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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Film and Media Studies

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American Films of the 70s Cover

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American Films of the 70s

Conflicting Visions

By Peter Lev

While the anti-establishment rebels of 1969’s Easy Rider were morphing into the nostalgic yuppies of 1983’s The Big Chill, Seventies movies brought us everything from killer sharks, blaxploitation, and teen comedies to haunting views of a divided America at war. Indeed, as Peter Lev persuasively argues in this book, the films of the 1970s constitute a kind of conversation about what American society is and should be—open, diverse, and egalitarian, or stubbornly resistant to change. Examining forty films thematically, Lev explores the conflicting visions presented within ten different film genres or subjects: o Hippies (Easy Rider, Alice’s Restaurant) o Cops (The French Connection, Dirty Harry) o Disasters and Conspiracies (Jaws, Chinatown) o End of the Sixties (Nashville, The Big Chill) o Art, Sex, and Hollywood (Last Tango in Paris) o Teens (American Graffiti, Animal House) o War (Patton, Apocalypse Now) o African-Americans (Shaft, Superfly) o Feminisms (An Unmarried Woman, The China Syndrome) o Future Visions (Star Wars, Blade Runner) As accessible to ordinary moviegoers as to film scholars, Lev’s book is an essential companion to these familiar, well-loved movies.

American Horror Film Cover

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American Horror Film

The Genre at the Turn of the Millennium

Creatively spent and politically irrelevant, the American horror film is a mere ghost of its former self-or so goes the old saw from fans and scholars alike. Taking on this undeserved reputation, the contributors to this collection provide a comprehensive look at a decade of cinematic production, covering a wide variety of material from the last ten years with a clear critical eye. Individual essays profile the work of up-and-coming director Alexandre Aja and reassess William Malone's muchmalignedFeardotcom in the light of the torture debate at the end of President George W. Bush's administration. Other essays look at the economic, social, and formal aspects of the genre; the globalization of the U.S. film industry; the alleged escalation of cinematic violence; and the massive commercial popularity of the remake. Some essays examine specific subgenres-from the teenage horror flick to the serial killer film and the spiritual horror film-as well as the continuing relevance of classic directors such as George A. Romero, David Cronenberg, John Landis, and Stuart Gordon.Essays deliberate on the marketing of nostalgia and its concomitant aesthetic, and the curiously schizophrenic perspective of fans who happen to be scholars as well. Taken together, the contributors to this collection make a compelling case that American horror cinema is as vital, creative, and thought-provoking as it ever was.

The American Jewish Story through Cinema Cover

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The American Jewish Story through Cinema

By Eric A. Goldman

By analyzing select mainstream films from the beginning of the sound era until today, this groundbreaking study uses the medium of cinema to provide an understanding of the American Jewish experience over the last century.

Americanizing the Movies and

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Americanizing the Movies and "Movie-Mad" Audiences, 1910-1914

Richard Abel

This engaging, deeply researched study provides the richest and most nuanced picture we have to date of cinema—both movies and movie-going—in the early 1910s. At the same time, it makes clear the profound relationship between early cinema and the construction of a national identity in this important transitional period in the United States. Richard Abel looks closely at sensational melodramas, including westerns (cowboy, cowboy-girl, and Indian pictures), Civil War films (especially girl-spy films), detective films, and animal pictures—all popular genres of the day that have received little critical attention. He simultaneously analyzes film distribution and exhibition practices in order to reconstruct a context for understanding moviegoing at a time when American cities were coming to grips with new groups of immigrants and women working outside the home. Drawing from a wealth of research in archive prints, the trade press, fan magazines, newspaper advertising, reviews, and syndicated columns—the latter of which highlight the importance of the emerging star system—Abel sheds new light on the history of the film industry, on working-class and immigrant culture at the turn of the century, and on the process of imaging a national community.

Androids, Humanoids, and Other Folklore Monsters Cover

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Androids, Humanoids, and Other Folklore Monsters

Science and Soul in Science Fiction Films

Per Schelde

Science fiction films, from the original Frankenstein and The Fly to Blade Runner and The Terminator, traditionally have been filled with aliens, spaceships, androids, cyborgs, and all sorts of robotic creatures along with their various creators. The popular appeal of these characters is undeniable, but what is the meaning of this generation of creatures? What is the relationship of mad scientist to subject, of human to android, of creature to creator?

Androids, Humanoids, and Other Folklore Monsters is a profound investigation of this popular cultural form. Starting his discussion with the possible source of these creatures, anthropologist and writer Per Schelde identifies the origin of these critters in the folklore of past generations. Continuing in the tradition of ancient folklore, contends Schelde, science fiction film is a fictional account of the ongoing battle between nature and culture. With the advance of science, the trolls, dwarves, pixies, nixies, and huldres that represented the unknown natural forces of the world were virtually killed off by ever-increasing knowledge and technology. The natural forces of the past that provided a threat to humans were replaced by the danger of unknown scientific experiments and disasters, as represented by their offspring: science fiction monsters.

As the development of genetics, biomedical engineering, and artificial intelligence blur the lines between human and machine in the real world, thus invading the natural landscape with the products of man's techno-culture, the representation of this development poses interesting questions. As Per Schelde shows, it becomes increasingly difficult in science fiction film to define the humans from their creations, and thus increasingly difficult to identify the monster.

