This series explores film history and American culture through the eyes of over 150 Hollywood insiders, including Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Michael Eisner. In-depth treatments present film as a powerful economic force, potent twentieth-century art form, and viable career option.
American Cinema connects subjects such as history, business, and English with other studies. In addition, it is a perfect vehicle for developing visual and media literacy skills and can be used as a springboard for creative-writing endeavors and media production.
1. The Hollywood Style—In the classical Hollywood film, the story is primary. Filmmakers rely on style — structure, narrative, and visual elements — to effectively tell their story. (60 min)
2. The Studio System—This program surveys Hollywood’s industrial past during the era of contract players and directors, studio police forces, and colorful movie moguls. (60 min)
3. The Star—Early on, Hollywood saw that recognizable talent could minimize the financial risks of film production. Critics, film scholars, and studio publicists view the stars from many angles: as marketing tools, cultural icons, and products of the industry. (60 min)
4. The Western—The western is an American myth that has been translated by other cultures and reinterpreted time and again, but never dies. With clips and critical commentary on westerns, the program traces the aesthetic evolution of the genre as well as its sociological importance. (60 min)
5. Romantic Comedy—Breezy and silly to witty and intelligent, romantic comedies have been with us since the 1930s. But the surface humor has often just barely masked issues of gender and sexuality. (60 min)
6. The Combat Film—Beginning with World War II combat films — produced under directives from the federal government — this program examines the role of the combat film in filling a social and political need. Critics and directors describe the evolution of these films, the rise of the Vietnam film, and the influence of the newsreel documentaries and TV news on the genre. (60 min)
7. Film Noir—These cynical and pessimistic films from the 1930s and ’40s touched a nerve in Americans. Historians link the genre’s overriding paranoia to Cold War-related angst over the nuclear threat and the Hollywood blacklist. (60 min)
8. Film in the Television Age—Television first arrived in American homes just as the Hollywood studio system was collapsing. As the new medium took hold, so did a new era of motion picture entertainment. (60 min)
9. The Film School Generation—Maverick filmmakers of the 1960s and ’70s, including Brian DePalma, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg, capitalized on new technology and borrowed from classical Hollywood and French New Wave as they reinvented the American film. (60 min)
10. The Edge of Hollywood—While many of the old rules are still in force, independent filmmakers today often add their dissenting voices to the forum. (60 min)
11. Film Language—“Film Language” illustrates basic terms such as tracking shots and zooms and also provides a primer on editing technique. (30 min)
12. Writing and Thinking About Film—“Writing and Thinking About Film” provides a formal and cultural analysis of a classical film sequence. It serves as a critical how-to guide for those new to film critique. (30 min)
13. Classical Hollywood Today—”Classical Hollywood Today” offers interviews with contemporary directors, European filmmakers, scholars, and critics, as well as studio-era veterans who probe Hollywood’s influence on both American and world culture. (30 min)
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Assignment: The World has been discontinued by the producer and is no longer available for broadcast.
PBS Newshour Extra’s Daily News Story is a great alternative.