The decade from 2000 to 2009 is framed, at one end, by the traumatic catastrophe of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and, at the other, by the election of the first African American president of the United States. In between, the United States and the world witnessed the rapid expansion of new media and the Internet, such natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina, political uprisings around the world, and a massive meltdown of world economies.
Amid these crises and revolutions, American films responded in multiple ways, sometimes directly reflecting these turbulent times, and sometimes indirectly couching history in traditional genres and stories. In American Cinema of the 2000s, essays from ten top film scholars examine such popular series as the groundbreaking Matrix films and the gripping adventures of former CIA covert operative Jason Bourne; new, offbeat films like Juno; and the resurgence of documentaries like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Each essay demonstrates the complex ways in which American culture and American cinema are bound together in subtle and challenging ways.
Most moviegoers think of editing and special effects as distinct components of the filmmaking process. We might even conceive of them as polar opposites, since effective film editing is often subtle and almost invisible, whereas special effects frequently call attention to themselves. Yet, film editors and visual effects artists have worked hand-in-hand from the dawn of cinema to the present day.
Editing and Special/Visual Effects brings together a diverse range of film scholars who trace how the arts of editing and effects have evolved in tandem. Collectively, the contributors demonstrate how these two crafts have been integral to cinematic history, starting with the “trick films” of the early silent era, which astounded audiences by splicing in or editing out key frames, all the way up to cutting-edge effects technologies and concealed edits used to create the illusions. Throughout, readers learn about a variety of filmmaking techniques, from classic Hollywood’s rear projection and matte shots to the fast cuts and wall-to-wall CGI of the contemporary blockbuster.
In addition to providing a rich historical overview, Editing and Special/Visual Effects supplies multiple perspectives on these twinned crafts, introducing readers to the analog and digital tools used in each craft, showing the impact of changes in the film industry, and giving the reader a new appreciation for the processes of artistic collaboration they involve.
Julia Child’s TV show, The French Chef, was extraordinarily popular during its broadcast from 1963 until 1973. Child became a cultural icon in the 1960s, and, in the years since, she and her show have remained enduring influences on American cooking, American television, and American culture. In this concise book, Dana Polan considers what made Child’s program such a success. It was not the first televised cooking show, but it did define and popularize the genre. Polan examines the development of the show, its day-to-day production, and its critical and fan reception. He argues that The French Chef changed the conventions of television’s culinary culture by rendering personality indispensable. Child was energetic and enthusiastic, and her cooking lessons were never just about food preparation, although she was an effective and unpretentious instructor. They were also about social mobility, the discovery of foreign culture, and a personal enjoyment and fulfillment that promised to transcend domestic drudgery. Polan situates Julia Child and The French Chef in their historical and cultural moment, while never losing sight of Child’s unique personality and captivating on-air presence.
The LEGO Movie
By Dana Polan University of Texas Press, 2020 Library of Congress PN1997.2.L4548P65 2020 | Dewey Decimal 791.4372
What happens when we set out to understand LEGO not just as a physical object but as an idea, an icon of modernity, an image—maybe even a moving image? To what extent can the LEGO brick fit into the multimedia landscape of popular culture, especially film culture, today? Launching from these questions, Dana Polan traces LEGO from thing to film and asserts that The LEGO Movie is an exemplar of key directions in mainstream cinema, combining the visceral impact of effects and spectacle with ironic self-awareness and savvy critique of mass culture as it reaches for new heights of creativity. Incorporating insights from conversations with producer Dan Lin and writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Polan examines the production and reception of The LEGO Movie and closely analyzes the film within popular culture at large and in relation to LEGO as a toy and commodity. He identifies the film’s particular stylistic and narrative qualities, its grasp of and response to the culture industry, and what makes it a distinctive work of animation within the seeming omnipresence of animation in Hollywood, and reveals why the blockbuster film, in all its silliness and seriousness, stands apart as a divergent cultural work.
Film scholarship has long been dominated by textual interpretations of specific films. Looking Past the Screen advances a more expansive American film studies in which cinema is understood to be a social, political, and cultural phenomenon extending far beyond the screen. Presenting a model of film studies in which films themselves are only one source of information among many, this volume brings together film histories that draw on primary sources including collections of personal papers, popular and trade journalism, fan magazines, studio publications, and industry records.
