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

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Black Directors in Hollywood Cover

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Black Directors in Hollywood

By Melvin Donalson

Hollywood film directors are some of the world’s most powerful storytellers, shaping the fantasies and aspirations of people around the globe. Since the 1960s, African Americans have increasingly joined their ranks, bringing fresh insights to movie characterizations, plots, and themes and depicting areas of African American culture that were previously absent from mainstream films. Today, black directors are making films in all popular genres, while inventing new ones to speak directly from and to the black experience. This book offers a first comprehensive look at the work of black directors in Hollywood, from pioneers such as Gordon Parks, Melvin Van Peebles, and Ossie Davis to current talents including Spike Lee, John Singleton, Kasi Lemmons, and Carl Franklin. Discussing 67 individuals and over 135 films, Melvin Donalson thoroughly explores how black directors’ storytelling skills and film techniques have widened both the thematic focus and visual style of American cinema. Assessing the meanings and messages in their films, he convincingly demonstrates that black directors are balancing Hollywood’s demand for box office success with artistic achievement and responsibility to ethnic, cultural, and gender issues.

Black Soundscapes White Stages Cover

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Black Soundscapes White Stages

The Meaning of Francophone Sound in the Black Atlantic

Edwin C. Hill Jr.

Black Soundscapes White Stages explores the role of sound in understanding the African Diaspora on both sides of the Atlantic, from the City of Light to the islands of the French Antilles. From the writings of European travelers in the seventeenth century to short-wave radio transmissions in the early twentieth century, Edwin C. Hill Jr. uses music, folk song, film, and poetry to listen for the tragic cri nègre. Building a conceptualization of black Atlantic sound inspired by Frantz Fanon's pioneering work on colonial speech and desire, Hill contends that sound constitutes a terrain of contestation, both violent and pleasurable, where colonial and anti-colonial ideas about race and gender are critically imagined, inscribed, explored, and resisted. In the process, this book explores the dreams and realizations of black diasporic mobility and separation as represented by some of its most powerful soundtexts and cultural practitioners, and it poses questions about their legacies for us today. The dreams and realities of Black Atlantic mobility and separation as represented by some of its most powerful soundtexts and cultural practitioners, such as the poetry of Léon-Gontran Damas—a founder of the Négritude movement—and Josephine Baker’s performance in the 1935 film Princesse Tam Tam. As the first in Johns Hopkins’s new series of books about the African Diaspora, this book offers new insight into the legacies of these exceptional artists and their global influence.

Black Space Cover

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Black Space

Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film

By Adilifu Nama

Science fiction film offers its viewers many pleasures, not least of which is the possibility of imagining other worlds in which very different forms of society exist. Not surprisingly, however, these alternative worlds often become spaces in which filmmakers and film audiences can explore issues of concern in our own society. Through an analysis of over thirty canonic science fiction (SF) films, including Logan's Run, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Gattaca, and Minority Report, Black Space offers a thorough-going investigation of how SF film since the 1950s has dealt with the issue of race and specifically with the representation of blackness. Setting his study against the backdrop of America's ongoing racial struggles and complex socioeconomic histories, Adilifu Nama pursues a number of themes in Black Space. They include the structured absence/token presence of blacks in SF film; racial contamination and racial paranoia; the traumatized black body as the ultimate signifier of difference, alienness, and “otherness”; the use of class and economic issues to subsume race as an issue; the racially subversive pleasures and allegories encoded in some mainstream SF films; and the ways in which independent and extra-filmic productions are subverting the SF genre of Hollywood filmmaking. The first book-length study of African American representation in science fiction film, Black Space demonstrates that SF cinema has become an important field of racial analysis, a site where definitions of race can be contested and post-civil rights race relations (re)imagined.

Blockbuster History in the New Russia Cover

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Blockbuster History in the New Russia

Movies, Memory, and Patriotism

Stephen M. Norris

Seeking to rebuild the Russian film industry after its post-Soviet collapse, directors and producers sparked a revival of nationalist and patriotic sentiment by applying Hollywood techniques to themes drawn from Russian history. Unsettled by the government's move toward market capitalism, Russians embraced these historical blockbusters, packing the American-style multiplexes that sprouted across the country. In this volume, Stephen M. Norris examines the connections among cinema, politics, economics, history, and patriotism in the creation of "blockbuster history"--the adaptation of an American cinematic style to Russian historical epics.

Blockbuster TV Cover

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Blockbuster TV

Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era

Janet Staiger

Archie Bunker. Jed. Laverne and Shirley. Cliff Huxtable. Throughout the entire history of American prime-time television only four sitcoms have been true blockbusters, with Nielsen ratings far above the second- and third-rated programs. Weekly, millions of Americans of every age were making a special effort to turn on the set to see what Archie, Jed, Laverne, and Cliff were doing that week. The wild popularity of these shows--All in the Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, Laverne & Shirley (and its partner Happy Days), and The Cosby Show--left commentators bewildered by the tastes and preferences of the American public. How do we account for the huge appeal of these sitcoms, and how does it figure into the history of network prime-time television?

Janet Staiger answers these questions by detailing the myriad factors that go into the construction of mass audiences. Treating the four shows as case studies, she deftly balances factual explanations (for instance, the impact of VCRs and cable on network domination of TV) with more interpretative ones (for example, the transformation of The Beverly Hillbillies from a popular show detested by the critics, to a blockbuster after its elevation as the critics' darling), and juxtaposes industry-based reasons (for example, the ways in which TV shows derive success from placement in the weekly programming schedule) with stylistic explanations (how, for instance, certain shows create pleasure from a repetition and variation of a formula).

