The contemporary hollywood blockbuster is not

Directed by Steven Spielberg: Poetics of the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster.

The contemporary hollywood blockbuster is not

And genre theory and criticism is well established nowadays as a central part of the academic study of film, especially within cultural studies, which is often concerned with the analysis of such popular forms and media as Hollywood cinema.

It is in this context that Genre and Contemporary Hollywood positions itself as a discussion of recent developments in Hollywood genre. The book is organised into two sections: At the same time, the anthology follows recent attempts to revise the very notion of genre in order to account for the ways in which developments in contemporary Hollywood production defy description in terms of traditional generic categories.

As editor Steve Neale puts it, The contemporary hollywood blockbuster is not in varying ways and to varying degrees by recent revisionist work on genre, the contributions to both sections are designed to be exploratory rather than definitive, to open up the topic of genre and contemporary Hollywood from an array of different perspectives rather than provide an overview from a single omniscient position.

Genre is itself a multi-faceted phenomenon. Genres can be approached from the point of view of the industry and its infrastructure, from the point of view of their aesthetic traditions, from the point of view of the broader socio-cultural environment upon which they draw and into which they feed, and from the point of view of audience understanding and response.

Readers will find examples of all these approaches in this book 2. This is because many of the chapters treat Hollywood film as an industrial product defined by various economic imperatives and patterns of consumption within the context of a production system.

As an approach to what many cinephiles would see as a primarily aesthetic form, political economy offers a seemingly radical counter to more conventional ways of looking at film, insofar as it tends to focus on the external factors of film production, especially the economics of the film industry.

It undertakes such analyses in order to explain how particular films are produced while others are not, demonstrating the ideological implications of such industrial processes and structures.

This is not to suggest that the focus on Hollywood as a cultural industry does not result in important and useful insights.

The contemporary hollywood blockbuster is not

Thus the political force of movie ratings functions in the same way as the aesthetic demands of genre: If movie ratings can be seen as constituting specific genres, in other words, then it seems as though just about any element within the economic and political context of film production can do the same.

Thus genres become reduced, effectively, to categories that are defined almost exclusively by, and in the interest of, the film industry — by major studios and marketing departments.

But if the point of a political economy approach to Hollywood film is to demonstrate the ideological implications of industrial structures, why repeat the very terms deployed within and by such structures?

And that, by extension, those people who actually like Hollywood cinema must therefore lack the critical faculties required to demand something better, something more authentically expressive?

Modern Hollywood/Summer Blockbuster

The tendency to treat Hollywood film as an industrial product is, of course, by no means limited to Genre and Contemporary Hollywood.

Not only has such a tendency effectively hardened within academic cultural studies into something like a disciplinary imperative, but the same notion also regularly informs our everyday engagements with mainstream film and mainstream genres.

It is interesting to note, in this respect, that the index of Genre and Contemporary Hollywood contains entries for around 1, films, yet the vast majority of those films are referred to only once or twice, and only a handful of films receive any detailed analysis.

Of course, more detailed and historically-aware analyses of the aesthetic characteristics of Hollywood genres are keen to demonstrate the textual variation within genres at specific moments in the history of Hollywood. Indeed, this is the path taken in chapters by Karen Hollinger and William Paul.

And that is why I find that, while the analyses provided by Genre and Contemporary Hollywood are no doubt significant in bringing the political economy of production history up to date, there are only two or three chapters that in their entirety really grab my interest.

One of these is by J. Telotte, who analyses a series of film musicals in terms of what he calls a structural principle where particular musical sequences exist in tension with conventional narrative elements.

Not only, then, does Telotte offer an aesthetic engagement with the films he discusses, but he also points at a different way of incorporating within analysis the industrial context which political economy seeks to highlight. His appeal to elements outside the narratives themselves — such as the existence and popularity of soundtrack albums — emphasises less an industrialised aesthetics than an aestheticisation of the industry, as it were: In this regard Telotte is not quite alone, since a second chapter, by Michael Hammond, also hints at such a view.

In this way, Hammond, like Telotte, starts to indicate albeit perhaps unintentionally the ways in which an aesthetic approach to Hollywood film can think about the institutional and industrial conditions of film production without having to reduce such films to the determined product of mass production system.

Outside the chapters by Telotte and Hammond there are enough isolated, if brief, revelations about particular films to make Genre and Contemporary Hollywood worth reading, especially if one welcomes detailed observations on the nature of shifts in Hollywood production during and since the s.

However, as an academic who has a professional interest in the revision of genre theory that Neale suggests informs his anthology, I would like to see discussions of genre and Hollywood that overturn the prejudice built into the concepts through which we view popular film.


Political economy has been profoundly effective in demonstrating that those cultural forms which see the light of day, and the ideas about the world which those cultural forms enable us to imagine, are partly conditioned by an economic and industrial system that operates primarily in order to increase the wealth and power of those who already have considerable amounts of both.

Indeed, it seems to me that we might need to go in the direction hinted at but only barely by Telotte and Hammond. And if such a possibility seems almost unthinkable, surely that is the point? Click here to order this book directly from Share On:Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster by Warren Buckland, to be a very informative read.

Going into the book, I really did not know much about Steven Spielberg. Many blockbuster films today come with novelisations of the films story to toy action figures. This is because the contemporary Hollywood blockbusters, in industry terms are high concept films.

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