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Back in Time Yet of His Time

Marty McFly as a 1980s Teenage Boy Role Model

Daniel Smith-Rowsey

In a world of overprotected, overscheduled children, parents look to the past, and even to Hollywood, for insight about how children were raised before minimal risk equated to serious hazard. The most recent corpus of films to feature minors who grew up without our current preoccupation with child safety was the somewhat well-established canon of 1980s teen films, but this canon tends to exclude the original Back to the Future film. While Back to the Future is hardly a neglected text, extant studies have elided its exploration and indeed exploitation of adolescent themes as well as its affinity with contemporary films about teenagerhood. I contend that when we look back for recent cues on coping through boyhood without so-called helicopter parents, and we consider the likes of Jeff Spicoli, Lloyd Dobler, and Ferris Bueller, we can find further valuable lessons by including Marty McFly.

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Communism, Consumerism, and Gender in Early Cold War Film

The Case of Ninotchka and Russkii vopros

Rhiannon Dowling

This article deals with ideologies of domesticity, femininity, and consumerism as they were articulated in two films in the early Cold War. These films, shown in occupied Berlin from the spring of 1948 through the first few months of 1949, were Ernst Lubitsch's Hollywood classic Ninotchka (1939) and the Soviet film Russkiivopros (The Russian Question, 1948). They portrayed competing notions of domestic consumption and the “good life” in the aftermath of the Second World War—issues more commonly understood to have characterized the later, thaw-era, years of the conflict. Though they were shown at a time of heightened political and ideological tensions, neither painted a one-dimensional or demonized portrait of the enemy. Instead, both films employed narratives about the private lives and material desires of women in order to humanize their enemies and yet make a statement about the inhuman nature of the other system.

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J. Brandon Colvin

People are bad at recognizing liars. Data culled from several psychological experiments demonstrates that even the most well trained individuals – government agents, police officers, and so on – can barely succeed at a 50 percent rate. Lying and deception, however, are fundamental narrative elements in several film genres – particularly the detective film and the female gothic, genres that peaked in popularity in 1940s Hollywood. Considering their real-life lack of proficiency, how do viewers successfully spot deception in such films? Drawing on findings from a handful of experiments, this article brings cognitive psychological concepts to bear on two 1940s films: Out of the Past (1947) and Secret Beyond the Door (1948). The article claims that filmmakers, particularly actors, exaggerate, simplify, and emphasize deception cues to selectively achieve narrative clarification or revelation. This process reveals not only how viewers recognize deception, but how actors stylize real-life behavior in service of narrative and aesthetic priorities.

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Margaret McCarthy

German popular filmmakers who participated in the Denk ich an Deutschland series brought a range of conflicting impulses to their meditations on Germany, including the universalizing tendencies of popular culture, together with the personal and political strains often present in documentary films. With varying degrees of success, each director agitates national identity via an idiosyncratic selfhood, a process which in turn expands our notions of Germany beyond generic convention. The best of the five films discussed in this essay—directed by Doris Dörrie, Fatih Akin, Katja von Garnier, Sherry Hormann, and Klaus Lemke—feature their creators' struggle to box themselves out of a larger collective identity. By modeling their own existential Bildung, they chip away at an otherwise implacable German identity and provide a psychic service for Germans potentially more salutary than the way Hollywood films sustain American identity.

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Alexandra Schneider

Taking Hum Aapke Hain Koun . . . ! as an example, this article asks whether models that were developed for the analysis of narrative forms and their intended emotional effects in Hollywood cinema can be regarded as universal, and to what extent they may be reasonably applied to commercial Hindi films. The often voiced reproach that Hindi cinema lacks realism, usually accompanied by a critique of the excessive use of emotional cues, arises in part from the fact that scholars tend to view the narrative forms of Western mainstream cinema as the norm from which Hindi cinema deviates. By contrast, this article argues that we need to search for a proper understanding of a cinema whose films follow different rules. In so doing, this article also contributes to the debate on how cognitive models of film reception may be expanded to include culturalist elements of explanation.

