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   avant-garde movies, motion graphics, and theory
 
 
by Michael Betancourt
 

This site presents extracts from Michael Betancourt's current research and writing projects, with news about current developments. A portfolio of finished, published writing is available here.

His trilogy of studies on film theory using title sequences as a model uniting avant-garde, documentary and commercial motion pictures were published in the Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice series: Semiotics and Title Sequences, Synchronization and Title Sequences, and Title Sequences as Paratexts.

If you are looking for more on agnotology, digital capitalism or automated/immaterial labor, look at The Digital, which presents links to his most recently published articles and other research on the political economy of digital capitalism contained in his book The Critique of Digital Capitalism. This analysis identifies how digital technology has captured contemporary society in a reification of capitalist priorities. The theory proposed in this book is the description of how digital capitalism as an ideologically invisible framework is realized in technology.

You can watch his movies here.

More articles, reviews, interviews, and translations are posted on MichaelBetancourt.com


 



Kritik des digitalen Kapitalismus

story © Michael Betancourt | published November 12, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Digital Capitalism

The German translation of The Critique of Digital Capitalism is available for pre-order from the publisher, WBG Verlag!

Die grten, erfolgreichsten und mchtigsten Unternehmen unserer Zeit sind lngst nicht mehr nur im klassischen produzierenden Gewerbe zu finden. Der atemberaubende Erfolg von Firmen wie Facebook oder Google beruht auf der Bereitstellung immaterieller Dienstleitungen, insbesondere aber auf der Sammlung von Daten.

Mit seiner Kritik des digitalen Kapitalismus legt Michael Betancourt eine scharfe Analyse dieser neuen konomischen Verhltnisse vor und beleuchtet deren Eigenschaften und Probleme. Von der vermeintlichen Demokratisierung der Gesellschaft durch die freie Verfgbarkeit von Informationen ber die Illusion der kostenfreien, weil nicht physischen Herstellung digitaler Produkte bis zur Neudefinition des Verhltnisses materieller und immaterieller Gter: Betancourt setzt sich mit den Begleiterscheinungen der digitalen Wirtschaft auseinander, die schon lngst unser Leben bestimmen und prgen.






 

Title Sequences as Paratexts - Now Available!

story © Michael Betancourt | published November 2, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Betancourt

You can now order my new book Title Sequences as Paratexts: Narrative Anticipation and Recapitulation!

It's part of the Routledge Studies in Media Theory and Practice series, and offers an analysis of the relationship between the title sequence and its primary textthe narrative whose production the titles credit. Using a wealth of examples drawn from across film historyranging from White Zombie (1931), Citizen Kane (1940) and Bullitt (1968) to Prince of Darkness (1987), Mission: Impossible (1996), Sucker Punch (2011) and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)Betancourt develops an understanding of how the audience interprets title sequences as instances of paranarrative, simultaneously engaging them as both narrative exposition and as credits for the production. This theory of cinematic paratexts, while focused on the title sequence, has application to trailers, commercials, and other media as well.






 

Realism and the Credit Sequence

story © Michael Betancourt | published October 1, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Motion Graphics

This is an excerpt from my book Title Sequences as Paratexts published by Routledge.

Hollywood has viewed the credits or title sequence as a distraction for decades, an interruption interfering with the dramatic realism of the motion picture. This conception can be seen in the ideological force of realism that promotes the elimination (or minimization) of the title sequence to start the fabula immediately. However, the invisibility of titles has been an ideal for commercial cinema since the Silent Period, as the film historian and documentary theorist Paul Rotha observed in 1930: a well-titled film is one in which the titles harmonize with the visual images so perfectly that their presence as titles is not remarked. The crediting function for openings cannot be avoided. Since the title sequence conventionally signifies the start/conclusion of the narrative, the role of narrative in title sequences is always already a given, unavoidable because narratives must begin and end. The conception of text on-screen as a abstraction, stylized, explains the elided title sequence in motion pictures such as Sherlock Holmes (2009) that leaves only the required credits which start the story, the production company logos, but embeds them within the diegetic space on screen; an elaborate main-on-end designed by Danny Yount comes at the conclusion, providing a dramatic ending beyond what appears in the narrative. It is a formal construction guided by the ideological concerns of realism. The attempt to disappear the credits into the narrative demonstrates a desire to produce motion pictures comparable to reality, able to displace lived experience and in the process make its idealized fantasy real.

Danny Yount, studio logo graphics from the opening to Sherlock Holmes (2009)

How the audience understands the distinction between the credits and its role for narrative when watching any title sequence is not an either/or opposition. The propositional conflict between peritext::text makes the degree of realism the critical focus, conceiving of the audience as passive, easily manipulated, uncritically accepting and embracing whatever they encounter in the motion picture, the ideological and political aspects of traditional viewership makes the manipulated complicit with their own manipulation, but powerless to challenge it, and possibly even unwilling to consider it is happening. It reifies this historical assumption that audiences are not sophisticated readers consciously choosing their critical or uncritical engagements with the text. Such a passive conception of viewership is incorrect. The audience interprets these designs as part of a state of information where meaning develops from the lower-level dcoupage. These articulations form the title sequence as a particular enunciation in the motion picture as a whole. The range of naturalism::stylization is another lower-level marker for these same issues of narrative function. How closely integrated peritext::text are determines whether the audience will interpret the title sequence as a distinct section, as a introduction flowing into the narrative, or as entirely absent. The relationships between these sequences identify the ideological dimensions of realism::stylization as an interpretive constraint.




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Design in Film Exhibition - Block Museum, Evanston

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 30, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Motion Graphics

I will be attending a day-long conference that is to help organize the 2018 Designers in Film exhibition at the Block Musuem of Art in Evanston on October 5. It looks like a great exhibition and I'm glad to see they will be publishing a catalogue to accompany it. The exhibition presents the work of Chicago-based design firm, Goldsholl Design Associates, (Morton and Millie Goldsholl and the associates affiliated with their firm) showing these practitioners extensive impact on design and film nationally from the 1950s through the 1970s.

image: Millie Goldsholl, Morton Goldsholl, Wayne Boyer, Larry Janiak, and Dick Marx, Still from Kimberly-Clark Corporation Fortune and Faces, 1959, 16 mm film, 12:48 minutes. Mort and Millie Goldsholl Collection, 19421980, Chicago Film Archives.






 

The Semiotics of (Critical) Viewership

story © Michael Betancourt | published September 30, 2017 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print



Aesthetics

Historical cinema has a specific concept of its audience as passive, challenged by semiotics and postcinema. The semiotic view of audiences proposes an idealized, hypothetical typical viewer who employs established lexical expertise to follow and embrace the established conventions of encoding/decoding. This viewer is precisely the complicit or passive audience assumed in historical cinema and critiqued by politically engaged theories of media. These traditional viewers accept and employ, rather than challenge or interrogate, their use of established conventions. Although these conventions are historically concerned/used for the presentation and elaboration of narrative forms, these typical viewers employ them to engage any media work that might invoke or suggest them, either through their formal organizationas in the still photographs of Cindy Sherman, or through the use of a familiar kinetic medium such as video, or the animated GIFs used on webpages.




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