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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Libraries: The unsung heroes in A Series of Unfortunate Events

This January, Lemony Snicket’s first four critically acclaimed novels of the A Series of Unfortunate Events were adapted as a Netflix original series, starring Neil Patrick Harris. Although famously known as a book series built upon three children’s misery and misfortune, the stories do contain one consistent factor on which the kids can always rely: the library.

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How well do you know the Hollywood Western? [quiz]

In Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema, film studies professor Todd Berliner explains how Hollywood delivers aesthetic pleasure to mass audiences. The following quiz is based on information found in chapter 12, “Complexity and Experimentation in the Western.”

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Falling in love with the national security state

On a recent trip to Hong Kong, however, I decided to take a risk by departing from my standard viewing practice to watch Oliver Stone’s Snowden, a political thriller about the whistleblower who pulled back the curtain of the surveillance state by exposing how the NSA threatens the privacy of just about everyone. Would this movie set me on edge, making me fearful and paranoid for the remainder of the flight?

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Celebrating Samuel Barber and his Adagio for Strings

Today we celebrate what would have been American composer Samuel Barber’s 107th birthday. Upon the composer’s death in 1981, New York Times music critic Donal Henahan, penned an obituary that asserted “probably no other American composer has ever enjoyed such early, such persistent and such long-lasting acclaim.”

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The role of the death-mother in film

Hitchcock’s famous Psycho (1960) has an enduring legacy in the slasher-horror genre. Its impact on this genre is an enduring one, as suggested by the A&E series Bates Motel, culminating with Rihanna cast in Janet Leigh’s indelible role (Figure 1). Perhaps its most striking contribution, however, is its thematization of a figure I call the death-mother.

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2017 Oscars represent a shift, but Hollywood is still disproportionately white

In 2017, the winners of two of the four Oscars given to actors were African Americans. This represents a remarkable turn in the history of the Oscars. It is not, however, a historical accident. Instead, it is due to social media campaigns and activism. In 2015, an activist named April Reign started the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in response to the overwhelmingly white Oscar nominees that year.

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The globalization of the Hollywood war film

For a long time, people in other countries had to watch American war films. Now they are making their own. In recent years, Russia and Germany have produced dueling filmic visions of their great contest on World War II’s Eastern Front. Paid for with about $30 million in state money, Stalingrad, directed by Feder Bondarchuk grossed around $50 million within weeks of hitting Russian screens in October, 2013.

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The poverty of American film

Some decades ago, British film scholar Laura Mulvey showed us that movies possessed a male gaze. That is, the viewer was assumed to be a man — a straight, white one — and films were created by men to entertain men like them.We’ve made some progress. Among this year’s Academy Award nominees are eighteen African Americans, five Asian Americans, and one native-born Hispanic American.

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La La Land and the Hollywood film musical

Say what you will about the strong fan base of La La Land and its probable domination of the upcoming Oscars after sweeping so many of the guild awards, not to mention the critical backlash against it that I have seen in the press and among scholars on Facebook, but Damien Chazelle certainly knows the history of the Hollywood film musical!

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“Don’t cry white boy. You gonna live”

On 20 February 2017, Sidney Poitier—“Sir Sidney” both in the colloquial and in reality (he was knighted in 1974), and just “Sir” in one of his biggest hits, To Sir, With Love (1967)—will turn ninety years old. Even today, Poitier continues a decades long career of collecting accolades for his pioneering role as Hollywood’s first Black movie star.

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Market solutions for improving treatment of farm animals? A review of At the Fork

How are farm animals treated and should one care? For the record, I am not vegetarian and I follow something similar to a paleo diet high in animal proteins and fats. But whether or not one believes animals have rights, libertarian philosopher Loren Lomasky once gave me the most succinct argument for caring about the welfare, at least some, of animals: “You wouldn’t put your cat in a microwave, would you?”

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From Byron to boy bands: A timeline of heartthrobs

From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing doctors in white coats, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons. The timeline below highlights ten heartthrobs, fictional and real, that set hearts aflutter over the decades.

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