New Scientist Magazine reports on a study by a psychologist of 150 movies and found that “the more recent they were, the more closely their shot lengths tended to follow a mathematical pattern that also describes human attention spans.” Based on a 1990’s study that turned the attention span data of hundreds of volunteers into “a series of waves using a mathematical trick called a Fourier transform,” this paper applied that formula to the edits of popular movies. The scientist, too-perfectly named Professor James Cutting, found that having shots of similar length recur in a regular pattern throughout the film correlates with box office success. However, it does not necessarily correlate to quality.
I wonder if, as many theorists suggest, the attention spans of high consumers of media are decreasing, and we will see those formulas speed up over time.
Would-be tween pop star Rebecca Black is having a good news/bad news situation. The good news: her song “Friday” is one of the internet’s most widely distributed and watched videos. She has become an instant celebrity.
The bad news: that’s because it is so awful.
It has inspired parodies, covers, many tweets, and lots of commentary about the state of the music business today — even some backlash to the backlash.
The song is bad. Her voice is painfully auto-tuned and she looks uncomfortable — no one has ever sung the words “fun fun fun fun” so unconvincingly. The lyrics are dreadful, and I say that keeping in mind that we are talking about a pop song, a category that has produced lyrics like “da doo ron ron,” “yummy yummy yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy,” and many, many unsuccessful efforts to rhyme “girl” and “world.”
Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today
Tomorrow is Saturday
And Sunday comes after…wards
I don’t want this weekend to end
And don’t forget this one:
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)
Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend!
Worst of all, the production values look like they were put together on a Commodore 64. It reminds me of the wonderful “Robin Sparkles” video from “How I Met Your Mother” — except that one was supposed to be awful, and it really was adorable. If you’ve suffered through “Friday,” watch this one to cleanse your memory.
The best seat in the house for one of the most popular shows on the planet is “Lord of the Dance 3D,” a concert film that puts the viewers on stage with the thunderously percussive Irish dancers starring and under the direction of Chicago-born Michael Flatley, the show’s “creator, producer, director, and star.” And of course, Lord of the Dance.
There’s no dramatic tension here, either on or off-stage. They try — Flatley explains at the beginning that this show attempted the impossible and everyone said it couldn’t be done, now the pressure is really on because they are coming home to Dublin. But the graphics that open the movie remind us that it has already sold out the biggest venues in the biggest cities in the world and it is fair to expect that an Irish dance show will do pretty well in Ireland.
And there is a folklore-ish sort of storyline in the dances, with a glittery jester-clad sprite waking the dancers with a flute, followed by some sort of good and evil battle that climaxes as the sprite’s flute is snapped in pieces and Flatley’s sparkling Lord of the Dance belt is ripped from his waist. Do you think he can dance it all back to victory?
At its cheesiest, which is very, very cheesy, the battle of the dancers is reminiscent of a (more) twinkle-toed version of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video with a bit of the Sharks and Jets from “West Side Story,” if the Sharks costumes were inspired by “Star Wars.” It is almost relentlessly entertaining, with wild stage effects that include shooting streams of sparks and images in lights timed to each tap, and many very lovely legs in very, very short skirts dancing up a storm.
It would have added more interest to give us a sense of what goes on backstage and meet some of the almost interchangeable dancers. I would love to have seen the rehearsals to find out how they create the impeccable precision of the dozen and more taps per second as they all but fly across the stage. But the movie keeps us at a distance, seeing only what the live audience sees.
It’s unlikely to thrill those who are not already fans. But the throngs who love to see Irish step-dancing will find that up-close and 3D is an excellent way to enjoy the show.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here are five great movies from or set in Ireland to enjoy:
1. The Quiet Man John Wayne plays American Sean Thornton (John Wayne), who returns to in Innisfree, the small, beautiful Irish village where he was born, to buy his family’s old home. He meets fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), courts her, marries, her, and then really has to win her as both must learn some lessons about intimacy, pride, and trust. Yes, there are some moments that seem sexist but the underlying story is as glorious as the spectacular landscape and as touching as the endearing characters.
2. The Secret of Roan Inish A little Irish girl named Fiona goes to stay with her grandparents and becomes convinced that her baby brother, whose cradle was carried off to sea years before, is alive and being cared for by Selkies, seals who can transform themselves into humans. This is a quiet film, filled with lovely images that convey the magic surrounding anyone who believes in it. It explores themes of loyalty and commitment to family and following your heart.
3. The Commitments A group of hardscrabble Irish musicians come together to firm an American-style soul band and perform songs like “Mustang Sally” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Look for future Frames and Once performer Glen Hansard in the group. (Mature material)
4. Once The best song Oscar went to this bittersweet film about an Irish musician (Glen Hansard) who meets a pianist and singer (MarkÃ©ta IrglovÃ¡) from the Czech Republic.
5. Millions The Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle, also shows his gift for working with children in “Millions,” the story of a young boy who finds a bag of money.