Wayne State University Press

Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

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Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

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The Last Laugh

Strange Humors of Cinema

Edited by Murray Pomerance

For critics, fans, and scholars of drama and film, the laugh has traditionally been tied to comedy, indicating and expressing mirth, witty relief, joyous celebration, or arch and sarcastic parody. But strange, dark laughter that illuminates non-comedic, unfunny situations gets much less attention. In The Last Laugh: Strange Humors of Cinema, editor Murray Pomerance has assembled contributions from thirteen estimable scholars that address the strange laughter of cinema from varying intellectual perspectives and a wide range of sources. Contributors consider unusual humors in a variety of filmic settings, from the chilling unheard laughter of silent cinema to the ribald and mortal laughter in the work of Orson Welles; the vagaries and nuances of laughter in film noir to the eccentric laughter of science fiction. Essays also look at laughter in many different applications, from the subtle, underlying wit of the thriller Don't Look Now to the deeply provocative humor of experimental film and the unpredictable, shadowy, insightful, and stunning laughter in such films as Black Swan, Henry Fool, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Kiss of Death, The Dark Knight, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The accessibly written, unique essays in The Last Laugh bring a new understanding to the delicate balance, unsettled tensions, and fragility of human affairs depicted by strange humor in film. For scholars of film and readers who love cinema, these essays will be rich and playful inspiration.

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Millennial Masculinity

Men in Contemporary American Cinema

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Montgomery Clift, Queer Star

Elisabetta Girelli

Strikingly beautiful and exceptionally talented, Montgomery Clift was at the peak of his fame in 1956 when a devastating car crash nearly destroyed his face. While this traumatic event robbed him of his heartthrob status and turned him into a somewhat disturbing, socially alienated character, author Elisabetta Girelli argues that Clift had always combined on-screen erotic ambiguity with real-life sexual nonconformity. In Montgomery Clift, Queer Star she maps the development of Clift's subversive image over the span of his entire career, approaching Clift as a queer signifier who defied normative cultural structures. From the sexually ambivalent "beautiful boy" of his early films, to the seemingly asexual, transgressive, and often distressed man of his last years, Girelli argues that Clift shows remarkable consistency as a star: his presence always challenges established notions of virility, sexuality, and bodily "normality." Girelli's groundbreaking analysis uses queer theory to assess Clift's disruptive legacy, engaging with key critical concepts such as the closet, performativity, queer shame, crip theory, and queer temporality. She balances theoretical frameworks with extensive close readings of his performances and a consideration of how Clift's personal life, and public perceptions of it, informed his overall image as a deviant star and man. Montgomery Clift, Queer Star offers a comprehensive critical assessment of Clift through classic texts of queer criticism, as well as new interventions in the field. Scholars of gender and film, performance studies, queer and sexuality studies, and masculinity studies will appreciate this compelling study.

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On Michael Haneke

Edited by Brian Price and John David Rhodes

Austrian director Michael Haneke is recognized for films that explore the most pressing social questions of our time while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of style with innovative visual and sonic practices. On Michael Haneke is one of the very first and most extensive considerations of Haneke’s work. Editors Brian Price and John David Rhodes have gathered contributors whose own work combines critical inquiry and close formal analysis to explore the philosophical, historical, and stylistic complexity of Haneke’s films. This volume is divided into three parts, beginning with “Violence and Play,” in which contributors explore the relation in Haneke’s films between violence and playfulness that complicates questions of media, representation, and morality. Essays in part 2, “Style and Medium,” investigate Haneke’s stylistic innovation and the ways in which he can be seen as indebted to previous traditions and filmmakers, including the Italian neorealists, Alfred Hitchcock, Antonioni, and Robert Bresson. Part 3 addresses questions of “Culture and Conflict” by looking at the cultural and historical problems suggested by Haneke’s films and exploring the relation between culture and film style. On Michael Haneke is both an introduction to the work of a major figure in world cinema and a model for modern media criticism. Scholars of film and television studies, cinephiles, and anyone interested in contemporary film culture will enjoy On Michael Haneke.

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Parables of the Posthuman

Digital Realities, Gaming, and the Player Experience

Jonathan Boulter

In its intimate joining of self and machine, video gaming works to extend the body into a fluid, dynamic, unstable, and discontinuous entity. While digital gaming and culture has become a popular field of academic study, there has been a lack of sustained philosophical analysis of this direct gaming experience. In Parables of the Posthuman: Digital Realities, Gaming, and the Player Experience, author Jonathan Boulter addresses this gap by analyzing video games and the player experience philosophically. Finding points of departure in phenomenology and psychoanalysis, Boulter argues that we need to think seriously about what it means to enter into a relationship with the game machine and to assume (or to have conferred upon you) a machinic, posthuman identity.

Parables of the Posthuman approaches the experience of gaming by asking: What does it mean for the player to enter the machinic "world" of the game? What forms of subjectivity does the game offer to the player? What happens to consciousness itself when one plays? To this end, Boulter analyzes the experience of particular role-playing video games, including Fallout 3, Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Crysis 2, and Metal Gear Solid 4. These games both thematize the idea of the posthuman-the games are "about" subjects whose physical and intellectual capacities are extended through machine or other prosthetic means-and also enact an experience of the posthuman for the player, who becomes more than what he was as he plays the game. Boulter concludes by exploring how the game acts as a parable of what the human, or posthuman, may look like in times to come.

Academics with an interest in the intersection of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and popular culture forms and video gamers with an interest in thinking about the implications of gaming will enjoy this volume.

