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

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

Jesse Fox Mayshark

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 027599080X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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 arts 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. 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 these filmmakers-including Wes and P. T. Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Richard Linklater, Alexander Payne, and David O. Russell-and seeks to reveal 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 Spike Jonze 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.

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illnesses have been good to him. Carol absorbs all of this, unquestioningly. Throughout the movie, she is consistently suggestible. When her friend urges a fruit diet, she does it. When she hears at an informational meeting that some people carry around oxygen tanks, it is only a matter of time before she is doing the same. When she sees an infomercial for Wrenwood, she decides to go there. And when one of the Wrenwood counselors says that some people require total isolation in a sterile

is something that happens.” The frogs represent possibility. But what is it, exactly, that is possible in Magnolia? Kindness, for one thing. The film’s scarred and bitter domestic casualties encounter a motley assortment of samaritans, whose interventions save them from their own worst instincts. The best-hearted of these is Phil, the hospice nurse at Earl’s bedside who listens with amusement and sympathy to the old man’s stories, and takes no offense at his oft-repeated directive to “go fuck

his scholastic achievements. But her guileless inexperience is overmatched by Ray’s barely suppressed neuroses. The first time they kiss, she finds him tentative and distant. Hurt, she asks him if he might be gay. Ray reacts angrily, pulling her clothes off and all but attacking her, and she pushes him off and runs away. There is no suggestion that sexual orientation per se is the source of Ray’s angst; Toni’s question 98 POST-POP CINEMA stings not so much because of its specifics but because

unexpected on predictable, affluent American life—a major subject of Fight Club—is prominent in The Game and Panic Room as well. Fincher works almost exclusively in the realm of the thriller, and his films have mostly been medium- to highquality examples of Hollywood nail-biters, written by a parade of middle- and top-shelf screenplay specialists. Many of them are clever films, without quite being smart. They are more flashy than illuminating. Fight Club stands apart in his work to date, thanks

a story about girls told from a boy’s perspective. The five Lisbon sisters are ciphers in Eugenides’s book, beautiful, unknowable, and unattainable. Coppola accepts the unsolvable puzzles of their family and, eventually, their deaths. But, probably for the obvious reason that she was a teenage girl herself, she gets inside the girls’ world more than Eugenides did. Their glances and giggles feel like a conspiracy that the movie is in on, in a way the book was not. In contrast, the neighborhood

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