Film and Media

Review: Geer, In Defense of Negativity

May 8, 2006
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Review: Geer, In Defense of Negativity

The Washington Post recently reviewed John G. Geer’s In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns. Reviewer Dan Balz wrote: "Geer has set out to challenge the widely held belief that attack ads and negative campaigns are destroying democracy. Quite the opposite, he argues in his provocative new book: Negativity is good for you and for the political system. Geer believes that democracy is strengthened by vigorous debate and asserts that negative ads contribute to, rather than detract from, that dialogue…. Negative ads, he says, are far more likely to be about substance rather than personal attacks and are more likely to be supported by documentation than positive appeals. He argues that negative ads are more specific than positive appeals and therefore more useful to voters in weighing the relative merits of presidential candidates. He also says the media have been far too alarmist about the level of negativity and the effects of attack ads on the political process…. Geer states what others before him has said: Negativity has long been part of American politics…. While conceding that negativity has steadily increased, he challenges the belief that the rise results from scurrilous personal attacks by one candidate against another…. . . .

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Press release: Bal, A Mieke Bal Reader

May 4, 2006
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Press release: Bal, A Mieke Bal Reader

Always inspiring, sometimes maddening, consummately controversial, Mieke Bal has provoked and engaged thinkers around the world since she arrived on the intellectual scene more than thirty years ago. And now, the sparks that fly off the pages of her most influential pieces have converged to make cerebral fireworks. Encompassing Bal’s wide-ranging work in fields from critical theory and visual studies to narratology and feminist Bible scholarship, A Mieke Bal Reader brings together the best of her powerful essays, capturing a dynamic mind in peak form. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

March 6, 2006
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Review: Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds

The Guardian‘s Steven Poole recently reviewed Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games: "Those who spend their nights pretending to be elves on the internet are, it appears, worthy of more than your bafflement or idle contempt, for this is the future of human society. Already, as the economist author points out, massive multiplayer online roleplaying games such as World of Warcraft host large economies whose apparently fictional currencies are traded against the real-life dollar, and political institutions are just as real in the virtual world as they are when housed in actual buildings.… Castronova’s discussion is detailed and thought-provoking, although … his optimism seems to underplay the fate of the underclass that will inevitably be locked out of these digital utopias: after all, some people will always have to maintain infrastructure and energy and food supplies while the rest sublime happily into cyberspace." Read an interview with Edward Castronova. . . .

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Press release: Zhang Zhen, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen

March 2, 2006
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Press release: Zhang Zhen, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen

Chinese cinema is now celebrating its centennial at the same time it is garnering increasing exposure around the world. Thus this first history of film’s emergence in China, Zhang Zhen’s Amorous History of the Silver Screen couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Named after a major 1931 feature film on the making of Chinese cinema, only part of which survives today, this sustained historical study covers the full sweep of the country’s early cinematic history—from 1896, when the first film was screened in China; to 1905, when the first film was produced in the country; to 1937, when the Japanese invasion halted the exciting cinematic transformations then in progress.… Read the press release. . . .

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Why Are You Laughing?

February 27, 2006
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Why is the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges funny? Why do we laugh when the Black Knight gets his arm hacked off in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Paul Lewis, author of the forthcoming book, Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict, recently discussed the appeal of violence in comedy on NPR’s Studio 360. In a Studio 360 segment called "Why Are You Laughing?," Lewis compared violent comedy to a roller coaster: "As you make your way up there’s a sense of apprehension. Will this be dangerous? Will it be thrilling? As you’re on your way down you’re either screaming or you’re laughing or some combination, which is familiar to people who enjoy sadistic or cruel humor." Listen an audio file of "Why Are You Laughing?" on NPR’s Studio 360 Web site. Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict will be published by the University of Chicago Press later this year. . . .

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Shoot! featured on BBC Radio Four

February 21, 2006
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Shoot! featured on BBC Radio Four

Luigi Pirandello’s Shoot!: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator was recently featured on the BBC Radio Four program "Open Book." Originally published in Italian in 1915, Shoot! is one of the first novels to take as its subject the heady world of early motion pictures. Based on the absurdist journals of fictional Italian camera operator Serafino Gubbio, Shoot! documents the infancy of film in Europe—complete with proto-divas, laughable production schedules, and cost-cutting measures with priceless effects—and offers a glimpse of the modern world through the camera’s lens. Listen to an archive of the program by following the link on the Open Book Web site. . . .

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Cowboys and Presidents

February 20, 2006
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Cowboys and Presidents

What did Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon have in common? They both loved the Wild West. Roosevelt, a native New Yorker, molded himself into a cowboy. In his twenties, he worked as a cattle rancher in the Dakotas. He spent thirteen-hour days in the saddle, breaking in wild cow ponies, and fighting off cattle thieves and roaming gangs. Why did he do this? According to Sarah Watts, author of Rough Rider in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Desire, sensed that ordinary men needed a clearly recognizable and easily appropriated hero who enacted themes about the body; the need for extremity, pain, and sacrifice; and the desire to exclude some men and bond with others. In one seamless cowboy-soldier-statesman-hero life, Roosevelt crafted the cowboy ethos consciously and lived it zealously, providing men an image and a fantasy enlisted in service to the race-nation. Nixon, it turns out, was the type of man who believed in such heroes. Mark Feeney, author of Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief, writes that Nixon screened fifty-six Westerns during his five year tenure in office. Twenty of these Westerns were directed by John Ford. In an interview on . . .

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Review, Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!

February 16, 2006
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Review, Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!

Earlier this month, a nice review of Luigi Pirandello’s Shoot!: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator appeared in the New York Sun. Reviewer Adele Kudish praised the novel’s translator, C. K. Scott Moncrieff: "His Shoot! is the only English version ever published and proves to be a truly timeless and important rendering of Pirandello’s novel. Moncrieff skillfully re-created Pirandello’s dreamlike prose, which flitters in and out of consciousness, according to the mechanized tempo of Gubbio turning the handle of his machine." . . .

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Press release: Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!

Before Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonini—as well as contemporary auteurs such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson—there was Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936). The Nobel Prize-winning Sicilian writer recognized and explored, long before art cinema of the 1960s, the permeable boundary between reality and illusion. As the Wall Street Journal put it on the centennial of his birth, Pirandello "was one of the first moderns to insist that the theater itself is an art form, something to be reshaped according to the requirements of the twentieth-century imagination." And reshape it he did…. Read the press release. . . .

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