Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema
Russell Leigh Sharman, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Copyright Year: 2020
Publisher: University of Arkansas
Conditions of Use
Russell Sharman’s Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema provides an enjoyable introduction to the study of film and covers much of what is expected from an introductory text. Its level of comprehensiveness is a bit double sided. On one side,... read more
Russell Sharman’s Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema provides an enjoyable introduction to the study of film and covers much of what is expected from an introductory text. Its level of comprehensiveness is a bit double sided. On one side, the text provides a considerable background of both the aesthetic and social importance of film. In addition, almost half of the text is dedicated to extra-textual issues: historical background and production practices. On the other side, the hermeneutics of understanding film and its meaning-making language is somewhat sacrificed. There is the occasional nod (low-angle shot presents a character as larger than life), but introducing the skills concerned with interpreting a cinematic text is not developed systematically. It is one thing for a student to recognize the difference between a close-up and a long shot, but it is another to understand how and what each of these stylistic elements signify in certain contexts. The heavy attention to the historical background and practices of production might stem from the author’s experience as both a cultural anthropologist and a filmmaker, not sure. I will add that the text does provide a great introduction to the history of cinema and the intricacies of the production process, if that is what you are looking for. If your andragogical approach to film studies stems more from a literary or philosophical perspective, then you may need to supplement the text with an introduction to cinematic interpretive frameworks and the general semiotics of cinema.
Sharman’s text provides a good amount of formal terminology for the introductory student along with an evolution of many of the concepts behind the terms. The terminology is also all defined accurately. The text’s many forays into film history and the production process are also described accurately. The last section of the course, which deals with the social content of and representation in film, is ideologically heavy, but I would not call it inaccurate.
The text is very relevant and up to date (for the time of this review). It documents numerous contemporary films and transitional periods of film history. Since the text does focus on many current issues affecting cinema, then I suppose there will be some required updating in the future as new issues emerge. But for the current time, I think the text is up to date for an introductory book. Other than the investigations into these contemporary and current issues, the text should maintain its longevity as it devotes most of its attention to structural, historical, and technological features of cinema. It evens makes several references to the latest technological innovations (digitization, etc.) in film production. The author also includes the new mode of closed-form streaming narratives into many discussions. To reiterate, however, the text lacks some relevancy for an introductory course that needs a focus on cinema interpretation.
The text is easy to read and to follow. The writing is both informative and entertaining. It introduces much technical terminology and many concepts but never at an inaccessible level. The writing maintains an inviting and approachable tone throughout, making it easy for the introductory student to follow without lapsing into the tediousness into which textbooks often devolve.
As mentioned above, the text maintains a consistent entertaining and informative tone throughout. I think the author’s inviting and entertaining mood makes for a welcoming read. Every time the text is re-opened, the student will instantly recognize this convivial voice. Also, the author clearly displays his deep interest in the study of film, an interest that beneficially should prove contagious. The text is littered with comedic parenthetic asides, as indirect attempts to personalize the author’s voice. At first, these might be more inviting than they later become. Overall, the text could probably benefit some readers with a reduction in the quantity, but not duration, of these asides.
Because the text is organized in a well-thought-through manner, where some chapters necessarily must precede others, it may not rank the highest in modularity. However, modularity, in my mind, is a bit overrated. In the end, the text does form a unified whole, but teaching out of sequence would require some creativity.
The text is organized into two main parts: “An Introduction to Cinema” and “Representation in Cinema.” The former covers the formal elements of film (mise en scène, cinematography, editing, acting, etc.) while the latter covers the social importance of film (cinematic representations of and by women and African Americans). The first part takes up the lion’s share of the text and even begins with an introductory chapter that presents many of the concepts that will be developed in more detail and with examples in separate chapters. The second part of the text also begins with a brief explanation of the importance of representation in cinema. The first two chapters of the text provide a brief history of cinema and a chapter explaining what we do when we watch film. Overall, the text flows well and its purposive design works logically and developmentally. It makes sense that the text provides a formal explanation of cinema before delving into its social significance. One could, however, treat them separately, as the text presents them. So, I guess, modularity slips into the back door after all.
The text is relatively easy to navigate from chapter to chapter. It also includes a table of contents with a drop-down menu that allows the reader to jump to any designated chapter. There are numerous relevant embedded videos scattered through each chapter, and all are bibliographed at the conclusion of the chapters. A handful of the embedded videos were, however, unavailable at the time I read the text. Only a small minority, however. The embedded videos highlight certain matters of formal, historical, and production importance. Alongside the attention to history and production, I would like to see some video clips that highlight how film signifies, how certain formal or stylistic elements indicate a specific significance or meaning. But this is not really a major purpose of this particular text.
I only noticed a few typos in the text, none, however, that interrupted the flow to a significant extent.
As mentioned above, Sharman’s attention to representation in cinema makes the text culturally relevant. One chapter deals with the representation in cinema of and by women and the other deals with the representation in cinema of and by African Americans. Both chapters provide a critique the cultural hegemony by white men that has historically dominated the cinema industry. Eventually tying the first chapter to the recent MeToo movement and the latter to the also recent OscarsSoWhite campaign provides a culturally relevant examination of important cultural changes taking place in the entertainment industry. While Sharman only focuses on the representation and woman and African Americans, he recommends delving into the issue of representation of other historically underrepresented groups in the cinema for any users of his text.
