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Portfolio on the Relationship Between Movies and Cultural StudiesDissertation

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Cultural Studies and the 'New' Hollywood Cinema

The relationship between culture and movies involves a complex dynamic. Although American films definitely impact the culture of the masses that consume them, the films are also a fundamental part of, and a product of said culture. Thus, they reflect prevailing attitudes, beliefs and concerns. This report examines five films and their cultural impact: Slumdog Millionaire (2008); Zelig; Eyes Wide Shut; Taxi Driver (1976); and Collateral (2004). While dealing with the correlations between culture and film, it is important to note that, while specific ideologies may dominate in a particular era, American culture is as varied as its constituting population; said culture is also evolving constantly from one era to the other. For example, mainstream movies produced during the latter years of the 1940s and the 1950s generally portrayed the conservatism dominating America's sociopolitical playing fields of the age; they were also a part of a global war era. By the 1960s, however, a youth 'counter-culture' started emerging with traits that were in resistance to dominant institutions. These antiestablishment opinions soon made it to the screen, and were markedly different from the most frequently depicted attitudes of a few years prior. Movies, in a sense, could be considered as the nation's storytellers. Hollywood films not only display some commonly held beliefs and attitudes regarding what being American means, but also depict contemporary issues, events and trends, and act as testimonies of the ages wherein they were made. This portfolio will comprise many movies analyzed in various essays.

Mission Statement

The goal is to develop a portfolio on the New Hollywood Cinema and the relationship between movies and cultural studies.

Context and theory, with regards to cultural studies, are mutually created and mutually determining. The field of cultural studies, in this sense, "desacralizes" theory and takes it up in the form of a conditional strategic resource. Cultural studies, therefore, cannot be related to any one tradition or theoretical paradigm. It has been, and will continue, wrestling with several modern as well as postmodern philosophies. These include Marxism, postmodernism, phenomenology, pragmatism, hermeneutics, post structuralism, and with political and theoretical agendas of critical race theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory, discourse theory, feminism, and etc. (Grossberg 27). This represents the importance of Hall's strong refusal to be considered a theorist. Hall states that he is strategically related to theory, and doesn't consider himself a theorist as it's his work- he is always interested in theorizing on the concrete and on the world, but is not keen on making theories as objects in their own right. Thus, he employs theories in a strategic manner, as his objective is to consider an object's concreteness in its various different relations. This, for Hall, describes a distinct practice of theories; he states that this might be abstract work, apparently of a loose sort: porous, yet not un-rigorous, always related to a distinct moment's specifics (Grossberg 27). The above association to theory remains central to cultural studies, which can only actually work by going from one historical conjuncture to another, through a changing theoretical frame which isn't purified conceptually (Grossberg 27).

Cultural studies, concurrently, does not repudiate the significance of general or abstract categories like commodification, colonization, or racism, that appear to rise above particular territories and sites. The same, undoubtedly, is true in case of the culture theory. Even if the start of one's path into and beyond a context is defined by culture, there isn't any essential mode of operation of cultural systems, and no assurance regarding how cultural imperatives will perform in a specific context. There is no general cultural theory in cultural studies. Cultural practices are viewed as the scene of intersection of several likely effects. It doesn't begin with defining of culture or effects of culture, or by assuming the appropriate dimensions wherein to describe specific practices, before time. Cultural practices, instead, are sites where diverse things might and do take place, and where diverse possibilities meet. Cultural studies, if politically driven, also believe politics to be contextual. Assuming one knows beforehand the politically right solution, or political stakes, ensures that an identical story is told by replacing political obligations for intellectual work required for reaching a contextually- apt evaluation of political intricacies and formulating viable imaginative and strategic interventions. The goals, sites and kinds of struggle may be comprehended only after reconstruction of the context is complete, to better appreciate power relations (Grossberg 28).

Cultural studies views power as contradictorily and complexly organized, along various dimensions and axes that can't be lessened to one another. For instance, sexual and gender relationships cannot be explained solely using class and economic relationships, nor can class and economic relationships be explained solely using sexual and gender relationships. If sexual and gender relationships are altered, it is not guaranteed that changes in class relationships will occur (in a comparable or similar manner), and if changes take place in class relationships, it is not guaranteed that sexual and gender relationships will alter (in a comparable or similar manner). Unfortunately, power proves to be more complicated than that. However, on the positive side, power can never totalize itself. Fault lines and fissures are always present, which may turn into active places of efforts and change. Power can never quite achieve everything it may like in every place, and the chance of altering structures and power organizations always exists. Power relations cannot be described in simple dominance and resistance terms, in which the latter only always a response, which at best restricts rather than molds power itself. Within power, relations of types of control with counter control, themselves, are contextual as well as complex. Furthermore, while power functions in the nation and in institutions, it also works where individuals spend their day-to-day lives, as well as in places where intersection of these fields occurs. Cultural studies always interests itself in the manner in which power permeates, contaminates, restricts, and endows the likelihoods that individuals have to lead lives in secure, dignified and just ways, because, if one aspires to alter power relations, and move individuals, even by a fraction, one must start from where they are, in addition to how and where they live, in reality. This implies that one should figure out the "where" (Grossberg 27-28). Theoretical framework is employed, which depicts cultural complexities to comprehend new Hollywood Cinema and the relation of cultural studies with movies.

The movie Slumdog Millionaire, can easily apply a critical globalization theory, to prove that globalization's net negative impacts should also be taken into account. The film, however fails to do so and only portrays its net positive impacts. This comedy-drama, created for Western audiences, has been lauded by Western society; however, whether Boyle unconsciously romanticized the culture of India depending on diffuse patterns of self and others hasn't been considered here. The story is expressed from a Westernized, rather than Indian, viewpoint, and projects Western principles and standards onto Indian culture. It takes up issues pertaining to economics, politics and society, as well as graver ones like child abuse, rape and physical force, by which Indian society is afflicted. Hordes of moviegoers, who have yet to visit India, accepted and praised this film. One focal point of the movie is the clear display of the masses of disenfranchised Indians dwelling in the slums. These are Indians from different backgrounds, many of whom speak different languages and practice different religions. Their core similarity is a shared nationality, but more importantly, a shared social class status. Latika's character adds the necessary gender dimension to the film. Her marriage to Salim clearly represents a stereotype of Indian misogyny. Beneath that though, Boyle does depict the grim reality of India's brand of patriarchy. As well, the film gave Westerners a view into the stark realities and surprising beauties of another culture.

In brief, Zelig is a provocative, adroit satire belonging to the genre of documentaries (Grossman 271-2). It satirizes several facets of contemporary life; these include celebrity and American culture; people's belief in archives as being wholly reliable records of history; and human nature, particularly modern-day individual's yearning to adapt, stick to rules and fit in. A 70s black-and-white news report style is brilliantly employed for this movie, for delivering an absolute, precise history. The leading character becomes a celebrity, and then becomes ill-famed and popular again- to finally become obscure. The mockumentary, ideally, has various strong potentials. Firstly, it successfully copies and lampoons a documentary's seriousness. Secondly, it satirizes the modern-day concept of human nature and celebrity; particularly mankind's longing to fit in, go by the norm and adjust (Genter). Using strong historical satire and humor, Zelig is effective in culturally criticizing those aspects; its viewers are goaded to self-consciously question their inclination towards the portrayed weaknesses of humans (Grossman 272).

Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's last movie, links together two highly dissimilar subjects: sexuality and mystery. These motifs, to different extents, center on an unknown, invincible secret society. The lead pair- Alice and Bill -- initially appears… [END OF PREVIEW]

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