Published on February 19, 2008
How to Research MoviesONLINE: How to Research Movies ONLINE Paul B. Wiener Film Librarian Stony Brook University October 2004 Slide2: You need to write about a movie. Great! That sounds almost too easy. Where to begin? Everyone has seen movies – way more than we can remember. Not to mention TV. Movies quickly become a part of our memories and perceptions and we refer to them when we talk about our so-called real life. We often feel movies help us understand things. “That reminds me of that crazy guy Joe Pesci plays in Casino…..” “You know The Blair Witch Project ------ did that really happen?” “I feel just like Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise… “Was Fahrenheit 9/11 really telling the facts?” Movies pervade our dreams and plans. Skip the Introduction Slide3: We treat movies like history, like facts. Do movies really “happen?” Are they really illusions? Can a movie “quote” another movie? Can an actor create a character? What can we say about a movie that is more than our opinion? Movies can be studied like every other phenomenon. There are hundreds of ways to discuss them. But how many of us have ever really studied a movie the way we have studied a book, a poem, an event, the behavior of a rat, the Civil War or a Super Bowl game? How hard could it be to research a movie? Slide4: It’s not hard at all. Almost everyone has an opinion or an observation about a particular movie, and many persons have written them down. Some do it for a living. Research is finding what they’ve written and using it to help us think or act. Movies have long been considered a medium for the masses, but the masses – the great majority of men and women - neither read nor write for scholarly journals. They rarely even see them. To the masses, the names of most scholarly journals are a complete mystery. But most of us know the names of newspapers and magazines. Slide5: Most critics and journalists try to write for the masses; they want the average person to be able to understand them, if not agree with them. Outside of books, most popular writing about movies is in newspapers and popular magazines. A great deal of writing is now done on the Internet as well. Much of it is written by intelligent, well-informed people – professional critics and other writers, people in the entertainment industry or in public life, movie lovers, filmmakers,etc. Though these people rarely publish in scholarly journals, their opinions and observations are often valuable. Slide6: For a variety of reasons less scholarly material is published about particular movies than about particular books or pieces of music. Literature, of course, has been around much longer. Until recently, the study of movies has developed through the study of literature. Many scholars have written about the history and impact of movies. They write about the way a movie is constructed, its music, its scenery, its photography, and about every other element. They compare movies to “reality.” Many feel that movies reflect the values of different large and small populations of artists and viewers. Movies can be considered the creation of societies, directors, writers, studios, special interests, technologists or some combination of these. Most critics and scholars would agree that a few hundred movies can be considered “classics,” the kind of cultural experiences any educated person should be familiar with. Slide7: Where you start your research – either about movies in general or about specific movies – will depend on your assignment, on what kind movie it is, on what other topics you’re discussing in your paper, and on what point you’re trying to make. There are scholarly resources about movies. Many are in the Library. Some are online. In fact, it can be difficult to find scholarly or non-scholarly information about movies without using the Library. Indexes, or databases, provided by libraries, can guide you quickly to collections of articles and information sources. These databases can help you find essays and criticism about “The Sopranos, ” “Singin’ in the Rain,” or “The Godfather”, Bruce Willis or Bruce Lee, John Ford or John Waters, poverty or religion, fantasy or documentary, as easily as you can learn about “Hamlet,” “ Leaves of Grass, “The Grapes of Wrath, ” Kate Chopin, Michel Foucault, photosynthesis or the Victorians. Slide8: General information databases index many magazines, journals and newspapers. They are good tools for finding non-scholarly writing. The films and topics covered, though, are often less than ten years old. These databases are accessible only through the Stony Brook University Library, which leases them. InfoTrac Masterfile Select Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe Return to Introduction Slide9: Search results for “movies and rap music” on the InfoTrac database might look like this----- Slide10: Many free web sites and blogs are now dedicated to promoting and discussing movies. Some of the most reputable ones are shown below. Many of these sites give links to other interesting sites. In some ways you can literally surf your way to new information. Green Cine Daily IndieWire Roger Ebert Film-Philosophy Senses of Cinema Anime News Network The Criterion Collection Images: a Journal of Film & Popular Culture AMPAS (Motion Picture Academy, Oscars, etc.) Bright Lights Strictly Film School Slide11: Other databases provide more scholarly articles about movies - writing by professors and experts in film studies that are published in journals edited and read by specialists in the field. These journals are usually “peer-reviewed” – the expertise is judged by specialists in the field to be worthy of publication. You can usually find these articles by searching one of the databases below for a particular movie, the name of a film director, writer or producer, and sometimes actor, or other persons prominently associated with a film, and for topics and terms specific to film study. Slide12: Topics about different aspects of film and society – i.e., how women or Italians are portrayed, movies and music, silent film, animation, sports, school, mental illness, science, politics – can be found with keyword searches. Terms for film genres – musical, film noir, horror, western, action, science fiction – can often be part of keyword searches as well. Each of the databases below uses different screens or search techniques, but all take advantage of basic keyword indexing. JSTOR Project MUSE Wilson Select Plus Arts & Humanities Citation Index Ingenta Select Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center Slide13: A Note on Searching with Keywords Computerized indexes find articles by looking for the exact words that are in the digitized record of that article. If you know the exact title of an article, or the exact last name(s) of the authors, the computer can locate them quickly, if the database you’re using indexes the journal that the article was in. If it doesn’t, you can try another database. If you don’t know a specific title, you tell the computer to use one or more words to search through many articles and journals. The word may be in the title. But most often the word is in the text of the article, or in the abstract or summary, or in the words that were used to record and identify the article when it was indexed. Using a single keyword like “politics” usually finds too many articles to make it easy for you to isolate one or several that are useful. You might have to read through 4500 titles! Using two or three keywords instead, like “politics and movies,” “politics and film,” or “politics and American and film” is much more likely to find a few articles that concern your specific interests. The more specific the keyword, the more you are likely to find what you need. The more keywords you try, the greater the selection of articles that will be searched. back to scholarly database list Slide14: One database, created by the International Federation of Film Archives, specializes in indexing only articles about film, but it’s not very easy to use. Most of these articles are citation-only: the full text is often not provided. Listings are given from over 300 journals around the world and go back as far as 1972. Other elements of this database include libraries, archives, television, bibliographies and filmographies. You can access this database only through the Library Home Page, at this link: FIAF Slide15: Free Sources of Movie Information Many websites provide important information often not found in scholarly articles: biographies, catalogs, histories, statistics, film clips and stills, trailers, posters, production and technological data, television programming, costs and profits. Below are several of interest. IMDB (Internet Movie Database) Movies Unltd. (commercial site) LC (American Memory) (Library of Congress) LC (Motion Picture & Television) Vanderbilt Television News Archive Internet Movie Archive American Film Institute NYU (Tisch School of the Arts) : Cinema Studies Variety McLuhan.ca Resources Slide16: Online Directories of Film Research Some web sites present comprehensive, often annotated lists of other places on the web where you can go for more specific information and resources. Voice of the Shuttle Librarians Index to the Internet UC Berkeley Film Studies Resources Yahoo: Movies and Film Research Websites: Film & Media Slide17: Movie Reviews Many websites, newspapers, popular magazines, books and TV shows review movies. Reviews often contain useful information and unique insights. The older the film, the harder it may be to find a review online. Below is a list of some of the largest sources of online reviews. Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Movie Review Query Engine New York Times Movie Reviews Pop Matters Slide18: Film Scripts Except for a few hundred classic films published in book form, it is almost impossible to find film scripts for free, even in libraries. Most film scripts are either unpublished, expensive collector’s items or unauthorized drafts. One source of free “unofficial” film scripts is Drew’s Script-o-Rama Difficulties with locating original scripts are tied to complicated permissions negotiations. Holders of the scripts are often reluctant to lend the documents because they are unique. Moreover, some scripts are not finalized as coherent texts. There is a new reference work published by the Alexander Street Press called American Film Scripts Online. It contains authorized versions of the shooting scripts of 1000 movies, some more detailed than others. Our Library, however, does not yet