Wednesday, April 18, 2007

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: Ted Pigeon

Like the title of his blog, The Cinematic Art: Transcending Space and Time, Ted Pigeon is never short on words. Ted spreads these words over a wide variety of cinematic topics, usually delving deep beneath the surface on subjects such as visuality, technology or blogging itself. Contained in this latter category is a post I think every blogger should read: Why Blogging Is Essential. Ted asks a lot of tough questions in this post, his media background adds a great angle to it, and it's even inspired me to do a similar writing in the near future. While Ted ponders the role of blogs in that post, The Cinematic Art is proof itself of the medium, since he's clearly not content with the usual avenues of film media and often dips into subjects that are far from ordinary.

BLOW UP YOUR CANONS: 'Somewhere along the line, we formed these cultural conventions which inform us that certain kinds of stories are more ridiculous than others, which I don't like. If a film garners a response, then it's done something right. And no genre and set of stylistic techniques are good or bad in my mind. Ultimately, it all comes down to what Ebert says: a film is not about what it is about, but how it is about it.'

KISS KISS BANG BANG: 'The Kissing Montage from Cinema Paradiso is the epitome of movie magic. It's pure feeling, the kind of emotion that I can't quite identify, the kind that is synonomous with cinema. It's the uncertainty, the ambiguity that I love most about cinema. Sometimes, a certain film can evoke and reveal so much emotion that you can't even process in the rational, easily categorized manner we've all been trained to do. Cinema has the power to transcend the easily defined borders of the world of languages and social institutions. Storytelling as manifested in moving images represents a magic that, as Kubrick says, no other art form can hope to tackle.'

TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING: 'Raiders of the Lost Ark. A big area of my current studies focuses on the idea of visual literacy and how the term itself is problematic. In short, I would argue that while one needs to possess some form of language to interpret moving images in a narrative context, images are not a language. [Raiders is] all about energy through motion. It creates a world and an atmosphere and rushes you through it like a roller-coaster ride. The dialogue and plot are almost besides the point.

WORDS TO LIVE BY: 'In Adaptation, when Donald tells Andy Kaufman: "You are what you love, not what loves you." I cannot tell you how this scene affected me so deeply at the end of the film, but it did. I had just seen one of the most absurd, weird, and profoundly moving films of my life and that mantra has always such with me as an inspiration and a bittersweet proclamation of loneliness. [Also,] Roy's speech at the end of Blade Runner: "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." Both this and the Adaptation scene represent speeches that are culminations of amazing cinematic experiences for me. These two films mean very much to me. In their own ways, they ask questions central to human experience and existence, and they both resonate so strongly.'

BUT WHAT A JOB IT IS: 'Andy Horbal recently wrote that he considers film study less and less a relexation or hobby, but more like a job. That's essentially how I feel. I keep a log of everything I see and hold a list of films I'd like to see in the future. I try to keep a rigiorous schedule but I don't always stick to it. Right now, I'd guess I see on average about three movies a week. I do, however, see movies in pieces more now, which has been a really interesting way of seeing films. I try never to watch a movie in pieces the first time I see it, but I think it is essential to see movies you're familiar with broken down. It's a great way of getting into the mechanics of the film and to understand how it's doing what it's doing.'

THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN: 'I guess I'm predictable, but I always watch Halloween on Halloween. If I have time, I'll double bill it with another horror film such as A Nightmare on Elm Street or perhaps an Argento or Carpenter film. David Cronenberg's films for some reason strike a chord with me in the colder times or year, with the exception of A History of Violence, which for some reason I associate with the dying heat of late summer, which is when I first saw it.'

BAD THINGS, MAN:
'As many have said before, seeing a movie deemed "bad" by most can actually be a very interesting experience. I don't subscribe to mainstream critical thought in that certain genres are bad or certain kinds of stories are poor, that there can be too much sex or violence or any other potentially offensive concept.'

RUSTY CAGE: 'When I was working at a video store through high school and some of college, I used to watch movies constantly. My world had been opened. Growing up in a conservative Christian-Catholic house, my choices for film viewing were very limited. But when I hit my teen years and beyond, I watched movies constantly, whenever I could through high school and college. It's slowed down recently due to my being in grad school and having a great deal more responsibility, but I make it a point to do it.'

IN THE YEAR 2000 . . . : 'It may seem unimportant, but in 2000, I made the decision for the first time to see a movie by myself at the movies. Any young person who has ever made such a decision well knows that this is much more difficult than it seems. You are standing up and saying, "I respect cinema as an artistic form and not a social endeavor or economic enterprise." I applaud anyone brave enough to do it. It's a scary experience, but like anything else that's new and different, you learn that stepping outside of such pre-determined ways of living is enriching and essential to experiencing life for one's self. I had encouragement from a teacher of mine to do it, and I couldn't be more gracious for him pushing me to make that step. Because it has an instrumental point in my life that helped shape who I am now and allowed me the opportunity not just to have so many wonderful cinematic experiences in the years to follow with so many different kinds of films, but it gave me a unique perspective in all areas of my life as I headed into college from a social and educational perspective.'

Contact DVD Panache if you are interested in contributing to Friday Screen Test.

