Moving Pictures: An Introduction to Cinema
Russell Leigh Sharman, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Copyright Year: 2020
Publisher: University of Arkansas
Conditions of Use
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.