In Caldwell’s “Excessive Style” article, along with television and cinema focusing more on stylist and aesthetic factors of the medium, it started to matter which names were attached with these styles. In a sense, besides network names, directors now held the power of giving a television show or a movie its “brand name” quality. Like Caldwell said “Television was no longer simply anonymous as many theorists had suggested. Names of producers and directors assumed an ever more important role in popular discourses about television” (14). I believe this to be very true within the past decades as famous directors have loyal followers who will see anything they make.
The best example that comes to mind is the famous James Cameron, who is best known for directing the tragically beautiful Titanic in 1997. Twelve years later, he wrote and directed the long anticipated Avatar. I believe that the excitement for this movie was not based on its having an amazing narrative or innovative plot, but mainly because it carried the names James Cameron, who had not made anything very major since Titanic. I remember the hype around this movie, but at the same time, not knowing what it was about at all. What I did remember was how everyone was excited about the amazing visuals of the fictional universe of Pandora, the striking special effects, and the technology to make it a spectacular 3-D viewer’s pleasure. In fact, the greatest detractor of the movie was its cliché plot similar to Pocahontas, yet the movie was still such a success. What was so special about Avatar are its stylish excesses attributed to James Cameron’s name. The success of his name is evident in its nomination for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction. It also became the top-selling Blu-ray of all time, which also reflects on the evolution of technology and the audience’s emphasis on style in the 21st century. Consumers today are satisfied with nothing less than high definition or better, and now if we can get our hands on blu-ray, we must have it.
This is also links me to another great director of our time, Christopher Nolan. He is famous for Memento, which was mentioned in Mittell’s “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television” article. This movie illustrates complex narrative form in a “puzzle film” that requires the audience to learn particular rules of a film to comprehend its narrative (38). The name Christopher Nolan, thus, carries a brand of creative complex narrative strategies that the audience is willing to participate in, as well as stylish cinematography that he has demonstrated in recently popular movies:Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. Speaking for myself and many of my peers, if I know that Nolan is directing a movie, I automatically expect a certain standard of film- narrative with plot twists and beautiful visuals. Names like Nolan are “signature banner-carriers” that carry “aesthetic badges and trophies of distinction”, whom to the networks, any financial risk that comes with them (Caldwell mentioned Lucas, Speilberg and Stone), is apparently, worth it (16). The two examples are of films, but the same principle applies to television as well, especially when film directors do television as well (such as J.J. Abrams).