Except for the lack of concentrated attention to the semiotics of cinema, it is hard to fault Moving Pictures. I think this text is an ideal text for use in academic programs that cross the divide between film production and film studies. For programs whose concentration slants more toward studying film as a finished product (studying Shakespeare’s sonnets without recurse to creative writing, for instance), this lack would require supplemental material.
This textbook by Russell Sharman is an excellent intro to film textbook that covers all of the standard stylistic and formal aspects of cinema study, while also managing to pack in a great deal of interesting history and industry commentary. None... read more
This textbook by Russell Sharman is an excellent intro to film textbook that covers all of the standard stylistic and formal aspects of cinema study, while also managing to pack in a great deal of interesting history and industry commentary. None of it comes across like it would be boring to students. The text also thoroughly deals with the social context of cinema (throughout, but especially in the second, shorter section of the book). One minor issue this reviewer had is that it felt a little light in its discussion of genre, but this is where the consistently excellent video examples come into play: there’s plenty of multimedia content included as parts of the body of the text (and linked out to if viewers and readers want it). This reviewer personally appreciated the downplaying of the auteur theory in favor of an ongoing discussion of film as a collaborative art form given its industrial underpinnings. The author also puts his own interesting spin on some film terms, such as “character” being a broader umbrella concept that is part of mise-en-scene.
Finally, after decades of almost all other film textbooks (there are a handful of notable exceptions) discussing cinematography as if the focal length of lenses is all that determines the look of a shot, someone finally has included additional, accurate technological information that isn’t dry or too technical and adds to an understanding of what goes into both making and watching a film. This has been a huge oversight in this academic subgenre for far too long, and it’s refreshing to see it corrected here without the need for students to shell out $150 to get it. This is just one example of the thoroughness that the author has brought to the subject, likely because he’s a filmmaker instead of just a film theorist.
The social context of film (always changing, but this is great for being over two years old, and the author notes that the online version is constantly being updated) is covered in both sections, but the second has two chapters devoted to a direct focus on representations of women and black people in film, as well as their participation in, and tragic exclusion from, the film industry. This reviewer has admittedly sometimes awkwardly introduced Lois Weber and Oscar Micheaux into their courses, but here the author does so effortlessly and without missing a beat on the fantastic discussion of film aesthetics. Recent developments in digital cinema are also covered.
The author uses accessible, direct language, and all relevant theoretical concepts are explained. The section on how to watch films is clearer and more practical than in almost every other similar selections this reviewer has previously encountered. How the author manages to (1) discuss feminism and the male gaze almost without mentioning psychoanalysis and the usual accompanying pseudo-scientific techno-jargon associated with it and (2) explain how cinema is like a language without mentioning structuralism and the usual accompanying pseudo-scientific techno-jargon is beyond the ken of this reviewer. The more general concepts underlying sometimes impenetrable critical theory are socially and formally relevant to any study of cinema, and this textbook does an excellent job of explaining why to readers.
The book does a fabulous job of introducing terms and concepts, explaining them, and providing video examples of them throughout, again with full attribution at the end of each chapter. No one concept, whether it be aesthetic, historical, or technological, is given unfair weight when the complete discussion here is taken into consideration. This reviewer did find it a little jarring that D.W. Griffith is discussed repeatedly, and in some detail, early on when the author later states he doesn’t want to talk about him, but that particular director has always deserved both recognition of his work and criticism of the representations he put into his films. It’s a terrible, lingering aspect of film history that shouldn’t be swept under the carpet, so this bifurcation can’t be criticized much.
If one didn’t want to discuss in detail some of the tragic aspects of the social context of film history, industry, and representation, one could easily not assign the final two chapters. However, any imaginable reason one would present to justify doing so would be incomprehensible to this reviewer and — oh hey look, the author already started including that content from the beginning, so students get it whether they think they need/want it or not. Because of this, the second section feels more like a welcome elaboration on earlier points rather than just something he tacked on at the end. In that spirit, this reviewer will finish their thought in the next section.
The technology, the vision, the money, the racism, the art, the hard work, the pushing women offscreen, the “innovators” who took credit for someone else’s work, and everything else that has happened in the film industry in the last 130 or so years is all at least touched on here. It never feels like the author felt obligated to toss something in just because other film textbooks do, and this commitment to discussing (almost) everything, warts and all, makes this the David Attenborough-narrated nature documentary of film textbooks. The author moves from discussions of watching and thinking about movies to their history through their technical aspects and then back to their social contexts in an informal (but highly informed) manner that engages readers with an open, welcoming tone that eschews didacticism while still imparting the crucial information one should have while thinking about film. The videos never seem dropped in randomly: they’re always serving as an example of a point the author is making. There are many, and their tone ranges widely from scholarly to popular. The “Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in [Movie Z]” videos are excellent examples that should resonate with the current generation of college students and drive the point home. The one thing all of the multimedia content has in common is its direct relevance to the text and the concepts being discussed.
