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AMERICAN FILM. PERSISTANCE OF THE CHC… & SOME ALTERNATIVES. American film seems to be a monolithic entity Seems to follow a fairly rigid pattern However, room for diversity, both within & without the Hollywood industry. DIVERSITY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY.

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American film l.jpg

AMERICAN FILM

PERSISTANCE OF THE CHC…

& SOME ALTERNATIVES


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DIVERSITY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY

  • Studio Era: musical shorts, cartoons, newsreels & short documentary pieces

  • Different genres, each with its own conventions (but always within CHC style)

  • There are influences from other film styles

    • German Expressionism

    • Italian Neorealism

    • European Art Cinema


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The Cabinet of Dr Caligari(Robert Wiene, 1920)


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Frankenstein (James Whale, 1930)


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Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)


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Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1946)


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On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)


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Last Year at Marienbad(Alain Resnais, 1961)


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Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1978)


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DIVERSITY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY

  • Combinations of animation & live action, etc.

  • Occasionally a documentary

  • Some personalities powerful enough to “go their own way”


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Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Roger Zemeckis, 1988)


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Cool World (Ralph Bakshi, 1992)


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Roger & Me(Michael Moore, 1989)


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Bowling for Columbine(Michael Moore, 2002)









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Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1978)


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OUTSIDE OF THE INDUSTRY

  • Since silent era, individuals have made more personal films

  • Most short, avant-garde films

  • Some documentaries, ethnographic films

  • A few feature films, but usually too expensive for an individual


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Meshes of the Afternoon(Maya Deren, 1943)


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PERSISTENCE OF THE MODE

  • CHC persists, largely unchanged by alternatives

  • The fact that we refer to “alternative films” indicates that they are not dominant

  • Most films, made anywhere, follow the basic conventions of the CHC

    • Narrative structure (individual protagonist, cause & effect construction, goals, etc.)

    • Stylistic conventions (continuity editing, esp.)


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PERSISTENCE OF THE MODE

  • Even alternatives limit their “deviations” to specific features

    • They use CHC as a base, then deviate from it in specific, & limited, ways

    • Ensures that audience can follow the narrative

    • We all speak the language of Hollywood


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WHAT DO WE CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TODAY?

  • The term “independents”, in the business sense, applies to all films made today

  • But we think of independent films based on stylistic features, not mode of production

    • Some are playful with temporal & spatial relations

    • Others are more like European Art Cinema, with a sense of ambiguity


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WHAT DO WE CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TODAY?

  • Some explore the limits of technology & aesthetics

    • A look has been accepted as “good” for Hollywood films

      • Fairly soft, warm lighting

      • A clear image

      • Fine-grained film stock

      • “Professional” acting, good-looking stars in sympathetic roles


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WHAT DO WE CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES TODAY?

  • Some films challenge accepted aesthetic qualities

    • May use natural lighting, regardless of resulting clarity of image

    • May use non-professional actors, or not especially good looking

    • May use cheaper alternatives to expensive film stock & cameras (digital video)


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Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)


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The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)


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Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 1999)


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HOW DO ALTERNATIVES FIT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM?

  • MARKETING

    • “Independent” or alternative films share a number of conventions that signal “art” to some viewers, who then seek out movies with these conventions

    • Tend to receive awards at film festivals & approval of critics, both used in marketing

    • Add diversity of product to a studio’s offerings


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HOW DO ALTERNATIVES FIT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM?

  • Have taken over some of the role of B movies

    • Many actors, directors & technicians begin on these low-budget movies before moving into mainstream

      • Some never do, as a matter of choice

        • Some prefer the relative freedom offered by smaller budgets

        • Some simply prefer these kinds of films


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HOW DO ALTERNATIVES FIT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM?

  • Some well-known actors (& sometimes directors) make these movies later in their careers

    • May be trying to prove that they are real “actors”

    • May be trying to “jump start” their careers during a slump


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Sylvester Stallone in Cop Land (James Mangold, 1997)


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John Travolta in Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)


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Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction(Quentin Tarantino, 1994)


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John Cusack & Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)


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John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)


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HOW DO ALTERNATIVES FIT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM?

  • New technologies, especially video & digital technology, can be explored

    • Doesn’t jeopardize success of expensive movies

    • Technologies then used in more expensive movies

    • Technologies are often used as aesthetic features, usually with narrative implications


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HOW DO ALTERNATIVES FIT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM?

  • Because they are almost always distributed by majors, will almost never deviate too much from CHC style

    • The most obviously different films tend to be made without studio financing

      • Studios would demand changes before investing &/or agreeing to distribution

      • May agree after film is made & has had some exposure; a “negative pick-up”


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HOW DO ALTERNATIVES FIT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM?

  • Most films don’t offer extreme alternatives

    • They are just kind of “quirky”

    • Allow viewers to think of themselves as artsy & clever, without having to think too much or get too confused


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