Unlike science fiction literature, science fiction film has until now been largely neglected as a genre worthy of study and scholarship. Androids, Humanoids, and Other Folklore Monsters explores science fiction (sf) film as the modern incarnation of folklore, emblematic of the struggle between nature and culture—but with a new twist.

Schelde explains how, as science conquered the forests and mountains of the wild, the mythic creatures of these realms—trolls, elves, and ogres—were relegated to cartoons and children's stories. Technology and outer space came to represent the modern wild, and this new unknown came alive in the popular imagination with the embodiments of our fears of that unknown: androids, cyborgs, genetics, and artificial intelligence gone awry. Implicit in all of these is a fear, and an indictment, of the power of science to invade our minds and bodies, replacing the individual soul with a mechanical, machine-made one.

Focusing his analysis on sixty-five popular films, from Frankenstein and Metropolis to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Terminator, and Blade Runner, Per Schelde brings his command of traditional folklore to this serious but eminently readable look at SF movies, decoding their curious and often terrifying images as expressions of modern man's angst in the face of a rapidly advancing culture he cannot control. Anyone with an interest in popular culture, folklore, film studies, or science fiction will enjoy this original and comprehensive study.

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Andy Kaufman

Wrestling with the American Dream

Florian Keller

When Andy Kaufman succumbed suddenly to lung cancer in 1984, some of his fans believed that his death was yet another elaborate prank. Over the previous decade, Kaufman had achieved improbable fame for his bizarre antiperformances—lip-synching the Mighty Mouse theme song, reading The Great Gatsby aloud in its entirety when people expected comedy, asking audience members to touch a boil on his neck—that perplexed, annoyed, or offended his viewers. 

In Andy Kaufman, Florian Keller explores Kaufman’s career within a broader discussion of the ideology of the American Dream. Taking as his starting point the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, Keller brilliantly decodes Kaufman in a way that makes it possible to grasp his radical agenda beyond avant-garde theories of transgression. As an entertainer, Kaufman submerged his identity beneath a multiplicity of personas, enacting the American belief that the self can and should be endlessly remade for the sake of happiness and success. He did this so rigorously and consistently, Keller argues, that he exposed the internal contradictions of America’s ideology of self-invention. 

Keller posits that Kaufman offered a radically different—and perhaps more potent—logic of cultural criticism than did more overtly political comedians such as Lenny Bruce. Presenting close readings of Kaufman’s most significant performances, Keller shows how Kaufman mounted—for the benefit of an often uncomprehending public—a sustained and remarkable critique of America’s obsession with celebrity and individualism. 

Florian Keller is a fellow at the Institute of Cultural Studies, School of Art and Design, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Zurich.

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Stacey Abbot

Examines the innovative approach to genre, aesthetics, narrative, and the representation of masculinity in the television series Angel.

The Animated Bestiary Cover

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The Animated Bestiary

Animals, Cartoons, and Culture

Paul Wells

The Animated Bestiary critically evaluates the depiction of animals in cartoons and animation more generally. Paul Wells argues that artists use animals to engage with issues that would be more difficult to address directly because of political, religious, or social taboos.

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Animating Space

From Mickey to WALL-E

J.P. Telotte

Animators work within a strictly defined, limited space that requires difficult artistic decisions. The blank frame presents a dilemma for all animators, and the decision of what to include and leave out raises important questions about artistry, authorship, and cultural influence. In Animating Space: From Mickey to WALL-E, renowned scholar J. P. Telotte explores how animation has confronted the blank template, and how responses to that confrontation have changed. Focusing on American animation, Telotte tracks the development of animation in line with changing cultural attitudes toward space and examines innovations that elevated the medium from a novelty to a fully realized art form. From Winsor McCay and the Fleischer brothers to the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., and Pixar Studios, Animating Space explores the contributions of those who invented animation, those who refined it, and those who, in the current digital age, are using it to redefine the very possibilities of cinema.

Ann Dvorak Cover

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Ann Dvorak

Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel

Christina Rice

Possessing a unique beauty and refined acting skills, Ann Dvorak (1911--1979) found success in Hollywood at a time when many actors were still struggling to adapt to the era of talkies. Seemingly destined for A-list fame, critics touted her as "Hollywood's New Cinderella" after film mogul Howard Hughes cast her as Cesca in the gangster film Scarface (1932). Dvorak's journey to superstardom was derailed when she walked out on her contractual obligations to Warner Bros. for an extended honeymoon. Later, she initiated a legal dispute over her contract, an action that was unprecedented at a time when studios exercised complete control over actors' careers.

As the first full-length biography of an often-overlooked actress, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel explores the life and career of one of the first individuals who dared to challenge the studio system that ruled Tinseltown. The actress reached her pinnacle during the early 1930s, when the film industry was relatively uncensored and free to produce movies with more daring storylines. She played several female leads in films including The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932), and Three on a Match (1932), and Heat Lightning (1934), but after her walk-out, Warner Bros retaliated by casting her in less significant roles.

Following the casting conflicts and illness, Dvorak filed a lawsuit against the Warner Bros. studio, setting a precedent for other stars who eventually rebelled against the established Hollywood system. In this insightful memoir, Christina Rice explores the spirited rebellion of a talented actress whose promising career fell victim to the studio empire.

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