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

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Andy Kaufman Cover

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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.

Angel Cover

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Angel

Stacey Abbot

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

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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.

Animating Space Cover

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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.

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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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Another Self

Middle-Class American Women and Their Friends in the Twentieth Century

Linda Rosenzweig

From nineteenth-century romantic friendships to childhood best friends and idealistic versions of feminist sisterhood, female friendship has been seen as an essential, sustaining influence on women's lives. Women are thought to have a special aptitude for making and keeping friends.

But notions of friendship are not constant-and neither are women's experiences of this fundamental form of connection. In Another Self, Linda W. Rosenzweig sheds light on the changing nature of white middle-class American women's relationships during the coming of age of modern America.

As the middle-class domesticity of the nineteenth century waned, a new emotional culture arose in the twentieth century and the intensely affectionate bonds between women of earlier decades were supplanted by new priorities: autonomy, careers, participation in an expanding consumer culture, and the expectation of fulfillment and companionship in marriage. An increased emphasis on heterosexual interactions and a growing stigmatization of close same-sex relationships fostered new friendship styles and patterns.

Drawing on a wide range of primary sources including diaries, journals, correspondence, and popular periodicals, Rosenzweig uncovers the complex and intricate links between social and cultural developments and women's personal experiences of friendship.

Another Steven Soderbergh Experience Cover

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Another Steven Soderbergh Experience

Authorship and Contemporary Hollywood

By Mark Gallagher

Through in-depth investigation of Soderbergh’s work in film, television, and video, as well as an extensive interview with the filmmaker, this book offers a new model of film authorship in the twenty-first century that emphasizes its fundamentally collaborative nature.

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Appetites and Anxieties

Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation

Cynthia Baron, Diane Carson, and Mark Bernard

Cinema is a mosaic of memorable food scenes. Detectives drink alone. Gangsters talk with their mouths full. Families around the world argue at dinner. Food documentaries challenge popular consumption-centered visions. In Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation, authors Cynthia Baron, Diane Carson, and Mark Bernard use a foodways paradigm, drawn from the fields of folklore and cultural anthropology, to illuminate film's cultural and material politics. In looking at how films do and do not represent food procurement, preparation, presentation, consumption, clean-up, and disposal, the authors bring the pleasures, dangers, and implications of consumption to center stage. In nine chapters, Baron, Carson, and Bernard consider food in fiction films and documentaries-from both American and international cinema. The first chapter examines film practice from the foodways perspective, supplying a foundation for the collection of case studies that follow. Chapter 2 takes a political economy approach as it examines the food industry and the film industry's policies that determine representations of food in film. In chapter 3, the authors explore food and food interactions as a means for creating community in Bagdad Café, while in chapter 4 they take a close look at 301/302, in which food is used to mount social critique. Chapter 5 focuses on cannibal films, showing how the foodways paradigm unlocks the implications of films that dramatize one of society's greatest food taboos. In chapter 6, the authors demonstrate ways that insights generated by the foodways lens can enrich genre and auteur studies. Chapter 7 considers documentaries about food and water resources, while chapter 8 examines food documentaries that slip through the cracks of film censorship by going into exhibition without an MPAA rating. Finally, in chapter 9, the authors study films from several national cinemas to explore the intersection of food, gender, and ethnicity. Four appendices provide insights from a food stylist, a selected filmography of fiction films and a filmography of documentaries that feature foodways components, and a list of selected works in food and cultural studies. Scholars of film studies and food studies will enjoy the thought-provoking analysis of Appetites and Anxieties.

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Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East

A Dictionary

Roy Armes

In this landmark dictionary, Roy Armes details the scope and diversity of filmmaking across the Arab Middle East. Listing more than 550 feature films by more than 250 filmmakers, and short and documentary films by another 900 filmmakers, this volume covers the film production in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and the Gulf States. An introduction by Armes locates film and filmmaking traditions in the region from early efforts in the silent era to state-funded productions by isolated filmmakers and politically engaged documentarians. Part 1 lists biographical information about the filmmakers and their feature films. Part 2 details key feature films from the countries represented. Part 3 indexes feature-film titles in English and French with details about the director, date, and country of origin.

The Arab Public Sphere in Israel Cover

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The Arab Public Sphere in Israel

Media Space and Cultural Resistance

Amal Jamal

In this pathbreaking study, Amal Jamal analyzes the consumption of media by Arab citizens of Israel as a type of communicative behavior and a form of political action. Drawing on extensive public opinion survey data, he describes perceptions and use of media ranging from Arabic Israeli newspapers to satellite television broadcasts from throughout the Middle East. By participating in this semi-autonomous Arab public sphere, the average Arab citizen can connect with a wider Arab world beyond the boundaries of the Israeli state. Jamal shows how media aid the community's ability to resist the state's domination, protect its Palestinian national identity, and promote its civic status.

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