Tag Archive: film studies


Brute ForceI’m happy to announce that my book Brute Force: Animal Horror Movies has been published in hardcover and ebook editions by State University of New York Press.

It’s always been a wild world, with humans telling stories of killer animals as soon as they could tell stories at all. Movies are an especially popular vehicle for our fascination with fierce creatures.

In Brute Force, Dominic Lennard takes a close look at a range of cinematic animal attackers, including killer gorillas, sharks, snakes, bears, wolves, spiders, and even a few dinosaurs. Lennard argues that animal horror is not so much a focused genre as it is an impulse, tapping into age-old fears of becoming prey. At the same time, these films expose conflicts and uncertainties in our current relationship with animals. Movies considered include King KongJawsThe GreyThem!ArachnophobiaJurassic ParkSnakes on a PlaneAn American Werewolf in London, and many more. Drawing on insights from film studies, art history, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology, Brute Force is an engaging critical exploration—and appreciation—of cinema’s many bad beasts.

  • Brute Force is available now from Amazon and SUNY Press in hardcover and ebook versions. SUNY Press have made the introductory chapter (sans endnotes) available for free download; if you’d like to try it, click their link above, then “Read an excerpt” for PDF.

LENNARD_FIGURE

Other films discussed include:

The Reef (2010), Open Water (2004), Orca (1977), Bait 3D (2012), Sharknado (2013), Dark Age (1987), Black Water (2007), Rogue (2007), The Shallows (2016), Day of the Animals (1977), Grizzly (1976), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), The Edge (1997), Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Phase IV (1974), Eight Legged Freaks (2002), Bug (2006), Godzilla (1954), The Fly (1958 and 1986), Jurassic World (2015), The Birds (1963), Wolfen (1980), Anaconda (1997), Venom (1981), The Thing (1983), Cujo (1983), Werewolf of London (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), The Howling (1981), Wolf (1994), Bad Moon (1996), Cat People (1942 and 1982), Ginger Snaps (2000), and more!

“The brilliance of Dominic Lennard’s Brute Force is not only that it is long overdue, but one didn’t realize it was due in the first place! Yet upon reflection and, of course, through Lennard’s engaging book, one realizes not only the ubiquity of animals in horror, but their utter centrality to so many classic horror films. In reading this, we can hear the distant rumble of footsteps of a genetically reborn Tyrannosaurus or the hurried pounding of our beloved Rover who has decided that he wants more than kibbles and bits for dinner—and we look mighty appetizing. ‘Groundbreaking’ is often overused, but in this case it truly fits.”

— Emeritus Professor David Desser, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary FeminismImelda Whelehan and Joel Gwynne’s wonderful collection, Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism: Harleys and Hormones, is now out from Palgrave Macmillan, featuring my chapter “Too Old for This Shit?: On Ageing Tough Guys.”

Blurb from the publisher:

The past decade has seen an increase in popular cultural representations of ageing, in response to the realities of an ageing Western population and an acknowledgement of the economic significance of consumption by seniors. Yet, while contemporary film often depicts late middle to old age as a time of renewal and acceptance, most popular depictions of ageing focus on images of loss, decline, and the fear of physically ageing ‘naturally’. Ageing in popular culture is a battlefield, with increasing numbers of euphemisms used to disguise the fact of age.

Feminist discourse has kept forever young, even though some of its most eminent proponents are ageing and dying. In the field of popular cultural studies the emphasis on the discourse of postfeminism and the ‘girling’ of culture has foregrounded the concerns of young women at the expense of a focus on older women, or what ‘gender’ means for middle-aged to older people generally. This collection demonstrates how popular culture constructs ageing as a perilous experience for not only women but also for men, while also underscoring the possibilities (and problems) of positive representations of ageing in the wider culture and in feminist criticism.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4.0 (2006)My chapter addresses the resurgence of several iconic cinema tough guys in the 2000s, including Bruce Willis in new installments of the Die Hard franchise (2007 and 2013), Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa (2006) and Rambo (2008), and a veritable brigade of ageing beefcake in The Expendables (2010). I argue that the re-popularization of these stars was indicative of renewed cultural interest in traditional gender roles in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Generally in these films, physical violence is used to shore up masculinities perceived to be threatened by the ageing process. However, I argue that even though these tough-guy heroes may have come back (‘with a vengeance’), the films in which they appear also acknowledge that the ageing male will not always be able to ‘legitimize’ his status through stunning demonstrations of violence. Consequently, several of these films seek to navigate for their male heroes ways of maintaining prestige beyond its persistent physical enforcement.

Ageing, Popular Culture and Contemporary Feminism at Palgrave; at Amazon.

Tim BurtonMy 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.