Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema

ISBN : 9780190658748

Todd Berliner
320 Pages
178 x 254 mm
Pub date
May 2017
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Hollywood makes the most widely successful pleasure-giving artworks the world has ever known. The industry operates under the assumption that pleasurable aesthetic experiences, among huge populations, translate into box office success. With that goal in mind, Hollywood has systematized the delivery of aesthetic pleasure, packaging and selling it on a massive scale. In Hollywood Aesthetic, Todd Berliner accounts for the chief attraction of Hollywood cinema worldwide: its entertainment value. Analyzing Hollywood in the areas of narrative, style, ideology, and genre, Hollywood Aesthetic offers a comprehensive appraisal of the aesthetic design of American commercial cinema. Grounded in film history and in the psychological and philosophical literature on aesthetics, the book situates aesthetic analyses within the context of film reception, the film industry, and the current understanding of human psychology. Illustrated with numerous examples, Hollywood Aesthetic analyzes the design of a range of films that span Hollywood history. The book examines films, such as City Lights and Goodfellas, that have earned aesthetic appreciation from both fans and critics. But it also studies curious outliers and celebrated Hollywood experiments, such as The Killing and Starship Troopers, films popular with cinephiles and cult audiences. And it demonstrates the ways in which even ordinary popular films, from Tarzan and His Mate to Rocky III, as well as New Hollywood action blockbusters, like Die Hard and The Dark Knight, offer aesthetic pleasure to mass audiences. Hollywood Aesthetic explains how these and dozens of other Hollywood movies engage viewers by satisfying their aesthetic desires. Many film scholars dismiss Hollywood cinema as mere commercial entertainment and leave it at that. Hollywood Aesthetic explains how Hollywood creates, for huge numbers of people, some of their most exhilarating experiences of art.


Preface: The Test of Time

Part I. Hollywood Classicism and Deviation
1. The Hollywood Aesthetic
2. Classicism and Deviation in His Girl Friday and Double Indemnity

Part II. Narrative
3. Hollywood Storytelling
4. Finding the Fit: Shifting Story Logic in Red River

Part III. Style
5. Hollywood Style
6. Raging Bull's Stylistic Dissonance

Part IV. Ideology
7. Ideology, Emotion, and Aesthetic Pleasure
8. Crime Films during the Period of the Production Code Administration
9. Genre and Ideology in Starship Troopers

Part V. Genre
10. The Hollywood Genre System
11. Bursting into Song in the Hollywood Musical
12. Complexity and Experimentation in the Western


About the author: 

Todd Berliner, Professor of Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, teaches film aesthetics, narration, and style and American film history. Author of Hollywood Incoherent: Narration in Seventies Cinema (2010), Professor Berliner has received two Fulbright Scholar awards, including the Laszlo Orszagh Distinguished Chair in American Studies. Professor Berliner was the founding chairman of UNCW's Film Studies Department. He holds a master's degree and doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

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