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Film and Cinema

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Fred Halsted’s L.A. Plays Itself (1972) was gay porn’s first masterpiece: a sexually explicit, autobiographical, experimental film whose New York screening left even Salvador Dalí repeatedly muttering “new information for me.” Halsted, a self-taught filmmaker, shot the film over a period of three years in a now-vanished Los Angeles, a city at once rural and sleazy.

Over the last decade, machinima--the use of computer game engines to create movies--has emerged as a vibrant area in digital culture. Machinima as a filmmaking tool grew from the bottom up, driven by enthusiasts who taught themselves to deploy technologies from computer games to create animated films quickly and cheaply. The Machinima Reader is the first critical overview of this rapidly developing field. The contributors include both academics and artist-practitioners.

Video Stores and the Invention of Movies on Video

The first video cassette recorders were promoted in the 1970s as an extension of broadcast television technology—a time-shifting device, a way to tape TV shows. Early advertising for Sony’s Betamax told potential purchasers “You don’t have to miss Kojak because you’re watching Columbo.” But within a few years, the VCR had been transformed from a machine that recorded television into an extension of the movie theater into the home.

Philosophy in Film

Film is the supreme medium for mythmaking. The gods and heroes of mythology are both larger than life and deeply human; they teach us about the world, and they tell us a good story. Similarly, our experience of film is both distant and intimate. Cinematic techniques—panning, tracking, zooming, and the other tools in the filmmaker’s toolbox—create a world that is unlike reality and yet realistic at the same time. We are passive spectators, but we also have a personal relationship with the images we are seeing.

The Reflexive Medium

Video is an electronic medium, dependent on the transfer of electronic signals. Video signals are in constant movement, circulating between camera and monitor. This process of simultaneous production and reproduction makes video the most reflexive of media, distinct from both photography and film (in which the image or a sequence of images is central). Because it is processual and not bound to recording and the appearance of a “frame,” video shares properties with the computer.

Reflections on His Creativity

Known for their repeating motifs and signature tropes, the films of Ingmar Bergman also contain extensive variation and development. In these reflections on Bergman’s artistry and thought, Irving Singer discerns distinctive themes in Bergman’s filmmaking, from first intimations in the early work to consummate resolutions in the later movies. Singer demonstrates that while Bergman's output is not philosophy on celluloid, it attains an expressive and purely aesthetic truthfulness that can be considered philosophical in a broader sense.

La Jetée

Chris Marker’s legendary “ciné roman” (“film novel”) La Jetée is considered one of the greatest and most influential experimental films of all time. This short film--a postapocalyptic story composed almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs—has been praised by cultural theorists and Netflix subscribers alike.

From Alberti to Microsoft

As we spend more and more of our time staring at the screens of movies, televisions, computers, and handheld devices—"windows" full of moving images, texts, and icons—how the world is framed has become as important as what is in the frame. In The Virtual Window, Anne Friedberg examines the window as metaphor, as architectural component, and as an opening to the dematerialized reality we see on the screen.

Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973–1990

Twentieth-century art history is not just a history of individuals, but of collectives, groups. Universities and colleges have had much to do with this through their support of artistic communities and creative interactions. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Bauhaus was known for this. In the 1940s, Black Mountain College became a leader in community-based visual art practice and education. And in the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Media Study at the State University of New York at Buffalo was the place to be.

The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film

Computer-generated effects are often blamed for bad Hollywood movies. Yet when a critic complains that "technology swamps storytelling" (in a review of Van Helsing, calling it "an example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood computer-generated effects movies"), it says more about the weakness of the story than the strength of the technology.

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