cinema


note mentions

  • ego-simple-noframe

    this is a collection of notes that i've written over time, mostly for myself. in the spirit of working with garage doors open, i've published them and open sourced this website. works under writing are original, my notes a mix of thoughts with quotes from the artwork subject of the note.


    writing

    ⠀⠀

    notes

    ⠀⠀

    books

    ⠀⠀

    articles

    ⠀⠀

    film

    symbols

    • ∴ (therefore)
    • → (if then)
    • ↔ (if and only if)
    • (consequence of)
    • ≔ (definition)
    • ⫫ (independent from)
    • ∵ (because)
    • ∃, ∄ (there exists/does not exist)
    • ∈, ∉ (belongs to/does not belong to)


    ⠀ ⠀

    ⠀ ⠀

    writing keeps ideas in space

    speech lets them travel in time

    we use paintings to decorate space

    and music to decorate time

    ⠀ ⠀

    ⠀ ⠀

    find the way by moonlight

    see the dawn before

    the rest of the world

    ⠀ ⠀

    ⠀ ⠀

    unconscious time, no peace of mind,

    falling in space but still alive.

    sketching the future in a single line,

    everything's spinning, cannot sit down.

    moments in space, places in time,

    thoughts penciled in, now come to life.

    ⠀ ⠀

    ⠀ ⠀

    As of today, no one knows how to translate paintings, flowers or music into language. Their beauty is implicit and exclusive to their form, which is why it's so hard to explain how a particular piece of art makes us feel.

    ⠀ ⠀

    ⠀ ⠀


    Eduardo Gonzalez

    ego-noframe

    ⠀⠀

    ⠀⠀

    notes

  • futurecinema

    what comes after cinema?

    eduardo gonzalez, aug 2023


    summary

    AI images have quickly evolved to a point of near-perfect photorealism and some have already gone viral worldwide.

    text-to-image models are not creative but derivative. they use data from countless artworks, sometimes without the author's consent, to create new and original results.

    • this mechanism is largely responsible for negative reactions + debates around copyright, misinformation and ethical implications of artificial intelligence in the creative process.
    • record labels are hostile but they'll embrace it as soon as they profit from it. maybe some new art = dead artists + current artists (Bad Bunny + The Beatles?)

    it seems this new era of media creation is hostile to artists, but its not the first time technology has disrupted art.

    the rise of photography in the 1850s is a good example.

    • photographers could capture reality instantly and with perfect accuracy than painters.
    • photography enabled mass reproduction of art that allowed multitudes of people to see them, but degraded each artwork's individual impact (∴ influence)
    • privacy concerns: taking photos of others without their consent
    • copyright concerns: who owns the photo? photographer or photographed?

    until then, painters were judged by their ability to accurately represent reality. they felt threatened since anyone with a camera could now do their job.

    • as photography became accepted as a new form of art, it suddenly helped to reduce these expectations. artists could now explore ideas without worrying about visual accuracy.
    • ⤷ painting (art) had its biggest revolution, visually and philosophically: impressionism (1860s-1880s), cubism (1910s), surrealism (1920s-1930s), abstract art (1910s-now) and eventually, cinema.

    text-to-image generation is still in its infancy (!) but text-to-video models are imminent.

    • current ai models already show impressive understanding of cinematic language (on ai) and it won't be long until anyone is able to create photorealistic movies using natural language. this will challenge cinema like photography did to art.
    • users specify cameras, lenses and framings, AI models create photorealistic sets, props, actors and dialogue.
    • no need for physical locations, crews or large budgets → cost of making movies will significantly decline.
    • democratization of the hollywood film studio → new voices previously limited by costs of filmmaking.

    as of today, no one knows how to translate paintings, flowers or music into language. their beauty is implicit and exclusive to their form, which is why it's so hard to explain how a particular piece of art makes us feel.

    • a new epoch of cinema will arrive: anyone will be able to make a movie using natural language ∴ film and text will become the same thing. (→on ai)
    • every frame will be generated, not filmed.
    • anyone will be able to read, write or watch a movie.
    • cinema will detach from the camera.
    • this won’t be better or worse, just different. (→on cinema)

    ⠀ ⠀

    full article

    Usage of AI tools skyrocketed on launch and their impact is being felt in many fields, from financial accounting to psychologist's offices and creative studios. Image generation with AI has also evolved in a short time to a point of near-perfect photorealism and some artificial images have already gone viral worldwide.