Like some other OERs, this is better read online (the author even states so in the preface) than in the PDF version. This reviewer could see situations (no internet connection) where having that latter file on one’s devices might come in handy, but the plethora of illustrative multimedia content shouldn’t be skipped over in those instances. This reviewer has three minor issues with the online version of the text. First, it’s difficult to find specific search terms. The search bar will only direct one to a section where that term appears. Second (and maybe this is just this reviewer), the table of contents might work better on the right-hand side rather than the left-hand side. This reviewer also didn’t understand why all the chapters didn’t appear immediately when the toc is opened. For that matter, why split the book into two sections? As stated earlier, all of the content is blended pretty seamlessly, so perhaps just present all 10 chapters as part of one discussion without bracketing off the last two. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a way to link to the following chapter when one finishes the current one; one has to return to the toc. “Next Chapter” links at the end of each chapter would be welcome. This reviewer did not engage in a line-by-line comparison of both versions, but is guessing that having access to both versions might be a good idea.
Nothing that interferes with the content was noticed. Some may possibly be turned off by the informal tone and occasional grammar “mistakes” embodied in sentence fragments. But like that’s how people talk. So, okay. There is also the section where the author writes that The Birth of a Nation is “racist AF” and says about Griffith, “f%@k that guy.” This reviewer is not going to pick on those statements because they are relevant and students might possibly find the blunt commentary open and honest.
Enough has probably been said about this, but just in case not, this book has at least presents a solid opening into larger discussions of racism and sexism in film. #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite are discussed, and while perhaps less attention is paid to, for example, Asian representation and participation in cinema, it is mentioned in the discussion of Way Down East. The author puts it best himself when he writes, “But I encourage you not to stop here. Use this as an opportunity to explore issues of representation for Native Americans, Asian Americans and the Latinx community. How does cinema influence our understanding of masculinity? Immigration? Mental health? The list is as long as our collective experience.” Film history and industries outside of Hollywood are covered, and some non-American films are used as examples. The continual emphasis on cinema as a social, political, and economic phenomenon in addition to an art form is solid. It seems like we’re in good hands here.
This reviewer thinks that the only thing left to say, and the highest praise that can be given to this textbook, is that they have found their new foundational film studies text. It only happens once a decade, so yeah: read this book and seriously consider adopting it for your courses. The author could easily have taken this to a commercial publisher, but he did not. Our students are fortunate.
This is an extremely comprehensive book for an introductory to film class. It covers all major areas that I was already teaching and really expands on the basics that I cover in lecture. The first half of the book is entitled "An Introduction to... read more
This is an extremely comprehensive book for an introductory to film class. It covers all major areas that I was already teaching and really expands on the basics that I cover in lecture. The first half of the book is entitled "An Introduction to Cinema," and it covers a short history and also discusses how one should watch a film, but also has chapters on Mise-en-scene, narrative, cinematography, editing, sound, and acting. The second half of the book covers representation of African Americans and women in film, each having its own chapter. I am giving it a four because it does not have a glossary or index. However, each term is in bold in the chapter and since you can read it online, you can easily search the document.
I am my institution's theatre teacher who gets to teach the film class. While I have taken film classes before, it is not my area of expertise. But this book appears to be as accurate as the other two, expensive film textbooks I have read. It actually has helped me reorganize my class in a way that makes more sense. He has included, what I believe, are the formative films in our history, as well as the important film theorists and terms. Is it as detailed as the other film texts I have read? No. But it is perfect for a beginning class. The very long and expensive text I was using before was fantastic, for a film major. It had so much information that I didn't know what to do with it all and in a ten week class, the students barely put a dent in it.
I think this is a very relevant book. The foundations are there, but new films are incorporated. I imagine that this would be a fairly easy book to update. One thing I absolutely love about this book and the format is the fact there are film clips IN THE BOOK! You can read about the concept, then click a link and watch the film clip that demonstrates that concept, then he continues to analyze the film clip. Just fantastic. There are also little videos form YouTube that explain concepts in a little more depth, that might help students who are more aural learners. He also included historical moments and speeches, etc... Just nice little extras to help push the ideas forward. I think it would be very easy to change out those clips if you needed to update the book with newer films.
So most of the book is great. Written in accessible prose, professional sounding, however I am torn. At times he takes a very informal tone and sometimes even slang that I would think inappropriate for a textbook. For example, at one point he uses the term “AF” and he actually swears at one point, but censors it with ** . I understand he may be trying to use slang to be able to be able to bring in younger readers by using their language and slang or even to give a textbook a bit of humor. I understand this. It totally makes sense, especially if we are trying to make things more accessible. However, if I wrote a textbook, I don’t think I would use this language.
Very consistent. Concepts are described and illustrated in each chapter. They all have the same format. It is very easy to read and get into
This book has three formats available, which is great. It is easy to navigate. There are two halves of the book: Part one is an introduction to cinema and has eight chapters, each covering an aspect of film. The second half is about representation and it covers Women and African Americans in cinema. Chapter divisions make sense and there are headings to help keep things organized.
This is a very well organized book and it flows very nicely when read. Topics are definitely presented in a logical and clear fashion. Each chapter is set up in sort of the same way, so it helps reading comprehension. Also, the first chapters help inform the chapters after it.
Excellent and easy to use. You can click on a chapter and you are taken immediately to that chapter. There is a search function. All images and clean and clear, no typos. Note that only the online version has clickable links to film clips. And make sure you tell the students which one you prefer they read. The online version doesn’t have page numbers either.
Great. No errors that I noticed. Very well done.
