Monday, July 17, 2023

Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscapes - Introduction

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I wrote a series of articles in 2018 explaining the importance of identifying our own personal cinematic landscapes.
The general cinematic landscape includes movies that objectively matter to all widely consumed media and society as a whole. Regardless of how they make you feel, personally, they have unquestionably shaped the movies we see today. You may not be a fan of musicals, but West Side Story (1961) still represented one of the most famous works of Shakespeare and brought it to a whole new generation in an accessible way. It changed how people looked at musicals, and how they were presented to the public. You may find Citizen Kane (1941) boring next to the movies of today, but it still offered a brand-new method of cinematography that awed the movie world when it was released. Maybe superheroes aren’t your thing, but Iron Man (2008) rebirthed a whole genre of films and altered the expectations of both audiences and Hollywood. 
Whatever your personal opinion, every bit of that is a fact. The National Film Registry is where you can find a list of movies that audiences and critics have voted to preserve because they are deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It’s not about whether the movies are good or bad. It's just about their importance. It was set up as a part of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 and includes films going as far back as 1891. Most of which you can find on various streaming services and YouTube.
When I talk about a personal cinematic landscape, I’m not referring to those films.
Just as the movies in the National Film Registry have affected society and film, our personal cinematic landscapes affect the way we see other movies. Although 12 Angry Men (1957) is a harrowing and impressive film that is still very much relevant today, it’s not going to mean anything to someone who’s never seen it. On top of that, remakes and reboots may speak louder to newer generations because they're updated to represent our current reality.
A personal cinematic landscape can’t be argued against because it’s completely subjective. It’s all about how a person feels. It’s about what they like and what they’ve experienced. The movies that come to make up their personal mosaics of cinema will undoubtedly shape what they look for in other films.
It’s why no two critics have the same exact perspective on the same film.
I know that I like creature features. I grew up on Jurassic Park (1993) and Jaws (1975). When I saw the trailer for Sharknado (2013), I knew it’d be nowhere near as good as those, but I also knew it’d be fun for me to watch. My best friend, however, hates creature features. He tolerates Jurassic Park, but will not even try to sit through Jaws. I cannot describe the level of eyerolling he gave me when I turned on Syfy to watch a tornado full of sharks.
Neither of us were wrong. Our experiences with previous films guided us on how to react to that movie.
We’ve been over most of this, even though it’s been a while. What we’ve never talked about is just how much a personal cinematic landscape can shift over time.
It’s easy to consider how watching movies new to you might alter how you see things. Since 2018, I’ve watched hundreds of films, some that I’ll never remember and others that have found spots on my list of favorites. What people tend to forget is that what we experience from year to year can change what previous films once meant to us.
As we get older, we face new challenges and learn. Over the past 5 years, I’ve had a baby, I’ve moved away from the only city I’ve ever known, I’ve gone through at least 3 different apocalypse scenarios… I’ve changed. The world has changed. And so has my perspective.
That’s what I’ll be going over in this series of articles. I’m going to revisit my personal cinematic landscape from 5 years ago and see how it’s been altered. I’ll examine why things may be different and how I expect the changes will affect the way I digest films in the future. New movies will be added, and older movies may mean just a little more than they used to. Some of the movies I once felt were incredibly influential to me, may not mean as much. I hope you’ll join me on my journey.
Last time, I did many different genres in each article. It made the posts long and a bit difficult to follow. This time around, I’ll narrow my focus to one genre at a time. I’ll also go over some new genres that I didn’t touch last time. It will take a while to go through them all, but with the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike going on, we’ve got nothing but time. I’ll be posting at least one genre per week and, depending on what else we post, possibly more.
I’d love to know what your personal cinematic landscapes look like and how they compare to mine. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!
The first of the articles will be posted on Wednesday, July 19 at 6pm EST. We’ll be kicking it off with the action genre.

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