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No. 57, fall 2016
Netflix’s geek-chic: how one company leveraged its big data to change the entertainment industry
by Tricia Jenkins
What you need to know about how Netflix uses big data to track your viewing habits, destroy its rivals, and upset the ways film and television shows are consumed, valued and developed.
Box office failure: Honky Tonk Freeway
and the risks of embarrassing the United States
by Julia Prewitt Brown
The negative reception of John Schlesinger’s rambunctious comedy of 1981 says less about the film’s quality than about the unwillingness of studio executives, critics, and audiences to stomach an unrestrained parody of U.S. triumphalism seven months after President Reagan took office.
The Hollywood superhero as brand manager: an allegory of intellectual property
by Ezra Claverie
When major studios adapt comic-book superheroes for the screen, they write altruistic heroes into melodramas about the policing of intellectual property.
The Hurt Locker litigation: an adult’s story: part 2
by Robert Alpert
Jeffrey Sarver, the alleged doppelganger to Kathryn Bigelow’s fictional character, William James, discovers on appeal that in a U.S. capitalist system, not surprisingly, the law measures and values privacy only in U.S. dollars.
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning”:
violence and nostalgia in the cinema of John Milius
by Alfio Leotta
A critical exploration of the stylistic and thematic concerns of one of the most controversial, and yet influential, film-makers in the history of U.S. cinema.
UNDER THE SKIN / SCARLETT JOHANSSON
Loving the alien: introduction to dossier on Under the Skin
by Lucas Hilderbrand
On the matter of blackness in Under the Skin
by Lucas Hilderbrand
An exploration of the visual metaphors of blackness in Under the Skin as they rupture our conceptions of both personhood and familiar modes of cinematic subjectivity.
Sex, sensation and nonhuman interiority in Under the Skin
by Elena Gorfinkel
An exploration of the film's production of the alien’s impossible interiority, in her attempts to eat and to have sex, this essay considers how Under the Skin resonates with traditions of feminist thought and new materialist, speculative philosophies.
Star vehicle: labor and corporeal traffic in Under the Skin
by Amy Herzog
A reading of Scarlet Johansson, within and beyond Under the Skin, as laborer, vessel, and vehicle for a larger transactional web—a living commodity.
Splitting the difference: the queer-feminist divide in
Scarlett Johansson's recent body politics
by Marc Francis
Could one call Scarlett Johansson's recent career choices "queer," in the affirmative sense of the word? Or, scarier yet, "feminist"? This essay interrogates not so much the gender and sexual subtext of Johansson's recent sci-fi hits as much as the political desires that that subtext might evoke.
Independence and the consent of the governed:
the systems and scales of Under the Skin
by J.D. Connor
Under the Skin is an emblem of contemporary independent moviemaking, an allegory for the UK’s lottery-subsidized “creative industries” cultural policies, and an alibi for the politics of neoliberalism more broadly.
Ideology exposed—an introduction
by Chuck Kleinhans
Eating, sleeping and watching movies in the shadow of what they do:
the representation of capitalism in post 2008 popular films
by Michael Pepe
The Great Recession or 2008 inspires a new cycle of movies that take a suspicious and cynical look at our financial institutions from the inside.
by Jeff Menne
This analysis of Straight Outta Compton (Gray, Universal, 2015) considers it in relation to recent Hollywood movies and argues in turn that Hollywood puts “blackness” to use for its own purposes—and becomes socially irrelevant in the process.
Beyond bias: stock imagery and paradigmatic politics in Citizens United documentaries
by Scott Krzych
A series of conservative political documentaries uses stock video as a substitute for archival or historical footage, providing the films with a documentary “feel” that belies their otherwise blatant status as political propaganda.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty: a case study on mythmaking and making history
by Robert Alpert
John Ford's Ethan Edwards of The Searchers is updated in the service of the United States' war against terrorism.
