Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The state of black cinema in 2019

This year’s Academy Awards presentation takes places at the end of Black History Month. The congruence of this fact with the increased profile of heretofore minority cinema is more than felicitous. Since the Twitter campaign #Oscarsowhite following the announcement of the 2015 nominations, both the Academy and the motion picture industry have made visible efforts to promote work by Asian, Latino, and African-American directors, writers, actors, and musicians.

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Simone de Beauvoir at the movies

Does it make you less of an intellectual woman, any less of a feminist, to derive insight and even pleasure from films where women appear as instruments in the service of male desire?

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Based on a true story [podcast]

In the world of film, members of the audience perceive what they see on screen as realistic, even if what they’re seeing is not actually real. The role and influence of academic consultants has been debated as the impact of historical films in the lens of educating a populous is in question. On this episode, […]

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The continuing life of science fiction

In 1998 Thomas M. Disch boldly declared in The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World that science fiction had become the main kind of fiction which was commenting on contemporary social reality. As a professional writer, we could object that Disch had a vested interest in making this assertion, but virtually every day news items confirm his argument that SF connects with an amazingly broad range of public issues.

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Real sex films capture our changing relationship to sex

In 2001, the film Intimacy was screened in London as the first “real sex” film set in Britain. With a French director and international leads (the British Mark Rylance and New Zealander Kerry Fox), the film was controversial even before screening.

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Fosse Time!: innovation and influence in the films of Bob Fosse

Despite numerous honors throughout his illustrious career, including being the only director to earn the “triple crown” of show business awards—the Oscar, Emmy, and Tony—all in one year, Bob Fosse remains underrated in terms of his influence on the presentation of dance on film. From Sweet Charity, his first film as a director, through his multiple Oscar-winning Cabaret, to his autobiographical, Felliniesque All That Jazz, Fosse created a template for filming dance that has remained influential and remarkably vital years after these films first appeared.

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Reverse-mullet pedagogy: valuing horror fiction in the classroom

Are you familiar with the mullet? It’s a distinctive hairstyle—peculiarly popular in continental Europe in the 1980s—in which the hair is cut short on the top and sides but left long at the back. Whatever the aesthetic gravity of the mullet, it comes with a philosophy. The philosophy of the mullet is this: “Business in the front, party in the back.” I’ll argue that the reverse holds true for the horror genre, didactically speaking. Horror fiction is sexy. Horror has zombies. It has ghosts and vampires. It has Hannibal Lecter and Jigsaw, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. It has cannibal hillbillies and crazed college kids.

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Feminist themes in TV crime drama

The fictional world has always featured women who solve crimes, from Nancy Drew to Veronica Mars. Although men crime-solvers outnumbered women on TV, women detectives have increasingly become more commonplace. This trend includes the policewomen depicted on CSI and Law & Order: SUV as well as private detectives like Veronica Mars and Miss Phryne Fisher who are the chief protagonists of their series.

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Music and touch in Call Me By Your Name

A rich sensuality of touch permeates Luca Guadagnino’s new film Call Me By Your Name, based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name. This tactile quality comes through not only in its evocative visual imagery: close-ups of hands and fingers and feet, shoulder rubs, sweaty bare skin glistening in the sun, bodies lounging on lush grass or jumping into chilly spring-fed ponds, soft-boiled eggs and ripe fruits bursting with juices, the broken limbs and pitted patina of ancient bronzes.

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Screen

Communist laughter

“History is thorough and passes through many stages while bearing an ancient form to its grave.” So wrote Karl Marx in 1843, as he reflected on the collapse of Germany’s old regime whilst looking toward a revolutionary horizon. “The last phase of a world-historical form,” he adds, “is its comedy.” According to Marx, comedy has revolutionary value in that it allows us to part happily with the superannuated ways of the past.

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Ten facts about the evolution of Hollywood

Movie-going has been an American pastime since the early 20th century. Since 1945 we have seen Hollywood rise to its apex, dominating movie theaters across the globe with its massive productions. It was not always this way, though. Below are 10 facts about the evolution of the American film industry after the Second World War.

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A writer’s guide to witches in pop culture [timeline]

From The Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter, witchcraft is a linchpin of contemporary fantasy writing—with each writer applying their own twist. Referencing The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic, we’ve put together a timeline of pop-culture’s most well-known depictions of witchcraft.

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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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