Focusing on Hollywood cinema from the teens to the 1970s, these case studies show the value of this extraordinary range of historical materials in developing interdisciplinary approaches to film stardom, regulation, reception, and production. The contributors examine State Department negotiations over the content of American films shown abroad; analyze the star image of Clara Smith Hamon, who was notorious for having murdered her lover; and consider film journalists’ understanding of the arrival of auteurist cinema in Hollywood as it was happening during the early 1970s. One contributor chronicles the development of film studies as a scholarly discipline; another offers a sociopolitical interpretation of the origins of film noir. Still another brings to light Depression-era film reviews and Production Code memos so sophisticated in their readings of representations of sexuality that they undermine the perception that queer interpretations of film are a recent development. Looking Past the Screen suggests methods of historical research, and it encourages further thought about the modes of inquiry that structure the discipline of film studies.
Contributors. Mark Lynn Anderson, Janet Bergstrom, Richard deCordova, Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, Sumiko Higashi, Jon Lewis, David M. Lugowski, Dana Polan, Eric Schaefer, Andrea Slane, Eric Smoodin, Shelley Stamp
Memories that evoke the physical awareness of touch, smell, and bodily presence can be vital links to home for people living in diaspora from their culture of origin. How can filmmakers working between cultures use cinema, a visual medium, to transmit that physical sense of place and culture? In The Skin of the Film Laura U. Marks offers an answer, building on the theories of Gilles Deleuze and others to explain how and why intercultural cinema represents embodied experience in a postcolonial, transnational world.
Much of intercultural cinema, Marks argues, has its origin in silence, in the gaps left by recorded history. Filmmakers seeking to represent their native cultures have had to develop new forms of cinematic expression. Marks offers a theory of “haptic visuality”—a visuality that functions like the sense of touch by triggering physical memories of smell, touch, and taste—to explain the newfound ways in which intercultural cinema engages the viewer bodily to convey cultural experience and memory. Using close to two hundred examples of intercultural film and video, she shows how the image allows viewers to experience cinema as a physical and multisensory embodiment of culture, not just as a visual representation of experience. Finally, this book offers a guide to many hard-to-find works of independent film and video made by Third World diasporic filmmakers now living in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.
The Skin of the Film draws on phenomenology, postcolonial and feminist theory, anthropology, and cognitive science. It will be essential reading for those interested in film theory, experimental cinema, the experience of diaspora, and the role of the sensuous in culture.
Dana Polan Duke University Press, 2009 Library of Congress PN1992.77.S66P65 2009
“In its original run on HBO, The Sopranos mattered, and it matters still,” Dana Polan asserts early in this analysis of the hit show, in which he sets out to clarify the impact and importance of the series in both its cultural and media-industry contexts. A renowned film and TV scholar, Polan combines a close and extended reading of the show itself—and of select episodes and scenes—with broader attention to the social landscape with which it is in dialogue. For Polan, The Sopranos is a work of playful irony that complicates simplistic attempts to grasp its meanings and values. The show seductively beckons the viewer into an amoral universe, hinting at ways to make sense of its ethically complicated situations, only to challenge the viewer’s complacent grasp of things. It deftly exploits the interplay between art culture and popular culture by mixing elements of art cinema—meandering plots, narrative breaks, and an uncertain progression—with the allure of a soap opera, delving into its characters’ sex lives, mob rivalries, and parent–child conflicts.
A show about corrupt figures who parasitically try to squeeze illicit profit from the system, The Sopranos itself seems a target of attempts to glom on to its fame as a successful TV series: attempts by media executives, marketers, critics and writers, and even presidential candidates. “Everyone wants a piece of Sopranos action,” says Polan, and he traces the marketing of the series across both official and unauthorized media platforms, including cookbooks, games, DVDs, and the kitschy Sopranos bus tour. Critiquing previous books on The Sopranos, Polan suggests that in their quest to find deep meaning, many of the authors missed the show’s ironic and comedic side.
The War Film
Eberwein, Robert Rutgers University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PN1995.9.W3W36 2005 | Dewey Decimal 791.43658
War has had a powerful impact on the film industry. But it is not only wars that affect films; films influence war-time behavior and incisively shape the way we think about the battles that have been waged.
In The War Film, Robert Eberwein brings together essays by scholars using a variety of critical approaches to explore this enduringly popular film genre. Contributors examine the narrative and aesthetic elements of war films from four perspectives: consideration of generic conventions in works such as All Quiet on the Western Front, Bataan, and The Thin Red Line; treatment of race in various war films, including Glory, Home of the Brave, Platoon,and Hamburger Hill; aspects of gender, masculinity and feminism in The Red Badge of Courage, Rambo, Dogfight, and Courage under Fire; and analysis of the impact of contemporary history on the production and reception of films such as The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, Saving Private Ryan, and We Were Soldiers.
Drawing attention to the dynamic interrelationships among politics, nationalism, history, gender, and film, this comprehensive anthology is bound to become a classroom favorite.