Studying Movie Magazines and Fan Culture! Online Research and Methodology Resources. And LANTERN!


New SCREENING THE PAST: Special Issue on KNOCKNAGOW (1918)

Silent film based on 1873 novel of the same name by Charles J. Kickham. Production company: Film Company of Ireland. Director: Fred O’Donovan. Screenplay: Ellen Sullivan. Released in Ireland, the United States, and Britain in 1918. This film is in the public domain.
Film Studies For Free happily tips its readers the wink that there’s a new special issue up of the high quality open access film studies journal Screening the Past
Issue 33 is devoted to the study of one of Ireland’s first feature films, Knocknagow, an incredibly popular historical drama set during the land-clearances of the 1840s. Six articles by specialists examine this cinematic landmark in relation to Irish history, politics, sport, literature, and cinema in Ireland and the United States.

Appendices include a plot summary, contemporary press reviews and publicity materials, and a copy of the screenplay.

The issue contains a link to the film itself (embedded above), which was shot on location in Tipperary in summer 1917.

Media History Digital Library

It has been brilliantly publicised already, but Film Studies For Free wanted to make sure all its readers were alerted to the launch of an amazing new website for the Media History Digital Library, an excellent non-profit organisation that, for a good while now, in conjunction with the Internet Archive, has been working to digitize and open up full public access to collections of classic film and media periodicals that belong in the public domain.

On the site, you will find access to over 200,000 digitized pages of public domain media industry trade papers and fan magazines, including Moving Picture World (1912-1918), Film Daily (1918-1936), Photoplay (1917-1940), Radio Broadcast (1922-1930), and much more.

As well as its collections, the new website sports a great blog by MHDL Founder and Director David Pierce, and it also has its own Facebook page.

You are also encouraged to support this brilliant project with sponsorship. As such brilliance doesn’t just come about by accident, nor can it possibly come about for free, FSFF strongly urges you to think about supporting this work financially, especially if you know that you, or your institution, are likely to benefit to any great degree from access to these wonderful resources.

New online film journal LOLA launches with an issue on "Histories" !!

Framegrab from Ohayo/Good Morning (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959), an image of the ‘in-between’ as analysed by Andrew Klevan in the inaugural issue of LOLA.

A big day! Film Studies For Free is delighted to relay the news that Girish Shambu has just published at his blog: LOLA, a new online film journal edited by Adrian Martin and Shambu, has just launched.

Below, FSFF also reproduces the wonderful table of contents which include some very hotly anticipated items, among many other must-read essays… So that’s what FSFF is heading off to do now: it must read them!

For once, the links below don’t take you straight to the item, but, instead, to the entry at girish‘s where you can find the full links as well as a brief summary of each article.

Congratulations, and many thanks, Adrian and Girish. Let all film scholars and cinephiles bless the birth of LOLA and all who sail in her!

"Radical, readable": Links and studies in memory of Robert Sklar

How important are origins? [Robert Sklar, ‘Cineaste’s Early Years: The Quest for a Radical, Readable Film Criticism’, Cineaste, Vol. 32 No.4 (Fall 2007)]

What is remarkable is the way that American movies, through much of their span, have altered or challenged many of the values and doctrines of powerful social and cultural forces in American society, providing alternative ways of understanding the world. [Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies (New York, 1975)]

Sklar’s most influential work, “Movie-Made America,” first came out over thirty years ago but remains one of the most important texts for the study of American cinema. (After all, he helped invent the field.) Its thesis, that American film culture owed much to the lower class and the struggles against capitalist interests rather than efforts to sustain them, echoed the egalitarian nature of Sklar’s writing: Although primarily an academic, he had the capacity to speak to movie lovers of all stripes. In doing so, he was essentially an activist, capable of making the inarguable case for taking movies seriously—not only as an art form, but a socio-economic force that helps us understand the world. [Eric Kohn, ‘Robert Sklar, RIP’, Screenrush at indieWIRE July 5, 2011 ]

Robert Sklar’s Movie-Made America (1975, Vintage) was a paradigm-shifting work for film in American studies. It revamped the intellectual (or highbrow) versus popular polarities in which filmic expression was celebrated or denigrated in discussions ofAmerican culture by such culture critics as Dwight MacDonald writing during the height of the Cold War or historians like Richard Pells a decade later who began to incorporate Hollywood activities within the intellectual and cultural landscapes they portrayed. Sklar maintained an interest in movies and ideology but located them within Hollywood as an institution of capital, of culture, of even the State.
     The publication of his book seemed to be part of a new wave of addressing the role of movies and Hollywood within American culture. [Lauren Rabinovitz, ‘More Than Meets the Eye: Movies in American Studies’, 2005 MAASA Presidential Symposium, p. 77]

