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The way Hollywood tells it: story and style in modern movies

The way Hollywood tells it: story and style in modern movies

Bordwell, David

Hollywood moviemaking is one of the constants of American life, but how much has it changed since the glory days of the big studios? David Bordwell argues that the principles of visual storytelling created in the studio era are alive and well, even in today’s bloated blockbusters. American filmmakers have created a durable tradition—one that we should not be ashamed to call artistic, and one that survives in both mainstream entertainment and niche-marketed indie cinema. Bordwell traces the continuity of this tradition in a wide array of films made since 1960, from romantic comedies like Jerry Maguire and Love Actually to more imposing efforts like A Beautiful Mind. He also draws upon testimony from writers, directors, and editors who are acutely conscious of employing proven principles of plot and visual style. Within the limits of the “classical” approach, innovation can flourish. Bordwell examines how imaginative filmmakers have pushed the premises of the system in films such as JFK, Memento, and Magnolia. He discusses generational, technological, and economic factors leading to stability and change in Hollywood cinema and includes close analyses of selected shots and sequences. As it ranges across four decades, examining classics like American Graffiti and The Godfather as well as recent success like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, this book provides a vivid and engaging interpretation of how Hollywood moviemakers have created a vigorous, resourceful tradition of cinematic storytelling that continues to engage audiences around the world

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English. Electronic books.
Published Berkeley: University of California Press, c2006
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Statement of responsibility: David Bordwell
ISBN: 9780520232273
Note: Description based on print version record.
Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. 243-271) and index.
Physical Description: 1 online resource (x, 298 p.) : ill.
Subject: Motion picture industry United States History.; Motion pictures United States History.; Motion pictures Aesthetics.


  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Introduction: Beyond the Blockbuster
  3. part i: a real story
  4. 1. Continuing Tradition, by Any Means Necessary
  5. 2. Pushing the Premises
  6. 3. Subjective Stories and Network Narratives
  7. 4. A Certain Amount of Plot
  8. Tentpoles, Locomotives, Blockbusters
  9. Megapictures, and the Action Movie
  10. part ii: a stylish style
  11. 1. Intensified Continuity: Four Dimensions
  12. 2. Some Likely Sources
  13. 3. Style, Plain and Fancy
  14. 4. What’s Missing?
  15. Appendix: A Hollywood Timeline, 1960–2004
  16. Bradley Schauer and David Bordwell
  17. Notes
  18. Index

Author note

David Bordwell is Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies and Hilldale Professor of Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among his books are Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging (California, 2004), Film History: An Introduction (with Kristin Thompson, 2002), Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (2000), and On the History of Film Style (1997).