Representing incarceration in Persons of Interest and The Oath
by Christopher Barnes
Two documentaries find innovative ways to represent and visualize the invisibility and absence of those affected by indefinite detention and torture under the War on Terror.
Anti-gravity: Interstellar and the fictional betrayal of place
by Todd McGowan
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar enacts Hegel’s notion of freedom through the abandonment of place, an abandonment possible only through adherence to an emancipatory fiction.
Feeling moved: racial embodiment, emotion, and Asian American spectatorship
by Jeanette Roan
Cognitive film theory and the phenomenology of racial embodiment help to explain why Asian American spectators may feel more pleasure when viewing the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs than The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning remake.
The aesthetics of intimacy
by Stephen Papson
Why are we attracted to an advertisement against our better judgment? Or when does affect trump analysis? A self-interrogation of a reading of a Shell commercial entitled “Kim.”
Alex Garland’s Ex Machina:
the gender of artificial intelligence and the triumph of enlightenment
by Robert Alpert
Combining film noir with science fiction, Ex Machina embraces the so-called femme fatale and celebrates an evolutionary development in which artificial intelligence will replace human intelligence.
Ideological analysis and Lady Be Good
Classics fom the past.
Breaking the glass ceiling: women detectives in the Bombay-based fictional film Bobby Jasoos and in the British fictional TV series The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
by Sonika Jain
Women detectives from India and Botswana meet each other, over a cup of tea, to discuss cases and strategies adopted by their classic and hardboiled male counterparts, while taking short breaks to solve all sorts of unexpected cases that include a missing dog, missing people, old persons dying in a hospital, food poisoning, intergenerational and marital mistrust, and many more.
Seeing ideology: a student guide to classics of visual media analysis
by Chuck Kleinhans
ALTERNATIVE VISIONS — GLOBAL
Temporal subversion and political critique in Abderrahmane Sissako’s La vie sur terre
by Elise Finielz
Life in Sokolo, a small village in Mali, on the eve of the year 2000. A visual essay closely analyzes the aesthetic and narrative aspects of La vie sur terre/Life on Earth. An accompanying essay explores the dynamic of temporalities at stake in this documentary fiction as it aims to resist a linear conception of history.
Gendered visions in As If I Am Not There and In the Land of Blood and Honey:
female precarity, the humanitarian gaze and the politics of situated knowledge
by Dijana Jelaca
The essay scrutinizes the Western-centric politics of witnessing and the ethics of depicting the pain of others in two films about mass rape during the Bosnian war—As If I Am Not There (Juanita Wilson, 2010) and In the Land of Blood and Honey (Angelina Jolie, 2011).
Želimir Žilnik’s unemployed bodies
by Greg de Cuir Jr
The Unemployed (Yugoslavia, 1968) by Želimir Žilnik is an award-winning short documentary film about workers’ bodies that offers a ruthless critique of the iconography of socialist realism and ambitious economic reform in Yugoslavia of the 1960s.
Participation, poetry and song: Anand Patwardhan and New Latin American cinema
by Shweta Kishore
Examining the cultural exchange between New Latin American Cinema and Indian documentary with a focus on the films and practice of Anand Patwardhan.
There goes the neighborhood: Tabasco Video’s multi-platform media strategies
against gentrification—Et Le Panier dans tout ça?
by Michelle Stewart
An exploration of how one socially-engaged media group has transposed their model of community media participation into online interactive forms.
Gaza Sderot: personifying the conflict
by Jacqueline Levitin
An unpretentious, intimate web series about ordinary life in Israel-Palestine seemed like a miracle: Gaza Sderot is an antidote to Middle East compassion fatigue.
Producing revolutionary history on film:
Henri Lefebvre’s urban space and Peter Watkins’ La Commune (Paris, 1871)
by Hamish Ford
Hamish Ford's monograph offers an extensive analysis of a similarly epic film, utilizing Henri Lefebvre's writing in the context of recent global attempts by left-wing activists to occupy urban space.