    AI models are not creative but derivative, meaning they use elements and styles of countless artworks and paintings, sometimes without their creator's consent, to create new and original results. This mechanism is particularly responsible for negative reactions and debates around copyright, misinformation and the ethical implications of artificial intelligence in the creative process.

    Just recently on April 14, TikTok user Ghostwriter977 released "Heart on My Sleeve", a song that used AI to mimic the voices of singers Drake and The Weekend, without neither singer being involved in the process. Just 3 days later, their record label, Universal Music, condemned the use of AI to create the song, invoked copyright violation to take down the track, and asked streaming platforms to block AI companies from accessing their songs. The 2-minute-14-second song had already been listened to over 20 million times by then.

    Not all reactions have been negative: the Japanese government became the first one to settle that they won't enforce copyright on artworks used for AI training and British singer Paul McCartney recently announced that the 'last Beatles song' will be completed using AI and released in 2023. The use and progress of these tools will only increase, soon disrupting all areas of artistic creation, from music and painting to photography and cinema. And while Record labels and Studios are currently hostile towards AI, I believe they'll embrace it as soon as they start to profit from it. (Maybe dead artists and actors will be revived to make new songs and movies with current artists, Bad Bunny+Freddie Mercury?)

    fridas

    Feb 2022⠀ April 2022 ⠀July 2022⠀ Nov 2022 ⠀March 2023
    "Frida Kahlo browsing her phone"

    But even if it seems we might be entering an new era of media creation that is hostile to artists, this is not the first time technology has disrupted art. The birth and rise of Photography in the 1850s enabled a mass reproduction of art which allowed paintings and sculptures to be seen my multitudes of people, while simultaneously degrading their individual influence and impact.

    Artists who made a living making portraits of people or vedutas (hyper-realistic paintings of cities, often souvenirs for tourists) felt threatened since photography could capture reality instantly and with more accuracy than them. The jobs they had for centuries could now be done by anyone with a camera. Privacy and copyright concerns became a heated issue as well: if people can photograph others without their consent, who owns the photo? Photographer or photographed?

    If photography is allowed to replace art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it completely, thanks to the natural alliance it will find in the stupidity of the multitude.

    – Charles Baudelaire, Salon de 1859

    Until then, painters and their art were usually judged by their ability to accurately represent reality. As photography became more adopted and accepted as a new form of art, it suddenly reduced these expectations. Artists were now free to explore and pursue their own interests, passions and ideas without needing to worry about visual accuracy. Modernists movements like Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Art soon followed, and painting had its biggest revolution, both visually and philosophically.

    photo-on-art

    Art in the 1850s⠀⠀Photography (1850s)⠀⠀Art in the 1900s

    Photography kept evolving and eventually allowed for the birth of an even more powerful art form to arrive, cinema. Although AI technologies are still in their infancy and limited to image generation, the arrival of text-to-video models is imminent and could challenge Cinema just like photography did to art. Current models already show an impressive understanding of cinematic language and it won't be long until anyone is able to create a photorealistic movie by simply writing a script and describing the rest of the movie using natural language. Users will be able to specify cameras, lenses and framings and AI models will create photorealistic sets, props, actors and dialogue that match the user's intentions.

    Without the need for physical locations, crews or large budgets, the cost of making movies will be significantly reduced, allowing for a democratization of the Hollywood Film Studio that will open the door for new voices previously limited by the cost of filmmaking.

    Images from these movies might not be human but knowledge behind them certainly will be. Human creativity will then ultimately determine how meaningful AI-aided cinema is: ideas and stories explored will need to be powerful to allow them to travel through minds and eventually become culture.

    beethoven

    An example where I asked an AI model to generate an image of
    "Beethoven directing an orchestra in mars"
    in 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and digital film

    As of today, no one knows how to translate paintings, flowers or music into language. Their beauty is implicit and exclusive to their form, which is why it's so hard to explain how a particular piece of art makes us feel.

    Traditional Cinema will always exist, but as progress in AI image and video generation continues, I believe a new epoch of cinema will emerge where anyone will be able to make a movie using natural language. For the first time, film and text will become the same thing: anyone will be able to read, write or watch a movie and every frame will be generated, not filmed.

    This new Synthetic Cinema will allow movies to detach from the camera, empowering filmmakers to break free from the limits of traditional cinema and pioneer new visual styles, just like impressionists did when they created a new visual style by removing physical influence from painting a century ago.

