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Main page » Non-Fiction » Post-Pop Cinema - The Search for Meaning in New American Film

Post-Pop Cinema - The Search for Meaning in New American Film


Starting in the early 1990s, artists such as Quentin Tarantino, David Foster Wallace, and Kurt Cobain contributed to a swelling cultural tide of pop postmodernism that swept through music, film, literature, and fashion. In cinema in particular, some of the art's most fundamental aspects--stories, characters, and genres, for instance--assumed such a trite and trivialized appearance that only rarely could they take their places on the screen without provoking an inward smirk or a wink from the audience. In horror films, characters knew what was coming next from having already studied the horror genre themselves; in Westerns, new plots developed out of an assortment of old ones; and in action features, few heroes came without a strong hint of the anti-hero as well. Out of this highly self-conscious and world-weary environment, however, a new group of filmmakers began to develop as the decade wore on, with a new set of styles and sensibilities to match.

In Post-Pop Cinema author Jesse Fox Mayshark takes us on a film-by-film tour of the works of Wes and P. T. Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Richard Linklater, Alexander Payne, and David O. Russell, and reveals how a common pool of styles, collaborators, and personal connections helps them to confront the unifying problem of meaning in American film. Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket (1996) and Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) were ultimately about their characters' lives-even though their characters often dealt with highly contrived environments and situations. And soon after Wes Anderson scored his first success, others like David O. Russell (Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings), the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (who collaborated with SpikeJonze on such projects as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation), Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) began to tread their own paths over this same ground.

Although these men and women represent a wide range of styles and subject matter, all their films revolve in different ways around the difficulty of establishing and maintaining connections. This theme of connection also runs deeper than the films made: the directors share actors (Mark Wahlberg, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, Jason Schwartzman), collaborators (the musician Jon Brion) and sometimes even personal connections (Spike Jonze starred in Russell's Three Kings, and was married to Coppola). Together these filmmakers form a loose and distinctly American school of filmmaking, one informed by postmodernism but not in thrall to it, and one that every year becomes more important to the world of cinema both within and beyond the United States. Author Jesse Fox Mayshark has been reviewing these filmmakers from their debut features to the present day.

This book represents not only the first prolonged study devoted to several of these very important filmmakers, but also the first effort to chronicle the efforts of this group as a whole

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