embodied cognition and cinema by drawing upon Baruch Spinoza's philosophy, especially from his process-based notion of the body. I will put this ecological and dynamic concept of the body in connection with recent studies on enactive cognition, and define a radical enactivist approach to be applied in the discussion of the experiential dynamics of Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here.

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Gianni Barchiesi, Laura T. Di Summa, Joseph G. Kickasola, and Peter Verstraten

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Alan Voodla, Elen Lotman, Martin Kolnes, Richard Naar, and Andero Uusberg

Abstract

Do cinematographic lighting techniques affect film viewers’ empathic reactions? We investigated the effect of high- and low-contrast lighting on affective empathy toward depicted actors. Forty one participants watched short clips of professional actors expressing happiness, anger, and disgust, and rated the valence and intensity of their own and actors’ emotional states. Affective empathy was assessed through the extent of the facial mimicry of actors’ emotional expressions and quantified through electromyographic activation of expression-specific facial muscles. We managed to elicit facial mimicry for happiness and anger, but not for disgust. High-contrast lighting further amplified empathic mimicry for happy but not for angry expressions. High-contrast lighting also amplified subjective feelings elicited by angry and disgusted but not happy expressions. We conclude that high-contrast lighting can be an effective means for influencing film viewers’ empathic reactions through the low road to empathy, even as the overall impact of lighting also relies on the high road to empathy.

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Ted Nannicelli

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Jonathan Frome

Abstract

Over the last thirty years, Noël Carroll has elaborated his theory of erotetic narration, which holds that most films have a narrative structure in which early scenes raise questions and later scenes answer them. Carroll's prolific publishing about this theory and his expansion of the theory to issues such as audience engagement, narrative closure, and film genre have bolstered its profile, but, despite its high visibility in the field, virtually no other scholars have either criticized or built upon the theory. This article uses Carroll's own criteria for evaluating film theories—evidentiary support, falsifiability, and explanatory power—to argue that erotetic theory's strange position in the field is due to its intuitive examples and equivocal descriptions, which make the theory appear highly plausible even though it is ultimately indefensible.

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Héctor J. Pérez

Abstract

This article explores the use of the plot twist in screen fictions. This is a largely unexplored area, as interest in this phenomenon has largely focused on the so-called “plot twist movie,” which is an older narrative tradition. In order to explain this aesthetic phenomenon, it draws on the model of surprise originally proposed by the cognitive psychologists Wulf Meyer, Rainer Reisenzein, and Achim Schützwohl. Plot twists are characterized by three distinct but intimately intertwined temporal segments and their corresponding functions, which are explained by this model. The objective of this article is to explore how cognitive-emotional interactions shape the aesthetic viewing experience and to identify how that experience relates to shows’ artistic qualities. Game of Thrones (S01 and S03), Homeland (S01), and Westworld (S01) will be used as test cases. In each of the three plot segments, there are specific processes that distinguish the experience of surprise as an aesthetic phenomenon.

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Christopher Blake Evernden, Cynthia A. Freeland, Thomas Schatz, and Frank P. Tomasulo

Rikke Schubart, Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions, and Contemporary Horror (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 384 pp., $117 (hardback), ISBN: 9781501336713.

Xavier Aldana Reyes, Horror Film and Affect: Towards a Corporeal Model of Viewership (New York: Routledge, 2016), xii +206 pp., $49.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781138599611.

David Bordwell, Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 592 pp., $30.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9780226639550.

Todd Berliner, Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 320 pp., $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190658755.

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Designing a New Method of Studying Feature-Length Films

An Empirical Study and its Critical Analysis

Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Eleni Berki, Juri-Petri Valtanen, and Pertti Saariluoma

Abstract

Measuring viewers’ experiences of films has become a critical issue for filmmakers because all kinds of audiences now have access to new releases from all over the world. Some approaches have focused on the cognitive level of the experience, while others have emphasized the structure of films. Additionally, some have used quantitative objective methods to examine audience reactions to short film sequences, while others have applied qualitative approaches to study feature-length films. However, an integrated method that combines the features of these approaches is needed. In this article, we describe a new method that combines quantitative and qualitative data to study viewers’ experiences of different structural features of films. This method involves an online subjective response mechanism that can be used to capture and measure the experiences of different target audiences as they watch movies of different lengths.

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Ethical Engagement with Movies

Response to Carl Plantinga's Screen Stories

Cynthia Freeland

Abstract

In Screen Stories, Carl Plantinga concedes that films have considerable power to manipulate our emotions, attitudes, and even action tendencies. Still, he believes that film viewers do consciously engage in various types of cognition and judgment, and thus he argues that they can resist films’ manipulations. The “engaged critic” he calls for can assist in assessing how films create and convey their moral messages. I raise some questions about the account Plantinga gives of how both character engagement and narrative structures contribute to filmic manipulation. First, I note that there is an unresolved active/passive tension in his picture of film viewers. Second, I suggest that his treatment of narrative paradigm scenarios does not offer a strong enough account of the specifically filmic aspects of screen stories and how they differ from literary stories. And finally, I raise some questions about his ideal of the ethically engaged film critic and the social role to be played by such a critic.