Showing posts from 2006

Classroom blogging

I've never been a utopian or even a huge booster when it comes to technology in the classroom. Too often it's never explained why we need blogging in the classroom or why tradition formats of learning and student scholarship are inadequate.

Still, I've decided to set up a group blog for my special topics course in Documentary Fictions next semester. For starters, it's a writing-intensive course, which means significant practice in informal writing as a way to practice and brainstorm for more formal assignments. I saw the weblog format as a useful and equally functional (more functional, in fact) equivalent of printed informal writing.

Moreover, since hybrid forms and questions of documentary authenticity seem to be capturing the attention and imagination of a number of viewers, critics and observers these days, the weblog format should allow for discussion to grow organically over the semester to diagnose what, exactly, makes fake documentary seem so much part of the ze…


Well, the SCMS conference program is out in preliminary form. My first reaction is, wow, that's a lot of panels and papers. Far more than I remember before. It's going to be tough choosing which to attend.

Second, certain topics seem to be popular but the most overwhelming theoretical approach seems to be the public sphere. A few panels are specifically about the topic, and a good couple dozen papers seem to be on it. This oversaturation of work on the public sphere might curb my enthusiasm for making it a tenet of my current book project, except that I still feel that scholarship hasn't adequately addressed the means that Hollywood (and those who watched feature films) came to understand cinema's intervention in the mass public sphere. Let me hope, though, that "public sphere" fatigue doesn't set in soon.

UPDATE: Idiot me: I'd blanked out on the fact that "Media in the Public Sphere" is the theme of this year's conference.

Film Criticism as Subfield

Andy Horbal is hosting a blog-a-thon on film criticism, which seems to be enlisting a wide and engaging variety of participant posts. Most of them talk about journalistic or other nonacademic critics, but I started thinking about film criticism as an academic practice. From what I understand, there used to be a recognizable division of the discipline of film studies into three distinct subfields: film theory, film history, and film criticism. The latter took place in (naturally enough) Film Criticism, Literature Film Quarterly, and oftentimes Film Form, Jump Cut, or Film Quarterly. Whereas film theory used specific textual study to reflect more broadly on representation, society, and culture, film criticism, at least it was thought, was a distinct practice of textual interpretation.

Something changed, of course. The tripartate distinction only held while textual study - based on models of literary study - was the predominant model for what film studies did. As cultural studies, indust…

Textbook extras

I've made some modifications and additions to my textbook comparison post. I know it's against blog ettiquette to keep modifying a past post, but given the topic, it makes sense to keep my textbook comments centralized.

Now, publishers are starting to bundle supplementary material. Actually, of the exam copies I received only two had extras:

Film Art (Bordwell/Thompson). Comes with a CD-ROM and Film Viewer's Guide. The CD-ROM is at best perfunctory - it's Flash-based, with a small image window. Essentially it compiles clips that Bordwell and Thompson's text glosses. Honestly I don't see any advantage over just showing the clips separately. The Film Viewer's Guide is more useful, but even here I wanted more. Bordwell is such a sharp reader of form that you wish he could more clearly effectively communicate to students how to watch attentively and take notes. And I have the same complaint about the writing model here as I do about the sample readings in the te…

Jon Lewis on Intellectual Property

Jon Lewis's talk at today's seminar was on Hollywood's public relations and lobbying practices to secure intellectual property enforcement. Taking a Jack Valenti quote, its title, "'If You Can't Protect What You Own, You Don't Own Anything': Piracy, Privacy and Public Relations in 21st Century Hollywood" may suggest some of Lewis's polemic: that the universalizing rhetoric of Hollywood's public relations around both piracy and the ownership of the text merely disguises Hollwyood's lobbying efforts and the multiple forms the text takes in the current Hollywood. As in other of his work he shows how a censorship body, the MPAA, actually has the charge of an industrial promotion and public relations arm. I suspected that Lewis was preaching to a converted audience who already view intellectual property claims with high suspicion. Nonetheless, his talk had a knack for giving a seamless overview of the industry's public relations practi…

Jon Lewis on Academic Publishing

As the first half of today's Philadelphia Cinema & Media Seminar, Jon Lewis (of Oregon State, current editor of Cinema Journal) talked about academic publishing in film studies. Not all of what he said was new to me, but as a junior scholar beginning to submit material to journals, I really appreciated hearing nuts and bolts advice about how to place scholarship at journals or even book publishers. I can't capture all he said, but at a high level, his advice for submitting to a journal was as follows.

