Showing posts from November, 2008

TCM cinephilia

Self-Styled Siren has a fun list of 10 Things she loves about old movies. She does not specifically mention this, but I wonder if her list could serve as the start of a list of tenets for TCM Cinephilia. Many of us know folks who watch TCM nonstop - and in the process may be amassing more raw film historical scope than your never-hard-working-enough film scholar. What's remarkable is that the network markets "old movies" (generally classical Hollywood films) to cinephiles who have criteria for appreciating cinema that's neither formalist nor popular. This cinephilia, like other cinephilia, latches onto the detail, but it's often detail that signals nostalgia for the aesthetics of a historical period. 
I both share and don't share TCM cinephilia. If my top films list did not tip my hand already, my cinephilia is one part 60s auteurism-art cinema cinephilia, one part academic-driven film selection. But if I could take Campaspe's exercise in the spirit it was…

1947 Films, by alphabet

In the comments, Thom asks for my A-Z choices among my 1947 viewing. I'd originally discounted the utility of choosing the "best" from a small pool of films (I've seen about 90 features so far) and in particularly for a year as aesthetically undistinguished as 1947. Like I've said before there are very few canonical films from the year. But a quick list of some highlights might be the best introduction to the year, especially those who have not been reading my film-by-film review. It's even reminded me I need to write up the films I'd seen already before starting the project. So, by alphabetic conceit, here are a sample of what I think are among the more interesting of the year's offerings (* denotes official DVD availability):

The Arnelo Affair
Carnegie Hall*
Daisy Kenyon*
The Egg and I*
The Farmer's Daughter
Good News*
The Hucksters
It Had to Be You
Johnny O'Clock
Kiss of Death*
The Late George Apley
Magic Town
Nightmare Alley*
Out of the Past*

Film Theory e-Books

Catherine at Film Studies for Free has a terrific round up of classical film theory first-generation history books available in free, online versions. The Paul Rotha is particularly exciting to me, since I don't have a print copy. It's in less graphic-friendly format, but I'd add Munsterberg's Photoplay study to the list.

Best Film List, by Alphabet

Thom at Film of the Year tagged me for the Alphabet Meme. I've posted a list at Dr. Mabuse's Kaleidoscope, in the comments to Dave's post, but will go ahead and list the films here.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.*

2. The letter "A" and the word "The" do not count as the beginning of a film's title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don't know of any films with those titles.

3. Thanks to some clarification by The Siren, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number's word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under "T."

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type "alphabet meme" into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you're selected, you have to then select 5…

Bond and Beyond

The recent James Bond blogathon made me think immediately of a book I return to frequently: Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott's Bond and Beyond. It's a study very much part of its 1980s intellectual moment, yet one, I think, that has aged very well.

A key work in British cultural studies, the book examines "the Bond phenomenon" across the novels and the films, up to the mid-1980s, both situating the texts ideologically and opening them up to their receptive contexts. Bennett and Woollacott's notion of reading formations is, perhaps, their most noted contribution to the field. In this instance, they examine two distinct reading formations, the first initial reception of the Bond novels in the British imperialist spy novel, the second the accommodation to spectacle and irony by force of the film adaptations.

Bond and Beyond makes some interventions in 70s film theory approaches (e.g. a critique of Mulvey), but one part that I think is particularly worth revisiting is…

Jack Armstrong

My 1947 viewing has focused on feature films, but of course shorts and serials were very much staples of film production and exhibition in the classical period. Jack Armstrong (Wallace Fox, Columbia) was typical of both B film production and the serial format. Adapted from a radio serial, it centered around the eponymous character, the "all-American boy" in collegiate dress...

Narratively, it synthesizes elements of the fantastic with a non-thriller crime format (much like the Big Town B films I've discussed here). In fact, I'm left wondering if more has been said about the B film narrative and its typical form: an identifiable villain disguised as ordinary, the externality of action, etc. Formally, the Jack Armstrong serials are the most rudimentary exemplars of classical style, with a heavy reliance on fixed setups and B roll. The moments of expressive analytical editing, such as in this closeup, are rare and therefore shocking when they do appear:

What's perhaps…

PCMS: Jonathan Auerbach on film noir

Jonathan Auerbach, University of Maryland, College Park
"The Un-Americaness of Film Noir"

Respondent: Michael Tratner, Bryn Mawr College

Temple University Main Campus
Anderson Hall 8th Floor (Women's Studies Lounge)
Tuesday, November 11 , 2008
5:00 PM

Jonathan Auerbach's book in progress Dark Borders offers a political reading of American film noir as a Cold War genre centrally concerned with redefining citizenship. It begins with questions of affect and aesthetics--the strange tone of disenfranchisement or non-belonging that haunts so many of these mid-century crime movies. Freud's notion of the unheimliche links the uncanny mood of these important films with fears that "Un-Americans" and un-American values might overtake or undermine the homeland. These anxieties surface during a series of wartime and post war emergency measures, beginning with the anti-sedition Smith Act (1940), the Mexican migrant worker Bracero Program (1942), the domestic internment of A…