David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

The latest updates

Thursday | June 14, 2007   open printable version open printable version

KT here:

On May 29 we posted an entry responding to the inevitable badmouthing of sequels that journalistic movie critics tend to indulge in when the summer season starts. “Live with it! There’ll always be movie sequels. Good thing, too.” gathered comments from current and present “filmies” of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They defended sequels for a wide variety of reasons.

Now another ex-Madisonian, Henry Jenkins, has weighed in with “The Pleasures of Pirates and What It Tells Us about World Building in Branded Entertainment.” Despite its somewhat formidable title, this essay jumps into the fray, taking critics to task for their knee-jerk tendency to lump virtually all sequels together into a category fraught with prior expectations and to dismiss the latest entries as mindless, inept films.

Henry takes Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as his point of defense. Somehow critics seem by telepathy to agree to take the same stance on a particular blockbuster. Here they claimed that AWE is far too complicated and gets bogged down in exposition at the expense of action. (So much for claims that blockbusters are all CGI pyrotechnics and no plot!) They also kvetched that there is too little of Jack Sparrow’s character, apparently their main focus of interest in the film.

Henry takes AWE to be, alongside The Matrix, an example of elaborate world-building, a trait of the best of the big film series. In the age of DVDs and cross-media franchises, such films, he argues, are meant to be watched more than once. They also place a lot of faith in the viewer to be able to follow a complicated plot. Henry, like Steve Johnson in his Everything Bad Is Good for You, credits modern media as challenging viewers/readers with dense works that require a lot of figuring out.

Critics assume the opposite, that summer movies are supposed to be mindless entertainment, and they treat them as such. Complexity, which they would hail in an art-house release, becomes a fundamental flaw. Henry has some cogent remarks on the circumstances of reviewers’ screenings and how they handicap the writers’ approach to pop summer movies.

Whether or not one admires AWE, Henry mounts a strong defense of the film and in the process shows how much most reviewers are out of touch with audiences’ tastes and miss the various ways in which summer blockbusters work.

In other news, David’s The Way Hollywood Tells It has just been slated for translation into simplified-form Chinese. He’s now preparing a blog entry paying tribute to the great art theorist Rudolf Arnheim, who died on Monday at the age of 104. The family’s obituary is here.

The Cinema Ritrovato, which we’ll be attending in July, has posted a provisional schedule here. David will go on from Bologna to Brussels for research and the annual Cinedecouvertes and L’age d’or festival; films and other info available here.

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