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Author Topic: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?  (Read 1865 times)

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Offline ElayneTopic starter

Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« on: June 25, 2009, 12:32:21 PM »
First, please let me say that this is a bit of a cathartic rant for me.  I'm going to voice an opinion and I don't mean it to be confrontational, simply me venting about a topic that I feel pretty strongly about.  And I know some of you will disagree, which I'm fine with.  Hopefully, we can discuss it without hating each other.

I recently went and saw Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.  My sister-in-law runs a small local newspaper in my hometown and she occasionally slips me movie passes and in exchange, I periodically write reviews for her.  One article I wrote was a piece where I went against the grain and said that I didn't like the Transformers movie.

However, having seen the second one, I have to say I was shocked and awed.  I have never witnessed such a monumental failure of movie making and just general garbage.  And I was stunned when my two nephews (granted, both teenagers) and their dates actually LIKED a movie that I basically feel is a travesty.

I'm not simply bashing Transformers 2.  I'm attempting to USE Transformers 2 as a talking point to illustrate what I feel is a significant issue.  I'm also going to use a few other points in this rant, feel free to agree, disagree, or comment on any or all of them

I feel that 'storytelling', as an ART, is declining.

Mastering a Craft

When I do something, I put my heart into it.  It doesn't really matter what it is I'm doing, I try to do it to the best of my abilities.  I freely admit, I get obsessed.  When I dance, I want to be the best dancer I can be.  When I work out, I want to know the best techniques and exercises I can use.  When I write, I want to be known as an engaging, evocative writer.

To me, it's not about being 'the best ever'.  Really, who can say who the best ever is?  Timbaland's a great musician, but is he better than Kurt Cobain or John Lennon?  Is Lennon better than Coltrane or Miles Davis?  Is Miles Davis better than Bach or Beethoven?  And really, I think one of the most important parts of civilization is setting the stage so that the people who come after you can surpass you.  Timbaland may be great, but maybe 50 years from now, someone will be even better.

So to me, what's important isn't 'being the best', which is ephermeal and vague.  What to me is a more important is, "mastering a craft".  Knowing your art, your function, so well that you are aware of what really goes on in the process of making something.  You should be aware of past masters, regardless of whether or not you agree with their work.  You should know the history of your art.   And then, you should be able to take those elements and then make them uniquely your own, make them YOURS.

And thus, regardless of who you think is the best, regardless of who speaks to you personally, you can say John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Miles Davis, Mozart, Beethoven, they were ALL masters of their craft, aware of stylistic elements and techniques available to them, but taking those tools and making them unique and personal.

The Craft of Movie Making

Now, let's apply that to the craft of movie making.

As a director, you should be aware of past great movies -  You should be aware of pacing, narrative flow, imagery, iconography. 
As an actor or actress, you should be aware of past great actors and actresses.  You should know how they connected with their audience, how they made themselves evocative.
As a screen writer, you should strive to make your script authentic, cogent, and engaging.

Art is effectively the transmission of emotion.  A sad song should make you feel sad, an angry song should make you feel angry.  An inspirational movie should fire you up, a comedy should make you laugh.  If you do not successfully transmit the emotion you are seeking to convey, then you have effectively failed as a movie maker.

Let's look at a recent masterpiece - The Dark Knight.  The balance is simple - The constraints of an ordered society versus the dangers of a chaotic society.  Now, the Joker represents that immorality, that chaos, that lack of a code.  And his role is to transmit to the audience that terrors that would occur in such a world.  AND HE DOES.  The Joker is FUCKING SCARY.  The love interest, Rachel Dawes, is sympathetic - She's attractive but intelligent.  Men wouldn't mind dating a girl like that, women wouldn't mind being a girl like that.  You want her to be rescued.  When she's slain, the audience gasps, shocked and horrified. 

Now, in the Transformers 2, the balance is - Technology can help our lives (the Autobots), but it also presents dangers to humankind (Decepticons).  (The side theme is that toys are good to buy.)  Megatron, who's supposed to convey the idea that over reliance on technology is bad, is actually a badass.  Shia LaBeouf is so unlikeable that you are actually ROOTING for the Decepticons to kill him.  Megan Fox is attractive, and her breasts jiggle when she runs.  Really, that's all she contributes to the movie.  So the only possible emotions you could feel are -- contempt for the humans.   Or Arousal for one of the humans.  Which means that, as a movie, the Transformers 2 is in fact a porno without the money shot.

You spend two and a half hours watching buildings blow up, Megan Fox fleeing (jiggling to freedom) from the explosion and Shia LaBeouf occasionally screaming "OOPPPTIMMUSSSS!" Or "Bumblllleeeeebeeeeeee!" or "Michael Bay, WWWHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?"  For an actor, Shia Labeouf makes a great ring announcer; Basically his function in this movie is to periodically yell the name of whatever character you are looking at.  Why would you need someone to have that job?  Well, because the action scenes are so confused that it'd be impossible for you to otherwise KNOW who's in them, and you would not be invested enough in any of the characters to really give a damn what they are doing.   This is directly opposite of the Dark Knight, where you actually look forward to seeing minor characters and know who each of these distinct characters are (Oh, that's the lady cop who's mom is in the hospital, OMG is Two Face going to kill her?).

