Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film by Philippa Gates (State University of New York Press) In this study of more than three hundred films, Philippa Gates explores the woman detective figure from her pre-cinematic origins in nineteenth-century detective fiction through her many incarnations throughout the history of Hollywood cinema. Through the lens of theories of gender, genre, and stardom and engaging with the critical concepts of performativity, masquerade, and feminism, Detecting Women analyzes constructions of the female investigator in the detective genre and focuses on the evolution of her representation from 1929 to today. While a popular assumption is that images of women have become increasingly positive over this period, Gates argues that the most progressive and feminist models of the female detective exist in mainstream film's more peripheral products, such as 1930s B pictures and 1970s blaxploitation films. Offering revisions and new insights into peripheral forms of mainstream film, Gates explores this space that allows a fantasy of resolution of social anxieties about crime and, more interestingly, gender, in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Gates, Associate Professor of Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, is also the author of Detecting Men: Masculinity and the Hollywood Detective Film.
Gates in Detecting Women asks: Can a woman have it all a husband, a family, and a career? The proliferation of feminist film theory and gender studies has encouraged the re-examination of women's presence and contributions to classical Hollywood film, but only certain kinds of recovery work have been undertaken. Discussions of women in the 1930s and 40s tend to focus on the bad girls of pre-Code fallen women films or of film noir, or the good girls of the woman's film. Gates explores the good girls women who were the center and driving force behind narratives and presented as positive models of womanhood at the center of the traditionally male genre of the detective film.
From her first appearance in nineteenth-century fiction to the contemporary criminalist film, the female detective has struggled to be both a successful detective and a successful woman. The vast majority of fictional female detectives from 1864 to today, however, have been forced to make a decision to pursue either love or detection because the two are seen as mutually exclusive the former requiring the detective to be feminine and the latter masculine. In the new millennium, we assume that we have made progress in terms of equal rights and opportunities across the lines of class, race, sexuality, and especially gender, however, contemporary mainstream film does not necessarily advance themes any more progressive than those touted in classical Hollywood films more than half a century ago. In Detecting Women, Gates demonstrates how, before World War II, Hollywood did offer progressive and transgressive (proto-)feminist role models who resisted their socially prescribed roles. Ironically, in a decade characterized by the economic and social upheaval of the Great Depression, Hollywood presented surprisingly sophisticated and complex debates surrounding working women. The prolific female detective of 1930s Hollywood film was an independent woman who put her career ahead of the traditionally female pursuits of marriage and a family and who chased crime as actively, as and most often with greater success than the official male investigators who populated the police department.
Most importantly, the female detective did so and was not punished for her transgressions of traditional female roles as she would be in subsequent decades. Some films concluded with the female detective rejecting marriage in order to pursue her career; even though more concluded with her accepting a proposal in the final scene, the female detective was allowed throughout the course of the story a freedom and voice as the film's protagonist rarely offered to women in film then and now.
The focus of Detecting Women is the detective film that offers a female protagonist at the center of the narrative and who actively physically (i.e., as a crime-fighter) and/or mentally (i.e., as a sleuth) investigates a mystery surrounding a crime or a criminal racket. The female detective can be an amateur a schoolteacher, nurse, or reporter who investigates the murders that occur in the course of her day job or a professional of which there are far fewer until the 1990s a policewoman or private investigator who investigates crime for a living. The vast majority of Hollywood's female detectives are amateur sleuths or undercover crime-fighters who investigate out of personal interest rather than as a career detective. Whether or not the representation of female detectives is grounded in reality is less the issue than what those representations and their alteration over time indicate about changing social attitudes toward women and heroism.
Detecting Women seeks to redress the exclusion of women from discussions of the genre as central heroes. As such, this study delineates the popular trends in terms of the female detective in film, the social issues that each trend explores, and the social attitudes toward women that each espouses. Surprisingly, the female detective appears alongside her male counterpart early in both detective fiction and film and, in the 1930s, tended to be an amateur sleuth, an undercover agent, or a girl reporter. The masculinity that defined the character in the 1930s gave way to her feminization in the early 1940s, and her pervasiveness during the Depression was succeeded by her gradual disappearance in the immediate post-World War II period. In marked contrast to her independence, fast-talk, and career success of the 1930s, the female detective in her handful of outings in 1940s film noir wanted to be a dutiful wife rather than an independent career woman, and her only motive to unravel the mystery was to save the man she loves. After 1950, the white female detective left the big screen, except for a couple of rare outings, until the 1980s. In the early 1970s, however, there was a cluster of black female investigators in blaxploitation films and, just as the white male detective had become a vigilante hero at the time, so too was this female detective a crime-fighting avenger. In the 1980s, the female detective exploded in popularity on television with cops Cagney and Lacey and sleuth Jessica Fletcher; in fiction with hardboiled private eye V.I. Warshawski and FBI profiler Clarice Starling; and in film with the prolific female lawyer. The female detective continued in popularity in the 1990s and 2000s and, just as the male detective had become a criminalist, so too did the female detective become an expert in crime scene investigation, behavioral science, and forensics.
The aim of the first part of Detecting Women is to recuperate the classical Hollywood female detective of the 1930s and 40s since she has been all but ignored. The criminal interrogation of the classical detective film has tended to focus on film noir in which there are few female detectives and, instead, independent women tend to be demonized as the lethal femme fatale. Detecting Women thus offers a re-evaluation of today's popular conception that classical Hollywood contained few strong and/or transgressive models of good girls. The representation of women in Hollywood film seems to be the most transgressive between 1929 and 1933 in that working women were generally presented as hardboiled by their experiences in the Depression-era city and most likely to choose independence and a career over marriage. During the mid-30s, the working woman seemed to want both a career and romance and was, surprisingly, sometimes able to achieve both. However, by 1939 the tide had turned and Hollywood women were usually more desirous of love than a career, and those who chose otherwise were derided or punished. Thus one of the aims of Detecting Women is to look past the pre-Code-era division and instead focus on that of the Depression/World War II in order to understand trends in the representation of independent and career-minded women; another is to explore how and why it was in the lower level B-picture mystery-comedies that these women thrived.
Gates found that, in discussions of the female detective, another decade and series of films has been ignored: blaxploitation films of the early 1970s. While film criticism has acknowledged the alternative representations of raced masculinity that blaxploitation offered, feminist film critics have only recently explored African-American women in roles that were unavailable to white women in mainstream film at the time. The short-lived but prolific movement (approximately 1971-75) saw a shift from white, conservatively heterosexual women to black, self-determined sexual women and the female detective shift from a sleuth to a woman of action, echoing the male crime-fighters of the period (e.g., Dirty Harry and Shaft), just as the economic crisis of the Depression created a social climate amenable to women who transgressed traditional social roles, so too did the social upheavals of the late 1960s caused by the Women's and Civil Rights Movements see many Americans desirous of films that challenged the status quo. The early 1970s just as in the early 1930s was a period when a combination of economic conditions and technological developments destabilized the established patterns of audience preference, creating opportunities for greater experimentation and variation from Hollywood's established norms. The economic changes included the collapse of the studio system and the replacement of the system of self-censorship (the Production Code) with the system of ratings (i.e., G for general, R for restricted). Blaxploitation films were regarded as B-grade films, thus it would seem that the space for the experimentation is often in the lower levels of production the series of the 1930s and the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s.
