Monday, 19 August 2013

Film and Media Studies Podcasts Galore! Cinema Journal's Aca-Media, New Books in Film Studies and NoirCasts

Accompanying illustration for Episode 7: Aca-Media Podcast

As its regular readers will know, Film Studies For Free is always delighted to promote non-open access film studies items if their authors and publishers make substantial related resources freely available online. So the below entry lists three different publicly accessible sets of brilliant podcast resources related, in general, to offline or subscription only journals and books: Cinema Journal's Aca-Media; Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir; and New Books in Film Studies.

If you know of any further academic film studies podcasts that FSFF should link to, please let everyone know about those in the credits.

1. Aca-Media
Aca-Media is a monthly podcast that presents an academic perspective on media. Hosts Christine Becker and Michael Kackman explore current scholarship, issues in the media industries, questions in pedagogy and professional development, and events in the world of media studies. Aca-Media is sponsored by Cinema Journal, the official journal of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and has been funded in part by the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts at the University of Notre Dame. You can contact the show at, join its Facebook group, and follow it on Twitter at @aca_media.

In this inaugural episode of Aca-Media, we interview incoming editor of Cinema Journal and Batman scholar Will Brooker, discuss the recent Flow Conference in Austin, TX (featuring a screening of the new Fox drama The Following), and report on the tribute to the late Alexander Doty held last fall in Bloomington, IN. 
In this episode of Aca-Media, we premiere a new feature: one-minute media reviews called "Aca-Media Bites." If you would like to contribute one, email us for more information. Also on this episode: an interview with Yvonne Tasker about television crime drama and homeland security, a report on a Media Industries Conference in Atlanta, and our listeners' advice for the upcoming SCMS conference.
This episode features an interview with Justin Horton on Bazin, Deleuze, and neorealism; a tour of the recent SCMS conference through the eyes of a first-timer and an old pro; and an interview with the incoming and outgoing presidents of SCMS, Barbara Klinger and Chris Holmlund. Plus an Aca-Media Bites segment proving that Ira Glass is a devil.
This episode features an interview with David Scott Diffrient about his recent Cinema Journal article on the controversial 1970 sex comedy Myra Breckinridge. We also bring you a report on the recent SCMS Undergraduate Conference held at Notre Dame, a "Vox Scholari" segment on the texts that got us interested in studying media, and an Aca-Media Bites in praise of administrative assistants.
This month, we introduce a new segment, "Cinema Journal Classics," in which we look back at an especially important or influential article (or just one of our favorites) from the CJ archives. In this installment, we return to the Autumn, 2005 "In Focus" feature on "The Place of Television Studies" and talk with one of those authors, Horace Newcomb, about television studies and his career in general. Then we bring you an interview with Aviva Dove-Viebahn about the SCMS website and the challenges the organization faces as it moves deeper into the online world. Finally, we invite you to contribute to an upcoming "Vox Scholari" segment: Tell us about a moment when you were surprised in the classroom. You can record your response and email it to
This episode features an interview with Paula Amad about her Cinema Journal article "Visual Riposte: Reconsidering the Return of the Gaze as Postcolonial Theory’s Gift to Film Studies." We also bring you a pedagogy roundtable on teaching with social media, as well as a new segment, "What We're Watching." Finally, we're still looking for contributors to our next Vox Scholari segment: What was a time when you were surprised in the classroom? Email us at for more info on how to send us your story.
This is a great one, folks! We discuss the question of "industrial authorship" with Josh Heuman, who wrote a recent article in Cinema Journal on the topic. Then we bring you a roundtable discussion about the Trayvon Martin case, getting insights from Bambi Haggins, Miriam Petty, and Kristen Warner on what a Media Studies perspective can bring to the issue and how we might make sense of it as scholars, teachers, parents, and citizens. Plus Chris and Michael tell us about what the media they are consuming this month. Be sure to click through to the show notes for a "web extra"--a segment from the roundtable about the role of social media in the Zimmerman/Martin case that was too long to include in the podcast version.

2. Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir
Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir was the first analytical film podcast available on the Web, created by Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards in July 2005 and running up to 2012. Each episode of Out of the Past investigates a single film in relation to the body of film noir. There are 53 episodes in total. In 2011, Clute and Edwards published their related book, The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism (Dartmouth College Press).
While many scholars have focused on noir as a dark visual style, or a worldview marked by the anxieties and stark realities of modernity, few have addressed noir's high degree of self-consciousness or its profoundly quirky humor. In their 2011 book, The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism (Dartmouth College Press), Shannon Clute and Richey Edwards focus on these underappreciated characteristics of noir to demonstrate how films noir frame their "intertextual" borrowings from on another and create visual puns, and how these gestures function to generate both compelling narratives and critical reflections upon those narratives. Drawing on the on the concept of "constraint" articulated by the Oulipo (a French acronym for "Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle," or "Workshop of Potential Literature"), Clute and Edwards demonstrate that noir was the most constrained of film styles, and the constraints noir embraced gave rise to its infinite variability and unprecedented self-reflexivity--the very characteristics that have often forced scholars to bracket off noir, framing it as an exception to the otherwise tidy world of studio-era American cinema. [Publisher's blurb]
In a related video essay, Clute and Edwards used the "simple constraint of run time percentage to recombine iconic moments from 31 films noir and neo-noir, and in the process create[d] a short film that is at once a noir narrative and an investigation into the narrative constraints embraced by noir".

Thanks a lot to Josh Cluderay for getting in touch and reminding this blog about Shannon and Richey's wonderful and hugely valuable labour of noir love).

3. New Books in Film Studies

New Books in Film Studies regularly provides substantial interview recordings with authors of recently published books in Film Studies are a component part of the New Books Network. The below list links to all those disseminated to date.

You can follow this site on Facebook and via its website/RSS feed here.

