Showing posts from October, 2013

CFP: Film History section on Ephemera


Film History: An International Journal

“Ephemerata” section 

The upcoming issue of Film History (Vol. 25, No. 4) inaugurates the first installment of “Ephemerata,” a new semi-regular section. Motivated as much by the circulatory role of eBay as by the ease of digitizing documents for online posting and the research opportunities afforded by searchable archives like the Media History Digital Library and the Internet Archive, “Ephemerata” offers scans of photographs, postcards, pamphlets, brochures, and other long-forgotten, discarded, or simply overlooked print material. These orphaned items are here re-circulated with an eye toward expanding the scope—perhaps even generating debate—about what counts as “primary” sources and how ephemeral material might be interpreted, contextualized, and deployed. We hope that these otherwise obscure artifacts, once digitally re-materialized, spark curiosity and open up lines of inquiry concerning the history of cinema, broadly and in…

CFP: NECSUS issue on War


NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies 
#6   Autumn 2014

On the occasion of the centenary of the First World War, NECSUS is announcing a call for abstract submissions for a special section on ‘war’ to be published in autumn 2014. The First World War was called the ‘Great War’ and is often claimed to represent the birth of modern warfare. How can this modernity be related to the concurrent development of new forms of mass media in the early 20th century? How are military and entertainment technologies entangled in what Paul Vitilio calls a ‘logistics of perception’?

War has been a central topic for media of all kinds on a global scale. Can we re-evaluate the shifting terrain of aesthetics and ethics of war films and television broadcast series? The birth of modern warfare also means the birth of modern methods of documenting war. How has a rapidly-changing documentary impulse affected depictions and the reception of war? How has new media affected the …


From the title, I had assumed Ramrod (Andre de Toth, UA/Enterprise Productions) would be an application of noir aesthetics to the Western, perhaps with some Freudian psychodrama tossed in. And to be honest it does include Veronica Lake doing a femme fatale turn. What's interesting to me is that sometimes D.P. Russell Harlan shoots Lake in the iconic side profile famous from her Paramount films, but at other times gives her a harder, more frontal look.

And yet, generically, the film is essentially a B-western narrative given A-picture production values. Like other B-film Western, Ramrod is a Manichaean crime melodrama about a bad guy, Frank Ivey, trying to control a small Western town and run Connie Dickason's (Lake) life. Joel McCrea plays the good guy caught between his moral obligation and his disillusionment with Connie. What the 95 minute running time gives this programmer is a more developed romance subplot.
Even if fails to match the A-Western narrative, the film does i…

Discourse Analysis and Taste Formations

From a letter to the editor, the New York Times, January 18, 1948:
It seems to me that a year in which such noteworthy films as Gentleman's Agreement,The Yearling, Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop's Wife, Crossfire, Life With Father, The Fugitive, Kiss of Death, The Senator Was Indiscreet, Farmer's Daughter, Boomerang, Body and Soul and numerous others were produced could hardly be called a 'bad year' for the industry that produced them. Some of this letter is not surprising. There was a filmgoing segment in 1947 that was thrilled at the direction that some of Hollywood's A films were going, social problem films especially. But having seen all of these titles now, I am struck by how the author's list fails to match up to any recognizable taste formation that we might have from either popular memory or cinephile/academic canon. Problem films and noirish thrillers sit next to sentimental dramas.

I think there is an underlying affinity between these sides of…

Buck Privates Come Home

Given that Abbott and Costello were top stars during World War II, it's no surprise that Universal would make a sequel to their successful fish-out-of-water comedy Buck Privates (1941). But I was surprised to see how Buck Privates Come Home (dir. Charles Barton) adapted topical material of veteran readjustment to the comedy. The pair play bumbling soldiers who are coming back to the US from Europe at the War's end. They have a series of run-ins with their nemesis policeman/sergeant in what is largely an episodic narrative.
What greets them are a series of obstacles of veteran readjuments, particularly unemployment and a housing crunch. It's the comedy answer to Best Years of Our Lives, if you like. 

But what surprised me was a war orphan subplot. Michael Lawrence has been working on the figure of the orphan in 40s Hollywood and its relation to affect and the child star. My own essay on the sentimental drama dealt with, tangentially, the orphan as a trope of historical trau…

CFP: BAFTSS Conference 2013


British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS)
2014 Conference
London, Birkbeck College, 24-26 April

After the success of the first BAFTSS Conference in Lincoln in April 2013, and following the first submissions of proposal we are pleased to announce the second Call for Papers for the 2014 Conference 24-26 April at Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image, University of London.

