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February 1995, Week 1


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 2 Feb 1995 14:01:26 CST
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I've been wondering what folks have thought about this ambitious series.
Thanks for bringing it up, Gene.
On Wed, 1 Feb 1995 12:29:55 CST <[log in to unmask]> said:
>Although only the first two (of ten) episodes of "American Cinema" have been
>shown in NYC thus far, the prognosis is not good. The first episode was
>valuable because of the high quality of interviewees and what they said. Many
I'd mostly agree with your prognosis, Gene, but for slightly different
reasons.  The first episode concerned me because of its reliance upon
directors and cinematographers for film history.  These individuals
have a good grasp on Hollywood production practices for the time that
they were/are active, but they run into trouble when they start to
generalize about Hollywood before their time.
E.g., did I hear right (I haven't checked my tape)?  Did one
individual identify CITIZEN KANE as being released in 1949 (!)?  He was
making the point that Orson Welles was the *first* director-as-star.
This also seems a dubious claim when you consider other directors
who had their names above the titles long before Welles--such as
Cecil B. DeMille.
This over-reliance upon Hollywood practitioners (rather than historians
and archivists) is a common problem in film/video/TV histories of
the medium.  I was heartened somewhat by AMERICAN CINEMA's inclusion
of David Bordwell, though they kept his clips too short and largely
ignored his points in the rest of the program.
For this reason, I felt part two (on stars) worked a bit better because
of its use of Richard Dyer and the incorporation of his arguments into
the fabric of the program.
I suppose it's tough for any of us who teach film/television to watch
these sorts of programs.  Speaking for myself, at least, my mind
wanders as I imagine how I might have handled the same material.
>of the clips were very familiar, although it is nice to see a series that has
>enough money to pay for major studio clips and not settle for dupey PD
>material or trailers.
Yes, they are to be commended for the quality of the clips they've
used.  I'd hate to be the person tracking down the permissions for
this show!
>Also, can anyone recall a major PBS series that has been less publicized? Did
>anyone care, or were they so unsatisfied with the series that they hoped it
>would pass unnoticed?
Interesting.  I wonder what went on behind the scenes at PBS...?
         Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as
                                       --Enoch Arnold Bennett
| Jeremy Butler - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [log in to unmask] |
| SCREEN-L Coordinator                                                   |
| Telecommunication & Film Dept * The University of Alabama * Tuscaloosa |