Thanks to this blog's dear friend James Williams, participant in the first listed of the interviews linked to below for alerting FSFF to this marvellous and growing resource.
In his new book, Space and Being in Contemporary French Cinema (Manchester University Press, 2013), James S. Williams engages the work of five contemporary filmmakers who are complex creators and interrogators of cinematic space in all its forms: screen, landscape, narrative, soundscape, and the space of spectatorship itself. Grappling simultaneously with film theory, the varieties of cinematic technique, and the social and political fields in which films are made and viewed, the book explores the spaces and places of films by Bruno Dumont, Robert Guédiguian, Laurent Cantet, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Claire Denis. The book’s seven chapters take the reader from the “provincial” films of Dumont, to Guédiguian’s versions of Marseilles, to Cantet’s space of the classroom, Kechiche’s filmic métissage, and Denis’ cinema of diaspora.
A theoretically sophisticated study that includes close readings of key films, the book is throughout concerned with the ways that cinema is a crucial site of representations of, and challenges to, French culture and tradition. Contemporary France and some of its most significant auteurs/directors here offer readers opportunities to think through critical concepts, practices, and experiences of and in the cinema. At the same time, the cinema and its spaces are sites of deep feeling, expression, and politics framing, de-framing, and re-framing the investments and fault lines of the wild, urban, exclusionary, multicultural, and postcolonial Republic.
[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] In addition to being full of wonderful anecdotes about the film and television industries, David Kirby’s Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema (MIT Press, 2011) is also a very enlightening exploration of the role of science consultants on television and in film, and the negotiations of expertise involved in relationships between scientists and the cinema. Scholars of STS will recognize some of the major themes that Kirby raises in the course of a fascinating look behind the scenes of the cinematic production of “science”: negotiated definitions of accuracy and plausibility, technologies of virtual witnessing, the social construction of knowledge. Many of the chapters will change the way you see representations of scientists and their work in the movies and on TV, and Kirby’s description of the filmic use of “diegetic prototypes,” or cinematic depictions of future technologies, is a stand-alone contribution in itself. This is a must-read for anyone interested in popular representations of science. Kirby describes the ways that visual media interpret, naturalize, and engage with scientific theories (be they well-accepted, controversial, or fantastical), and how some scientists in turn manipulate cinematic depictions for their own ends.
Check out David’s recent discussion of the film Prometheus!
[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] As each frame of a film goes by we witness a new world that is situated in space and time. This process of worldmaking happens through the cinematic lens but also through the myths and rituals of religious traditions. Or so argues S. Brent Plate, Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hamilton College, in his book Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World (Wallflower Press, 2008). In this short work Plate sets out to create a “critical religious film theory” and demonstrates how understanding religion and film can help us comprehend the other in more nuanced ways. Through a close examination of mise-en-scène, editing, and cinematics we discover the interrelationship of the world we live and the one on the screen. Plate reveals that film serves many of the same functions myth and ritual do in defining space and time. Both Hollywood blockbusters and avante-garde films present a way of understanding the world and reveal a new visual ethics for understanding reality. Plate also tells us what happens when film leaves the movie theatre and re-ritualizes contemporary experience. In our conversation we discuss film techniques, Star WarsBlue VelvetThe MatrixChocolatRocky Horror Picture Show, sensual aspects of religion, the altar and the screen, ethics, aesthetics, myth, ritual, and Plates role in developing new features in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
Did you see one of Eisenstein’s masterpieces “The Battleship Potemkin” and “Alexander Nevsky” in a Russian or Soviet history class? Were you captivated by Tarkovsky’s brooding long shots in movies such as “Solaris” and “Stalker“? Did you seek out Pichul’s “Little Vera” in the theater to get a glimpse of the new openness ushered in by Glasnost? If you did, or even more if you did not, Louis Menashe’s Moscow Believes in Tears: Russians and Their Movies (New Academia, 2011) offers a valuable entry into Soviet and Russian film, especially during the Gorbachev years.
Menashe has long used Soviet film as a medium for discussing Russian and Soviet society in the classroom, thus the essays in this book will be of use to teachers. But beyond being a handy pedagogical resource, the book is a valuable history of Soviet cinema in the “Era of Stagnation,” Glasnost, and the Post-Soviet period. He argues that many very high quality films were made in the “Era of Stagnation,” though some were not shown. During Glasnost, these “lost” films made it into the theater to wide acclaim. Things were looking up. Yet, Monashe says, just as Gorbachev failed to create the foundation for an enduring open society, his Post-Soviet successors have failed to nurture a new generation of filmmakers to rival the creativity of the great Soviet directors.
[Crossposted from New Books in History] This week we interviewed Laura Wittern-Keller about her new book, Freedom of the Screen: Legal Challenges to Film Censorship 1915-1981. Both well written and extremely well researched, Freedom of the Screen takes the reader case by case through the history of film censorship in the United States. Dr. Wittern-Keller is a visiting assistant professor of history and public policy at the University at Albany (SUNY) and is also the recipient of the New York State Archives Award for Excellence in Research. Francis G. Couvares, author of Movie Censorship and American Culture, claims that “[Dr. Wittern-Keller's] research is prodigious and fills a significant gap in the field. All who are engaged in this field will have to incorporate her findings into their stories of movie censorship.”
[Crossposted from New Books in History] Did you ever wonder how we got from a moment in which almost everything on film could be censored (the Progressive Era) to the moment in which nothing on film could be censored (today)? From the Nickelodeon to Deep Throat? The answer is provided by Laura Wittern-Keller and Raymond J. Haberski in their wonderful new book The Miracle Case: Film Censorship and the Supreme Court (University of Kansas Press, 2008). You’ve probably never heard of “The Miracle” or the case it launched in 1949. It’s a short film by Roberto Rossellini about a deranged women who, having slept with a man she believes is St. Joseph, gives birth to a child in a deserted mountain church. Fellini has a bit part (as “Joseph”). Critics generally liked it; Catholics in New York generally didn’t. The Church mounted a campaign against the film and the authorities relented: “The Miracle” was banned on the grounds that it was  “sacrilegious.” In 1949, those were fine grounds. Not for long. The film’s distributor–the feisty Joseph Burstyn–fought for the right to exhibit it all the way to the Supreme Court in 1952. And he won. Between 1952 and 1965, the states got out of the film-censorship business and we entered a new era of free-speech absolutism when it comes to film. One wonders if that’s a good thing.
  • Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr., "Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood" [podcast length: 36:28]