The pedagogy of feeling bad
review by Roman Friedman of
Nikolaj Lübecker’s The Feel-Bad Film
Can the “feel-bad” film provide an alternate pedagogy and ethic to popular feel-good cinema by subverting our desire for catharsis?
Historical avenues to critical border thinking
review by Kin-Yan Szeto of
Postcolonialism, Diaspora, and Alternative Histories: The Cinema of Evans Chan, ed. Tony Williams
The cinema of Evans Chan prompts us to investigate “critical border thinking” in the mainstream media of Hong Kong and the United States, and evokes the necessity to restore historical avenues by appropriately contextualizing Chan’s predecessors, contemporaries, and successors in minor and/or political cinemas.
One Way or Another: dialectical, revolutionary, feminist
by Julia Lesage, reprint from Jump Cut no 20, May 1978
Living in a society that provides real alternatives provokes bourgeoise Yolanda and slum-raised Mario to approach work in ways they had not imagined before.
ALTERNATIVE VISIONS — UNITED STATES
Punk, glitter and glam redrafted:
going downtown with Patti Smith and David Bowie
review by Gina Marchetti
Punk, glitter and glam subcultures emerged in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States and the United Kingdom as spectacular, youthful rebellions against established norms governing race, sex, gender, and class. This review of the publication of four books related to these subcultures considers the continuing significance of punk, glitter and glam in the digital age.
- Cinque, Toija, Christopher Moore, and Sean Redmond, eds. Enchanting David Bowie: Space/ Time/ Body/Memory.
- Grant, Charles L., Geoffrey Marsh, and Victoria Broackes, eds. David Bowie Is.
- Hawkins, Joan, ed. Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001.
- Smith, Patti. Just Kids.
Are personal documentaries also ethnographic films?
review by Sharon R. Sherman of
Scott MacDonald’s American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary: The Cambridge Turn
Scott MacDonald makes historical connections between verité, ethnographic films, and personal documentaries created by certain filmmakers in Cambridge, and he asserts that personal documentaries are the natural outgrowth of post-colonial cultural films.
Virtual battlegrounds: the multiple realisms of Harun Farocki’s Immersion
by Daniel Grinberg
This essay analyzes how Farocki critically deploys realist modes of documentary filmmaking to destabilize viewers’ perceptions. He does so to reflexively critique the Virtual Iraq technology used to treat veteran trauma and to reveal the growing virtualization of the contemporary U.S. military-industrial complex.
Extensions of the avant-garde: David Gatten’s Secret History of the Dividing Line
by Patrick Faubert
Avant-garde cinema that investigates historiography.
Jon Jost’s The Bed You Sleep In: art, truth, and subversion
by Hing Tsang
This article is a visual analysis of one of the most overlooked and explosive films from independent American Cinema
Talkin’ to us: Jon Jost’s Speaking Directly: Some American Notes
by Julia Lesage, reprint from Jump Cut no 5, 1975
Jost's personal essay inaugurated his prolific career of making low-budget feature films.
1970'S LEFTIST CINEMA
by Joshua Sperling
From film criticism to filmmaking:
La Cecilia by Jean-Louis Comolli and L’Olivier by Jean Narboni et al.
by Daniel Fairfax
This article looks at two 1976 films made by former editors of Cahiers du cinéma, La Cecilia by Jean-Louis Comolli and L'Olivier by Jean Narboni et al., which critically engage with both the tradition of militant filmmaking and Comolli and Narboni's own past practice of Marxist film theory
Resistance vs. exile: the political rhetoric of Chilean exile cinema in the 1970s
by José Miguel Palacios
Throughout the 1970s, Chilean exile filmmakers struggled between different ways to conceive of the political nature of cinema. This essay charts a road map that travels from Caracas (1974) to Pesaro (1974) and then to Moscow (1979): film festivals and gatherings where Chilean filmmakers debated and enacted a rhetoric that played out as an ideological opposition between resistance and exile.
