Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie

Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie

Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie

Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie

Synopsis

Examines the American action movie as it has evolved into one of the most significant genres of Hollywood's post-studio era, exploring its major films, sources, stars, and conventions, and the ways in which it both has shaped and has reflected American culture.

Excerpt

The study of film genres is critical to our understanding of the way the movie and television industries work and to our comprehension of our own national culture.

Since the consolidation of the movie business in the studio system of the 1930s, one of the hallmarks of the industry had been the development of distinct families or genres of similarly structured films. Initially, genres developed by hit or miss, as studios sought to capitalize on successful films by copying their plot, setting, visual style, and characterizations. From 1927 through the 1950s, the studios developed what, in critical retrospect, looks like a canon of standard genres: the Western, the musical, the gangster or crime film, the "woman's picture," the horror film, and so on. Film historians and critics took note of the highly conventionalized forms these genres had developed over thirty-odd years and produced exacting analyses of their formal qualities: narrative structure, editing rhythms, pacing, point of view, iconography, and the like.

But formal analysis of this kind suggested that film genres were like the idealized tropes of comedy, tragedy, romance, and chronicle that classically defined the different forms of literature. In fact, the formal structures of the original canon of film genres were not developments of any preexisting Aristotelian formula; they were improvisations governed by the resources and economics of studio production, by the pressures of the historical moment, and by the complex relationship between the producers and their audiences. There was more to that relationship than is expressed in market demographics. In the twentieth century, movies became the most important of the mass . . .

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