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The End Of Cinema As We Know It

American Film in the Nineties

Jon Lewis

Publication Year: 2001

Almost half a century ago, Jean-Luc Godard famously remarked, "I await the end of cinema with optimism." Lots of us have been waiting forand wondering aboutthis prophecy ever since. The way films are made and exhibited has changed significantly. Films, some of which are not exactly "films" anymore, can now be projected in a wide variety of wayson screens in revamped high tech theaters, on big, high-resolution TVs, on little screens in minivans and laptops. But with all this new gear, all these new ways of viewing films, are we necessarily getting different, better movies?

The thirty-four brief essays in The End of Cinema as We Know It attend a variety of topics, from film censorship and preservation to the changing structure and status of independent cinemafrom the continued importance of celebrity and stardom to the sudden importance of alternative video. While many of the contributors explore in detail the pictures that captured the attention of the nineties film audience, such as Jurassic Park, Eyes Wide Shut, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, The Wedding Banquet, The Matrix, Independence Day, Gods and Monsters, The Nutty Professor, and Kids, several essays consider works that fall outside the category of film as it is conventionally definedthe home "movie" of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's honeymoon and the amateur video of the LAPD beating of Rodney King.

Examining key films and filmmakers, the corporate players and industry trends, film styles and audio-visual technologies, the contributors to this volume spell out the end of cinema in terms of irony, cynicism and exhaustion, religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, and the decline of what we once used to call film culture.

Contributors include: Paul Arthur, Wheeler Winston Dixon, Thomas Doherty, Thomas Elsaesser, Krin Gabbard, Henry Giroux, Heather Hendershot, Jan-Christopher Hook, Alexandra Juhasz, Charles Keil, Chuck Klienhans, Jon Lewis, Eric S. Mallin, Laura U. Marks, Kathleen McHugh, Pat Mellencamp, Jerry Mosher, Hamid Naficy, Chon Noriega, Dana Polan, Murray Pomerance, Hillary Radner, Ralph E. Rodriguez, R.L. Rutsky, James Schamus, Christopher Sharrett, David Shumway, Robert Sklar, Murray Smith, Marita Sturken, Imre Szeman, Frank P. Tomasulo, Maureen Turim, Justin Wyatt, and Elizabeth Young.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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The End of Cinema As We Know It and I Feel . . . : An Introduction to a Book on Nineties American Film

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pp. 1-8

Nineties cinema was destined to be important even if it wasn't any good. History is sometimes driven by chronology. Events happen because the calendar turns a rare and significant page. The nineties featured two such significant calendar events. First there was the celebration of film's centenary. Surveys and retrospectives...

I. Movies, Money, and History

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pp. 9

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1. The Blockbuster: Everything Connects, but Not Everything Goes

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pp. 11-22

About two-thirds of the way into Jurassic Park (1992), there is a scene where Hamond and Sattler talk in the Jurassic Park restaurant about the nature of illusion and reality. The scene begins, however, with the camera exploring the adjacent gift shop. It is a slightly eerie moment, because it is as if the movie was at this point turning...

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2. Those Who Disagree Can Kiss Jack Valenti's Ass

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pp. 23-32

In the summer of 1999, two big films reached local theaters after celebrated bouts with the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration (CARA): Stanley Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, and Trey Parker's animation feature, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.1 First cuts of both films received the NC-17 rating and, because of...

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3. The Hollywood History Business

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pp. 33-42

In the 1990s, film history became a viable commodity for the entertainment industry that could be marketed on television and other electronic media. Previously relegated to the realm of the fan book publishing industry and the academic press, the film historical narratives reached a relatively small number of consumers. However...

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4. The Man Who Wanted to Go Back

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pp. 43-49

I am trying to map my own experience and biography as memories of feeling-in-place. This involves, among many other things, trying to understand Hitchcockian narrative as an emplacement, a set storytelling. I am particularly interested in Vertigo (1958), a film that offers the problem of figuring out both where one is and whither...

II. Things American (Sort Of)

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pp. 51

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5. "American" Cinema in the 1990s and Beyond: Whose Country's Filmmaking Is It Anyway?

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pp. 53-60

As American cinema has redefined itself in the era of new technologies, bloated budgets, mergers and acquisitions, and relaxed cultural trade policies, one might easily overlook its role in the disappearance of the concept of national cinema. The preeminence of American cinema in virtually every other national marketplace has translated...

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6. Marketing Marginalized Cultures: The Wedding Banquet, Cultural Identities, and Independent Cinema of the 1990s

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pp. 61-71

According to Variety's 1993 Profit Chart, a ratio of return-to-cost reveals that 1993's most profitable film was not Steven Spielberg's dinosaur extravaganza Jurassic Park (with a return of 13.79:1), but rather the gentle cross-cultural social comedy The Wedding Banquet, directed by Ang Lee (with a return of 23.6:1). The film's financial...

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7. Hollywood Redux: All about My Mother and Gladiator

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pp. 72-80

When is a film a "Hollywood movie"? Is there a relationship between Hollywood style and a national film style that we might identify as American? These are not new questions; however, filmmaking in the 1990s has underlined their significance. Two recent films, Pedro Almodovar's All about My Mother (1999) and Ridley Scott's...

