Chances are you’d have been laughed out of the offices of most Hollywood producers if, a year ago, you had suggested that a silent movie could win five academy awards, three Golden Globes, and seven BAFTAs. But that’s exactly what happened in 2012: to date, the Artist, a lighthearted French silent comedy about the birth of “talkies,” has won fifteen major awards and grossed over $118 million worldwide.
Citizen Kane, it was not. The Artist is a romantic romp with all the philosophical depth of, say, Cats. What’s astonishing, though, is the film’s ability to captivate not in spite of the fact – but because nobody’s talking. Without a screenwriter to walk you through the developing narrative, you find yourself attentive in a heightened way to visual and auditory details. To the musical score. To little sight gags the directors have planted in the background.
Rumors of the death of this or that technology at the hands of something shiny and new are often greatly exaggerated. While it’s true that investors and industry tend to follow innovation, turning older media (like LPs) into collectors items, new tools rarely replace their predecessors completely. Bicycles have advantages (exercise, easy parking) that cars do not. The living history of your personal bookshelf is a fundamentally different thing from an alphabetized Kindle menu.
Take radio, too. Who would have guessed that, in 2012, radio could rival, and in some ways beat both “chalk & talk” and video as a medium for communicating complex scientific and mathematical concepts? Yet Radiolab, WNYC’s brilliant, nationally syndicated public radio show created and co-hosted by Jad Abumrad, does exactly that. Abumrad says that radio’s unique storytelling power has to do both with the inherent complexity of the human voice and the strange intimacy of hearing it through your headphones or speakers, talking directly to you.
Continue reading the rest of the story and watch the video at Bigthink.