883 Slices
Medium 9780253353801

11 What Condition the Postmodern Condition Is In: Collecting Culture in The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Allan Smithee

In the spring of 1998, moviegoers had the chance to purchase a ticket to a magic carpet ride called The Big Lebowski, a strange new Coen brothers project that may never have gotten off the ground had it not been for the assured wizardry of its creators and its colorful cast of likable actors. In the end, it sank like a bowling ball after just a few short weeks, having racked up a paltry domestic gross of $17,451,873, a largely unsympathetic reaction from critics and indifference from a mass audience that seemed interested only in keeping the good ship Titanic afloat at the local multiplex (boxofficemojo.com). At that point, Lebowski might very well have settled into its designated slot in the home video graveyard, fondly remembered, perhaps, by the same clutch of diehard Coen brothers fans who continue to defend disappointments like The Hudsucker Proxy. What happened instead was a massive revival, one that has by now easily transcended the esoteric confines of the “cult movie” and settled into a strata of public awareness somewhere just this side of the American pantheon of immortal favorites like Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, and The Blues Brothers. Of course, the belated adoration of Lebowski is not unique in and of itself, for there are plenty of other recent comedies such as Half-Baked or Office Space that have also turned into breakout hits only after their release on home video, thanks in no small part to that peculiarly imitative ritual whereby people recite memorable dialogue or recount favorite scenes. Though such vernacular mimicry has also contributed heavily to the Lebowski phenomenon, I want to begin my discussion by suggesting that what truly distinguishes The Big Lebowski as a film—what compels us to watch it repeatedly, what makes it a phenomenon worthy of study, and what swells its continually growing ranks of admirers—is its almost unrivalled capacity to act as an occasion for the collecting of culture.

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Medium 9780861966899

Chapter 25 Rob King, “A purely American product”: tramp comedy and white working-class formation in the 1910s

Abel, Richard John Libbey Publishing ePub

In February 1915, Jeff Davis, the self-styled “King of the Hobos”, took the stage of New York’s Hammerstein’s theater to give audiences a tramp’s perspective on their nation’s history. America, Davis explained, was a nation founded on the tramp spirit. “He said Christopher Columbus was the first hobo ‘gink’ – since Queen Isabella had to ‘stake him’ for the trip over.” Yet, while Davis admired Columbus as a hobo prototype, he was less enthusiastic about others who had followed the explorer’s trans-Atlantic journey: he ended his act by calling for immigration restriction, the better to give the American-born a shot at finding work. As reported in New York’s Dramatic Mirror, “Davis intimated that emigration should be stopped for five years in order that gentlemen now unemployed might investigate pending business openings”.1

We do not know whether Davis convinced his audience. We do know – any reading of the culture of the 1910s confirms it – that his idea of the tramp as authentically “American” was in abundant evidence in the rhetoric of the period, a fundamental image that spoke deeply to popular constructions of working-class manhood. Davis’s call for immigration restriction – and the dichotomy that it constructs: tramp vs. immigrant – was not a new rhetorical flourish. But it is one with significant implications for an understanding of popular representations of the tramp during this period, particularly in vaudeville and film comedy. We are not accustomed to reading the comic tramp racially, as white or “non-foreign”, in large part because of a generalizing rhetoric that has claimed such characters – notably Chaplin’s – as universalized “little fellows”. This essay, however, treats race as central to the tramp’s comic meaning. It examines the role that tramp comedy played as a site for actualizing ideologies of whiteness. But it also examines the hobo in terms of the processes whereby US cinema of the 1910s became an “Americanized phenomenon” (the phrase is Richard Abel’s) and considers how the tramp created new possibilities for conflating a concept of clowning with a concept of American.2

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Medium 9781855759527

CHAPTER EIGHT: The female body has its reasons—but its reasons have a female body

Mariam Alizade Karnac Books ePub

Cecilia Sinay Millonschik

This is how I want to present my point of view in regard to the attempt that I often observe to emphasize or try to establish what is first or what is the cause versus the effect or consequence, between polarities and divisions that I consider more or less arbitrary: body-mind, psyche-soma, organic-psychological, individual-society. I prefer to speak of epiphenomena to try to escape from dual or dychotomous criteria and to take up the questions and doubts regarding phenomena whose complexity surpasses us. It is the mystery of the drive, that psychosomatic place on the border. And it is the mystery of the woman, a place where the psychic becomes flesh. Because her body also involves the psyche of the species. For my discussion, I will refer to three topics:

•  Sexual differentiation.