III. Four Key Films

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pp. 81

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8. The Zen of Masculinity—Rituals of Heroism in The Matrix

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pp. 83-94

I first saw, or experienced, The Matrix in New York, in the summer of 1999, the day it opened to a packed theater of savvy, sophisticated movie fans from the Upper East Side. I loved the film immediately, from the opening credits' alteration of the sacrosanct studio logo, followed by the torrential strings of green computer...

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9. Ikea Boy Fights Back: Fight Club, Consumerism, and the Political Limits of Nineties Cinema

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pp. 96-104

If it has now become easier to imagine the end of the earth and of nature than the end of capitalism, as Fredric Jameson has argued in The Seeds of Time, it is due in large part to the redoubled efforts of a global, neoliberal capitalism.1 The breathless rhetoric of the global victory of free market rationality spewed forth by the mass media...

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10. The Blair Witch Project, Macbeth, and the Indeterminate End

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pp. 105-114

The Blair Witch Project (1999), directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, exploits certain limitations of the film medium by setting them against our imagination's resistance to limitations. As most everyone knows by now, this wildly successful faux documentary follows three student filmmakers—actors Heather Donahue...

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11. Empire of the Gun: Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and American Chauvinism

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pp. 115-130

As they have throughout literary and cinematic history, nationalistic and patriotic sentiments persist in today's historical dramas—particularly in the Hollywood spectacles of the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, the war movie and action-adventure genres underwent a resurgence in that era, paralleling and epitomizing the "America First" and...

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12. Saving Private Ryan Too Late

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pp. 131-138

As the twentieth century was coming to an end, so were the lives of many of the men who fought and survived World War II. For many of their children, anxiety about a dead or dying father may have precipitated a new view of the war years. Some honored their fathers as "the greatest generation," suggesting that their own...

IV. Pictures and Politics

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pp. 139

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13. The Confusions of Warren Beatty

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pp. 141-149

At the end of the 1990s, Warren Beatty's career intersected explicitly with politics in a series of striking events. First, although he is known as a left filmmaker and participated, for example, in that guise in an issue of the Nation on political filmmaking in Hollywood,1 Beatty pointedly was one of the audience members who stood up and...

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14. Movie Star Presidents

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pp. 150-157

Once cast mainly in marble or paper money, the president of the United States doubled as a motion picture star in the 1990s. A Hollywood POTUS landed featured roles in romantic comedies (Dave [1993], The American President [1995]), big-budget science fiction (Independence Day [1996], Mars Attacks! [1996]), and a spate of suspense thrillers...

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15. The Fantasy Image: Fixed and Moving

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pp. 158-167

In a short essay, "A Mythological Parallel to a Visual Obsession" (1916), Freud explores the case of a patient whose obsessive thoughts and images, whenever he saw his father coming into a room, involved both a verbal association and an image.1 The patient either would think of the compound word vaterarse (fatherass) or imagine the image...

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16. Men with Guns: The Story John Sayles Can't Tell

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pp. 168-174

I want to begin by explaining how I am situating my discussion of Men with Guns (1998). First, I'm less concerned with simply reading the film than with thinking about its potential political effects and the history it attempts to engage, to allegorize. To take up these issues means to place Men with Guns in a particular context...

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17. The End of Chicano Cinema

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pp. 175-181

The early 1990s witnessed the end of Chicano cinema, a film movement that had its start in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, entered the public sphere via television in the 1970s, and saw a brief flirtation with low-budget integration into a so-called Hispanic Hollywood in the 1980s. In all these periods, Chicano cinema worked against the...

V. The End of Masculinity As We Know It

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pp. 183

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18. Being Keanu

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pp. 185-194

If there is such a thing as an exemplary figure of U.S. cinema in the 1990s, Keanu Reeves may be it. In the context of this volume, such a statement may seem rather like a cheap joke, as if Keanu—dismissed as a "slacker Ken doll" whose acting skills and general intelligence have often been the object of ridicule—were symptomatic of a premillennial...

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19. Woody Allen, "the Artist," and "the Little Girl"

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pp. 195-202

It became harder in the 1990s to separate Woody Allen's life from his art. Allen seems to have spent most of his professional life denying that he is in real life the person he plays on screen. But his affair with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn, and the events that followed are awfully similar to those depicted in his 1992 film...

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20. Affliction: When Paranoid Male Narratives Fail

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pp. 203-209

A culture reveals its underlying values in those aspects of its social fabric that are understood to be in crisis. In American culture, there has been in the past few decades a constant media focus on childhood in crisis, the family in crisis, memory in crisis, and, inevitably, masculinity in crisis. Indeed, during the twentieth century, masculinity...

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21. The Phallus UnFetished: The End of Masculinity As We Know It in Late-1990s "Feminist" Cinema

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pp. 210-221

Two telling dildo moments. That's what did it; that’s what told me these films were feminist. These two free-floating phalluses (the unlikely possessions of a whacked-out girl and a tyrannical Arab fag) generated a space carved into their elegant late-1990s misogyny that was made especially for the likes of me: 1980s-style feminist film professor...

