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June 1998, Week 3


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Michael Gant <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 17 Jun 1998 10:39:38 +0100
TEXT/PLAIN (106 lines)
Isn't there a risk that if you do this you will end up creating an all
encompassing category of 'action' films which will include a wide range of
films which are actually quite different.  It seems to me that on the
basis of what you propose it would be possible to group films like Nikita,
Predator, Die Hard, Star Wars, Full Metal Jacket and any of a number of
westerns within the category 'action' films.  I hesitate to suggest that
this is an artificial grouping since all genres are to some extent
artificial, but I do think there are problems with trying to classify
films in this way, particularly at a time when the movie industry seems to
be increasingly concerned to produce films in which narrative is
subordinated to action.
Mike Chopra-Gant
Media and Communications Department
Goldsmiths College
University of London
[log in to unmask]
On Wed, 10 Jun 1998, Patricia Scheiern Lewis wrote:
> I'm not sure I agree.  If one considers only the classical Hollywood cinema,
> then the argument is probably valid.  However, genre definitions become
> particularly sticky in the post-classical cinema, especially post-"Star
> Wars."  Consider, for example, "True Lies" (or any of several other
> Schwarzenegger pics: "Predator," "Last Action Hero," "Commando," "Eraser"
> and "The Running Man" leap to mind).  While the plot of "True Lies"
> ostensibly places the film in the "espionage" or perhaps "thriller" genre,
> the film's emphasis on stunts, spectacle, special effects, and the
> celebrity/brand name of Schwarzenegger as action hero completely overshadow
> the "espionage" elements of the film.  Films in which the primary element or
> attraction is "action" constitute a de facto action genre.  Reviewers label
> these types of films "action" films; they're marketed as action films;
> they're aimed at a well-defined demographic of action film fans.  Most
> importantly, filmgoers generally know what to expect when they are told a
> film is an "action" film, and I think most of us on the list have some idea
> what an "action" film is.  Aren't audience expectation and recognition the
> primary factors in defining a genre?
> I see that the Library of Congress does not list "action" as a genre in its
> Moving Image Genre Guide; it labels "Speed"--which I would argue is an
> "action" film--a "thriller," probably because of the terrorism and
> "countdown" element.  I think the difference between a "thriller" and an
> "action" film is subtle but worthy of narrowing down.  I mean, if there's a
> "Fallen woman" genre--I probably would've lumped that one in with
> "(melo)drama" or "women's pictures"--why not a separate genre for the "Die
> Hard" plot?  When I tell an action fan that "Passenger 57" is "Die Hard on a
> Plane" and "Under Siege" is "Die Hard on a Boat," they know what to expect.
> At 06:43 PM 6/9/98 -0400, you wrote:
> >> Date:    Fri, 5 Jun 1998 18:18:49 +0100
> >> From:    Ingvald Bergsagel <[log in to unmask]>
> >> Subject: Action as genre
> >>
> >> Does anyone know of genre-studies done on action-films? I've found plenty
> >> on western, noir, gangster, sci-fi, adventure and other related genres, in
> >> addition to (naturaly) writings on screen-violence mentioning classic
> >> action-flicks, but nobody seems to have analysed action as a genre.
> >
> >I think the reason is, as I suggest in my book on the historical adventure
> >genre, because "action" itself is not a genre.  The types you've mentioned
> >above are genres, whereas action is a style uniting them.  The word action
> >itself does not imply a specific type of story or formula, but rather a
> >way of treating a story and an emphasis on certain types of elements.
> >Action is a male-oriented approach dependent on physical movement,
> >violence, and suspense, with often perfunctory motivation and romance.
> >Action tends to shift sentiment, character, dialogue, and family to the
> >background.  In action films a hero succeeds by facing death, courageously
> >overcoming dangers and adversaries.  Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Shane,
> >the Thief of Bagdad, Luke Skywalker, and Robin Hood are, I would argue,
> >all action heroes--but each belongs to a separate genre (mystery,
> >espionage, western, fantasy, science fiction, historical adventure,
> >respectively).
> >
> >
> >Brian Taves
> >Motion Picture/Broadcasting/Recorded Sound Division
> >Library of Congress
> >101 Independence Avenue, S.E.    Washington, D.C.  20540-4692
> >Telephone:  202-707-9930; 202-707-2371 (fax)
> >Email:  [log in to unmask]
> >
> >
> >Disclaimer--All opinions expressed are my own.
> >
> >----
> >Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite
> >
> >
> >
> Patricia Scheiern Lewis
> Dept. of English
> University of Chicago
> [log in to unmask]
> Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock.
> ----
> Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite
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