Journals and Magazines
Journals and MagazinesFANZINES
PROZINES AND POPULIST FILM MAGAZINES
NEWS WEEKLIES, NEWSPAPERS, AND
Film journals and magazines are central to cinema culture and film consumption. Such publications contain information on developments within the industry, movies in production, and the technical processes behind the creation of a particular look or effect. They also present film reviews, film criticism, and theoretical or cultural analysis, interviews and star profiles, and fan appreciation. Film journals and magazines can be divided broadly into five categories: fan magazines aimed at a specific readership with a focus that is often subcultural; populist film magazines consumed by a mainstream readership; news weeklies or daily papers—tabloids and broad-sheets—that devote space to film journalism; trade publications produced for the cinema industry; and academic journals that analyze and debate film and cinema.
Fan magazines and fan bulletins are the most vibrant and diverse part of the film magazine market. Commonly collections of articles and short pieces written and compiled by the fans themselves, these fan publications, or fanzines, sometimes receive mainstream circulation and can be purchased from main street retailers. Mostly, however, they are acquired from speciality shops, fan conventions, or by subscription. A cottage industry of independent publishers caters to a wide variety of specialist and cult interests, with film stars, movies, and prominent genres from both the classical and postclassical periods of film attracting sustained devotion. The number of fanzines available has increased dramatically since the mid-1980s, aided by an accessibility to desktop publishing and improved mail ordering facilities, as well as the growth in cult film and media shops and the explosion in fan fairs. Moreover, since the late 1990s the fan magazine has been extended through the seemingly endless possibilities offered by the Internet and Internet publishing. Online, members of countless subcultural fan communities celebrate, debate, and recollect their movie experiences, all with the speed and directness in communications required by fans who crave immediate interaction with like-minded individuals. The hallmark of these fan sites is the fans' active consumption of, contribution to, and participation in the published text, whether paper or electronic.
The proliferation of fanzines has been greatest in the United States and the United Kingdom, where the horror, science-fiction, and fantasy genres have dominated production. The horror genre is especially suited to independent or underground publishing activities; fans often take a subcultural interest in addressing transgressive images and taboo subjects, and attempt to expose marginal films from the realms of low-budget or exploitation cinema. Two pioneering publications offered an alternative voice proclaiming a fan's passion and indulgence for the horror genre: Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958–1983) and Calvin T. Beck's Castle of Frankenstein (begun in 1959 as Journal of Frankenstein; final issue 1975). Famous Monsters of Filmland, associated with classic horror films from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, reveled in nostalgia but presented articles and information in a jocular manner.
The editorial approaches of fanzines can vary widely—from the studious, nostalgic, and archival to the sarcastic or anarchic—but they all tend to give an impression of faithfulness and authority in a frank and opinionated way. Notable horror and exploitation fanzines from the United States include the New York–based Sleazoid Express (originally 1980–1983) and Gore Gazette, magazines with a fascination for assaultive films from cinema's grindhouses, and for either distinctly low-budget horror or productions with a high visceral content. The Baltimore-based Midnight Marquee (begun in 1963 as Gore Creatures), focuses on obscure, older, and neglected horrors; in 1995 it also successfully ventured into book publishing. Similarly, Michael Weldon's book The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1983) emerged from his fanzine Psychotronic, which was originally established with the intention of reviewing the more unusual films being shown on New York television. Later, in 1989, Weldon aimed for widespread coverage of all films of a bizarre or extreme nature with his second fanzine Psychotronic Video. Video Watchdog, begun in 1990 by Tim Lucas, has from the beginning carried the cover label "The Perfectionist's Guide to Fantastic Video." Aimed at providing "information" and a "consumer-orientated guide," this unique publication has become an authority on the different prints and versions of films in circulation, providing detailed reviews of video and DVD releases. Asian Cult Cinema (begun in 1992 as Asian Trash Cinema), like Video Watchdog, moves freely beyond the horror genre, providing expertise in the areas of film on which it centers, and most significantly displaying an ambition to provide pan-Asian coverage of genre cinema.