Little hopes and pleasures: revisiting Tanner’s Jonah (1976)
by Joshua Sperling
Forty years ago Alain Tanner’s comedy divided the writers of Jump Cut. What have we learned about political art since the mid-1970s? What does Jonah still have to teach us?
Troubling transgender media: fact, fiction, and compromise: an introduction
by Alexandra Juhasz
Considering what it means to witness the beginnings of trans studies as a field within media studies.
Seeing double: visibility, alternative temporality, and
transfeminine history in Transparent
by Nicole Erin Morse
Artist Zackary Drucker serves as a 'trans consultant' for Amazon's Transparent, but does her influence also affect the show's aesthetics, and if so, how can this be documented?
Keeping it real: genre and politics on I Am Cait
by Dan Udy
How does I Am Cait reflect the changing nature of the docu-soap genre, and how do its cast exploit the show’s format for activist work?
Does visibility equal progress?
A conversation between Sam Feder and Alexandra Juhasz on trans activist media
by Sam Feder and Alexandra Juhasz
Feder and Juhasz consider the lingering and disenabling tropes that have defined this terrain, most notably the “traumatic rupture” that cements most representational efforts. We also mull the costs and benefits of increasing trans visibility and trouble the role of media images, visibility, and making in connection with trans activism.
Dilating Destiny: writing the transreal body through game design
by micha cárdenas
An analysis and reflection of the game Dilating Destiny, describing inspirations, aesthetics and politics of a text-based game that blends reality and fiction.
Cruising celebrity: James Franco’s queer stardom,
performance art, and Interior. Leather Bar.
by David Church
James Franco's sexually explicit re-vision of Cruising (1980) opens historiographic questions about cultural appropriation, highlighting the uses of queerness and performance art as recent acts of distinction for white, male Hollywood celebrities.
Binging on Greyson
Greg Youmans’ review of the work of John Greyson and a critical study of it:
- Impatient: John Greyson DVD Box Set (dist. VTape, 2012);
- The Perils of Pedagogy: The Works of John Greyson, ed. Brenda Longfellow, Scott MacKenzie, and Thomas Waugh.
A career-spanning DVD box set and a new critical anthology provide a welcome opportunity to trace the formal innovations, recurring themes, and political commitments of John Greyson’s three-plus decades of film and video production.
Queer Film Classics
Review of three books in series
by Roxanne Samer
This book review reviews not one but three titles from Arsenal Pulp Press’ Queer Film Classics series and historicizes the series editors’ mildly audacious claim that there are films worthy of study as queer classics.
- Greg Youmans, Word Is Out.
- Thomas Waugh & Jason Garrison, Montreal Main.
- Julia Mendenhall, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing
Chuck Kleinhans' review of
Jon Davies, Trash (Queer Film Classic series). Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009
Tour guide to the film.
Ethnic Notions. Tongues Untied. Mainstream and margins
by Chuck Kleinhans
Two outstanding political videos by a major US artist, Marlon Riggs, present a formal contrast between a PBS edudocumentary on racial stereotypes and an experimental personal exploration of black gay men.
Listening to the heartbeat: interview with Marlon Riggs
by Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage
reprinted from Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media no. 36 (1991)
Monstrous trees and ecology: targeting human threats in the horror film
by Robin Murray and Joseph K. Heumann
How trees respond in the movies when humans threaten the planet.
Blackfish and Lolita: A Slave to Entertainment:
animal outlaws: capitalism, containment, and documentary activism
by Tess McClernon
With the “Blackfish effect” resulting in SeaWorld’s decision to discontinue whale shows in 2017, McClernon looks at the relevance of activist documentaries and their formal and thematic strategies.
review by David Zeglen of
Greening the Media by Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller
The book investigates the consequences of the information and communication technology (ICT) production circuit on the environment and human beings while proposing alternatives to green the media for a more sustainable future.
Women & Film (1972-1975)
THE LAST WORD
Mourning in America
Learning: All Together Now
Memorial for John Hess