what's in a name

the name of the blog has a few things in it. if you understand it a little better you'll understand me a little better.

we'll do the second part first. "american". i really like it as an adjective but not for the reasons that typically come to mind. i do not mean it in any sort of rah-rah, flag-waving, love it or leave it sort of way. the image i am trying to invoke is much more carl sandburg than fox news. its use in the title does not mean i am going to discuss exclusively/mainly american film. what it does mean is that i find certain qualities in the word that i think were necessary to survive and prosper here since our country's infancy (not all of them pleasant) and i find these same qualities over and over again in the films i love:

an exploratory nature, the need for frontier
sturdiness, steadfastness, simplicity
a taste for violence
religious fervor
devotion to craft
and so on...

i am not going to go on at length about it. it's just to give you a foothold on my perspective. i know these things exist everywhere but in each place they seem to exist in a very specific combination. i admire our combination when it adds to up to, for example, the city of chicago, with all the good and the bad. that's how i am using it.

the title is also a play on american vitagraph. american vitagraph was one of the country's very first film studios. initially a direct competitor with thomas edison, they eventually sold their material to him for distribution. in the mid-20s they sold out to warner brothers and faded into history but at the turn of the twentieth century they were pivotal in the development of early american cinema.

the most important thing in the title, though, is "vitagraph". the recording of life. this idea is central to why i love film - the motion picture defeats death.

until the advent of the motion picture, specifically talkies, you could only be most effectively/accurately captured and preserved in photographs or as a disembodied voice on a wax cylinder or shellac record. moving pictures were such a revelation that i think we still may not have thoroughly processed all the implications. everyone on this earth born after 1900 (when the first sound films were exhibited in france) now had the opportunity for each succeeding generation to know how they spoke, how they danced, what they looked and sounded like when they ran, laughed or played with their dog. i maintain that this is still one of the most important technological advancements in human history. forget entertainment, forget art. the motion picture allows us to pass down the most complete document of our individual humanity throughout time. astounding.

this is why i love the movies. this is why i chose the name.

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