Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What’s going on in the shadows? A visual arts timeline

Although cast shadows lurk almost everywhere in the visual arts, they often slip by audiences unnoticed. That’s unfortunate, since every shadow tells a story. Whether painted, filmed, photographed, or generated in real time, shadows provide vital information that makes a representation engaging to the eye. Shadows speak about the shape, volume, location, and texture of objects, as well as about the source of light, the time of day or season, the quality of the atmosphere, and so on.

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Unanswered questions in Gone with the Wind’s main title

If asked to recall a melody from Gone with the Wind, what might come to mind? For many, it’s the same four notes: a valiant leap followed by a gracious descent. This is the beginning of the Tara theme, named by composer Max Steiner for the plantation home of Scarlett O’Hara, whose impassioned misunderstandings of people and place propel the story.

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Horror films reinforce our fear instincts: Q&A with John Carpenter

John Carpenter’s classic suspense film Halloween from 1978 launched the slasher subgenre into the mainstream. The low-budget horror picture introduced iconic Michael Myers as an almost otherworldly force of evil, stalking and killing babysitters in otherwise peaceful Haddonfield. It featured a bare-bones plot, a simple, haunting musical score composed by Carpenter himself, some truly nerve-wracking editing and cinematography

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Doing the right thing: ethics in the Zombie Apocalypse [video]

From popular television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to countless films, video games, and comics, stories of the Zombie Apocalypse have captivated modern audiences. With horror and fascination, we watch, read, and imagine the decimation of human society as we know it at the hands of the undead.

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Would you survive the zombie apocalypse? [quiz]

The zombie apocalypse presents many challenges – for both the prepared and unprepared. As if dodging an aggressive and cannibalistic undead horde constantly in pursuit of brains isn’t enough, you must also forage for food, find shelter, and brave the elements in a world growing more inhospitable by the minute. Technology is no longer reliable, the creature comforts that we take for granted are no longer guaranteed, and our sense of safety is completely compromised.

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Smile like you mean it

“With a camera you can go into the stomach of a kangaroo,” mused Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. “But to look at the human face, I think, is the most fascinating.” It is hard to contest Bergman’s claim that “the great gift of cinematography is the human face” – or at least that it is one such gift.

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Erich von Stroheim, the child of his own loins

Even though Erich von Stroheim passed away 60 years ago, it is clear that his persona is still very much alive. His silhouette and his name are enough to evoke an emblematic figure that is at once Teutonic, aristocratic and military.

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Werner Herzog’s hall of mirrors

Werner Herzog turns 75 this September and remains as productive as ever. More than only a filmmaker, he directs operas, instructs online courses, and occasionally makes cameo appearances on television shows including Parks & Recreation and The Simpsons. He has been directing films for nearly six decades, and he released three feature-length films within months of each other in 2016.

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PTL and the history of American evangelicalism

Over the course of fourteen years, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker built their local TV broadcast into an empire, making them two of the most recognizable televangelists in the United States. But their empire quickly fell when revelations of a sex scandal and massive financial mismanagement came to light. In the following excerpt John Wigger demonstrates the power of religion on American culture by tracing the fall of the PTL.

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What can the Zombie Apocalypse teach us about ourselves? [Video]

Like war stories, like disaster films, like any kind of narrative that revolts and scares yet also delights us, the Zombie Apocalypse offers a laboratory for observing human emotion and experience. Its excess opens up a multitude of responses that don’t get explored in the course of our everyday lives, although these same choices lurk underneath the surface of all our lives.

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Hitchcock and Shakespeare

There are two adjectives we commonly use when discussing artists and artistic things that we feel deserve serious attention and appreciation: Shakespearean and Hitchcockian. These two terms actually have quite a bit in common, not only in how and why they are used but also in what they specifically refer to, and closely examining the ways in which Hitchcock is Shakespearean can be very revealing.

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George Romero, Game of Thrones, and the zombie apocalypse

When George Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead, died on 16 July, the world was gearing up for the season opener of Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones owes its central storyline—the conflict between the Night’s Watch and the White Walkers—and a great measure of its success to Romero, as do other popular and critically-acclaimed versions of the story, whether television, film, fiction, or comics.

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Gangsters and genre – Episode 41 – The Oxford Comment

Picture The Godfather series in your mind and chances are, you’ll think of it as a “gangster” film. But what is it about this series, and other films like it, that makes it a part of the gangster film genre? Are these movies simply crime and action films that feature organized crime, or do urban settings and immigrant struggles play a larger role?

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Journal of Social History cover

Curing (silent) movies of deafness?

Conventional wisdom holds that many of the favorite silent movie actors who failed to survive the transition to sound films—or talkies—in the late-1920s/early-1930s were done in by voices in some way unsuited to the new medium. Talkies are thought to have ruined the career of John Gilbert, for instance, because his “squeaky” voice did not match his on-screen persona as a leading male sex symbol. Audiences reportedly laughed the first time they heard Gilbert’s voice on screen.

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How well do you know film noir?

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 8, “Crime Films during the Period of the Production Code Administration.”

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More than an Amazon: Wonder Woman

This summer’s epic blockbuster, Wonder Woman, is a feast of visual delights, epic battles, and Amazons. The young Diana, “Wonder Woman,” is, we quickly learn, no ordinary Amazon. In fact, though she is raised by the Amazon queen Hippolyta and trained to be a formidable warrior by her aunt Antiope, both of whom are regularly featured Amazons in Greek myth, she turns out to be not an Amazon at all but a god, whom Zeus has given to the Amazons to raise.

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