It's easy to notice Herzog's interest in depravity and individual/societal collapse. What's more challenging is seeing the more hopeful components toIt's easy to notice Herzog's interest in depravity and individual/societal collapse. What's more challenging is seeing the more hopeful components to his complicated life philosophy. It's in there though. He's not a nihilist, as key moments in Bad Lieutenant screenplay indicate. But he does understand how difficult it is to break bad habits; how easy it is to slide into chaotic moral bankruptcy. That his work so often shows that very breakdown should never be confused as endorsement of such actions. Quite the opposite. Herzog detests drugs, violence and warfare, while understanding that due to the structure of our world, these things happen and people are inevitably drawn into conflict they otherwise shouldn't be party to--we're all corruptible and always already corrupted. The goal then is to move through our own failings, seeking moments of respite and mercy, both for ourselves and others, where our humanity peeks through.
Lena Herzog's photos work along side the film, as other unseen aspects of these characters and the story told in Finkelstein's script as well as Herzog's revisions and the the final film. Seeing these photos and reading the screenplay divide the narrative, becoming separate entities to the finished film--each one offering a unique perspective that stands on its own, but is better served when joined to other parts. As the photos don't recreate the action of the script, they become quasi-impressionistic details we wouldn't have if we read only the script, or only watched the film. Similarly, people's lives are layered and complicated, where only looking at one aspect leaves us ignorant to others. We become aware of what we aren't seeing and what we don't know, and Herzog isn't interested in explaining those gaps to us.
The script, photos, and film won't tell us exactly why Terrence is such a bad dude (while being a pretty sharp detective), nor does it construct a more cliched quandary of Terrence being a bad human being, but a good cop. The closest we might get is his admission: "sometimes I have bad days." It's a pretty banal thing to say, while also completely honest; deeply enlightening, while opaque. Terrence embodies the tensions within as well as the tensions between people and the cultural and institutional structures they must inhabit and navigate. Terrence does so both admirably and detestably. That's not only complex characterization and storytelling, it's also just fairly honest and straightforward.
This is a lean and mean noir tale, offering valuable questions and insights into the human and cultural condition. It doesn't answer cosmic questions, but instead re-frames the questions to a more day-to-day variety, suggesting that those more ordinary inquiries might aid us more substantially than the supposed Big Questions. The future is uncertain, and the present difficult to manage. We're both the beta fish in the glass and Terrence looking through the glass. But that makes our lot neither meaningless or futile. It's a balance between chaotic order and total collapse. Somehow we've kept it together despite a sense of cultural slippage that is constant and unrelenting. That might be the best we can hope for, and it might be enough.
A decent assembly of essays though not particularly great. As with any anthology, some essays herein are stronger or more interesting than others. MyA decent assembly of essays though not particularly great. As with any anthology, some essays herein are stronger or more interesting than others. My personal favorites were the essays on Petzold's Yella and Schmid's Requiem, which are also two of the more interesting films analyzed in this collection. While I appreciate good scholarship on any subject, selecting films like Downfall, Good Bye Lenin!, The Counterfeiters, Sophie Scholl and The Lives of Others (all films I like) seems like playing it safe for an American and English audience. As this is a UK publication it makes some sense, but I can't help but feel a little discouraged that the films gaining scholarly attention are still primarily those that did well in America and England. International appeal is cool, but it isn't the whole story, and often comes laden with preferences and assumptions that themselves need to be interrogated. At its most dubious, choosing such films feels like its own "criticism of consensus," to revise Eric Rentschler's label, rather than opting for a more adventurous and open exploration of contemporary German cinema.
But editors Cooke & Homewood need their book to be marketable, so their choices make sense. They rightly point out in their introduction that in an industry that put out 200 or so films a year, it's impossible for scholars and critics to keep up with everything that's happening. And whether we like to admit it or not, we often gravitate more to what's popular because it's easier, especially for those of us not living in Germany. While the first half of this anthology offers analyses of predictable titles, appealing to a wider American and English audience, it's the second half that was more interesting to me because the films were lesser-known titles. I find Requiem, Yella and Cloud 9 to be films every bit as, if not more, gutsy and artistically substantial as the popular titles receiving all the American accolades. Thus, the essays on those films interested me more, though I felt that McGee's article on Dresen's Cloud 9 opened well and then suffered from an underwhelmingly abrupt conclusion. It needed to be longer, with some closer, more illuminating, analysis. But this was a challenge with several of these articles; they never seemed to really take off and open things up.
