Thursday, July 25, 2013

Individualistic aesthetic forms

In my recent reading, I came across this quote from Murray Smith:
"while both the novel and Hollywood films are individualistic forms, it would be simplistic in the extreme to argye that they merely reflect the individualism of modern Western society and, equally unequivocally, perpetuate this individualism." (Engaging Characters 235). 
A well-crystalized statement of some of the issues I've been working through in my chapter on 40s literary adaptations.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

CFPs Proposed SCMS Panels 2014

There are a good number of proposed conference panels up on the bulletin board of the SCMS website. These are for the 2014 conference in Seattle, March 19-23. (general CFP) As usual, one can submit via open call or organize a panel independently, but the panel and workshop topics below are worth perusing. The ultimate submission deadline is August 31, but those interested in a proposed panel should contact the panel organizer within the next couple of weeks at latest.

I am not sure if the SCMS bulletin board is available to non-members. If anyone is interested in seeing the full CFP for a panel, leave me a note (via email or comments) and I'll add to the comment section. One does not need to be a member to submit to the conference but one does need to join to present, if accepted.

I've grouped them loosely by subdiscipline or topic. Obviously these are not strict categories, but hopefully will make going through these easier. Feel free to let me know if I should include any other CFPs.

Animation and Video Games
Beyond These Walls: Alternative Preservation and Exhibition Practices in Digital Game Culture
Debugging Game History: Forgotten Histories
Gender and Video Games: Beyond the Popular
Play, Space, and Capital
Small Games
The Superhero Beyond the Blockbuster
Video Games and Comedy

Race and Cultural Critique
Remediations of Blackface in World Cinema  
Latino and Latin American Television Industry  
Race, Gender, and the Body in Found Footage Film
Articulations of Race to Class in Committed Cinema
Racial Whiteness in Film and Television
Hispanic Musicals Panel  
Interventions:When is a racial stereotype more or other than a stereotype?  
Race Politics in the US Film Industry  

Media Industries
Case Studies of Online Film/TV Distribution Platforms
Video Stores and Circulation in the 21st Century  
Television Networks and Brand Identity  
The Television Industry in the 1950s
Branded Entertainment of the Past  
Race Politics in the US Film Industry  
Cycle cinema/media convergence  
Brand of Steel: Superman in the 21st Century

TV Studies
Reality television and TLC
The Technologies of Televisual Monster-Hunting  
Action TV: Representation, Aesthetics, & Technologies of/in Domestic Space  
The Bad Boys of Cable: Violent Men and "Quality" Television  
Recent Trends in Comedic Media  

Film History
Creative Agency: Youth, Cinema, and Technology during the Progressive Era  
Forgotten Pioneers: New Perspectives on the Silent Era  
Silent Film Cycles: Context and Style  
Queer Silent Cinema  
The Mirror Has Three Faces: New Approaches to Cinema and the Historical Avant-Garde
Film Stardom and Political Leadership: Interwar Convergences  
The Spatial Politics of Classical Hollywood
New Perspectives on Film Noir  
Liberal Hollywood/"Hollywood Liberals" Panel
Warner Bros.: Industrial Contexts and Cultures (abstract deadline: Aug 9)

Film Aesthetics and Theory
Between Film and Photography  
Memory and Nostalgia  
Embodied Affect in Cinema and Media  
Film Dialogue: Debates and New Directions  
First-Person Singular: The “I” in Writing about Cinema and Media  
Architectures of the Moving Image  
“Objects: Within and beyond the Frame”  
The Little Flashlight of the Usher: Objects and Cinematic Spaces  

New Media Aesthetics and Theory
The Mind in Midcentury Media: Mentalities on the Cusp of the Digital Age  
Swarm, Hive, Web: Media Archaeological Approaches to Event and Objects  
War and "New" Media Panel  
Theorizing Digitality and the Digital Cinema  
Cybernetics: People, Machines & Media  
Tech Wars: The Social and Aesthetic Dimensions of New Media Innovation  
Chorological Mapping  

Cultural Studies of Cinema and Media
Mediations of Place-based Youth Identities  
Youth Culture and Early World Cinema  
Screening Religion: The Intersections Between Media and Religion  
Aesthetics and Ideology of Cuteness  
Dress and Media  
Urban Traffic  
Real Estate as Crime  
Surveillance and Pornography/Porn Studies  
Border Patrol: Policing National Borderlands and Identity in Film  
Cinema and Multilingualism: New Perspectives  
The Cold War in East Asian Cinema  
Cinema and the Military  
Shooting Stars: Media and Gun Culture  
The Uprisings of 1968: Revolutionary Dreaming in a Visual Culture  
Misrepresentations of Place in Film and Television  
Cinema & Wagner  
Surveillance Cinema Between East and West  
Cinema’s Ancient and Prehistoric Affinities  
Cinematic Aging in Contrasting Contexts  

Gender and Sexuality
Female Suffering and Spectatorship Ethics  
The Elusive Woman Media Maker  
Sexual Perversion and the Cinema  
Situating Gender, Filming Place  
Women in War Media  
Queer Silent Cinema  

Contemporary Cinema
Slow Cinema: Definitions, Values, Platforms  
A Post-Secular Cinema? Film, Faith, Politics  
Cinema is Dead, Long Live Cinema?: An Inquest into the Death of Cinema  
Recent Trends in Comedic Media  
Theorizing Digitality and the Digital Cinema  

