This common distinction is not necessarily hard and fast. Many people think that Kubrick's films (esp. THE SHINING and DR.STRANGELOVE) are very entertaining. The hard categories are best seen as poles on a continuum. Still, most people would be more likely to see 2001 as "art" versus "entertainment" (due to 2001's slow pace and seeming lack of action and variety; to some the film is deadly boring). So what's the difference between film-as-"art" and film-as-"entertainment"? The best fast argument against film entertainment as art is the following web server http://www.well.com/user/vertigo/cliches.html which documents hundreds of film cliches, like: * Dogs always know who's bad, and bark at them. * When men drink whiskey, it is always in a shot glass, and they always drink it in one gulp. If they are wimps, they will gasp for air, then have a coughing fit. If they are macho, they will wince briefly, flashing clenched teeth. * Bombs always have big, blinking, beeping timer displays. Evil geniuses who devise bombs to destroy things/people are always thoughtful enough to include a visible display (usually LED) of how much time remains before the bomb detonates, giving the hero accurate feedback on exactly how much time remains. * Explosions always happen in slow motion. When an explosion occurs, make certain you are running away from the point of detonation so the blast can send you flying, in slow motion, toward the camera. * Pedestrians in Hollywood have the world's best reactions, so don't worry if you have to drive down a sidewalk. Mr. Pappodopolus is quite used to having his fruit cart smashed, and despite his gesticulations and curses, he always manages to get out of the way in time. and so forth. Thanks to the Web, now you don't have to pay $8.00 to get a healthy dose of visual cliches. They're free for the asking. That's a short differentiation: "entertainment" is the recycling, flow- chart style, of images which "worked" before. To those who have seen these images umpteen-cubed times, the images, funny how it happens, sour up on the mind, kind of like orange juice which has worn out its welcome. Yes, Virginia, that's NOT entertainment. Here's a long, wordy one: The "art" object, like its cousin the "entertainment" object, is a means of communication. This communication is via a medium [whether rock (sculpture), oil on canvas (painting), sequential varying images projected on a screen (film), words on a page (poetry, novel), metallic tube (trumpet), and a whole host of other media]. Here the similarity begins to end. A primary difference between film "entertainment" and "art" is in the quality and quantity of the messages sent and the level upon which they are pitched; the intentions of the two vis a vis the spectator are very different. Entertainment typically hews close to the base level of the human psyche, tugging at the most elemental emotions -- pushing buttons, to be pejorative about it. Art, while also seeking to engage the viewer, generally attempts to tap into more complicated and rarer emotions, and invites the viewer to not only be hypnotized (i.e. "get into" the work), but also to examine the work objectively -- an integration of cognition with emotion. While film entertainment frequently sends only one primary message, the greatest film artworks are sending many messages at once, and echoing and/or counterpointing these messages across many different domains (e.g. verbal, set design, montage, lighting, performance, etc.), in the same way musical works do. Because of this, the "entertainments" frequently exhaust themselves after a few viewings, while the greatest artworks, on the other hand, frequently get richer and richer upon subsequent viewings. On the philosophical dimension, (at the risk of oversimplifying this issue), the entertainer is typically focused on telling the audience what it WANTS to hear, while the artist is more often focused on what it NEEDS to hear. For this reason, many people would say that entertainment is "light," art "heavy," and thus, on Friday night after a hard week's work, would check out DIE HARD or DUMB AND DUMBER from the local BLOCKBUSTER, and not, say, Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL. If art is communication, then information theory comes into play when evaluating art. The following is a list of parameters partially derived from information theory that sets some lines of demarcation that will enable us to say "while both are food (communication), art is more like the main course, and entertainment is more like dessert." I have included after these parameters some films which, in my view, are prototype (but non-exclusive) examples satisfying that particular idea. ======================================================================== 1) Totality of Conception ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 2001, CITIZEN KANE, ERASERHEAD, THE SHINING 2) Multi-dimensional Voicing ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 2001, CITIZEN KANE, ERASERHEAD, THE SHINING 3) Complexity of Information ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, ERASERHEAD 4) Formal Beauty ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ BARRY LYNDON, 2001, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 5) Excellence of Parts ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, HUDSUCKER PROXY, CITIZEN KANE, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 6) Metaphoric Significance ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, 2001 7) Understanding of Film Language ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CITIZEN KANE 8) New vision/Exploding possibilities of the medium ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ CITIZEN KANE, ERASERHEAD, BLUE VELVET, MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, 2001 VERNON FLORIDA 9) Power/Impact ^^^^^^^^^^^^ WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, SWEPT AWAY 10) Verisimilitude (feeling of reality) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ MIDNIGHT COWBOY, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? 11) Lack of superfluous information (high signal, low noise) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 2001 12) Necessity (feeling it could only be done that way) ^^^^^^^^^ 2001, RAISING ARIZONA, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, ERASERHEAD 13) Expressionistic ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ERASERHEAD 14) Number of parameters satisfied ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 2001, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? 15) New content ^^^^^^^^^^^ MARAT/SADE, ERASERHEAD 16) Theme and Variation (reworks and transforms conventions) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ HUDSUCKER PROXY 17) Unpredictability/Freshness ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ERASERHEAD, VERNON FLORIDA 18) Depth (number of interpretations possible) ^^^^^ 2001, THE SHINING, MARAT/SADE 19) Creation of salient mood ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ MARAT/SADE, ERASERHEAD, OBSESSION, BLUE VELVET, TITICUT FOLLIES, BARRY LYNDON 20) Form follows content ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 2001, ERASERHEAD, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 21) Significance of themes ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 2001, MARAT/SADE, SWEPT AWAY, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? 22) Striking imagery ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ERASERHEAD, AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 23) Integrity/Uncompromising ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ERASERHEAD, 2001, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, MINDWALK 24) Universality (speaks to everyone regardless of spatial, temporal ^^^^^^^^^^^^ location) WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, THE SHINING 24) Communicativeness ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ SWEPT AWAY, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? 24) Intellectual (engages cognition) ^^^^^^^^^^^^ MINDWALK, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, 2001, MARAT/SADE, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE ======================================================================== Another important aspect of art as a medium of communication is avoidance of the following negatives: Cliche Pretentiousness Art-by-numbers (e.g. doing what the "school" tells you to do) Unethical imagery (e.g. positive framing of sadism, etc.) Contrived images Reliance on cheap "effects" Compromising: going down the mountain and cheapening the message Those who are fascinated by the issue of "what is art?" (a question around which a whole discipline, aesthetics, revolves) must get the brilliant PUZZLES ABOUT ART: AN AESTHETICS CASEBOOK by Battin, Fisher, Moore, and Silvers (St. Martin's Press, NY, 1989). This book uses, quite uniquely, the case method found in law schools to explore this very complex question, discussing in the process well over a hundred hypothetical situations in non-technical language, introducing the layman to "the issues" in a very accessible way. Highly recommended. (B.K.)
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