Even though there are only two chapters on representation, I think this text does a great job with it. I might want a little bit more on representations, but I think this is adequate for a beginning film class that only lasts ten week. I am wondering if I would want more if I were teaching a semester long class. And he does a good job of explaining that the film industry is very male and white.
Moving Pictures by Russell Sharman provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to the world of cinema. The book contains a nice balance of history, the discussion of film terminology, and an examination of the way in which cinema can... read more
Moving Pictures by Russell Sharman provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to the world of cinema. The book contains a nice balance of history, the discussion of film terminology, and an examination of the way in which cinema can influence audience’s perceptions, particularly in regard to identity politics. At one point, Sharman writes, “Just as the text you are reading right now defies easy categorization – is it a book, an online resource, an open source text – modern cinema exists across multiple platforms – is it a movie, a video, theatrical, streaming – but the fundamentals of communication, the syntax, grammar and rules of language, written or cinematic, remain relatively constant.” I found this characterization to be extremely accurate. The book with its combination of text and image is more dynamic than the average textbook. It approaches the complexity of cinema by addressing the way in which modern technology as well as social movements have affected the industry.
I found this book to be accurate. It provides readers with comprehensive definitions of film terms and, most importantly, pairs those definitions with video clips that demonstrate the various film techniques discussed.
The book is excellent in terms of introducing students to the world of cinema, but even more importantly, unlike other film texts, this book addresses the role that cinema plays in our current historical moment. The author references movements such as the #MeToo movement and #OscarsSoWhite movement as a way of tying real life events to his subject matter. He does an excellent job of discussing the ways in which the film industry has been complicit in extolling the work of white men. I teach a writing course which focuses on women in film, and I found the second part of the text, “Representation in Cinema,” to be extremely relevant to our class discussions. It would provide my students with a good historical basis for understanding Hollywood’s discriminatory politics. It will be easy to update or add to this last section of the book so that it will be culturally relevant in the future.
Sharman’s book contains accessible and entertaining language. I found his prose easy to navigate, and his periodic inclusion of questions will engage the reader. Furthermore, his tendency to tell stories at the start of each chapter was a terrific way to draw the reader in. Certain moments in the text actually made me laugh. (At one point, he describes D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation “racist as AF.”)
His inclusion of videos to illustrate technical terms and demonstrate various points he is making is invaluable. Being able to talk about match cuts and depth of field shots with students and actually have an accessible example on hand – embedded in their (free!) textbook – is incredibly helpful. I also found the bolding of important terminology to be an effective strategy to draw students’ attention to film concepts. Again, his sense of humor is revealed in these clip picks. His video selection for the section on costuming begins with a clip from the Incredibles in which a character is critiquing the superhero suit of the protagonist. The clips included in the “Representation in Cinema” section included clips titled “Every Single Word Offered by a Person of Color” for popular films such as Jaws and E.T. Needless to say, these moments were pretty much non-existent. Having students watch the silence will drive home the point that Sharman is trying to make.
One of the things that I most appreciated about this book was that it practiced what it preached. In the introduction, the author indicated that it was important to him to discuss the issue of representation in film. He addressed this issue in Part I of his book, which dealt with the more “technical” aspects of film by including video clips from films with directors of various subject positions. The work of women and filmmakers of color were integrated into his textbook alongside those white, male directors who are often included in film texts, which reinforced Sharman’s commitment to social justice.
Not only would it be easy to assign individual chapters to classes, but Sharman’s book is appropriate for a number of different courses. In addition to being a good fit for an introduction to film course, this book would be an excellent choice for anyone teaching a writing course about film. I teach two first-year writing seminars on film – one about romantic comedies and one about women filmmakers. The technical introduction to film would be excellent for both courses, and the “Representation in Cinema” section would enrich my current course about women filmmakers. As a writing instructor, I liked the way in which Sharman made connections between form and content – something I do continually in my writing class. I also liked that the text approached film from a number of disciplinary angles.
The organization of this text worked well for me. I thought that the two-part approach – “An Introduction to Cinema” and “Representation in Cinema” – was extremely effective.
The embedding of images within the text is an incredibly valuable aspect of this text – in fact, it is one of the main reasons I am considering assigning this text to my classes in the future. Being able to see an example of a technique alongside an explanation of a technique is extremely useful.
I did not notice any issues with grammar. The author adopts a fun, conversational tone.
This book is culturally relevant. Right now, with so many social justice movements taking place in the United States, it seems incredibly important to include mention of some of these movements as they relate to the film industry. The sections on women and film and black filmmakers are timely.
I appreciated that the author recommended outside sources to supplement his arguments in the section “Representations in Cinema.” Specifically, his reference to Harry Bernshoff and Sean Griffin’s America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies was useful. I also liked his section on how to watch a movie, as it is something that my students find difficult to do, having consumed film primarily for entertainment. His discussion of analysis versus taste would also be useful to undergraduate classes to get students to move beyond “I like it/I don’t like it” into the area of critical film analysis.
This is an "intro" text that does not attempt to comprehensively cover everything that a several hundred page film studies 101 textbook would. But it does provide a fulsome frame and set up the key concepts/language for students brand new to film... read more
This is an "intro" text that does not attempt to comprehensively cover everything that a several hundred page film studies 101 textbook would. But it does provide a fulsome frame and set up the key concepts/language for students brand new to film studies.
The text does a lovely job of defining film terms with precision.