Documentary and Public Sphere Media
Documentary in the Age of Data  
Documentary in the Age of Reality  
Documentary in an Expanding Field  
Making-of Documentaries  
Women in War Media  
AIDS Education and Biographic Storytelling through Contemporary Media  
Media and Communities  
Useful Media and the Global Public Sphere  
Forms of the Global in Visual Culture  
Filming Non-Human Subjects: An Ethical Consideration  
Urban Cinema/Media of the Global South  
Media, Ecology, and the Moving Image  
Asian Eco-cinema & media: Human, Animals, Environment and Beyond  
Ecocinema: critiques and rethinkings  
Celluloil: Energy Resources in Visual Media  
Extreme Weather and Global Media

Auteur, Genre and Film-based Panels
Collective Film Authorship and its Challenges  
Commercial Auteurs  
Time and the Cinema of Richard Linklater  
Hou Hsiou-Hshien and Jia Zhengke: Quiet Intensity
The Evolution of Hong Sang-soo  
Reassessing the Legacy of Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol  
The Western and its Afterlives: New Approaches to the Oldest Genre  
The Dramatization of a Life: Biographical Practices in the Cinema  
Rape-revenge panel  
Cycle cinema/media convergence  
[Call for proposals for panel on horror films]  
Born on the Bayou: Considering BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD and MUD  
Brand of Steel: Superman in the 21st Century

Serial Killers in the Pacific Northwest  
Wet, Wired, and Weird: Pacific Northwest Film and Media  

Workshop: New Paths to Teaching Film History  
Workshop: The State of New Media (Studies)  
Workshop “Contemporary Berlin Documentaries – Constructing the New Berlin”
Workshop: The Impact of Netflix  
Workshop: Innovative Use of Instructional Technologies  
Workshop: Expanding Scholarly Publishing  
Workshop: Using/Conducting Interviews & Oral Histories in Media Studies  
Workshop - Strategies for Animated Media Archive Collections  
Workshop: Documentary Filmmaking as Multi-modal Scholarship  
Workshop: Online Teaching in Film and Media Studies
Workshop: Teaching Post Production Sound From a Sound Studies Perspective  
Workshop: New Approaches to Teaching Genre  
Workshop: Teaching Media Literacy Through a Video Game Context

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blackfish and the Effaced Spectator

Blackfish, a recent documentary about SeaWorld, raised some issues for me that I felt worthy of a longer blog post. I don't know if it's fair to equate this documentary with an entire body of American progressive political documentaries. This one is more aesthetically interesting than some (though I didn't find its formal approach entirely satisfactory) and certainly more insightful than some (though less insightful than some others I've seen). Since I try to avoid making this a politics blog and I'm aware much of my reaction to this film is rooted in my own political sensibility, I hesitated in writing this post. But I think there's something larger at stake in how some half-Griersonian/half-activist films in the US work as political documentaries.

Blackfish, to begin with, is an expose of the practices of marine mammal shows, particular those popularized by Sea World. I had no prior knowledge of the issue: in short, killer whales/orcas have occasional attack tendencies that seemingly emerge from being held in captivity and outside their normal social groupings. A pattern of attack incidents on trainers has emerged, but Sea World has suppressed these incidents and its own culpability for them, through the legal system or public relations, all in the interest of profit.

On one hand I think the film's case is strong. Admittedly, I don't have an independent framework or body of knowledge by which I can weigh the film's case. But I tend to find structural critiques somewhat persuasive. On top of which, the "other" side, Seaworld's, lacks an adequate account of the incidents.  There is even an online petition (independent of SeaWorld?) to boycott the film -  which seems to ascribe the filmmaker's intent to be financial, an odd proposition if one knows what's involved in issue documentary production. Given that the legal power and money seem to be on SeaWorld's side - and given that the general public does not know much about what goes on - I think the filmmakers are fighting the good fight and deserve wider play with the film.

That said, things kept nagging me. Blackfish does raise some valuable secondary issues - how SeaWorld markets itself, how labor issues are at stake in addition to environmental ones - but as a spectator I kept wanting the film to pursue lines of analysis that it would suggest but never develop. I got the feeling that the filmmakers thought these would detract from the primary critique of the Aquatic Mammal Industrial Complex. I disagree.

- What makes people like the Sea World shows? Even if SeaWorld does all sort of nefarious things and hides the truth, do the audiences have no moral culpability in what's happened?

- What role does anthropomorphism play? It's not that I don't believe the experts interviewed who vouch for the mental and emotional complexity of these creatures (though I wouldn't mind the film showing some skepticism). But if the film's thesis heavily anthropomorphizes these creatures it might be worth noting that anthropomorphism is what got us into this mess to begin with.

- Toward the end the one ex-trainer testimonial sympathetic to SeaWorld puts forth the idea that SeaWorld has been instrumental in fostering an environmental and conservationist consciousness in our culture. The audience around me snorted derisively at that comment, but it's an idea worth taking seriously. Both historically, since SeaWorld, like Cousteau films, were part of a popular environmentalism, and today. I'm not saying the ends justify the means but rather that the issue is complex

- What about cinema and the nature film as a type of spectacle? Maybe no animals are harmed in the making of nature film footage as in SeaWorld shows, but the two impulses are not so removed.

In short, if there's an ur-ideology to the American progressive documentary, it's that demand-side drivers of political situations (Gramsci's hegemony, ideology, what have you) don't matter, it's merely the supply side of oligopoly, big money, and corporate control. Or to be less political, as a film scholar I can't help but notice than in a film about the business of spectacle, the spectator is both crucial (SeaWorld viewers provide the vital footage of the incidents) and completely effaced.

For a less jaded take on the film, I'd recommend Tom Rosten at POV blog's discussion of the issue of nonfiction adaptation in Blackfish and recent documentaries. To his discussion I'd add Camp 14, which seems to have an interesting status as doc adaptation.