    These movies won't be better or worse, they'll just be different.

    after cinema

    • ⤷ painting (art) had its biggest revolution, visually and philosophically: impressionism (1860s-1880s), cubism (1910s), surrealism (1920s-1930s), abstract art (1910s-now) and eventually, cinema.
    • current ai models already show impressive understanding of cinematic language (on ai) and it won't be long until anyone is able to create photorealistic movies using natural language. this will challenge cinema like photography did to art.
    • a new epoch of cinema will arrive: anyone will be able to make a movie using natural language ∴ film and text will become the same thing. (→on ai)
  • the discrete image


    stiegler agrees with derrida's critique of the opposition of the signifier and the signified, which proposes that language is always already writing, and in order for language to be written, it must already be a writing, a system of traces, a grammatic of discrete elements.

    image mental ∄ → image mental ≔ image object

    • ∄ image-object sans image mental,
    • ∄ image-mental sans image object.
    • image-object lasts, image-mental ephemeral.
    • ∄ image → ∄ imagination sans memoire ∴ question de l'image porte sur traces et inscriptions, ≈ écriture.

    discretization

    • barthes proposes that photography is ēpokhē to time, memory and death.
    • manipulation is the rule of the digital photo, contrary to the essence
    • one cannot confirm if what I see in a digital photo exists or not ∴ analogico-digital breaks with bazin's objectivité de l'objectif, l'intentionalité (phenomenology)
    • distinguish true and falls is harder, exploited and generalized w/mass media, dangerous panic decomposing social bond.
    • digital technology allows us to manipulate and transform information unlike analog technology.
    • infinitively manipulable but still a photo, it keeps something from the this was.
      • This was but there is something that isn't quite right. this is because analog photo is a technical synthesis.

    3 main types of reproducibility have constituted and overdetermined great epochs of memory and the relations to time in the west. (letter, analog, digital)

    • reproducibility of the letter (written → printed)
    • analog reproducibility (cine, photo → walter benjamin)
    • digital reproducibility
    • analogico-digital image combines 2 reproducibilities (digital, analog) ∴ shows they are not opposed and need to be overcome.
    • the analog image is ∴ always discrete since its reality effects are determined by the photographic (framing, dof) and literal context in which it is inserted. seems continuous but is discrete.

    director/editor's job is to hide the discontinuity by playing with it (analysis), continuity then comes from spectatorial synthesis (done by good artists)

    • animated image ≔ plurality of discontinuous images sequentially connected
    • spectatorial synthesis: the belief that this was is. made by audience (retinal) persistance and expectations of sequential connections
    • discontinuity dissolves all the more effectively the more cleverly it is orchestrated
    • production/realization.

    discretization opens new artistic, theoretical and scientific knowledges of the image.

    • digitization allows the this was to be decomposed analytically by discretizatizing the continuous.
    • barthes's photographic reality effect has now been integrated into all techniques of digital treatment simulation.
    • spectator's relation to the image is ∴ an analytic relation as well.
      • ⤷ the question is the relation between synthesis and analysis.

    3 kinds of images (analog, digital, analogico-digital) → 3 kinds of intuitive technical knowledges (conditions of image production) → 3 different kinds of belief.

    • the visual image is synthetic in 2 ways: synthesis as belief, the this was effect, is a combination of 2 syntheses (spectator and camera). spectator is affected in the way he synthesizes the image.
      • This requires an image-object ∴ technology.
      • synthesis from the subject comes from its knowledge of the technical conditions of an image-object's production.
    • each image, either analog or digital, contains both knowledge and gaps in knowledge. This new awareness leads to a different form of understanding and knowledge.
      • analogico-digital technology of images opens an epoch of analytic apprehension of the image-object.
        • since synthesis is double, new analytic capacities → new synthetic capacities.
        • this discretization breaks up a continuity ∴ changes the way the observer's viewing. (discretization concernant regard est transformé)
    • since greece we live in an era of the relation to language, shaped by the generalization of alphabetic writing on numbers that gave rise to logic, philosophy and science. the analogico-digital is of the same order.
    • the adoption of alphabetic writing made analysis and synthesis of language much easier. generalization → discretization.
    • relation to the analog image is going to be very discretized as digitazion techniques of animated images become widespread. this will open a critical access to the image and a chance to develop a culture of reception.

    now there's two syntheses (spectator + camera): evolution of technical synthesis → evolution of spectatorial synthesis.