Read the journal before submitting. An obvious directive, perhaps, but one apparently many do not follow. Get a sense of what the journal publishes and what they do not. Current essays can give a sense of length, tone, and scholarly approach. If reviewed by editorial board, look to see who's on the board. Find a journal that fits what you write and how you want your research identified.

Send a brief, simple cover letter with the submission. Editors rarely read the essays un…

CFP: Real Things Conference

5-8 July 2007

Proposals for twenty-minute presentations or panels of three to four presenters are invited for a conference entitled “Real Things: Matter, Materiality, Representation, 1880 to the present,” to be held at the University of York, England and co-sponsored by the University of Sussex.

Keynote speakers: Bill Brown, Mary Ann Doane, Hal Foster, Patrick Keiller, Hermione Lee, Edmund White

This conference proposes a re-engagement with representational realism and its objects and effects across a wide range of aesthetic, critical and theoretical practices. We seek to engage cutting-edge work that raises new questions about the status of the object of representation; representations as archives of material history; the shifts in representational practices associated with modernism and postmodernism; the changing status of real bodies and lives (as opposed to their representations) as objects of analysis in the humanit…

Our Professional Organization

I've been wondering why the Society for Cinema and Media Studies has been seemingly uninterested in presenting a public voice on policy issues. To my knowledge, there is currently no caucus of SCMS devoted to the policy issues I was alluding to in my previous post. However, on the TV studies caucus website, I came across this action item:
Media Policy Committee—Jason Mittell, chair
As reported by Jason, SCMS hopes to take a more activist role in policy, and an organization-wide committee has been formed for this purpose, working primarily on intellectual property, copyright, and fair use; this group hopes to issue policy statements for the organization, updating Kristin Thompson’s document; wants to support testimony and amicus briefs; hopes to facilitate scholars who want to participate in policy initiatives.Anyone, it seems, interested in serving on or contributing to this committee can contact Jason Mittell directly (follow the link above for contact info). The other action items…

Policy Aims

As part of the Nineteenth Century Reproductions Conference that Temple's humanities departments have been hosting, I saw a presentation by Victorianist Jay Clayton arguing for humanists' increased engagement with policy applications of their research. On one hand, he argued, humanists have something valuable to add to the public conversations that goes on in various . On the other hand, such venues can provide a funding stream that can elevate humanities scholarship in the eyes of increasingly corporatized administration. (I know "corporatized" is a slur that can be loosely tossed around - but I think most readers will know what I'm talking about.)

I had the feeling his suggestions were falling on polite but deaf ears. For my part, it's tough to parse out the extent that policy panels are formulated in good faith and the extent they render legitimacy to a reverse-engineered panel, say, of bio-ethicists chosen to match the impertives decided from the outset. M…

Joys of the Screen Capture

David Bordwell has come out with some interesting posts (here and here) weighing in on Dave Kehr's Times article on Soderbergh and Retro Classicism. His conclusions probably won't be too surprising to those who have read any of his historical work on deep focus or classical narration. Nonetheless, I appreciate the ease with which he marshalls visual evidence to exemplify whatever he's talking about. Mind you, we don't all have Bordwell's and Thompson's vast repository of frame enlargements or screen captures at our fingertips. Getting, formatting and using images in a blog post frankly takes significant time and work for most of us. Still, it's interesting how undertapped this weblog format is for doing the kinds of textual analysis that many of us were, presumably, trained to do. Perhaps my New Years' resolution will be to start taking a closer look at individual film and television texts here at Category D.

Philadelphia Film & Media Studies Seminar

From Temple colleague Oliver Gaycken, I recently found out that there's an ongoing local film and media studies seminar gathering scholars from area schools on a (usually) monthly basis. The next meeting is Thursday, November 30. Guest speaker will be Jon Lewis giving a talk titled "'If You Can't Protect What You Own, You Don't Own Anything': Piracy, Privacy and Public Relations in 21st Century Hollywood." Talk to be preceded by a workshop on publishing in film studies. Details from the host, UPenn's Cinema Studies department. I'm looking forward to attending and hopefully can report back a little on what I learn.