8 comments:

Tuwa said...

I found myself weirdly moved by that line in Adaptation too; I think in part because I'd had Kaufman pegged as somewhat arch, postmodern, and ironic, which often strikes me as a cover for defensiveness or a fear of stating beliefs plainly and simply. And then, bam, here was this scene which struck me as very true and sincere and uncomplicated and it was like a sucker punch.

I think I must be one of the few people who enjoys going to the films by myself. I do it frequently; I think the only time I don't enjoy it is when it's a comedy in the middle of a weekday and I'm the only person there. But horror films and documentaries are both great to watch by yourself; it intensifies the concentration terribly.

Adam Ross said...

I know what you mean, I've never had any qualms about seeing a movie by myself -- partly because my first solo theater experience happened in third grade ("Ghostbusters 2"!).

Ted Pigeon said...

I'm flattered, Adam. Thanks very much for putting this together. Seven years removed from my first experience of going to the movies by myself, I have made it a regular practice and actually enjoy it a lot. But when you're a teenager deciding to go to the movies alone (as opposed to watching one alone in my house), it was a nerve-wracking experience. But it opened me up to a whole new mode of appreciation for cinema.

Thanks again, Adam. You did a great job with this.

Moviezzz said...

Thanks for pointing out Ted's blog! Great stuff there. I will have to read more often.

As for going to movies alone, I don't know why people always feel the need to have to go with others. Watching a movie should be a solitary experiences. It isn't like you should be talking during the film. I go quite often by myself.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Ted: Terrific contribution to the series! And thanks to Adam again for spreading the word about a whole bunch of sites that should be daily stops for all of us.

As for going to the movies by myself, I think the first time I did it was when I was around seven or eight years old (1967-68)-- when you grow up in a town with a population of just over 2,000, there aren't the kinds of concerns for parents (at least there wasn't in 1968) that there would be in Los Angeles, for example, today. The movie theater was a magical, overwhelming place then, and I mean literally overwhelming-- through my 10-year-old eyes it seemed like the biggest, most mysterious place in the world, and there were ghosts there-- they were on the screen, of course, and they came from all kinds of movies, but I also imagined that the more terrifying of them stuck around after the movie was over, for hours, days, weeks, months-- who could be sure? Going to the movies alone cemented, for me, the magical, transportative possibilities of what I was seeing. And I still go to the movies alone, now more because it's the only way I can see anything-- after my kids have been put to bed for the night. But I love it. That level of concentration you get from encountering a movie alone that Tuwa speaks about is absolutely esssential. And the truth of it is, I probably would have seen a whole lot fewer movies in my life up to now if I thought of going to the movies as a group event. No one else I know wants to go out to see Three Times or Black Book or Shut Up and Sing.

Ted Pigeon said...

I agree, Dennis. Going to see a movie at the cinema house by myself is a very personal experience. Somehow, I can better connect with the images. I concentrate more, I see subtlties I might not otherwise see, and I feel more apart of the film's feeling and movements (assuming it's a good film). Some films I've seen at the cinema by myself that stand out include Adaptation, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, You Can Count On Me, The Descent, Miami Vice, and most memorably, Lost In Translation. As much as I love these films now, I don't feel the same way seeing them on a television screen in my own home. I often recall that first experience with them, but that magic lives in my memory. But seeing the films again often unlock those feelings and memories again. When the experience of seeing a movie so connects with you that you remember all of the thoughts, memories, and feelings you experienced when seeing it the first time - even if seemingly disconnected from the movie itself - you've had that inexplicable experience with cinema we are affected by and continually try to figure out and understand through all this writing and criticism.

Damian said...

Excellent, Ted. You are not only a very good writer but a very good thinker and I enjoy reading your thoughts very much (plus, it's always nice to meet a fellow video store employee). I just wanted to say two things really quickly:

1 - I would, at some point in time, be interested to hear you eleborate more on your contention that "images are not a language" because, personally, I have long been of the opinion that they are (and I will confess to being rather heavily influenced by David A. Cook, author of The History of Narrative Film, in this regard).

2 - It is always interesting to me to hear anyone describe the first time that they went to a movie alone as a "monumental" moment, because it serves as a reminder to me how much a social ritual attending the cinema is in our culture. I guess I've been going by myself for so long now that I've almost completely lost touch with that. Though I still occasionally go with others (usually my dad who has been taking me to movies as long as I can remember), it is, generally speaking, far more common for me to go by myself than not. I don't even remember anymore the fist time I went alone but it was in college that I started consistently "breaking this convention" and I am so glad that I did because, as you said, it opened up a whole world of cinematic discovery.

Keep up the good work. :)

Ted Pigeon said...

Damian: I will definitely address matters of "Film Language" in the future, quit a bit actually. I'm working on a project right now about Film Language and its influence on cinematic technology, in particular digital cinema. I'm not sure if I will post the entire paper (since I plan on submitting it for SCMS or ECA), but I will definitely be focusing my thesis on matters of film language and visuality, so you can expect quite a bit more. If you are a proponent of film language, I recommend Christian Metz. Me, I prefer Deleuze. I'll have to check out that book by Cook you mentioned, and thanks for the nice words.