The text uses some current examples from pop culture that will appeal to students, but it is not dependent on them and students several years from now will not be lost without them.
Teaches specialized film language effectively.
Tone and style are consistent throughout.
I can see assigning all of the text across 1-2 units for some classes, and using just a couple sections for other courses where I just want to introduce or refresh a concept.
This follows the organizational structure of most intro film texts.
Easy to use interface and three different options for format.
I noticed no grammatical errors.
The chapters on issues of representation (women and African Americans) are one of the text's greatest assets. In establishing them as among the key intro topics, they compellingly frame these issues as fundamental parts of the study of cinema.
I was delighted to find this text in the Open Textbook Library. I teach first-year writing courses that focus on film and television, and I've long needed a resource like this that presents the building blocks of cinema in an accessible and engaging manner. I really cannot ask my students to buy an expensive film studies textbook, as that is not really the focus on my courses, yet I do spend a lot of time teaching them film language and equipping them with the tools needed for close film analysis. My strategy up to now has been to cobble together a bunch of bits and pieces that I've gleaned from books and online resources over many years--inevitably this means updating links and replacing outdated stuff with new finds every semester. This text does all of that work for me, and then some! Sharman strikes a tone that I suspect my students will love, and he presents everything in a conversational yet compelling tone. The inclusion of excellent audiovisual essays within the text (readers do not have to link to them) is especially strong. I'm excited to try this text in courses I'm designing for next semester.
This book is a fully appreciable, understandable and comprehensive introduction to the origin of film via photography and its evolution. The prose is narrative, personable, and readily understood by undergraduates and graduate students alike. read more
This book is a fully appreciable, understandable and comprehensive introduction to the origin of film via photography and its evolution. The prose is narrative, personable, and readily understood by undergraduates and graduate students alike.
Aside from typographical errors in French, there is literally no room for inaccuracies, as the author substantiates his findings and analyses with graphic and cinematographic illustrations, buttressed by end-of-chapter bibliographies highly pertinent to the materials just explicated.
The author has presented the material chronologically and systematically, along with an analysis of film technologies and procedures as they evolved until the present. All that may be required are updates on evolving technologies as they emerge and become relevant to this study.
The author's prose is perfectly lucid and invitingly informal, making it ideal for students; his enthusiasm is palpable. All technical terms relevant to the creative process, the actual filming and editing processes, choices of stage personnel and behind-the-scenes personnel, from administrators to set/sound/costume/scenery/editing designers are meticulously explained. The histories of the evolutionary processes of the genres and technologies bring cohesion to an ever-developing, complex art form.
The author's enthusiasm runs through the entire book, and his level of explication is entirely consistent from chapter to chapter, as is his linguistic tone.
The book is very well divided by chapter and therein, subdivided very carefully, creating "resting spots" at appropriate spots.
The divisional and subdivisional flows are systematic and highly comprehensible, never overdone, and enhanced with appropriate illustrations and pointings to online videos. Color illustrations would, of course, further enhance the book.
The author provides links to online sites such as Youtube for audio-visual examples, which can be confusing.
Very few errors exist in English. As the author's style is so subjectively narrative, punctuation is obviously idiosyncratic; as stated, there are several errors in the French words, especially with accents missing and occasional upper/lower case misappropriations.
The narrative is inclusive and welcoming to all peoples, and as such, is exemplary.
I find this book an ideal tool for undergraduate film teaching. I would have liked additional emphasis and illustration on the history and incorporation of sound and music, including brief biographies of the major composers of film scores to buttress the historical and technical arguments made. This is entirely subjective, of course.
I recommend this book whole-heartedly and congratulate the author on his excellent achievement and contribution
It's hard to rate this category. The book is quite comprehensive except for one element, but this is arguably essential: the director. The author might have taken a leaf from Andrew Sarris' THE AMERICAN CINEMA, which analyzes and ranks motion... read more
It's hard to rate this category. The book is quite comprehensive except for one element, but this is arguably essential: the director. The author might have taken a leaf from Andrew Sarris' THE AMERICAN CINEMA, which analyzes and ranks motion picture directors from Griffith to Hitchcock and beyond. An adequate discussion of the role of the director, with specific examples, should have been included. There are some passages, as in the section on mise-en-scene, that speak to this, but they are few and far between.
As far as I can tell, the book is accurate, but leaving out an essential element (see above) makes it somewhat misleading as an overview of the cinema. The sections it does have -- including cinematic language, mise-en-scene, and a historical context -- are interesting and helpful, but leaving out the director is a real problem. As to whether a book like this is or should be "unbiased," that is a can of worms. Naturally it has a point of view, but I think it doesn't interfere with the presentation of the material.
The book seems up to date in terms of technical innovations in cinema, and its discussion of cinematic language gives the reader an opportunity to evaluate for herself how future film-makers accomplish their objectives. I'd say it's relevant.
This is a real strength. The book is clear and well written. It should be accessible to an undergraduate audience approaching the subject for the first time.
I saw no obvious inconsistencies, so I would give the book a top rating in this category.
Whether the topic is how to "read" a film or how to situate a film in its historical context, the different chapters lend themselves to whatever organization the teacher might consider, including changing the sequence of material.
The book has a nice flow, making it accessible to students who might have problems with a more self-consciously academic treatment.
