A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA
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No. 52, summer 2010
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by Chuck Kleinhans
Documentaries with different forms, different agendas, different means.
“How it was then”: home movies as history in Peter Forgacs’ Meanwhile Somewhere...
by William C. Wees
From home movies shot between 1940 and 1943, Hungarian filmmaker Péter Forgács creates an extraordinary account of ordinary–and not so ordinary–life in wartime Europe.
The global repositioning of the city symphony: sound, space, and trauma in 11’09”01—September 11
by Maria Pramaggiore
The cultural work of memorializing traumatic events, here examining the film 11’9”01-September 11 (Brigand 2002) and, specifically, its use of experimental film genres and strategies.
On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a constructivist: Perry Bard’s The Man With the Movie Camera: The Global Remake
by Seth Feldman
Ninety years ago, Dziga Vertov dreamed about an entire nation collectively making films. Thanks to the Internet, the whole world can do just that — and it's Vertov's film that they are making.
Memoradic narrative in The Shoebox
by Janet Marles
An innovative approach to online documentary creates an interactive architecture mimicking the process of personal memory recall.
Sick shit happens: everyday histories in Martin Creed’s Body Docs
by James P. Hansen
In Sick Film (2006) and Shit Film (2006), contemporary British artist Martin Creed locates a unique sense of commonality and equality within the everyday historical acts of vomiting and shitting.
Reframing Standard Operating Procedure—Errol Morris and the creative treatment of Abu Ghraib
Society for Cinema and Media Studies panel. Saturday, March 20, 2010. 2:00-3:45 pm. Chaired by Linda Williams (University of California, Berkeley). Papers by Bill Nichols (San Francisco State University), Jonathan Kahana (New York University), and Williams with a response by Irina Leimbacher (University of California, Berkeley).
by David Andrews
This conference report provides an analysis of the debates surrounding Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure and introduces the two conference panels on this documentary at this year's SCMS conference in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the panel moderated by Linda Williams.
Feelings of revulsion and the limits of academic discourse
by Bill Nichols
Standard Operating Procedure was a monumental box office flop. Does that anything to do with
the feelings of revulsion that it produced in one viewer?
Speech images: Standard Operating Procedure and the staging of interrogation
by Jonathan Kahana
Drawing on the adjacent histories of U.S. war documentary and military psychiatry, Standard Operating Procedure provides its subjects with a powerful historical weapon: the confession that functions as an excuse.
“Cluster fuck”: the forcible frame in Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure
by Linda Williams
Williams defends Errol Morris' film through an examination of its framings, metaphorical and literal, arguing that even Lynndie England needs to be seen as an ethical being wrestling with her acquiescence to an unethical situation.
Response to papers and comments on Standard Operating Procedure
by Irina Leimbacher
Corporate Hollywood today
Introduction: scholarship on corporate Hollywood
by Chuck Kleinhans
Merging aesthetic and economic analysis in studying media.
Media empires: corporate structures and lines of control
by Eileen R. Meehan
Sometimes it’s hard to see who’s really running the show!
The future of selling the past: studio libraries in the 21st century
by Eric Hoyt
The Hollywood studios have long profited from their film libraries. Two pending deals and a wave of new media ventures invite us to reconsider the libraries’ industrial and political significance.
It’s not film, it’s TV: rethinking industrial identity
by Jennifer Holt
A revealing analysis of the revenue breakdowns for the major media conglomerates that explains how television keeps the film business afloat.
Hollywood handouts: tax credits in the age of economic crisis
by Vicki Mayer and Tanya Goldman
For an object lesson in government bailouts, we turn to Louisiana’s history of film production giveaways.
Light Bouncing: digital processes illuminate the cultural past
by Deborah Tudor
As filmmakers define the relationship between analog and digital image capture, some like JJ Abrams with Star Trek use digital tools to create a nostalgic reproduction of film effects while others like Michael Mann in Public Enemies approach digital capture as a way to try to reframe the way audiences view cinema.
Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker: a jack-in-the-box story
by Robert Alpert
In depicting the daily activities of a U.S. bomb squad in Iraq, Kathryn Bigelow continues to explore the rules of engagement of her culture and the resulting emotional schizophrenia and deathly effect on those who would challenge those rules.
"Come Back to the Humvee Ag’in James Honey," or a few comments about the sexual politics of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker
by Sam Whitsitt
The great American love story between a white male and a dark-skinned male Other gets a twist that puts the White guy on top and the Black man beneath (but lovin’ it, chile!).
Maternity divided: Avatar and the enjoyment of nature
by Todd McGowan
James Cameron's Avatar politicizes the natural world by depicting it as divided against itself.
Terminator to Avatar: a postmodern shift
by Kimberly N. Rosenfeld
Two popular narratives are decoded to illustrate U.S. society’s turn from a modern Terminator mindset to a postmodern Avatar era.
District 9 and its world
by James Zborowski
Blomkamp’s up-to-the-minute representation of social problems in his thrilling South African sci-fi promises something different from what it ultimately delivers.
