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Film Studies: Cinematic Storytellers

From the earliest silent movies to modern action blockbusters, our lives and cultural history have been shaped by our favorite films. This month, Bloomsbury Collections celebrates cinematic storytellers who have given us movies that have informed how we view ourselves, our society, and our larger world.

Get your popcorn, choose your seat, and scroll down to learn about the achievements of directors from Alfred Hitchcock to Pedro Almodóvar with selections from Bloomsbury Collections’ Film & Media Studies library.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

When Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in 1968, audiences didn’t know what they were in for. More than just a story about rockets, UFOs, and alien beings, 2001 invited us to contemplate the very nature of our existence on the planet, as well as what might be waiting for us elsewhere.

In this provided essay from The Hollywood Renaissance: Revisiting American Cinema’s Most Celebrated Era, writer and professor of Cinema Studies Julie Turnock examines the impact of 2001: A Space Odyssey by analyzing the special effects and unique editing style that solidified Kubrick as a bona fide master of his craft.

Photo Credit: United Archives/Hulton Archive

Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest

Fans of Alfred Hitchcock likely have difficulty choosing a favorite film, especially since the auteur’s body of work successfully explored a range of genres, including mystery, horror, drama, and even comedy. But in the realm of nail-biting spy films, North by Northwest (1959) stands out as an all-time classic.

Read this chapter from author and film historian James Chapman’s book Hitchcock and the Spy Film and learn about the film’s premiere place within the context of suspenseful espionage drama, from the gripping sequence in which Cary Grant is chased through a corn field by a machine-gun wielding plane, to the climactic, nail- biting climb down the face of Mount Rushmore.

Photo Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical

Steven Spielberg’s “Suburbia” Trilogy

Few directors have enjoyed the career longevity or global acclaim of Steven Spielberg. From the early successes of Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) to later pop culture touchstones like Jurassic Park (1993) and Minority Report (2002), many critics argue that Spielberg has had a permanent impact on the landscape of modern cinema.

Read about Spielberg’s films from the late 1970s and early 1980s exploring what happens when otherworldly forces invade everyday suburbia in the films Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Poltergeist (1982) with this sample chapter from author and editor James Kendrick’s book Darkness in the Bliss-Out: A Reconsideration of the Films of Steven Spielberg.

Photo Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker

In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her searing war drama The Hurt Locker, about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team navigating the trauma of the Iraq War. With this landmark achievement, Bigelow helped open doors for other female directors across cinematic genres.

In this essay from Film Firsts: The 25 Movies that Created Contemporary American Cinema, author Ethan Alter gives readers insight into how Bigelow’s film made a unique impact on war movies, and examines how the director helped break the glass ceiling for female filmmakers.

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now

By the time Francis Ford Coppola accepted his Best Director Oscar for The Godfather Part II (1974), he was already planning his next film, which would permanently change how the world viewed the Vietnam War. Apocalypse Now (1979), Coppola’s re-envisioning of Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, may have been met with mixed reviews upon its initial release, but has since been recognized by critics as one of the greatest films of all time.

Read this chapter about Coppola’s journey making the film, from The Coppolas: A Family Business, which chronicles the legacy of the Coppola family and its lasting influence on the world of film.

Photo Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical

Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Pedro Almodóvar had already made a name for himself in his native country of Spain before his work began to receive acclaim overseas in the 1980s. But his talent as a director became apparent to the world with the release of his 1988 black comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios), which was ultimately nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In this sample chapter from his book analyzing the film, author and professor Peter William Evans examines what inspired Almodóvar to make Women on the Verge, and what led it to become the most commercially successful film to emerge from Spain, as well as a subsequent global phenomenon.

Photo Credit: Philippe Le Tellier/Hulton Archive

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