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Showing posts from September, 2013

Expanded Canons

Following up on Friday’s post about the canon, I’d like to elaborate on my half-baked idea of an expanded canon. That could mean any number of things, many of them unremarkable, but I do have a few specific qualities in mind.

The half-canon I imagine would avoid superlatives. To use a variation on the cliché of “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” the search for the best and the masterpiece gets in the way of appreciating merely good cinema – or films that are vital or worthwhile in sometimes surprising ways. In the process a half-canon can make viewers aware of new masterpieces but that is not effectively its main goal.

The half-canon is based on discovery. As we gain historical distance on prior movements, we can reappraised prior critical priorities. And digital technology makes a wealth of movies more easily accessible, across national borders, than they were previously. Sometimes the discovery process will be a dead-end but just as likely it will yield surprising results.

The…

Conference Calendar 2013-14 edition

Please let me know if I should add anything, and I will update this post. Also, I plan to do an update post around mid-year. [Updated 11/29/13]

Closed calls:
Magic of Special Effects: Cinema - Technology-Reception Univ de Montréal, Nov 5-10, 2013  World Picture Conference - Univ of Toronto, November 8-9, 2013
MLA -  Chicago, Jan 9-12, 2014
Rendering the Visible - Georgia State Univ, Feb 7-8, 2014 CAA - Chicago, Feb 13-16, 2014
SMCS - Seattle, Mar 19-23, 2014

Console-ing Passions - Univ of Missouri, Columbia, Apr 10-12, 2014 [website]
Due date: Oct 31, 2013 BAFTSS 2014 conference London Apr 24-26, 2014 [call] Due date: Nov 1, 2013 What is Documentary? Univ of Oregon Apr 24-26, 2014 [call] Due date: Nov 4, 2013 ICA - Seattle, May 22-26, 2014 [website | call] Due date: Nov 7, 2013 At the Borders of (Film) History Udine, Italy Apr 2-4, 2014 [call]

Current calls:

Due date: Dec 1, 2013 Domitor - Chicago/Evanston, June 21-25, 2014 [website | call] Due date: Dec 16, 2013 The Annual Conference of the F…

After the Canon Wars

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I've written about the canon before but one thing worth pointing out is that the discipline has largely moved beyond the canon wars. By that I mean that in the 1980s, film studies explicitly took up theoretical debates about the canon that were raging in literary studies; Janet Staiger's 1985 Cinema Journal essay "The Politics of Film Canons" (or Gerald Mast's reply) is a good example. It's not fair to say that the debate was settled since scholars still held cinephile tastes and since Citizen Kane hardly disappeared from college syllabi. That said, the anti-canon forces could be said to carry the day on several key fronts of scholarship. Even canonical auteurs like Nicholas Ray were examined on the basis of historical-ideological reading, not aesthetic exegesis - I'll call this the Category E camp. Cultural studies, particularly in its dealing with contemporary cinema, privileged objects of study with historical-ideological importance, with aesthetic imp…

CFP: Velvet Light Trap on Media Distribution

Call for Papers
The Velvet Light Trap
Issue #75: Media Distribution

Deadline: January 15, 2014

Although distribution has long been known as the economic linchpin of the media industries, it remains the least studied aspect of that industry, conjuring images of dour economists combing through dusty ledgers. But scholarly attention is shifting.

As recent technologies upend older distribution models, they both facilitate alternative media cultures and drive traditional stakeholders into new conflicts. Media distribution, once the invisible link between production and exhibition/reception, increasingly reveals the major struggles over cultural and economic power that have long invigorated the field. Scholars studying contemporary media have energetically responded to the implications of the rapidly transforming landscape of media distribution, where new agents reroute industrial circuits and burgeoning networks of often “illicit” circulation form. As a result, the study of distribution no…

CFP: Console-ing Passions 2014

Call for Papers
Console-ing Passions conference

April 10-12, 2014
University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Keynote speaker: Angela McRobbie, Professor of Communication, Goldsmiths, University of London

Founded by a group of feminist media scholars and artists in 1989, Console-ing Passions held its first official conference at the University of Iowa in 1992. Since that time, Console-ing Passions has become the leading international scholarly network for feminist research in television, video, audio, and new media.

The 2014 conference invites individual papers, pre-constituted panels, and workshops that consider the breadth of feminist issues on television, video, audio, and new media. We seek proposals that address the broader aims of Console-ing Passions: gender, race and ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, class, and (dis)ability. Possible topics include:

media production and industries media audiences and fanstextual analysis and criticism gaming and virtual worldsfeminist and queer theor…

Great-Man Historiography

In my research and teaching, I have tended to resist explanations dependent on individuals as historical agents. There are clearly two theoretical impulses behind this. One is the poststructuralist critique of the individual subject, though I am hardly a strict constructionist. The other, probably more influential in my thinking, is the Marxian tendency to look to structure and historicity. "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past."

But set aside the arguments from principles. I want to use a specific example. Rereading Memo From Darryl F. Zanuck, I came across this memo from the producer regarding Jesse James (1939):
I am definitely convinced that the entire location trip was, to a great extent, a financial mistake.... Everything I have seen has been fine, but there is nothing in the way of scenery or background tha…

The New Literary (Film) Studies

I'm currently reading James Chandler's Archeology of Sympathy and it's reminded me of something I've been noticing: there's a new wave of literary scholars who are writing on film in medium-specific ways. There was a time when I'd bristle at the dilettantism of literary studies people who'd decide they wanted to write on film without engaging in film studies or the basics of cinema as a medium. The upshot was a strong tendency toward content reading.

The new cohort, though - in addition to Chandler, Jonathan Auerbach or Max Cavitch come to mind - has a familiarity with cinema specific ways of analysis, even if they still read texts a little differently or have different heuristic priorities than those more fully ensconced in cinema studies.

It's probably an understandable result of the growth of cinema studies, both in the impact of broader undergraduate education of intro to film classes and the continued spread of departments mixing literary and film-…

Documentary Provincialism

I flagged this on Twitter, but about a month ago, Anthony Kaufman had a terrific column at the Sundance blog attacking US provincialism concerning documentary film.
The U.S. media’s provincialism is nothing new, and clearly extends to the subset of film journalism, as well. At Sundance, year after year, critics rightfully crow about the superiority of the festival’s American competition docs, but often short-change the festival’s superb World Cinema documentaries. We can’t entirely fault the press—at festivals, there’s never enough time to see everything. But in the media’s coverage of docs, there continues to be a gross under-appreciation of the innovation and artistry that thrives in docs from overseas. Kaufman articulates, probably better than I could, a sentiment I've been feeling since stumbling on a strain of recent festival documentaries in Europe. There are two separate issues here. On hand, American film culture is provincial in general, so that for instance, the local ar…

Corporate Authorship vertical file

"Yet the more I looked, the more I found that the situation couldn’t be reduced to the daring director versus the philistine producer."

- Words of wisdom from David Bordwell. This strikes me as a stubborn antimony that film histories should work at breaking down.