The Films of the Eighties: A Social History
SIU Press, 1995 - 335 pages
In this remarkable sequel to his Films of the Seventies: A Social History, William J. Palmer examines more than three hundred films as texts that represent, revise, parody, comment upon, and generate discussion about major events, issues, and social trends of the eighties.
Palmer defines the dialectic between film art and social history, taking as his theoretical model the "holograph of history" that originated from the New Historicist theories of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra. Combining the interests and methodologies of social history and film criticism, Palmer contends that film is a socially conscious interpreter and commentator upon the issues of contemporary social history. In the eighties, such issues included the war in Vietnam, the preservation of the American farm, terrorism, nuclear holocaust, changes in Soviet-American relations, neoconservative feminism, and yuppies.
Among the films Palmer examines are Platoon, The Killing Fields, The River, Out of Africa, Little Drummer Girl, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Silkwood, The Day After, Red Dawn, Moscow on the Hudson, Troop Beverly Hills, and Fatal Attraction. Utilizing the principles of New Historicism, Palmer demonstrates that film can analyze and critique history as well as present it.
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The period from 1975 ( immediately following the success of Jaws ) to the present has been a cycle in which the creative has been consistently overshadowed by the commercial . This materialist emphasis , xii i Preface.
... 6 and what Dominick LaCapra designates the critical reading of texts ( including items usually referred to as documents ) in a manner that may itself affect both the conception of former ' reality and activity in the present .
... always aware of itself as text and of the interrelation between its texts , subtexts , contexts , intertexts , can elevate the past into the participatory position of being a layer in the holograph of present history .
... appear to be either an antiquarian , fleeing from the problems of the present into a purely personal past , or a kind of cultural necrophile , that is , one who finds in the dead and dying a value he can never find in the living .
No film historian has his finger more firmly on the pulse of the film industry than James Monaco , and when he compares the social consciousness of the films of the eighties with those of the sixties the present shakes out pretty well ...