Pictures are used effectively to break up the text. I liked the overall appearance of the book.
More important than grammar (which is fine) is that the style is engaging and no more academic than it needs to be.
I appreciated the sections on women and African-Americans, but would have liked to see a chapter on working-class themes in film (e.g., John Sayles' MATEWAN, Robert Altman's THIEVES LIKE US, Jean Vigo's L'ATALANTE, Jean Renoir's LA VIE EST A NOUS, Karel Reisz's MORGAN, Raoul Walsh's THE BOWERY, Frank Borzage's MAN'S CASTLE, to name a few). In other words, the book is fine with race and gender, but less so with class.
The word for my reaction to the book is "ambivalent." It's mostly a well-crafted and engaging treatment of the subject, but leaving out an essential element is like writing a book about cars without talking about their engines. As a committed auteurist, I believe that the director is primarily what keeps the film going. A film by Welles, Hitchcock, or Lubitsch is instantly recognizable (think, for example, of "the Lubitsch touch"), which gives you some idea of how important the director is to the whole process. Perhaps a revised edition of the book could include a section on this aspect of the cinema.
"Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema," provides a rigorous overview of all of the basic concepts any new film studies student or enthusiast should be aware of. Beginning with a clear definition of what the word 'cinema' means followed by a... read more
"Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema," provides a rigorous overview of all of the basic concepts any new film studies student or enthusiast should be aware of. Beginning with a clear definition of what the word 'cinema' means followed by a concise--yet worthwhile-- history, sets readers up with a solid foundation for forthcoming concepts. Typical subject matter of introductory film courses at the undergraduate collegiate level— such as chapters on mise-en-scene, editing, cinematography, and sound—are well-covered and detailed. Extra content not ordinarily found in comparable texts, including chapters on women in cinema and African Americans in cinema, indicates the author's acknowledgment of covering contemporary issues and an inclination towards inclusivity.
Items not overtly present that would be of value to readers comprehending cinema at the introductory level is material about genre, film theory, film technology, and an overview of the production process. Although these topics are mentioned, they are given little attention, leaving readers with a lacuna in their education and appreciation of movies. Nonetheless, what is covered is a viable compilation of content covering a vast scope sure to retain readers' attention.
"Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema," is not a romanticized version of film history and criticism, nor does it harbor any language acknowledging a 'great man' theory. Unbiased in its approach, the facts set forth are well-researched and up to date. In assessing the accuracy of this book, the following four criteria were considered:
1) Correctness. Information was double-checked against a trustworthy source, and no misleading information was found.
2) Authority. The source is written by a reliable ad unbiased author with the proper credentials on the subject matter.
3) Currency. Up-to-date sources are utilized throughout the book's entirety.
4) Coverage. Claims made provide sufficient information and data indicating work is accurate.
While the text is relevant and content is up to date, references to films will be obsolete in the mind of many of today's young readers. For example, sound in the 2018 film 'A Quiet Place' is discussed, but already the film's sequel is complete in the year 2020. 2018 is hardly “old news” to most, but may be off-putting to those who demand instant news of the moment. While the example still meets learning objectives, some readers may already be more familiar with the sequel rather than the original film, and thus be less engaged in the book's content. The author appears to remedy this by discussing many classic films, which some may argue stands the test of time, while others see it as merely more historical content.
This tendency to become obsolete is not unique to "Moving Pictures" as many other fields, especially those in media and technology, also grapple with such issues as swiftly changing trends. The book’s strength is that the films used for case studies or examples are so popular that even if they are a few years old, readers would likely be familiar with them anyways. Overall, the book's value trumps these minor observations.
There are links to many YouTube videos illustrating the text’s content-- a significant strength of the manuscript. YouTube itself is a popular and timely site. However, links to films may no longer be working in a few years. This issue can easily be managed, however, with constant updating.
Again, despite these criticisms, the manuscript is still very timely and uses language to illustrate this by discussing such trending (as of 2020) applications as TikTok, for example.
The books is well-written, and the tone and wordage are accessible to most. Hard to grasp ideas are communicated effectively with an intended undergraduate audience in mind. For example, the book uses the word ‘leitmotif’ before providing a definition and then two concise examples that bring the word to life. Similes pepper the book, such as one explaining how actors are like athletes. These comparisons are nice touches that are relatable to both the earnest film student or generalist. While a few assumptions are made (i.e., the author says, “We most often associate classical acting with Shakespeare” and that is a generalization), the book does not fail to deliver content in a manner that is both academic yet perfectly simplistic. Well-constructed sentences and excellent word choice indicate the manner in which the manuscript is written: deliberately not carelessly.
Writing is consistent throughout the book. For example, active verbs instead of noun-based phrases are used from the first chapter to the last. There is no jargon scattered about, rather words familiar with the reader fill the pages. One writing style is used throughout, thus not distracting readers. Overall, the book consists of wonder harmonization of elements.
There is no hesitation that slows reading, comprehension is not impeded, and there is little risk of interpretation error.
The book consists of 10 chapters. The first eight chapters are “Part I: An Introduction To Cinema” while “Part II: Representations in Cinema” follows. Logically organized, early chapters define cinema, provide a historical context, and teaches readers to be critical of their viewing habits before formal elements are introduced in subsequent chapters.
