Friday, February 27, 2015

Movies Part I: Lessons From A Blue Dress

From Wired--original dress image in middle, two different color corrections applied on right and left. Read the article in the link below to find out why.

And no, not Monica Lewinsky’s dress-the dress that took the internet by storm recently. The dress that, in the same week Congress was failing to fund Home Security and Jihad John was identified, everyone was talking about.

Proving once and for all that there is little relationship between what people “talk about” and what really matters.

Anyway, the dress of ambiguous color is, according to this article, which I found on Wired, clearly blue. I see the original as white and gold. If you see blue and black, you earn the gold star, or possibly the teal one.

Apparently it’s a perception problem—the issue of how our brain compensates for what it perceives as the prevailing light condition. Years before Photo Shop, the human brain was evolving to color correct our world so that we could see the ripe fruit or the hiding tiger.

What does this dress have to do with movies? Movies, as a medium, are a lot like books. They both require subscription or sales revenue, rather than depending, like most media, on advertising. They are both narrative in form—in fact, there is a close relationship in content between movies and books, although as a reader, I hasten to add that never does the movie recreate the book. The fact that both are narrative media does not mean that they use the same narrative conventions or tools—and a book can almost always tap into more subtleties and interior meanings of things.

The great impact of movies comes from their dreamlike power. Although some are very artistic and complex and make you think, most operate at a cognitively less complex level then books. Books train our minds and enrich our vocabulary. They are like the best lectures in the university of our lives (hang on, students, that’s a metaphor). Movies are the quad, with its nice rose garden, fountain and naked angles in the 19th century statuary (the university of our lives has a nicer quad than MMU).

We still need the quad. We need the sunshine and the flowers and the angels. I’m not dismissing movies nor saying they are secondary in some cultural way to books. I’m merely observing that they touch us in a different way. And maybe I should have called the movies the art gallery, because they change more and involve more thought than the quad, but now we have to usher our metaphor off stage as it’s getting selfish and occupying too much real estate.

Back to movies. They are the dream medium. Granted, books invite you to enter into a dream world, but it requires more mental work on your part, and the dream world in a book is one that you construct just as much as the author does. My book Harry Potter is not the same as yours or even J.K. Rowling’s, but we both see Daniel Radcliffe as the movie HP.

But, even if movies more clearly communicate the writers’, actors’ and perhaps most of all, the directors’ dreams, even this medium that delivers more intact fantasy passes through our personal powers of perception. We both can watch “Pearl Harbor,” but if I know more about the actual World War II than you do, I’ll probably cringe more.

Anyway, perception is a funny beast. Earlier in this semester, a student in my media class noted that she enjoyed the movie “The Interview” due to its comedy. I found the movie primitive, scatological, irritatingly irrational and just not very funny.

She’s not wrong., she is perceiving the movie from her point of view, and I am from mine. Sometimes the dress looks blue, sometimes white.

The “right” answer in the dress case is blue. The right answer in the movie case partly depends on what you mean.

This week as we discuss movies, we may spend a little time talking about what we like or don’t, and I’ll probably write a second blog post to self-disclose a bit about my taste in movies. But movie reviews aren’t really the point of the week.

Understanding what movies can do, what they are capable of, what they mean to us and our culture, and what the future of movies might be might be--those, I hope, are what we’ll spend our time on, whether the dress is white or blue.

So, blogosphere, chime in. Not about the dress, about perception and movies and how movies compare to other media. Do movies move you? Why ore why not? And which ones, and why?

1 comment:

  1. I do think each and every individual has a different perception when it come to movies. Some may love a movie while their friend cannot stand it. This is merely based off of an individuals experience, thought process and the way that individual views the world. I think in some cases, movies do indeed "move" me; whether that be emotional, spiritually or in any other way, but it all depends on my thinking process at the moment and the experiences I have had. I do know one thing, movies never seem to compare to the books. This is because, like Joe stated in the blog, movies are based more off other's perceptions rather than my own.