    • new image-objects will create new mental images and another intelligence of movement (not knowledge of the image but a new techno-intuitive knowledge). this will be influenced by other knowledges which opens up "la chance"
    • technology gives us the chance to look at cinema in a different way. analysis (production) and synthesis (consumption) are more connected, making cinema similar to literature.
      • alphabetic writing reveals the discrete characters of language
      • reading and writing (can't do one without the other)
      • implies the rethink of hollywood's schema of analysis/production - synthesis/consumption.
    • technology will make it possible to watch a movie analytically, making text and tv closer than now.
      • we will be able to navigate though the flow of images in a nonlinear way, with toc and indexes (like books), true hypermedia?
    • technological synthesis is not a replica nor double, like writing is not a replication of speech.
    • life (anima, mental image) is always already cinema (animation, image object).

    discrete image

    • notes on Bernard Stiegler's The Discrete Image (2002), about the invention of digital photography and cinema.
    • "life is always already cinema."
    • technology gives us the chance to look at cinema in a different way. analysis (production) and synthesis (consumption) are more connected, making cinema similar to literature.
    • life (anima, mental image) is always already cinema (animation, image object).
  • hitchcock vs hitchcock


    • I cannot say that the combined efforts of Scherer, Astruc, Rivette, and truffaut have entirely convinced me of Alfred Hitchcock's flawless genius, particularly in his American work, but they have at least persuaded me to question my previous skepticism.
    • contradiction between critic and author is natural
    • subjective art: artistic creation — even with the most in tellectual temperaments — is essentially intuitive and practical: It is a matter of effects to attain and materials to conquer.
    • objective art: a work of art escapes its creator and bypasses his conscious intentions, in direct proportion to its quality.
    • The foundation of this objectivity also resides in the psychology of the creation to the extent — inappreciable — to which the artist does not really create but sets himself to crystallize, to order the sociological forces and the technical conditions into which he is thrust.
    • This is particularly true of the American cinema in which you often find quasi-anonymous successes whose merit reflects, not on the director, but on the production system.

    Paul Feyder, French first assistant on the film [To Catch a Thief], presented me to Hitchcock. Our conversation lasted fifty or sixty minutes (there were retakes) during which time Hitchcock did no more than throw one or two quick glances at what was going on.

    • In the course of that first interview I had time to pose nearly all of the questions I had had in mind, but the answers had been so disconcerting that, full of caution, I decided to use a counterinterrogation as a control for some of the most delicate points.
    • Hitchcock himself insisted that half the film's action should be silent because the journalist cannot be expected to hear his neighbors at the distance he sees them. Thus the director had to resort to the guile of "pure cinema" which he adored. In general, dialogue is a nuisance to him because it restricts cinematographic expression, and he reproaches several of his films for this restriction.
    • At this point I did not abandon the point of my original inquiry by taking up the fallacious opposition of form and content. What Hitchcock calls "means" may be, perhaps, only a more indirect (and more unconscious) manner of following, if not a subject, at least a theme. I insisted, therefore, on the unity of his work, and he agreed with me in a negative way. All he demands of a scenario is that it go his "way."
      • What I wanted was the exact definition of this "way." Without hesitation, Hitchcock spoke of a certain relationship between drama and comedy. The only films that may be taken as "pure Hitchcock" (sic) are those in which he has been able to play with this discordant relationship.
        • I risk the word "humor." Hitchcock accepts it;
        • what he is trying to express may well be taken as a form of humor and he spontaneously cites The Lady Vanishes as conforming most closely to his ideal.
      • Must we conclude from this that his English work is more "purely Hitchcock" than his American? Without a doubt, first of all because the Americans have much too positive a spirit to accept humor.
        • He could never have made The Lady Vanishes in Hollywood; a simple reading of the scenario and the producer would have pointed out how unrealistic it would be to send a message with an old woman by train when it would be quicker and surer to send a telegram.
        • He thought he would please his old Italian maid by taking her to see The Bicycle Thief, but all she felt was astonishment that the worker did not end up borrowing a bike:
    • Moreover, in Hollywood films are made for women; it is toward their sentimental taste that scenarios are directed because it is they who account for the bulk of the box-office receipts. In England films are still made for men, but that is also why so many studios close down. The English cinema has excellent technicians, but English films are not "commercial" enough and Hitchcock declares, with pain mixed with shame, that they are idle there while he is working.
    • Hitchcock told me that his "weakness" lies in being conscious of his responsibility for all this money.
    • Hitchcock appeared [...] concerned with correcting that indirect criticism of being commercial by affirming that it was easy to make an "artistic" film, but the real difficulty lay in making a good commercial film, a very feasible paradox, after all.
    • Had he not always been concerned with ingenious and sometimes complex technical effects in order to obtain certain effects of mise-en-scène? Categorical answer: The importance of the technical means placed at his disposal did not particularly interest him. To the extent that they rendered the film more costly they even augmented commercial servitude. To sum it up, his ideal is, under those conditions, to accomplish perfection of "the quality of imperfection."
    • I believe I understood that the quality in question was American technical perfection (lacking in the European cinema) and the "imperfection" that margin for liberty, imprecision, and, shall we say, humor that makes, for Hitchcock, the English cineaste's position superior.
    • achieving the almost impossible marriage of perfect technical execution through Hollywood's oiled and supple machinery with the creative stumbling block, the unforeseen Acts of God, as in the European cinema!

