Showing posts from November, 2009

TV and Vernacular Social Critique

I find the Sirkian system argument a productive one for thinking about films' relation to their social milieu. Even if one does not subscribe to a Category E reading, the versions of those readings suggest the complexity that interpretation can bring to the table.

But one critical tendency gives me pause: the narrowed ascription of what middle-class life means in postwar America. There is a particular critical readings (such as McNiven's argument about architecture in Ray and Sirk, or for that matter Fassbinder's reworking of All that Heaven Allows) that reads Douglas Sirk as a critical commentary on television in middle-class life.

Fine as it goes, only Sirk was not alone in critiquing television. It seems that the middle class – or certain fractions of it and the mainstream culture addressed to it – loved to see TV as a problem. This is true in a social problem film like Face in the Crowd, which centers thematically on the corrupting role of mass media on the public sphere…

Film Studies Journals

I am curious: is Framework dead? The website declares it a bi-annual publication, but the last issue is from Fall 08.
To be honest, I've had a hard time keeping up. Lately I've been wondering if I read enough journals (I suspect not) and if I might be missing a significant read (very likely). I keep up with Cinema Journal and Screen upon each issue's release and regularly check out Film History, Camera Obscura, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and Velvet Light Trap.
From there it gets spottier. The popular-academic crossover journals like Film Quarterly and Jump Cut I do not get to as much as I'd like. Some I consult to rejuvenate my perspective with neighboring disciplines: Flow, Journal of Television and New Media, or Journal of Visual Culture. Film and History, Film Criticism, Scope, Journal of Film and Video, and Journal of Popular Film and Television all seem to speak directly to my scholarly interests, yet I rarely find myself reading them, in part because som…

CFP: On Not Looking

Essays on Images and Viewers

Call for Papers

Submissions are invited for an edited book with the working title On Not Looking: Essays on Images and Viewers. Contemporary experience presents us with a contradiction: while we are at a historical moment when images have never been so readily available and circulated, we increasingly ”don’t look” at images. The collection of essays will explore the myriad ways that not looking at images — as opposed to not seeing — is manifest in our burgeoning image culture today.

Contributions are sought that address practices and representations of “not looking,” “turning away,” and other manifestations of physical and mental distraction from material images.

Our relationship to the glut of images that saturate the world is characterized by an ever-expanding contemporary form of iconoclasm. Again and again, while documentary images are touted as a reliable form of visible evidence, or as commensurate with the every day life they depict — du…

Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival

For those in the New York area, the Margaret Mead festival offers a terrific-looking lineup this year:

Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
November 12-15, 2009
Located at the American Museum of Natural History
Once again, the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival brings together a collection of gripping stories told from unique perspectives. For our 33rd edition, we continue to honor the legacy of famed anthropologist and American Museum of Natural History curator Margaret Mead, showing documentaries that increase our understanding of the complexity and diversity of the peoples and cultures that populate our planet. The Mead Festival has also expanded its horizons to reflect the ever-evolving art of storytelling. New technologies and greater access to all the longitudes and latitudes of our interconnected world have amplified the possibilities for film made in the documentary tradition.Steeped as we are in our daily lives, the Mead gives us a chance to step outside our own s…

Hollywood Plagiarism

I have been rewatching Humoresque for an essay I'm working on. I must have seen it the first time before I ever watched The City, because this time around I was completely caught off guard by the montage sequence a third the way through:

Not only does the film recycle documentary footage, seemingly at first as B roll, but the montage sequence maintains the original intellectual montage, only integrating John Garfield's character into the parade of anonymous social types of the "urban worker."

I have long held a suspicion of explanations of Hollywood's postwar documentary-infused style as being merely the holdover from wartime documentary/propoganda/newsreel practice. Yes, the war does have a catalyst effect on the public sphere aspirations of Hollywood, but those aspirations stretched wider than is often acknowledged. Grierson and Ivens wrote for American Cinematographer, and film critics judged Hollywood narrative against the seemingly new nonficiton language. The…

CFP: Blackwell Companion to Film Noir

Companion to Film Noir
edited by Andrew Spicer and Helen Hanson
Blackwell’s ‘Companions to Film Genre’ Series

As a disputed category, film noir has generated a lively interest and debate ever since the term was first used post-war France. The films that constitute the (contested) canon of film noir continue to be highly valued and enjoyed, and to produce a formidable body of commentary. Although American ‘Classic' noir (1940-59) continues to create intense interest, in the last fifteen years the understanding of film noi has widened to include neo-noir (American film noir produced after 1959), film noirs in other countries (in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australasia), and noir in other forms: comics and graphic novels, posters, radio, television and videogames, all of which now constitute what James Naremore in More than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts (1998/2008) identifies as a global and interrelated ‘noir mediascape’. Since its tentative beginnings in the late 1970s, critica…