Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement

ISBN : 9780197567777

James E. Cutting
384 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Sep 2021
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This book traces the development of popular cinema from its inception to the present day to understand why humankind has expanded its viewing of popular movies over the last century. Drawing from his extensive work as a psychologist studying artistic canons, James E. Cutting presents hundreds of films across a wide range of genres and eras, considers the structure of frame content, shots, scenes, and larger narrational elements defined by color, brightness, motion, clutter, and range of other variables. He examines the effects of camera lenses, image layout, transitions, and historical functions to classify different kinds of shots. He explains the arcs of scenes, the larger structure of sequences, and the scene- and sequence-like units that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The book then breaks movies into larger, roughly half-hour parts and espouses the psychological evidence behind each device's intended effect, ultimately exploring the rhythms of whole movies, the flow of physical changes, and the cinematic polyrhythms that have come to match aspects those in the human body. Along the way, the book considers cultural and technological evolutions that have contributed to shifts in viewers' engagement by sustaining attention, promoting understanding of the narrative, heightening emotional commitment, and fostering felt presence in the story. Movies on Our Minds asks critical questions about how our emotional processes and the way our experiences of movies have changed over the course of cinematic history, for a cutting-edge look at what makes popular movies enjoyable.


1. The Power of Movies and a Method to Study It
2. Popular Movies and Technology
3. Viewing and Lenses
4. Mise-en-Cadre
5. Transitions
6. An Interlude on Shots and Cultural Change
7. Shots and Sound
8. The Most Important Shot in Popular Cinema
9. Continuity, Discontinuity, and Scenes
10. Montages, Sequences, and Syntagmas
11. Stories and Their Parts
12. Narrational Complexity
13. The Web and Flow of Popular Cinema
14. Structure, Evolution, and Engagement

About the author: 

James E. Cutting is a Susan Linn Sage Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Cornell University, and a Fellow of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image. He has written extensively on artistic canons and how we perceive the world around us. He has also worked in the entertainment industry at the one-time Atari Sunnyvale Research Laboratory.

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