Demeter and Persephone in space: transformation, femininity, and myth in the Alien films
by David Greven
The Alien films are modern horror versions of the classical Hollywood woman's film that, like this genre, foregrounds the heroine's remarkable ability to transform in myriad ways.
Another kind of monster: Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer
by Dahlia Schweitzer"
Office Killer is Cindy Sherman's only film, and it provides essential clues to understanding her entire body of work. So why isn't anyone talking about it?
Film and ecology
by Stephen Rust
Review of Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann’s Ecology and Popular Film: Cinema on the Edge (New York: SUNY Press, 2009)
Passage as journey in Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals: a narrative of environmental adaptation
by Robin Murray and Joe Heumann
In a move toward a more sustainable view of prairie and desert ecosystems, Native Americans in Smoke Signals (1998) adapt a seemingly lifeless environment into a place they can call home.
Field of American dreams: individualist ideology in the U.S. baseball movie
by Tom Robson
A look at how Hollywood has used the baseball movie to reinforce and reinscribe individualist capitalist ideology and how this ideology contributed to an explosion of successful baseball films during the Reagan years.
Who is missing in Bunny Lake?
by Dahlia Schweitzer
Is Ann losing her mind or just her child? An examination of what, exactly, has gone missing in Preminger's classic film.
The Hollywood two: 1945 and 1946 as filmgoing's best years
by Catherine Clepper
Review of Charles Affron and Mirella Jona Affron’s Best Years: Going to the Movies, 1945-1946 (Rutgers University Press, 2009)
Hollywood historians often note the final wartime years as the most successful period of U.S. exhibition, but do sky-high attendance records suggest that these years were also Hollywood's creative pinnacle?
International film and television
East Asian film and television
The circulation of Hong Kong television: imaginary landscapes, transnational Chinese publics and global Chinatown
by Amy Lee
Hong Kong television is a diasporic medium that connects Hong Kong to Chinatowns throughout the world — a transnational media geography best encapsulated by the notion of “global Chinatown.”
Japanese cinema, Swallowtail Butterfly, and the classroom
by Colleen A. Laird
An analysis of Iwai Shunji’s popular and “problematic” film Swallowtail Butterfly addresses issues of canon and education in order to challenge some of the established patterns in Japanese cinema classrooms and scholarship.
“It’s better not to lie, but it’s hard to stimulate the audience otherwise”: realism and melodrama in Lee Chang-Dong’s Secret Sunshine
by Marc Raymond
A detailed formal analysis of the 2007 South Korean melodrama Secret Sunshine explores how melodrama and realism can interact to create and interrogate meaning in popular film form.
Transnational China and Hollywood-ized Chineseness: interventions and discontents
by Kin-Yan Szeto.
Review of Gina Marchetti, Tan See Kam, and Peter X Feng’s edited volume Chinese Connections: Critical Perspective on Film, Identity, and Diaspora (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009) and Kenneth Chan’s Remade in Hollywood: The Global Chinese Presence in Transnational Chinese Cinemas (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009).
Two recent scholarly volumes deal with the overlapping contact zones between Chinese diasporic cinema and other cinemas (such as Hollywood, etc). Szeto suggests that thinking, writing and teaching film and cultural criticism demands a dialectically critical approach, one that unveils what has been concealed and failed to be articulated in the East/West dichotomy.
South Asian film
Rage against the state: historicizing the “angry young man” in Tamil cinema
by Kumuthan Maderya
Tamil cinema’s “Angry Young Man” genre enjoyed a popular run in the 1980s, depicting the violent struggle of anti-heroes against failed bureaucracies, corrupt politicians, crooked cops, and a feeble justice system.
Indian cinema and Partition
by Jyotika Virdi
Love and loss in India's historical trauma, the Partition
Review of Bhaskar Sarkar's Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009)
Latin American film
Genders and feminism in the films of Maricarmen de Lara
by Eli Bartra
Violence and feminist critique: leitmotifs in the films of Mexican documentarist Maricarmen de Lara.
Secuestro Express and La clase: politics of realism in contemporary Venezuelan filmmaking
by Mercedes Vázquez
What is propaganda filmmaking and what is not? In Venezuela today, everything is polarized, society, politics, and “socially-committed” filmmaking.
Battle of Chile: Struggle of a People Without Arms
by Victor Wallis
Class-struggle classic, a generation later with DVD release.
Central Asian television
Franchising culture for Kazakhstan television: producers’ ambivalence and audiences’ indifference
by Amos Owen Thomas
Television programming in Kazakhstan in the post-Soviet age becomes site of cultural-economic contestation by producers and consumer between a globalized Russian and a nationalistic Kazakh one.
European film and television
Hidden, or fear of a black planet
by Nicholas Sammond
Race and neoliberal anxiety in Caché (Haneke 2005), Europa 2005—27 octobre (Straub and Huillet 2006) and the election of Barack Obama (2008)
Michael Haneke: a little colder than reality
by Jason Kelly Roberts
Review of Peter Brunette’s Michael Haneke (University of Illinois Press, 2010)
Peter Brunette tackles one of the art cinema's most emotionally daunting bodies of work in a new monograph in the Contemporary Directors Series, published by the University of Illnois Press.
