Todd Berliner's Hollywood Aesthetic is a major contribution to the study of Hollywood movies. While many previous critics—notably, auteur critics—have defended the artistry of selected subsets of Hollywood films, Berliner makes a compelling case
A Reply to Critics
What a privilege to have such an accomplished and intellectually diverse group of scholars respond to my book. I want to organize my reply around that intellectual diversity since each respondent has offered a set of criticisms of Hollywood
Hollywood makes the most widely successful pleasure-giving artworks the world has ever known. The American film industry operates under the assumption that pleasurable aesthetic experiences, among huge populations, translate into box office
Masculinity, Maturity, and the Movies in the 1920s
Peter W. Lee
In 1927, child actor Jackie Coogan was given a makeover. Although not even in his adolescence, Hollywood’s boy king needed a new image lest he face the career-ending label of a has-been. Barely of grammar school age in 1921 when he shot to stardom
Austro-German Filmmaker, Bestselling Author, and Journalist Colin Ross Discovers Australia
that her image of the United States was based upon the “sugary adolescent concept of American life” found in the Hollywood films of her youth. Evenings spent in Melbourne’s “picture palaces” had taught her that the nation was composed of “dumb
Hollywood Defines the American Boy, 1930–1934
This essay examines the portrayals of boys in American film, especially Jackie Cooper, during the “pre-code” period of Hollywood sound films, roughly 1930-1934. With the Great Depression cutting movie attendance, studios explored social taboos to entice audiences. As a result, childhood concerns, including issues of adoption, strained parental (especially father-son) relationships, or failing before one’s peers, were themes that threatened boys’ identities.
Book Review of Todd Berliner, Hollywood Incoherent: Narration in Seventies Cinema (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)
Negotiating the Survival of Boys in 1990s Cinema
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.
The Illusion of Progress in Popular Film
Vicki L. Eaklor
The film The Kids Are All Right, centered on a lesbian couple and their two teenage children, was released in 2010 following a media blitz selling it as a groundbreaking film. Many queer viewers (like this author) eagerly awaited this supposed step forward in lesbian representation, only to be disappointed once again by mainstream stereotypes and tropes. This article takes a close look at the film against the backdrop of lesbian images and themes in “Hollywood“ films, particularly in the last twenty years, and argues that continuities, while sometimes more subtle, override the illusion of progress in portraying lesbians. Finally, there is speculation about why genuine change in mainstream film may be impossible under current societal and economic systems.
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.