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Personal Views

Explorations in Film

Robin Wood

Robin Wood, the renowned scholarly critic and writer on film, has prepared a new introduction and added three essays to his classic text Personal Views. This important book contains essays on a wide range of films and filmmakers and considers questions of the nature of film criticism and the critic. Wood, the proud "unreconstructed humanist," offers in this collection persuasive arguments for the importance of art, creativity, and personal response and also demonstrates these values in his analyses. Personal Views is the only book on cinema by Wood never to have been published in the United States. It contains essays on popular Hollywood directors such as Howard Hawks, Vincente Minnelli, and Leo McCarey; as well as pieces on recognized auteurs like Max Ophuls, Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Josef von Sternberg; and essays on art-film icons Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Kenji Mizoguchi. The writings that make up Personal Views appeared duing a pivotal time in both film studies-during its academic institutionalization-and in the author's life. Throughout this period of change, Wood remained a stalwart anchor of the critical discipline, using theory without being used by it and always staying attentive to textual detail. Wood's overall critical project is to combine aesthetics and ideology in understanding films for the ultimate goal of enriching our lives individually and together. This is a major work to be read and reread not just by film scholars and students of film but by anyone with an interest in twentieth-century culture.

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Projecting the World

Representing the "Foreign" in Classical Hollywood

Edited by Anna Cooper and Russell Meeuf

The classical Hollywood films that were released between the 1930s and 1960s were some of the most famous products of global trade, crisscrossing borders and rising to international dominance. In analyzing a series of Hollywood films that illustrate moments of nuanced transnational engagement with the "foreign," Projecting the World: Representing the "Foreign" in Classical Hollywood enriches our understanding of mid-twentieth-century Hollywood cinema as a locus of imaginative geographies that explore the United States' relationship with the world. While previous scholarship has asserted the imperialism and racism at the core of classical Hollywood cinema, Anna Cooper and Russell Meeuf's collection delves into the intricacies-and sometimes disruptions-of this assumption, seeing Hollywood films as multivalent and contradictory cultural narratives about identity and politics in an increasingly interconnected world. Projecting the World illustrates how Hollywood films negotiate shifting historical contexts of internationalization through complex narratives about transnational exchange-a topic that has thus far been neglected in scholarship on classical Hollywood. The essays analyze the "foreign" with topics such as the 1930s island horror film, the 1950s Mexico-set bullfighting film, Hollywood's projection of "exoticism" on Argentina, and John Wayne's film sets in Africa. Against the backdrop of expanding consumer capitalism and the growth of U.S. global power, Hollywood films such as Tarzan and Anatahan, as well as musicals about Paris, offered resonant images and stories that dramatized America's international relationships in complicated ways. A fascinating exploration of an oft-overlooked aspect of classical Hollywood films, Projecting the World offers a series of striking new analyses that will entice cinema lovers, film historians, and those interested in the history of American neocolonialism.

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Reading Cavell's The World Viewed

A Philosophical Perspective on Film

William Rothman & Marian Keane

In their thoughtful study of one of Stanley Cavell’s greatest yet most neglected books, William Rothman and Marian Keane address this eminent philosopher’s many readers, from a variety of disciplines, who have neither understood why he has given film so much attention, nor grasped the place of The World Viewed within the totality of his writings about film. Rothman and Keane also reintroduce The World Viewed to the field of film studies. When the new field entered universities in the late 1960s, it predicated its legitimacy on the conviction that the medium’s artistic achievements called for serious criticism and on the corollary conviction that no existing field was capable of the criticism filmed called for. The study of film needed to found itself, intellectually, upon a philosophical investigation of the conditions of the medium and art of film. Such was the challenge The World Viewed took upon itself. However, film studies opted to embrace theory as a higher authority than our experiences of movies, divorcing itself from the philosophical perspective of self-reflection apart from which, The World Viewed teaches, we cannot know what movies mean, or what they are. Rotham and Keane now argue that the poststructuralist theories that dominated film studies for a quarter of a century no longer compel conviction, Cavell’s brilliant and beautiful book can provide a sense of liberation to a field that has forsaken its original calling. read in a way that acknowledges its philosophical achievement, The World Viewed can show the field a way to move forward by rediscovering its passion for the art of film. Reading Cavell’s The World Viewed will prove invaluable to scholars and students of film and philosophy, and to those in other fields, such as literary studies and American studies, who have found Cavell’s work provocative an fruitful.

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Reading the Bromance

Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television

Edited by Michael DeAngelis

In the middle of this century’s first decade, “bromance” emerged as a term denoting an emotionally intense bond between straight men. Yet bromance requires an expression of intimacy that always toys with being coded as something other than “straight” male behavior, even as it insists that such intimacy must never be misinterpreted. In Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television, editor Michael DeAngelis has compiled a diverse group of essays that address the rise of this tricky phenomenon and explore the social and cultural functions it serves. Contributors consider selected contemporary film and television texts, as well as the genres that historically inspired them, in order to explore what needs bromance attempts to fulfill in relationships between men—straight or otherwise. Essays analyze films ranging from I Love You, Man to Superbad, Humpday, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Hangover, and the Jackass films, and include studies of representative examples in international cinema such as Y tu mama tambien and classic and contemporary films of the Bollywood genre. The volume also examines the increasingly prevalent appearance of the bromance phenomenon in television narratives, from the “male bonding” rituals of Friends and Seinfeld to more recent manifestations in House, The Wire, and the MTV reality series Bromance. From historical analysis to discourse analysis, sociological analysis, and queer theory, this volume provides a broad range of methodological and theoretical approaches to the phenomenon in the first booklength study of the bromance genre. Film and television scholars as well as readers interested in pop culture and queer studies will enjoy the insights of Reading the Bromance.

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Reclaiming the Archive

Feminism and Film History

Edited by Vicki Callahan

Illustrates the rich relationship between film history and feminist theory.

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