Is Hitchcock (or Welles) Necessary?

I've talked a bit before about the canon and the choices we make in introductory classes - do we model and discuss an appreciation of cinema as an art or do we model and discuss instead the (mostly) nonevaluative scholarship that defines the field of film studies in the humanities? Well, the Film Vituperam's blog-a-thon on Alfred Hitchcock gave me an opportunity to address specifics. A friend of mine told me recently that he thought an introductory education in film which didn't show Citizen Kane was lacking. Is that true? Can we say the same about Hitchcock?

On the plus side, Hitchcock's films can be remarkably multi-layered. Even showing a clip from Notorious this semester, I couldn't help but notice how perfectly it exemplified analytical and continuity editing - exemplified because such classical editing organized the form, but also because Hitchcock exaggerated the form: he pushes invisibility as far as it can go before it becomes visible. Furthermore, non-form…

The Intro Textbook: A Comparison

A few months back, I’d wondered about various Introduction to Film textbooks. Well, I’ve decided to order exam copies of the leading contenders and compare them. What did I learn? There’s real competition in the introductory textbook market now. Several leading contenders all offer distinct advantages and foci. Whether more basic or advanced, geared more toward film appreciation or toward introduction to film scholarship, each adds something new.

The following are some of the major introduction to film analysis texts I have found. I’ll add more textbooks as I get copies. I have not considered other books intended for introductory courses: television or media studies texts, film history surveys, analysis compilations, etc. Similarly, I have not considered here CD-ROMs, websites and supplemental material. I hope to write on these separately. These notes simply reflect my opinion and what I think is useful in the classroom; obviously, people’s experiences aren’t the same on that score. S…

CFP: Television/Media Sound & Music

CFP: Television/Media Sound & Music (collection)
From: Graeme Harper

The Continuum Companion to Sound in Film and the Visual Media
Opportunities for Chapters on Television/Media Sound and/or Music
Deadline: January 15th 2007

The "Continuum Companion to Sound in Film and the Visual Media", aims to be the most comprehensive companion available to sound and music in film, media and new media. It will eventually consist of around 300,000 words by expert contributors from around the world.

Chapters to date include those on such topics as: key TV/Film/New Media composer studies (John Williams, Randy Newman, Aaron Copland, Danny Elfman, Hitchcock & Hermann, Philip Glass, Murch and Burtt . . .); TV news music; TV musicals; MTV; Reality television; Talent shows; Advertising music; the click track; Early Film Sound; the Synthesizer; BBC Sound History; Voice; African-American Film Music; Sound Design; the Evolving Soundtrack; Videogame Music; The Histor…

Power Elites, Redux

I've not completely finished Peter Decherney's Hollywood and the Culture Elite (Columbia UP, 2005) yet, but I've been enjoying and admiring it enough to recommend it to those who are interested in a detailed social history of the movies or in a closer look at film's role in American Culture.

Hollywood and the Culture Elite studies key moments in the interwar years during which high culture institutions - universities, museums, and government arts funding bodies - pushed to consider Hollywood film as an art. Vachel Lindsay and Columbia University; Harry Alan Potamkin and Harvard; Barry and MoMA - each encapsulates a struggle over cultural prestige that also, in Decherney's argument, figured and reworked the aims of both studios' economic aims and Washington's aims of political legitimation. What I find perhaps most impressive is the book's exploration of broad-scale social relations - a three-way negotiation between the cultural elite, the power elite, an…

CFP: Screen Studies Conference 2007

Screen Studies Conference 2007
organised by Screen journal

University of Glasgow, Scotland
6 - 8 July 2007


The 17th international Screen Studies Conference will be programmed
by Screen editors Jackie Stacey and Sarah Street.

Please note that proposals may be on any topic in screen studies. The focus of the plenaries, however, and a key strand within the conference this year, will be

Queer Screens

This may be taken to include debates about queering film theory, about screening queerness, and the queerness of the screen. Proposals for this strand are welcome on contemporary and historical work, film, video and television, independent work and popular representations
and, in particular, work from non-western contexts.

Please send us your 200-word proposal to arrive no later than 31 January 2007. Joint submissions of up to four speakers forming a panel are also welcome. Proposals and enquiries should be sent to Caroline Beven by e-mail: Please mark sub…

CFP: Remakes


Call for Papers: Remakes

Given how various cinemas have become increasingly reliant on existing (and theoretically more surefire) properties, it seems timely to take remakes into deeper consideration. Remakes have risen in importance in a time when fewer original screenplays can command big budgets (if indeed we can even bandy about the concept of originality in the wake of postmodernity). But as the number of remakes has exploded, so have meditations on what this development can tell us about the current cultural climate. The editors of The Velvet Light Trap #61 thus seek contributions that nuance previous arguments about remakes. We are also interested in a multitude of aspects informing remakes and have defined the term broadly. Possible subjects include but are not limited to:

Self-reflexivity and intertextualityCross-cultural remakesModes of productions for remakesUpdates Remake cyclesRip-offsAdaptationsSequels a…

Bordwell blog

This might be the time to mention that David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson are now blogging at To my knowledge, it's the only example of senior scholars in the field blogging on film. Their maverick relation to the field - and the fact that Bordwell is now emiritus at Wisconsin - may have a lot to do with the particular inspiration for them to turn to the internet as a writing venue. Still, I hope to see more and more scholars out there find a role for less formal internet-based writing as a supplement to their formal, peer-reviewed scholarship.

What Film History Textbooks Can Do

Given my disastifactions with Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art that have particularly come to the fore teaching Intro this semester (more on that later), I should take the time to say I really, really like Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction, now in its second edition.

"An Introduction" might be a little misleading... the writing is hardly too jargony for beginning students, but they may find difficulty with the sheer scope and detail-laden nature of the tome. Also, the stylistic history does presume some familiarity with formal terms of film analysis. So I think it may be better pitched for intermediate or advanced students, those taking a Film History survey in a sequence, for instance.

But for those students - even for scholars participating in the field - Thompson and Bordwell's historical survey is incredibly useful. The book is almost an experiment, taking to heart longstanding calls not to write film history surveys according …

Baby and Bathwater of Documentary Criticism

Just in time for my spring course on Documentary Fiction, which sorely needed decent texts to use, comes a new volume from Minnesota Press, F Is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, Alexandra Juhasz and Jesse Lerner, eds. I'll review it more fully when I get a hold of a copy, but from the contents at least, it's a promising collection.

One bit caught my eye, though: the blurb proclaims that "Defining the borderline between fact and fiction, the contributors reveal what fake documentaries imply and usually make explicit: that many documentaries lie to tell the truth, and that the truth is relative." As a way to sell a book, I'm sure it distills and distorts the contents considerably, but it got me thinking nonetheless.

Now, fake and hybrid documentary studies seem to have gained a new vitality now, driven from twin directions of documentary critique of the real and the proliferation of reflexive and mock documentary production itself. But I do worry th…

CFP: Global art cinema

Here's an anthology grad-school colleagues of mine (including the coorganizer of my SCMS panel) are putting together. Looks like a great project.

CFP: Global art cinema: new theories and histories

We invite submissions for an edited collection on global art cinema. While ‘art cinema’ has been a canonical term in the history of postwar cinemas in Europe and beyond – often determining the distribution and reception of African, Asian and Latin American cinemas who might reject the label – theoretical engagement with the concept has lagged behind its global transformations. This collection aims to move on from foundational discussions of art cinema in terms of genre or authorship, and to re-assess the field in light of contemporary debates.

The editors are Rosalind Galt (University of Iowa) and Karl Schoonover (Michigan State University).

In revisiting the category of art cinema, this anthology seeks to explore the historical relationships among national cinemas. Since art cinema has alwa…

SCMS or bust

I was pleased to discover that the panel I'm co-organizing for SCMS was accepted. I'm really excited about it, and look forward to working with the others on the panel. The lineup will be:
European Cinema in Postwar America

Co-chairs : Karl Schoonover (Michigan State University) and Chris Cagle (Temple University)

Chris Cagle (Temple University), "The Mature Prestige Film in the Social Field: ON THE BEACH as Europeanized Hollywood"
Karl Schoonover (Michigan State University), "How Italian Neorealism Corrupted American Spectatorship"
Mark Betz (King's College/University of London), "BLOW-UP: The End"
James Tweedie (University of Washington), "Beach Blanket Belmondo: The New Wave on American Shores"

Respondent: Barbara Selznick (University of Arizona)
This will now give me an extra impetus to write that On the Beach paper sooner rather than later, which will take advantage of some of the research I did in LA recently.

I'm also looking for…

Mockumentary v. Pseudodocumentary

In the lede to his review of Killing of a President, Jonathan Rosenbaum weighs in on genre labels:
I dislike few buzzwords more than mockumentary, which even academics now use casually and uncritically. People often assume it's a neutral descriptive term, but unlike pseudodocumentary -- an honest and serviceable label -- mockumentary leads many to conclude that the documentary form that's being imitated is also being made fun of. Most of the works that get labeled mockumentaries are actually honoring the form, by using its techniques to make them seem more real.Rosenbaum's a tad dismissive ("buzzword"?), but having recently finished my paper on the 1960s pseudodocumentary, I more or les agree with his reading of mockumentary. As I argue in my essay, the mockumentary is less sending up documentary conventions (though it may do that secondarily) than using documentary style to play the joke straight. The humor in Spinal Tap, et. al. comes from the absurd behav…

Avant-Garde streamed

Paul at Self-Reliant Film draws my attention to UbuWeb. I'm sure many of you have already seen the site and watched its offerings, but if not, there's some great material there, from a Markopoulos film and Jack Smith's oeuvre, to the work of the Fluxus artists and Guy Debord.

Back from the Archives

It's been slow posting here... I was out in LA doing more archival research for the Project, and since my return have been catching up, attending to sundry details. I will say it was great to be back in the archives (USC, UCLA and Margaret Herrick special collections). There's something very humbling about coming face to face with the emprical. I don't mean that in any positivist sense of the empirical merely speaking for itself. Rather, one comes into these projects with a hypothesis about how things work, how industry decisions were made, or how extra-industrial decisions impacted filmmakers. Only - and I'm probably merely stating the obvious to those who've done historical or any detailed research - you almost never find the smoking gun that confirms your existing hypothesis. Indead, the truly interesting details tend to be tangents - in my case the advertising budgets and marketing strategy reports for the social problem - and at some point you a) alter your in…

Academic wiki-blogroll

Henry Farrell has spun off the Crooked Timber Academic Blogroll into a new wiki-driven blogroll called, sensibly enough, AcademicBlogs. Go take a look. I think it's a great venture that will begin to give a newer self-consciousness for what academic blogging can mean.

That said, I'm a little nonplussed at how film and media studies falls in the broad disciplinary categories. On one hand, you have "Culture, Theory and Literature," under Humanities. On the other, you have "Media and Communication" under Professional and Useful Arts. Yes, film and particularly media studies are not hallowed in their histories like History or Law. And, yes, each straddles humanities, arts/pre-professional training, and social science. Yet the logic that the blogroll uses to assign Category D to Media and Communication and, say, Chutry Experiment to Culture, Theory and Literature... well, I haven't figured out the logic. By all rights, there should be a Media and Film under …

Confessions of an Auteurist

Sorry for the tease post headline, but I couldn't resist. No I'm not becoming an out-and-out auteurist, but for the intro class I've been rereading (first time in years) Andrew Sarris's The American Cinema. Even if one doesn't ascribe to his grand methodological pronouncements (I don't), the books still is impressive with the subtlety of argument lurking beneath the polemicism. A lot of people either misrepresent Sarris or treat him as straw man. I can think of no worse way to spend an afternoon than to peruse Sarris for his almost castaway insights that are worthy of full-fledged scholarly inquiry....

on Dreyer: "The late Robert Warshow treated Carl Dreyer as a solitary artist and Leo McCarey as a social agent, but we know now that there were cultural influences in Denmark operating on Dreyer. Day of Wrath is superior by any standard to My Son John, but Dreyer is not that much freer an artist than McCarey. His chains are merely less visible from our vanta…

The History Problem

Lately, I've been reading James Morrison's Passport to Hollywood: Hollywood Films, European Directors (SUNY UP, 1998). Partly because I once had the pleasure of being on an SCMS panel with him and was impressed by his work (then on Orphans of the Storm) and partly because research paths have directed me back to the question of European talent working in Hollywood. Anyway, it's been a fun and thought-provoking read.

First off, let me say that this is not an historical account of one main question I'm interested in: to what extent "Europeanness" adheres to the emigre director/cinematographer/writer, etc. and to what it extent it's a production imperative caught up in the social field the film industry is caught in.

Rather, Morrison is interested in reading larger socio-cultural formations (high culture, the art film, modernism) in certain key films, which if not representative moments are at least moments pregnant with significance. Murnau's Sunrise, Reno…

CFP: Cosmopolitanism

Cosmopolitanism: Thinking Beyond the NationFebruary 1-4, 2007
Florida State University, Tallahassee, FloridaIn his introduction to Cosmopolitics, Pheng Cheah writes, "The main purpose is to explore the feasibility of cosmopolitanism as an alternative to nationalism." Indeed, ever since Kant, the concept of cosmopolitanism has been central to thinking about social relations, culture, and the problem of war outside of the relations of the nation-state. As the nation-state has organized the fields of literary and cinema studies as well as the broader field of culture, questioning such categorization is crucial, as it opens up new ways of thinking about literary and filmic production as part of a larger context of interaction. It can also account for novel ways of describing the field of contemporary knowledge and experience.The question of the nation seems particularly important now because of two main transformations on the world scene: (1) economic globalization, in which the…

CFP: Europe and Its Others conference

from the wires...

An International Interdisciplinary Conference

6-8 JULY 2007


‘Europe and its Others’ is an international conference in the area of literary, film and media studies, covering the main European languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish). It sets decipherers of Europe’s cultural traditions in interdisciplinary dialogue with historians, political scientists, social anthropologists, culture theorists, and international relationists. Through the mirroring representations of Europe’s cultural production, we aim to explore a nexus of particularly rich and complex self-and-other relationships: diverse in space, multiple in its scenes, actors, dimensions, and evolving in time. We wish to understand something about how the Other-encounters, perceptions and relationships of Europe function - …

Wittgenstein and Media Studies

Before I go too far down the slippery slope of snarkiness, with that last post, let me elevate the discourse a bit and say that one essay I've always found helpful in thinking through these issues is Maxime Chastaing's "Wittgenstein et le probleme de la connaissance d'autrui" - originally in Revue Philosophique de la France et de l'Etranger (1960), but translated in part and included in Bourdieu and Passeron's Craft of Sociology. Chastaing illustrates several of Wittgenstein's observations by demonstrating how certain philosophers' word games end up mistakenly positing a logical connection between unrelated phenomona. The Media and Culture journal is just an extreme instance of forcing two different concepts together because of the same word: jam as "preserves" and jam as "wedge into a tight space" or "gum up the works" have nothing in common other than the tendency of the English language, like French and many other…

From the Department of Self-Parody

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5 September 2006

M/C - Media and Culture
is calling for contributors to the 'jam' issue of

M/C Journal

Call for Papers: 'jam'
Edited by Lawrence English & Jo Tacchi

What is Jam? How can we understand this cultural and culinary condiment? How does it exist on its own right? Can it exist without attachment, without some form of boundary giving this amorphous blob some understood form and shape?

As a condiment, the notion of jam exists attached to a more solid form - wedged between two pieces of bread or contained within a jar. Its creation (via various processes and transformations from raw material into something consumable, even desirable), housing, marketing and consumption all shape our understanding of this widely used, yet somewhat 'formless' term. Is it through this series o…

Screening on 16mm

[Cross-posted at Dr. Mabuse's Kaleidoscope.]

The current Cinema Journal (45.3) has an interesting and valuable forum on the death of 16mm. The problem is a familiar one: DVD has allowed vastly improved availability of film texts, both for personal research and classroom screening, but it has also given departments and university administrations the excuse to curtail their screenings in 16mm. There are partly nostalgic reasons to bemoan 16mm's demise, but some better ones, too: 16mm remains the primary gauge for distribution of experimental work; it gives students more than approximation of the formal characteristics of the photographic image itself; and it sets the tone for a more theatrical filmwatching experience rather than the distractedness of the home video setting.

Currently, I'm in an in-between situation. Thanks to lab/screening fees, Temple does have (modest) money that I can use for 16mm rental, for which I'm thankful, though as a rule they tend to prefer inv…


Since I'm currently trying to finish a paper on 1960s pseudodocumentary, my research has led me to some of the current scholarship on mockumentary and other documentary/fiction hybrid forms. There's not a lot out there yet, though I imagine there will be more. Docufictions (Macfarland Publications, 2006) scores points by being the first volume, to my knowledge, to consider hybrid forms in a systematic way. Its essays are eclectic, ranging widely in methodology and rigor, but the volume probably succeeds on its terms: it establishes docu-fiction as an object of study worth consideration against the tendency of narrative and documentary scholars each to consider hybrid forms outside her/his purview; the hybrids have become too popular and widespread to treat them as mere exceptions. At the same time, the book has the historical scope to suggest that much nonfiction filmmaking of the past - including examples of the documentary canon - are productively understood in the context o…

Pedagogical Films

I have never relied much on pedagogical films, i.e. films which themselves lecture on film studies. However, designing my syllabus this time around, a colleague had reminded me of a Noel Burch film/TV series, Correction Please, which really is a wonderful explanation of the development of narrative storytelling in cinema. Unfortunately, the film has never had a video release and only a smattering of university archives, departments and libraries have a closely-held copy. So far, I've been unable to obtain a copy anywhere.

The larger question I have is: what other useful pedagogical films might I be missing. Burch may well be an unusual case, as theorist and filmmaker who also took on the mantle of popularizing an genre overlooked in the larger film culture.

For that matter, are there any useful multimedia educational materials worth using? For all of the supposed media savvy and literacy of pop culture scholars, there's some pretty dire stuff I've seen. Then again, things …

Search Engine Ideological Analysis

Can anyone tell me why a search for "John F. Kennedy" at the A&E website pulls up tons of Avengers videos?

On the Shoulders of Giants

In anticipation for a week of the grad seminar dealing with the transition to sound, I've been taking a closer look at Donald Crafton's The Talkies. Not to color what my students might take away from it, but I found it an impressive work of scholarship. I've used a number of the other volumes of the History of American Cinema series, most of all Tino Balio's Grand Design. (Thomas Schatz's Boom and Bust, oddly enough, wasn't as helpful for the dissertation as Balio's book.) But the narrow historical period and topic allow Crafton to organize the history around a more emphatic argument about sound historiography - that is to say, of the volumes in the series that I've read, The Talkies works the best as a stand-alone book.

His argument? Namely that a) there is a disparity between the popular understanding of the coming of sound and the historical scholarship on it; and b) that in correcting the popular understanding, film historians like Douglas Gomery ma…

Classical bias

I have my departmental webpage up and running. Included are syllabi for my courses, Introduction to Film and Video Analysis and the graduate Film History and Theory seminar. As you can see, there were a lot of changes I'd made to my initial draft for the intro class, largely to scale down the screening and lecture time to match the schedule here at Temple.

Chuck Tryon offers his thoughts on the Intro course. Like him, I find myself wondering if the emphasis on classical Hollywood is a good thing, and like him, I've decided to go ahead with it. There are simply too many useful concepts in film studies formulated in reference to Hollywood in its classical period for me not to gravitate toward examples like Stagecoach or Casablanca. This is particularly exacerbated by the need I feel to use articles and readings to supplement the Bordwell and Thompson text; the best of these readings tend to deal with a finite subset of films. I'm always looking for suggestions of new articles…

New Affiliation

There's a reason for the lack of posting here lately. I've moved from Boston to Philadelphia to come aboard Temple's Film and Media Arts department as a Lecturer in film history and theory. It's been an exciting and busy couple of weeks. So, expect more pedagogical musing in the weeks to come.

The Intro Syllabus

Thanks to those who have provided feedback and suggestions on the Intro textbook. I've decided to stick with Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art this time around. Yes, I will be teaching intro this Fall, details on that to come soon. For now, I thought I'd share a draft of my syllabus. After formulating it, I've come to reflect that a) it's remarkably similar in structure to most intro syllabi, yet b) the selection of films seems distinctive, if not from my own idiosyncratic ideas then from the institutional stamp of places I've been and scholars I've learned from. At least, it seems to strattle canon and anti-canonical approaches to pedagogy in an identifiable way.

I'd love to hear any reader and peer feedback, whether readings you've found useful, or film suggestions you might have. It's still not set in stone, so I'm open to ideas. Blogger doesn't allow for below-the-fold posts, so here it is in all its lengthy glory.