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Contributing factors to the pacing in modern film?


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#1 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:56 PM

Sat down to watch Poltergeist for the first time in my adult life with a couple friends.

 

I felt it was like 7/10 but one of my friends absolutely hated it. They aren't into film studies or anything like that, they just look to be entertained. I asked why they felt it was so boring and the clearest answer I received was "Any movie made before 1985 is boring and slow". Before you make assumptions; he isn't fond of Transformers/blockbuster action things either.

 

In the back of my mind I could sort of understand where the notion of old being boring comes from, the pacing and attempted level of engagement feel significantly different than modern releases. I can't sit down and watch Cabinet of Caligary even with synced sound and quicker edits.

 

Some film course I took had a blurb on how MTV's music video era influenced cinematic editing, but there has to be more to it than JUST the cuts.

 

What are your takes on this specific evolution?

 

Thanks.


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#2 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:12 PM

Blame games, social media, youtube....  Everything that has made sitting down and passively watching any 2 hour feature film seem like a chore.

 

We're more likely to be watching a film on a VOD platform.  So our choices are endless and instead of "clicking" the remote to another station, we're hitting a back button and browsing through hundreds of other titles.

 

The pressure to keep someone from doing that is enormous.  It's likely responsible for a very rapid fire approach to story nowadays.

 

Someone who is a pioneer at this would be David Russell.  You don't get much more tight on story and pacing than his recent films.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 19 September 2016 - 07:17 PM.

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#3 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:37 PM

Blame games, social media, youtube....  Everything that has made sitting down and passively watching any 2 hour feature film seem like a chore.

 

I feel like other markets encroaching on a movie's entertainment value, both mindful and mindless, would be beneficial for the medium. Features going from 90-130 to 60-75 by cutting out all the fluff seems to be a better product. Very few titles merit a 2 hour plus run time.


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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 03:14 AM

Society's pace has picked up significantly over the past 15 years, so every aspect of it has to run to keep up.  It's one of those chicken and egg scenarios.  Either way, I don't think you can point at media alone.  We've been lived in a world of the "instantaneous" for a while, now. 

 

When I was going to college in the 90s there were no iPhones, no iPods and the internet was just coming into play.  On days when the dial-up connection worked, you'd be able to connect to AOL and check your e-mail.  PCs were used mostly for that and word processing because that's about all you used them for.  The hard-drive space & RAM were so limited that they make what I'm typing this on now look like the WOPR from WarGames.  But yes - society itself moved at a much slower pace, then.  It was just accepted that you had to wait for most things - so everyone did.  By the way, DVDs were just appearing as I graduated college.  Everything was still VHS.

 

The 80s were even better (and slower.)  Most people still went to the movie theaters and saw projected 35mm or 70mm prints.  I still remember watching Tron (1982) on a huge screen.

 

Now the world must be constantly at people's fingertips and this applies especially to Millennials.  This is not a knock at Millennials, but having grown up in a digital age, many of them can't seem to function without their primary devices (i.e., computer, iPhone & iPod.)  This post is kind of Louis Althusser's Ideology & the State, as he tries to criticize & take himself out of the very society that he is a member of.  I fully admit that I have all of those same devices but I think my generation is able to shut them off with greater ease.  If more people did that, society would be able to slow down and absorb rather than consume and delete every moment of the day.

 

So to get back to your original question, it's an unequivocal yes.  I grew up in the 80s and it was a great time for films.  Poltergeist (1983) is actually an excellent example of an "80s film" for form, structure & story arc.  WarGames (1983) is another to look at for the same kinds of elements.  Watch any Spielberg film - especially E.T. (1982) - and watch the pace of the film.  Pay particular attention to the story arcs & character development, as well as all of the 80s references he throws in there: the Reese's Pieces, the Speak & Spell, etc.  It takes me back to my childhood every time I watch it, and part of me wonders if that wasn't intentional on Spielberg's part - to give the kids in 1983 a film they could love then and 20 years later, smiling the same smile.

 

Then watch a post-2010 film and you will see the difference.  Yes, the editing is a big factor so you need to ask yourself what effect that has on the film as a whole.

 

Sorry for the sociological diatribe. 

 

By the way: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary (1920) is only 67 minutes long...


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#5 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 04:07 AM

On the contrary, we have shows like Game of Thrones that spend hours doing nothing but developing characters - most of the time very slowly. GoT is not the only one, either. And really, these shows are also watched by millennials. These type of shows show no sign of slowing down.

