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No. 51, spring 2009

Documenting torture

Imagining torture
by Chuck Kleinhans
Survey of the fundamental political facts of torture in the present moment in U.S. history and a brief introduction to the visual imagination of torture in fiction film and television.

Torture documentaries
by Julia Lesage
With a close analysis of Taxi to the Dark Side, Standard Operating Procedure, and The Road to Guantanamo, Lesage analyzes the torture documentary in terms of genre structures, torture epistephilia, and affect.

A Simple Case for Torture, redux
by Martha Rosler

Rosler reconsiders her 1983 experimental video, A Simple Case for Torture in the context of torture in the George W. Bush presidency.


The Wire and the world: narrative and metanarrative
by Helena Sheehan and Sheamus Sweeney
Does The Wire deserve the critical acclaim it has attracted? The key to this question lies in an examination of how its specific plots open into a systemic critique of the social order encompassing it all.

“Don’t Just Watch It, Live It:” technology, corporate partnerships, and The Hills
by Elizabeth Affuso

This essay examines how MTV’s The Hills uses new media technologies and corporate partnerships to create and expand the show’s aspirational lifestyle brand.

Postmodern marketing, Generation Y and the multiplatform viewing experience of MTV’s The Hills
by Amanda Klein

The Hills offers content in alternate venues, including tabloid magazines, MTV-sponsored virtual worlds, gossip sites, blogs and product tie-ins. This multiplatform marketing strategy engages its target audience, Generation Y, a demographic adept and dependent on social networking tools and comfortable with the concept of surveillance and public disclosure.

The past isn't what it used to be: the troubled homes of Mad Men
by Mark Taylor
How Mad Men's sixties nostalgia recycles and revises our image of the past.

Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica
reviewed by David Greven
A new essay collection praises the current version of Battlestar Galactica for its gritty complexity. But is there something ideologically suspect in this “complexity”?

Global formats, gender and identity: the search for The Perfect Bride on Italian television
by Michela Ardizzoni
Does reality television challenge traditional gender norms and expectations? Or, is the new packaging of television programming a camouflage for conservative views on gender roles? The case of the Italian 'Perfect Bride' reveals the tensions between format novelty and ideological regression.

East Asian film

A nightmare of capitalist Japan: Spirited Away
by Ayumi Suzuki
Hayao Miyazaki uses animation and children as characters to question conditions in post-modern Japan by depicting a late-capitalist society that faces issues such as the loss of spiritual values and identity.

The curious cases of Salma, Siti, and Ming:representations of Indonesia’s polygamous life in Love for Share
by Ekky Imanjaya

A domestic comedy exploring the polygamous lifestyle and depicting the mostly unacknowledged aspects of polygamy in the country with the largest percentage of Muslims.

Gender and class in the Singaporean film 881
by Brenda Chan
This essay examines how Singaporean director, Royston Tan, challenges gender, linguistic and class hierarchies in his 2007 film 881.

Cinenumerology: interview with Royston Tan, one of Singapore’s most versatile filmmakers
by Anne Ciecko
Dynamic Singaporean filmmaker Royston Tan speaks with Anne Ciecko about cultural identity and language, film festivals and box-office success, actors and singers, melodrama and spectacle, and chicken jokes and bullet bras.

Visible “waves”: notes on Koreanness, pan-Asianness, and some recent Southeast Asian art films
by Anne Ciecko and Hunju Lee

The impact of the Korean cultural "wave" and pan-Asian cinematic trends are visible in recent films by Singapore's Royston Tan and Thailand's Pen-ek Ratanaruang.

Asia’s beloved sassy girl: Jun Ji-Hyun’s star image and her transnational stardom
by JaeYoon Park
Jun Ji-Hyun became one of the Korean Wave stars in Asia through her “sassy” girl image that reversed gender expectations. Does her image signify a new subversive female type in Asia?


Pornography and its critical reception: toward a theory of masturbation
by Magnus Ullén

The cultural centrality of pornography will become evident only if we pay attention not only to the contents of porn, but to the masturbatory mode of reading it habitually involves as well.

Real sex: the aesthetics and economics of art-house porn
by Jon Lewis

This essay examines art-house porn, a genre defined by a market niche and a set of shared aesthetic principles that introduce a peculiar but nonetheless sincere cinematic realism.

Documentary and the anamnesis of queer space: The Polymath, or, The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman
by Nicholas de Villiers
Fred Barney Taylor's recent documentary portrait of the writer Samuel R. Delany intervenes in debates about New York City's changing queer sexual landscape, combatting cultural amnesia alongside the activist video Fenced Out and the documentary Gay Sex in the 70s.

Documentary investigations and the female porn star
by Belinda Smaill
Analyzes representations of the female porn star, subjectivity, and the question of desire in documentaries about the pornography industry, and considers these depictions of the women in terms of genre expectations, economy of emotions, and
popular narratives of femininity.

The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene
reviewed by Catherine Clepper

The Asian/American female body serves as a site of desire, danger, or virtue — and sometimes all three.

Documenting and denial: discourses of sexual self-exploitation
by Leigh Goldstein
In their analyses of the adolescent social practice of producing and sharing eroticized images, media and legal discourses contribute to a social construction of childhood innocence that puts kids at risk.


Milk and gay political history
by Harry Benshoff
Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn makes political organizing look joyous.

