Opening this issue of Projections is a provocative article by Ted Nannicelli exploring the myriad ways viewers today may encounter movies and the issues these modes of encounter pose for conceptions of cinema that emphasize a fixed, large-screen format. One of the ironies of cinema history is that, for most of its lifetime, cinema was seen as a big-screen medium, and many of its stylistic features evolved accordingly. Now, though, small screens proliferate, and many viewers find these to be perfectly acceptable ways of viewing films. The medium’s evolution into small, capsulized viewing formats challenges some of our aesthetic and pedagogical assumptions, and Nannicelli explores these in detail.
Although concepts of cinema authorship have been shot down by contemporary theory, the category survives and remains a useful one. It remains focused on directors, however, and Philip Cowan gives us a case study of cinematographer Gregg Toland that is aimed at moving beyond the director. Cowan examines Toland’s work for William Wyler, John Ford, Orson Welles, and other filmmakers and finds figural designs across this body of work that point toward a paradigm of authorship that is more collaborative than the traditional model.
Borrowing a paradigmatic term from communication research, Wyatt Moss-Wellington explores the role that cognitive dissonance plays in viewer responses to ethically and morally problematic characters and narratives in cinema. He examines provocative and challenging material in the films of David Lynch, John Sayles, Ken Loach, and Richard Linklater and considers the ways that theorists and critics have dealt with such material in their analyses of these filmmakers.
Few essays in the history of cinema have been so discussed as André Bazin’s “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” Bazin’s claims about the realistic nature of photographs have been parsed in great detail, and the shift from analog to digital modes of image-making have intensified the debates surrounding the essay. Mario Slugan argues that Bazin’s claims about the identity between photograph and object indeed hold true under very selective conditions, and he explores why Bazin thought this congruence might be valid for most categories of photographs.
Jason Dean and Geoffrey Raynor bring a psychoanalytic lens to the St ar Wars films. They draw on psychoanalyst Melanie Klein’s theories of aggression and psychological positioning, which she termed “depressive” and “paranoid-schizoid,” and they map this conceptual framework onto the filmic narratives and character conflicts. Doing so, they suggest that the Kleinian framework helps to explicate the power and the pull that these narratives have exerted for viewers.
Awards for “best picture” or “best performance” or lists that one can find online of the top fifty horror films or top films in other genres suggest that a consensus of informed opinion underlies the rankings. Pascal Wallisch and Jake Alden Whritner provide an empirical study of the degree to which viewers agree with one another in their assessments of popular films. Their findings point toward low rates of agreement, which the authors suggest is consistent with a view of cinematic narratives as being a medium offering many degrees of freedom to viewers in constructing their experiences in personal and often idiosyncratic ways.
We close this issue with a review essay on three books about film style and mise-en-scène, which the reviewer, Elliott Logan, finds offer a strong demonstration of the value of style-based expressive criticism.