Thus, Detecting Women explores how often the most interesting and challenging representations of the female detective occur on the margins in 1930s B-mystery comedies and 1970s exploitation films rather than in big-budget and award-winning films. It was not until the 1970s that Hollywood offered non-white female detectives for example, those played by Pam Grier in blaxploitation films but they were also Hollywood's last notable female African-American detectives. The blaxploitation heroine is empowered as a crime-fighter because of her race because she has specialized knowledge of the black community and because of her sex because she can infiltrate a criminal organization unsuspected. And here the female detective uses female stereotypes against men: after all, no one ever suspects that a beautiful woman can have the brains and brawn to see justice served.
And many female detectives in the 1990s and 2000s, in a response to the growing visibility of lesbian culture especially in the detective genre, represent the blurring of the lines of sexuality as well. While the dyke dicks of lesbian fiction may not have made it to the big screen, they did influence their Hollywood sisters by encouraging, or capitalizing on, a queering of the female detective's identity.
The first part of Detecting Women focuses on the female detectives of classical Hollywood film. Chapter 2 explores the history and key conventions of the female detective as established in nineteenth-century detective fiction. The problem with having a female heroine at the center of the detective story at the end of the nineteenth century was how to reconcile traditional notions of femininity with the perceived masculine demands of the detective plot a problem that seems to plague the fictional female detective in contemporary film. Chapter 3 details how the detective film emerged during early sound film and how the codes and conventions of the genre were rapidly established and solidified in a reaction to the economic and social impact of the Depression especially the representation of the modern, urban, working woman. Chapter 4 examines why the amateur detective including schoolmarm Hildegarde Withers, teenager Nancy Drew, and nurse Sarah Keate were afforded more success and freedom in the 1930s than the few examples of professional female detectives who attempted to make a career out of detecting. While many of these series heroines were drawn from literary sources Mary Roberts Rinehart's Nurse Adams, Mignon G. Eberhart's Nurse Keate, and Stuart Palmer's Hildegarde Withers Hollywood was producing its own kind of female detective who was an independent, brash, and outspoken working girl: the girl reporter. Thus, Chapter 5 explores how Hollywood's prolific girl reporter embodied a deliberation on gender roles in the 1930s as a female protagonist who could be independent and successful in the assumed male world of work and one that was not necessarily punished for her transgression of the borders between male/female and public/private space. Chapter 6 focuses on the demise of the girl reporter in 1940s Hollywood film and the transformation of the female detective in general to a figure of parody, passivity, or by the 1950s questionable sanity. Chapter 7 examines how, in film noir, the sex of the investigating protagonist results in a hybridization of generic conventions with the narrative being driven forward as much by the female protagonist's personal desires (as with a melodrama) as by her investigation (as in a male-centered noir film).
The last part of Detecting Women focuses on the female detective of postclassical film. Chapter 8 considers the female crime-fighters of 1970s blaxploitation films. Chapter 9 details how the only prominent female detective-figure in the 1980s was the lawyer and how she was the product of male anxieties resulting in a seemingly feminist, while simultaneously reactionary, image of female empowerment. Chapter 10 concludes the study with a look at the rise of the criminalist investigator who specializes in behavioral, crime scene, and forensic science as well as the popularity of the chick flick detective-comedy.
The detective genre as a term, then, does connote consistency over the decades as it identifies a group of texts with the common topic of the investigation of a crime and the common structure of the detective as protagonist; however, the genre is not cohesive in terms of its representation of female detectives. Detecting Women investigates the dominant trends within the genre that, in themselves, offer a cohesive investigation of criminal investigation but, in contrast with one another, illuminate the changes in the social conception of gender over time. Rather than search for generic cohesion, Gates explores the individual trends that were popular in specific decades in order to demonstrate that the thematic concerns of films are determined less by generic convention and more by socioeconomic change.
This imaginative and entertaining study of the `woman detective' film makes a huge contribution by giving extensive treatment to the female detectives in B movies and to the many investigating women characters in films not usually considered detective films. It will have great appeal for scholars, film buffs, and mystery fans. Linda Mizejewski, author of Hardboiled and High Heeled: The Woman Detective in Popular Culture
Detecting Women is an extensive and authoritative, ambitious and comprehensive history of the female detective in Hollywood film from 1929 to 2009. Gates brings to light the sheer number of female detectives that have been overlooked in previous studies of the genre, especially those of the 1930s and 40s. Her innovative, engaging, and capacious approach to the female detective within feminist film history breaks new ground in the fields of gender and film studies.
The Making of Some Like It Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Classic American Movie by Tony Curtis and Mark A. Vieira (Wiley) Some Like It Hot occupies a unique place in American culture. This beloved classic showcases five comic geniuses: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, I. A. L. Diamond, Billy Wilder, and Marilyn Monroe. It has been honored by the American Film Institute as the "Funniest Film of All Time". It has contributed quotes, styles, and stories to film lore. Yet the full story of its making has never been told—until now.When Hollywood legend Tony Curtis meets his fans, they always ask about his 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot. Luckily for them—and for us—Tony has stories to share. In his new book, The Making of Some Like It Hot, he shares all of them.
Some Like It Hot is a beloved part of our culture, voted the "Funniest Film of All Time" by the American Film Institute, but Tony is the first to tell the complete, uncensored story of its making, a behind-the-scenes saga of intrigue, humor, and romance. A noted artist and raconteur, Tony paints word portraits of the geniuses who made the film: director Billy Wilder and his cowriter I. A. L. Diamond; actor Jack Lemmon; and sex icon Marilyn Monroe. In his engaging style, Tony tells of Wilder and Diamond's unique writing routine; Wilder's surprising first choice for Tony's costar; and Wilder's daring decision to add violence to farce.
Tony describes the challenges he faced as the "best-looking kid in Hollywood" suddenly forced to dress as a woman: meeting the limitations of a constricting costume; learning the "moves" from a female impersonator; adapting his walk and the pitch of his voice; facing people's reactions (or worse, the lack of them); working in tandem with the hilarious Lemmon; and following Wilder's precise but often impersonal direction.
Here, too, are Tony's previously unpublished recollections of his bittersweet relationship with Marilyn. He tells in vivid, compelling detail how America's most celebrated sex symbol came to work on this unlikely project; how he had met the young unknown years earlier on a studio street; about their puppy love, her meteoric rise to fame, and the resentment he saw in her colleagues; how her perfectionism nearly drove him crazy; and how her strange behavior nearly shut down the film. Disclosed for the first time are details of the affair that took place during the filming at the Hotel del Coronado and the effect it had on Tony, on the production, and on Marilyn's husband, the playwright Arthur Miller. In 1958, America read about a fistfight on the set. Now, for the first time, Tony tells what caused it—and what followed it.
