Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood (Culture America (Paperback))

Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood (Culture America (Paperback)) by Robert Brent Toplin 0700612009 9780700612000
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History has been fodder for cinema from the silent era to the block buster present, a fact that has seldom pleased historians themselves. As pundits increasingly ponder how Hollywood fails history, Robert Toplin counters with a provocative alternative approach to this enduring debate over the portrayal of history in film.<P>Toplin focuses on movies released over the past sixteen years -- during which twelve historical films won the Oscar for Best Picture -- and argues that critics often fail to recognize the unique ways that fictional films communicate important ideas about the past. His work establishes commonsense ground rules for improving critical analysis in this area. Citing films like Gladiator and Braveheart, Gandhi and Nixon, he underscores the pressures placed on filmmakers to simplify and alter historical fact to conform to the demands of an extraordinarily expensive mass medium.<P>Toplin demonstrates how a historical epic like Glory may contain creative adjustments that worry historians but,shows how its distortions communicate broader and deeper truths about the Civil War experiences of African Americans -- just as Saving Private Ryan presented little factual detail about World War II and yet effectively conveyed the experience of combat. He also shows how other films -- such as Mississippi Burning, Amistad, and The Hurricane -- contain so many elements of fictional excess and oversimplification that they deserve the criticism they receive.<P>Toplin draws upon his own experiences in film production and takes direct aim at recent writing about film dominated by jargonistic theory and empty rhetoric. He urges film studies scholars to move beyond their preoccupation withformal aesthetics and recognize that, in historical films, content does matter.<P>In engaging prose that will appeal to any moviegoer, Reel History helps build bridges between defenders and detractors of history-by-Hollywood

Author: Robert Brent Toplin

Language: English

Binding: Paperback

Pages: 240

Publisher: University Press of Kansas

Publication Date: 2002-10-08


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