Thank you to the wonderful Dave from Critical Dave for this review of my book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors. Dave is one of my favorite online critics, an insightful, erudite and no-bullshit writer, and a great guy too, so I’m thrilled by and grateful for his comments.
Tag: dominic lennard
George Cukor: Hollywood Master (Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
I’m excited to announce publication of George Cukor: Hollywood Master, edited by the wonderful Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer, in which my work is included. This anthology includes critical discussion of every feature Cukor directed, including Gaslight, Adam’s Rib, Born Yesterday, and of course numerous others.
A number of George Cukor’s films focus on the critique and correction of social personae, featuring protagonists who must fuss over the most “appropriate” or culturally desired presentation of self. Addressing this theme, my chapter is titled “Libel, scandal and bad big names: on not being ‘yourself’ in Camille (1936), Romeo and Juliet (1936), It Should Happen to You (1954), and Les Girls (1957).”
An MGM-style all-star cast of critics provide innumerable fresh insights into Cukor’s rich and surprisingly varied career, his working methods and his signature subjects. The self-effacing Cukor believed in not calling attention to his craft, but he would have appreciated the sophistication and nuance with which these scholars illuminate his achievements.
–Professor Matthew Bernstein, Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Emory University
Life of Pi (2012): Film Guide
My guide to Ang Lee’s sumptuous and moving film, Life of Pi, has now been published by Insight Publications. This film has been added to the Australian year 11/12 English syllabus, and I hope that readers will find this guide a helpful resource for teaching and studying it.
The guide is 73 pages (approximately 22,000 words), and includes the following: character map; background on the writer and director; detailed synopsis; character summaries; discussion of the film in its historical and cultural context (including debates over religion and reason, as well as animal ethics); detailed discussion of genre, structure, and style; scene-by-scene analysis, including key points and study questions; detailed discussion of characters and their relationships; involved analysis of themes (including fiction versus reality, choosing faith or reason, respect for non-human animals, the ‘true’ nature of non-human animals, the value of both family connections and independence, the general theme of ‘discovery’, and the importance of saying goodbye and letting go).
It also contains a section addressing different critical interpretations of Lee’s film (including its relationship to Yann Martel’s source novel). A particularly helpful feature of all Insight guides is their focus on essay planning and writing: this guide includes a section on structuring an essay, sample essay topics, a detailed analysis of one of those topics with a sample essay outline (with complete introduction and conclusion), and a complete sample essay in response to another question (written to Year 11/12 A+ standard). The guide also includes a list of references for further reading.
Life of Pi is a stylistically brilliant yet thoughtfully composed film. It’s also thematically rich, offering a number of very worthwhile points for discussion and study — points that are both serious and provocative, yet accessible enough for the year-levels for which the film has been set. I hope this guide helps navigate, tease out, and enjoyably expand upon all this film has to offer.
Available from the publisher, Insight Publications.
Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film (SUNY Press, 2014)
I’m delighted to announce the publication of my book, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film, by State University of New York Press. The book is currently available in electronic form, and the hardcover edition will be released on November 1.
This book wrangles with the numerous child villains who have haunted horror cinema over many decades, including Damien Thorn (The Omen), Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist), Samara (The Ring), and Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed), and the psychic terrors of Village of the Damned (pictured on the cover), among others. It interrogates in detail and with a variety of theoretical tools a cultural obsession with imagining children as objects of terror. In doing so, it highlights popular horror cinema as a vital topic of analysis, exposing it as a site of deep and volatile ambivalence toward children.
Available in print and digital form from the publisher, SUNY Press; Amazon; and others.
“This is impeccably well researched and presented. It holds its own at the top of film studies scholarship. Sprightly in its survey across key areas of cultural anxiety and able to draw on a range of lucid examples, Lennard produces sophisticated and complex extended analyses where necessary. A pleasure to read.” — Linda Ruth Williams, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
“Deftly organized, elegantly written, and graced throughout with numerous stills and frame blowups, Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors has something to offer both the lay reader and the scholar.” — CHOICE
Reading the Bromance
I’m very thrilled to have my work included in this terrific new book on the ‘bromance’ phenomenon, Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television, edited by the wonderful Michael DeAngelis (DePaul University), out in June from Wayne State University Press in both print and ebook formats.
