Looking back at my television diet of the past twenty years or so, I can point to many moments of discomfort. They have come up frequently in some series, more fleetingly in others. Often, though, these moments seemed to test the range and limits of my affective responses.
Film Quarterly’s original webinar series showcasing the best in recent film and media studies publications continued on March 6th with a conversation between Page Views editor Bruno Guaraná (Boston University) and Jean Ma (Stanford University) about her new book, At the Edges of Sleep: Moving Images and Somnolent Spectators (University of California Press, 2022). Moderated by FQ editor-in-chief B. Ruby Rich.
Page Views editor Bruno Guaraná interviews Jean Ma about her new book At the Edges of Sleep: Moving Images and Somnolent Spectators.
Page Views editor Bruno Guaraná discusses TV Snapshots: An Archive of Everyday Life with author Lynn Spigel.
The first romantic sequence in Rafiki, by the Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, opens with a close-up of a pair of sneaker-clad feet on a skateboard, its wheels thumping along the asphalt. The feet belong to the teenage Makena, who arrives at her friend Ziki’s apartment building to take her out around town for the day. After Ziki’s mother answers the door, an elliptical cut thrusts the viewer into a montage sequence in which the two teenage girls sit close together on a tuk-tuk ride around the streets of Nairobi.
Film Quarterly’s webinar series showcasing the best in recent film and media studies publications continued on April 22nd with a conversation between Page Views editor Bruno Guaraná (Boston University) and Ross Melnick (University of California Santa Barbara) about his new book Hollywood’s Embassies: How Movie Theaters Projected Power Around the World (Columbia University Press, 2022), introduced by FQ editor-in-chief B. Ruby Rich.
You may have seen Nicole Kidman last September, in a commercial for AMC theaters, stepping into an empty movie theater. “We come to this place for magic,” she says in voice-over, inviting patrons back into movie theaters after the hiatus forced by the worldwide spread of COVID-19. Pitching a return to normalcy while also emphasizing the theater’s cleanliness, safety, and, yes, magic, the commercial is also symptomatic of a delicate moment for movie exhibition.
Much has been said about serial dramas such as The Sopranos (HBO, 1999–2007), The Wire (HBO, 2002–8), Mad Men (AMC, 2007–15), and Breaking Bad (AMC, 2008–13) bringing about a new golden age of television. A lot of these discussions, however, have centered on the idea that quality television has become more cinematic than ever—a modifier that implies a superiority of cinema and a teleological linearity toward a particular aesthetic. Notwithstanding the overuse of the term and its implications, there is no consensus about what exactly “cinematic” means in these contexts.
Season 8 of Friends (NBC, 1994–2004) included an episode in which Monica and Chandler, en route to their honeymoon, are detained by TSA agents after Chandler mocks a TSA sign forbidding jokes about bombs. By the time the episode aired on October 11, 2001, however, the scene had been excised, its humor nullified in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The scene’s later resurrection as bonus material for a DVD box set—and, inevitably, on video and social-media platforms—reflects the sort of time-sensitive relationship between comedy and context that Philip Scepanski explores in Tragedy Plus Time: National Trauma and Television Comedy.
In her latest book, Realist Cinema as World Cinema: Non-Cinema, Intermedial Passages, Total Cinema, Lúcia Nagib suggests that the integrity with which The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, and anonymous, 2012) presents its subjects—as performers, producers, and spectators of their own reenactments—directly affects their reality.