have access to this collection. Slide19: Selected Film Critics and Scholars of Note (the Library has works by all these authors) Robert Ray Robin Wood Andre Bazin Stanley Cavell Sergei Eisenstein E. Ann Kaplan William Everson Richard Roud Andrew Sarris David Thomson Leonard Maltin Stanley Kaufman James Naremore Pauline Kael Lewis Jacobs Kevin Brownlow Roger Ebert Garth Jowett Krin Gabbard David Bordwell Eric Barnouw Susan Sontag Slide20: Selected Film Periodicals in the Library Camera Obscura Cineaste Cinema Journal Film Comment Film Quarterly Journal of Film Preservation Journal of Popular Films & Television Sight and Sound Wide Angle Slide21: BEYOND ONLINE The following slides show several of the key reference books that cover the broad range of Film Studies. All are in the Library. The Cinema Arts Center in Huntington is the leading organization in Suffolk Country (about a 25-minute drive from campus). It shows art films, old films, foreign films and unusual films. It also sponsors lectures, courses and film-related social events. For Stony Brook students and film lovers the CAC is a rare and dynamic resource for film study. Slide22: How to Read a Film , Multimedia Edition, byJames Monaco, Oxford UP/Harbor Electronic Publishing, 2000, Library Video: DVD-ROM 1 (Central Reading Room) Library Book: PN1994.M59 2000 (Stacks) Four complete books: the completely revised How To Read a Film, The Dictionary of New Media, Reading about Film, and Reading about New Media. More than 130 film clips — Hollywood classics, cult landmarks, rare finds, famous sequences - over four hours of film. Audio interviews with Hollywood movers and shakers Animated interactive diagrams Film labs with a short movie shot especially for the disc - users can choose their own shots, edit the movie, and mix the soundtrack Virtual Reality tours of Hollywood studios A library of more than 140 reference texts, diagrams, charts, and databases Completely indexed - references to any subject, person, theme, or film Slide23: A Short Guide to Writing about Film (4th Edition) by Timothy Corrigan, Pearson Education, 2000. Library Stacks: PN1995.C665 1998 Writing about the Movies Preparing to Watch and Preparing to Write Film Terms and Topics Six Approaches to writing about Film Style and Structure in Writing Researching the Movies Manuscript Form Online Resources and Annotation Slide24: This book is a wide-ranging introduction to the long history and provocative debates about the interactions between film and literature. Film and Literature: A Reader presents essays from a variety of cultures that address the major issues in film and literature since the beginning of the twentieth century. The book provides landmark discussions of different genres and practices (such as poetry and movies or film scripts as literature) through writings by such figures as Vachel Lindsay, Walter Benjamin, and Alexander Astruc. It presents a concise, but detailed history of film and literature and the critical terms and techniques used in film and literary analysis as well as a detailed history of the bond between film and literature, from theatrical narratives of the silent film era to recent blockbuster adaptations of Shakespeare and Jane Austen. It also features introductions to each essay and suggests how the essays may be used to analyze works involving film and literature. Film and Literature: an Introduction and Reader, by Timothy Corrigan, Prentice Hall, 1998 Slide25: Roger Ebert's Book of Film by Roger Ebert W.W. Norton, 1996 One of the best anthologies of writing about the movies ever published. Choosing from the work of novelists and essayists as well as directors, actors, screenwriters and technicians, Ebert includes more than 100 examples of the best that has ever been said or thought about the movies. Here Graham Greene, Delmore Schwartz, and Susan Sontag sit down with Akira Kurosawa, Janet Leigh, and Budd Schulberg; Robert Stone, Julia Phillips, and Kenneth Anger share space with Louise Brooks, Gore Vidal, and John Updike. Well-organized with lively commentary by the editor. Slide26: The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume (4th ed) by Ephraim Katz, Fred Klein & Ronald Dean Nolen HarperResource, 2001 Long considered the undisputed Bible of the movie industry, Ephraim Katz's The Film Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive one-volume encyclopedia on film. Unrivaled in its scope, this intelligent and engrossing A to Z reference contains nearly 8,000 entries on the artistic, technical, and commercial aspects of moviemaking, including: Directors, producers, stars, screenwriters, and cinematographers Styles, genres, and schools of filmmaking Motion picture studios and film centers Film-related organizations and events Industry jargon and technical terms Inventions, inventors, and equipment Slide27: Cinema Arts Centre 423 Park Avenue (100 Yards South of Rt 25A, Main Street) Huntington, NY 11743 631-423-FILM http://www.cinemaartscentre.org/ A not-for-profit organization that hosts continuous showings of high-quality, art, independent, classic, foreign, often politicized films rarely or never seen elsewhere on Long Island. It also sponsors classes, lectures, performances, appearances by well-known directors and actors, discussions and community events.