The boom in 1990s horror fanzines was most apparent in the United Kingdom. The two key pioneers were Shock Xpress (1985–1989) and Samhain (1986–1999). Both began as basic typed and photocopied publications, with Samhain in particular carrying fans' artwork; but later they evolved into more sophisticated fanzines with quality reproduction images and color covers. The fanzines that followed include Dark Terrors (1992–2002); Flesh and Blood (1993–1997); Necronomicon (1993–1994); Delirium (1993–1997), subtitled "The Essential Guide to Bizarre Italian Cinema"; The House that Hammer Built (1996–2002), "The Fanzine that builds into a comprehensive guide to Hammer's Fantasy Films"; and Uncut (begun in 1996). British horror fanzines have displayed a much stronger concentration on European horror cinema (especially British and Italian movies) and film and video censorship than their American counterparts. Hammer films have also attracted significant attention with special fanzines such as Dark Terrors and Vintage Hammer, devoted to discussing and detailing seemingly everything connected to the studio. However, the focus of fanzines on Hammer extends back to the 1970s with the seminal publications Little Shoppe of Horrors (begun in 1972 and published in the United States) and House of Hammer (1976, later Halls of Hammer, final issue 1984, published in the United Kingdom).
With the wider availability of new technologies for production, modern fanzines have moved beyond the earlier mimeographed and photocopied publications. Shock Xpress, Flesh and Blood, and Necronomicon continued as edited books; Samhain edged closer to the style and content of prozines such as the British-published Starburst (begun in 1978), Fear (1988–1991), The Dark Side (begun in 1990), and Shivers (begun in 1992). Prozines, commercially produced publications with a fan focus, exist between fanzines and populist film magazines (those that offer a general cinema coverage). They often feature the work of paid journalists or regular writers and present news coverage, interviews, and images from current film productions supported by publicists. The prozine developed in the 1970s, beginning with the US-based Cinefantastique (begun in 1970), with its commitment to scrutinizing the technical and professional aspects of current fantasy film productions, and Starlog (begun in 1976), which led a batch of fan publications centered on the new wave of late 1970s science-fiction films. In August 1979 the horror prozine Fangoria emerged as a sister publication to Starlog and the short-lived Future Life (begun in 1978); it became synonymous with the new style of glossy magazines, containing graphic and color images from the horror new wave of the 1980s and celebrations of the ingenious work of the special effects artists.
The British prozines Starburst and Shivers are published by Visual Imagination, a company with a portfolio of fan and film afficionado magazines that includes Xposé, Ultimate DVD, Movie Idols, and Film Review. The latter began in 1950 as ABC Film Review and is now the United Kingdom's longest-running general film monthly. Initially sold in the lobbies of the ABC cinema chain, it carried reviews and features on current film releases as well as special items on in-vogue film stars. Such populist film magazines, essentially promotional publications for the film industry, exist in symbiotic relationship with studios, with these film monthlies giving celebrity exposure, film production updates, and generous coverage for new releases, all supported by special access to sets, production shots, and exclusive stories. Fans do actively contribute to the publications through competitions, readers' letters, pen pal ads, and "wanted" notices, but, compared to fanzines, the pages show greater regulation (with content controlled by both the publisher and the film industry).
Among the very first film magazines was the American publication Photoplay (1911–1980), which was to go through several name changes in its history and spawn a version designed specifically for the British market. Photoplay initially published fiction and novelizations of recent films, a content imitated in cinema's early years by publications such as Photo-Play Journal (1916–1921) and Photo-Play World (1917–1920). The first film star, Florence Lawrence, emerged in 1910, and with the increasing interest in film stars throughout the teens and 1920s, magazines came to be dominated by star portraits and profiles, celebrity news and gossip. Picturegoer (1913–1960) was the most successful film magazine of its time in the United Kingdom, often featuring special supplements targeting a particular film star. Its name changed several times over the decades, incorporating key words such as "theater," "film," or "picturegoers," reflecting a period of cinema history when film magazines were initially attempting to establish an identity against other popular cultural pursuits. The magazine merged with competing titles as the market adjusted to a field led by fewer magazines. The replacement of some film monthlies with film weeklies indicates the popularity of both cinemagoing and film magazines in the peak period of the late 1920s to the early 1950s. Film magazines' popularity can also be seen in the diversification of titles into those aimed at specific sections of the cinemagoing audience: for instance, the British publications Boy's Cinema (1919–1940), which incorporated Screen Stories & Fun & Fiction (1930–1935), and Girls' Cinema (1920–1932), which was incorporated into The Film Star Weekly (1932–1935).