Reading the Bromance examines a wide range of films and TV shows replete with bromantic affection. As well discussion and analysis of bromance staples like The 40-year-old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009), the book also focuses analytical attention on texts like Grumpy Old Men (1993), TV’s House, and Scream (1996); it addresses cross-cultural bromances as well, buddies in Hindi cinema, and much more. Readers will find discussion of men engaged in bromance’s obsession with mimicking homosexuality while insisting that these displays are indeed only mimicry.
My chapter is titled “‘This ain’t about your money, bro. Your boy gave you up’: Bromance and Breakup in HBO’s The Wire.” As its title indicates, this piece focuses on the acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. This show probably isn’t the first thing that jumps to mind when one thinks of bromance, yet The Wire abounds with close male partnerships. Centrally and critically celebrated is the relationship between drug kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and his right-hand man, Russell “Stringer” Bell (Idris Elba), which is phrased in terms of family but—I argue—consolidated in a series of romantic and virtually sexual gestures.
Authors include Hilary Radner, David Greven, Nick Davis, Meheli Sen, Jenna Weinman, Ken Feil, Peter Forster, Ron Becker, Murray Pomerance, and editor Michael DeAngelis.
Praise for Reading the Bromance:
Everything you always wanted to know about the bromance, but were afraid to ask! This new volume explores contemporary masculinity, homosocial desire, and homosexual/homophobic knowing as it plays out across film and TV texts such as I Love You, Man, Superbad, The Wire, Jackass, and Humpday. In thoughtful and provocative ways, DeAngelis and his authors cover the history, forms, and multiple meanings of this curious phenomenon. Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary models of gender and sexuality.
– Harry M. Benshoff, Professor of Radio, TV, and Film at University of North Texas and author of Dark Shadows (Wayne State University Press, 2011)
This lively and perceptive collection of essays posits the ‘bromance’ film as an ambivalent response to gay liberation and the women’s movement that allows for expanded representations of male intimacy even when operating within heteronormativity. Reading the Bromance is a valuable volume for those who want to understand the role of gender and sexuality in contemporary popular cinema.
– Mary Desjardins, author of Recycled Stars: Female Film Stardom in the Age of Television and Video and co-editor of Dietrich Icon
Reading the Bromance‘s remarkably sophisticated essays analyze the twisted generic complexity of a long history of representing male-male relations. Studying the formula’s homosocial and heteronormative behaviors, these authors demonstrate how these texts permit fluid cultural and social adventures involving emotions, maturity, gender, taste, and physicality. A terrific collection.
– Janet Staiger, William P. Hobby Centennial Professor Emeritus in Communication and Professor Emeritus of Women’s and Gender Studies.
Reading the Bromance is available in June from Wayne State University Press.
The Works of Tim Burton: Margins to Mainstream
My essay “‘This is my art, and it is dangerous!’: Tim Burton’s Artist-Heroes” is out now as a part of this splendid collection, The Works of Tim Burton: Margins to Mainstream, edited by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock and published by Palgrave Macmillan. This book features insightful contributions by a diverse range of scholars, including Katherine A. Fowkes, Matt Hills, Murray Pomerance, Carol Siegel, Rob Latham, its outstanding editor Jeffrey Weinstock, and many others (full contents listed below). Focusing on a wide variety of topics related to this unique and culturally significant filmmaker, and examining his films from a variety of critical perspectives, The Works of Tim Burton is the most in-depth, complete and current academic study of the director’s work. Also available from Amazon, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble online.
From the publisher:
Tim Burton has had a massive impact on twentieth and twenty-first century culture through his films, art, and writings. The contributors to this volume examine how his aesthetics, influences, and themes reflect the shifting cinematic practices and social expectations in Hollywood and American culture by tracing Burton’s move from a peripheral figure in the 1980s to the center of Hollywood filmmaking. Attentive not only to Burton’s films but to his art and poetry, this collection explores Burton’s popularity and cultural significance as both a nonconformist and a mainstream auteur.