    • I noticed several times his taste for the elegant and ambiguous formulation that goes so far as to become a play on words. Chabrol became aware of this tendency several times in Paris when Hitchcock made theological jokes based on "God and "Good." This linguistic playfulness assuredly corresponds to a cast of mind but undoubtedly it is also a certain form of intellectual camouflage.
    • I had him notice that one theme at least reappeared in his major films that, because of its moral and intellectual level, surely went beyond the scope of simple "suspense" — that of the identification of the weak with the strong,
      • whether it be in the guise of deliberate moral seduction, as in Shadow of a Doubt where the phenomenon is underlined by the fact that the niece and the uncle have the same name; whether, as in Strangers on a Train, an individual somehow steals the protagonist's mental crime, appropriates it for himself, commits it, and then comes to demand that the same be done for him; whether, as in I Confess, this transfer of personality finds a sort of theological confirmation in the sacrament of penitence, the murderer considering more or less consciously that the confession not only binds the priest as witness but somehow justifies his acceptance of the guilty role.
      • Hitchcock listened to it with attention and intensity. When he finally understood it I saw him touched, for the first and only time in the interview, by an unforeseen and unforeseeable idea. I had found the crack in that humorous armor. He broke into a delighted smile and I could, follow his train of thought by the expressions on his face as he reflected and discovered for himself with satisfaction the confirmation in the scenarios of Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.
    • coming back to I Confess, I obtained an important concession. When I praised the extreme technical sobriety, the intensity in austerity, it was not in order to displease him. It is true that he applied himself here and that the film finds favor in his eyes for these formal reasons. In order to characterize this rigor of raise en scene it would be necessary to employ an epithet from the "clerical vocabulary." ... I suggested "Jansenist." — "What is Jansenist?" Sylvette Baudrot explained to him that the Jansenists were the enemies of the Jesuits. He found the coincidence very droll for he had studied with Fathers and, for I Confess, had been obliged to free himself from his education! I did not tell him I would have thought him, nevertheless, a better student. At least in theology.
    • Which, then, at least among his American films, did he consider to be the most exclusively commercial and the least worthy of esteem?Spellbound and Notorious. Those that found grace in his eyes? Shadow of a Doubt and Rear Window.
    • Is it true that he never looked through the camera? — Exactly. This task is completely useless, since all the framing has been planned and indicated in advance by little drawings that illustrated the cutting technique.
      • For him it is always a question of creating in the mise-en-scène, starting from the scenario, but mainly by the expressionism of the framing, the lighting or the relation of the characters to the decor, an essential instability of image.
    • From German expressionism, to whose influence he admits having submitted in the studios in Munich, he undoubtedly learned a lesson, but he does not cheat the spectator. We need not be aware of a vagueness of impression in the peril in order to appreciate the dramatic anguish of Hitchcock's characters. It is not a question of a mysterious "atmosphere" out of which all the perils can come like a storm, but of a disequilibrium comparable to that of a heavy mass of steel beginning to slide down too sharp an incline, about which one could easily calculate the future acceleration.
    • Does he use any improvisation on the set? — None at all; ::he had To Catch a Thief in his mind, complete, for two months.:: That is why I saw him so relaxed while "working." For the rest, he added with an amiable smile, lifting the siege, how would he have been able to devote a whole hour to me right in the middle of shooting if he had to think about his film at the same time?

    hitchcock vs hitchcock

    • This is particularly true of the American cinema in which you often find quasi-anonymous successes whose merit reflects, not on the director, but on the production system.
    • Hitchcock himself insisted that half the film's action should be silent because the journalist cannot be expected to hear his neighbors at the distance he sees them. Thus the director had to resort to the guile of "pure cinema" which he adored. In general, dialogue is a nuisance to him because it restricts cinematographic expression, and he reproaches several of his films for this restriction.
    • Moreover, in Hollywood films are made for women; it is toward their sentimental taste that scenarios are directed because it is they who account for the bulk of the box-office receipts. In England films are still made for men, but that is also why so many studios close down. The English cinema has excellent technicians, but English films are not "commercial" enough and Hitchcock declares, with pain mixed with shame, that they are idle there while he is working.
    • I believe I understood that the quality in question was American technical perfection (lacking in the European cinema) and the "imperfection" that margin for liberty, imprecision, and, shall we say, humor that makes, for Hitchcock, the English cineaste's position superior.
    • achieving the almost impossible marriage of perfect technical execution through Hollywood's oiled and supple machinery with the creative stumbling block, the unforeseen Acts of God, as in the European cinema!
  • on-cinema-noframe

    what is happening to cinema?