Packed with scores of rarely seen black-and-white photos and eight pages of color photos that reveal how the movie would have looked in Technicolor, The Making of Some Like It Hot is the ideal way to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this landmark film.
Acting legend and author of The Making of Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis, sits down for an exclusive interview with co-author Mark A. Vieira to talk about his book, his legacy, and of course, Marilyn.
Mark: Tony, both your fans and the potential readers of our book would like to know what prompted you to write The Making of Some Like It Hot?
Tony: Well, Mark, while my last book, American Prince, was going great guns a year ago, I was invited to The Bonnie Hunt Show. My agent, that handsome Alan Nevins, was with me in the green room. And Alan says to me, “Tony, you know the anniversary is coming up of your movie Some Like It Hot. Why not do your own book about it?”
Mark: Did you like his idea?
Tony: Frankly, no. There was a lot of stuff, a lot of memories I hadn’t dealt with. The business of my romance with Marilyn. I thought I should let it alone. And for years I did.
Mark: Well, what persuaded you to deal with it now?
Tony: I realized something. People love the picture Some Like It Hot. They cherish it. Being an artist myself, a painter, I can see why they call the picture a work of art. It is. So I thought to myself, people want to know how we made it. Why not tell them the whole story? It’s not just that I’m the only actor left to tell it. I’m the one that can tell it best.
Mark: When I was working with you, I sensed that some stories were easier for you to tell than others.
Tony: Oh, yeah. Yeah. You see, Mark, when you go back and look at yourself fifty years ago, how you were then, it’s tough. I don’t mean that I would change a lot of things that I did, but I—well, let me put it this way—it’s like trying to ride a roller coaster backwards. It’s tough going back and sorting all that stuff out. You know I’ve had my health problems in the past few years. Luckily, my memory wasn’t affected. But thinking about Marilyn and Billy Wilder and all that, well, it got to me. You saw that.
Mark: I did. But you managed to tell a tale that no one else can.
Tony: What can I say? I was there. I was me. Billy called me “the best-looking kid in town.” Being that kid gave me a particular kind of access. Certain people question why Marilyn chose to get involved with me. Look at the pictures of us together. That should answer their questions. We were two beautiful young animals. Why shouldn’t we get involved?
Mark: Do you think that helped the film?
Tony: Once again, I say: look at the picture. You can see the heat between Marilyn and me. Without that, what would you have? A funny picture with a hole in the center of it. Billy needed that, he needed that chemistry to make the thing work. He got it.
Mark: Any parting words about the book?
Tony: Yeah. Like the rest of the world, I’ve grown to love Some Like It Hot. I mean, it did a lot for me. And I’ve always loved telling stories. So this story—the story of how we made it—is my bouquet to the picture. This is for you, Billy and Jack and Marilyn.
Hong Kong Cinema: A Cross-Cultural View by Law Kar, Frank Bren (Scarecrow Press) Our first blueprint for this book outlined a "complete" story of Hong Kong cinema from the beginning to the present, with a guess or two about the future and some background comments on sociopolitical history.
However, soon after we began on the text, the folly of this approach became self-evident. The many books on Hong Kong cinema already rolling from the presses condemned us to repeat many well-known facts, particularly about the last thirty years and especially about martial arts cinema. Besides, the "complete" approach smacked of a cartoon gallop through history, akin to performing Hamlet as a two-minute sketch.
We went back to the drawing board to replace history as such with a certain view of history—a "cross-cultural" look at Eastern and Western influences in early Hong Kong cinema and at its development compared to the film industries of mainland China and Southeast Asia. We focus on a period from the beginning of "cinema" itself until roughly the 1970s because it is the source of today's Hong Kong cinema, an area requiring far more extensive study, and one seldom discussed in any detail. We were determined to examine the early developments without preconceived notions or theories.
As a result, this is less a formal history than a view and review of the story of Hong Kong cinema. Throughout the process, we experienced the pleasure of discovery and the agony of uncertainty when source materials were too minute or too fragmented or simply defied any attempt at a full or in-depth
explanation. We have included and verified as many of our discoveries as possible, presenting them in plain language to enhance the interest of our readers and to make room for future studies.
The film industries of Hong Kong and Shanghai began at approximately the same time, but from the mid-1920s, each struggled to compete with West-ern cinema for a share of the local market and to establish some kind of identity. In Shanghai, where members of the intelligentsia entered the industry in droves, a desire to use films for the national interest and for progressive social reform gave rise to a tradition of education through entertainment. Such was not the case in Hong Kong, where those entering the industry were much less idealistic and where, after years of colonial rule, China's national interest was far from the top of the population's concerns. But Hong Kong was a free port and thus able to absorb influences from all directions. Filmmakers learned from years of watching both mainland Chinese and Hollywood films to develop their own ways of maintaining a local industry.
Part 1 of this book traces the earliest film-going experiences of the people of China and Hong Kong. It chronicles the efforts of trailblazers who, inspired by Western thoughts and captivated by the West's technological advances yet retaining strong convictions about Chinese culture, established a particular Chinese film industry. Chapter 1 covers the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, when film was introduced to China and Hong Kong. Chap-ter 2 concentrates on the activities of Benjamin Brodsky and his influence on the development of Chinese cinema. Both chapters contain previously undiscovered information, providing a better understanding of early Chinese cinema. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the efforts of pioneers like Lai Man-wai and his brother Buk-hoi as well as other early filmmakers who were educated in the United States and who applied that learning to their activities in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Among the latter were such underappreciated figures as Joseph Chiu, Moon Kwan, and Esther Eng. Eng has been almost totally neglected by film historians, and chapter 5 provides a rare sketch of her work both in China and overseas.
Chapters 6 and 7 in part 2 discuss how the political and social upheavals in mainland China during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s marked Hong Kong cinema. In the 1930s, the influx of personnel and resources from Shanghai contributed greatly to the growth of Cantonese cinema. Strengthening the industry's competitive edge, it also marked the formation of a cultural identity unique to Hong Kong. The rush from the north rose sharply when the Sino-Japanese War broke out in China in 1937. Among the hordes of main-land immigrants who descended on Hong Kong were Shanghai filmmakers who found not only refuge but an established industry base that allowed them to continue their work. Conversely, their presence also forged in Hong Kong's own filmmakers a stronger tie to China. After the war, the indigenous Cantonese cinema and the Mandarin cinema (transplanted there from Shanghai and Chungking) continued to thrive in parallel, enjoying occasional, and mostly mutually beneficial, connections. The character of Hong Kong film underwent a major change after 1949, when Communism successfully took over the mainland and Hong Kong became a major launching ground for the West's cultural efforts in its Cold War against China. This transitional period is discussed in chapter 8. As Hong Kong cinema gradually shook loose from its ties to the mainland, it made a conscious attempt to be more like the West. Producers, even those with clear political affiliations, became more entertainment-oriented when "bottom line" was placed above ideology. Such development is covered in chapter 9.
By the 1950s and 1960s, the film industry had established a solid foundation. Yet closure of the mainland market to Hong Kong films, drastic changes in the overseas Chinese communities, and the filmmakers' desire to expand prompted the search for new markets. Part 3 details some of the efforts to reach viewers in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and eventually Europe and North America. We trace these border-crossing activities back to the 1920s and 1930s, exploring Hong Kong cinema's history of survival through expansion. Chapter 10 briefly describes the Chinese and Hong Kong industries' early foreign initiatives, and chapter 11 reviews the efforts of the Shaw brothers and the Cathay company to expand their Southeast Asian markets between the 1930s and the 1950s. Information on this area is still sketchy, but our study (admittedly preliminary) shows that the Hong Kong industry's border-crossing endeavors long predated the "kung fu craze" of the 1970s. The export of Hong Kong films and filmmakers is not limited to the John Woos and Jackie Chans of recent years.
The five chapters of part 4 are devoted to female images in Hong Kong cinema, through which we can see the influence of both Chinese cinema and films from the West. One can also see in these actors' careers the changing role of women in Hong Kong society.
Part 5 brings us to more recent years—the 1980s and 1990s—to link the past, present, and future of Hong Kong cinema and to provide a certain impressionistic or subjective overview of its evolution. In recent times, Hong Kong cinema has experienced the impact of great political and economic upheavals—the reforms in mainland China and Taiwan, the Beijing student movement of 1989, the 1997 Reunification with China, the Asian economic crisis that followed, and the ensuing worldwide recession. These and other factors contributed to Hong Kong cinema's drastic decline in the 1990s. But, since this is not the focus of our study, deeper analysis gives way to a few generalized views, one in particular: that our outlook for the future of Hong Kong films remains positive.
As emphasized, Hong Kong Cinema: A Cross-Cultural View is no formal history. Rather, it filters "history" through personalities at the expense of dry facts and figures (although chapter 1 is something of an exception to that rule—for good reason). Each part talks about pioneers, film workers returning from the United States, studio tycoons, Cantonese opera superstars, female icons of the 1940s through the 1960s, and the many who helped to shape Hong Kong cinema from the beginning until the 1970s. In that sense, we explore the roots of Hong Kong filmmaking and its formation as a distinct branch of Chinese cinema.
Finally, we refer readers to appendix 8 to clarify several terms that will appear frequently in the text and that may not be as self-evident as they seem. For example, do "English" and "Chinese" mean from England and from China? Or do they mean the languages and, in the case of Chinese, which language? The appendix prevents monotonous explanations between brackets whenever such terms occur. Our criteria for the translation of names and titles are also explained in that appendix.
Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema & Theology
by Gerard Loughlin (Blackwell Publishing)
was described by one reviewer as "absolutely brilliant and quite extraordinary."
Gerard Loughlin, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies and Head of Department at
In the figure of the alien, Loughlin finds a metaphor for
that which is both most feared and desired: the body and its cravings. Secular
Alien Sex explores the Christian tradition of
‘sacred eroticism’ – from Gregory of Nyssa to Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Through a close reading of such films as The Devils, Breaking the
Waves and Derek Jarman’s The Garden, Loughlin shows how Christianity
calls us to view sexuality from the perspective of heaven, not in order to
escape the body but to encounter it more intensively. Through desire of the body
we regain paradise.
Alien Sex is divided into four parts, Part One containing the
introductory chapter on the subject of the body's desire. This opening chapter
is concerned with the amorous ‘look’ that motivates the stance between film
shots, coupled bodies and the soul and her lover. The chapter sketches an
account of dispossessive desire as movement towards the Other.
The next three parts of the book – Cavities, Copulations
and Consolations – are not directly related to the three topics of cinema, body
and theology, since these thematics are to be found in each of the book's parts.
The two chapters of Part Two (Cavities) are concerned with cinema as
social apparatus, as both technical mechanism and public institution, as a set
of practices for the production and consumption of films. The book does not
support any one film theory, but the notion of the ‘cinematic apparatus’,
expounded by Christian Metz, is given privilege. However, it is only a very
small part of Metz's theory that is assumed, indeed hardly more than that
already stated, that is, Metz's explanation of how a socio-technological
apparatus – the conjunction of viewers and text within a social practice that is
also a technology – produces cinematic experience. Part
Alien Sex explores certain parallels between the cinema and the church,
viewing them as institutions for the production of vision, spaces for the
projecting of dreams, caves for the inciting of desire. ‘Upon my bed at night I
sought him whom my soul loves.’ The third chapter, in particular, develops a
cinematic ecclesiology that understands the church as the space in which the
Spirit shines on the bodies of its participant viewers, who are also projector
and screen as well as audience: a carnal cinema of desiring bodies.
Having established a theological setting for writing about
film – or a cinematic setting for the writing of theology – Part Three
(Copulations) turns from the production of vision to the visions produced, as
they relate to the desiring body. The third part offers four interrelated essays
on spiritual and bodily desire, with particular reference to films by David
Fincher, Ken Russell, Lars von Trier and Neil Jordan. The chapters are written
neither from wholly within the movie house nor the church, but from a space
between, the border-crossing that separates and connects, beset by demons but
promising bodily transfiguration. Together, these chapters develop an image of
Part Four (Consolations) offers a christological
reflection on bodily desire as not merely parodying, but producing a spiritual
community that betokens on earth what is consummated in heaven. Developing
themes already broached in the book's introductory chapter on desire, and
through asking the impossible question of Jesus' sexuality, the last part of the
book offers an answer to the question posed here, in the lobby.
If readers of the last two chapters sense something of the
melancholy that infuses the two films they discuss – Nicolas Roeg's The Man
Who Fell to Earth (US 1976) and Derek Jarman's The Garden (UK 1990) –
that is not entirely inappropriate. For these last chapters attempt to show a
film, a vision, that is not yet playing on the main screens. It arrives in the
end in the privacy of people’s homes: ‘Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with
This book gets into some very deep water at the heart of the transcendent religious experience. While cast to some extent in Christian mysticism (“where perhaps two or three have gathered together for a meal, for angelic conversation and intercourse”), this is not just Christian mysticism (think for example, of Tantric Yoga). Alien Sex is an extrordinary work.
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film
by David Thomson (Knopf) For twenty-five years, David Thomson’s Biographical
Dictionary of Film has been not merely “the finest reference book ever
written about movies” (Graham Fuller, Interview), not merely the “desert
island book” of art critic David Sylvester, not merely “a great, crazy
masterpiece” (Geoff Dyer, The Guardian), but also “fiendishly seductive”
(Greil Marcus, Rolling Stone).
First published in 1975 and updated in 1981 and 1994, this dictionary returns with 300 new entries, mostly on emerging actors and directors from the last decade (e.g., Luc Besson and Reese Witherspoon), bringing the total to 1300. Film scholar Thomson (Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick) offers extensive but not comprehensive coverage, with entries ranging from a couple of paragraphs to several pages. He seems to write about whoever interests him, leaving some unexplained gaps. For example, he profiles Jeff Bridges but not father Lloyd or brother Beau and includes a fine tribute to the late critic Pauline Kael but ignores Roger Ebert. The book contains a lengthy appreciation of TV talk show master Johnny Carson that probably doesn't belong here. Like other serious film writers his age, Thomson admits that he no longer finds movie-going the "transforming experience" it once was, adding "I think I have learned that I love books more than films." This probably shapes some of his outspoken opinions. For example, writing about Tommy Lee Jones's recent career, he says, "He became coarse or was it depressed? and you felt he had lost faith in the business as his checks grew bigger. Now it returns, with its old entries updated and 300 new ones—from Luc Besson to Reese Witherspoon—making more than 1300 in all, some of them just a pungent paragraph, some of them several thousand words long. In addition to the new “musts,” Thomson has added key figures from film history—lively anatomies of Graham Greene, Eddie Cantor, Pauline Kael, Abbott and Costello, Noël Coward, Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Gish, Rin Tin Tin, and more.
Here is a great, rare book, one that encompasses the chaos of art, entertainment, money, vulgarity, and nonsense that we call the movies. Personal, opinionated, funny, daring, provocative, and passionate, it is the one book that every filmmaker and film buff must own. Time Out named it one of the ten best books of the 1990s. Gavin Lambert recognized it as “a work of imagination in its own right.” Now better than ever—a masterwork by the man playwright David Hare called “the most stimulating and thoughtful film critic now writing.” Thomson's book is a browsing title owing to its trenchant, sometimes witty, prose and its up-to-date coverage, however some of his opinions a pure quirk.
The Best Years of British Film Music, 1936-1958 by Jan G. Swynnoe (Boydell Press) Jan Swynnoe's study is concerned with the special British contribution to film music, detailing how the idiosyncrasies of British film, and of the British character, set it apart from its Hollywood counterpart. She shows how the differences between the two industries in all aspects of film making variously affected composers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the mid 1930s, when film composers in America were perfecting the formulae of the classical Hollywood score, film music in Britain scarcely existed; within a few years, however, top British composers were scoring British films. How this transformation was brought about, and how established British concert composers, including Vaughan Williams and Arnold Bax, faced the challenge of the exacting and often bewildering art of scoring for feature film, is vividly described here, and the resulting scores compared with the work of seasoned Hollywood composers.
Jan G. Swynnoe researched the material on which her book is based over several years, at the same time pursuing her musical life as pianist, percussionist and composer.
The Directors: Take One by Robert J. Emery (Allworth Press)
The Directors: Take Two by Robert J. Emery (Allworth Press)
Today's most acclaimed film directors know how to captivate an audience. While
the first moviegoers were awed by the mere sight of flickering, silent images,
modern audiences devour details of how their favorite films were conceived,
cast, staged, and shot. Movie lovers can now take the ultimate behind-the-scenes
tour of contemporary cinema. The first two volumes of the acclaimed The
Directors series, Take One and Take Two, by Robert J. Emery, offer in-depth
interviews with twenty-six of today's top filmmakers, revealing intimate details
of their most influential work and their unique approaches to their art.
This is one of three books assembled by Emery based on material generated during the production of the television series "The Directors" on the Encore Movie Channel. The others are The Directors: Take Two and Directors Take Two: In Their Own Words. Emery's role was to posed the questions to which the directors responded and then edit transcripts of the given programs televised. Literally, the directors speak for themselves. That is to say, Emery (wisely, I think) eschews the standard Q & A format. Some readers will be especially interested in specific directors; others will be more interested in specific films; still others (I among them) will be interested in both the directors and their films. Predictably the quality of the various directors' responses varies, sometimes significantly. For example, in this volume, for whatever reasons, Spike Lee's and Lawrence Kasdan's comments on their individual films are far more insightful than are those of Robert Wise and Sydney Pollack. However, because Emery also poses several specific subjects to which directors are asked to respond (e.g. "Why [Wise] Decided to Produce His Own Films" and "How Does [Pollack] Choose His Projects?"), Wise and Pollack are able to share with the reader perspectives and opinions that are probably otherwise unavailable. I was especially pleased to learn that Richard Donner considers Inside Moves (1908) "one of my greatest, dearest films." Featuring John Savage, David Morse, Diana Scarwid, and Amy Wright among an ensemble cast, this film is one I include on my own list of the very best which few people have seen or even know of. One of Emery's most effective devices is "The Conversation," a section which introduces each director in his own words. I am grateful to Emery for not intruding (as editor) on the flow of information provided in each chapter. Sure, several portions of the book's narrative could have been "tightened up" but, in that event, I think the book would have lost much of its flavor and, worse yet, its vitality and spontaneity
The Directors: Take One Contents: Notes from the Author CHAPTER 1: The Films of Robert Wise CHAPTER 2: The Films of Ron Howard CHAPTER 3: The Films of Sydney Pollack CHAPTER 4: The Films of James Cameron CHAPTER 5: The Films of Spike Lee CHAPTER 6: The Films of Richard Donner CHAPTER 7: The Films of Normon Jewison CHAPTER 8: The Films of John Carpenter CHAPTER 9: The Films of John Frankenheimer CHAPTER 10: The Films of Lawrence Kasdan CHAPTER 11: The Films of Mark Rydell CHAPTER 12: The Films of Sidney Lumet CHAPTER 13: The Films of David & jerry Zucker & Jim Abrahams
The Directors: Take Two Contents: Contents: Notes from the Author CHAPTER 1: The Films of Rob Reiner CHAPTER 2: The Films of Joel Schumacher CHAPTER 3: The Films of Robert Zemeckis CHAPTER 4: The Films of Alan Pakula CHAPTER 5: The Films of John G. Avildsen CHAPTER 6: The Films of Garry Marshall CHAPTER 7: The Films of John McTiernan CHAPTER 8: The Films of Martha Coolidge CHAPTER 9: The Films of Herbert Ross CHAPTER 10: The Films of William Friedkin CHAPTER 11: The Films of Arthur Hiller CHAPTER 12: The Films of Terry Gilliam CHAPTER 13: The Films of John Badham
Stories: Screenplays As Story Volume 1 by Michael Roemer (Scarecrow)
Film Stories: Screenplays As Story Volume 2 by Michael Roemer
(Scarecrow) From the critically-acclaimed independent
filmmaker, Michael Roemer, comes "Film Stories: Screenplays as Story", his first
and highly-anticipated collection of screenplays from nine of his most
celebrated motion pictures. More than film scripts, these two volumes are
designed to help film students master concepts like three-act structure,
conflict, surprise, rising action, and crisis. They also show the budding
screenwriter how not only to tell a story, but how to tell a story that sells.
Volume One contains the screenplays for "Nothing But a Man, The Plot Against
Harry, Stone My Heart", and "Pilgrim, Farewell". Volume One also features a
comprehensive introduction entitled "Beginnings," in which Mr. Roemer discusses
the stories behind his screenplays and supplies anecdotes on the making and
distribution of his films that any screenwriter or filmmaker will find
invaluable. Volume Two contains the screenplays for "Losing Emily, Famous Long
Ago, Mortal Longings, Act of God", and "Sad but Funny".
Michael Roemer is Professor of Film at Yale University, where he has taught courses in filmmaking and screenwriting for more than 30 years. He is also the independent filmmaker of such movies as "The Plot Against Harry", "Nothing But a Man", "Pilgrim Farewell", and the widely-celebrated documentary, "Dying".
The Soul of Cinema: An Appreciation of Film Music by Larry M. Timm (Prentice Hall) Filling a void in the literature on film music appreciation, this volume provides a consolidation of relevant film music with information about film composers and their scores. The volume also features well-illustrated information about each film with a text that clearly illustrates a well-rounded and in-depth look at film music. The reference addresses the functions of film scoring, the operational aspects of the industry, music for silent films, early sound film, the rise of the symphonic film score, the golden age of film music, the age of versatility, new faces enter the ranks and the 21st century. For film and music enthusiasts and others interested in the evolution of music in film.
Anatomy of Film by Bernard F. Dick (Bedford St. Martin’s) From author’s summary: It is gratifying to know that Anatomy of Film has been in existence for almost a quarter of a century. This is in no small part due to the y instructors and students who have used this book and continue to do so. In response to their comments and feedback, I am very pleased to offer an updated and revised fourth edition.
Anatomy of Film was originally conceived as a concise introductory guide to narrative film, intended both for film students and the general reader. In subsequent editions the text responded to the changes in film studies programs. The second and third editions of Anatomy of Film achieved this by focusing on key elements in film and film analysis and by adding more useful features. A complete overview of film elements and film theory was added, as well as new chapters on film genres and film adaptation. The purpose of the text was redefined to provide students with the basic analytical methods and vocabulary necessary to study narrative film. By keeping the book brief, my goal was to appeal to a diverse audience in a variety of courses: those requiring a brief core text, those requiring a text that is easily supplemented with readings or other materials, those involving film and literature, and those covering film within the context of other media.
These features as well as many others were retained in this new edition. The text continues to place special emphasis on the narrative film and to examine the many ways in which the technical components of the medium all come together to produce an art form like no other. Students learn how to understand and evaluate film as a total work of art in which sight, script, and sound are all part of a whole. In addition I have retained the book's well‑respected coverage of film evaluation and criticism, using an approach similar to that used in literature and art studies.
Thus, the heart of Anatomy of Film remains intact. What has changed is a direct result of the years that have passed since the last edition and the many different films and methods of viewing that pass before us. I have listed more specific changes below. I hope this edition of Anatomy of Film will continue to please all who use the text.
Attention to our film heritage: In 1996, the American Film Institute (AFI) celebrated the 100th anniversary of the motion picture (1896 being the date of the first commercial showing of a film in the United States) by publishing a list of the one hundred best films made during that period, sixty‑two of which are referred to and discussed in the fourth edition of Anatomy of Film. By calling attention to our film heritage, the AFI has indirectly called at tention to movie history, which roughly coincides with that of the twentieth century. This new edition of Anatomy o f Film acknowledges this history by including background on the origins of the narrative film, historical accuracy in movies, the documentary, the production code, visual effects, and the independent film.
The emphasis of Anatomy of Film is primarily on American movies for two reasons: to provide a sense of unity in a text that by its nature must include examples of myriad techniques, and to draw on films that are frequently shown on television and can be rented or purchased. However, no one can deny the importance of international cinema, particularly anyone who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s when the European film seemed to dwarf the American product by its sheer creativity. New contemporary examples of international cinema are discussed in this edition, such as Dancer in the Dark (1999) and All Ahout My Mother (1999).
More on independent films and filmmakers: This new edition also acknowledges the contribution of contemporary independent filmmakers. When an independent film such as Shakespeare in Love (1998) wins Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress, it is time to formally recognize the great contributions the "indies" have made to motion picture art. It is difficult to imagine a major studio producing Shakespeare in Love without wanting "bankable" stars and a script with "accessible" dialogue, rather than the Elizabethan‑sounding language that was actually used. A detailed discussion of the opening of Shakespeare in Love is my tribute to this film and to independent moviemaking.
Expanded section on genres of film: In response to requests to expand the chapter on film genres, I have added other forms of comedy besides screwball (farce, satire, gross‑out). The great success of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan has prompted me to include the combat film, a genre that seemed to have gone out of fashion until Spielberg revived it.
Expanded approach to film criticism: The criticism section has also been expanded to include two new schools of criticism: ideological criticism and reception theory. This section discusses the impact of audience response and provides historical background on the nature of film reviewing. I have also expanded the feminist criticism section by comparing two films based on the same sourceone directed by a woman, the other by a man. George Kelly's Pulitzer Prize‑winning play, Craig's Wife, was filmed twice‑‑once by Dorothy Arzner under the same title in 1936 and again by Vincent Sherman as Harriet Craig (1950). Since both versions are available on video, they deserve to be studied; the results are quite startling, even though each remains fairly close to the original.
Web resources now included: Since the Internet has changed everyone's research habits, I have decided to include a list of important film Web sites. I have also added another student essay, this one on the German film Run Lola Run (1998), in which the author uses a Web site as a source. While the Internet enables students to access information quickly and easily, the source of that information must be acknowledged, as Paul Bell has done in his essay.
Updated examples throughout: I usually hesitate to include "the latest releases" as a definitive example of a revised text. However, there have been several outstanding films of the late 1990s that merit discussion: Shakespeare in Love, You've Got Mail, Pleasantville, The Truman Show, American Beauty, Humanite, and The Matrix. Although The Blair Witch Project has occasioned reactions ranging from awe to contempt, the film has had a broad enough appeal to suggest that the filmmakers managed to connect with an audience looking for either a bogus thrill or the real thing. In any case, The Blair Witch Project deserves a hearing.New Glossary: Many instructors have asked for a Glossary, and I am happy to provide one, which includes not only definitions of technical terms but also of those used in the industry (distribution, Foley artist, preproduction, exhibition, best boy, grip, gaffer, etc.).
You're Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films, and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot by Mike Medavoy, Josh Young (Pocket Books) Few Hollywood memoirs have offered as distinctive and candid a perspective on the film industry as producer and studio executive Mike Medavoy's You're Only As Good As Your Next One. Here is a deeply personal history of four decades in American film, told by a pivotal player in the creation of more than three hundred films -- or, as Medavoy distinguishes them, "one hundred great films, one hundred good films, and one hundred for which I should be shot." Included are eight Best Picture Oscar winners. On all of them, he knows the behind-the-scenes dramas, who got credit for whose achievements, and who didn't get credit but should have.
His ties to four major studios mirror the most fascinating chapters in American filmmaking. At United Artists, he and his partners were behind the creative revolution of the hot young directors of the 1970s, and they backed such seminal films as Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Rocky. At Orion Pictures, he backed such '80s smashes as Amadeus, The Terminator, Platoon, and The Silence of the Lambs. He navigated the '90s corporate culture at TriStar Pictures, green-lighting Philadelphia and Sleepless in Seattle. Now at his own Phoenix Pictures, the producer of such acclaimed works as The People vs. Larry Flynt and The Thin Red Line controls his destiny, but never strays far from controversy. Medavoy pulls no punches in telling his story of financial and political maneuvering, great triumphs and the inevitable disasters, and working with the industry's brightest star power including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Milos Forman, Jonathan Demme, Francis Coppola, John Milius, Terrence Malick, Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas, Meg Ryan, Dustin Hoffman, and countless others.
This is also the story of how movie studio buyouts have stymied the creative process and shaped the future of film. Gone is the hands-off golden age that spawned some of the most influential and successful films of our time. An eyewitness to Hollywood history in the making, Mike Medavoy gives a powerful and poignant view of the past and future of a world he knows intimately.
Alice Guy Blache: Lost Visionary of the Cinema by Alison McMahan
(Continuum) ‘The time has arrived, so it would seem, when woman must take her
place beside man in the majority of arts and professions in the business world.
In women of the caliber of Madame Alice Blaché it has also been demonstrated
that there is a possibility of their doing so without being shorn of that most
desirable of womanly qualities, femininity.’ The Moving Picture News, 1912
‘It has long been a source of wonder to me that many women have not seized upon the wonderful opportunities offered to them by the motion-picture art to make their way to fame and fortune as producers of photodramas. Of all the arts there is probably none in which they can make such a splendid use of talents so much more natural to a woman than to a man and so necessary to its perfection.’ Alice Guy Blaché, 1914
Over a hundred years after she started making films (which
was considerably earlier than D.W. Griffith, Mabel Normand, and Lillian Gish
began their careers), the life and work of Alice Guy Blaché is still shrouded in
myth and controversy.
Only a fraction (111) of the approximately one thousand films that she directed still exist, and almost half of these have been found very recently. The films are spread out in archives all over the world. Not all of them are available for viewing, even to scholars, and many of them are in desperate need of conservation and preservation.
It is widely agreed that she was the first woman filmmaker but there is considerable debate as to whether she made the first ever fiction film. She played a key role in early sound film production, and yet this part of her career is almost always ignored. She is, to this day, the only woman ever to have owned and run her own film studio. And yet she made her final film in 1920, at the age of 47, and died in New Jersey in 1968 – unacknowledged, unheralded, almost totally forgotten.
Ten years of painstaking research has enabled Alison McMahan to piece together the career of this extraordinary woman. What results is the first full-length treatment of Alice Guy Blaché’s work, the debunking of several long-standing myths about her and, ultimately, the emergence of a feminist figurehead of the filmmaking industry.
The Naked And The Undead by Cynthia A. Freeland (Westview) seeks to counter both aesthetic disdain and moral condemnation toward horror by focusing on a select body of important and revealing films, demonstrating how the genre is capable of deep philosophical reflection about the existence and the nature of evil-both human and cosmic. In exploring these films, Freeland argues against a purely psychoanalytic approach and opts for both feminist and philosophical understandings. Freeland is particularly interested in showing how gender figures into screen presentations of evil. Written for film enthusiasts and students, the book examines a wide array of films including The Silence of the Lambs, Repulsion, Frankenstein, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Alien, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Frenzy, Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, Hellraiser, and many others.
AMERICAN AUDIENCES ON MOVIES AND MOVIEGOING by Tom Stempel (Kentucky) We all know by now what critics and film historians thought of the movies of the last fifty years. But what did the audiences think of them?
Film historian Tom Stempel's new book AMERICAN AUDIENCES ON MOVIES AND MOVIEGOING gives voice to the audience. In addition to examining box office statistics, he asked over 150 moviegoers to talk to him about the human side of going to the movies. Stempel looks at the public side of movies, not dwelling on critics' or directors' takes on the industry.
He examines the complex relationship between the audience and the movies, noting the viewers' varied responses and relating their personal recollections to some of the great classics of film. (On Singin' in the Rain, from a thirty‑year‑old man: "Old lady movie. My mother loves it. I can leave it.") Stempel looks at each of the movies major eras, beginning with the glory days of the studios in the forties, working his way through the "black and dark" horror movie days, and finally ending with contemporary films.
The author points out that "one of the greatest myths of the last half of the twentieth century was that the media are as i: fluential and persuasive as they think they are." He goes on to‑show that movies can have a direct influence upon people: the people who wouldn't take a shower after Psycho, the people who had trouble with the ocean and other bodies of water after Jaws.
Among the many personal accounts in the book, viewers responded to the The Wizard of Oz with a great deal of nostalgia. Valerie Hornig remembers wanting "to be a part of it, to live the magic." Blair Woodard acquired her appreciation of The Wizard of Oz years after she first saw it, and remembered her love of the movie "at a friend's house while their kids were watching it .... It was great to see their reactions to some of the scenes that I had enjoyed and to realize that the film still worked." Perhaps the most profound affect the movie had on one viewer was that of Peggy Dilley, "The Wizard of Oz is a movie I've lived, in my head, on and off in my life . . . . It made me move to California from Wisconsin .... I came with two suitcases and my dog Benji . . . but he was like Toto to me. I wore a yellow and white checked shirt, because it reminded me of Dorothy's checked dress. Hollywood was Munchkinland."
American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing is a refreshing look at the human side of the movies, going deeper than the commercialism and media hype that often tag alongside a film. Personal accounts on more than 40 popular movies and bring the films to life and show the deep influence they have had on Americans and American culture.Tom Stempel is professor of Cinema at Los Angeles City College, where he has taught film‑related courses since 1971. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, Sight & Sound, and Film Comment and serves on the editorial board for Creative Screenwriting. Stempel is the author of four other books, including Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing.
Saved from Oblivion by Bernard Vorhaus (Scarecrow) Before being black-listed in the McCarthy era, Bernard Vorhaus was one of Hollywood's most respected silent film writers, working for studios such as Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Not only did he cross paths with some of the brightest lights in early Hollywood--Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, D.W. Griffith, John Wayne, Laurence Olivier are some examples--but he was a principal influence upon British filmmaker David Lean. Now in his nineties, Vorhaus recounts some of his pioneering work in film in "Saved from Oblivion"; he was the first director to incorporate subjective flash-backs and to use a sequence before the main titles. Recently, retrospectives of his films, such as "Dusty Ermine" and "The Last Journey", were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as at the National Film Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival in England. This autobiography, replete with insight into the techniques and personas of early cinema, is an important as well as entertaining look at the early history of the medium that shaped the twentieth century. Although Vorhaus did not return to directing after he was prematurely cut from the industry in the wake of McCarthyism, he remembers his years there with nostalgia. "Making films is much more exciting than anything else you can do," he says, and this book proves it.
Film Culture Reader edited by P. Adams Sitney (Cooper Square Press) This collection covers a range of topics in 20th century cinema, from the Auteur Theory to the commercial cinema from Orson Welles to Kenneth Anger.
MASSIVE GUIDE TO MOVIES ON DVD now available from Visible Ink: VideoHound's® DVD Guide
DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) is quickly replacing VHS tape. It should be equal by 2002. Blockbuster Video recently elected to stock DVDs, bringing the total number of video stores carrying the format to more than 8,000 in the US. alone. Meanwhile, 40 to 50 million homes are expected to have a DVD player by 2007. In the same way that CDs replaced vinyl record albums, DVDs are well on their way to becoming America's favorite way to watch movies.