The chapters on representation in Part II are useful examples of how readers can take what they’ve learned and apply it to an analysis of gender and then race representations.
Each chapter consists of approximately five subsections allowing for a sort of "chunking." The subsections of each chapter group together similar concepts and ideas, making for excellent organization by topic and ease of synthesizing major concepts.
Even within these subsections videos, appearing approximately every 5-7 minutes of reading, allow for illustrative purposes and reflective moments.
Many chapters begin with a question or anecdote and fascinating facts to reel in readers. While the ends of some chapters conclude abruptly without a final takeaway or transition to the next topic, overall, each section and subsection flow nicely. Due to these sections and subsections being based on interrelated ideas, they “fit” the other parts in which they are reinforced. For example, the chapter on lighting alludes to a previous chapter about how light aids in storytelling.
The interface is straight forward and user friendly. The scroll-from-top-to-bottom nature of the book allows for those viewing it on their smartphones an easy visual read. An intuitive table of contents on the E-version of the book (there is a PDF version, etc.) allows readers to effortlessly jump from one section to another or find important chapters and subsections with ease. There are no navigation issues and or anything else that would confuse the reader. While there are the aforementioned YouTube videos scattered about, they are neatly tucked between appropriate paragraphs.
There are no grammatical errors. The manuscript is well edited.
The book is culturally sensitive, although there are two chapters at the end that focus on women's issues and African American issues. The problem with these chapters is that they could be more inclusive. Other marginalized groups such as Native Americans, Asians, the disabled, religious groups, etc. are not discussed. Perhaps the two chapters could be broader and turned into three: race, gender, and other marginalized groups. While many chapters about history reference, for example, international cinematic influencers such as the Lumière brothers, the majority of the book about contemporary cinema is centered on mainstream American cinema. Many video clips feature white actors, and white directors make the films, but there are still some international perspectives such as discussion of work by Akira Kurosawa. Additional chapters about arthouse cinema and international cinema are warranted. As I said earlier in this review, the book in generally inclusive and culturally sensitive, making it a solid read for even the most diverse audiences.
“Moving Pictures: An Introduction To Film” is a wonderful open access textbook that is sure to meet any professor’s course objectives and outcomes. Expertly written, entertaining, factual, and comprehensive, Moving Pictures is comparable with many other popular books such as “Looking At Movies” (Dave Monahan) or “Understanding Movies” (Louis Gianetti). “Moving Pictures” is a valuable resource about how films communicate and convey meaning to viewers. Readers will finish the book with increased appreciation and understanding of why we respond to films the way we do and how movies function in society.
Based on my 15 years teaching Intro to Film at the college-level, I give Moving Pictures a 4 out of 5 for comprehensiveness. I am strongly considering adopting the book for my Intro to Film course at a community college; I appreciate why the... read more
Based on my 15 years teaching Intro to Film at the college-level, I give Moving Pictures a 4 out of 5 for comprehensiveness. I am strongly considering adopting the book for my Intro to Film course at a community college; I appreciate why the author included two chapters on representation but chapters instead on film theory and film production (or film’s relationship to radio and television) would provide a more comprehensive 10 chapter textbook. I say this in part because the author does a great job already of weaving issues of representation into the chapters and selecting women and African Americans (why not gender and race/ethnicity) limit comprehensiveness. In perhaps the unit on Representation were extended to 6 or 8 chapters to parallel the book’s first unit on Form and content then the book would feel more comprehensive. I appreciate the effort to include representation but it feel someone undeveloped and limiting in how it’s organized. I would also love to see the author include review questions like most film studies textbooks and/or a chapter with a sample assignment or two like the textbook Film Studies: An Introduction.
Individual chapters are well developed and the extensive use of well-chosen Youtube videos (which I assume the author will update regularly as links change) to supplement the writing provides a level of comprehensiveness at the undergraduate level eclipsed only by expensive textbooks like Looking at Movies.
Very accurate and precise writing. Any reader will correctly learn the basic vocabulary and language of cinema studies and all the key information any cinema studies student should know to do exceptional work in beginning production courses and upper-division analysis and history courses.
Written recently and based on extensive teaching experience, Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema is a timely and welcome addition to the list of first-year college film course textbooks and is arguable the most relevant, accurate, and comprehensive OER film studies textbook currently available. Examples are drawn from the history of film through the end of the 2010s and all video links are up to day and perfectly selected to compliment the chapter content. The author writes from an American perspective to American students and some figures of speak fairly consistent focus on Hollywood examples make it a little less relevant than some of the more globally focused
From start to finish, the author’s friendly (though opinionated) writing style drew me in as a reader and maintained my interest and engagement with really interesting anecdotes from film history and interdisciplinary references to literature, theater, and other arts.
The blend of video and text throughout the book is consistent and the quality of writing and choice of supplemental videos is strong throughout the book.
Perfectly suited to use in Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, Google Classroom and any other learning platform a teacher might be using for instruction. 10 Chapters works perfectly for a 10-11 Week academic term. Does not include chapter learning objectives, a glossary, or review questions and sample assignments.
The book is very well organized for Part 1 of the textbook, Chapters 1-8; however, while some reviewers may feel otherwise, I am not a huge fan of how the author organized Part 2 of the book with just two chapters on Women in Cinema and African Americans in Cinema. I can already see the hands going up in class when/if I assign the book to students – “What about Native peoples? What about Latinx representation? What about class? What about men?. Perhaps if the current chapters where organized around Race/Ethnicity and Gender/Sexuality it would work better i think.