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Gerald Sim

This article questions the standard history being constructed about the adoption of digital cinematography in commercial cinema, a narrative whose broad assumptions resonate with industry professionals, including cinematographers. Digital image acquisition is frequently taken to be motivated by an industrial push to cut production costs, which impinges on the creative autonomy of film artists. This perception overlooks parts of Hollywood's current business model concerning production values and theatrical exhibition that will sustain film cinematography in the foreseeable future. These findings then lead the article to address filmmakers and critics who fear that photorealist aesthetics will be supplanted by digital images that possess a different visual signature. Prognostications that the digital look will replace that of film as the norm appear inaccurate.

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The Chronopolitical Order of Things

Technologies of the Quantified Self in Andrew Niccol's In Time and Michael Anderson's Logan's Run

Sidneyeve Matrix

As a film about a science fictional future in which genetic engineering is used to guard against the threat of overpopulation, Andrew Niccol's In Time (2011) bears a remarkable resemblance to Michael Anderson's environmental dystopia Logan's Run (1976). This article traces the narrative similarities of these two dystopian ecocinematic Hollywood productions, while demonstrating how they succeed as social critiques of technoscientific social regimes that wreak havoc on the Earth and its inhabitants. Borrowing from Michel Foucault's theories of a biopolitics of the population, this article argues that both film-makers' works contribute to our understanding of the potentially culturally and environmentally devastating implications of genetic engineering. Seen through the lens of Foucault's ideas about the disciplinary technologies of the self-regulated subject, the article suggests that Niccol's In Time is particularly noteworthy for its creative problematizing of the increasing normalization of high-tech bodily modification, enhancement, and digital quantification.

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Disrupted PECMA Flows

A Cognitive Approach to the Experience of Narrative Complexity in Film

Veerle Ros and Miklós Kiss

Over the past two decades, Hollywood cinema has seen the proliferation of disruptive narrative techniques that were previously thought to be exclusive to the realms of (post)modern literature and art cinema. Most scholarly contributions on contemporary complex cinema have been classifications, attempting to position these films relative to the “classical” mode of narration. This article sidesteps these efforts at categorization and, by offering a cognitive approach to cinematic narrative complexity, aims to provide an overview of the mental processes that complex films elicit in their viewers. Using Torben Grodal’s PECMA flow model, we theorize how the experience of complexity arises out of a confrontation with plot devices that disrupt the embodied viewing process by breaching or subverting familiar narrative conventions. In conclusion, we suggest five different scenarios—all following from different PECMA flow disruptions—and describe how one of them can affect the experience of complex (post)classical cinema.

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The Once and Future King

Negotiating the Survival of Boys in 1990s Cinema

Katie Barnett

On the cinema screen, boyhood has often been depicted as a period of freedom, rebellion, and energy, a pre-cursor to manhood in which young boys are able to negotiate their identity and place within the world. In 1990s Hollywood, however, a wave of films turn to depicting the death of young boys on screen. As a result, boyhood becomes a site of vulnerability and weakness. This article seeks to examine the implications of these deaths, framing them within the context of a wider negotiation of masculinity and fatherhood politics. In addition, it questions the extent to which the deaths of these young boys can be read queerly, subverting the drive towards the future inherent in the figure of the child.

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Akkadia Ford

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) offers a stereotypical representation of trans themes and images that do not fit contemporary gender-diverse communities, creating negative images and damaging connotations that could last for years. This article explores the stereotypical characterization and clichéd narrative devices deployed to create the fictitious character of Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club and examines the ongoing problematic of trans representation within mainstream cinematic texts by comparing Dallas Buyers Club with The Crying Game (1992), Boys Don’t Cry (1999), and Transamerica (2005). To contextualize the ongoing issues raised by the film and its screenplay, this article reads Rayon as one example in a long line of socially proscribed Hollywood “fallen women,” here, with the narrative displaced onto the transgender body.