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Showing posts from 2012

CFP: Theorizing Character in Documentary (Visible Evidence XX)

I have decided to submit to Visible Evidence this year and am interested in proposing a panel. Let me know if you are interested.

Call for papers
Proposed panel for Visible Evidence XX (Stockholm, August 15-18, 2013)

Theorizing Character in Contemporary Nonfiction
To further one of the conference themes of “Affect, Agency, and Social Mobilization” I am proposing a panel theorizing “character” (as an idea, a narrational device, a conceptual category) in documentary film, with an emphasis on contemporary documentary. This may cover a number of areas: character driven documentary, "new documentary," reality TV, or any relevant strain in contemporary nonfiction. I've included the conference CFP below for guidance.

If interested, please contact me at ccagle AT temple DOT edu. The conference deadline is end of January, but I'd like to hear from anyone interested within the next month, by January 5, in order to gauge interest and to let everyone plan accordingly.

From the

Conference Calendar: 2013 edition

I thought I'd collect the current info I have on upcoming conferences. Please feel free to contact me with additions, and I'll update and repost as appropriate.

Closed calls:
MLA -  Boston, Jan 3-6, 2013
CAA - New York, Feb 13-16, 2013
Society for Cinema Studies - Chicago, Mar 6-10, 2013
ICA - London, June 17-21, 2013

Current calls:
Due Date: December 10, 2012 Society for Animation Studies - Los Angeles, June 23 - 27, 2013 [website | call] Due Date: December 10, 2012 Expanding Cinema: Spatial Dimensions of Film Exhibition, Aesthetics, and Theory -Yale University, New Haven February 15-16, 2013 [call] Due Date: December 17, 2012 BAFTSS Conference (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies) - University of Lincoln, England, April 19-21, 2013 [website] Due Date: January 1, 2013 Screenwriting Research Network International Conference - Madison, Wisconsin, August 20 – 22, 2013 [website] Due Date: January 10, 2013 Console-ing Passions - De Montfort University, Leicester, …

IDFA reflections

I'm not a veteran film festival goer, partly out of habit, mostly out of geography. But the opportunity arose for me to attend the IDFA documentary film festival in Amsterdam so I eagerly pounced on it. I didn't attend the whole stretch, and there were many films I didn't see, but here are some trends and motifs I noticed:

- Investigation: I had tweeted that investigation might be thought of as an ur-ideology of contemporary doc. That's a hypothesis that will need more exploration, but it was striking to me how many of the films I saw were about crime -  C.K., about a dutch embezzler, Smash and Grab, about the Pink Panther jewel thief ring - or generally took the form of an investigative structure - Men at Lunch or Seconds of Lead. Much like the chase was a winning formula for transitional narrative cinema, the investigation captures the epistemology of narrativized doc. In fact in Seconds of Lead, an Iranian documentary reflecting on the revolution, the process of tra…

CFP: Visible Evidence XX

Visible Evidence XX 
Stockholm, Sweden
August 15-18, 2013

Call for proposals

In 1990, a group of American scholars were provoked by the marginalization of documentary in the scholarly field of film studies. Their initiative for an international conference series resulted in Visible Evidence, first organized in 1993 by Jane Gaines at Duke University. In concert with this initiative appeared a number of influential books, such as Representing Reality (Bill Nichols, 1991), Blurred Boundaries (Bill Nichols, 1994), Theorizing Documentary (Michael Renov, ed., 1993), and Claiming the Real: The Griersonian Documentary and its Legitimations (Brian Winston, 1995). Ever since, these volumes have been followed by related and complementary work in the growing academic field of documentary studies.

The annual event of Visible Evidence has infused and keeps on inspiring the cross-disciplinary research on documentary film and media. The conferences have also encouraged and provided an important dialog…

CFP: Film Criticism in the Digital Age

CALL FOR PAPERS
"Film Criticism in the Digital Age: Media, Purposes and the Status of the Critic”

Editors: Mattias Frey and Cecilia Sayad

The aims and status of arts and culture criticism, in general, and film criticism, in particular, are currently up for revision and under attack, according to a whole host of indicators. Numerous articles and academic monographs bemoan the crisis of criticism or mourn the death of the critic. Regular symposia and conferences dwell on the many, sometimes prominent film journalists made redundant at newspapers, magazines and other ‘old media’ in past years; Sean P. Means lists fifty-five American movie critics who lost their jobs between 2006 and 2009. It is clear that the reasons for the current situation include the worldwide recession, the recent drop in print advertising revenues and, more fundamentally, the declining circulations attributable to reluctant consumers of print media. These developments have brought forth ontological—if not exi…