In the 1950s movie ticket sales fell dramatically. Cinema attendance grew again in the mid-1980s, partly as a result of the wave of expensive studio blockbuster films. A new breed of populist film magazines coincided with this change in the film industry, with publications often dealing more with the spectacle of the films and the work of popular directors than with film stars. This is not to say, though, that stars ceased to be marketable factors for film magazines, as magazine covers remain highly dependent on star portraits for their consumer appeal. The new magazines include the US publication Premiere (begun in 1987) and the British film magazines Empire (begun in 1989) and Total Film (begun in 1996). With the postclassical film industry marked by high levels of synergy with other media forms, it is not surprising that these publications devote space not just to films but also to DVDs and relevant books, soundtracks, and Websites, as well as television and computer games. Such magazines are also showing greater confidence in the types of film reviews they print, with reviewers expressing more independent opinions and adopting a style that is a combination of the fanzine writer and the newspaper critic. In fact, these reviewers often write simultaneously for these different publications.
Film critics can be powerful figures within the cinema industry. In the United States, for instance, as members of bodies such as the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics' Association, they have voting rights for annual awards ceremonies; winning such awards can greatly enhance the marketability of a successful film. Critics also exert power by publishing reviews in newspapers, news weeklies, and popular magazines and by appearing on television programs. Many of these critics have become celebrated and respected, some notorious, with their opinions at times believed to be a prominent factor in a movie's popular reception. The influential and impassioned critic Pauline Kael, who wrote for the weekly magazine The New Yorker from 1967 to 1991, was noted for her independent—often idiosyncratic—opinions. For instance, she was highly critical of West Side Story (1961), winner of multiple Oscars®; yet she championed the widely attacked Last Tango in Paris (1972). Andrew Sarris and later J. Hoberman reviewed films for New York's weekly newspaper The Village Voice. Sarris was initially a writer for the more academic journal Film Culture (1958–1992), which was the primary publication for the American film avant-garde. It was in that journal in 1962 that Sarris first employed the term "auteur theory," initially put forth in 1954 by François Truffaut in the French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma (begun in 1951). After The Village Voice, Sarris served as a critic for the newspaper The New York Observer.
Other notable American critics include Jonathan Rosenbaum, film reviewer for the alternative weekly Chicago Reader, and Roger Ebert, whose reviews have appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and in wide syndication. In the United Kingdom, Alexander Walker served as film critic for London's Evening Standard from 1960 until his death in 2003. Like Kael, Sarris, and Rosenbaum, Walker was a respected writer of film books, including a study of the director Stanley Kubrick and a trilogy of books on British cinema. A prolific writer, Walker was not afraid to give a controversial opinon, and as such he was associated with notorious reactions to films such as The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971), Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996), and Ôdishon (Audition, Takeshi Miiki, 1999). Christopher Tookey of the Daily Mail is also known for condemning certain films deemed confrontational. Many saw Walker, along with reviewers such as Derek Malcolm, who was film critic for The Guardian from 1970 until his retirement in 2000, as among the last of a band of journalists to have a genuine knowledge of cinema history. In the United Kingdom and the United States contemporary film reviews often seem designed to provide attention-grabbing quotes for movie advertising. Also, the Internet is growing into an immensely powerful tool in a film's success; the critic Harry Knowles of the Website www.aintitcoolnews.com has attained the status of a minor celebrity for his unorthodox postings.
b. Petaluma, California, 19 June 1919, d. 3 September 2001
Pauline Kael was an outspoken, witty, and often unpredictable film critic who wrote for the weekly magazine The New Yorker from 1967 to 1991. Regarded as arguably America's greatest film critic, she influenced many, with her group of devotees called the "Paulettes." Her books include I Lost It at the Movies (1965), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968), The Citizen Kane Book (1971), Deeper into Movies (winner of a National Book Award, 1973), and 5001 Nights at the Movies (1982).
