Film and Media

Art on TV

February 17, 2009
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Art on TV

The latest issue of ArtForum magazine contains an interesting review of Lynn Spigel’s new book, TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television. The review, which builds upon the positive assessment given by Andy Battaglia in his recent article for the magazine’s sister publication BookForum, praises the work for “contradicting our peculiar amnesia” regarding TV’s early links to the urbane world of modern art. As Spigel aptly demonstrates, from the 1940’s through the ’60s TV served as an exciting new platform for the arts, inviting the participation of architects and designers like and Eero Saarinen and Saul Bass, to fine artists like Andy Warhol. Offering a stark contradiction to former FCC chairman Newton Minow’s characterization of the medium as a “vast wasteland,” Spigel’s account even suggests that their work actually profited from their relationship with the “vulgar medium.” As ArtForum‘s Matthew Brannon writes, “since advertisers take it for granted that their job is to sell, they are denied that most dangerously available solipsistic avenue that fine art borders: I don’t care what you think.…” Thus Brannon concludes that advertising offered these artists a lesson in visual communication: “how to say much with little how to persuade . . .

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Press Release: Spigel, TV by Design

February 3, 2009
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Press Release: Spigel, TV by Design

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TV as fine art

January 16, 2009
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TV as fine art

In a speech before the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961, the then-chairman of the FCC Newton N. Minow famously dubbed TV a “vast wasteland.” And as Andy Battaglia notes in his article for the February/March issue of Bookforum, “ambassadors of high culture voiced similar worries almost from the moment the first televised image was broadcast to a putatively unwitting and undereducated public.” But in her new book TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television, author Lynn Spigel offers an alternative account of the medium’s history that “upends talk of early television as an empty enterprise,” by demonstrating a surprising partnership between television and the world of modern art that transformed the way Americans experienced the world visually. Battaglia writes: Focusing on broadcasting’s formative era, the ’40s through the ’70s, Lynn Spigel… looks at the ways in which the new medium got in bed with various disciplines—in the fine arts as well as more utilitarian modes of graphic design—thought to be of higher mind.… Valuable chapters survey developments in visionary set design and avant-garde programming (including “silent” broadcasts by comic Ernie Kovacs and provocatively awkward ones by Andy Warhol), but the book mainly focuses on the . . .

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The Economist on Patty’s Got a Gun

November 7, 2008
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The Economist on Patty’s Got a Gun

Does the election of Barack Obama signal the end of the culture wars, the end of the politics of polarization? If you can’t sink a candidacy with the ankle weight of a ’60s-era bomber, has that decade’s grip on our politics finally been broken? Once the partisans have been cleared out of the way, the historians are unencumbered. For instance, William Graebner in Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America. In April 1974, twenty-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst robbed a San Francisco bank in the company of members of the Symbionese Liberation Army—who had kidnapped her nine weeks earlier. What was she? Traumatized victim, brainwashed zombie, or domestic terrorist? From a review yesterday in the Economist: What makes this book worth reading is not so much the first half, a compelling enough account of Ms. Hearst’s kidnapping and subsequent time in the headlines, as the second half: an attempt to put the Hearst affair in the context of an America struggling to emerge from the Vietnam quagmire and the ignominy of Watergate. The America of the 1970s, he argues, was ridding itself of the legacy of the “permissive” 1960s, and was preparing for the rightward shift of Reaganism . . .

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Time catches up with Ebert and Scorsese

October 30, 2008
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Time catches up with Ebert and Scorsese

S. James Snyder has a review in Time of Roger Ebert’s new book, Scorsese by Ebert—a collection of the esteemed critic’s writing on every feature film in Scorsese’s oeuvre, accompanied by his new reconsiderations of the director’s work, plus interviews and Scorsese’s own insights on his films. In his review, Snyder gives the book a thumbs-up, highlighting some of the more passionate of Ebert’s critiques, and remarking on the critic’s profound ability to identify with Scorsese’s work. Snyder writes: In his foreword, Scorsese acknowledges that Ebert closely shares his love of film, his religious roots, and his moralistic worldview. Ebert picks up on that theme in his introduction: “We were born five months apart in 1942 … We were children of working-class parents … We attended Roman Catholic schools … We memorized the Latin of the Mass … We went to the movies all the time.…” Long before they ever met each other, these two were kindred spirits. Scorsese’s films spoke with a tone that Ebert had never heard before, and Ebert was Scorsese’s champion well before the director became a household name. As the two have grown old and famous together, this back-and-forth has become a compelling—perhaps even defining—dialogue . . .