What Went Wrong

At some point in the 90s (around Terminator 2), movie makers realized just how much they could do with special effects.  They could blow up the White House, turn people into orcs, create meteors and aliens.  And it got so easy for them to do so, that they didn't even really need to think about it.  In Star Wars, so much effort went in to making each shot (filming on location, animation, sound editing) that each character had to be weighed carefully (Do we need a snow monster?  Do we need a frog man?).  But sadly, in the 90s, it became a crutch to get the audience fired up (I don't know what we should do in this shot... How about a fireball?)  Characters didn't draw you in with superior acting, they blew shit up.  In First Blood, you were pissed off at how badly Rambo was getting treated, you sympathized with what he went through in the war.  In Rambo 3, HE BLEW UP RUSSIANS.  For Friendship!  The story telling was lost, replaced by 'pew pew bang!'.  You didn't cheer because you loved Rambo, or because you hated the evil Russians, but because, BOOOOOM!!!!

This effect is not limited simply to movies.  Think about ...

Video Games

Final Fantasy 6.  You have tons of playable characters. Each one has substories and plots.  In fact, you as the player could decide who the main character was -- My main character was Terra, but yours might have been Celes, or Locke, or Sabin.  Each is interesting and viable.  In fact, in parts of the game, you'd have 12 characters out a once. There are multiple endings, based on what you accomplished in the game (did you rescue Shadow, or did you let him die?) and you are not forced to do subplots (you can completely skip Shadow's Dreams or Sabin's final lessons).

But in Final Fantasy 8, we are down to 6 characters, never more than 3 at a time.  The plotline is Squall and Rinoa.  The rest are just there as background characters.  Selphie is Rinoa's friend, but that's about it.  Zell's comedy relief, that's about it.  Really, it's just a wedding party (bridge, groom, best man and usher, two bridesmaids.)    The subplots are gone almost entirely gone, with the exception of the main, unavoidable subplot (a deeply unsatisfying tale which implies that the two lovers may well be brother and sister, but goes completely unresolved.) 

The reason for this decline?  Well, because there's so bloody much CGI in the game and making the CGI is so time consuming.  Plus, once you make it, you don't want the players to just skip it.  You can't kill the mechanical spider yourself, because that would fuck up the scene where Quistis machine guns it.  And you can't have six different endings because each one takes so long to make in full CGI that the game would never come out.   Squall can never fall in love with Quistis, because the animators only made the song and spaceship sequence with Rinoa.  But each time you use a summon, you're treated to a 3 minute extravaganza where the summoned monster appears and devastates all, your very controller shaking with fury or possibly terror.  Because, apparently, if there was one thing that the players loved about Final Fantasy 6, it was when they got to use the Espers in battle. 

Loss of the Art

Producers and Directors have come to rely on animation and special effects as a crutch, replacing good story telling or evocative characters.  But sadly, this fails to convey emotion, which is the entire point.  You get moments when your screen shakes as your Summon appears, but you lose the moment where you cried when Aeris died.  You feel the entire theater shake as robots level the city, but you lose the moment where you personally shook when William Wallace screams "Freedom!" for the last time.  The romance of Shia and Megan is basically garbage compared to Jessica Tandy whispering, "Hoke, you're my best friend" to Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy.  Transformers washes over you but never touches you, because the storytelling simply isn't touching.

The Dying Art

But what drives me up the wall (and what inspired this rant) is that as time goes on, people become less aware of good storytelling.

I was talking with my girlfriends over coffee.  We were talking about the Summer Plays in the Park (in my town, ever summer amateur playwrights perform community theatre every weekend in July in the park).  Two of my girlfriends are planning on auditioning.  I commented that one of the girls has the Vivian Leigh look.

And literally none of them knew who that was.  I explained that she was the actress from Gone with the Wind.  None of them had seen it.  How in the world can you be an aspiring actress and NOT know about Vivian Leigh, or Katherine Hepburn, or Lauren Bacall?  It's like a professional baseball player NOT knowing who Babe Ruth is.

Yet, all of them have seen Twilight.

People are simply losing that desire to 'master' an artform and know the past and history of the art form.  They don't have the time to go and rent classic movies (or play old school video games) because there's so much new stuff coming out.

We have become so bombarded and saturated with crap, that people simply don't have time to analyze and filter the junk.  The audience is becoming credulous and has lost the ability to tell good from bad, important from irrelevant.

To me Transformers 2 is a monument to bad taste:  Hugely expensive and gaudy.  Chock full of disingenuous imagery.  Utterly lacking in evocation, authenticity, self awareness, or merit.  Even people who are FANS of the movie KNOW the acting is bad and the plot incoherent.  But rather than being disgusted by this, they're thrilled at the explosions and the jigglingness. 

I find it stunning and frustrating that people can look at a movie and say "Well, the story wasn't that good.  The acting kind of sucked.  But what can you expect?  I LIKED IT!" 

