Archives for category: crowdsourcing research

Comments like this from peer reviewers:

Overall, the article is very readable, but there are a number of sentences which are somewhat clumsily put together. These have been indicated using track changes. Also, the tone veers away from the academic to the more journalistic on a number of occasions.

I would guess that the moments this reader doesn’t like look like this: “Bienvenue is not a great film; instead, it’s a perfectly acceptable comedy that seems to have appealed to nearly everyone in France, selling more than 21 million tickets in a country of 66 million.” Evidently it’s best to avoid this kind of overstatement in an academic article.

A similar complaint arrives in response to my claim that,

Hollywood films set in Paris will, inevitably, begin with an establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower; see, for example, An American in Paris (1951, Vincente Minneli), Sabrina (1954, Billy Wilder), Anything Goes (1956, Robert Lewis), as well as later films like An American Werewolf in Paris (1997, Anthony Waller), The Bourne Identity (2002, Doug Liman), and The Devil Wears Prada (2006, David Frankel), among many others.

To my peer reviewer, this is a gross generalization. It is a gross generalization that is also true (I had a longer list – three films from the 50s-60s-70s-80s-90s-00s-10s – but cut it for space).

And a great one, that admits that I’m right, but for the wrong reasons: “Lyon, in fact, is only invisible in terms of the criteria chosen for mapping. Nonetheless, I think this is a valid point, that Lyon isn’t seen as a cinematic location in the way the other two major French cities are.” 


The next time I have success getting some funding for my research will be the first. It’s not that I haven’t been part of successful grant applications – I helped the UNH fencing club get money for a new scoring machine thing back in 2001 and I met more than my share of grant-writers when I worked at University of Canterbury’s Learning Skills Centre. In other words, I’m one of the people the Deakin University is thinking of in their crowdfunding initiative.

But there’s something that really and truly bugs the everloving shit out of me. It’s point number three in their “Five crowdfunding tips“:

Be comfortable mixing the personal and the professional. Successful crowdfunding means engaging with the people who have the biggest investment in seeing you succeed. And nine times out of ten this will be your friends and family, or even your colleagues down the corridor.

I’m supposed to ask my mother, who lives on Social Security disability payments in a trailer because she has Stage IV lung cancer, to send some money my way. I’m supposed to ask my father, who lost his job as a welder and now works on the delivery dock of a grocery store, for money. I’m supposed to ask my sisters for money – because waitresses, social workers, and students are a ready source of buckets of money. After all, they don’t have bills. I do not doubt the good will of my family or my colleagues, but it is not their fucking job to fund my research. I’m lucky to have moved to NZ, where my health problems, which would have cost ten or twelve grand in the States, were covered under national health. Your average humanities PhD in the US carries non-dischargeable undergrad student loan debts and, in all likelihood, a fair amount of credit card debt from emergency dental care and/or medical problems during grad school. I fail to see how asking my paycheck-to-paycheck junior faculty pal for some scratch to fund my research is going to accomplish much.

How, exactly, will crowdfunding help me get a decent gig? It would seem to make me the cheap option, the option that would require nothing of the university other than a hot desk and an email address. I’m already a contract lecturer who gets no research support from the university. The last thing the suits need is some Mitt Romney pep talk from the people who are allegedly on my side.

During the domestic hullabaloo that opens Sixteen Candles, suburban dad Jim Baker (Paul Dooley) gets shut out of the bathroom by his getting-married-tomorrow daughter, who tells him, “I happen to have a serious problem.” Enter twelve-or-so year old Mike (Justin Henry) to explain things to his father.

Mike: She’s got her period. Should make for an interesting honeymoon, huh?

Jim: Where are you learning that stuff?

Mike: [with a smirk] School. [exit]

Jim: Good. Getting my money’s worth.

Sixteen Candles tells us quite a lot about the town where the Bakers live – Evanston, Illinois – through this line. While we can ascribe some of Mike’s worldliness to the pedagogical power of hierloom issues of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, that information isn’t in the movie. What we do have is a line of dialog that says “sex ed in middle school.” And Jim Baker, suburban dad, is totally cool with it. In fact, he’s satisfied that his kid is learning something in school.

I find it difficult to imagine this scene in a film made in the last fifteen years, mostly because American public education decisions are one of the last holdouts in the move toward greater inclusion.

This more or less tossed-off dialog exchange led me to think about what high school looked like for 80s teen dramas. To look at John Hughes’ other high school films: Sixteen Candles also has study hall, mentions of a class called “independent development,” and gym class (including a scene that lingers over a headless nude female torso while still managing to retain a PG rating). For all the group therapy in Breakfast Club, the classes they talk about are gym (Andrew), shop (Brian and Bender), and physics (Brian). Ferris Bueller’s Day Off feature’s Ben Stein’s economics/history class. And Weird Science has science and gym class. Curiously, there’s no literature class in any of these.