    eduardo gonzalez, Oct 2022


    summary

    DVDs' disappearance → films mainly profit from ticket sales

    • maximizing profits ≔ maximizing audiences.
    • simple style, easy plots, few cultural references = universal accessibility
    • ∴ repetitive, successful formula > than unique creative input.
    • → market saturated with similar-feeling movies.

    Streaming now an accessible alternative, but profits = time spent on service

    • → films become ambient content for passive consumption.
    • globalization strengthened the film industry, auteur cinema lost economic and cultural influence.
      • Sequels, remakes, existing material-based movies capture most profits and influence.
      • only 3 of top 50 grossing films of 2010s were original stories
      • Oscar viewership and revenue from Best Picture winners has declined.
      • → Cinema ≠ dominant form of artistic expression in 21st century?

    New consumption patterns and movie-making techniques are at heart of the shift.

    internet speed and phone camera improvements → global increase in social media's influence

    • online media evolved from text to photos to video.
    • engagement tracking as likes in 2009, retweets in 2010.
    • rise of photo-sharing services → everyday people ∈ authors of online media. (see people aren't meant to talk this much)

    ≈ 2014: platforms shifted to algorithm-based content presentation → birth of viralization.

    • TikTok's success ≈ adaptation to new dynamics.
    • app design allows personalized content curation with every interaction.
    • viral reach from algorithm selection → no need for status, fame, followers or friends.

    cinema's transformation in the face of changing media landscape.

    • on-demand → loss of continuousness.
    • availability on personal devices → collectiveness.
    • phones & computer as primary screens → cinema lost the big screen.
    • Cinema lost grandeur and became content.
    • ∴ Cinema risk of losing position as primary storytelling medium.
    • cinema ≠ dying, movies are evolving
    • personalized entertainment, global audiences, collective auteurism as new driving forces in media landscape.
    • algorithm-chosen popular culture ≔ average taste of global audience.
    • la chance to adapt cinema into new dynamics
    • Internet and smartphones' global presence ≈ cars' transformation effect → ubiquity of a technology reshapes society and industries
    • TikTok's success → Short-form portrait video as one potential evolution.
    • if further evolution, will it still be cinema or something new? what comes after cinema?

    full article

    Recent trends describe the current state of cinema as fragile and in decline. Industry figures have expressed this opinion, notably Martin Scorsese who in 2019 wrote an essay arguing that "the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art." Many of these statements blame franchise films and the modern way of producing them as the main drivers behind cinema becoming increasingly homogeneous and formatted, resulting in a market saturated with movies that look and feel the same. ⠀

    Studios today have the option to release a movie in cinemas, but since the disappearance of DVDs, movies have lost most of their ability to make money after leaving theaters. Revenue now comes almost entirely from the number of tickets sold, which means that maximizing profits now means maximizing audiences. A movie is more accessible across cultures if it has a simple style, an easy-to-follow plot and few cultural or ideological references. This explains why many studios now consider following a repetitive (but successful) formula as more important when making a movie than the individual creative talent behind it.

    Streaming releases have become an alternative to theatrical ones now that every major studio has launched its own platform. This is not always a bad option since it allows smaller movies and filmmakers to instantly reach an audience of millions without having to worry about selling tickets. But streaming platforms need users to consume as much content as possible to be profitable, and since hours spent on the service justify subscription prices, many of their productions are designed to be consumed passively, while users cook, clean, or browse their phone. These movies are not cinematic experiences but rather ambient ones, where results are "as negligible as they are interesting," as Brian Eno wrote when defining ambient music in 1978.

    These two recent tendencies have helped studios and the film industry grow, but sequels, remakes, and movies based on existing material now capture most of Cinema's profits. Only 3 of the top 50 highest-grossing worldwide films of the 2010s were original stories.¹ Additionally, "good" (or at least recognized) Cinema is still struggling. The Oscars, arguably still today's biggest event and celebration of popular cinema, have seen their viewership steadily decline for decades. 55 million people watched the awards in 1998, compared to 41 million people in 2010 and just 10 million in 2021. Recent Academy Award winners have also grossed less money as time goes by. The combined Best Picture winners from the 1990s made around $5 billion worldwide, while combined winners of the 2000s made $3.4 billion and those of the 2010s, $2 billion.