Children of Men and I Am Legend :
the disaster-capitalism complex hits Hollywood

by Kirk Boyle

The formally similar post-apocalyptic films Children of Men and I Am Legend respond in diametrically opposed ways to the neoconservative movement’s mix of imperial foreign policy with religious and market fundamentalism.

The exceptional darkness of The Dark Knight
by Todd McGowan
The Dark Knight explores the danger and the necessity of the state of exception for contemporary politics.

The Dark Knight of American empire
by Randolph Lewis
Along with its teenage fantasy of bulging biceps and smoke-belching cars, does the new Batman invite a second fantasy of rupture and revolution? Using the insights of philosopher Ernst Bloch, this essay argues for a radical interpretation of a Hollywood blockbuster released at the end of the Bush administration.

Post-Iraq cinema: the veteran hero in The Jacket and Harsh Times
by Justin Vicari

John Maybury's The Jacket (2005) and David Ayer's Harsh Times (2007) explore in very different ways the difficulties faced by Iraq war veterans in civilian U.S. society, though both films reach the same conclusion: the problems of veterans are all of our problems.

WALL-E: from environmental adaptation to sentimental nostalgia
by Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann In WALL-E,
A robot built for clean-up named WALL-E helps transform the hell of Earth into a home by following a narrative of environmental adaptation with a clear and cohesive structure that follows an evolutionary pattern focused on place.

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino: the death of America’s hero
by Robert Alpert
Clint Eastwood, at 78, elegiacally acknowledges the failure of the myth of the invincible loner.

Interpreting revolution: Che: Part I and Part II
by Victor Wallis
The dialectic of victory and defeat in the life of Che Guevara — and what it means today.

Art films, international cinema

The cold world behind the window: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Romanian cinema’s return to real-existing communism
by Constantin Parvulescu

How a generation of filmmakers rethinks the cinematic representation of the past.

Retrieving Emir Kusturica’s Underground as a critique of ethnic nationalism
by Sean Homer

Is it possible to read Kusturica’s Underground “against the grain” today, as a critique of ethnonationalism, or has Kusturica’s more recent and very publicly expressed nationalist leanings now irretrievably marked this text for us?

Dimensions of exile in the videos of Silvia Malagrino
by Ilene S. Goldman
Video artist Malagrino traces her memories of Argentina and of friends murdered there in works that focus on the embodiment of fear, violence, war, and memory.

No parking between signs: on Sadie Benning's Flat is Beautiful and early works
by Burlin Barr

Benning’s videos render the private material and conceptual spaces of an adolescent youth, and offer a compelling depiction of an emergent subject: someone attempting to come to terms with him/herself in a world of racial, class, and sexual prescriptions and prohibitions.

Sex versus the small screen: home video censorship and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también
by Caetlin Benson-Allott
In order to protect its member studios and satisfy the market demands of conservative video retailers, the MPAA abuses its ratings system, compelling "foreign" films like Y tu mamá también to obfuscate political critique by cutting scenes crucial to the movie.

Torture, maternity, and truth in Jasmila Zbanic’s Grbavica: Land of My Dreams
by Caroline Koebel
Set in Sarajevo a decade after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this understated domestic melodrama dramatizes a mother's memories and a daughter's needs.


Culture wars: some new trends in art horror
by Joan Hawkins
New trends in art-horror—and the way they’re received by critics, the subgenre of guilt-trauma horror films, and the mainstreaming of trash culture.

Misogyny as radical commentary: Rashomon retold in Takashi Miike’s Masters of Horror: Imprint
by William Leung
Not just a cheap thrill dressed up as a class act, Imprint is a radical Japanese filmmaker’s visceral commentary on Western audiences’ reverence for Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Rashomon.

The dangers of biosecurity: The Host and the geopolitics of outbreak
by Hsuan L. Hsu

Analyzes the South Korean blockbuster monster movie as a narrative about disease, hunger, and the IMF.

The return of horror to Chinese cinema: an aesthetic of restraint and space of horror
by Li Zeng
After a four-decade absence, horror returns to the PRC cinema. This essay studies the theme and style of contemporary Chinese horror films in relation to international horrors and Chinese social and cultural context.

Cross cultural disgust: some problems in the analysis of contemporary horror cinema
by Chuck Kleinhans
The increased market in the West for “Asian Extreme” horror cinema dramatizes the problems of cross cultural (mis)understanding and analysis.

Media salad

Media salad
by Chuck Kleinhans

Book reviews

Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television
reviewed by Deborah Tudor

Center Field Shot provides a meticulous survey of the twinned economic fortunes of media and baseball.

Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance
reviewed by Neha Kamdar

Mutation of music and the cultural reinvention of Bollywood across the world.

From “centripetal” to “centrifugal” trauma: history and representation in modern China
by Li Zeng
Review of A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film by Michael Berry (New York: Columbia University Press. 2008)

Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound
reviewed by Mark Kerins

The individual essays in Lowering the Boom are a mixed bag, but several standout pieces and the book's breadth of topics make it a great resource for film scholars whether specifically interested in sound or not.

The last word

Racing into the Obama era
by the editors

Remembrance against manufactured amnesia: on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident
by David Leiwei Li
History since the Tiananmen incident makes clear the convergence of state and capital interests for the sake of a forever-profitable economy.

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