Freaks, geniuses or biological citizens? Discourses of mental distress in British television documentaries
by Stephen Harper
While television documentaries adopt an increasingly sympathetic perspective on psychological distress, some British documentaries nonetheless tend to reproduce hegemonic sexist and class-biased assumptions and reinforce a desocialized view of mental distress.
Producing resistance: Elías Querejeta’s political landscapes
by Tom Whittaker
An overview of one of Europe's most important and controversial producers.
Goodbye Germany: emigration, reality TV and Schadenfreude
by Mattias Frey
Reality TV series show Germans flocking to exotic lands, "emigration" which often ends in ruin. This article explores the European fantasy of mobility and asks, in general, why does it makes us feel good to see others feel bad?
Burnt by the Sun: from screen to stage
by Andrea Grunert
A Russian film turned into a play in London: Burnt by the Sun emphasizes how emotions and universal themes of love and humanity convey political reflections.
Middle Eastern film
Man-made martyrs in the age of mechanical reproduction: disturbing manufactured martyrdom in Paradise Now
by Phoebe Bronstein
A discussion of media, martyrdom, and violence (or the lack thereof) in Paradise Now (2005) in the context of Hollywood representations of the Middle East and the "War on Terror."
Be Calm and Count to Seven
by Brian Cagle
Sex and its anxieties
AIDS video: to dream and dance with the censor
by Alexandra Juhasz
Censorship demands an AIDS act; it propels AIDS art. It always has; it still does. Annette Kuhn calls this “the circuit of censorship” and here I will perform the circuit not as series of parties where gay men dance, drink, and hook up, but as another sort of dance through time, one inspired by AIDS videos that spoke strategically to the censor in their own time.
Identity scavengers: queer girl fandom, identity politics, and South of Nowhere
by Whitney Monaghan
Through analysis of the fan culture of South of Nowhere, this essay opens up the complex worlds of reception and fandom, positioning queer girl fans as "identity scavengers."
Surveillance, space and performance: informing interstitial subjectivities in Head On
by Evangelos Tziallas
Explores intersections between sexuality, ethnicity and nationality, suggesting gay identity is a spatially dependent, surveillant performance.
Bend Over Boyfriend to Take it Like a Man: pegging pornography and the queer representation of straight sex
by Curran Nault
The recent phenomenon of pegging pornography (pornography aimed at straight viewers that features acts of female-to-male penetration), puts on display a new heteroerotic in which the anus, not the penis, is situated as the principal site of male pleasure, and categorical distinctions between masculine and feminine, hetero and homo are frustrated.
Torture and horror film
Torture porn and surveillance culture
by Evangelos Tziallas
A group of "extreme horror" films, known collectively as "torture porn," let us contemplate the social and political ramifications of visibility, exploring the evolution of "the gaze" in the 21st century.
Tortured logic: entertainment and the spectacle of deliberately inflicted pain in 24 and Battlestar Galactica
by Isabel Pinedo
24 and Battlestar Galactica, two television series about our post-9/11 world, tackle the issue of torture from right wing and progressive perspectives, respectively, arriving at diametrically opposed positions.
Cross-cultural disgust: some problems in the analysis of contemporary horror cinema, part 2: Public Toilet, Visitor Q
by Chuck Kleinhans
Film artists can expand cinematic disgust beyond shock and gross out. Fruit Chan rewrites human waste in a humanistic global framework while Takahisi Miike uses it for dark social satire.
Experimental and art worlds
Revisiting “The Two Avant-Gardes”
by David Andrews
Reconsiders a classic essay by Peter Wollen so as to defend a new analysis of U.S. experimental cinema. Andrews presents this field's peculiar subcultural dynamics as effects of its internal dynamics and its conflicted relations to its supporting institutions.
Economics of the film avant-garde: networks and strategies in the circulation of films, ideas, and people
by Kathryn Ramey
An ethnographic study of the economics of avant-garde film and filmmakers.
Persevering despite the impossible: a brief history of media activism in Buffalo, NY
by Marc Moscato
Examining the tradition of media activism in Buffalo, NY, a city that has only recently started to become recognized for its lo-fi, experimental and, above all, uncompromising body of film and video.
Placing artists’ cinema
by Kate Mondloch
Review of Maeve Connolly, The Place of Artists’ Cinema: Space, Site and Screen (Bristol, UK and Chicago, USA: Intellect, 2009)
by Alla Gadassik
Review of Esther Leslie’s Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde (London and New York: Verso, 2002)
Art treasures of the wasteland
by Susan Felleman
Review of Lynn Spigel’s TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008)
Resources: Studying the media avant-garde
by Chuck Kleinhans
Books, DVDs, distributors, and online resources.
The last word
Fretting about film criticism
by the editors
Good film critics: in print, online, or both?
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