    This is the main idea behind recent statements and opinions on cinema: While globalization has strengthened the film industry, movies have lost economic and cultural influence. Cinema now risks not being the most popular form of storytelling in the 21st century, and newer forms of artistic expression could take its place.

    black-adam

    DC Comic's Black Adam (2022) being reviewed before its release in a small TV screen, by businesspeople in a business room.

    Even if the modern way of making movies is partly responsible, it would seem that new consumption patterns are also at the heart of this situation. Internet speeds started to increase globally in the early 2010s and the primary way people express themselves online evolved from text and photos to eventually, video. As phone cameras got better, photo-sharing services like Instagram started pushing ordinary people to take and share pictures, not only professional photographers. Snapchat pushed this even further by making the camera, not content, be the first thing users see when opening the app.

    A collective of ordinary people became the main authors of mass amounts of content and media that started to be uploaded, shared, and consumed online. Social media companies soon needed to show posts based on popularity to keep users longer on their apps and make their platforms more attractive. This began in 2009 with the introduction of likes and retweets as tools for finding the most engaging posts, but rapidly escalated. By 2014, most social media platforms showed content based on their engagement, not in chronological order. This marked the first time that algorithms chose what people saw and the beginning of viralization, which allowed content from anyone on earth to reach an audience of millions (now billions) of people.

    Recent companies like TikTok have thrived by taking these new dynamics even further. Since the only way to browse content is by swiping up or down, TikTok's algorithm can learn about users' interests with every single interaction they make –if something's not interesting, the user will swipe quicker. Combined with its near-infinite supply of videos from all cultures and languages, only a couple of minutes are needed to learn and personalize content for anyone on earth. Since algorithms are also set as the main referees of what people see, TikTok helps people go viral without the need for network effects. Any user can reach millions of views without fame, status, followers, or even friends on the app. The implementation of these dynamics into the design and mechanics of the app is partly responsible for TikTok's huge success. The company seems to also understand their impact, stating in April 2022 that they didn't see themselves as a social media platform, but rather an "entertainment company."

    Cinema then found itself in the middle of this new changing world, but failed to adapt. It soon started to be consumed like every other form of online media, getting transformed in the way: as movies became available anytime and could be paused, they lost some of Cinema's continuousness. Since movies also became available anywhere, people started watching them alone or with few others, which broke Cinema's locality and collectiveness. And as phones and computer screens become the primary ones for most people, Cinema lost the big screen.

    This is where Cinema lost its grandeur and got transformed into simple content. Without these qualities, movies risk not being the primary storytelling vehicle for the 21st century. But I don't think this means cinema is dying, but rather that it is evolving. There is an old saying that "the first 50 years of the car industry were about creating and selling cars, but the second 50 years were about what happened once everyone had a car." After a majority of people owned one, they transformed businesses, suburbs, cities, people, and culture. Access to the internet is on track to become a human right, and the number of smartphone users is rising rapidly, with 83% of the world population owning one in 2022 (!).

    As these technologies become universal like cars before them and algorithms determine more and more of popular culture, it seems like we're entering a democratization of media creation that allows anyone's voice to reach a global audience. But content chosen by algorithms only represents the average of everyone's tastes and interests. This is where filmmakers have the opportunity to think about how they could play with these new formats and adapt the cinematic experience. To do so, Cinema might need to move away from some of its traditional characteristics and embrace other new dynamics.

    In this sense, TikTok's success could mean that short-form portrait video is an initial evolution and answer to the question "what happens to Cinema when everyone has a phone and Internet?" But as movies, technology, and people keep changing, short-form video might evolve even more and resemble Cinema even less. At that point, will it still be cinema, or something new? What comes after cinema?

