Showing posts from November, 2006

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…