VI. Bodies at Rest and in Motion

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pp. 223

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22. Bods and Monsters: The Return of the Bride of Frankenstein

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pp. 225-236

The Frankenstein plot has been a remarkably protean one, subject to constant remaking, since the publication of the novel Frankenstein in 1818. Film has been an especially generative medium for such remaking. There have been well over a hundred films based on Mary Shelley's novel, beginning with the 1910 Edison Frankenstein and...

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23. Having Their Cake and Eating It Too: Fat Acceptance Films and the Production of Meaning

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pp. 237-249

Between the spring of 1995 and the fall of 1996, five American feature films portrayed a fat character's struggles with weight and social intolerance: Heavyweights, a Disney comedy about a group of fat boys at a summer fitness camp; Angus, a bittersweet look at a fat teenager's problems in high school; Heavy, an indie sleeper about...

VII. Independents

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pp. 251

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24. A Rant

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pp. 253-260

The following is a transcript of the keynote address I delivered at the 1999 Independent Feature Project/West Spirit Awards. Since the speech was, if I do say so myself, a bit of a bomb, I thought that, in an act of unutterable mercy, I would spare you all the lousy jokes that prefaced the substance of the talk. And, too, I thought I'd make...

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25. The Case of Harmony Korine

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pp. 261-268

One of the final images in Harmony Korine's 1997 feature film debut, Gummo, is of a dead and mutilated black cat, held up close to the camera by its killers for all to see. Several other cats are violently murdered in the course of the film. "It makes me want to do to Korine what his two adolescent protagonists do to the cats they sell...

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26. Where Hollywood Fears to Tread: Autobiography and the Limits of Commercial Cinema

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pp. 269-276

In the era of identity politics, what journalists and academics alike have dubbed the "age of the memoir," film presents a special and specialized case. While all modes (pulp, literature) and genres (novel, short story, essay, criticism, poem) of literary production have readily accommodated autobiography, in U.S. cinema the genre has been...

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27. Smoke 'til You're Blue in the Face

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pp. 277-284

The Hollywood juggernaut rumbles on—reinventing itself, to be sure, to take account of new technologies, new social and demographic trends, and novel economic strategies, but in an important sense sustaining itself. The international mass media entertainment industry we know as "Hollywood" remains as committed now...

VIII. Not Films Exactly

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pp. 285

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28. Pamela Anderson on the Slippery Slope

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pp. 287-299

In November 1997 a Seattle-based business, Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), placed on its "Club Love" Web site a home video depicting genital sexual acts involving actress and model Pamela Anderson and her then husband, Tommy Lee, drummer for the rock group Mötley Crüe.1 After a brief legal battle, IEG continued to distribute...

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29. King Rodney: The Rodney King Video and Textual Analysis

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pp. 300-304

George Holliday's video of the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers and the way it was deployed in court by both defense and prosecution attorneys highlight yet again some serious problems besetting film and television studies, problems that have remained largely dormant. These problems have to do with overreliance...

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30. Live Video

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pp. 305-315

You are in a dim room in a Toronto gallery, lying on a sprawling beanbag chair that must be two meters long, gazing up at a screen. A strange little character, emitting wordless cries, stumbles across a sort of brightly colored postapocalyptic landscape. It must be a science fiction movie! But wait: every time the forms on screen shift, the...

IX. Endgames

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pp. 317

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31. End of Story: The Collapse of Myth in Postmodern Narrative Film

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pp. 319-331

Postmodern culture is representative of the exhaustion of late capitalist civilization. Adjacent to this exhaustion is an epoch of hyperinflation, where overproduction of cultural commodities and the consoling narratives they generate make transparent, by the endless repetition of narrative formulas, the wasteland of the commercial...

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32. Waiting for the End of the World: Christian Apocalyptic Media at the Turn of the Millennium

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pp. 332-341

In the final months of 1999, Y2K anxiety reached a frenzied peak in America. The world might end, do you have plenty of batteries and bottled water? The nightly news gave regular updates on how to safeguard personal computers, and the Sunday New York Times featured articles on how the rich were stocking up on canned goods to prepare...

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33. The Four Last Things: History, Technology, Hollywood, Apocalypse

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pp. 342-355

Of late Hollywood has been haunted—at times quite profitably so—by the specter of its own demise. Symptoms of a historically grounded, industry-specific eschatological anxiety reverberate across the landscape of nineties movies. At once transgeneric and bolstered by particular narrative motifs (e.g., time travel) and formal options...

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34. Twenty-five Reasons Why It's All Over

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pp. 356-366

Even as early as 1963, Godard was positing "the end of cinema," while simultaneously insisting on its inevitable survival. Now, in the first years of the second century of cinema, we are faced with the inescapable fact that, at the very least, "film" has become an altogether different medium from that imagined and practiced...


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pp. 367-372


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pp. 373-385

E-ISBN-13: 9780814753194
E-ISBN-10: 0814753191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814751602
Print-ISBN-10: 0814751601

Page Count: 396
Publication Year: 2001