After studying philosophy, literature, and the arts at the University of California at Berkeley, she ran an art-house cinema in San Francisco in the late 1950s while broadcasting film reviews for a Berkeley radio station. She wrote film reviews for Vogue, Life, and The New Republic and the film journals Sight and Sound and Film Quarterly. Although her work, both for film journals and general-interest publications, exhibited an intellectualism, her writing style was notable in that she incorporated her personal experiences as well as slang and put-downs. She was avowedly anti-theory, assailing supporters of the auteur theory for what she saw as their attempt to advance Hollywood directors to the status of artists. She entered into a notorious public debate with Andrew Sarris about the auteur theory, ridiculing Sarris's proposed auteur "theory" with a persuasive deflation of auteurism's critical assumptions, and later on published The Citizen Kane Book (1971), in which she offered an account of the production of Orson Welles's film that attempted to show that it was less the product of a single towering auteur than a collaboration among several important artists.
An advocate of good storytelling and powerful acting, she was critical of the conceptual work of European filmmakers such as Alain Resnais, Robert Bresson, and Ingmar Bergman. Drawn to popular culture and films with energy that engaged the viewer's emotions, she blamed television for superficiality in movies after the 1950s and particularly disliked Hollywood's move toward event movies or big action films. She praised the Hollywood genre productions of the 1930s and 1940s and the realism and humanism of the European directors Max Ophüls, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, and Vittorio de Sica. These values coalesced in a group of films that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s by maverick directors whom Kael championed, such as Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, and Sam Peckinpah, and the early films of the Hollywood new wave of Francis Ford Coppola, Brian de Palma, and Steven Spielberg. Kael had a sociological approach to movies that took into account the reactions of the general filmgoer. Considering the cinema as essentially an entertainment experience, some would argue that she was less a critic than a reviewer.
Davis, Francis. Afterglow: A Last Conversation with Pauline Kael. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002.
Hampton, Howard. "Pauline Kael, 1919–2001. Such Sweet Thunder." Film Comment 37, no. 6 (November–December 2001): 45–48.
Kael, Pauline. The Citizen Kane Book. New York: Limelight Editions, 1984. Originally published in 1971.
——. 5001 Nights at the Movies: A Guide from A to Z. New York: Henry Holt, 1991. Originally published in 1982.
——. I Lost It at the Movies. New York: M. Boyars, 1994. Originally published in 1965.
Trade journals, the earliest of film publications, are not generally recognized for their film reviews but rather are designed to support the industry through business news and advice on equipment and technical issues. Among the first were the American titles Moving Picture World (1907–1927) and Motion Picture News (1911–1930) and the British title Bioscope (1908–1932). In comparison to other film publications, trade journals have been marked by their longevity, in particular Motion Picture Herald (1915–1972); American Cinematographer (begun in 1921); Hollywood Reporter (begun in 1934), the film industry's first daily trade paper; and, most noticeably, Variety (begun in 1905). The latter has become an industry institution: its film reviews are influential, and its style of journalism, consisting of a jargon composed of abbreviations, alliteration, or a rhyming structure, has regularly been adopted as media-speak. Variety has even provided a "slanguage"
dictionary on its website. In the United Kingdom, Screen International (begun in 1975) is the key surviving trade publication. Its history can be traced back to The Daily Film Renter (1927–1957), which merged with Today's Cinema: News and Property Gazette (1928–1957) and became The Daily Cinema (1957–1968); Today's Cinema (1969–1971); and Cinema TV Today (1971–1975). The other major UK trade journal, Kine Weekly, which began in 1904 as Optical Lantern and Kinematograph Journal and went through several name changes, ceased publication in 1971.