Well, what you can expect is a cogent story and good acting (like the Dark Knight).  And you don't have to like something just because you've been commercialized into accepting it.  It's completely okay to demand quality for what you pay for.

Have we, as a group, lost the desire for excellence?

So, is it just me, or is storytelling becoming a lost art?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 12:54:08 PM »
I don't think it's an entirely lost art, but I think that there are fewer people that appreciate it, and so when there is a gem amid the Dreck, it surprises us.  Case in point - I rarely even glance at the best seller list.  I know what authors write stories that sweep me away, and they usually aren't there.  Five years ago, my husband and I were moving from Pennsylvania to Ohio, and wanted an audio book to pass the endless hours of driving back and forth house-hunting.  Against my usual grain, I let the salesperson talk us into something off of the best seller list.  Maybe you've heard of it: The DaVinci Code.

To my astonishment, it was a story that made us both think.  It was a story with history and action, and mystery - to the point where we were actively trying to solve the puzzles before the characters, and completely taken off guard by the revelations at the end.

And then I find that there are people who claim to love horror and haven't heard of H.P. Lovecraft, and think that Stephen King is the man who created the genre.  -_- 

Offline ElayneTopic starter

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 01:54:22 PM »
But that's exactly my point.

If you look at the best seller's list and you reasonably can expect to be disappointed, if you can generally expect to find nothing of worth, then that means that something is wrong with the system.

Also, keep in mind that you are talking about books, where it is very difficult to have special effects.  Really, books are the closest to pure storytelling and even then, we have a lot of garbage (Twilight).

So if books, the most story telling oriented forum of them all, is suffering from a consistent lack of storytelling, what does that mean for the rest of the media?

Right now, in theatres, we have The Proposal, Year One, and Transformers 2, which are all just fundementally bad movies that convey nothing.  I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to Public Enemies, which I haven't seen yet.  So, if 75% of the movies in the theatre are crap, THAT'S A PROBLEM. 

Offline Oniya

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 02:01:40 PM »
You're being generous - according to Sturgeon's Law, 90% of everything is crap.

The problem is that this also applies to movie goers.  So the 10% of what's out there that isn't crap has to be sought out by the 10% of viewers that give a damn about more than flashy SFX and 'jiggle'.

Offline Fauxtrot

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2009, 02:09:53 PM »
Well I answered no but really its a kinda/sort of thing. Is the storytelling dying out on the big stage... Yes. But that doesn't mean its not thriving else where. Mainstream culture has doomed many facets of artistic expression. Its inevitable. Good art is recognized, people make money off it, people study it to see why it made so much money and when they have an understanding of what works they draw up a template and fire up the money making machine.

For me the biggest victim of this is rap. But all popular art falls victim to this. They get a formula that works and go with it. Its not a bad thing its just what happens when art meets business.

And then another thing is generational gaps. I find people 25 or older are being pushed into 'older generation'. 80's through the 90's was a big cultural shift in values. And like our parents before us the newer generatoins are taking up and dropping moral and social values at their leisure. I for one can't stand texting. If its important call me if not don't bother me. But its all the buzz world wide.

I feel like my mother sometimes when I look at younger kids and see what they call music. I'm all 'back in my day rap was like yadda yadda yadda' and their all 'lil wayne r teh bestestest rapparz alive one one exclaimation point one.'

But that's just the mainstream culture. Its all about money and true art is about risks and risks are bad for business. So you're not going to find the next true artist on some HBO special or in a capcom video game. The art is out there. In places like this forums, D n D gatherings, aspiring novelist world wide. I try to veer away from the media established artist and look behind the curtains of the mainstream stage. Its there.

Offline Tachi

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2009, 02:25:15 PM »
I lost faith in the movie industry a long time ago. Now with films such as 'Mansquito' and the rest of the SciFi crap coming out I don't think it'll soon recover. It's all about making money now and as long as the promos are interesting enough to bring in an audience they have no need to put effort into the writing.

Offline Indigo

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2009, 02:56:46 PM »
Hmm,I can only read this and look at my own life.

I voted 'no'.

I grew up in a family that told stories.  Of course, my family is half mad, but the 'family lore' was something we all heard and learned, and still do to this day.

I do the same now that I'm the adult.

Telling stories will never die out, unless humans lose their gift of speech.

I understand the thing about 'looking at the best seller list' and going, 'meh...your kidding, right?'  but I've never read much from that list anyway....though the last book I read was from there.  ANd it was damned good. 'Smilla's sense of Snow' by Peter Hoeg.  Think it was made into a movie, but have no desire to see it.

You see, to me...storytelling has always been very personal.  The moment it, or anything else for that matter, is manipulated into a moneymaking endeavor, it's in danger of losing it's soul, the reason it came into existance in the first place. Thus why, you need to look at that format (big time, money making publishers) and realize that.

The true story telling is still going on...but you won't find it on any 'top ten list'.

