Twitter, recession, Leno also on end-of-year list

The American Film Institute has singled out James Cameron’s “Avatar” as a “pioneering effort to unleash the human imagination” in naming the pic one of its eight “moments of significance” for this year.

With an army of technological wizards at his side, writer/director/producer/co-editor Cameron called upon the forces of art and technology to create new tools for storytelling that are groundbreaking in both scope and scale,” AFI said Monday. “The magic of the motion picture ­ — and the transfer of its power to television and now video games — has always found its truest power in its immersive qualities, and with Cameron’s advances in CGI and 3-D, ‘Avatar’ enters AFI’s almanac as an achievement that will have profound effects on the future of the art form.”

“Avatar” wasn’t listed on the AFI’s 10 “movies of the year” list, announced Dec. 14.

AFI tapped Twitter for its “moments” list, citing the social media site as a “powerful force” in film and TV.

It has long been proven that the most effective way to attract an audience is through “word of mouth,” and Twitter allows for these influential conversations to be immediate and international,” AFI said. “Twitter has also created new and direct channels of communication for artists to speak directly to their fan base.”

The institute also selected the recession for the list, asserting that movies proved a tonic for economic problems.

Just as Americans flocked to musicals and screwball comedies during the Great Depression of the 1930s, audiences in 2009 escaped their worries by going to the movies,” AFI said. “Though total admissions do not compare, it is worthy to note that in the world’s darkest economic time since the Depression, American films grossed more money than any time in the history of the art form. Aliens, vampires and wizards may have replaced Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the silver screen, but the movies still provide joy and refuge in a story well told.”

The other “moments” listed by AFI included:

  • The September debut of NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” on Monday through Friday at 10 p.m., dropping five hours traditionally reserved for episodic drama. “The move had a harsh effect in job losses for the creative ensembles whose stories were told at that time, and also among national affiliate stations whose ratings for 11 p.m. local news programs dropped significantly,” AFI noted.

  • Reality TV’s loss of boundaries. “Most significantly, the ‘characters’ now referred to as ‘Balloon Boy’ and ‘Octomom,’ in addition to a couple who allegedly infiltrated the White House to attend a state dinner, have marked the year as one in which the health and welfare of our citizens should be considered before the standards and practices of television,” the institute said.

  • The end of analog TV and other signs of “sea change,” such as cancelation of “The Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns,” the scarcity of longform TV, Comcast’s bid to buy NBC Universal and the continued rise in the reliance of DVRs (digital video recorders).

  • Animated films. “Though animation has been a genre of great impact since the dawn of the moving image, 2009 marked a year that saw a dazzling explosion of noteworthy work from many of the nation’s finest artists, and in forms vast and varied — from classic hand-drawn stories like ‘The Princess and the Frog'; to stop-motion splendors like ‘Coraline’ and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox'; to computer-generated creations like ‘9,’ ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,’ ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ and ‘Monsters Vs. Aliens.'”

  • Michael Jackson’s death and the concert docu “This Is It.” “The film proved an unprecedented global eulogy for fans and friends of the ‘King of Pop,'” AFI said.
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