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Themes and Variations
The decade from 2000 to 2009 is framed, at one end, by the traumatic catastrophe of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and, at the other, by the election of the first African American president of the United States. In between, the United States and the world witnessed the rapid expansion of new media and the Internet, such natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina, political uprisings around the world, and a massive meltdown of world economies.
Amid these crises and revolutions, American films responded in multiple ways, sometimes directly reflecting these turbulent times, and sometimes indirectly couching history in traditional genres and stories. In American Cinema of the 2000s, essays from ten top film scholars examine such popular series as the groundbreaking Matrix films and the gripping adventures of former CIA covert operative Jason Bourne; new, offbeat films like Juno; and the resurgence of documentaries like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Each essay demonstrates the complex ways in which American culture and American cinema are bound together in subtle and challenging ways.
The Cambridge Turn
American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary is a critical history of American filmmakers crucial to the development of ethnographic film and personal documentary. The Boston and Cambridge area is notable for nurturing these approaches to documentary film via institutions such as the MIT Film Section and the Film Study Center, the Carpenter Center and the Visual and Environmental Studies Department at Harvard. Scott MacDonald uses pragmatism’s focus on empirical experience as a basis for measuring the groundbreaking achievements of such influential filmmakers as John Marshall, Robert Gardner, Timothy Asch, Ed Pincus, Miriam Weinstein, Alfred Guzzetti, Ross McElwee, Robb Moss, Nina Davenport, Steve Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, Michel Negroponte, John Gianvito, Alexander Olch, Amie Siegel, Ilisa Barbash, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. By exploring the cinematic, personal, and professional relationships between these accomplished filmmakers, MacDonald shows how a pioneering, engaged, and uniquely cosmopolitan approach to documentary developed over the past half century.
Upon its original publication in 1976, The American Film Industry was welcomed by film students, scholars, and fans as the first systematic and unified history of the American movie industry. Now this indispensible anthology has been expanded and revised to include a fresh introductory overview by editor Tino Balio and ten new chapters that explore such topics as the growth of exhibition as big business, the mode of production for feature films, the star as market strategy, and the changing economics and structure of contemporary entertainment companies. The result is a unique collection of essays, more comprehensive and current than ever, that reveals how the American movie industry really worked in a century of constant change-from kinetoscopes and the coming of sound to the star system, 1950s blacklisting, and today's corporate empires.
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.
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 Life and Films of Thomas Dixon
" Thomas Dixon has a notorious reputation as the writer of the source material for D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking and controversial 1915 feature film The Birth of a Nation . Perhaps unfairly, Dixon has been branded an arch-conservative and a racist obsessed with what he viewed as “the Negro problem.” As American Racist makes clear, however, Dixon was a complex, multitalented individual who, as well as writing some of the most popular novels of the early twentieth century, was involved in the production of some eighteen films. Dixon used the motion picture as a propaganda tool for his often outrageous opinions on race, communism, socialism, and feminism. His most spectacular production, The Fall of a Nation (1916), argues for American preparedness in the face of war and boasts a musical score by Victor Herbert, making it the first American feature film to have an original score by a major composer. Like the majority of Dixon’s films, The Fall of a Nation has been lost, but had it survived, it might well have taken its place alongside The Birth of a Nation as a masterwork of silent film. Anthony Slide examines each of Dixon’s films and discusses the novels from which they were adapted. Slide chronicles Dixon’s transformation from a major supporter of the original Ku Klux Klan in his early novels to an ardent critic of the modern Klan in his last film, Nation Aflame. American Racist is the first book to discuss Dixon’s work outside of literature and provide a wide overview of the life and career of this highly controversial twentieth-century southern populist. Anthony Slide is the author of numerous books, including Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses.