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Alexander Payne Cover

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Alexander Payne


edited by Julie Levinson

Since 1996, Alexander Payne has made six feature films and a short segment of an omnibus movie. Although his body of work is quantitatively small, it is qualitatively impressive. His movies have garnered numerous accolades and awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. As more than one interviewer in this volume points out, he maintains an impressive and unbroken winning streak. Payne’s stories of human strivings and follies, alongside his mastery of the craft of filmmaking, mark him as a contemporary auteur of uncommon accomplishment.

In this first compilation of his interviews, Payne reveals himself as a captivating conversationalist as well. The discussions collected here range from 1996, shortly after the release of his first film, Citizen Ruth, to the debut of Nebraska at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Over his career, he muses on many subjects including his own creative processes, his commitment to telling character-centered stories, and his abiding admiration for movies and directors from across decades of film history.

Critics describe Payne as one of the few contemporary filmmakers who consistently manages to buck the current trend toward bombastic blockbusters. Like the 1970s director-driven cinema that he cherishes, his films are small-scale character studies that manage to maintain a delicate balance between sharp satire and genuine poignancy.

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Alice Faye

A Life Beyond the Silver Screen

Alice Faye's sweet demeanor, sultry glances, and velvety voice were her signatures. Her haunting rendition of "You'll Never Know" has never been surpassed by any other singer. Fans adored her in such films as Alexander's Ragtime Band, Rose of Washington Square, Tin Pan Alley, Week End in Havana, and Hello, Frisco, Hello. In the 1930s and 1940s she reigned as queen of 20th Century Fox musicals. She co-starred with such legends as Shirley Temple, Tyrone Power, Carmen Miranda, and Don Ameche and was voted the number-one box-office attraction of 1940, placing ahead of Bette Davis and Myrna Loy. To a select cult, she remains a beloved star. In 1945 at the pinnacle of her career she chose to walk out on her Fox contract. This remarkable episode is unlike any other in the heyday of the big-studio system. Her daring departure from films left Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck and the rest of the movie industry flabbergasted. For years she had skirmished with him over her roles, her health, and her private life. His heavy-handed film editing of her fine work in Otto Preminger's drama Fallen Angel, a role she had fought for, relegated Faye to the shadows so that Zanuck could showcase the younger Linda Darnell. After leaving Fox, Faye (1915­1998) devoted herself to her marriage to radio star Phil Harris, to motherhood, and to a second career on radio in the Phil Harris­ Alice Faye Show, broadcast for eight years. She happily gave up films in favor of the independence and self-esteem that she discovered in private life. She willingly freed herself of the "star-treatment" that debilitated so many of her contemporaries. In the 1980s she emerged as a spokeswoman for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, touring America to encourage senior citizens to make their lives more meaningful and vital. Before Betty Grable, before Marilyn Monroe--Alice Faye was first in the lineup of 20th Century Fox blondes. This book captures her special essence, her work in film, radio, and popular music, and indeed her graceful survival beyond the silver screen. Jane Lenz Elder, a librarian at Southern Methodist University, is the author of Across the Plains to Santa Fe and The Literature of Beguilement: Promoting America from Columbus to Today. She is co-editor of Trading in Santa Fe: John M. Kingsbury's Correspondence with James Josiah Webb, 1853-1861.

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Alien Agency

Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making

Chris Salter

In Alien Agency, Chris Salter tells three stories of art in the making. Salter examines three works in which the materials of art -- the "stuff of the world" -- behave and perform in ways beyond the creator's intent, becoming unknown, surprising, alien. Studying these works -- all three deeply embroiled in and enabled by science and technology -- allows him to focus on practice through the experiential and affective elements of creation. Drawing on extensive ethnographic observation and on his own experience as an artist, Salter investigates how researcher-creators organize the conditions for these experimental, performative assemblages -- assemblages that sidestep dichotomies between subjects and objects, human and nonhuman, mind and body, knowing and experiencing.Salter reports on the sound artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger (O+A) and their efforts to capture and then project unnoticed urban sounds; tracks the multi-year project TEMA (Tissue Engineered Muscle Actuators) at the art research lab SymbioticA and its construction of a hybrid "semi-living" machine from specially grown mouse muscle cells; and describes a research-creation project (which he himself initiated) that uses light, vibration, sound, smell, and other sensory stimuli to enable audiences to experience other cultures' "ways of sensing." Combining theory, diary, history, and ethnography, Salter also explores a broader question: How do new things emerge into the world and what do they do?