 

At the same time, in the world of feature film, there have been HUGE changes in tastes. Being a lover of 80's fantasy movies - I can tell you that no modern film that I know of seems to move as slow. Modern audiences expect more cuts, faster action, and less fluff. Even modern fantasy masterpieces like Lord of the Rings suffers from this - never spending much time getting to know each character.

 

So the real questions should be: what makes feature films and TV shows so different in the pace we as watchers are willing to put up with? Is it the high ticket price for a film that makes us think we are getting ripped off when there isn't enough 'movement' happening? Is it the cell phone generation? But then that doesn't explain why TV does not suffer from the same issues...


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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 04:18 AM

WOPR from WarGames

 

Greetings, Professor Falken!

 

image1.jpg


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#7 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 04:31 AM

By the way: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary (1920) is only 67 minutes long...

 

I was more addressing film students kidding themselves into thinking something is entertaining solely because it's old, not so much addressing run time. Maybe the Marx Brothers had it right with Duck Soup's length all along.


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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 04:39 AM

I don't think there's anything new in this. If you compared many 1930s films to say 1960s films the pacing in the earlier films is usually a lot slower and appeared such to the 1960s generation,. The test may be to ask those people in ten years time their opinion on "Poltergeist", to see if it has changed.

 

Fast editing isn't that new, some of the silent films had cutting that would still make many modern films look pedestrian. The running times on old films tends to  be shorter than major productions today because they had double bills in the day. You may find that the set ups are more obvious in the older films, so slowing the pace, because the audiences weren't quite as aware of the rules compared to more media saturated modern audiences. 


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#9 John E Clark

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 11:12 AM

It's not Youtube. From the listed article, shot length has been declining over the last 100 years, from about 12 seconds in 1930, to about 2.5 in 2010.

 

https://www.wired.co...ema-is-evolving

 

 

Here's a scatter plot of shot length vs. year of production... estimating that in 1980s shot lengths were perhaps 6-7 seconds, and now 2.5... it should be clear that 'pacing' has changed.

 

shot-length-660x396.jpg


Edited by John E Clark, 20 September 2016 - 11:13 AM.

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#10 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 11:55 AM

Movies that any of us will see in our local multiplex, on average are more expensive then they've ever been. This means the risk is greater for the financiers. So modern 'pop' theatrical movies, are made specifically to get their money back.

Filmmakers learned a long time ago, if you throw a bunch of crap at an audiences face, keep the pacing fast, keep the cutting fast, they don't have time to process what's happening. When the brain can't process something, it's impossible to dwell on the details. This means, people will leave the theaters happy about their experience and spread the word. Remember, word of mouth is still the most powerful advertising available today. If you trust someone and they say something is good, generally people will want to experience whatever that person says is good.

Once you set precedence, once people "expect" entertainment to be a certain way at the cinema, it's hard to reverse that trend. Sure, there are plenty of filmmakers who get their movies released in the theaters who don't follow those trends, but they are much less risky productions.

At home, people are willing to accept something different, as some of today's best home watching content is very slow. I mean, there were episodes of 'Stranger Things' where nothing happened, yet I was perfectly content sitting for an hour watching it. The other thing to think about is the fact these shows for home are made in digestible, bite-sized segments. There is nothing to opening up your laptop, logging into Netflix and watching an episode before bed. It's a whole other world, leaving the house to see a movie at the theater.

The divide between the "art" movies and "entertainment" movies has also expanded in recent years. If you sit down and watch a modern "art" movie, even the winners of international awards, it's sometimes hard to watch them. Whether it's pacing or simply story structure and not enough plot to keep the audience engaged, they are clearly very different then the cookie cutter, formulaic theatrical crap we make here in the states today. Finding that happy medium between "art" and "entertainment" is what makes for success in my book.

I think my train of thought just left the station...
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#11 Andrew Payne

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 12:25 PM

It's not Youtube. From the listed article, shot length has been declining over the last 100 years, from about 12 seconds in 1930, to about 2.5 in 2010.

 

https://www.wired.co...ema-is-evolving

 

 

Thanks for posting this.  Very interesting article and research.


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#12 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 02:30 PM

On the contrary, we have shows like Game of Thrones that spend hours doing nothing but developing characters - most of the time very slowly. GoT is not the only one, either. And really, these shows are also watched by millennials.

 

Yes, meant to mention that.  TV series definitely seem to be the place to find solid stories & well-developed characters, these days.  Of course, they have 10 to 12 hours to develop them over one season, but it's also a matter of quality.  I recently watched Game of Thrones to see what the big deal was.

 

I watched the entire series in just over a month.


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#13 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 08:21 PM

I'd like to get into a series with the story structure of GoT but the elves/dragons/fantasy vibe is something I just cannot get into.


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