When the book is good, it's good, offering a nice starting point to students just getting into some of these films. This is nice, modest scholarship, which I don't mean condescendingly. We need articles like this to get the conversation moving. So in that sense it's a success and I appreciate it. If people were to take the thoughts proposed in the more compelling moments in this anthology and craft a follow-up anthology where those ideas were expanded and deepened, I'll bet that would be an even better collection than this. So all you German film Profis need to get started. ...more
Solid critical examination. McCormick does a great job of showing Weimar in its complexity, contradiction and profundity. He's repetitive, but his oveSolid critical examination. McCormick does a great job of showing Weimar in its complexity, contradiction and profundity. He's repetitive, but his overview and critique of the critical literature is good and his contributions to the discussion are very thought-provoking. His analysis seems sound and detailed while eschewing any overbearing readings; the ambiguities and tensions within the examined works remain present and worth pursuing even further. ...more
A decent introduction and overview of the series and Buffy studies. If you're just getting into the criticism of Buffy then this might be a nice placeA decent introduction and overview of the series and Buffy studies. If you're just getting into the criticism of Buffy then this might be a nice place to start. I like the brief overview of female heroines on film and TV to help show where Buffy Summers joins the pack. Billson adequately highlights broad themes and how Buffy subverts, mixes, and otherwise plays with multiple genres to create something altogether new. This doesn't mean Buffy is perfect or easy to compartmentalize - it has its faults and moments of weakness.
Where Billson's book falls short for me is in her rather flimsy criticism of some of the "weaker" supporting characters. Billson basically doesn't like Riley, Tara and Dawn. She then verbally abuses them for being not to her taste and considers it criticism. It's not. Calling someone boring or dumb doesn't count as analytical criticism of the kind I expect from a book of this nature. I expect such benign criticism from aintitcoolnews, not from a BFI book.
Billson also spends a little more time summarizing each season than I thought necessary. An introductory text like this is most likely to be read by people who already have watched and know the storyline and just want a light dose of criticism to supplement their own thoughts. Still, her criticism is pretty good. Billson's examination of season one nicely shows how economical and well executed season one is and how it stands on its own quite well. I liked this part because the most general criticism I hear from people discovering the show now is that season one is more something you get through before getting to the real good stuff than a season to be taken seriously. The show remains remarkably loyal to that first season throughout its run and people would be well served by watching that season with as much generosity as they give to the other seasons.
Overall, this is a flawed but nice book. It's a really fast read and has moments of good, perceptive criticism. The supplemental section of websites and other Buffy studies texts is also useful. ...more
A flat read that's only use is in providing lots of mummy, vampire, and zombie film titles from the 30s to the 60s. This is just a fast overview of thA flat read that's only use is in providing lots of mummy, vampire, and zombie film titles from the 30s to the 60s. This is just a fast overview of these undead monsters, with threadbare to non-existent criticism. London's tone is often so condescending that I wonder if she likes any of these films at all - why is she writing about this when she seems to hate almost everything? She makes no attempt to examine these films through any lens that, while not redeeming the shoddy quality of many of the films, may explain their existence and their historical significance to the horror genre. Instead, it just feels like she hates stuff and is so uninterested in the subject that she doesn't even bother providing an index or list of films referenced. Like many of the films she derides, this book is a real dud....more
On the whole this is a very good collections of essays, with one short story. Grunenberg and McGrath's essays are probably the most useful, offering gOn the whole this is a very good collections of essays, with one short story. Grunenberg and McGrath's essays are probably the most useful, offering great introductory insights into late 20th-century horror, Gothic, and grotesque art. The most disappointing essay was Toth's examination of industrial music, whereas Hannaham's assessment of goth rock offered some useful and rather unsettling thoughts regarding Ian Curtis, Joy Division, and goth fans. To deeply invested students and scholars of horror, this collection might not offer many new insights. These essays are meant more as introductions to a specific period of horror and Gothic art rather than deep, close analyses of specific texts. Any anthology of this kind is restricted to general trends rather than complex nuances and minutia. It remains a very useful contribution to horror studies, with several of its insights remaining quite relevant today, while morphing slightly to 21st-century sensibilities.