Abstract for my chapter:
Characters with profoundly felt artistic talents and sensitivities dominate the films of Tim Burton: the introverted Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) of the 1990 film of the same name stuns his detractors with a series of unlikely masterworks; Jack Skellington of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) is the celebritized and eagerly sought scare-artist of Halloween Town; in Corpse Bride (2005) Victor Van Dort (Depp) funnels his frustrations into musical composition. These portrayals are curiously complemented in Burton’s oeuvre by characters who appear as affected, inferior or even deadly, artists. The Joker (Jack Nicholson) of Batman (1989), for instance, pronounces himself “the first fully functioning homicidal artist,” before presenting his mutilated girlfriend as “a living work of art.” This chapter explores the foregrounding of creative art in Burton’s films, focusing especially on the figure of the artist-hero. It considers this recurring figure in relation to an auteurism that insists we recognize the “Tim Burton-ness” of each film (notice its particular artistry), traditional conceptualizations of art production, and the role of artistic practice in foregrounding individuality.
Praise for The Works of Tim Burton:
“Weinstock, who knows his unconventional filmmakers well, provides a carefully modulated trove of essays that effectively cover the Burton oeuvre, even as they demonstrate the perhaps surprising variety of his work. Each essay is a gem, with the whole adding up to a serious, provocative exploration of the films.”
–R. Barton Palmer, Director of Film Studies, Clemson University, USA, and author of Joel and Ethan Coen and Shot on Location: The Postwar American Realist Film
“Tim Burton is a phenomenon of modern film, blending the humorous, the horrific, the macabre, and the magical with extraordinary skill. Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock’s wide-ranging collection delves into Burton’s career from Frankenweenie (1984) to Frankenweenie (2012), exploring the richness of his themes, the complexity of his allusions, and the nonstop inventiveness of his visual style. A treat for Burton’s countless admirers, a welcoming introduction for newcomers.”
–David Sterritt, Professor of Film, Columbia University, USA, Chair, National Society of Film Critics
Film director Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) in Burton’s Ed Wood (1994): a unique artist—uniquely terrible.
Wag the Dog (1997) film guide
Freshly pressed: a guide to Barry Levinson’s political satire Wag the Dog (1997). When the U.S. President is accused of making sexual advances toward a young girl in the lead-up to an election, his media advisers call in mysterious spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) to manage the scandal. Brean’s strategy involves concocting a fictional war with Albania to divert attention from the scandal. As this war will be an entirely a fictional production, he enlists eccentric film producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to “produce” it as he would a Hollywood film, and invest it with all the drama and mawkish sentimentality the media and public crave. Wag the Dog seemed almost uncannily topical when the Lewinsky scandal broke just a few weeks after its release; however, the film now also eerily recalls the artful “selling” of the Iraq War to the American public in 2003.
Wag the Dog has been added to the Australian year 11-12 curriculum, and this guide is especially designed for college-level students and their teachers. It contains: character map; synopsis; background on the writers and director; sections on genre, structure, and film style; detailed discussion of the film’s historical context; scene-by-scene analysis, with key quotes and study questions; detailed discussion of themes; essay questions; guidelines for planning and writing an essay; and sample essays written to year-11/12 A+ standard.
Available now from publisher Insight Publications, as well as Angus & Robertson, Co-op, Booktopia, and in electronic form through iBooks. View preview.
The Heartfield Creature (short fiction)
The Fires (poetry)
Published in Aphelion: Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, issue 174, vol. 18, June 2013. URL link: read at Aphelion.
At night can we see those who remain,
The last of the tribes that have eluded us.
Their campfires gleam and flare
In the forested hills far above.
Bright and beady and silent.
They give away their positions,
And we efficiently chart them.
Although in the morning we find nothing.
Sometimes the fires seem to burn the wrong colour,
A deep and queerly glimmering crimson.
Those captured and enslaved
Tell us nothing of their people’s movements or rituals.
We could mobilise when we see the fires.
Steal and hack through the undergrowth,
Creep up on their chants and murmurs.
Ring forged steel so much louder
Against their skulls.
Rape those worth raping;
Cut down their hags.
Throw their brats on the fire.
Instead we fortify the perimeter.
Whip the captured harder.
Reduce their skin to welts, bruises, striations.
Write woe on their faces.
Draw from them whimpers as primitive as those
of stray dogs starving at a city’s edge.
All under the wretched gaze
Of those wrong-coloured fires.
Each one winking death
Like a bad star.
The Root (short fiction)
2700 words. Published in Aphelion: Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, issue 173, vol. 17, May 2013.