Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blinded By The Earnestness

This just in: a bunch of nerds at M.I.T. have devoted lots of money, brains and robots to lamenting the state of storytelling in cinema. They're all atwitter over Twitter, Guitar Hero and any other number of recent technological developments that they see as eating away at the fabric of fine, classical dramatic structure (best personified by Homer, Shakespeare and Spielberg). God forbid language and storytelling structure should evolve. (Don't you think it's a wee bit ironic that MIT is on an anti-technology rant?) But it's not just the technology that's the problem, it's also the damn, stupid public. They want what they want, and what they want is convention! Bobby Farrelly bemoans a lack of current movies with complex narratives, like The Graduate. So, what this article is saying is that storytelling that's too avant-garde will turn them off, and yet there's a dearth of classical three-acts out there right now? And it's Guitar Hero's fault? I'm confused.

But don't worry, 'cause the dorks at Sundance think the state of storytelling is just fine. “Storytelling is flourishing in the world at a level I can’t even begin to understand,” said Ken Brecher, the institute’s executive director. So there!

In a related story, Gary Giddens at Slate thinks The General is just grand. But the subtitle under the headline irks me: "Yeah, it's silent. So what? You'll barely notice. It's that good." ARGH!

OK, I have to stop thinking about "storytelling," Sundance, and silent movies or I'll choke on my own rage. The antidote? This quote from Tom Stempel, a response to a student's question on three-act versus five-act structure:

“The three-act structure ... comes from the Broadway theatre of the 1930s and 40s. Almost no stage play written now uses three acts. They are either a long one-act, or two acts. Shakespeare, by the way, used what was then the traditional five acts, so I supposed you could use a film of one of his plays as an example 9of a movies with five-act structure). Is this whole question to settle a bar bet? I can't imagine it has a serious purpose.”

* Not that there's anything wrong with The Graduate, per se. Or Bobby Farrelly, for that matter. My vitriol is not directed at them, let's just be clear on that. I still wish "Honey and the Beaze" was a real TV show.


Anonymous said...

I read that article too, and found it very silly. People have been lamenting the death of reading for ages, yet look at everybody writing emails and reading blogs.
Storytelling on the way out? Hm, so I guess people didn't line up of for LOTR or Harry Potter. Right.
I actually find it hard to believe that people manage to finish those books.

re: the three act canon. Some of my favorite films completely disobey that: The Fog of War, The Thin Red Line, Dune...

Andrea Janes said...

Right on James.

I wonder if the Spongebob movie followed the three-act structure?