Friday, April 3, 2020

Announcing a new series: 21st Century Film Essentials

Donna Kornhaber, Series Editor

Cinema has a storied history, but its story is far from over. 21st Century Film Essentials offers a lively chronicle of cinema’s second century, examining the landmark films of our ever-changing moment. Each book makes a case for the importance of a particular contemporary film for artistic, historical, or commercial reasons. The twenty-first century has already been a time of tremendous change in filmmaking the world over, from the rise of digital production and the ascent of the multinational blockbuster to increased vitality in independent filmmaking and the emergence of new voices and talents both on screen and off. The films examined here are the ones that embody and exemplify these changes, crystallizing emerging trends or pointing in new directions. At the same time, they are films that are informed by and help refigure the cinematic legacy of the previous century, showing how film’s past is constantly reimagined and rewritten by its present. These are films both familiar and obscure, foreign and domestic; they are new but of lasting value. This series is a study of film history in the making. It is meant to provide a different kind of approach to cinema’s story--one written in the present tense.

Forthcoming Books

  • The LEGO Movie by Dana Polan (Fall 2020)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by Patrick Keating (Spring 2021)
  • The Florida Project by J.J. Murphy (Fall 2021)
  • Black Panther by Scott Bukatman (Spring 2022)

About The LEGO Movie by Dana Polan

What happens when we set out to understand LEGO not just as a physical object but as an idea, an icon of modernity, an image—maybe even a moving image? To what extent can the LEGO brick fit into the multimedia landscape of popular culture, especially film culture, today? Launching from these questions, Dana Polan traces LEGO from thing to film and asserts that The LEGO Movie is an exemplar of key directions in mainstream cinema, combining the visceral impact of effects and spectacle with ironic self-awareness and savvy critique of mass culture as it reaches for new heights of creativity.

Incorporating insights from conversations with producer Dan Lin and writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Polan examines the production and reception of The LEGO Movie and closely analyzes the film within popular culture at large and in relation to LEGO as a toy and commodity. He identifies the film’s particular stylistic and narrative qualities, its grasp of and response to the culture industry, and what makes it a distinctive work of animation among the seeming omnipresence of animation in Hollywood, and reveals why the blockbuster film, in all its silliness and seriousness, stands apart as a divergent cultural work.

Dana Polan is a professor of cinema studies in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and former president of the Society for Cinema Studies. He is the author of eight books in film and media studies, including The Sopranos and Pulp Fiction, and approximately two hundred essays and reviews.

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