Sunday, September 30, 2012

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 [Magazine] (1914-1941)
Moving Picture World (1907-1919)
Photoplay (1914-1940)
Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting, Television (1942-1957)
Radio Broadcast (1922-1930)

Select Holdings
American Cinematographer (1924-1931)
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: The Motion Picture in Its Economic and Social Aspects (1926)
Broadway Brevities (1921-1922)
Cap’n Joey’s Jazza-Ka-Jazza (1922)
Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang (1920-1922)
The Cinema News and Property Gazette (1912-1946)
Cinéa (1921-1923)
Cinema (Hollywood) (1947)
Cinema (Rome) (1939-1940)
Cine-Journal (1908-1912)
Cine-Mundial (1920)
Descriptive Catalogue of Pathescope De Luxe Special Features (undated)
Dramatic Mirror (1922)
Education by Visualization (1919)
Edison Phonograph Monthly (1922)
Educational Film Magazine (1920-1922)
Exhibitors Herald (1923-1924)
Exhibitors’ Times (1913)
Exhibitors Trade Review (1921-1922)
Experimental Cinema (1930-1934)
Filmplay (1922)
The Film Daily Presents the Product Guide and Director’s Annual (1937)
The Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures (1923-1963)
Film Fun (1922)
Film Players Herald and Movie Pictorial (1916)
Film Spectator (1928)
Film Truth (1920)
Gloom Book (1922)
Harrison’s Reports (1948)
Hollywood Reporter (1933-1934)
Hollywood Reporter Production Encyclopedia (1948-1952)
Home Movies and Home Talkies (1932-1934)
Hot Dog: Regular Fellows Monthly (1921-1922)
International Motion Picture Almanac (1938)
Jack Dinsmore’s Joy Book (1922)
Jim Jam Jems (1922)
Kinematograph Year Book (1931-1954)
La Cinématographie Française (1937)
The Motion Picture Almanac (1929)
Motion Picture Classic (1920-1926)
Motion Picture Daily (1931-1934)
Motion Picture News (1928-1930)
Motion Picture News Blue Book (1930)
Motion Picture News Booking Guide (1929)
Motion Picture Story Magazine (1911-1914)
Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual (1916-1921)
Motography (1911-1918)
Movie Makers (1929)
Movie Pictorial (1914-1915)
Movie Weekly (1922)
Moving Picture Weekly (1916-1918)
National Board of Review Magazine (1926-1928)
New York Clipper (1916-1920)
New Zealand Theatre and Motion Picture (1922)
The Nickelodeon (1909-1911)
Non-Theatrical Catalogs (1918-1956)
The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal (1904-1905) Pantomime (1921-1922)
Personal Movies (1933)
The Photodramatist (1922)
The Photoplayers Weekly (1914-1915)
The Photo-Play Review (1915)
Picture-Play Magazine (1922-1933)
Picture Stories Magazine (1913-1915)
Pictures and the Picturegoer (1915-1925)
The Radio Annual (1938-1948)
The Radio Annual and Television Year Book (1950-1964)
Screenland (1921-1923)
See and Hear: The Journal on Audio-Visual Learning (1945-1953)
Silverscreen (1922)
The Tatler (1919-1922)
Television Programming Catalogues (1957)
Universal Weekly (1923-1926)
Variety Radio Directory (1937-1941)
Weekly Kinema Guide: London Suburban Reviews and Programmes (1930)
Who’s Who on the Screen (1920)
The World Film Encyclopedia (1933)

The Internet Archive (
As a way of browsing holdings, I consulted UPenn Library's handy list of online books and serials (a terrific resource for vintage periodicals across the disciplines). 

American Cinematographer: 19241926, and 1931.
Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers at : v. 14-53, 55, 56, 59 (1930-1949+) [Links to volumes]
Film Daily: v. 5-62, 66, 68,  (1918-1934, missing v. 17, 18) [links to volumes]
Film Daily Yearbook: 1922-231927193719451963
International Motion Picture Almanac: 19291937-38
International Photographer: v. 1-15 (1929-1941) [links to volumes]
Motion Picture Classic: v. 9-11 (1920)
Motion Picture News Blue Book 19291930
Motion Picture Production Encyclopedia: 19481952
Movie Makers: v. 4 (1929)
Moving Picture World: v. 11-32, 35, 38 (1912-1918, missing v. 13, 14, 26) [links to volumes]

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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—if not existential—questions about the purpose and worth of criticism in the age of WordPress blogospheres and a perceived democratization of criticism. 

