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American Cinema/American Culture looks at the interplay between American cinema and mass culture from the 1890s to 2011. It begins with an examination of the basic narrative and stylistic features of classical Hollywood cinema. It then studies the genres of silent melodrama, the musical, American comedy, the war/combat film, film noir, the western, and the horror and science fiction film, investigating the way in which movies shape and are shaped by the larger cultural concerns of the nation as a whole. The book concludes with a discussion of post World War II Hollywood, giving separate chapter coverage to the effects of the Cold War, 3D, television, the counterculture of the 1960s, directors from the film school generation, and the cultural concerns of Hollywood from the 1970s through 2011.
Ideal for Introduction to American Cinema courses, American Film History courses, and Introductory Film Appreciation courses, this text provides a cultural overview of the phenomenon of the American movie-going experience.
An updated study guide is also available for American Cinema/American Culture. Written by Ed Sikov, this guide introduces each topic with an explanatory overview written in more informal language, suggests screenings and readings, and offers self-tests.
This book helped me understand more about American film than I ever expected. It brought me from the 1890’s all the way up through 2011. Which is a huge difference in movie making and in history. This book has a strong sense of history throughout its pages, guiding the structure of a lot of the chapters as a whole. I enjoyed how it was structured and how the message was given to the reader. The book not only is a history lesson of film but it introduces you to the aesthetics and film form basics. It introduces and explains basic vocabulary of the narrative and the stylistic practices. It gives you the insight to see how things were done and even more importantly why they were done that way. There is a lot that a person can learn from this book as long as they take the time to actually read and absorb its content. It is a very informative book and it keeps your attention throughout. It is not the typical textbook, that tends to be bland and un-interesting, it will definitely give you the necessary perspective to learn more about American Cinema.
Great Introduction to American Cinema
on April 27, 2013
By Shell Bomb
I purchased this book for a college course and my professor wasn’t strict about which version we used, so naturally I purchased the less expensive, third edition. About half way through this book I realized I had made a mistake in not buying the more expensive fourth edition. I believe author John Belton did a great job in keeping up with American Culture and the different genre of film that have evolved over the years and I look forward to seeing what the fourth edition has to offer. I highly recommend this book to film enthusiasts and beginning film students.
Cultural Film History
on October 1, 2012
By Paul F
When I first picked up American Cinema, American Culture by John Belton, I assumed I was going to be getting another history book which just used films instead of wars to give me a lesson in US history. As usual with assumptions, mine were incorrect. Belton definitely outlines history in his book; however like the film Pulp Fiction, he does it in order of cultural influence and not in chronological order. He eloquently outlines not just the cultural context of the movie but delves deeply into the way the films and their themes not only reflected the times but informed them, changed them as well. My favorite piece of the book is chapter 8, American Comedy. Belton spends the entire chapter categorically breaking down the entire genre from the Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances to Something About Mary. Belton uses quick, fresh prose to explain where he’s coming and always stays below the lofty heights of most authors explaining such vast, diverse, complex and potentially boring content. Admittedly, Belton can get a bit lost in the details of things such as the digitization of the camera, the formal definitions of such and such camera angle, however he doesn’t use the definitions to show his brilliance, he uses them to frame the issue at hand and explains how such important details affected the actual film itself. Overall I would recommend this book for anyone taking a film class but even more particularly to anyone interested in the cultural history of film.
American Cinema/American Culture with Prof. Snyder
on April 29, 2012
I am one that loves films and movies but I do not take the time to know the names of the actors. When we go to the theatre to watch a movie my wife and kids will name all the main characters and I just sit there, I know their faces but that is as far as it goes. The American Cinema American Culture by John Belton is very well written and gives specific details on how films were created from the Kinetoscope to the Nickelodeon to the Multiplex Cinemas of today. While reading this book I was drawn in and able to take part of the film industry from silent films with Charlie Chaplin 1925 to Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum 2007, how movies have changed from then until today. My favorite films were The Gold Rush, Casablanca and The Bourne Ultimatum that was filmed 82 years later. I never thought that silent movies were ever exciting, once you read this book you will look at them differently. I have never taken the time to get a book and sit down and read it for hours; I always felt that I had better things to do. By taking this class and having to read this book as my assignment I had to read it but found myself enjoying it as I went from chapter to chapter. I became familiar with the different ways of filming, from silent movies to movies of today that not only have special effects but they also offer surround sound and are three dimensional.
A Nice, Thorough History of American Cinema
on January 8, 2013
By Leonard Kirke
John Belton’s “American Cinema/American Culture” gives a nice thorough history of, you guessed, American cinema and its relationship with American culture. I was required to buy this book for a Film History class taken as part of a film minor requirement, and it was one of the better textbooks I was required to read. It gives a nice run-down of film from the invention of early film/camera technology, through the early Edison years and chronicles the rise and fall of the old Hollywood studio system before delving into the prominent styles and themes of American cinema in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, touching on ways film styles influenced and were influenced by American culture during each era. If you have to read a film textbook, or if you even read such things for pleasure, I think you’ll find this book to be a great choice.
on February 23, 2014
This book is nice to have because it informs you to the complete history of the American Cinema. I always thought I knew quite a lot about our history in Cinema. However after reading it I learned more than I ever knew before about it.
Breezy, Insightful Book for Students & Cineastes
on November 4, 2012
By Paul Maverick
I have been delighted with this text, which I am using for two sections of a Film History class at a college where I am teaching. Belton goes beyond the names and dates, and links trends in film technology, technique, and genre to currents in the larger culture. I have been amazed by some of his insights – his analysis of the Pottersville sequence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” really opened my eyes, and makes for an elegant encapsulation of film noir. In addition, his prose style is inviting, and accessible to the lay reader. If you’re a film instructor, a film student, or a film lover, this is one book that won’t just sit on your shelf.
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