Individual chapters are expertly organized to guide student through key concepts and vocabulary that every cinema studies student needs in their scholarly toolkit! I wouldn’t mind seeing a list of learning objectives at the start or end of each chapter.
Like all Pressbooks, the look is clean and sharp though navigating to chapters can be clunky. The extra bonus of this book is the extensive use of embedded Youtube videos in each chapter to enhance the author’s written content. Very user-friendly overall.
No noticeable typos. Accurate use of all cinema studies vocabulary. Does need a glossary for all terms that defined in the chapters.
The writing is inclusive and attuned to cultural difference and equity. The author’s friendly, inviting voice and use of unique examples that are always clearly connected to the content of the chapter will allow readers from a wide range of cultural background to feel welcomed into the conversation. The author is also attentive to issues of gender, race, and ethnicity throughout the book. Youtube videos selected for supplemental learning are also well-chosen with attention to cultural sensitivity. Including Alice Guy’s Cabbage Fairy right with the Lumieres and Edison as part of early film is a small example of the consistent attention inclusivity throughout the book. The two chapters on Women in Cinema and African Americans in cinema are excellent. However, as the only two chapters in this unit they do stand out as seeming to be a start or nod toward greater attention to representation without having the kind of fully developed content of a textbook like American on Film. I understand the effort but would much rather see chapters on Race/Ethnicity and Gender to allow for a broader sense of representation. Culturally, the author presents content from and American point of view and a little more attention to global cinema might be a nice update to a second edition.
The text is divided into Part I and PartII. The first section is very comprehensive (though the genre explanation/definition should either be expanded, or separated out into its own section). It's a wonderful way to introduce students to the... read more
The text is divided into Part I and PartII. The first section is very comprehensive (though the genre explanation/definition should either be expanded, or separated out into its own section). It's a wonderful way to introduce students to the elements and language of film and film techniques. The imbedded clips are fantastic, and run the course of film history, from Intolerance and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to recent films like Thor: Ragnarock and Snowpiercer. This is the way that students should learn about film: reading and seeing examples at the same time. It makes a textbook for this type of course seem totally obsolete. In Part II, all Sharman covers is Women in Film and African Americans in film. He does fine with them on an introductory level, but adding a section on Asians in American film (Charlie Chan to Nancy Kwan to Crazy Rich Asians, and much more) and a section on Native Americans in film (enduring stereotypical cowboy/Indian motifs; whites playing Native Americans, attempts to "humanize" Native Americans in westerns; Tantoo Cardinal's film career, and much more). In addition, a section on sexuality in film would be an excellent addition to Part II--and here the film censors' control of film production for a time could be introduced. Instructors probably couldn't get through all of the sections in an expanded Part II a semester, but then they could choose from more topics and/or assign groups for in-depth research and presentations.
Very much up-to-date and yet tethered in the history of film. Each definition/description has multiple examples in the form of clips--from various periods of film.
So clear, comprehensible and approachable for students who have seen quite a bit of film, but who know little about what goes into making a film.
Each section follows a similar approach of describing, defining/illustrating the concepts in words and following up with film clips as illustrations. This process repeats several time within one section, so by the time that a student finishes the section, s/he will have a solid grasp of the term.
One of the best texts I've seen in OER for modularity--the film terms section, and even Part II, on Women in Film and African Americans in film, can be lifted out to be assigned in a different order or to accompany other materials.
Organization works well, but as stated above, its modularity makes for easy reorganization.
Very easy to navigate. No special skills needed.
Well-written, on the whole, and in a tone/approach that students will likely appreciate.
This book addresses the visual world that students know in many ways, that is part of their social and cultural lives. But it addresses the many layers of filmmaking that most students do not know, the many stages of writing, artistry, and critical thinking that go into making a film. In Part II, the diversity of film begins to be addressed, but again, in only providing sections for women and African Americans, the book falls short of what it could accomplish.
The multiple film clips are the biggest plus of this text--the fact that Russell Sharman was able to get permissions for all of them is so impressive--and will simultaneously introduce students to a history of classic film and demonstrate how those techniques live on today in films with which they are familiar.
Table of Contents
I. An Introduction to Cinema
- 1. A Brief History of Cinema
- 2. How to Watch a Movie
- 3. Mise-en-Scène
- 4. Narrative
- 5. Cinematography
- 6. Editing
- 7. Sound
- 8. Acting
II. Representation in Cinema
- 9. Women in Cinema
- 10. African Americans in Cinema
About the Book
Textbook for 1000- level Communication course: Introduction to Films Studies
About the Contributors
Russell Leigh Sharman is a writer, filmmaker and anthropologist. He has worked as a writer for several studios and production companies, including Warner Bros., Fox, Disney, MRC, DeLine Pictures, 21 Laps, Participant Media, Montecito Pictures, Original Media, Dark Horse Entertainment, Strange Weather and Real FX. He is the writer/director of APARTMENT 4E, a feature adaptation of his stage play, as well as a number of award-winning short films and documentaries. He also has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Oxford University and is the author of two books, THE TENANTS OF EAST HARLEM and NIGHTSHIFT NYC. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Communication at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where he teaches filmmaking and film studies.