The post-apocalyptic has since become more interesting to our culture, as if the election of George W. Bush in 2000, 9/11 in 2001, climate change, economic instability, and the rise of reality tv really did mark some kind of apocalyptic destruction, leaving us wandering through a blighted post-apocalyptic landscape of social, political, economical and spiritual disillusionment. Grunenberg's anthology shows our anxious anticipation for annihilation, which never fully and satisfyingly came. We neither survived or died, but became, "the walking dead in a horror film," to quote Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Part of this zombification perhaps stems from Joyce Carol Oates' compelling insight into the grotesque's power: "the subjectivity that is the essence of the human is also the mystery that divides us irrevocably from one another." The world and everyone in it remains perpetually strange and unknowable, despite centuries of so-called development and progress. Even identifiable progress doesn't vanquish horror--it changes it. New beliefs shape new fears. New answers generate new questions. The grotesque lives on....more
This was a good looking book. The layout and stills were good, making this a cool book to flip through. The (only) essay was also quite good, laying oThis was a good looking book. The layout and stills were good, making this a cool book to flip through. The (only) essay was also quite good, laying out the arguments for and against music videos quite well.
The problem is that there's only one essay. The rest of the book contains biographical sketches of notable music video directors and accompanying stills from some of their videos. This is a problem since the book is basically using one essay, director bios, and a bunch of stills to argue for the relevance and artistic value of music videos. Music videos are accused of always putting style before substance, and creating a youth culture with a shorter attention span (as explained in the essay). This book seems to be both of those things - a slick design that gives us a few stills from a few videos, and that's supposed to prove the artistic relevance of the form. Seems flashy and short, making this book much more fun to flip through than actually read; the director bios are nice, but not that useful in proving the value of the form. Nor are stills enough either; they can show a lot, but not all of the formal elements used in the video - it's rather reductive and void of explanation as to why these stills count as much more than style. Basically, the book largely caters to music video fans, who already know the videos highlighted by the book. Maybe this problem could be fixed by simply changing the title. As is, the title suggests more discussion and analysis of the form, but that isn't this book's intent.
Maybe I'm being too picky, but I feel the book wanted to be substantive, but then just slid back into being something you flip through really fast, without thinking too much about what you're looking at. It made me wanna see some of these videos (functioning then as advertising), but it does little to help me understand them....more
Janet Leigh's book on Psycho is nice, especially the first half. It starts out pretty focused on the making of the film and her experiences during theJanet Leigh's book on Psycho is nice, especially the first half. It starts out pretty focused on the making of the film and her experiences during the making of Psycho. This is the most interesting part of the book for me, for it is pretty well focused on the film. The second half begins to wander a bit and talk about other things Leigh was doing after Psycho. Fans of Janet Leigh will perhaps find this part equally interesting, but for me Psycho is the more interesting part. So I started to get a bit tired with the second half. But it was still a nice book....more
James Naremore writes a good little analysis of Psycho, which still feels relevant today, though he wrote this in the 70s. Some might think his summarJames Naremore writes a good little analysis of Psycho, which still feels relevant today, though he wrote this in the 70s. Some might think his summary of the film to be pointless, since he only wants people who have seen the film to read his book, but it can be useful to quickly summarize the film being examined just as a quick refresher. This is a stylistic choice, and doesn't really have much to do with his analysis, which is clear, detailed and enlightening. He emphasizes the first third or so of the film - Janet Leigh's part of the film - feeling it to be more substantial than that second half. From his careful analysis of this part of the film, I can see and understand his point, though I am wary of overemphasizing the Marion Crane storyline. Norman Bates is the real main character of the film and Naremore does a good job examining some of the issues surrounding Norman. I especially like his concluding analysis of Psycho's effect on cinema and what we tolerate watching. He really nails the continuing trend in mainstream cinema to show more spectacles of violence and gore in horror films; he could really see the general direction the genre was headed in. This is a great little analysis and fans of the film I think would find it an enlightening read. ...more