But while DVDs potentially offer better picture and sound than VHS, quality varies significantly. Consumers are often rightly mystified as to what they may be buying or renting. How does the DVD release compare to the VHS? Is screen resolution and sound quality a dramatic step up? What kind of "extras" does the disc contain?
Fortunately the same folks who bring you VideoHound's ® Golden Movie Retriever have now released VideoHound's® DVD Guide which reviews more than 3,000 movies that have been released in DVD format. That is nearly every feature-length film available as of June 2000 as well as some significant television shows and cartoon collections. Like the VideoHound's ® Golden Movie Retriever, each of the reviews in the DVD guide provides a brief plot synopsis and commentary on the artistic quality of the film. Similarly, a rating is provided (from 4 "bones" to zero or, "Woof!") which judges the quality of the storytelling and filmmaking.
However, the DVD Guide doesn't stop there. In addition to the general review of the film, each entry also provides remarks on the technical details of the film's transfer to DVD. Then, each film receives a second "technical" rating (the same 4 "bones" to "Woof!") that refers to the quality of image, sound and the extra features that are so often included in the DVD versions of films. And finally, each review concludes with a list of those "extras," if any, such as director's commentary, deleted scenes, alternate endings, storyboards, production notes and "making of' documentaries.
Each of the 3,000 reviewed films also lists cast and credit information (director, screenwriter, cinematographer, composer/lyricists) and provides film details such as year released, MPAA rating, length, country of origin, and awards and nominations.
In the VideoHound's ® tradition, the VideoHound's® DVD Guide also includes eight indexes (alternative titles, cast, director, screenwriter, cinematographer, composer, category and distributor) that allow for easy and limitless cross-referencing. Also included is an appendix that lists related Websites, books, and magazines.
Editor Mike Mayo is a the VideoHound ® veteran. He is the author of three the VideoHound ® "spin-off" titles (the VideoHound's ® War Movies, the VideoHound's ® Horror Show, and the VideoHound's ® Video Premiers) and he is the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program, "The Movie Show on Radio," which broadcasts weekly on more than 80 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. While this first edition of the VideoHound's® DVD Guide is as up to date as possible, Mike knows that annual editions will be essential to keep up with the expansion of the market. According to Mike, "This book is a snapshot of a medium that is just beginning to realize its capabilities."
SEEING AND BELIEVING: Religion and Values in the Movies by Margaret R. Miles ($15.00, paper, 254 pages, notes, index, Beacon Press, ISBN: 0-8070-1031-6) HARDCOVER
A Graduate Theological Union professor assesses the treatment of religion, race, and gender in fifteen critically acclaimed popular films, from Thelma and Louise to The Piano, and explains how movies may help Americans deal with racism and homophobia.
From the Introduction:
While I worked on this book I was frequently asked about what I was writing. To my answer, "religion and values in film," the most frequent response was "bet you don’t find much religion or values in film!" But, of course, I do. In fact, the frequency of slurs about religion in popular film is itself evidence of North Americans’ anxiety about religion. We, as a society, seem to seek evidence that will substantiate and reinforce our belief that religious practices are ineffective, and that religious beliefs are wrong, misguided, and dangerous. We apparently need to be reassured that it is quite safe to ignore religion both as personal motivation and as a voice in public discourse. Popular film both reflects a popular consensus that traditional religion is deeply untrustworthy and reinforces our public rejection of religion.’ Many people find it difficult to imagine that a scholar of religion might find anything useful to say about popular film.
On the other hand, it is frequently difficult to convince friends and fellow religion scholars that studying film in the social and cultural context of -American society is anything but a lark, a departure from "serious’’ academic work, a kinky side-interest of a scholar who should really be doing something else. She should, some friends believe, be studying ancient Greek or Latin theological texts. Or she should support with her scholarship the important efforts of those who seek to remind the religious academy that the study of religion is incomplete and impoverished when we study religious language to the exclusion of religious art. For religious images have informed the religious lives of our historical antecedents far more pervasively and profoundly than our slender attention to them in the academic study of religion would acknowledge.
These tasks—the interpretation of historical religious texts and images—are, I agree, immensely important. Lacking vigorous ongoing critical appropriation, historical texts and images quickly lose their potential to provide perspectives and offer suggestions for living in the present. Scholars of religion, however, can no longer—if we ever could—afford to assume that we can effortlessly engage a broader audience than the six other scholars in one’s own field who will undoubtedly read whatever one writes. We will have earned the perennial accusation that we live and work in an "ivory tower" if we do not address more directly and accessibly the anxieties and problems of the present.
I work on popular film because it provides an index of the anxieties and longings of a large audience. I do so out of the conviction that religious scholars ignore this contemporary cultural "text" at the cost of failing to engage the pressing concerns of this historical moment. Moreover, far from being a frivolous side-interest, analysis of popular film requires and exercises my training as a historian. For the ultimate test of a good historical training is to bring it to the analysis of one’s own society and its cultural exchanges and to observe the adequacy—or lack thereof—of one’s historical method for illuminating features of the present.
FELLINI ON FELLINI by Federico Fellini ($13.95, paper; 192 pages; 35 photos & film stills, Da Capo Press, Inc. ISBN: 0-306-80673-8)
The European post war film renaissance began in Italy with such masters of Neorealism as Roberto Rossellini, in Open City (1945), Vittorio De Sica, in The Bicycle Thief (1948) and Umberto D (1952), and Luchino ViscontiI, in La Terra Trema (1948). Federico Fellini broke with the tradition to make films of a more poetic, surreal and personal nature such as I Vitelloni (1953) and La Strada (1954). In the 1960s he then shifted to a more sensational style with La Dolce Vita (1960) and the intellectual 8 1/2 (1963). Best known for flamboyant, often grotesque film fantasies, many with superb musical scores by composer Nino Rota and often starring Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina. Fellini collaborated as a scriptwriter with Robert Rossellini on the neorealist films Open City (1945) and Paisan (1946), directing some of the latter. La Strada (1954) a powerful fable starring Masina, won international recognition and an Oscar for best foreign film. Fellini's second Oscar was awarded for Nights of Cabiria (1956), again starring Masina. The notoriety of La Dolce Vita (1960), an indictment of contemporary Roman decadence, launched Fellini as an international media star. Fellini's third Oscar winner, 8 1/2 (1963), used stream-of-consciousness techniques to explore the anxieties of a film director and the process of filmmaking itself. In the opulent Juliet of the Spirits (1965) Masina portrayed the fantasy life of a bourgeois housewife. Fellini Satyricon (1969) and Roma (1972) were not universally acclaimed, but Fellini's fourth Oscar-winner, Amarcord (1974), was a vibrant reconstruction of adolescence under fascism in Rimini, Fellini's hometown. Fellini's later work was poorly received. Although some contemporary film scholars see Fellini as a dinosaur of conventional filmmaking, with questionable views of women and no political agenda, from the late 1950s into the 1970s--the period of his best work--he was considered a major film innovator. This collection of interviews, articles, essays and reminiscences charts the genesis of his creative film work.
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