Discussing broad transformations in the history of American film, Robert Sklar suggests that, since the 1970s, historical memory has become the touchstone of a movie’s cultural power, replacing a ‘traditional rhetoric of myths and dreams’. For Sklar, the identification of a shift from ‘myth to memory’ in the rhetorical power of mainstream American film relates to a particular dissolution of the consensus that, until the 1970s, had underpinned American liberal ideologies in the postwar period. While speculative in nature, ideological schemas of this sort do have a certain use in identifying broad historical trends and patterns in the discursive propensities of popular cinema. Sklar is one of many critics who identify the 1970s as the origin of the contemporary ‘memory boom’ in American life and society. In a time when it is claimed that metanarratives of history and progress have been severely undermined, and when the past has become increasingly subject to cultural mediation, textual reconfiguration, and ideological contestation in the present, memory has developed a new discursive significance. In cinema, as in other modes of cultural practice, memory has become a powerful locus for the articulation of identity in the sphere of cultural imaginings. This has been levied in rhetorical terms – Sklar’s transition from the ‘myths and dreams’ of classical film to the ‘historical memory’ of more recent work – but it has also become figured in particular generic transformations and bound in regimes of industrial and institutional commercialism, such that movie memory itself has experienced a heightened cultural significance. [Paul Grainge, ‘Introduction: memory and popular film’, in Grainge (ed.), Memory and Popular Film (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003) citing Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), p. 357].

Many of Film Studies For Free‘s readers will already have heard of the very sad and untimely death this week of the influential U.S. film historian and critic Robert Sklar.

Professor of Cinema Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, Sklar was the author of many books, including Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies (New York: Vintage, 1975; rev. 1994), City Boys: Cagney, Bogart, Garfield (Princeton, 1992) and A World History of Film” (2003). Sklar also worked as a contributing editor at Cineaste, writing many perceptive reviews. In 2007, he also penned an important and revealing study of that magazine’s early history, which featured in the 40th Anniversary issue. Sklar was co-editor (with Saverio Giovacchini) on a book set for publication later this year: Global Neorealism: The Transnational History of a Film Style.

Sklar served on the selection committee of the New York Film Festival in the 1990s. As a member of the National Film Preservation Board since 1997, he helped choose the films to be included on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. He was President of the Society for Cinema Studies (now the Society for Cinema and Media Studies) from 1979 to 1981.

Below, in a small tribute to the work of this unassuming but hugely important film scholar, FSFF has assembled a list of direct links to online, openly accessible writing by Sklar, as well as to tributes to him by his colleagues and students. Below those lists, there is a further gathering of links to a wide range of online film scholarship influenced or informed by his historical and historiographical work on American cinema.

    Online tributes:

    Significant online works influenced or informed by Sklar’s Work:

      >The Hollywood Left and the Blacklist Era


      Private Property – Joseph Losey’s The Prowler by Matt Zoller Seitz 

      at The L Magazine, March 2010
      (also see Justin Stewart’s essay on this film in the same issue)

      A ghost town also frames the haunting final scenes of Joseph Losey‘s The Prowler, when an adulterous couple (Evelyn Keyes and Van Heflin) take refuge in an abandoned Mojave desert village so that the woman can secretly give birth to their child. Webb killed Susan Gilvray’s husband, successfully making it look like an accident, and he fears that proof of their affair will put him under suspicion.

      He’s a shady, disaffected cop who first meets Susan when he responds to her report of a prowler. She’s a lonely housewife whose husband is an all-night DJ, a disembodied voice on the radio, unable to provide her with the child she craves. Webb takes one look at the wistful blonde and her luxurious Spanish-style suburban palace and decides he wants both. Reluctantly Susan succumbs to his aggressive persistence, as he keeps turning up to investigate an imaginary intruder, finally gunning down her husband, ostensibly by mistake. Fragile and passive, Susan believes Webb’s story and marries him; their wedding is mirrored by a funeral at the church across the street.

      Isolated in the desert ruin, Susan struggles through a difficult labor. The refuge turns deadly, with dust storms raging, and in desperation Webb finally fetches a doctor to save his wife, and she learns the truth about him when she realizes he plans to kill the man who saved her. The setting is appropriate: though they conceived a child, their relationship built on greed and deception is more barren than Susan’s first, childless marriage.   Imogen Sara Smith, ‘In Lonely Places: Film Noir Outside the City’, Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 65, August 2009 [my emphasis]

      Film Studies For Free, a born “fellow traveller” blog if ever there was one, today brings you some choice links to high quality material pertaining to the study of the Hollywood Blacklist era.

      The post begins with Matt Zoller Seitz‘s latest video essay – a wonderful dissection of Joseph Losey‘s 1951 film noir thriller The Prowler. This was one of the last films Losey made in Hollywood before fleeing the US, refusing to inform on his friends to the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Zoller Seitz compellingly teases out The Prowler‘s concerns with social class and property; these would become even more central themes in Losey’s film work after his exile to England.