•  Hominization.

•  The placenta.

Sexual differentiation

Sexual differentiation and death emerged simultaneously. And thelso seem to have an equivalent function: to guarantee variation in the panorama that Nature offers in its effort to provide the best possibilities for the survival of the species by selection of the fittest in all these variations.

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Medium 9780861967131

Chapter 5 Disney Character Tropes

Harrington, Seán J. Indiana University Press ePub

In 1930 Disney came into conflict with Pat Powers, the man who had sold Disney their sound system and had distributed their shorts. Walt had travelled to New York to ask Powers for money owed to the studio. Instead, Powers disclosed his plan to steal Iwerks from the studio in an attempt to blackmail Disney into signing another more restrictive contract. The venture ultimately failed and Disney terminated its contract with Powers. Thus the studio lost Iwerks, who went on to start his own animation studio. Iwerks may have been the superior artist but his cartoons failed to be as popular without Walt’s story-editing abilities. Walt eventually rehired Iwerks but never forgave him the betrayal. Disney was now in need of a new distributor and began working with Harry Cohn from Columbia Pictures. Cohn provided a great deal of capital for the productions, which had since doubled in cost to produce. Cohn also allowed Disney to retain absolute control over his product. Despite its success Disney was still struggling to maintain financial solvency. This and other factors led Walt to his first emotional breakdown in 1931. On the advice of his doctor, Walt and his wife took a short holiday. On his arrival back to work he took up horse-riding as a vent for his stress. Walt signed his next distribution contract with United Artists, a deal that provided a great deal of financial security for the company that had struggled for so long (Schickel, 1968, Wasko, 2001).

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Medium 9780861967025

A Hundred Years Ago

Loiperdinger, Martin John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

for Chiara Caranti

In the summer of 2003 the festival Il Cinema Ritrovato presented a series of five programmes of films from 1903, curated and introduced by Tom Gunning. I do not know how this came about. The section was called, in English, The First Great Year of Cinema: 1903 and, in Italian, Cento anni fa: I film del 1903.

My involvement dates from April 2004, when the director of the Cineteca di Bologna, standing beside me, was wondering to himself whether the Hundred Years Ago series should continue and, if so, who might curate it that year – and muttering that it was, in any case, now too late as the festival starts at the end of June. I muttered back to him that I could do it – a remark which has afforded me the happiest seven years of my career.1

It is mostly thanks to the films. The body of work produced from 1904 to 1910 is the most interesting in the whole of cinema history, for it was then, as it would never be again, that a whole host of aesthetic and narrative possibilities of the medium were explored and tested. It is also the least known and most undervalued work. Moreover, films of this period have to be properly programmed, for screenings to be a success. All this makes the curator’s job both challenging and rewarding. We are talking about films or fragments with running times of between one minute and fifteen (except for the exceptions, of course). Choosing between hundreds of short films, grouping the chosen titles into programmes and putting them into an effective running order, with films being dropped or exchanged the whole time, is a job which can be done well or badly. It is as important to the way the films are received as the staging of a play is to its success. I aim, via my programming, to make the selected films accessible and to provide a context for them by the way they are combined, so that each film’s special qualities are shown to their best advantage and each film’s position in the programme fulfils a dramatic function. A badly-constructed programme reduces or destroys the audience’s ability to see, think and feel. But we have arrived far too quickly at these reflections on programming principles. So let us return to these rarely-seen films of before 1910.

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