I hate every name that describes what I love. Cinema. Maybe it’s that final “ma” syllable (just like drama) but I sound like a douche every time I try to use it seriously. Plus it’s one of those names for inexplicable things that comes through the utility door : the earliest machines that both recorded and projected the moving images were called cinematographs. Later, the halls and theaters where they were exhibited were referred to as cinemas. And of course, the law of linguistic metastasis requires that eventually such a name will become the shorthand for the entire experience.
Film. Ugh. You can almost imagine where this one came from — “I loved watching your magical light show. But how did you conjure it?”
“I ran a bunch of photographs strung together fast enough to create the illusion of motion.”
“Hot shit. But how did you get it on the wall ? I thought photographs were opaque.”
“Yuppers. Instead of paper I used transparent celluloid with a thin film of silver emulsion that allows images to be projected with a light source.”
“What the…? You made magic with a film?”
“Sick. Got any films with associative dialectical montages that resemble Marxist/Hegelian philosophies enough to claim a new revolutionary art form ? Or, if not, any films with naked girls?”
Using the word film to describe the art form is like calling novels pages or paintings canvases. And filmmaker ? Even the teenagers making lattes at Starbucks have cooler names than that. Then there’s the word I use the most : movies. It’s corny and graceless, and it creates a false difference between films and movies. But the one thing it has going for it is accuracy. As Dieter said to Eddie Munster on Sprockets, “Susan Sontag said that cinema lies at 24 frames a second, Eddie. Any comments?” Movies are still images separated by darkness, moving fast enough to fool the brain into perceiving motion. Does it matter ? Probably not.
Except wait, it does. Continue reading