    Notes

    ¹ Frozen (2013), Zootopia (2016), Secret Life of Pets (2016).

    on cinema

    • industry focus on franchise film production → homogeneous, formatted cinema?
    • globalization strengthened the film industry, auteur cinema lost economic and cultural influence.
    • phones & computer as primary screens → cinema lost the big screen.
    • cinema ≠ dying, movies are evolving
    • la chance to adapt cinema into new dynamics
    • if further evolution, will it still be cinema or something new? what comes after cinema?
  • ride of a lifetime

    bob iger's 2019 memoir of +15 years as Disney's CEO.

    iger-disney

    May 28, 2020 → Jun 20, 2020

    catmull-jobs-iger-lassater

    Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs, Bob Iger, John Lassater
    Jan 24, 2006

    • Shanghai Disneyland cost about $6 billion to build. It is 963 acres, about eleven times the size of Disneyland. At various stages of its construction, as many as fourteen thousand workers lived on the property. We held casting calls in six cities in China to discover the thousand singers, dancers, and actors who perform in our stage and street shows. Over the eighteen years it took to complete the park, I met with three presidents of China, five mayors of Shanghai, and more party secretaries.
    • Stu could dissect a script so quickly—“His motivations aren’t clear at the top of Act 2…”—and I’d look back through the pages on my lap, thinking, Wait, Act 2? When did Act 1 end? Based on a literal back-of-a-napkin pitch at a restaurant in Hollywood, ABC’s head of drama had given the go-ahead to a pilot from David Lynch, by then famous for his cult films Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, and the screenwriter and novelist Mark Frost. It was a surreal, meandering drama about the murder of a prom queen, Laura Palmer, in the fictional Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks. David directed the two-hour pilot, which I vividly remember watching for the first time and thinking, This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and we have to do this.
    • I had an idea unrelated to Pixar, though, that I thought might interest him. I told him I was a huge music lover and that I had all of my music stored on my iPod, which I used constantly. I’d been thinking about the future of television, and it occurred to me that it was only a matter of time before we would be accessing TV shows and movies on our computers. I didn’t know how fast mobile technology was going to evolve (the iPhone was still two years away), so what I was imagining was an iTunes platform for television. “Imagine having access to all of television history on your computer,” I said. If you wanted to watch last week’s episode of Lost, or something from the first season of I Love Lucy, there it would be. “Imagine being able to watch all of Twilight Zone again whenever you wanted to!” It was coming, I was certain of that, and I wanted Disney to be in front of the wave. I figured the best way to do that was to convince Steve of the inevitability of this idea, “iTV,” as I described it to him.
    • After the cinema, I received more calls and notes than I’d ever received about anything I’d been associated with in my career. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington and Gayle King reached out. I’d had a production assistant deliver a copy of the film to President Obama, and when I spoke with him after, he told me how important he believed the film was. Oprah sent a note calling it “a phenomenon in every way” and adding, “It makes me tear up to think that little black children will grow up with that forever.” There may be no product we’ve created that I’m more proud of than Black Panther.

    • After the funeral, Laurene came up to me and said, “I’ve never told my side of that story.” She described Steve coming home that night. “We had dinner, and then the kids left the dinner table, and I said to Steve, ‘So, did you tell him?’ ‘I told him.’ And I said, ‘Can we trust him?’ ” We were standing there with Steve’s grave behind us, and Laurene, who’d just buried her husband, gave me a gift that I’ve thought about nearly every day since. I’ve certainly thought of Steve every day. “I asked him if we could trust you,” Laurene said. “And Steve said, ‘I love that guy.’ “

    ride of a lifetime

    • After the cinema, I received more calls and notes than I’d ever received about anything I’d been associated with in my career. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington and Gayle King reached out. I’d had a production assistant deliver a copy of the film to President Obama, and when I spoke with him after, he told me how important he believed the film was. Oprah sent a note calling it “a phenomenon in every way” and adding, “It makes me tear up to think that little black children will grow up with that forever.” There may be no product we’ve created that I’m more proud of than Black Panther.
  • Martin Scorsese: I said marvel movies aren’t cinema. Let me explain.


    • For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation.
    • It was about confronting the unexpected on the screen and in the life it dramatized and interpreted, and enlarging the sense of what was possible in the art form. And that was the key for us: it was an art form.
    • My sense of what is possible in telling stories with moving images and sounds is going to be expanded.
    • There was some debate about that at the time, so we stood up for cinema as an equal to literature or music or dance.

    • Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk.
    • The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes. They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way.
    • That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.
    • In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system.
    • Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters.
    • But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.
    • If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing. But, you might argue, can’t they just go home and watch anything else they want on Netflix or iTunes or Hulu? Sure — anywhere but on the big screen, where the filmmaker intended her or his picture to be seen. (on cinema)

    In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk.

    • Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.
    • Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema.

    I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.

    • the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art.

    why marvel movies aren't cinema

    • For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation.
    • There was some debate about that at the time, so we stood up for cinema as an equal to literature or music or dance.
    • Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What’s not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk.
    • Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.
    • Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema.