Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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I am not the Kwisatz Haderach, dammit, and I wish those Bene Gesserit would leave me alone!

Damn, it's hot out there today. And I don't mean like Africa hot either. This is like surface of Venus hot. My legs were slick with sweat when I changed out of my jeans into my shorts.

It's hot, too.

I am The Hermit

The Hermit often suggests a need for time alone - a period of reflection when distractions are limited. In times of action and high energy, he stands for the still center that must be created for balance. He can also indicate that withdrawal or retreat is advised for the moment. In addition, the Hermit can represent seeking of all kinds, especially for deeper understanding or the truth of a situation. "Seek, and ye shall find," we have been told, and so the Hermit stands for guidance as well. We can receive help from wise teachers, and, in turn, help others as we progress.

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Hmmm. Interesting. I have actually been thinking a lot about solitude lately, mostly because it seems to be a defining characteristic of the night shift. I have found that I'm able to slip into a different mindset that I forged while on leave of absence, but it isn't quite as lonely as it was then because I have internet access (LiveJournal and AIM can save your sanity) and an income.

Most of what I read is science-fiction, with some of fantasy as well. I don't have any sort of aversion to other types of books, as long as they're well written, but as should be apparent from reading this journal, my tastes have a tendency towards the fantastic. Where Ecology is coming from for both myself and suitboyskin, who has similar tastes as I do, is anybody's guess, but I really like something out of the ordinary about my fiction.

I generally don't discuss books much on my LiveJournal because even though I am a voracious reader, and a person who tends to read a lot out of circumstance (I do a lot of waiting on hold at my job... when I don't have to go to the bathroom, and can commandeer a chair, I don't mind so much), I feel that I don't really get the mechanics behind what makes a novel well-written as I do what makes a good film. They are very, very different animals.

The primary difference between the two, in my opinion, is one of discourse. Most films that people see tend to be narrative, but I don't necessarily think that cinema is much of a story-telling medium. Books are perfect for stories, but films are about an experience. The most important element of many movies is not so much the story itself, but what occurs over the course of it. What a filmmaker is trying to accomplish is generally more of a visceral effect. Even such ideals that tout themselves as being cerebral tend to end up being about an emotional connection. An example is Eisenstein's concept of "intellectual montage" - which states that the mind automatically connects two adjacent shots in a sequence - which when analyzed proves not so much about any sort of intellectual process at all, but an immediate, unthinking search for continuity (which, if one thinks about it, is what cinema is entirely based on, down to the fact that it is made up of many still images linked into animation by persistence of vision).

Novels can so absorb the reader that the world created by the author can seem as real to the reader as the one they live in. That's one of the main reasons why I like to read really long books, where the texture and tone of the setting fits along with the narrative. Movies, however, are much more immediate in effect. Action, surprise jokes or a shock effects are a perfect examples of things that cinema inherently does well, but is not something one finds often in a book. The performance of an actor, the surge of strings on the music track, these are what make films work.

Novels are absolutely the best narrative medium that I have ever come across. Cinema isn't, though. I was thinking about this for a while, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while a good story may be an advantage for a film (The Usual Suspects), I like many of my favorite films for other reasons. If I riff about Once Upon A Time in the West, I'm not raving about the story. It's a good one, but what interests me in that film are the mythic figures, the performances, the direction, the photography, the music... while a case can be made that all of these are tied together by the story itself, another case can be made that the story is an excuse to experience all of those other elements of the film.

There is a term in film studies possibly coined by Angus McPhail but popularized by Alfred Hitchcock that illustrates this idea. It is "macguffin." The story McPhail told to illustrate it goes thus:
Two men were travelling on a train from London to Scotland. An odd shaped package sat on the luggage rack above their seat.

"What have you there?" asked one of the men.
Oh, that's a MacGuffin," replied his companion.
"What's a MacGuffin?"
"It's a device for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands."
"But there aren't any lions in the Scottish Highlands!"
"Well, then, I guess that's no MacGuffin!"

A macguffin is an element that drives the plot but is incidental to the film itself. The textbook example to point at is the microfilm in North by Northwest. It is the generator of the events of the film, it is what everybody is supposed to be looking for... but who gives a damn about the microfilm? What is cool about that movie is Ernest Lehmann's witty dialogue and Hitchcock's control of the project. Cary Grant meeting Eva Marie Saint on the train and sparks flying. Bernard Herrmann's rollicking score. Martin Landau being so cold and evil. Robert Burke's stately VistaVision cinematography. James Mason's friendly menace. George Tomasini's measured montage. Jessie Royce-Landis not believing anything. Not only does nobody care about the microfilm or the big conspiracy that Mason and Landau are part of, but that storyline is unresolved at the end of the film. It doesn't hurt the film at all because that's not what you're watching the film to see.

I remember having an argument with Ralph about this at one point. His take was that there is nothing that you couldn't put to film if you don't try hard enough. I disagree. I think that there are many things that exist purely in the medium that they were created for. It's one of the reasons why I mentioned in the children's book thread in dotificus' Journal that I dread the idea of somebody adapting Michael Ende's Momo for the screen. What makes that book work are not things that one could easily do on film. I've also commented from time to time that a movie of The Watchmen would suck, although a cable mini-series could do that work justice; nevertheless, it would be impossible to include the excerpts from Under the Hood or the pirate comic that the child is reading because they wouldn't translate. Cinema is not about the interior lives of the characters. While much can be conveyed by an actor, director and a screenwriter about a character, a book can lay bare their mental processes, misconceptions, beliefs, decisions and whatnot, while a film has to rely upon what can be conveyed physically. There are ways to imply more, through shot composition, lighting and music, but at the end of the day, you can't open up an actor's head and go inside except in Being John Malkovich.

So for the most part, I don't discuss books as much. While I read them all the time, I don't have the same sort of intimacy with the process that I do with cinema.

I have completed the new mix I started thinking about a few days ago. I gave it a field listen on the way to work and am still listening to it. It is a follow-up to Songs of the Heavens called Grace. I am quite satisfied with it. I'll be posting the track listing and liner notes when I get home.
Tags: cinema, memes

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