News | 68th Annual Venice Film Festival (1)

4 09 2011

Dateline: Venice, Day 5 of the festival, but Day 2 for me

Alison L. McKee, Ph.D.

So here I am at the fabled Venice Film Festival, faithfully reporting in. I didn’t arrive in Venice until evening on September 2 and so made it to the festival only the next day, by which point I’d missed the opening film, George Clooney’s The Ides of March.

As much as I like Clooney and find him sort of a latter-day Cary Grant, I’m not here to see films that I know will be in mainstream U.S theatres shortly. Rather, I’ve come to Venice first to see if I can make any connections on behalf of RTVF, Spartan Film Studios, and SJSU generally.  My second goal is to aim for those films that I might not see otherwise were I not at the festival in the first place.

Accreditation badge, festival program, and ticket to POULET AUX PRUNES

Yesterday’s coup?  Seeing Poulet aux prunes (by Satrapis and Paronnaud, who also collaborated on 2007’s animated film Persepolis, which I sometimes show in RTVF 111: Alternative Cinema). I hadn’t read anything about it in advance and, because Persepolis is animated, I was surprised when the film moved quickly from an animated title sequence into (highly stylized) live-action. Without giving any spoilers, it’s a romantic tale of a man — a musician — disappointed in love, and of the two women in his life who are disappointed as well. Quirky, sardonic, told out of temporal order, and then pulled together and put into context retrospectively by a lush final sequence worthy of Douglas Sirk, the film received a five-minute standing ovation at its conclusion.  Happily, I found myself seated in the balcony of the Sala Grande in the Palazzo del Cinema, near the director, composer, and lead actors — and it was a genuine thrill to feel the audience respond so positively to the film and see how pleased the filmmakers were.  Beautiful cinematography, a score to die for … it made the hype and the glitz mercifully recede into the background, and the film itself was allowed to take precedence.

Because here’s the deal with the Venice Film Festival:  it’s Quite the Scene, and despite the fact that it’s the oldest, most pedigreed film festival in the world (even Cannes is second to it), I wasn’t quite prepared for that.  Paparazzi are all over the place, even at the unglamorous hour of 10 a.m.;  bands of police with bomb-sniffing dogs can be seen (it’s a global media  event, ripe for some kind of terrorist attack, I guess); and the crowds ,.. my god, the crowds!  There’s a dedicated vaporetto (water bus) to shuttle folks to and from the Venice mainland and the festival departing every half hour.  Free to accredited vistors (yours truly, thank you!), it’s a crush nevertheless. One waits in line for everything (of course, that tends to be true of film festivals everywhere). The people-watching is great — I could and have lingered over cappuccino for some time at the festival, just watching the crowds go by … but it’s also exhausting!

For a fluffy journalistic riff on women. glitz, and glamour at the festival, check out this piece from  the Khaleej Times.

More to come!


News | Academy’s Artwork Archive Goes Online

28 07 2011

Academy’s Artwork Archive Goes Online > Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

Check out the article, an excerpt of which follows:

Now, like the Library of Congress and David Pierce’s Media History Digital Library (see article HERE), the Academy is beginning to scan some of its materials in order to make them available to scholars and film buffs online. Its first major endeavor is its Production Art Database which incorporates records for more than 5,300 items, including costume and production design drawings, animation art, storyboards and paintings. Nearly half of those entries includes images of the original artwork, dating from the 1920s to the present day.

News | RTVF Scholarship & Studies @ SJSU blog

28 07 2011

Watch this space for news about the blend of scholarship and production in RTVF at SJSU, live updates from the Venice Film Festival in early September, and other exciting developments!

Meet Drew Todd

26 08 2010

Drew Todd received his Ph.D. in 2004 from the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, with a doctoral minor in Art History.  He has published on a variety of topics within film studies, including dandyism and cinema, crime films, history of film technology, and the poetics and politics of Satyajit Ray’s cinema. He is currently working on the films of Buñuel and their relationship to melodrama, as well as  completing a book on what he terms “Art Deco Hollywood.”

This semester Drew is teaching RTVF 10: The Film as Art (as both a regular class and a MUSE course), RTVF 111 (Alternative Cinema), and RTVF 185, an RTVF Studies course devoted this semester to the crime film. All three courses are among the department’s most successful classes.

In addition to lecturing on film topics San José State University, Drew also teaches at UCSC’s Film and Digital Media Department.  When he is not teaching or writing, or conducting research in any of California’s splendid film archives, Drew is ideally camping in the Sierras, watching Buñuel, or playing duplicate bridge.

Meet RTVF radio historian, scholar, and former DJ Professor Mike Adams

28 06 2010

RTVF Professor Mike Adams needs no introduction:   he’s the former Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Arts and former Chair of the Department of Television-Radio-Film-Theatre.

Mike’s is the voice we all hear on SJSU’s phone system, narrating interesting and unusual facts about the university.  You can thank his experience as a top-40 disc jockey during the golden age of rock and roll AM radio for that. In fact, Mike  spent 12 years as DJ and Program Director of legendary station WCOL-AM in Columbus, Ohio.

But did you know that Mike is a also a first-rate radio historian and scholar?

Mike has presented papers on broadcast history topics at conferences sponsored by the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) the IEEE, the Antique Wireless Association (AWA), and the Audio Engineering Society (AES).

In fact, Mike’s scholarly work is of such high caliber that the AWA awarded him the prestigious “Houck Award” for historical documentation in 1995.

In addition, Mike has written numerous articles for historical radio journals and periodicals and two books on radio and television production, the biography Charles Herrold, inventor of radio broadcasting.

Mike is currently writing a book  about Lee de Forest and his invention of Phonofilm, the first sound-on-film process, that eventually became Movietone in 1927.  Most of the  materials he needs to consult are  in museums and private collections. Fortunately, the de Forest paper collection is at History San Jose, where, as he says, “I have spent many days with it over the past four years.”

Mike’s passion for the research and writing he does in early broadcast technology history (1900-1920) extends to speaking engagements as well.  This summer he will speak twice on the topic of his book (under contract at Springer) — first at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in July and then in Rochester, New York  in August.

As Mike says so often himself, the hits keep on coming!

Fall 2010: RTVF 135: Special Projects in Production (Second Life)

10 06 2010

If you have questions about this class, email Dr. Alison McKee at

RTVF faculty member will head to Venice

7 06 2010

Congratulations to RTVF professor Dr. Alison McKee whose paper “Real Place/Virtual Space: Venice, Narrative Architecture, and Metaverse-Building in Second Life” has been accepted to the 2010 International Conference on the Constructed Environment.

The conference will be held in Venice, Italy from 17-19 November 2010 in conjunction with the 12th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale (la Biennale di Venezia), directed by Kazuyo Sejima and titled People meet in architecture.

From the website of the Venice Biennale:

The Venice Biennale … has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Ever since its foundation in 1895, it has been in the avant-garde, promoting new artistic trends and organising international events in contemporary arts. It is world-beating for the International Film Festival, for the International Art Exhibition and for the International Architecture Exhibition, and continues the great tradition of the Festival of Contemporary Music, the Theatre Festival, now flanked by the Festival of Contemporary Dance.

Dr. McKee’s work in and on Second Life grows out of an interest that was born when she and Dr. Kimb Massey co-taught RTVF 173: Media Theory and Research (now RTVF 180: Critical Studies and Research in RTVF), part of which was devoted to a study of avatars in Second Life.

Her work on Second Life continues in Fall 2010 when she will teach RTVF 135: Special Projects in Production.  Together, she and students in the class will work toward building a sustainable RTVF space in Second Life to augment RTVF’s online presence and identity.