This was a great introductory critical work on Psycho. Amanda Wells does a great job of laying out the basics on why Psycho has been so well receivedThis was a great introductory critical work on Psycho. Amanda Wells does a great job of laying out the basics on why Psycho has been so well received by the public, the critics, and film studies. Her explanations are clear and to the point, placing the film in its historical context to show how the film deviated from other films at the time, and why the film has maintained such high praise and popularity through the years. For Hitchcock fans and scholars, this little book might not give them anything new; but for someone not familiar with the huge amount of criticism available on this film, and wanting to get a small taste of the criticism on Psycho, then this is a nice place to start. Wells lays a solid foundation of context and analysis that can enhance how one watches and responds to Psycho. It stands well on its own, as well as sparking thought that can lead the still-curious mind to other critical works on the film. Very nice stuff....more
Two stars might be rather unfair to this book. It is probably better than two stars - for someone else. But I did not think this book really taught meTwo stars might be rather unfair to this book. It is probably better than two stars - for someone else. But I did not think this book really taught me anything I did not already know. The questions it gives to help people analyze a film would be useful to someone without any real experience with analyzing and writing about film, so I guess the book does just what it intends to do: teach you how to write about film. To the book's credit, it is clearly written and the pictures are nice (and I do like having good pictures). So those were pluses. I do not know what I was hoping for with this book, but I guess I wanted more than it set out to give, which probably shouldn't be considered a fault in the book, since it sets out to do a certain task and does that task efficiently. Still, I hoped for more....more
Dennis Perry writes a nice book on the connections between Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. Many of the thematic parallels addressed by Perry havDennis Perry writes a nice book on the connections between Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. Many of the thematic parallels addressed by Perry have been fairly common topics of critical discussion for Hitchcock and Poe studies people. This book, however, is the first time the two have been talked about together, which might not be that interesting a thing for some. Fair enough. But the commonalities that Poe and Hitchcock share are interesting and show how the same topics of discussion - voyeurism, duality, the sublime, psychological fracture, etc. - have been addressed at different points in time by two different artistic mediums. In that way, it is fun to read about how Poe expressed through literature similar things that Hitchcock expressed cinematically. Well-read critics and scholars of Hitchcock and/or Poe might not gain much from this book; but for a class of undergraduates wanting to learn something about Hitchcock and Poe could really benefit from this book.
I particularly like how Perry uses Poe's Eureka to help guide his analysis. I'm less enthusiastic about some of the Jungisn psychoanalysis, but that is more of a taste issue. Perry shows an enthusiasm for Hitchcock and Poe, which is cool. This book provides enough interesting analysis to help any novice of Hitchcock and/or Poe studies. ...more
Julia Knight gives a nice introduction to the New German Cinema movement. Aware that for a long time scholars, when talking about the NGC, have concenJulia Knight gives a nice introduction to the New German Cinema movement. Aware that for a long time scholars, when talking about the NGC, have concentrated on but a few male directors (Fassbinder, Herzog, and Wenders), neglecting a great many other directors whose work heavily impacted German cinema during the 70s and early 80s. Her section on the women's movement is very interesting, but when focusing on specific directors and films, she picks the women everyone talks about (Sanders, von Trotta and Sanders-Brahms). Other significant women filmmakers, like Jeanine Meerapfel and Ulrike Ottinger, only get listed as having contributed to the movement. While this might be because the book is a short intro to the whole NGC movement and not an in depth study of the women in the movement (for that, see Knight's book Women and the New German Cinema), it is still a little frustrating.
Overall, this is a good introduction. Lots of references and additional reading suggestions, useful to anyone wanting to learn more. The book successfully gives you basic knowledge of the movement's origins and evolution, what it was trying to accomplish, its relevance at the time, and why those directors are still important today. A worthwhile read. ...more