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All about Almodóvar

A Passion for Cinema

Brad Epps

One of world cinema’s most exciting filmmakers, Pedro Almodóvar has been delighting, provoking, arousing, shocking, and—above all—entertaining audiences around the globe since he first burst on the international film scene in the early 1980s.

All about Almodóvar
offers new perspectives on the filmmaker’s artistic vision and cinematic preoccupations, influences, and techniques. Through overviews of his oeuvre and in-depth analyses of specific films, the essays here explore a diverse range of subjects: Almodóvar’s nuanced use of television and music in his films; his reworkings of traditional film genres such as comedy, horror, and film noir; his penchant for melodrama and its relationship to melancholy, violence, and coincidence; his intricate questioning of sexual and national identities; and his increasingly sophisticated inquiries into visuality and its limits. 

Closing with Almodóvar’s own diary account of the making of Volver and featuring never-before-seen photographs from El Deseo production studio, All about Almodóvar both reflects and illuminates its subject’s dazzling eclecticism.

Contributors: Mark Allinson, U of Leicester; Pedro Almodóvar; Isolina Ballesteros, Baruch College; Leo Bersani, UC Berkeley; Marvin D’Lugo, Clark U; Ulysse Dutoit, UC Berkeley; Peter William Evans, Queen Mary U of London; Víctor Fuentes, UC Santa Barbara; Marsha Kinder, USC; Steven Marsh, U of Illinois, Chicago; Andy Medhurst, U of Sussex; Ignacio Olivia, Universidad Castilla–La Mancha, Cuenca; Paul Julian Smith, U of Cambridge; Kathleen M. Vernon, SUNY Stony Brook; Linda Williams, UC Berkeley; Francisco A. Zurián, U Carlos III, Madrid.

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All Joking Aside

American Humor and Its Discontents

Rebecca Krefting

In this examination of stand-up comedy, Rebecca Krefting establishes a new genre of comedic production, “charged humor,” and charts its pathways from production to consumption. Some jokes are tears in the fabric of our beliefs—they challenge myths about how fair and democratic our society is and the behaviors and practices we enact to maintain those fictions. Jokes loaded with vitriol and delivered with verve, charged humor compels audiences to action, artfully summoning political critique. Since the institutionalization of stand-up comedy as a distinct cultural form, stand-up comics have leveraged charged humor to reveal social, political, and economic stratifications. All Joking Aside offers a history of charged comedy from the mid-twentieth century to the early aughts, highlighting dozens of talented comics from Dick Gregory and Robin Tyler to Micia Mosely and Hari Kondabolu. The popularity of charged humor has waxed and waned over the past sixty years. Indeed, the history of charged humor is a tale of intrigue and subversion featuring dive bars, public remonstrations, fickle audiences, movie stars turned politicians, commercial airlines, emergent technologies, neoliberal mind-sets, and a cavalcade of comic misfits with an ax to grind. Along the way, Krefting explores the fault lines in the modern economy of humor, why men are perceived to be funnier than women, the perplexing popularity of modern-day minstrelsy, and the way identities are packaged and sold in the marketplace. Appealing to anyone interested in the politics of humor and generating implications for the study of any form of popular entertainment, this history reflects on why we make the choices we do and the collective power of our consumptive practices. Readers will be delighted by the broad array of comic talent spotlighted in this book, and for those interested in comedy with substance, it will offer an alternative punchline.

