Archives for the month of: March, 2012

For the most part, I have the three thousand-plus locations for the box office portion of the Atlas in place. However, some locations remain, mostly in the “Fictional Town” and unnamed town vein. When last I checked, the wikipedia and imdb listings didn’t have a specific narrative setting named, as I previously pointed out here

That’s My Boy (1951) – “Ridgeville”

The Parent Trap (1961), Meatballs (1979) – “Camp Inch” and “Camp North Star”

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) – “Davy Jones’s Locker” and a bunch of other fictional locations

Edward Scissorhands (1990) – fantasy suburb

Beethoven’s 2nd (1993), City of Angels (1998), Hulk (2003) – cabin in the (California) woods.

Father of the Bride (1950), Father’s Little Dividend (1951), That Darn Cat (1965), The Ugly Dachshund (1966) – SoCal suburb

Pinky (1949), Jailhouse Rock (1957), Twilight Zone The Movie (1983), Sommersby (1993)US South

American Beauty (1999), Seven (1995), Police Academy (1984), Police Academy 2 (1985), Police Academy 3 (1986), Neighbors (1981), Saw II (2005) – unnamed locations

Willard (1971)

Robert Tally at Texas-San Marcos is good people.

I never really planned on going to MLA-2013-Boston, so I’m not particularly fussed over the rejection. But I’m always happy to see something resembling human decency in a rejection notice. Robert Tally is good enough to give a sense of how and why he made his decision, and good on him for that.

I’m cowriting a piece on Hugo with Jennifer Clement. She’s the principal investigator, so our collaborative writing goes like this: 1)She writes. 2) She sends me the draft with a lot of annotations on what she feels like is missing or in need of attention. 3) I address those things. 4) I make the case for adding something. 5) I send that to her. Repeat. Consider this chunk of a paragraph:

In fact, this is a movie very concerned with work, both in the sense of “not-broken” and in the sense of labor. Hugo’s obsession to make the automaton his father rescued work is partly due to his sense of sorrow at all things that don’t function as they were designed to do. And this sense of sorrow is linked to his feeling that he himself is broken, damaged perhaps irreparably by his father’s death. But the movie also establishes the value of labor, which helps give a sense of purpose to life and which gives people a place to which they belong. The station is a place of work, as the repeated scenes of shopkeepers, commuters, and Hugo working at the clocks makes clear. The Inspector’s dismissal of the children in the Christina Rossetti scene ends with his words “I love poetry, just not in the station. We’re here to either get on trains or get off them. Work in different shops. Is that clear?” implying that children have no place in the world of work. Yet the movie shows that work is vital to everyone’s sense of self. When Isabella sits down to write, it seems the culmination of her own search for a place into which she fits, a place she can call her own. And it seems to follow naturally from her love of books.

With these ideas in place and in mind I’m pushing for moving from this set of ideas to a set of concerns raised by one of the recurrent images in Hugo: The Station Inspector checks his watch and the labourer responsible is always in the frame with him, but invisible.

Consider that when he catches Hugo and Isabelle in the station, the Inspector asserts that the station is a place of transit and work for adults, not poetry and children. When Isabelle recites a Christina Rossetti poem, the Inspector cuts her off saying, “I knows it’s Rossetti,” sounding a bit like Ali G. He continues: “I love poetry, just not in the station. We’re here to either get on trains or get off them. Work in different shops. Is that clear?” But adults and functional writing (newspapers) do not hold a monopoly in the station. Hugo, lives inside the walls of the train station, and his labour plays a significant part in the smooth functioning of the station. Isabelle is part of the public sphere in the station – an active part of the cafe dance lessons, Papa Georges’ shop, and the bookshop. Children and poetry belong as well. The unseen and unappreciated labour Hugo performs is thus paired with poetry, breaking the distinction between functional/work and aesthetic/joy spaces.

I admit that this doesn’t do a whole lot for the article’s argument, but it’s a lovely example of Judith Halberstam’s contention from The Queer Art of Failure children’s movies put across a distinctly communitarian and/or Marxist worldview.

In honor of my grandmother informing me that my cousin Ryan is going to be teaching at Pitt…When I was asking about life at Pitt when I was waitlisted there for my PhD, a grad student claimed that the problem with the Cathedral of Learning was the frequency with which its elevators were out of order. I gave my usual response to elevator discussions: Paul Newman always takes the stairs, and he looks good in his seventies; I can take the stairs. The Pitt grad student found this to be perhaps slightly optimistic on my part.


(from here, creative commons and all)

Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning tends to walk next to Moscow State University in my mind. In Christian Carion’s Farewell, Moscow State enjoys a few establishing shots – filmed as “Coke commercials” if imdb is to be believed – that Jean-Michel Simonet does a nice job with: blue-green film stock says “Soviet film.”Image

The tale of Christian Long, his parents’ 1980 attempt to watch Coal Miner’s Daughter, an angry poodle, a visit to Sherman Hospital and a career choice.

Some time in 1980, my parents tried to see Coal Miner’s Daughter at what was then the Meadowdale Cinema.

Babysitters were located – the Pauli family lived not even a block away. They had a daughter my sister Megan’s age and another daughter my age. They also had two dogs, a 90-pound German shepherd and an eight-pound toy poodle mix. So Mom and Dad walked us up to the Paulis and drove off to the early night show (7:00 or so) of Coal Miner’s Daughter. It’s best not to dwell on why the dog bit me – it involves holding out potato chips but not giving them to the dog – but I got bit in the face by one of the Pauli dogs. In 1980 you could call Meadowdale Cinema’s human phone line – it’s probably still the same number for C12, 847-428-6277 – and the Pauli parents, faced with little Christian minus a chunk of his face, felt it wise to let my parents deal with my idiocy. The message given to my parents: The dog bit Christian’s face. They left in the middle of the movie, convinced it was the German Shepherd and that I would be lucky to live. They were, I would guess, happy to be wrong when she saw that the poodle had simply taken a poodle-sized piece out of my lower lip. Off to Sherman Hospital we went for the five stitches that left one of about ten scars I have on my face.

Enter Charles Fort. First, the not terrifically Fortean bit: Meadowdale Cinema was sold and became Cinema 5 which begat Cinema 12 (if building new auditoria qualifies as begetting), which begat my job from 1992 through 2001. Ten years’ access to free movies, not to mention the example of Frank Ward, led me to my academic specialization. Thanks to that lapse in judgment, I find myself watching any 1970-1981 film set in the south because I’m convinced that Burt Reynolds’ stardom was historically and geographically necessary. Which brings me back to Coal Miner’s Daughter, especially the part my parents never got to see: the end credits in all their Fortean resonance. The end credits are custom-designed for the World Atlas of American Cinema 1945-2010, in that they reiterate the significant locations of Loretta Lynn’s life. In the four minutes of the end credits, to a medly of Loretta Lynn tunes, we see Butcher Hollow KY, their house in western Washington, the Grand Ole Opry, a tour bus, and Loretta’s Hurricane Mills TN home, encapsulating the what and who of the film by reference to the where.

John Hughes was never much of a director, but I really like the contrast between the opening and closing of The Breakfast Club for the way it gets at the way in which zoning plays such an important part in possible mobility. The film begins with everyone arriving at the school, and the school looms over the two achievement-oriented students, Brian and Andrew.

Bender and Alison, by contrast, arrive in an image that marks them as much less concerned with class mobility and more with the politics of their class position:

Finally, at least in terms of my argument, school occupies much less of Claire’s, shall we say, horizon. For Claire, Standish old (read: inherited) money will assure her continued comfort.

Why do Andrew and Brian need school for mobility? The ending returns to the school parking lot to hint at a reason: Zoning. Brian gets in the car and the school remains in the background – its stairs no less. No heteronormative couple will smooth his class mobility; Brian must depend on mobility through education. The shared car here is the key marker of how much Brian’s family has sacrificed to live in a “good district.”

When Andrew and Alison say goodbye, the school does less looming than in its previous appearance. The apartment complex in the centre right of the image takes up a far greater proportion of the screen. There’s a gulf between them – Andrew’s has aspirations to join Alison’s comfortable upper-mid life. But if the scholarship doesn’t pan out, Anderw just might find membership in the upper-middle class. (As an aside, the film’s big howler is that Andrew’s worried about being a “discipline case” and thereby losing his full ride. I briefly attended University of Iowa, where wrestling meets sold out Carver Hawkeye Arena. Dan Gable would have given a guy who won the Illinois state championship for his weight division as a sophomore a scholarship. No piddly solitary Saturday detention would ruin Andrew’s chances.)

The Bender-Claire framing is even more relentless. In place of the BMW of Overwhelming Financial Potency from the film’s beginning, the Bender-Claire farewell similarly places the apartment complex at its centre, with the glitz of the BMW pushed off to the corner. Why the sudden prominence of the apartment complex instead of the car? Breakfast Club is unabashedly utopian, and I’d argue that Hughes locates that utopian potential in places like apartments – the corners of affordable housing that make it possible for the working class and lower middle class to take advantage of schools in affluent areas. In limited numbers. That’s why multi-family residential zones (apartment complexes and the older kind of duplexes) are so important – and in such relatively scarce supply – in American suburbia.

In the future I’ll have a similar argument to make about a much more geographically specific (Shermer is Northbrook, but it’s also not) example of zoning’s importance in suburban education, The Slums of Beverly Hills.

I sent off an application for a fellowship at the Humanities Research Centre at Australian National University. I nearly felt a twinge of optimism. The project proposal is as good a proposal as I’ve ever written, in no small part thanks to the help Tom McLean, Jonathan Lamb, Phil Armstrong and Paul Millar offered. My three referees are all highly-regarded figures, and I’ve shared the proposal and some early drafts with them so they can be specific. “The World Atlas of American Cinema, 1945-2010” seems to be a good match for their theme: Cities, Imaginaries, Publics. Finally, it’s an interesting project that nobody else is doing but it isn’t incomprehensible. It’s a combination of distant reading, digital cartography and data visualization, and industrial and cultural history through cinema history.

Then again, when I clicked attach on the “publications list” I knew that there’s very little reason to put my chances at anything higher than 1%.  I grow more and more weary of the circular nature of the fellowship game. I haven’t published a mess of archive-excavating research in prestigious journals because I haven’t had any grants to fund such excursions (and I’ve found the response time a bit slow too) mostly because the granters take archive-scouring outputs in swank journals as a precondition for their support.