Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mast - A Short History of the Movies

Mast, Gerald, and Bruce F. Kawin. A Short History of the Movies. Boston: Longman, 2011.


As a text book, it was interesting to see how Mast organized the history of film. I would list his priorities as follows:

  1. Nation - what advances/movements came from which nation when?
  2. Auteur - Who were the key auteurs, how did they advance film as art, and which film or films are most representative of their work.
  3. The business of film, and its effect on film as art
  4. Technical advances
  5. American Periods: they are as follows...
1. Early film-1890s-1910s
2. First features (Birth of a Nation) 10s
3. First talkies (Jazz Singer) 20s
4. Studio/Hollywood Era (studio controlled stars, directors and each studio had its own recognizable style) late 20s-40s
5. Hollywood in Crisis (threat of television, decline of studios, impact of Italian neo-realism and French New Film) 50s-60s
6. Neo-Hollywood (Bonnie and Clyde) 60s-70s
7. Return to myths (Star Wars) 1977-
8. Digital Era (Toy Story, Attack of the Clones, O Brother Where Art Thou) 1995-

Less important were the following aspects
  1. Genre - Mast discusses the broader trends of genres such as westerns, noir, and comedy but this is not an organizing theme.
  2. Actors - Only actors who were themselves auteurs, such as Chaplin, are discussed at length
  3. Film as popular art - He is more interested in films/auteurs that pushed the boundary of the art and spends little time dissecting blockbuster hits unless they were innovative in some other way (ex. Start Wars).
  4. Ideological criticism - He does some of this broadly, especially in his discussion of post 1977 films and the return to broader, Reagan/Thatcher/Conservatism myths away from the more cynical, anti-mythic films of the prior period.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. your list of those 7 eras of film helps me a bunch for this FIlm final i've got coming up. thanks!