Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

Nick Roberts

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I’m from Portland, Oregon, and my relationship with media studies has been lacking as of late. Working full-time last summer, I was unable to stay current on theater and DVD releases, but I can’t say it bothered me. I always feel like I need to be watching something, but none of the summer selections overly excited me about film for film’s sake(other than Before Midnight, which I didn’t even get to!). As a result, I’m trying to build my knowledge of film’s Golden Age and its key players instead, which, unlike much of contemporary cinema, is a pursuit where the rewards are proven to be continually clever and charming.

Moving forward in my study of media and theory, I am interested in the growing disconnect between cinematic style and its relation to the action happening on screen/ in the narrative. There seems to be a  movement of filmmakers interested more with inventive and compelling cinematography and editing than the story that’s being told. The formula found success with Enter the Void and Drive, but recent releases like Stoker and Only God Forgives have been more openly spurned for artistic coldness and labeled “exercises in style” rather than films. Is the criticism valid? The same plot is plastered on  many mainstream movies that are critically lauded regardless, making me wonder why a film should be discredited for a unique cinematic style, even if the choice is not story driven. Is it not doing something new?  Would it better to apply this style to the contrived emotions and situations of the blockbusters we’ve all seen before, or to continue its use in sparse, aesthetically driven films? Does there have to be a divide? And where the hell does Terrence Malick fit?

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