Nor is there in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which orbits around a hodgepodge world history class. Say Anything opens with Diane Court (Ione Skye) being introduced as excelling in “history…oceanography…creative writing…and biochemistry” as a way to drive home how smart she is, but there’s no classroom for creative writing, although we do get to see Corey (Lili Taylor) workshop her songs. Better Off Dead mines French class for some of its jokes. Finally, in a more serious vein, Stand and Deliver is about a calculus class.

And here an article is a waitin to be born. Of Reagan’s Secretaries of Education — Terrel Bell, Bill Bennett, and Lauro Cavasos — Bennett seems to be the person to look at for a sense of what the national conversation about education policy looked like. The other figure to consider is ED Hirsch, who published Cultural Literacy in 1987. After I refamiliarize myself with these two gents and their contributions to the debate, I’ll have more to say.



The UCD Clinton Institute 2012 gang. Not pictured: Bill Clinton.

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)

To put out the first pieces of the world atlas of American cinema, it may be best to begin with a year that does very little strange – 2001. Here’s a hacked-together draft map of where the top twenty (US) box office hits are set. I care about narrative settings, not filming locations.

When it comes to US settings, there’s nothing particularly outlandish about 2001: plenty of NY-LA, with a dash of the midwest (although the “East Great Falls”-set American Pie movies are consciously anywheresville-suburban), with a couple other locations. As is usually the case, for all the population growth, there’s just not much happening in the south. The Pacific northwest isn’t represented, nor are Arizona-New Mexico and Alaska.

Internationally, 2001 was more or less in the normal distribution. Harry Potter in a fictionalised England – there’s pretty much always an England-set film in the top twenty. Princess Diaries in a Mediterranean-fictional Genovia/Monte Carlo – there’s almost always a western European setting, usually in France-Italy-Germany. The Mummy Returns in Egypt occupies the non-European setting for an action film. Lara Croft:Tomb Raider does some globe-trotting to take in Siberia, Cambodia, and England. The major outlier is Blackhawk Down in Mogadishu – Africa is usually desert or dense jungle, not urban (especially not on the Horn).

For fantastic locations, there’s “Ashlar” from Planet of the Apes (looking a lot like the US), animated places in Shrek and Monsters, Inc., and Floop’s Island in Spy Kids. Lord of the Ring’s Middle Earth is in New Zealand and the Jurassic Park sequel has its island off the coast of Costa Rica.

However, there are likely settings which I have missed. Make any changes, additions, or suggestions in comments, por favor.

A few questions about settings:
In what small city does Since You Went Away (1944) take place?
In The Jolson Story (1946), what US bases does he play? When he retires to the country, where is that?
When Mr Belvedere Goes to College (1949), what school does he attend? It was filmed at Nevada-Reno, but where is it set?
Do they ever name a town in Pinky (1949), or is it just “The South?”

In your average science class at your average university, one common assignment is to edit, update or otherwise make better a wikipedia entry. For all the incredible attention to plot points in many online resources, one facet that escapes mention is that of specific setting. Can I ask that any readers who teach cinema ask their students to edit wikipedia entries with setting information?

For instance: in September, I found a pile of books about Hollywood studios, inclduing John Douglas Eames’s The Paramount Story: The Complete History of the Studio and Its 2,805 Films (London: Octopus Books, 1985). I read through it and noted that not every plot summary mentioned where the film was set. When a narrative setting was present, sometimes it was general – “the suburbs” – and sometimes it was specific – “Nashville.” As a comparison, I checked a couple of lowest common denominator sites, imdb and Wikipedia, fairly certain that there’d be a greater percentage of specific narrative settings in the entries. I was wrong. There’s more on the Gary Cherone era of Van Halen than there is on the setting of many films.

Here’s how it broke down: for the 13 film Paramount films released in 1975. In the book, 8 films had a specific location given. Wikipedia listed a specific location for 8 films. Imdb listed a specific location for 5 films.

Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York (book: suburbs, Manhattan, Wiki: New York City, imdb: Harrisburg PA, New York City)
Posse (book: Texas, Wiki: nothing, imdb: nothing)
Mandingo (book: Falconhurst old South, Wiki: plantation, imdb: New Orleans)
Once is not Enough (book: Hollywood, Wiki: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, imdb: nothing)
The Day of the Locust (book: Hollywood, Wiki: Hollywood, imdb: Hollywood)
Nashville (book: Nashville, Wiki: Nashville, imdb: Nashville)
Hustle (book: Los Angeles, Wiki: isolated beach, LAPD, imdb: nothing in two summaries)
Three Days of the Condor (book: New York, Wiki: New York City, Maryland, imdb: nothing)
Bug (book, capsule: town, Wiki: nothing, imdb: small town)
Dog Pound Shuffle (book, capsule: nothing, Wiki: no entry, imdb: nothing)
The Dove (book, capsule: sailing around the world, Wiki: Fiji, Australia, South Africa, Panama, Galapagos Islands, Los Angeles, imdb: “around the world to many beautiful locales”)
Framed (book, capsule: nothing, Wiki: nothing, imdb: small village)
Mahogany (book, capsule: nothing, Wiki: Rome, Chicago, imdb: Chicago, Rome)

(Wiki and imdb originally checked on 26 September 2011, sort of rechecked as I posted this)