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Over nearly sixty years, Agnès Varda (b. 1928) has given interviews that are revealing not only of her work, but of her remarkably ambiguous status. She has been called the "Mother of the New Wave" but suffered for many years for never having been completely accepted by the cinematic establishment in France. Varda's first film, La Pointe Courte (1954), displayed many of the characteristics of the two later films that launched the New Wave, Truffaut's 400 Blows and Godard's Breathless. In a low-budget film, using (as yet) unknown actors and working entirely outside the prevailing studio system, Varda completely abandoned the "tradition of quality" that Truffaut was at that very time condemning in the pages of Cahiers du cinema. Her work, however, was not "discovered" until after Truffaut and Godard had broken onto the scene in 1959. Varda's next film, Cleo from 5 to 7, attracted considerably more attention and was selected as France's official entry for the Festival in Cannes. Ultimately, however, this film and her work for the next fifty years continued to be overshadowed by her more famous male friends, many of whom she mentored and advised.
Her films have finally earned recognition as deeply probing and fundamental to the growing awareness in France of women's issues and the role of women in the cinema. "I'm not philosophical," she says, "not metaphysical. Feelings are the ground on which people can be led to think about things. I try to show everything that happens in such a way and ask questions so as to leave the viewers free to make their own judgments." The panoply of interviews here emphasize her core belief that "we never stop learning" and reveal the wealth of ways to answer her questions.
Rural Comedy in the Twentieth Century
There was a time when rural comedians drew most of their humor from tales of farmers' daughters, hogs, hens, and hill country high jinks. Lum and Abner and Ma and Pa Kettle might not have toured happily under the "Redneck" marquee, but they were its precursors. In Ain't That a Knee-Slapper: Rural Comedy in the Twentieth Century, author Tim Hollis traces the evolution of this classic American form of humor in the mass media, beginning with the golden age of radio, when such comedians as Bob Burns, Judy Canova, and Lum and Abner kept listeners laughing. The book then moves into the motion pictures of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, when the established radio stars enjoyed second careers on the silver screen and were joined by live-action renditions of the comic strip characters Li'l Abner and Snuffy Smith, along with the much-loved Ma and Pa Kettle series of films. Hollis explores such rural sitcoms as The Real McCoys in the late 1950s and from the 1960s, The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Hee Haw, and many others. Along the way, readers are taken on side trips into the world of animated cartoons and television commercials that succeeded through a distinctly rural sense of fun. While rural comedy fell out of vogue and networks sacked shows in the early 1970s, the emergence of such hits as The Dukes of Hazzard brought the genre whooping back to the mainstream. Hollis concludes with a brief look at the current state of rural humor, which manifests itself in a more suburban, redneck brand of standup comedy. Tim Hollis is the author of numerous books, including Hi There, Boys and Girls! America's Local Children's TV Programs and (with Greg Ehrbar) Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records.
American Educationâ??s Failed Experiment with Elite Athletics
John R. Gerdy has seen nearly every side of athletics. He is the son of a high school football coach; he was an All-American and professional basketball player and a legislative assistant for the National Collegiate Athletic Association; and he served as an associate commissioner for the Southeastern Conference. In Air Ball: American Education's Failed Experiment with Elite Athletics, Gerdy brings all of those perspectives to argue that the American system of school and community athletics is broken. But he is no mere naysayer. He offers a bold, progressive blueprint for reforming athletics to meet our country's educational and public health needs. Given higher education's historic role of providing leadership in our society, the initiative to restore a more sensible balance between athletics and education must begin with the reform of big-time college athletics. Despite widespread public skepticism regarding higher education's ability to change the system, Gerdy argues that the opportunity for reform has never been better. Using a provocative mix of research and thoughtful observation, he argues that, for the first time in the history of American higher education, the critical mass of people, organizations, and outside pressures necessary to drive and sustain progressive, systemic reform of the college athletic enterprise are in place. John R. Gerdy is a visiting professor in sports administration at Ohio University. He is the author of The Successful Athletic Program: The New Standard, Sports in School: The Future of an Institution, and Sports: The All-American Addiction (University Press of Mississippi) as well as numerous articles in journals such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, NCAA News, Sporting News, and Black Issues in Higher Education.
Alan Ball: Conversations features interviews that span Alan Ball's entire career and include detailed observations and insights into his Academy Award-winning film American Beauty and Emmy Award-winning television shows Six Feet Under and True Blood. Ball began his career as a playwright in New York, and his work soon caught the attention of Hollywood television producers. After writing for the sitcoms Grace Under Fire and Cybill, Ball turned his attention to the screenplay that would become American Beauty. The critical success of this film opened up exciting possibilities for him in the realm of television. He created the critically acclaimed show Six Feet Under, and after the series finale, he decided to explore the issue of American bigotry toward the Middle East in his 2007 play All That I Will Ever Be and the film Towelhead, which he adapted and directed in the same year. Ball returned to television once again with the series True Blood--an adaptation of the humorous, entertaining, and erotic world of Charlaine Harris's vampire novels. In 2012 Ball announced that he would step down as executive producer of True Blood, in part, to produce both a new television series and his latest screenplay, What's the Matter with Margie?