    Much ink has been spilled in telling the story of the making of Gone With the Wind- be it the book, the movie, or the subsequent musicals and merchandise. So it’s not only refreshing but downright commendable that in their biography, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2011), Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. managed to stumble upon a story that has been almost entirely ignored until now. Rather than focusing the biography on an individual involved with Gone With the Wind, the authors explore the life of the novel itself, from its inception through to its future.
    What emerges from their narrative is a fascinating perspective on the life of a tremendously successful book– a story that’s equal parts legal thriller and manners drama, and peopled by a cast of colorful characters. We’ve flapper Peggy Mitchell, her stern husband, and her lawyer brother, whose Southern affability is put to the test by the slew of glitzy publishing people they encounter in New York, all of whom seem to bungle the novel’s publication in one way or another.
    Thanks to that bungling, the case of Gone With the Wind provides a crash course in the history of United States copyright law and that may be the enduring legacy of Brown and Wiley’s book. It leaves one with a renewed appreciation for the grit and determination of Miss. Mitchell- an oftimes undervalued literary figure, who fought viciously to retain her authorial rights around the world, during war-time and in an age long before email.
Dana Andrews was one of the major films stars of the 1940s, and yet he was never nominated for an Academy Award. The posterboy for the ‘male mask’ archetype that typified the decade, Andrews portrayed the ‘masculine ideal of steely impassivity’  in such classics as Laura and Fallen Angel. In Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews (University Press of Mississippi, 2012) biographer Carl Rollyson cracks the mask, providing intimate insight into Andrews’s extraordinary talent and his life.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Rollyson’s account is that, in the end, Andrews appears to have been beloved by everyone. Often, biographies- particularly biographies of Hollywood stars- batter one’s affection for their subjects, illuminating horrible personality traits or an atrocious work ethic or a cruelty towards children, animals, and/or wives. Hollywood Enigma does no such thing. Rather, it tells the story of a man who, in Rollyson’s words, ‘always showed up for work on time, always knew his lines, and was never less than a gentleman.’
That Hollywood Enigma is about a nice man doesn’t make it any less interesting. Origin stories in biographies are notoriously tedious- long lists of grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather, like something out of Genesis- but Rollyson lays out Andrews’s story at a brisk and engaging pace. Born in rural Mississippi (a town with such an exquisite sense of humor that it christened itself ‘Don’t’ solely so that its postal abbreviation might be ‘Don’t, Miss.’), he grew up in Texas then moved to California, where he worked as an accountant, a gas station attendant, and at various other odd jobs before an employer helped finance his lessons in opera. That, in turn, led to a gig at the community theater and, nine years after setting foot in L.A., Andrews appeared onscreen.
Andrews would a remain a popular star through the 1940s, only to drift into B-movies in the 1950s and 1960s. But he would resurface in the 1970s,  hitting upon something of a second act when he began publicly discussing his struggle with alcoholism. Andrews helped de-stigmatize alcoholism- a disease that was still taboo- while also reframing the way people thought about alcoholics.
Hollywood Enigma is, ultimately, the story of a man who, in an industry known for its frivolity and excesses, stood out as an enigma precisely because he knew who he was.

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