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When Roger met Martin

October 24, 2008
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When Roger met Martin

This Friday marks the beginning of the second week of the Chicago International Film Festival—the city’s largest screening of independent and foreign films—offering Chicagoans a unique opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of cinema’s best emerging new talent. In fact, over its 42 years the festival has introduced a number of films from now famous directors, not the least of which is Martin Scorsese, whose first film Who’s That Knocking at My Door screened at the festival in 1967 and marked the starting point of the director’s long and storied career. But another career in film was also shaped that day. Roger Ebert in the first months of his career was present at the screening, and wrote the first published review of a Scorsese film—beginning a back-and-forth between director and critic that Time Out Chicago’s Hank Sartin writes, was the occasion for “some of the critic’s most thought-provoking reviews.” In his new book Scorsese by Ebert Ebert offers the first record of his engagement with the works of America’s greatest living director chronicling every single feature film in Scorsese’s considerable oeuvre, from his aforementioned debut to his 2008 release, the Rolling Stones documentary, Shine a Light. The book . . .

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Will Palin ride press deference to the White House?

September 18, 2008
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Will Palin ride press deference to the White House?

Regina G. Lawrence is a coauthor of When the Press Fails and, with Melody Rose, of the forthcoming Playing the Gender Card? Media, Strategy, and Hillary Clinton’s Run for the White House (Lynne Reinner Publishers). As such, she has deeper insight than most into the renewed prominence of gender issues in press coverage of the ongoing presidential campaign: Roughly two weeks after Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was named as Senator John McCain’s running mate, McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis announced on Fox News that Palin would not interact with reporters “until the point in time when she’ll be treated with respect and deference.” Apparently, the McCain campaign is hoping that the new addition to the Republican ticket will get the same kind of media treatment that George W. Bush received in the early years of his presidency—particularly concerning his war agenda. As we document in When the Press Fails, the national media mostly tip-toed around the inconsistencies and holes in the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq (among other issues), unintentionally abetting the administration’s rush to war. . . .

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Jonathan Kern on “driveway moments”

July 24, 2008
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Jonathan Kern on “driveway moments”

Jonathan Kern, author of Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production, was a guest last Sunday on NPR’s Weekend Edition. On the show Kern joined host Liane Hansen in an interesting discussion about broadcast journalism and the phenomenon of the “driveway moment,” which the NPR website explains as “a term used to describe a radio story that keeps you in your car after you’ve reached your destination, just to listen.” You can find a podcast of the show at the NPR website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Press Release: Kern, Sound Reporting

July 8, 2008
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Press Release: Kern, Sound Reporting

Starting in 1970 with 30 people and an idea for a program, NPR has grown to become one of the world’s most trusted major news organizations, with journalists worldwide and 26 million listeners each week. Featuring colorful anecdotes, lively examples, and insights from such award-winning journalists as Robert Siegel and Renee Montagne, this rare insider’s tour of public broadcasting reveals how NPR has succeeded as no other medium can in connecting with audiences and capturing the imaginations of its listeners. Jonathan Kern, a talented guide who has worked in almost every position at NPR News, narrates a day in the life of a host and lays out the nuts and bolts of production with equal wit and warmth. Along the way, he explains the importance of writing the way you speak, reveals how NPR books guests ranging from world leaders to neighborhood newsmakers, and gives sage advice on everything from proposing stories to editors to maintaining balance and objectivity. The result is an unprecedented look at the principles and expertise that have made NPR so integral to American culture. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Alan Liu on the production of knowledge in the age of the Wiki

June 27, 2008
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Alan Liu on the production of knowledge in the age of the Wiki

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article today about the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria discussing, among other topics, a fascinating talk given by Professor Alan Liu—one of the leading theorists focusing on the intersection between digital technology and the humanities, and the author of several books on the subject including, The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information and the forthcoming Local Transcendence: Essays on Postmodern Historicism and the Database. Writing for the Chronicle William Pannapacker takes note of Liu’s talk for its examination of the increasing use of digital information resources like Wikipedia by students, and the problem of its limitations in terms of scholarly authority. Pannapacker writes: Since it’s clear enough that Wikipedia—and other sites based on reader-generated content—are too large and accessible to police themselves effectively, Liu argues that the responsibility for that policing should be adopted by the already existing structures of authority, including academe in particular. I have to agree: We can’t get our students into the libraries; we hardly go there ourselves anymore, as much as we might love them. The time has just about arrived when information that is not online does not exist . . .

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