Friday, January 16, 2009

"Prestige" and reflections on movie-watching techniques

A while ago I mentioned a complete cognitive fiasco I experienced when trying to watch "Prestige". Surprisingly, I managed to understand it on a second try. Subtitles were the key -- thanks to my Twitter buddies who suggested them in response to my real-time cries of frustration! Once I turned the subtitles on, the actors' British accent stopped being a problem. It did not, of course, help with facial recognition. Since I could not tell the two main actors apart until the end, I probably missed some important plot points. "Prestige" is an extra-tricky movie, since this tale of two Victorian era magicians revolves around trickery and misdirection and some characters passing for others. As much as it is an absorbing movie, it's hard work for someone with poor facial recognition skills. For example, in the end it turns out that a certain secondary or tertiary character was very important. Yet not only I couldn't guess the importance of that character, I was not even aware of his existence up until all the secrets of the plot were revealed.

Subtitles are a great technology, but I could use a few others to help me watch movies. There could be a button on the remote control that would pop up bubbles with character names over characters' heads. Those bubbles could contain not just names, but short summaries of the characters' storylines. In other words, the more information in the movie can be conveyed by text, the better for me. Ergo, the best movies are books. :-) But I already knew that.

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