Book Review of Todd Berliner, Hollywood Incoherent: Narration in Seventies Cinema (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)
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.
Masculinity, Maturity, and the Movies in the 1920s
Peter W. Lee
This article uses details of the personal and professional life of American screen actor Jackie Coogan to examine the social transition from boyhood into manhood during the 1920s. As Hollywood’s first child superstar, Coogan was given a haircut to make visual his maturation from his famed persona as an orphaned waif into a leading man. The haircut was also linked to larger concerns about the so-called flaming youth of the Lost Generation; what was known as Americanism; and identity construction for both child and parental roles. Unfortunately for Coogan, fans refused to accept his makeover; his screen persona in public memory contributed to the decline of his career while concurrently protecting the Kid from a vilified mother.
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.
Australian Women Encounter America, 1930s-1950s
During the mid-twentieth century, Hollywood cinema exerted a powerful influence upon Australian imaginings of the United States. In contrast to the flood of information moving between the Antipodes and Britain, America was relatively unknown, with little aside from film reels making the journey across the Pacific. This article examines how saturation in Hollywood imagery mediated the travel experience of Australian women who stepped through the silver screen and visited America itself. The writings of female transpacific travelers are peppered with references to Hollywood, which is cited as a source of crude preconceptions about America, and also appears as a point of comparison to the author’s own experience. Yet these texts almost never refer to specific films or actors, and instead use Hollywood as a shorthand to denote glamour, affluence, and urban living. The article suggests, therefore, that travelers’ discussions of “Hollywood” were often concerned less with American film than American modernity, and therefore also provide insight into Australian attitudes towards the modern.
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.
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.
James E. Cutting, Kaitlin L. Brunick and Jordan E. Delong
Cinematic tradition suggests that Hollywood films, like plays, are divided into acts. Thompson (1999) streamlined the conception of this largescale film structure by suggesting that most films are composed of four acts of generally equal length—the setup, the complicating action, the development, and the climax (often including an epilog). These acts are based on the structure of the narrative, and would not necessarily have a physical manifestation in shots and transitions. Nonetheless, exploring a sample of 150 Hollywood style films from 1935 to 2005, this article demonstrates that acts shape shot lengths and transitions. Dividing films into quarters, we found that shots are longer at quarter boundaries and generally shorter near the middle of each quarter. Moreover, aside from the beginnings and ends of films, the article shows that fades, dissolves, and other non-cut transitions are more common in the third and less common in the fourth quarters of films.
James E. Cutting, Catalina Iricinschi and Kaitlin L. Brunick
This article presents a new method to create maps that chart changes across a cinematic narrative. These are unlike narrative spaces previously discussed in the literature—they are abstract, holistic, dynamic representations based on objective criteria. The analysis considers three films (All About Eve, Inception, and MASH) by counting the co-occurrences of main characters within scenes, and 12 Angry Men by counting their co-occurrences within shots. The technique used combines the statistical methods of correlation, multidimensional scaling, and Procrustes analysis. It then plots the trajectories of characters across these spaces in All About Eve and Inception, regions for characters in Inception and MASH, and compares the physical arrangement of jurors with their dramatic roles in 12 Angry Men. These maps depict the changing structures in the visual narrative. Finally, through consideration of statistical learning, the article explores the plausibility that these maps mimic relations in the minds of film viewers.
James E. Cutting, Kaitlin L. Brunick and Jordan DeLong
This is an amendment to the article "How Act Structure Sculpts Shot Lengths and Shot Transitions in Hollywood Film" by the same authors published in Projections 5(1), summer 2011.