Scholars working in the field of film studies, who publish articles on various aspects of film, often rely on trade journals as an archive of information for research on aspects of cinema's history. Historical and empirical perspectives on film are the focus of Film History (begun in 1987), the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (begun in 1981), and Early Popular Visual Culture (begun in 2005, formerly Living Pictures [2001–2002]). Other publications are known for their left-wing political positions, such as Cineaste (begun in 1967), Afterimage (1970–1987), Jump Cut (begun in 1974, since 2001 an online journal), Framework (published since 1975, but particularly political between 1980 and 1992), and the early issues of CineAction (begun in 1985). These journals have been predominantly concerned with independent and experimental fimmaking, Third Cinema, race and gender, and art cinema and documentary film.
Third Cinema is also the concern of a large number of regional publications. In fact, the majority of film journals offering analysis and academic discussion are concentrated on national or regional cinemas. Cinemaya (published since 1988 in New Delhi) has been a sustained local voice on the broad questions of cinema across the Asian continent. The Sri Lankan–produced Cinesith (begun in 2001) and the New Zealand–produced Illusions (begun in 1986) largely deal with contemporary film developments. Asian Cinema (begun in 1986), East-West Film Journal (1987–1994), and Journal of British Cinema and Television (begun in 2004) publish a range of cultural, historical, and theoretical studies across periods in film.
Established academic film journals include Film Quarterly (begun in 1945); Cinema Journal (begun in 1959); The Velvet Light Trap (begun in 1971), concerned mainly but by no means exclusively with American film; Post Script (begun in 1971); Journal of Popular Film and Television (begun in 1972), concerned with mainstream, often genre-based cinema; and camera obscura (begun in 1976), which focuses on the topics of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Although central to film studies, these journals have not been associated with a particular critical school or position.
Screen (begun in 1969), founded by the Society for Education in Film and Television, was noted by the mid-1970s for its important articles on realism, formalism and poststructuralism, theories of ideology, aesthetics, and approaches to semiotics and pyschoanalysis. The journal, which published the first English-language translations of key texts by important theorists including Christian Metz, Roland Barthes, and Bertolt Brecht, inspired publications such as The Australian Journal of Screen Theory (1976–1985) and indeed gave rise to the term "screen theory." Cahiers du Cinéma was the other major journal to have had a lasting impact on film studies. Established in 1951 by André Bazin, this French journal (available additionally in English for just twelve issues from 1966 to 1967), was responsible for publishing not just debates regarding the politique des auteurs, but crucial discussions on film editing and mise-en-scène. Its writers included Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and Jacques Rivette, who, together with several other important directors, were later recognized as the French New Wave.
Cahiers du Cinéma was an influence on Movie (1962–2000), a British journal that admired a large group of Hollywood directors (above all Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock) for what it saw as their authorial skill and personal vision. Movie paid particular attention to mise-en-scène and held that critical analysis in existing British journals, such as the orthodox Sight and Sound (begun in 1932), was lacking. Sight and Sound, a publication of the British Film Institute, absorbed the Monthly Film Bulletin (1934–1991), a sister journal that was a film credits and reviews listing, only a year after the demise of a main UK competitor, Films and Filming (1954–1990). Sight and Sound's equivalent American publication was Film Comment (begun in 1961), published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Sight and Sound and Film Comment cover foreign films and also devote in-depth discussions to new releases and developments in mainstream cinema. With the Internet now so central to culture, and with film magazines devoted to popular movies dominating the market, these film studies journals face the challenge of remaining both commercially attractive and critically cutting-edge.
Baker, Bob. "Picturegoes." Sight and Sound 54, no. 3 (Summer 1985): 206–209.
Barth, Jack. "Fanzines." Film Comment 21, no. 2 (March–April 1985): 24–30.
Fuller, Kathryn H. At the Picture Show: Small-Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan Culture. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.
Greenslade, Roy. "Editors as Censors: The British Press and films about Ireland." Journal of Popular British Cinema 3 (2000): 77–92.
Hutchings, Peter. "The Histogram and the List: The Director in British Film Criticism." Journal of Popular British Cinema 4 (2001): 30–39.
Sanjek, David. "Fans' Notes: The Horror Film Fanzine." Literature/Film Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1990): 150–160.
Studlar, Gaylyn. "The Perils of Pleasure?: Fan Magazine Discourse as Women's Commodified Culture in the 1920s." Wide Angle 13, no. 1 (January 1991): 6–33.