Bourdieu and Film/Media Conference

It's been a couple of days since the New Uses of Bourdieu in Film and Media Studies conference, but I'm finally catching up from travel to write up my impressions and summary. Having taken to Bourdieu's scholarship during my graduate school years and having immersed myself in his work, I was excited to see a conference devoted to his thought, and I commend the organizers in pulling together a valuable and well-run event. It was a pleasure to hear both theoretical reflections on Bourdieu's concepts (habitus, field, capital) and applications to areas I had not considered before.

That said, the more I think about it, I do think there are a couple of areas where the conference did not go as far as I would like. For an event framed as an intervention into two disciplines, there seemed to be relatively reflection on the state of the disciplines. I know that speaks as much to my sensibility as anything, but as I saw more papers I noticed that few were humanities-oriented film…

Bourdieu conference/IDFA

I will be traveling this week, first to Newcastle University for their conference on New Uses of Bourdieu in Film and Media Studies. I'm excited for the conference, since Bourdieu's been central to my methodological thinking since graduate school. A full program is available at the conference website.

Afterward, I'll be attending the IDFA/ International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. I do believe that In Media Res will be hosting an IDFA-themed week on documentary, so keep an eye out for that.

I will try to post dispatches and summaries from each.

Documentary and Canonicity

If I can navel-gaze about my article for a minute, it occurs to me that I rely far more on a canon in my research on documentary than my research on classical Hollywood. By this I mean not only the films I selected (Helvetica might not be part of the canon but most of my other titles are in some way or another) but also the finite body of scholarship I draw on.

On one hand, I think documentary studies can do more to look beyond the canon. My own research fails to do so partly out of my limitations in time and imagination. Other scholars out there are doing a much better job of thinking outside the canon, though as I've suggested in my essay they often do so by privileging rule-breaking documentaries over ones which might be considered ordinary.

On the other hand, documentary as a field is a self-conscious tradition, so acknowledging the closed circuit of aesthetic reference and influence makes a certain sense. And many documentaries, mainstream and community-oriented alike, do not…

New article on contemporary documentary

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I have an article in the newest Cinema Journal issue (Fall 2012). Titled "Postclassical Nonfiction: Narration in the Contemporary Documentary," the essay uses three documentaries, Hoop Dreams, Daughter from Danang, and Helvetica as examples of a postclassical style of documentary making that lies in between traditional docs and newer postmodern, post-Griersonian examples.

One thing that unfortunately got left out in the editing and review process was the inclusion of my acknowledgments: I really appreciate the comments and feedback from Bob Rehak, Roderick Coover, and the anonymous reviewers at Cinema Journal.

Also thanks to my classes, undergraduate and graduate, for being an audience as I tested out my ideas. I normally avoid 1st person in my writing but here decided as an experiment to start with the anecdotal. For me, the theoretical problems of documentary are connected to the pedagogical ones.

Helvetica (Gary Hustwit, 2007)

CFP: postwar American films in Europe conference

Call for Papers

International Conference -
The return of American films to Europe: economics, politics, aesthetics
Film History and Aesthetics Section, University of Lausanne
and Department of Film Studies, University of Haute Bretagne/Rennes 2

During WWII, the free circulation of films - commercial and cultural - from one continent to another and from one country to another was interrupted, as we know, in most nations. The phenomenon had already occurred during the First World War with profound implications for the places that the various national film industries occupied thereafter.

In 1945, the national cinemas of Europe are all on the threshold of major changes, although the situation varies from country to country. Thus it is necessary to distinguish between those who were defeated and occupied by Germany (Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, France, etc.), those who were Germany’s allies (Italy, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Slovakia, Bulgaria), t…

CFP: 2013 Screen conference

CALL FOR PAPERS

Screen Studies Conference
28-30 June 2013
University of Glasgow

Plenary theme: "Cosmopolitan Screens"

The 23rd International Screen Studies Conference, organised by the journal Screen, will be programmed by Screen editors Tim Bergfelder, Dimitris Eleftheriotis, Alastair Phillips and Jackie Stacey.

Debates about the national, the transnational, the global and the multi-cultural have permeated screen studies for decades. The main theme of this year's Screen conference will consider how such debates might be reframed through a serious engagement with theories of cosmopolitanism. How might discussions about cosmopolitanism, currently animating subjects across the humanities and social sciences, speak to scholarship in film and television studies and vice versa?

Literally suggesting a combination of worldliness (cosmos) and place (city, city-state, citizenship - polis), the concept of cosmopolitanism has inspired new political visions post 9/11 and its afterm…

CFP: Media Cultures of the Early Cold War Era

Personally, I wish they'd give a little more heads up for these calls. Two months in the middle of the semester is not enough time to pull an article together!

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Velvet Light Trap 
Issue #73: Media Cultures of the Early Cold War Era

Few historical periods are as rich for film and media history as the post-war/early Cold War era, which witnessed such epochal shifts as the domestic decline and international expansion of Hollywood, the global rise of art cinema, the diffusion of television, and the emergence of academic film study. Though these events are well-known and well-documented, recent scholarship has urged us to see them in the context of transnational cultural exchanges. Vanessa Schwartz has noted that "although we often speak of ‘global media’ culture we do not have a sufficiently textured sense of how it came to be,” and her It’s So French! shows "just how contingent the story of global media is when approached as a historical problem.” Recent an…

Readers, Ideal and Otherwise

Girish Shambu and Jonathan Rosenbaum each have thoughtful reflections on Room 237, a documentary that reflexively examines film criticism by following five social actors with amateur interpretations on Kubrick's The Shining. I've not yet seen the film, but for now would like to toss out a couple of thoughts, more reactions to their claims (which I'm pretty much sympathetic to) than reactions to a film I've not seen.

First, it sounds like their critique of the film latches on to tricky problems of documentary ethics. Room 237's director could have intervened in the "outré, freakish or crackpot" discourse of the social actors, either through over narration or through countervailing testimony/expertise. And maybe they should have. However, documentarians seem increasingly keen to avoid this kind of intervention on ethical grounds: to give one example, Resurrect Dead's Jon Foy has been quite explicit in this goal. Perhaps Room 237 is showing the limits of…

CFP: Revisiting Star Studies

Call for Papers

Revisiting Star Studies conference 

12th-14th June 2012
The Research Centre in Film & Digital Media
Newcastle University, UK

Keynote speakers: Dr Stephanie Dennison (University of Leeds), Dr Neepa Majumdar (University of Pittsburgh), Prof Yingjin Zhang (University of California-San Diego). Dr Martin Shingler (University of Sunderland), co-editor of the recently-launched BFI Film Stars series, will also host a panel on this new project.

Since its inception in the pioneering works of Edgar Morin (Les Stars, 1957) and Richard Dyer (Stars, 1979), studies of film stardom have been strongly associated with Hollywood structures. There have also been numerous valuable contributions to our understanding of stardom in different national cinemas, including recent work by colleagues here at Newcastle. However in all these efforts to explore stardom in a national context, not only does Hollywood often remain the ultimate ref…

More on Film Studies Blogging

Chuck Tryon follows up with his own thoughts on the decline of film studies blogging. I suspect he's right to chalk a lot of it up to the novelty factor (or lack thereof). I'm less convinced about its correspondence to the movies themselves. For starters, I don't see a corresponding decline in cinephile blogging. And to the extent that "death of cinema" arguments hold true (and maybe they don't) I can't see any substantial historical shift between five years ago and today.

Cinetrix rounds up Chuck's and my posts in a response that culls them together in a series of "canards" about the death of film, film critics, etc. I'm not entirely sure what in my post put forth a canard, but maybe I should clarify what I mean. First, I make no claim about the state of film studies (which I don't think is in decline) or the state of cinema (complicated issue: experiencing certain types of decline but mostly still alive and well as a medium).

Second…

Archival Film Periodicals Online

Not to be encroaching on Film Studies for Free's territory, but I just discovered that old issues of certain Hollywood trade publications are available at The Internet Archive. The discovery made me wonder what other primary sources I might be overlooking. Essentially there seem to be two major free archives of materials: the Media History Digital Library and what seems to be mirrored copies at the Internet Archive.

Media History Digital Library
The Media History Digital Library is a non-profit looking for support for their scanning efforts - a worthy cause in my book! Their website has good search and browsing tools, so I won't link to individual journal or volume pages.

Extensive Runs
Business Screen (1938-1973)
The Film Daily (1918-1936)
International Photographer (1929-1941)
Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (1930-1949)
Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (1950-1954)
The Educational Screen (1922-1962)
Motion Picture [Maga…

CFP: Film Criticism in the Digital Age

CALL FOR PAPERS (Edited Anthology)
Film Criticism in the Digital Age: Media, Purposes and the Status of the Critic

Editors: Mattias Frey and Cecilia Sayad

The aims and status of arts and culture criticism, in general, and film criticism, in particular, are currently up for revision and under attack, according to a whole host of indicators. Numerous articles and academic monographs bemoan the crisis of criticism or mourn the death of the critic. Regular symposia and conferences dwell on the many, sometimes prominent film journalists made redundant at newspapers, magazines and other ‘old media’ in past years; Sean P. Means lists fifty-five American movie critics who lost their jobs between 2006 and 2009. It is clear that the reasons for the current situation include the worldwide recession, the recent drop in print advertising revenues and, more fundamentally, the declining circulations attributable to reluctant consumers of print media. These developments have brought forth ontological—…

Blogging is dead (Long live blogging)

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I have an essay in the newish volume 2 of Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction. I'd like to thank Scott Balcerzak and Jason Sperb for including me in their project, for their work in putting the volume together, and for their vision in bringing together film studies and film criticism at a moment in which the internet is changing the relationship between the two.

My essay, “Academic Blogging and Disciplinary Practice: Implications for Film and Media Studies,” puts forth my best articulation for why I blog and why I think more scholars should blog, too. I based my polemic in large part on what academic blogging has achieved in other disciplines, and I foresaw that film studies could adopt many of those practices. However, I have to admit that the essay now reads like a swan song for a dying practice. Academic blogging in film studies is not dead, mind you, especially since there are still some terrific active blogs from film and media scholars, but qualitatively and quanti…

Category D now on Twitter

I have decided to open a categoryD account on Twitter. I'll still keep the same focus as this blog, but with more of an emphasis on quick observations, comments on recent scholarship in the field, and news items. Actually, I'm not a heavy Twitter user before now, so I'll be figuring out the medium as I go along.

CFP: Media in Transition 8

MIT Comparative Media Studies and MIT Communications Forum present

Media in Transition 8:
Public Media, Private Media

Conference dates: May 3-5 (Fri.-Sun.), 2013
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

CALL FOR PAPERS
Submissions accepted on a rolling basis until Friday, March 1, 2013 (evaluations begin in November). 

The distinction between public and private – where the line is drawn and how it is sometimes inverted, the ways that it is embraced or contested – says much about a culture. Media have been used to enable, define and police the shifting line between the two, so it is not surprising that the history of media change to some extent maps the history of these domains. Media in Transition 8 takes up the question of the shifting nature of the public and private at a moment of unparalleled connectivity, enabling new notions of the socially mediated public and unequalled levels of data extraction thanks to the quiet demands of our Kindles, iPhones, television…

Non-Anglophone scholarship

Michael Newman has written a terrific reflection on intermediality and transmediality and what they say about competing (parallel?) traditions of media studies. But just as interesting are his opening reflections:
[I]n film and television studies, the world of the American academic includes few scholars outside of North America and the UK. We read or at least know about all kinds of Continental theory (claim your ignorance of Gramsci, Habermas, or Foucault at your own risk) but are unlikely to know who’s who among contemporary Italian, German, or French media scholars, never mind those in Asia or Latin America. (There are some exceptions – some Danish and Dutch scholars in film, television, and video game studies come to mind.)  What if there are important ideas out there that we’re missing? It's something I've thought about and frankly always feel guilty about. I guess I'd like to think of strategies, individual or collective, to help get around this barrier.  I know for…

Sentimental Drama

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The Unfinished Dance (MGM, 1947)
Just a note that I have a new article out in Quarterly Review of Film and Video (29.5 | online) titled, "The Sentimental Drama: Nostalgia, Historical Trauma, and Spectatorship in 1940s Hollywood." It's the first published essay to have emerged specifically from my 1947 viewing. The journal does not provide abstracts, so here is one:
Examining the 1940s dramas often overlooked by film canons, this essay traces their nostalgic invocation of America's turn-of-the-century and their deflection away from the historical trauma of World War II. Just as these film's melodramatic narratives focused on childhood and coming-of-age, their visuals placed the viewer in the vicarious position of historical maturation, as well. Many thanks to Bob Rehak for comments on an earlier draft.

The Film Theory Syllabus

To be a little more reflective about my own disciplinary practice, one thing that resonated with Kieran Healy's post is his reckoning with the fact that the field of theory and its place within the larger discipline has changed: "I could have pretended that it is still 1978, or squeezed in ten pages of everything that calls itself 'theory,' or just assigned only the good stuff from the past decade. Instead, I have kept it awkward." This is precisely the dilemma I've had teaching my graduate film theory class. I was trained basically on a triumvirate of 70s film theory, cultural studies, and Frankfurt school, with important strains of classical film theory, poststructuralist literary and cultural theory, etc. I still think these are important ideas to think through and teach, both on their own merits and also because they still unselfconsciously inform contemporary scholarship.

And yet contemporary film studies is not the world of 1970s film theory, and intell…

Theory as Subfield

Some interesting thoughts from Kieran Healy and Fabio Rojas on the fate of theory in sociology and the social sciences. From Healy:
Social theory within sociology is in a strange position. The nickel version is: there are no longer any theorists in sociology. There are theories (or things people call theories); there are theory courses and there are people who teach theory; there are theory articles and theory journals; inside papers there are mandatory theory sections; inside the American Sociological Association there is a Theory Section, too; there are career returns to being thought of as a clever sort of person who can do good theory; you cannot get published in a top-flight journal without convincing the reviewers that you have made a theoretical contribution; and there are people who were once hired as theorists and still think of themselves as such. In some related fields on the humanities side there is also capital-`t’ Theory, with its own practitioners. But since the late 19…

Film Studies and Film Criticism

I have been thinking, from various angles, about the calls for academic film studies to be in much closer dialogue with film criticism and film culture. I'm sure I'll have more to say as I think through this issue, but for now it's occurred to me that there's an academic discipline with precisely this intimate connection between scholarship, non-academic criticism, and art: art history. I think it's both an aspirational and cautionary example.

In Defense of Abstracting the Work/Text

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This book sounds interesting and timely, but it was this excerpt that got me thinking about a larger methodological issue:
I think the new thing criticism ought to learn to do now is to grapple with the total aesthetic environment that has taken hold of ordinary life in our times, which criticism has not done all that well with—has, really, often been blind and deaf to—so far. From waking, when you put on one song then another to start the day in the right mood—while also listening to NPR (which is interviewing some writer or documentary filmmaker) and idly looking at the television or online weather—you can be environed by representations until you lie down again to sleep. Along the way you’ll take in several fictions: Law and Order at the gym, a romantic comedy on DVD in the evening, and pages of Proust before bed. It’s a matter for interpretation whether the “real” things you see (the news, reality television) also present themselves as fictions or art.   Criticism still deals prima…

CFP: Global Queer Cinema

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Global Queer Cinema is a collaborative research project engaged in investigating queer film cultures from a global perspective and analysing world cinema from a queer point of view. In addition to scholarly inquiry into the spaces and forms of queer world cinema, its activities include programming innovative queer cinema, holding workshops, and bringing scholars together with film festival programmers, filmmakers and activists from around the world for public discussions of queer visual culture. The project is led by Rosalind Galt (University of Sussex) and Karl Schoonover (University of Warwick) and it is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Network Grant. We are partnered with the British Film Institute and CineCity – the Brighton Film Festival.

The GQC website focuses on new writing on global forms of queer cinema and will form an open access archive for project-generated material, and for queer film and moving image studies resources. W…

Film canons

Recently Girish posted his concerns that film studies as a discipline resists explicit discussions of the film canon.
Now, no one would deny that implicit — or de facto — canons exist in film studies. Despite the great move in postmodern thinking that flattened all cultural objects to the same level, the reality is that certain films find greater favor than others for the purposes of teaching or scholarship. Why then doesn’t the discipline call attention to this fact by making it public and explicit — in a gesture of institutional self-examination — by means of a poll? Is it because of an underlying (and embarrassing) suspicion that the idea of a canon is too often associated with aesthetic preferences?
....
I think there are two key reasons for film studies to get actively involved in the canon formation effort. First, it would initiate public conversation by bringing two film cultures — journalistic and academic — into dialogue, conflict and exchange. Second, in today’s Internet and s…

Yale Conference, European Film 1929-30

All are invited to a film conference at Yale - Please circulate widely.

After the Crash: European Film ca. 1929-1930
September 14-15, 2012

Yale University
Auditorium, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven, CT

All featured films screened on restored or archival 35mm prints (unless noted) with English subtitles.

In the history of Europe, 1930 was particularly marked by the impact of the Depression in the aftermath of the American stock market crash of 1929. This impact could be seen, for example, when Miguel Primo de Rivera, prime minister of Spain and head of a military dictatorship, was obliged to resign due to a financial crisis and by 1931 the king was forced to flee as republican and socialist parties won a big majority in local elections. In 1930 Germany also saw increased polarization in its political world as the communists, socialists and Nazis emerged as rivals in a struggle for power that culminated in the Nazi take-over of 1933. The Soviet Union, which was less…

CFP: Magic of Special Effects

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André Gaudreault (GRAFICS - Université de Montréal)
Martin Lefebvre (Concordia University)
Viva Paci (Université du Québec à Montréal)

wish to invite you to participate to the conference The Magic of Special Effects. Cinema-Technology-Reception, to be held (next year) on November 5-10, 2013 at the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal. The conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cinémathèque’s foundation.


The call for papers is included in the image above. Submit your proposal before October 1, 2012 at the following address: colloque-cinema-conference-AT-histart.umontreal.ca

CFP: Bourdieu and Film/Media Studies

New Uses of Bourdieu in Film & Media Studies 
Call for Papers

A one day conference will be held on Friday 16th November in collaboration between Newcastle University's Research Centre in Film & Digital Media and the University of Sunderland's Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, with keynote speaker Professor Bridget Fowler of the University of Glasgow.

 Despite the profound influence of Pierre Bourdieu's work in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies, it has been less extensively employed in research in the fields of film and media. Certainly for film, this is partially explained by a lack of direct comment by Bourdieu on the subject (the short essay "Culture is in danger" (2000) represents the most striking exception in this regard). Although Bourdieu has written more extensively on media, this has certainly not produced what one might call a Bourdieu school of media studies. The aim of the conference, therefo…

CFP: Velvet Light Trap on Nontheatrical Media

Call For Papers  The Velvet Light Trap 
Issue #72

Useful Media: Industrial, Educational, Institutional 
Submission deadline: September 15, 2012

As breakthroughs in digital technologies compel scholars to address media consumption outside the traditional contexts of the theater and the home, media historians remind us that audio/visual materials have always proliferated in other places: city halls, churches, courtrooms, classrooms, hospitals, union halls, corporate offices, factories, and laboratories. Within such alternative venues, media function as tools of education, justice, agitation, advocacy, professionalization, strategy, training, and proselytizing. These frequently overlooked uses of media, beyond art and entertainment, remind us that the patterns of production, distribution, and consumption commonly invoked by terms like “the movies” or “television” represent only certain configurations within the broader field of media practice.

 Recent developments in the accessibility of…

My Brother Talks to Horses

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I have an essay forthcoming for publication on the sentimental melodrama, drawing extensively on my 1947 viewing and arguing that a cycle of films was marked by nostalgia for the turn-of-the 20th-century and by coming-of-age narratives that figured childhood loss as a kind of historical trauma. As the essay was written some time ago, I am gratified to see my thesis further supported by examples I've seen since. My Brother Talks to Horses (MGM Fred Zinnemann) typifies much of what this cycle does.

The boy Lewie (MGM child star Butch Jenkins) has a special rapport with animals and is able to talk to horses.

His brother John (Peter Lawford) is a dreamer who pins his hopes on the unproven medium of radio.


John takes Lewie to the horse races. The plot develops as Lewis develops a bond with the race horses. As with other films in the cycle, the injury of an animal becomes a key event, one that has to be witnessed obliquely. We witness the witnessing but do not witness.


In the proc…

Key Witness

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I have been making good progress on the A pictures from the major 8 studios in 1947, but need to track down and watch more of the B pictures. (These tend not to be the titles with an official studio home-video release.) I am now especially eager to see more of Columbia's titles, if only to see how representative Key Witness (D. Ross Lederman) is.

To begin with, the film exhibits characteristics of a certain B-noir ideal type. There's a good amount of historical scholarship, revisionist and otherwise, which has called into question or at least bracketed the idee fixe of noir, and my viewing of 1947 has revealed that noir tendencies cut far and wide but that relatively few of the "noir" films live up to the canonical take. However, this one does, if less for a hard-boiled/femme fatale narrative - I like to think of a Cornell Woolrich-like strand that influences many of the B noirs. And here a similar dark vision pervades, as does both a theme that combines class criti…