*shrugs*

Offline Oniya

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 03:03:32 PM »
I understand the thing about 'looking at the best seller list' and going, 'meh...your kidding, right?'  but I've never read much from that list anyway....though the last book I read was from there.  ANd it was damned good. 'Smilla's sense of Snow' by Peter Hoeg.  Think it was made into a movie, but have no desire to see it.

Actually, I saw that one as a movie - and thought it was a pretty good one.

Offline apocryphan

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2009, 03:39:43 PM »
I disagree. I don't believe it's mandatory for art or stories to be great conduits of emotion and the human experience. Sure, it's exciting when it is, but that's not what defines it as an art form. To me, art can be very ordinary and very plain; it doesn't need to take me on an emotional rollercoaster. Rather, it's a reflection and expression of humanity. A simple wooden bucket is what it is, although the artistic and cultural trends that define whether it is arty or not may change.

That's where the crux of my disagreement lies; our attitudes change with every blow of the wind. I still remember how my great grandparents complained how motion picture ruined the traveling troubadour, my grandparents complaining how talkies ruined silent picture, how color movies ruined the artistic grittiness of black and white, etc etc. Each generation is stuck in their perspective of how art should be, and of course, we'd be resistant if it evolves.
But I believe at its heart, art will always remain art because it is and always will be a product of the human experience. Just because our cultural attitude shifted from romantic idealism to mechanical carnage and gratuitous nudity doesn't change this fact. Just because we didn't leave feeling inspired or moved doesn't mean that art is dead. I think it's quite easy to fall victim to nostalgia and that sense of how things should be, instead of appreciating things how they are.

I think it's terribly arrogant to think we can kill an art form, simply because art is so much bigger than any of us. Just because we don't consider or call it art, doesn't make it not, if that makes sense! Storytelling will always remain an art form as long as people still huddle around campfires and speak, no matter how shallow and uninteresting their stories are.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2009, 04:05:53 PM »
That's where the crux of my disagreement lies; our attitudes change with every blow of the wind. I still remember how my great grandparents complained how motion picture ruined the traveling troubadour, my grandparents complaining how talkies ruined silent picture, how color movies ruined the artistic grittiness of black and white, etc etc. Each generation is stuck in their perspective of how art should be, and of course, we'd be resistant if it evolves.

*Resists the urge to cue up 'Video Killed the Radio Star'*

I think in a way, if we want for the 'young-uns' to appreciate the older art forms, we have to show them the older art forms.  Seriously - when was the last time that you went to a museum with someone to look at the paintings?  Or took in a play or musical, even one produced at the local college? 

Read to kids - yours or someone else's.  Be the story teller.  Take them to Wonderland - it's on Project Gutenberg, you can download the whole text as printed.  Give the characters voices, even you just imitate the versions you've seen in other interpretations.  Rent an old movie and watch it with them.  Remember seeing the gray of Kansas become the Technicolor of Oz?  Or jumping out of your seat when Lon Cheney's mask was pulled off in Phantom of the Opera?  Or cringing as the Von Trapps escaped the Nazis?  Put on a CD of a famous symphony or take in an outdoor concert.  Let them feel the bass section and percussion.  Watch them as a violinist plays a string-burning rendition of 'Flight of the Bumblebee'.  Laugh at old episodes of the Three Stooges, or Bill Cosby monologues.  Tell them stories of your own exploits - age appropriate, of course.  Exaggerate the size of that fish that you hauled into the boat but let get away because you - at age 7 - were afraid it was going to eat you, or the size of that massive tree that you got stuck up in for three days - in the middle of winter. 

But trust me about the sunscreen.   ;D
« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 04:09:01 PM by Oniya »

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2009, 04:40:05 PM »
Sometimes, we watch movies to think about our lives and our world.  And sometimes, we watch movies to not think.  I liked Perfect Blue for its dark and insane look into the world of dissociative identity disorder.  Does that preclude me liking a light, fun, mostly think-less anime like Cardcaptors as well?

I watch Donnie Darko and Doom.  I enjoyed Revenge of the Fallen as much as I enjoyed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but for completely different reasons.  I fill my brain with pap and fluff as much as I fill it with thought-provoking literature.  I write crackfics with no purpose as well as original fiction that explores the human condition.   I tell my children stories that go nowhere and mean nothing for no other reason than they like it when I talk to them, and I read them stories like Goodnight Moon and Alice in Wonderland.  I enjoy songs with a message just as much as this week's catchy, brainless pop tune.  I can churn out levels with the best of them in MMOs, or I can sit down and plan out a months'-long, convoluted and detailed dungeon campaign in Exalted or D&D. 

Storytelling hasn't changed, and it never will.  Our perceptions of what storytelling should be may shift and evolve, but storytelling itself will be eternal.   We like different stories for different reasons.  Some remind us of why we should laugh.  Some remind us of why we feel afraid of the things that go bump in the night.  Some are to show us a different aspect of ourselves, and some are for pure entertainment when we've had long days, or long weeks, or busy lives and just want to sit down for two hours and not have to think about a plotline or a story arc.

Offline ElayneTopic starter

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2009, 04:58:44 PM »
Fauxtrot -- Rap is a great example of what I mean.  Think of the way Rap music has changed over the course of just our lives.  It starts with the Humpty Dance.  Then you have a community attempt to seize control of the music and use it as a method of giving themselves voice and you get the NWA.  And now, all of a sudden, we're back to the Humpty Dance.  I saw the T-Pain video with Taylor Swift and couldn't help but think... Are you kidding me?  Is that really what people think that rap is about?

Taylor Swift Ft T Pain Thug Story Official Music Video

Rap is becoming as commercial as pop.  I can't help but wonder what Tupac Shakur or even Nas or the Roots would really think about that.

-----

Apocryphan --  I have to disagree with you.  Any form of art is supposed to be communicative.  There is always supposed to be a connection between the artist and the audience.  I think if it's not emotional, if it's more intellectual, then you get more into a piece that's political discussion or an essay.  (Say, like the movie Sicko by Michael Moore).  But if you have a piece that's not emotional or intellectual, then what is being communicated?  Or is it just a time waster?

I really do think that alot of movies and music has become contentless.  There's no emotion being communicated and there's no thought process being explored.  Which, to my mind, makes it babble.  I can't help but look at alot of TV shows and movies and think to myself, "Did the studio who made this make it out of anything but pure commercialism?" 

-----

Indigo and Oniya, yes, the storytelling tradition still exists and yes, alot of people do still attempt to teach it.  But I think you'll find that fewer and fewer people are in fact able to differentiate between 'meaningful content' and 'essentially empty'.

Think of how many young people you know.  Think of how many of them KNOW, how many of them FREELY ADMIT that the Jonas Brothers, or Miley Cyrus, or that the Hills, is effectively contentless.  Now think of how many of them, despite knowing full well that these materials are pure production and have limited merit, are still obsessed with these things.

You can't possibly watch The Hills and then make the argument to me that the show has content.  Yet it's a hugely popular show that's survived for five seasons.  So why do people still watch it, instead of saying "This thing is garbage, give us something like the Sopranos or Firefly?"

-----

Rhapsody, that's exactly the feeling that I don't personally understand and want to explore. 

If I understand you correctly, and I'm not saying this as an insult by any manner or means, you are saying that because of our busy lives and overstimulated minds, it in fact becomes too difficult to process content.

Am I misinterpreting that?

« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 05:04:10 PM by Elayne »

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2009, 05:15:58 PM »
Rhapsody, that's exactly the feeling that I don't personally understand and want to explore. 

If I understand you correctly, and I'm not saying this as an insult by any manner or means, you are saying that because of our busy lives and overstimulated minds, it in fact becomes too difficult to process content.

Am I misinterpreting that?

No, I'm not saying that at all.  What I'm saying is that our lives have become so busy and so stimulated that sometimes, we don't want any more stimulation.  We don't desire more information that's going to make us think.  It's not more diffcult to process content; it's that sometimes, we just want to take a break from processing content.  Sometimes you just want to forget for a couple of hours that you've just broken up with your boyfriend, or your child is sick, or your mother's ragging at you again.  Sometimes, you're just mentally exhausted from work, or school, or independant study or what have you,  and you just do not have the attention span or mindset to watch a deeply thought-provoking movie. 

There's a reason comedy movies do well, even as formulaic and cliché as they get.  There's a reason action movies are so popular, when all they seem to offer are explosions and sex.  They're not meant to be art.  They're meant to be entertainment, for the times when we just don't want to have any more information dumped into our heads or any intense reactions provoked within us.

Offline Myrleena

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2009, 05:56:06 PM »
I completely agree with Rhapsody, and she said it far better than I could.  I love to read, but sometimes the complex, thought provoking books aren't what I'm in the mood for.  David Weber, for example, teaches me politics in a way that I can understand and follow in his books, and they're incredibly background intensive.  There's the big explosions in them, but they're usually only a fraction of the size of the book.  But sometimes I want something like Lisa Shearin's Magic Lost, Trouble Found, where the main character is just fun.

Offline Indigo

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2009, 06:03:53 PM »
I also am a bit stunned that somehow, it's taken for granted that so many even gives a damn about 'hot new bands, latest videos/movies' or what the heck the lastest, hot, TV show is up to?

What??

For people who 'expect' to get 'something worthy' out of such things is mind boggling...is that what culture 'in the west' has become? Not here, not me, not my family, holy cats, ugh.

You can't order culture from a well packaged gimmick.

And I also agree. not every damned thing has to be 'mind blowing'...but expecting 'mind blowing' things from that which have never promised it is utter futility.

You make or are given your own reality/culture/meaning/lore/that-which-is-important....you'll never find it in some nice, neat, media inspired package.


-btw...I also liked firefly  ::)

and really...you have GOT to remember that the average IQ is 100.

EDIT- And I suppose I should clarify that I don't think less of that, and maybe I have fallen myself, into, 'stereotypes'.  I see that, and I apologize, because I am also, like everyone else at times, an idiot.  *bows*
« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 06:13:59 PM by Indigo »

Offline Serephino

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2009, 10:12:42 PM »
I agree that movies have lost something lately.  It just seems that what's popular is mindless crap.  Look at reality shows.  I refuse to watch one, yet everyone's talking about them. 

Two words; Spongebob Squarepants.....  That cartoon is so stupid it gives me a headache.  I think the headache is a result of the accelerated rotting of my brain.  Cartoons have become bizarre trash, and movies have lots of explosions and nudity. 

I was actually talking to someone last night about this very thing.  I watch reruns of older shows because they have substance.  I'm still entertained, and I can still forget about reality for a little while, but it's not mindless. 

Offline Soran

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2009, 05:31:42 AM »
The video game industry is telling better stories than television or movies. Games like Jade Empire tell fantastic epic tales. Knights of the Old Republic games are also very satisfying for the stories they tell. (All from Bioware)
For television, reality and talent shows rule our screens and movies are more about the effects than the stories. The last movies I went to see were 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy as I loved the books and Peter Jackson and co did an admirable job.
I won't bother going to the cinema anymore, I rather prefer to wait until they appear on television since I can always change channel or use the 'off' button.
I still prefer a good book more than any movie, game or program.

Offline Darkforged Dove

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #17 on: June 26, 2009, 03:56:40 PM »
It's not a lost art, so much as it is a hidden art.

For a few years I was a member of two storytelling circles that were in cities near my own, as well as a very small circle that met in my own city. We would meet either once a month, or weekly, and the two of the farther away groups had been around for very different amounts of time. One for only a year, and one for decades (and being the longest meeting organized circle in the world; meeting weekly for over 30 years).

There are storytellers out there. They're just hard to find, and.... there are also many false ones that try to cash in on the cachet that storytelling has, even when it is now relatively unexperienced by people.

The really interesting thing is that I actually enjoy watching shows that are supposedly for children, and frankly they're much more interesting to watch than the forced upon dramatics and tension of reality shows, or the useless disregard for reality that occurs on many of the shows trying to cash in on the "criminal investigaton" genre of show.

Seriously, I only consider Law and Order to be the real deal among scores of pretenders. It actually presents as much reality as possible, the protagonists do not always win, often have to make very difficult choices, and have to confront some of the terrible things in order to help others; it's a show about the heroism of supposedly very mundane individuals. Of course, there are problems, and some of the series have characters that I can't actually stand, so I don't watch them, but the procedures and actions that they take are all previously defined, and I don't have to throw my hands up in the air in disgust when a Forensics technician does interrogation or detective work.

For the record, spongebob squarepants is actually really interesting. It's full of a great deal of jokes that it's supposed target audience will not understand; but their parents would (one of the key things that made WB's "Animaniacs" really good, my father could watch the show with me and my siblings and think it was funny). The main character's design is meant to be a collosal in-joke, as the person who started the series was a marine biologist, and made the "sponge" character look like a kitchen sponge, not an ocean sponge. It's zany enough for kids to enjoy, but it also isn't stupid. I guess that's what happens when you have an artist, animator and scientist as the creator of the series, you get a mix of really smart, and really funny.

On the other hand, I'm a digital animation student, which means that I have an appreciation for things that perhaps others wouldn't have.

Like how I can't stand the material in Happy Tree Friends, but I have to recogize that the timing, and character designs, and characters are all superbly done.

Offline Jude

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2009, 04:31:10 PM »
I don't think story-telling is becoming a lost art in our culture as a whole, though I do agree that in the most popular forms of media it definitely is, and it's being replaced with something cheap and generic.

The first Transformers movie was really horrible.  There's this stupid formula which is regularly applied where someone inconsequential and lacking in any special relevance is elevated by pure chance to somehow play an essential role in the fate of the world (or universe as it would be).  They throw in a love interest on the side, if the main character is a geek (as is all too often the case) it's usually some girl "too hot for him" and then somehow he shows himself worthy in his own quirky way and also finds some bravery.  There's supposed to be some contrived moral message about how geeks are hawt I guess (gee I wonder who's writing those scripts).

Movies designed as "summer blockbusters" are almost always formulaic pieces of crap.  They try to pull together so many ideas that appeal to so many audiences in order to increase potential viewers that the film ultimately ends up a loosely strung together garbage heap.  The rating system only serves to encourage this, as people try and keep their films under a certain rating so that it's more accessible to a teenage audience.  The artistry is sacrificed to marketing, censorship, and demographic appeal.

But, there are still filmmakers out there who focus on creating a beautiful experience as their top priority.  If you think about it in some areas the art of storytelling is actually flourishing.  Superhero movies used to contain terrible plots and rely heavily on special effects.  The last few years we've seen Ironman, The Dark Knight, The Watchmen, and The Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton version).

The video game industry is suffering similar problems.  Square Enix seems to have lost their magical ability to create beautiful intricate worlds weaved together by character-driven dramas.  The graphics are as jaw dropping as ever, the gameplay's evolving, but I'm just not feeling the storyline.  Lets hope Final Fantasy 13 breaks the cycle.  Star Ocean IV was promising, but it didn't quite make it.