As such, and with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Professor Richard Dyer in mind, we would like to invite papers and/or panels on all areas of film, television and screen studies but with particular foci on:

Film Music

If you would like to submit a proposal in response to this Second Call, please email a 200-300 word paper proposal, a panel proposal (panels of no more than 4 please) with details of each paper (so a total of no more than 1000 words please) to conference committee co-chair Anna Claydon at …


Someone asked me what I look for when I blog on these 1947 films. There's no one answer, since I try to be open to these films. I do draw on my main critical interests and look at the films' style, the way they give insight into the functioning of Hollywood as an industry, and the ideological reflections of these films' historical context. And I'm interested in the kind of historical narratives movies tell: what's lost that we can rediscover, what points to vital historical changes, and how we can use or resist narratives of progress or evolution in our film histories.
Here's an example of the multivalence of what I look for.

1. Genre. I'm not an expert on the Western and cannot make a claim I've watched widely in classic Hollywood Westerns. All the same, there seems to be a pattern that I see in the scholarship and criticism on romantic comedy: the canonical examples privilege the 1930s and the 1950s and tend to see the 1940s as a redundant null perio…

CFP: Screen conference 2014


Screen Studies Conference 2014
University of Glasgow
27-29 June 2014

Landscape and Environment

Deadline for proposals: Friday, 10th January 2014.

 From their earliest inception, film and television have been concerned with the registration of place through the unique capacity of the audiovisual moving image to convey the experience of locale over time. In recent years, screen studies has engaged with the politics of location especially through the site of the cinematic city and inter-related questions of modernity, architecture and urban cultural transformation. The main theme of this year’s Screen conference will offer an opportunity to extend critical debate into the fields of landscape and the environment. In so doing, it will offer an exciting range of inter-disciplinary perspectives in order to reflect on the real and imaginary ways that we interact with the world through the portal of the screen.

Martin Lefebvre has argued that landscape manifests itself as an int…

CFP: volume on Cinema and Multilingualism


Cinema and Multilingualism

Editors: Tijana Mamula (John Cabot University) and Lisa Patti (Hobart and William Smith Colleges)

The collection Cinema and Multilingualism takes its cue from two independent, but interrelated, ideas. Firstly, that the importance of linguistic difference and change in contemporary history has been vastly undervalued: an individual’s migration into a non-native linguistic environment, like the collective confrontation with foreign languages through the forces of immigration, urbanization and media globalization, bears a series of social, political, psychological and even ethical implications whose relevance to contemporary culture and society deserves a much closer look than it has so far inspired. Secondly, that transnationality and multilingualism are not recent phenomena whose impact on cinema has only just begun to be felt, but that cinema has been globalized and transnational from its very origins, and language and linguistic difference h…

CFP: special issue on Documentary Production and Studies


Journal of Film And Video

Special Double Issue: Current Issues in Documentary Production & Studies
Guest editors: Ben Levin & George Larke-Walsh

Submission Deadline: December 1, 2013
Publication Date: Fall/Winter 2015

We invite articles that discuss production styles, aesthetics and consumption of contemporary documentary. We are especially interested in articles that address the following:

Contemporary documentary screenwriting (creating stories through voice-over narratives, etc.).ŸCollaborative authorship and potential power imbalances between filmmakers and subjects in these situations.ŸTrends in narrative structuring through re-enactment and/or employing fictional tropes to create character types.ŸDocumentary fandom (reality TV stars and/or star directors) and its impact on contemporary documentary.We are also interested in articles that address the effects of new technologies ad new modes of funding, distribution, and marketing on the production of contemp…

Pedagogical Book Series

The kind of books I like for teaching or self-edification are not necessarily the kind of books I like for scholarship. And there are some presses that emphasize books aimed for classroom use and library adoption more than scholarly monographs. While some of this stuff does get under my skin - there's a lot of shoddiness done in the name of auteur criticism, for instance - there are also books that are useful to read and to

BFI Film Classics. These have been a hit for the press, even to the point of spawning imitators - Wayne State's TV Milestones or Arsenal's Queer Film Classics. The BFI books each focus on one "classic" film and typically combine close reading/aesthetic consideration with a detailed production history. Cinephiles will already be familiar with the series, and I can say from experience that some of them are terrific additions to a film history survey course - adding some depth to the broad sweep of a survey.

Wallflower Press 24 Frames series. Each …

They Won't Believe Me

1947 continues to surprise me. They Won't Believe Me (RKO, Irving Pichel) has an ending that is bleak and as fatalistic as any noir I've seen. It is easy to see how this film would be fodder for those arguing that noir packages a political critique - in this case of the justice system. And there's the film's unusual sexual politics: the protagonist, Larry Ballentine (Robert Young) is a philanderer who serially cheats on a wife he married simply for money. It is worth remembering that this sour view of traditional family mores also has a certain patriarchal and misogynistic underpinning. I do not know the production history of this film, but I would not be surprised if the Production Code had some formative influence on where this narrative ended up.

On one hand They Won't Believe Me feels like a generic noir with a flashback structure, a James M. Cain/Cornell Woolrich-ish murder trail narrative, and some familiar noir iconography. I'm sure someone for instance…