The Best Films of 2013

While there are still a few flicks from this year that I need to see (such as Inside Llewyn Davis, 12 Years a Slave, Her, Man of Steel, Nymphomaniac, Riddick and a few others), I still feel that I saw enough of the current releases to put together a “best of” list (because I know you’re all dying to read it). So presented here, in no particular order, are my 10 favorite movies of 2013. Let me know if you agree/disagree, or feel free to share your own lists.

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Happy holidays (or whatever)!

So Christmas is right around the corner, and I just wanted to wish those of you who are kind enough to read this blog a happy holiday and a wonderful new year (if that’s your thing). I’ll be back with more academic type musings in a few weeks, so until then, I leave you with my favorite Christmas carol of all time. Enjoy!

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NotFilm needs your help…

So if you read this blog, then you probably know by now that I love films of all shapes and sizes. What you might not know, however, is that some of my favorite films in the whole world are documentaries about movies, because they can lead you to all sorts of films you might not have discovered otherwise. Which leads me to the point of this post: right now, someone is trying to make a documentary about a film that sounds absolutely fascinating. The documentary is called NotFilm, and it’s an experimental essay about playwright Samuel Beckett’s Film, his single work for projected cinema. NotFilm is the brainchild of Ross Lipman, and is described as such:

In 1964 author Samuel Beckett set out on one of the strangest ventures in cinematic history: his embattled collaboration with silent era genius Buster Keaton on the production of a short, titleless avant-garde film. Beckett was nearing the peak of his fame, which would culminate in his receiving a Nobel Prize five years later. Keaton, in his waning years, never lived to see Beckett’s canonization. The film they made along with director Alan Schneider, renegade publisher Barney Rosset, and Academy Award-winning cinematographer Boris Kaufman, has been the subject of praise, condemnation, and controversy for decades. Yet the eclectic participants are just one part of a story that stretches to the very birth of cinema, and spreads out to our understanding of human consciousness itself.

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That time I curated a post for the Doctor Who Theme Week at In Media Res…

Today marks the first day of the Doctor Who Theme Week at In Media Res, a MediaCommons project, and the first post is co-curated by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard of Dominican University. It is shortened version of the presentation we gave at MPCA titled “‘I AM the Doctor’: Polysemic Rhetorical Flexibility and Non-Traditional Audience Reception in Doctor Who,” but features a brand new video component that we conceived of and edited ourselves specifically for this post. You can check it out here, and we invite you to join in the discussion throughout the week. Be sure to tune in all week at IMR to see what other scholars and fans have to say about the cultural impact and legacy of The Doctor.

Fan Activism and Digital Protest

This is a revised and updated version of a short paper I wrote for Dr. Paul Booth‘s class on Fandom and Active Audiences that took place during the Autumn 2012 quarter at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

FAN ACTIVISM AND DIGITAL PROTEST

According to Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport (2009), protest tactics have diffused across movement societies, and thus have become normalized as a way of addressing both political and non-political issues. They explain that traditional protest tactics and schemas have been used to address a variety of consumer-based and culturally-oriented claims, and that fans have adopted these tactics to address issues surrounding the properties that are the focus of their fandoms. This phenomenon is summed up by John L. Sullivan, who writes that “fans can be mobilized to press producers and media corporations for changes (or, as is more often the case, to prevent changes from coming about in a favorite media text)” (2013, p. 196).

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Exploring the Trauma of the Spanish Civil War at the Intersection of Fantasy and Reality

This is a slightly revised version of a paper I wrote for Dr. Michael DeAngelis‘ Cinema of Peace class, which was taught at DePaul University during the winter 2013 quarter. I am currently in the process of sending this paper out for publication. Also, be aware that this paper contains spoilers for both films. Also, because this paper is currently unpublished, I would ask that if you want to quote it or cite it in any way, please contact me for permission first. Thank you.

FAUNS, PHANTASMS AND PERSISTENT MEMORY: EXPLORING NATIONAL TRAUMA AT THE INTERSECTION OF FANTASY AND REALITY

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) is a trauma that is specific to the nation of Spain, but one that had far reaching consequences that touched several other nations far beyond Spain’s borders. Indeed, the conflict drew soldiers from France, Germany, the Soviet Union and even China, and is often seen as a precursor to World War II (Raychaudhuri, 2001). It eventually took on a significance that went far beyond a Spanish cultural context, with people around the world viewing it as a battleground between fascism and Communisim, and an ideological conflict between oppression and freedom (Preston, 1996, p. 6). The Spanish Civil War left its mark on countries such as Wales, which is home to numerous Spanish Civil War memorials. However, while the Spanish Civil War would have an impact on Spain (and the rest of the world) for decades to come, those within Spain’s borders were not interested in memorializing the conflict, but rather were content to forget that it ever happened. There was a collective effort to forget the trauma caused by the war and the nearly three decades of fascist oppression that followed (Brinks, 2004). Unfortunately, even when an entire nation chooses to forget, the trauma nevertheless remains, and in this case it cast a shadow over not only Spain’s national history, but over the history of the entire world as well.

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Carnival of Souls and Emergent Feminism in the Early Half of the Sexual Revolution.

This is a paper I wrote for a class on Hollywood and the sexual revolution, taught by Dr. Michael DeAngelis during the Fall 2013 quarter at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. This is yet another paper I will be revising and sending out for publication over the next few weeks. At this time, I know that I want to further explore how Mary Henry is repressed through the removal of her voice, and also through isolation, as she is often positioned apart from other characters through framing and editing. If you have any suggestions or feedback on other areas I could be looking at, I would greatly appreciate hearing your ideas. Also, because this paper is is not the final version of the paper and it is not currently published in any journals, I would ask that if you want to quote it or cite it in any way, please contact me for permission first. Thank you.

“I DON’T BELONG IN THE WORLD”: CARNIVAL OF SOULS AND EMERGENT FEMINISM IN THE EARLY HALF OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION

INTRODUCTION

According to Diana Wallace (2004) “The ghost story as a form has allowed women writers special kinds of freedom…to offer critiques of male power and sexuality which are often more radical than those in more realist genres” (p. 57). Similarly, as Cynthia Murillo (2013) writes, “The female gothic has proved a convenient and suitable forum for challenging conventional gender roles and implicating an oppressive patriarchal structure” (p. 755). While both authors were writing about short stories or gothic novels, their assertions could just as easily be applied to the film Carnival of Souls (1962), despite the fact that the film was written and directed by men. Directed by Herk Harvey and written by John Clifford, the film centers on Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss), a strong-willed, independent, sexually liberated young woman who is being pursued and persecuted by a character known simply as The Man (Herk Harvey).

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Polysemic rhetorical flexibility and non-traditional audience reception in Doctor Who

This is a paper I co-authored with Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. We presented it at the Midwest Popular Culture Association conference that took place from Oct 11-13 in St. Louis, MO. We are currently working on expanding the paper and revising it for publication. As always, we welcome any and all feedback on how to improve the paper.

“I AM THE DOCTOR”: POLYSEMIC RHETORICAL FLEXIBILITY AND NON-TRADITIONAL AUDIENCE RECEPTION IN DOCTOR WHO

Taking a methodological stance that combines political economic industry analysis, rhetorical text criticism and audience/reception analysis, this paper is an examination of the historical trajectory of the long-running BBC series Doctor Who focusing on the interplay between the rhetoric of the text and the nature of its audiences. The examination posits that this interplay results from the one influencing the other as the series strives to maintain rhetorical cohesion – retaining a core rhetorical, narrative and aesthetic identity — and sociocultural relevance – building and maintain a loyal viewership upon which its livelihood depends. This balancing act means that changes in the one will elicit changes in the other, with no perfect middle ground yet reached.

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Merry Christmas from after the apocalypse

Earlier this evening, I watched the film It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), which is pretty great, but is not the focus of this post. Rather, it’s about one of the animated shorts that is included on the DVD, a strange little holiday themed Hanna/Barbera cartoon titled “Good Will to Men.” I’m kind of fascinated by this short for a number of reasons, most notably because it’s a Christmas tale set after humanity has been wiped out in an atomic war, and animals (in particular, mice) have inherited the Earth

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