Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


The top ten films all aspiring lawyers need to see

Preparing for law school doesn’t have to be purely academic; there’s plenty you can learn from film and TV if you look in the right places. We asked Martin Partington, author of Introduction to the English Legal System, for his top ten film recommendations for new law students and aspiring lawyers.

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The mystery of Meryl Streep

In Ricki and the Flash, now in theaters, Meryl Streep plays an aging rocker, managing in her fourth decade atop the star pile to once again give us a character unlike any she has played before. Raymond Durgnat attests that, “the stars are a reflection in which the public studies and adjusts its own image of itself…The social history of a nation can be written in terms of its film stars.” So what does Streep’s capricious, unpredictable style reflect?

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Who will be singing the next Bond song? Who should be?

Now’s the moment to be a fan of the Bond songs. SPECTRE, the new film, comes out this November. That means we’ll hear an official unofficial leak of the title song sometime this summer. Everybody’s been guessing who the singer is. Twitter says it’ll be Sam Smith or Lana Del Rey. Sam Smith says it isn’t him and claims that he “heard Ellie Goulding was going to do it.” The Telegraph wants to know why no one has considered Mumford and Sons (don’t answer that). Even Vegas is paying attention. Who would you put your money on?

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What Happened, Miss Simone? : Liz Garbus’ documentary in review

Award-winning director Liz Garbus has made a compelling, if sometimes troubling, documentary about a compelling and troubling figure—the talented and increasingly iconic performer, Nina Simone. The title, What Happened, Miss Simone?, comes from an essay that Maya Angelou wrote in 1970. In the opening seconds of the film, excerpts from Angelou’s words appear: “Miss Simone, you are idolized, even loved, by millions now. But what happened, Miss Simone?”

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9780199535651 - Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Capturing the essence of Madame Bovary

The tragic story of Madame Bovary has been told and retold in a number of adaptations since the text’s original publication in 1856 in serial form. But what differences from the text should we expect in the film adaptation? Will there be any astounding plot points left out or added to the mix?

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The Jurassic world of … dinosaurs?

The latest incarnation (I chose that word advisedly!) of the Jurassic Park franchise has been breaking box-office records and garnering mixed reviews from the critics. On the positive side the film is regarded as scary, entertaining, and a bit comedic at times (isn’t that what most movies are supposed to be?). On the negative side the plot is described as rather ‘thin’, the human characters two-dimensional, and the scientific content (prehistoric animals) unreliable, inaccurate, or lacking entirely in credibility.

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50 shades of touch

Disgusting or delighting, exciting or boring, sensual or expected, no matter what you think about it, 50 Shades of Grey is certainly not a movie that passes by without leaving a mark on your skin. Based on E.L. James’ novel (honestly, somehow even more breathtaking than the movie), it tells the story of the complicated relationship between the dominant multi-millionaire Christian Grey, and the newly graduated, inexperienced, and shy, Ana Steele.

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“Deflategate,” Fox News, and frats: this year in public apologies

Since publishing Sorry About That a year ago, I’ve been trying to keep track of apologies in the news. Google sends me a handful of news items every day. Some are curious (“J.K. Rowling issues apology over slain ‘Harry Potter’ character”), some are cute (“Blizzard 2015: Meteorologist apologizes for ‘big forecast miss’”), and some are sad (“An open apology to my kids on the subject of my divorce”).

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Looking for God in the sociology of religion and in Game of Thrones

Religion has played an increasingly significant part in Season 5 of the HBO series Game of Thrones, with the ‘Faith Militant’ taking over the reins of power at King’s Landing, mostly unopposed. Yet internet discussions indicate that some viewers have found this storyline unsatisfying, as the Sparrows are depicted as crazed religious fanatics, piously obsessed with driving out vice and immorality from the city.

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OWC Reading Group

Roger Luckhurst’s top 10 vampire films

There are many film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; many, of course, that are rubbish. If you need fresh blood and your faith restored that there is still life to be drained from the vampire trope, here are ten recommendations for films that rework Stoker’s vampire in innovative and inventive ways.

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Watching the true detectives

The media has a key role to play in the construction of our knowledge of crime and policing. In the post-war decades, they argue the representation of policing in the UK reflected the general social consensus. The dominant image here is Jack Warner playing George Dixon in the popular UK TV series Dixon of Dock Green that ran from 1955 to 1976. George Dixon came to represent the archetypal ‘British Bobby’, a pillar of the community who was widely respected. The homely and reassuring values that Dixon represented were summarized in his catchphrase ‘Evenin’ all’.

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The real world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Some reviewers of the first episodes of the current BBC1 adaptation have dismissed it is over-blown fantasy, even childish, yet Clarke’s characters are only once removed from the very real magical world of early nineteenth-century England. What few readers or viewers realise is that there were magicians similar to Strange and Norrell at the time: there really were ‘Friends of English Magic’, to whom the novel’s Mr Segundus appealed in a letter to The Times.

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A century of British cinema

Film is little over 120 years old, and lives in film seem to fall into three phases. The first comprises those who were born before the era of film, and whose different experiences and expectations helped shape the young medium. The second comprises those who grew up with film, in the era of the studios and mass cinema-going. The third consists of those who saw the bastion of the film world assailed by new technologies, from television to video games, which divided the audience’s attention and changed professions.

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Reframing gangs

Picture the scene.
Scene 1: A group of wildly drunk young men smash a local business to smithereens, systematically destroying every inch, before beating the owner within an inch of his life.
Scene 2: A group of power-crazed men (and one woman), driven by an aggressive culture of hyper-competitiveness, commit economic crime on an epic scale.

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African American Studies Center

Bessie Smith: the Empress of the Blues

The filming and recent airing of the HBO film Bessie, which stars Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, serves as a perfect excuse to look back at the music and life of the woman who was accurately billed as the Empress Of The Blues. When Bessie Smith made her recording debut in 1923, she was not the first blues singer to record.

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All gone to look for America: Mad Men‘s treatment of nostalgia

The popularity of Mad Men has been variously attributed to its highly stylized look, its explication of antiquated gender and racial norms, and nostalgia for a time when drinking and smoking were not sequestered to designated zones but instead celebrated in the workplace as necessary ingredients for a proper professional life. But much of Mad Men’s lasting appeal lay in its complicated relationship with nostalgia.

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