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All the Lights On

Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things


Michelle Hensley, founder of Ten Thousand Things Theater in Minneapolis, shares more than twenty years of her company’s nationally unique work bringing professional theater to those in prisons, homeless shelters, adult education centers, and rural areas, as well as the general public. More than a chronological history, All the Lights On is also about the radiant power of theater. In this articulate and compelling book, Hensley distills what nontraditional audiences, along with the conditions her artists must perform under to reach them, have taught her about Brecht, the Greeks, Shakespeare, musicals, and the essence of what is necessary to make vibrant and essential theater. Her experiences lead her to conclude that theater artists become better and the art form itself much richer when everyone is included in the audience. In Ten Thousand Things productions, people from very different economic classes sit next to each other in the round and often experience unexpected connections with each other. Hensley writes in the introduction, “Not only do we have a chance to experience the multiple viewpoints of many characters in the play, but with all the lights on, we are able to consider the differing viewpoints of the other audience members seated around the circle. It all serves to increase, just a little, the radiance of our world.”

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All Thoughts Are Equal

Laruelle and Nonhuman Philosophy

John Ó Maoilearca

All Thoughts Are Equal is both an introduction to the work of French philosopher François Laruelle and an exercise in nonhuman thinking. For Laruelle, standard forms of philosophy continue to dominate our models of what counts as exemplary thought and knowledge. By contrast, what Laruelle calls his “non-standard” approach attempts to bring democracy into thought, because all forms of thinking—including the nonhuman—are equal.

John Ó Maoilearca examines how philosophy might appear when viewed with non-philosophical and nonhuman eyes. He does so by refusing to explain Laruelle through orthodox philosophy, opting instead to follow the structure of a film (Lars von Trier’s documentary The Five Obstructions) as an example of the non-standard method. Von Trier’s film is a meditation on the creative limits set by film, both technologically and aesthetically, and how these limits can push our experience of film—and of ourselves—beyond what is normally deemed “the perfect human.”

All Thoughts Are Equal adopts film’s constraints in its own experiment by showing how Laruelle’s radically new style of philosophy is best presented through our most nonhuman form of thought—that found in cinema.

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Allegories Of Underdevelopment

Aesthetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema

Ismail Xavier

“A camera in the hand and ideas in the head” was the primary axiom of the young originators of Brazil’s Cinema Novo. This movement of the 1960s and early 1970s overcame technical constraints and produced films on minimal budgets. In Allegories of Underdevelopment, Ismail Xavier examines a number of these films, arguing that they served to represent a nation undergoing a political and social transformation into modernity.

Its best-known voice, filmmaker Glauber Rocha claimed that Cinema Novo was driven by an “aesthetics of hunger.” This scarcity of means demanded new cinematic approaches that eventually gave rise to a legitimate and unique Third World cinema. Xavier stands in the vanguard of scholars presenting and interpreting these revolutionary films—from the masterworks of Rocha to the groundbreaking experiments of Julio Bressane, Rogério Sganzerla, Andrea Tonacci and Arthur Omar—to an English-speaking audience.

Focusing on each filmmaker’s use of narrative allegories for the “conservative modernization” Brazil and other nations underwent in the 1960s and 1970s, Xavier asks questions relating to the connection between film and history. He examines the way Cinema Novo transformed Brazil’s cultural memory and charts the controversial roles that Marginal Cinema and Tropicalism played in this process. Among the films he discusses are Black God, White Devil, Land in Anguish, Red Light Bandit, Macunaíma, Antônio das Mortes, The Angel Is Born, and Killed the Family and Went to the Movies.

A compelling chronicle of the history of modern Brazilian cinema, Allegories of Underdevelopment brings to light the work of many filmmakers who are virtually unknown in the English-speaking world.

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Alternative Projections

Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980

Edited by David E. James and Adam Hyman

Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 is a groundbreaking anthology that features papers from a conference and series of film screenings on postwar avant-garde filmmaking in Los Angeles sponsored by Filmforum, the Getty Foundation, and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, together with newly-commissioned essays, an account of the screening series, reprints of historical documents by and about experimental filmmakers in the region, and other rare photographs and ephemera. The resulting diverse and multi-voiced collection is of great importance, not simply for its relevance to Los Angeles, but also for its general discoveries and projections about alternative cinemas.

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