The Library of Congress Letters, 1935-1945
Alan Lomax (1915-2002) began working for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1936, first as a special and temporary assistant, then as the permanent Assistant in Charge, starting in June 1937, until he left in late 1942. He recorded such important musicians as Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Aunt Molly Jackson, and Jelly Roll Morton. A reading and examination of his letters from 1935 to 1945 reveal someone who led an extremely complex, fascinating, and creative life, mostly as a public employee.While Lomax is noted for his field recordings, these collected letters, many signed "Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge," are a trove of information until now available only at the Library of Congress. They make it clear that Lomax was very interested in the commercial hillbilly, race, and even popular recordings of the 1920s and after. These letters serve as a way of understanding Lomax's public and private life during some of his most productive and significant years. Lomax was one of the most stimulating and influential cultural workers of the twentieth century. Here he speaks for himself through his voluminous correspondence.
British comics writer Alan Moore (b. 1953) has a reputation for equal parts brilliance and eccentricity. Living hermit-like in the same Midlands town for his entire life, he supposedly refuses contact with the outside world while creating his strange, dense comics, fiction, and performance art. While Moore did declare himself a wizard on his fortieth birthday and claims to have communed with extradimensional beings, reticence and seclusion have never been among his eccentricities. On the contrary, for long stretches of his career Moore seemed to be willing to chat with all comers: fanzines, industry magazines, other artists, newspapers, magazines, and personal websites. Well over one hundred interviews in the past thirty years serve as testimony to Moore's willingness to be engaged in productive conversation.
Alan Moore: Conversations includes ten substantial interviews, beginning with Moore's first published conversation, conducted by V for Vendetta cocreator David Lloyd in 1981. The remainder cover nearly all of his major works, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, Marvelman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, From Hell, Lost Girls, and the unfinished Big Numbers.
While Moore's personal life and fraught business relations are discussed occasionally, the interviews chosen are principally devoted to Moore's creative practices and techniques, along with his shifting social, political, and philosophical beliefs. As such, Alan Moore: Conversations should add to any reader's enjoyment and understanding of Moore's work.
Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel
Eclectic British author Alan Moore (b. 1953) is one of the most acclaimed and controversial comics writers to emerge since the late 1970s. He has produced a large number of well-regarded comic books and graphic novels while also making occasional forays into music, poetry, performance, and prose.In Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel, Annalisa Di Liddo argues that Moore employs the comics form to dissect the literary canon, the tradition of comics, contemporary society, and our understanding of history. The book considers Moore's narrative strategies and pinpoints the main thematic threads in his works: the subversion of genre and pulp fiction, the interrogation of superhero tropes, the manipulation of space and time, the uses of magic and mythology, the instability of gender and ethnic identity, and the accumulation of imagery to create satire that comments on politics and art history. Examining Moore's use of comics to scrutinize contemporary culture, Di Liddo analyzes his best-known works--Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, Promethea, and Lost Girls. The study also highlights Moore's lesser-known output, such as Halo Jones, Skizz, and Big Numbers, and his prose novel Voice of the Fire. Alan Moore: Comics as Performance, Fiction as Scalpel reveals Moore to be one of the most significant and distinctly postmodern comics creators of the last quarter-century.
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.
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.
An Emerging Literature
In the 1980s, a sea change occurred in comics. Fueled by Art Spiegel- man and Françoise Mouly's avant-garde anthology Raw and the launch of the Love & Rockets series by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez, the decade saw a deluge of comics that were more autobiographical, emotionally realistic, and experimental than anything seen before. These alternative comics were not the scatological satires of the 1960s underground, nor were they brightly colored newspaper strips or superhero comic books. In Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, Charles Hatfield establishes the parameters of alternative comics by closely examining long-form comics, in particular the graphic novel. He argues that these are fundamentally a literary form and offers an extensive critical study of them both as a literary genre and as a cultural phenomenon. Combining sharp-eyed readings and illustrations from particular texts with a larger understanding of the comics as an art form, this book discusses the development of specific genres, such as autobiography and history. Alternative Comics analyzes such seminal works as Spiegelman's Maus, Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, and Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. Hatfield explores how issues outside of cartooning-the marketplace, production demands, work schedules-can affect the final work. Using Hernandez's Palomar as an example, he shows how serialization may determine the way a cartoonist structures a narrative. In a close look at Maus, Binky Brown, and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, Hatfield teases out the complications of creating biography and autobiography in a substantially visual medium, and shows how creators approach these issues in radically different ways. Charles Hatfield, Canyon Country, California, is an assistant professor of English at California State University, Northridge. His work has been published in ImageTexT, Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, the Comics Journal, and other periodicals. See the author's Web site at www.csun.edu/~ch76854/.