Long story short, mainstream society is shallow.  But you can still find a decent narrative about people if you look hard enough.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2009, 04:36:29 PM by RandomNumber »

Offline Avi

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #19 on: June 29, 2009, 05:31:22 PM »
I think it is, but it does not HAVE to die.  Personally, I find this site to be a living example that storytelling is alive and well.  As long as people enjoy creative writing, storytelling will endure as an Art.

Offline Indigo

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Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #20 on: June 29, 2009, 07:32:55 PM »
Just to note, I like spongebob sqarepants as well, hah!

ALso...Look at LoTR movies...it took until the third, final movie, for it to get any recognition.  AND LET ME TELL YOU WHAT, I was utterly shocked it won..happy, I cried, but shocked.  The movie industry simply doesn't 'like' certain movies....especially fantasy/sci-fi...unless it is so mindblowingly done right, that half the people don't even 'get it'.

I think...really...I kid not...I think that you have to 'mature' as a watcher of movies, a reader of books.  I think you have to 'overcome' sterotypes, and get to a place where it doesn't matter who else is watching it.....you find another culture entirely...and THEN....then...your eyes are opened to a new way of watching/appreciating/knowing.

So I say. 

Bring on those who doubt!  'For there are other worlds, then these.'
« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 07:36:32 PM by Indigo »

Offline rick957

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2009, 01:04:46 AM »
Hi, just a newbie enjoying reading the range of opinions here.  I'm probably a little older than some of you folks who've commented here, because I can't even get myself to watch some of the mainstream Hollywood fare cited earlier in this thread.  I can remember when popular entertainment achieved a level of mind-numbing vapidity that was beneath my tolerance level, around about 1995 or so ... and it's just been downhill since then, with wonderful but rare exceptions.

Since then I've had the opportunity to reflect on how every decade or two, popular entertainment seems to drop another notch in terms of intelligence and craft.  The more I go back in terms of film, television, music, literature, even comic books -- each medium seems to hit an apex shortly after its inception and then decline continuously in terms of quality and storytelling content.  It seems to me that the only way many popular forms continue to exist is by constantly targeting a new generation of viewers who aren't yet aware of how their intelligence is being insulted and their worst impulses pandered to.  It's only a matter of time before today's teens and college kids slip out of the marketing demographic that most pop culture is targeted to, and the next generation gets hit up for all their money with increasingly bland and insipid fare.

Do I sound jaded and cynical?  Sure, but I still cherish those rare moments when something of value actually succeeds in the popular arena, turning the tastemakers' notions on their heads and opening the door a slight crack for material of quality.  It happened for my generation when Nirvana had a hit single and killed off the previous generation's metal crapmeisters, turning the spotlight instead to fresh talent and ideas ... Until the formula-hucksters found a way to reduce and exploit the "alternative" trend into oblivion. 

Film seems to have been on the decline by all accounts since the mega-profits of Jaws and Star Wars (the first one, kiddies) crashed up against the aesthetic genius of the 70's auteur filmmakers and effectively marginalized them ... But then, you get these little bright spots when someone like Tarantino or PT Anderson scores a hit and disrupts the status quo. 

Where are the bright spots in pop culture right now?  I'm not aware of any -- Harry Potter, maybe? the previously mentioned Spongebob?  -- but I love hearing about what other discerning folks are excited about. 

Sorry for the length, but it's a treat getting to participate in a discussion with this level of intelligence ... definitely not the norm on other boards I've been to!  :-)

Offline AK47

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2009, 01:43:54 AM »
Ahh yes.

Everything new sucks. The world is in a decline. Things were so much better in the past. The future is going to suck.

Offline Jude

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2009, 05:49:49 AM »
It's funny how much based-on-opinion this whole discussion is.  Personally I look back and take a look at movies of old, and I see an even lower good to garbage ratio.  My parents enjoy films of the era in which they grew up, extending backwards a tad, and I sometimes get suckered into watching it with them.

My father's a sci-fi lover, so I've seen a variety of sci fi stretching from the 1950s to the 1980s (I was born in 84).  I am continually underwhelmed by what I see.  To be fair, the movies which have been remade were usually better before they were remade, but not by a huge margin.  I do not consider special effects to be a plus at all either unless they actually work in a way that allows certain aspects of the plot that were otherwise unfeasible to manifest themselves (i.e. the Gort thing from the Day the Earth Stood Still was infinitely more interesting in the remake).

So I have a feeling some of what people feel when they get this impression that "culture is dying" is just another example of nostalgia winning out over contemporary ideas.  For every movie we have with some poor excuse of a plot to hide gun totin' action the 1950s had some stupid romance film using the exact same cliched plot.  There weren't many pieces in the past either that attempted social commentary from what I can tell either.

There is however one phenomenon that has actually created a real difference in the past 20 years.  Demographic marketing hit its peak, so they've begun taking test audiences very seriously.  Many pieces of entertainment are not marketed with the end of creating a product people genuinely enjoy seeing as much as they are marketed to appeal slightly to a wide variety of people in order to gross lots of money by using demographic marketing, statistics, and psychology.  This is obviously an affront to film as art, but again this is only a segment of the film industry (the stuff slated for mass consumption typically).

But there's a phenomenon going on in the past 10 years, as the internet continues to ramp up, entertainment is becoming increasingly niche'd.  There's still people out there like you and my parents who enjoy 1950s-style films, who enjoy mass-market films, who enjoy smaller artsy films, and also people who enjoy user created films on youtube.  All of entertainment is being chopped into little pieces and is becoming increasingly specialized to individual taste.

Horror used to be horror.  Now horror has a host of subgenres, including the Zombie sub-genre which I enjoy (although I hate movies like Saw, Scream, etc).  Basically entertainment is starting to recognize individuality in people and as a result the sources it comes from are multiplying rapidly.  This leaves large-market blockbusters out in the cold and forced to become even more general in order to survive.

Take Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen for example.  It had to appeal to people who enjoy action, romance, thrillers, special effects, the Transformers, interesting characters, etc.  That's why the movie is such a massive piece of crap.  It has no heart and soul 'cause it sold out to as many people as possible in order to try and get them to watch it.  Think how rare it is that you can actually find something you enjoy watching that say... a 4 year old would.  Spongebob Squarepants and a few Pixar movies are all that come to mind anymore, and you're not going to be as into those as someone who's 8 or so would be.

Storytelling and art are fine.  They are changing though.  They're just becoming more finely tuned to smaller audiences over a larger scale.

Offline rick957

Re: Is Story Telling Becoming a Lost Art?
« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2009, 10:05:40 AM »
Hello again ... Please forgive my inexperienced hack-and-slash way of quoting previous posts, but here we go ...

RandomNumber said:
"It's funny how much based-on-opinion this whole discussion is.  Personally I look back and take a look at movies of old, and I see an even lower good to garbage ratio. "

I would agree that this thread doesn't contain any carefully organized, detailed proofs, rather just a collection of anecdotal observations relating to popular artforms.  Nonetheless, reducing every viewpoint to insupportable, subjective opinion negates the possibility of saying anything useful about broad social topics, such as the evolution of storytelling in popular entertainment.  (Um, right? *exhaling*

"So I have a feeling some of what people feel when they get this impression that "culture is dying" is just another example of nostalgia winning out over contemporary ideas.  For every movie we have with some poor excuse of a plot to hide gun totin' action the 1950s had some stupid romance film using the exact same cliched plot. "

This seems to be the same point that AK47 was making just prior to your post, although he reduced it to a simple sarcastic jibe.  Your points, in contrast, were quite well-expressed and thoughtfully presented.  What I would say in response is just that there's always good stuff and garbage to be found in any period.  But, is there anyone out there who has a broad exposure to some popular form (film, TV, music, literature, anything) and would argue that the medium is currently in its heyday?  The point is that the best work in most popular genres, or the preponderance of the best work, seems to be on the wane rather than the rise, while mediocrity and dreck seem to be filling the gaps.

Personally, I'd love to hear a sincere and thoughtful case made for some particular artform's present apotheosis.  But is it possible to make such a defense right now?  I'm skeptical; it hasn't been attempted in this thread yet.  I would think that you'd have to restrict yourself to looking at some recent, trivial subcategory like "reality television."  One more substantial possibility that I wonder about is the world of video games, but I lack the knowledge to have an opinion of their potential as popular art.

"All of entertainment is being chopped into little pieces and is becoming increasingly specialized to individual taste."

You make some good points about niche marketing and the increasing homogenization of some popular entertainment.  I'm not sure that I agree, however, that individual tastes are now better represented and targeted than they were before the supposed democratization trends caused by the proliferation of media (cable channels, the internet, etc.).  Independent filmmakers or musicians now have lots of profitless ways to connect to small numbers of hardcore enthusiasts.  But at the same time, the pathways to popular success are actually narrowing due to the unprecedented consolidation of ownership of mass media companies, both producers and distributors. 

The handful of giant mega-companies that dictate what the masses get to see and hear has never been fewer in number, or less prone to risk-taking.  Ultimately, that's why the number of large-selling musical acts, wide-distribution films, or even scripted (non-reality) TV shows are all declining precipitously.  Where are all the new indie musicians and filmmakers with long careers and multiple big projects?  There aren't any that I'm aware of, once you discount the handful of new names that get trundled out each year by journalists for their annual "What's Hot and New" articles.  Does anyone remember who the hot young bands or starlets were from, say, 2002?  They're out collecting unemployment and defaulting on their mortgages.

The talking heads in the media love to tout each year's big so-called revolution in new distribution outlets (youtube, myspace, etc.) or technological advances (digital filmmaking, home music studios, etc.) ... But for artists to have a career of any length, they need to find ways to draw on a large fanbase for long-term financial support.  Over the last decade or more, none of the much-touted developments in media production and distribution have pushed any new creators across that threshold.  The few success stories in recent years continue to depend on traditional mass media conglomerates for promotion and support.

The pop culture landscape can't really be as bleak as I'm making it sound, can it?  Please, someone, by all means, give me a good counter-argument or several solid counter-examples .... I'm all ears.  :-)