This edited anthology seeks to understand the current state of film criticism and how it has developed. It aims to examine the challenges that the Internet offers to the evaluation, promotion, and explanation of artistic works as well as digital technology’s impact on traditional concerns about the disposability or permanence of cultural criticism. The collection will furthermore contain a historical dimension that investigate how the status of the critic has changed in the last fifty years and to what extent critics can still intervene into current popular discourse about arts and culture.

The editors invite essays that expand, recast, and critically engage with some of these discussions. Topics may include (but are not limited to):
 --case studies which deliberate on the permanence or disposability of criticism in the digital age 
--historical case studies on certain critics, critical schools, publications or other developments that preview or help us understand the current developments in film criticism 
--case studies of non-Anglophone critics, critical schools, newspapers, magazines or other developments
 --case studies which account for the persistent gendered and/or class-based economies that inflect contemporary film criticism
 --comparative case studies with other media (theatre, visual art, music, or literature) or studies of critics who have appraised film through the lenses or in parallel to other media
 --case studies which acknowledge the various forms by which film criticism has been transmitted (print, radio, television, online)
 --comparative case studies that show how the status of the critic has—or has not—changed with the advent of digital technologies

Although the editors welcome broader theoretical treatments of these issues, they especially encourage well-researched chapters that explore what is at stake in film criticism’s digital age via in-depth case studies. Please send a short abstract (250-400 words) with a brief author biography to Dr. Mattias Frey ( and Dr. Cecilia Sayad ( by 1 December 2012. The editors are currently in contact with university and other major presses for this anthology, and contributors are expected to submit the completed essays by 1 September 2013.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blogging is dead (Long live blogging)

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 quantitatively there seems to be less energy and dialogue than even before. My own blog output has certainly decreased, too.

But if my utopian vision for academic blogging has been tempered, I'm not sure the entire project is lost. Networked communication will mean that academic conversations will occur increasingly outside of institutional and geographic constraints. Twitter is part of that, though it's better for some types of academic practice than others. It may be that in the future another, even easier, self-publishing format (audiovisual and/or text-based) takes the place of the weblog. Or - who knows? - the blog format may get a second wind in academic film studies.

Friday, September 21, 2012

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.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

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.

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, televisions and computers. While this forces us to think in new ways about these long established categories, in fact the underlying concerns are rooted in deep historical practice. MiT8 considers the ways in which specific media challenge or reinforce certain notions of the public or the private and especially the ways in which specific “texts” dramatize or imagine the public, the private and the boundary between them. It takes as its foci three broad domains: personal identity, the civic (the public sphere) and intellectual property.

 Reality television and confessional journalism have done much to invert the relations between private and public. But the borders have long been malleable. Historically, we know that camera-armed Kodakers and telephone party lines threatened the status quo of the private; that the media were complicit in keeping from the public FDR’s disability and the foibles of the ruling elite; and that paparazzi and celebrities are strategically intertwined in the game of publicity. How have the various media played these roles (and represented them), and how is the issue changing at a moment when most of our mediated transactions leave data traces that not only redefine the borders of the private, but that serve as commodities in their own right?

The public, too, is a contested space. Edmund Burke’s late 18th century invocation of the fourth estate linked information flow and political order, anticipating aspects of Habermas’s public sphere. From this perspective, trends such as a siege on public service broadcasting, a press in decline, and media fragmentation on the rise, all ring alarm bells. Yet WikiLeaks and innovative civic uses of media suggest a sharp countertrend. What are the fault lines in this struggle? How have they been represented in media texts, enacted through participants and given form in media policy? And what are we to make of the fate of a public culture in a world whose media representations are increasingly on-demand, personalized and algorithmically-designed to please? 

Finally, MiT8 is also concerned with the private-public rift that appears most frequently in struggles over intellectual property (IP). Ever-longer terms of IP protection combined with a shift from media artifacts (like paper books) to services (like e-journals) threaten long-standing practices such as book lending (libraries) and raise thorny questions about cultural access. Social media sites, powered by users, often remain the private property of corporations, akin to the public square’s replacement by the mall, and once-public media texts, like certain photographic and film collections, have been re-privatized by an array of institutions. These undulations in the private and public have implications for our texts (remix culture), our access to them, and our activities as audiences; but they also have a rich history of contestation, evidenced in the copybook and scrapbook, compilation film, popular song and the open source and creative commons movement.

 MiT8 encourages a broad approach to these issues, with specific attention to textual practice, users, policy and cultural implications. As usual, we encourage work from across media forms and across historical periods and cultural regions.

Full call for papers and submission instructions available at the MIT8 website.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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 instance that SCMS has sought to address this very issue with more international conferences (on hold now?), but there are some real difficulties here, namely that the US and Canadian academic calendars don't synch up with anyone else's. Moreover, SCMS is a professional convention superimposed upon an academic conference, and there is a little mismatch of cultures.

In Europe, the European Network of Cinema and Media Scholars is one useful starting point, given that they run a journal and an annual Anglophone conference that draws in scholars from across the continent and the UK. I know some who have attended but I never have.

For myself, I would probably do well to do a number of things: watch more broadly, attend more conferences (international if i can swing it), read an occasional foreign language journal (my language skills in French and German aren't that hot), and keep my eyes and ears open for what's going on in area studies journals.

I would love to hear of anyone has practical strategies for a more cosmopolitan discipline.

Sentimental Drama

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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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 intellectual history can cripple more interesting conceptual engagement. I wrestle with how to best teach the theory class. Maybe I need to learn how to keep it awkward myself.

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 1980s or early 1990s there has essentially been no occupational position of “theorist” within American sociology. No-one gets a job as a theorist. 
Rojas attributes this to the victory of more empirical work driven by both better data collection and computation ability. Clearly the state is different in the humanities, and in film studies in particular. Not in the least because the empirical research (i.e. film history) takes different, more humanistic form, but also because the New Theoretical Turn has reclaimed a good deal of disciplinary space for film theory. And the aesthetic verve of film theory means that amateurs and filmmakers consume and produce theory in a way perhaps unknown for social theory. But it's also surprising how much of Healy's characterization can apply here. Theorists, at least at the junior level, are often expected to be generalists as well.

Oddly enough, film criticism has been the subfield in film studies that has faded into relative irrelevance. Or maybe it's better to say film criticism has lost its distinct identity and is now merged with theory and area studies. Perhaps that tendency could be the starting point for thinking through Girish's call for reinvigorating film studies-film criticism connections.

Monday, September 17, 2012

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.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In Defense of Abstracting the Work/Text

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 primarily with single objects, and it separates aesthetic objects by their medium. Yet objects are not experienced singly today but in thousands, and often not sequentially but overlapping or simultaneously. ….  
In the era of vast distribution but private screening and listening (and still-private reading), we critics will have to figure out what it means to reconstruct the feeling of the audience around us, to feel again the public pressure and exigency of so many invisible eyes upon so much visible stuff.
On one hand, fair enough: our aesthetic experiences are not as self-contained as criticism historically presents it. To that end, there's a strong tradition of subjectivist media, literary, and art scholarship that tries to theorize or historicize the actual experience of the reader or spectator. It's stronger in some areas than others (TV studies' idea of flow gets at this, for instance), but it's always useful to think of what traditional criticism leaves out and to look for new ways of understanding the subjective.

On the other hand, there is a problem with criticism that ventures too far down this path. One person may experience Law and Order, a rom-com, and Proust in the same day, but someone else's combination will be very different. To me the most persuasive subjectivist readings look for regularized combinations of text - book of the month clubs, broadcast networks' programming, or individual double feature bills. In other words, they construct what Nick Browne termed a supertext. But I read The Critical Pulse intro as claiming that something about the convergence age works against stable supertexts. To give criticism the task of understanding the totality of the text-within-experience is to raise the Borgesian map problem.

The fictional heuristics of both the text and the art work are useful because they abstracts away enough from experience so that a community of people can analyze it. On top of which, even in our post-literary, post-cinematic, convergence age, however we wish to categorize it, literary and artistic experiences have not remotely lost their formalized quality. Even after watching Law and Order I come to a Proust novel with an inherited orientation to how to read such a novel that has very much to do with a literary culture based on unified aesthetic experience as a working ideal.

Friday, September 07, 2012

CFP: Global Queer Cinema


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. We publish shortform and some longer pieces on international queer cinema, using scholarly models from queer theory and film studies but not limited to traditional academic writing and publishing models. We are interested in the worldly shapes and spaces of queer cinema, its styles, its institutions and its archives. The editorial collective for the website comprises Karl, Rosalind, and Catherine Grant (University of Sussex and Film Studies for Free)....

We welcome contributions from researchers interested in queer (and queering) cinema, cultural studies, media, global studies, gender and sexuality, filmmakers, artists, writers and interdisciplinary scholars, or those with an interest in the practice, exploration and dissemination of film.

We invite short essays of 250 – 300 words, or longer essays (MLA style) of around 1500-2000 words for more in-depth analysis. Multimedia work (non-copyright infringing – using fair use/fair dealing principles) is very welcome.

For more, see the Global Queer Cinema website.