Staiger concludes that because of changes in the industry, these shows were a phenomenon that may never be repeated. And while the western or the night-time soap has at times captured public attention, Blockbuster TV maintains that the sitcom has been THE genre to attract people to the tube, and that without understanding the sitcom, we can't properly understand the role of television in our culture.

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Blow Up the Humanities

Toby Miller

A short, sharp, and provocative book, Blow Up the Humanities has esteemed scholar Toby Miller declaring that there are two humanities in the United States. One is the venerable, powerful humanities of private universities; the other is the humanities of state schools, which focus mainly on job prospects. There is a class division between the two—both in terms of faculty research and student background—and it must end.

Miller critically lays waste to the system. He examines scholarly publishing as well as media and cultural studies to show how to restructure the humanities by studying popular cultural phenomena, like video games. Miller ultimately insists that these two humanities must merge in order to survive and succeed in producing an aware and concerned citizenry.

Blues Before Sunrise Cover

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Blues Before Sunrise

The Radio Interviews

Steve Cushing

This collection assembles the best interviews from Steve Cushing's long-running radio program Blues Before Sunrise, the nationally syndicated, award-winning program focusing on vintage blues and R&B. As both an observer and performer, Cushing has been involved with the blues scene in Chicago for decades. His candid, colorful interviews with prominent blues players, producers, and deejays reveal the behind-the-scenes world of the formative years of recorded blues. Many of these oral histories detail the careers of lesser-known but greatly influential blues performers and promoters._x000B__x000B_The book focuses in particular on pre-World War II blues singers, performers active in 1950s Chicago, and nonperformers who contributed to the early blues world. Interviewees include Alberta Hunter, one of the earliest African American singers to transition from Chicago's Bronzeville nightlife to the international spotlight, and Ralph Bass, one of the greatest R&B producers of his era. Blues expert, writer, record producer, and cofounder of Living Blues Magazine Jim O'Neal provides the book's foreword.

Body Double Cover

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Body Double

The Author Incarnate in the Cinema

Lucy Fischer

Body Double explores the myriad ways that film artists have represented the creative process. In this highly innovative work, Lucy Fischer draws on a neglected element of auteur studies to show that filmmakers frequently raise questions about the paradoxes of authorship by portraying  the onscreen writer. Dealing with such varied topics as the icon of the typewriter, the case of the writer/director, the authoress, and the omnipresent infirm author, she probes the ways in which films can tell a plausible story while contemplating the conditions and theories of their making.

            By examining many forms of cinema, from Hollywood and the international art cinema to the avant-garde, Fischer considers the gender, age, and mental or physical health of fictionalized writers; the dramatized interaction between artists and their audiences and critics; and the formal play of written words and nonverbal images.

            By analyzing such movies as Adaptation, Diary of a Country Priest, Naked Lunch, American Splendor, and Irezumi, Fischer tracks the parallels between film author and character, looking not for the creative figure who stands outside the text, but for the one who stands within it as corporeal presence and alter-ego.

Body Shots Cover

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Body Shots

Early Cinema’s Incarnations

Jonathan Auerbach

This original and compelling book places the body at the center of cinema's first decade of emergence and challenges the idea that for early audiences, the new medium's fascination rested on visual spectacle for its own sake. Instead, as Jonathan Auerbach argues, it was the human form in motion that most profoundly shaped early cinema. Situating his discussion in a political and historical context, Auerbach begins his analysis with films that reveal striking anxieties and preoccupations about persons on public display—both exceptional figures, such as 1896 presidential candidate William McKinley, and ordinary people caught by the movie camera in their daily routines. The result is a sharp, unique, and groundbreaking way to consider the turn-of-the-twentieth-century American incarnation of cinema itself.

Border Bandits Cover

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Border Bandits

Hollywood on the Southern Frontier

By Camilla Fojas

The southern frontier is one of the most emotionally charged zones in the United States, second only to its historical predecessor and partner, the western frontier. Though they span many genres, border films share common themes, trace the mood swings of public policy, and shape our cultural agenda. In this examination, Camilla Fojas studies how major Hollywood films exploit the border between Mexico and the United States to tell a story about U.S. dominance in the American hemisphere. She charts the shift from the mythos of the open western frontier to that of the embattled southern frontier by offering in-depth analyses of particular border films, from post–World War II Westerns to drug-trafficking films to contemporary Latino/a cinema, within their historical and political contexts. Fojas argues that Hollywood border films do important social work by offering a cinematic space through which viewers can manage traumatic and undesirable histories and ultimately reaffirm core “American” values. At the same time, these border narratives delineate opposing values and ideas. Latino border films offer a critical vantage onto these topics; they challenge the presumptions of U.S. nationalism and subsequent cultural attitudes about immigrants and immigration, and often critically reconstruct their Hollywood kin. By analyzing films such as Duel in the Sun, The Wild Bunch, El Norte, The Border, Traffic, and Brokeback Mountain, Fojas demands that we reexamine the powerful mythology of the Hollywood borderlands. This detailed scrutiny recognizes that these films are part of a national narrative comprised of many texts and symbols that create the myth of the United States as capital of the Americas.

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