Volume 22, Issue 7 / July 2018

Political Film and Theory

Jordan Adler starts us off by examining the hyper intelligent, award winning Netflix show American Vandal, which cleverly fuses mockumentary, true crime genre and the teen movie into a very funny and sobering account of the, to quote Adler, “digital saturation of contemporary high-school life.” Indeed, the show would not make much sense for a person not at least somewhat conversant in the many forms and manifestations of the digital media landscape (the show makes direct narrative and plot device use of Facebook, Snapchat, smartphone videos, Vimeo, Instagram, Hashtagging, instant messaging, memes, meme-ification, smartphones, texting, apps, time-stamping, and on and on). Since this writing American Vandal has continued on Netflix with a 2nd season, where the crime being investigated, by the same fictional documentary team as S1, deals with a targeted food poisoning which causes an epidemic of stomach sickness (and an uncontrollable need to defecate……anywhere!) among the student body of an upscale private Catholic high school, St. Bernadine in Bellevue, Washington. “Can an American president violate the law?” is Daniel Garrett’s opening sentence of his review of Peter Landesman’s Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017), Steven Spielberg’s The Post (2017), and American President Richard Nixon’s involvement in the well documented events around the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, which eventually led to Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974 in the face of impeachment. Will the current U.S. President’s legacy follow a similar path? Does the political abuse of power have a breakthrough point at which the guilty will be punished? Today’s political climate in the U.S. is such that Garrett’s review, which also acknowledges Nixon’s achievements, feels as much history as current affairs. Time will tell. Leon Calvert analyzes the impact of the post-2013 Julian Assange’s wikileaks and insider Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s security breaches on American popular spy/crime/thriller films and television shows. The final two essays deal with theory but from opposite ends. Kyle Barrowman revisits the well worn terrain of post-1970s Grand Theory (the anti-auteurist, post-structuralist literary and Marxist-Lacanian-Althusserian kind), and offers a fresh perspective on the debate drawing from likely (Noel Carroll, David Bordwell, V.F. Perkins, Peter Wollen, Stanley Cavell) and less likely (Ayn Rand, Peter Wollen) sources. In Frédéric St-Hilaire’s essay on Jean Rouch theory derives from the technology and practice of filmmaking. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

PS: Featured Image from The Reagan Show

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