restricted access Global Hollywood, and: The Language of New Media (review)
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American Literature 75.2 (2003) 456-458

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Global Hollywood. By Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, and Richard Maxwell. London: British Film Institute. 2001. vi, 279 pp. Cloth, $65.00; paper, $27.95.
The Language of New Media. By Lev Manovich. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2001. xxxix, 354 pp. Paper, $19.95.

The authors of Global Hollywood set an ambitious task for themselves: to explain how Hollywood has achieved and maintains its position as the world's most powerful film industry, which owns between 40 and 90 percent of the movies shown in most markets around the world. To do so, they take a big step back from film studies' traditional concern with textual analysis, questions of authorship, and theories of spectatorship, and draw instead on the methods of the social sciences to produce a materialist analysis of how one of the nation's largest industries globalized itself over the past twenty years. The result is a well-researched book that provides a fresh perspective on Hollywood and overflows with statistics that will be eye-opening for all but the most dedicated readers of trade publications like Variety and Screen Digest. (Did you know, for instance, that nearly 20 percent of Hollywood's production budget in 2000 came from German investors, or that 90 percent of the world's animation is done in Asia?)

Global Hollywood opens with an overview that locates Hollywood's development after World War II within a larger history of global capitalism, Washington's trade policies, and the evolution of international trade agreements under GATT and WTO. The heart of the book comes in chapter 2, where the authors argue that Hollywood constitutes and maintains its global power through its control of what they dub the New International Division of Cultural Labor. The authors delineate this new mode of film production in a way that makes clear Hollywood's similarities with other globalized industries such as automobiles, electronics, and clothing. The financing, for example, increasingly comes from outside the United States, primarily from European new-media outlets looking for products and from investors looking for a more secure rate [End Page 456] of return than their own national film industries can provide, while white collar management and intellectual labor—and thus ultimate control over cinematic content—takes place within the United States. And the blue collar labor of production is increasingly performed overseas in countries that can provide highly skilled workers at comparatively low wages, such as Australia, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Mexico. The remaining four chapters focus more tightly on how Hollywood reproduces and regulates this international division of cultural labor through its control of international coproductions; copyright laws; the marketing, distribution, and exhibition of films; and market research–audience surveillance.

The book has its limitations. The superabundance of facts, figures, and acronyms threatens to swamp the argument, and the dismissive attitude toward other critical perspectives grows wearying. More important, the authors' spirited commitment to the cultural imperialism thesis and its center-periphery model of domination defines the book's intellectual parameters: like other macro-level analyses of cultural globalization written from the perspective of Western producers, this book remains fundamentally uninterested in the consumption, negotiation, and indigenization of global commodities in specific local markets. Despite these limitations, Global Hollywood's emphasis on questions of labor makes it an original and important contribution to the fields of film and globalization studies.

Lev Manovich embarks on a similarly ambitious project in The Language of New Media. Vowing to do for new media what no one thought to do for cinema at the moment of its birth in the late nineteenth century, Manovich sets out to produce a comprehensive record of its expressive and cultural logics before they slip into invisibility through sheer familiarity. He succeeds admirably, and the result is a comprehensive map of new media's terrain. Although graduate students may quibble over some individual features of this map, it provides readers with a solid conceptual platform from which to survey the terrain of new media as a whole.

Manovich approaches new media from both a...