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James E. Cutting and Ayse Candan

This article investigates historical trends of mean shot durations in 9,400 English-language and 1,550 non-English-language movies released between 1912 and 2013. For the sound-era movies of both sets there is little evidence indicating anything other than a linear decline plotted on a logarithmic scale, with the English-language set providing stronger results. In a subsample of 24 English-language movies from 1940 to 2010 the decline in shot duration is uniform across 15 shot classes, a result that supports a broad “evolutionary” account of film change. The article also explores the proportions of these shot classes across years and genres, with the results showing that 25 percent of the decline in shot duration is due to a shift away from shot classes with longer-than-average shot durations towards those with shorter-than-average durations, and 8 percent of the decline is due to the increased use of shot scales in which characters appear larger.

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Ed Tan

Skip Dine Young, Psychology at the Movies

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Richard Allen

Review of Patrick Colm Hogan, UNDERSTANDING INDIAN MOVIES: CULTURE, COGNITION, AND CINEMATIC IMAGINATION

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James J. Fiumara

Nitzan Ben Shaul, Cinema of Choice: Optional Thinking and Narrative Movies

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Jeffrey M. Zacks

This article is a précis of the book Flicker: Your Brain on Movies (Zacks 2014). Flicker aims to introduce a broad readership to the psychology and neuroscience that underlies their experience in the movie theater. The book covers a range of topics, including emotional experience, adaptation from texts to films, memory and propaganda, movie violence, film editing, and brain stimulation. Cutting across the specific topics are a few broad themes: the evolution of the brain and mind, the role of automatically evoked responses in film viewing, and the role of behavioral and neural plasticity in everyday experience.

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Robert N. Matuozzi

Jason Horsley, The Secret Life of Movies: Schizophrenic and Shamanic Journeys

in American Cinema

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Asif A. Ghazanfar and Stephen V. Shepherd

Because the visual neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of monkeys are largely similar to ours, we explore the hypothesis that the same cinematographic techniques that create a visual scene for us likely create one for these close kin. Understanding how monkeys watch movies can illuminate how film exploits the capacities we share with our simian relatives, what capacities are specific to humans, and to what extent human culture exerts an influence on our filmic experience. The article finds that humans and monkeys share a basic capacity to process sensory events on the screen. Both can recognize moving objects and acting individuals, and both prefer looking at motion pictures of social behaviors over static images. It seems clear that some of the same things that make movies “work“ for human brains also work for the brains of our nonhuman relatives—excepting two critical features. First, humans appear to integrate sequential events over a much larger time frame than monkeys, giving us a greater attunement to the unfolding narrative. Moreover, humans appear to have special interest in the attention and intentional states of others seen on the screen. These states are shared through deictic cues such as observed gazing, reaching, and pointing. The article concludes that a major difference in how humans and monkeys see movies may be declarative in nature; it recognizes the possibility that movies exist as a means of sharing experience, a skill-set in which the human species has specialized and through which humans have reaped unprecedented rewards, including the art of film.

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Julian Hanich

This article explores the question of what we are actually afraid of when we are scared at the movies. It is usually claimed that our fear derives from our engagement with characters and our participation through thought, simulation, or make-believe in fearful situations of the filmic world. These standard accounts provide part of the explanation why we are afraid—this article complements them by showing that we often literally fear for ourselves as well. Concentrating on an anticipatory subspecies of cinematic fear dubbed “dread,” the article argues that we often fear a negative affective outcome, namely our own fearful experience of shock and/or horror that usually ends scenes of dread. By looking at viewers' action tendencies and actions proper activated in dreadful moments, the article suggests that we appraise scenes of dread as potentially harmful to our current (and even future) psychological well-being. Dread thus turns out to be a specific kind of metaemotion.

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Ethical Engagement with Movies

Response to Carl Plantinga's Screen Stories

Cynthia Freeland

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.

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Jane Stadler

Malin Wahlberg, Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology; Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience; Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear

Malin Wahlberg, Documentary Time: Film and Phenomenology (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), xvii + 170 pp., $22.50 (paperback).

Jennifer Barker, The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), xii + 196 pp., $24.95 (paperback).

Julian Hanich, Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers: The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear (New York and London: Routledge, 2010), xi + 301 pp., $118 (cloth).