Celebrate the Moments of Significance of Your Life with AFI

The American Film Institute has released their companion list to their Movies of the Year honors: the 2009 Moments of Significance, recognizing, for better or for worse, eight unassailable trends, influencers and emergences to color the year in film, TV and digital media. Among the recognized forces of significant-moment nature:

· Avatar, a film that failed to make their top ten movies list, but which they hail as "James Cameron's pioneering effort to unleash the human imagination."

· Twitter, which they dub "the new watercooler" and a powerful new marketing force in film and TV.

· "The Leno Experiment and the Loss of Drama" (No explanation necessary, except to say, brava AFI. Brava.)

· The Situation, whom they couch under the 25-cent heading "Reality TV and the Loss of Boundaries," but give us a break -- we all know who they're talking about. A more realistic heading: "The Situation on TV and the Situation with the Situation."

· The death of analog and the soap operas left choking on their own suds in its wake.

· Michael Jackson's death. (And yet, bafflingly, no mentions of Rihanna's beating, Tiger Woods' infidelities, Letterman's blackmailing or Adam Lambert's mimed fellatio.)

· And finally, "Recession - The Movies Again Prove a Tonic for Economic Ails." As they put it, "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." Ah yes -- who could forget when Fred tendril-melded with Ginger's built-in skulljack, the two dancing the night away in perfectly synced neurological precision, in 1936's Follow the Fleet? Those were the days.

The full press release:



Annual AFI Almanac Names

Eight Moments of Significance in Film, TV and Web

LOS ANGELES, December 28, 2009--The American Film Institute (AFI) today announced the year's AFI Moments of Significance. These eight noteworthy events were determined to have had an impact on the world of the moving image during the calendar year 2009.

Each year, AFI AWARDS adds another volume to the history of American film and television by documenting the collective opinion of the moving image communities, archiving the year's significant moments and honoring the talent and collaborative teams who have created the year's outstanding accomplishments.

Ten AFI Movies of the Year and 10 AFI Television Programs of the Year were announced earlier this month. A complete list of the 2009 official selections and the 2009 juries can be found at AFI.com.

The 2009 AFI AWARDS selections were made through AFI's unique 13-person jury process in which scholars, film artists, critics and AFI Trustees discuss, debate and determine the most outstanding achievements of the year, as well as highlight these significant events that will shape our cultural legacy. Two AFI juries--one for motion pictures and one for television--convened in Los Angeles for two days of deliberations.

AFI will honor the creative ensembles for each of the selections at a luncheon sponsored by Hewlett-Packard on Friday, January 15, 2010 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The luncheon is by invitation only.


AFI Moments of Significance may include accomplishments of considerable merit; influences with either a positive or negative impression; trends, either new or re-emerging; anniversaries or memorials of special note; and/or movements in new technologies, education, preservation, government or other areas that impact the art film, television and digital media.

The AFI Moments of Significance selections are listed below:



James Cameron's pioneering effort to unleash the human imagination was fully realized in 2009 with the release of AVATAR, a film that firmly established itself as a landmark in the way stories are told.

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.

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 (computer-generated images) and 3-D, AVATAR enters AFI's almanac as an achievement that will have profound effects on the future of the art form.


Twitter, the Internet platform for messages of up to 140 characters, has become a powerful force in the worlds of film and television. 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.

Twitter has also created new and direct channels of communication for artists to speak directly to their fan base. Most notably, in 2009, Ashton Kutcher enlisted over one million followers to his "tweets."

In marketing terms, Twitter and other forms of social networking have allowed motion pictures and television programs the opportunity to both expand and unite their audiences. For example, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY became a cultural sensation in 2009 for mastering "word of mouth" marketing via social networks, in addition to telling a terrifying tale very well. In television, Twitter helped to ensure "appointment television" by creating venues for viewers to comment on shows as they aired. For example, GLEE employed Twitter to broaden its fan base of "Gleeks."


On September 14, 2009, NBC premiered THE JAY LENO SHOW, a reformatted version of THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO, to run Monday through Friday at 10:00 p.m.

As a result, five hours traditionally reserved for episodic drama were dropped from the broadcast television landscape. 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 11:00 p.m. local news programs dropped significantly.

This experiment can be viewed as another chapter in the evolution of television to less expensive programming, which began in force with the emergence of reality television. However, audiences have found quality dramas moving in force to cable and pay cable television, and the world awaits the first breakout drama scripted for the Internet.


Reality television crossed a line in 2009 as the cultural craving for celebrity moved in a dangerous new direction. 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.


On June 12, 2009, analog television switched off, and the digital revolution saw a new day. This moment is mostly symbolic, but signaled further change across many former television traditions:

• Several long-running soap operas were cancelled in 2009. GUIDING LIGHT, the longest-running drama in television and radio history, aired its final episode on September 18, 2009. The program began in 1937, during the second Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was also announced that AS THE WORLD TURNS, a daytime staple since 1956, would air its last episode on September 10, 2010. The demise of the soap opera can be linked to the omnipresent melodrama presented in news, reality and other programs that are now available instantaneously, around the clock and on many platforms.

• Long-form television became more scarce in 2009. While excellent programs like GREY GARDENS, INTO THE STORM and PRAYERS FOR BOBBY proved there was still quality work being done in the field, the fragmentation of the television audience strained the economics of the old business model for TV movies and mini-series.

Other notable moments in the sea of change include Comcast's bid to acquire NBC Universal to ensure content for distribution to its more than 23 million subscribers, as well as the continued rise in the reliance of DVRs (digital video recorders) so that audiences have shows when and where they wish to view them.


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 died on June 25, 2009. One of the most influential entertainers in modern day, Jackson's death was met with a worldwide expression of grief.

In the months that followed his death, Jackson's talents were celebrated on-line, with a renewed interest in the musical and video gifts he had given the world over five decades; on television, as millions tuned in for his memorial and funeral services; and, most notably, in theatres, with the film THIS IS IT, a documentary crafted from the rehearsal footage for an upcoming concert tour. The film proved an unprecedented global eulogy for fans and friends of the "King of Pop."


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. 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.

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