Author Archives: calvinfagan

Calvin Fagan presents ‘Remediating Drones in Contemporary War Cinema’

Wednesday 10th June, 5:30pm, Hitchcock Cinema (Arts One, G19).

The controversial advent of drone warfare has engendered staunch criticism over the ethics of remote killing, with such critiques typically designating drones as the culmination of military-technological trends toward virtualising distanciation that reduce war to the level of a video game. This would seem to problematise the very notion of cinematic remediation, highlighting the growing divide between the war genre’s reliance upon embodied heroics and the virtual interactivity that purportedly characterises both gaming and actual drone missions. Yet recent work by the likes of Derek Gregory has begun to counter such assumptions by focusing in greater detail upon the drone ‘assemblage’ and the subjective perceptual experience of the operator, contending that the high-resolution imaging produces a more intimate sense of visual proximity which is directly responsible for the surprisingly high incidences of PTSD among operators. This paper will explore contemporary cinematic remediations of drones in light of the above theorisations, with a particular focus on the dynamics of panopticism and embodiment. From the first wave of drone remediations in CIA thrillers such as Syriana (2005) and Body of Lies (2008) through to Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2013), I will address the aesthetic rendition of drone imagery in these films in terms of its differentiation from satellites and panoptic surveillance. Finally, through a more extended reading of Omer Fast’s Five Thousand Feet is the Best (2011), I will consider how the film’s haptic imagery and haunting fracturing of both spatio-temporal continuity and subjectivity suggest a radically different regime of drone imaging.

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Nick Jones: ‘Surviving Spaces: Action Sequences, Embodiment and Appropriation’

Thursday 19th March, 5:15pm. Arts One, Room G34.
A form of filmmaking that is globally appealing and immensely popular, action cinema takes full advantage of film’s ability to capture spectacle and generate visceral excitement. Yet the contemporary action sequence’s attention to space and spatial concerns is little remarked upon in critical theory, even though space is one of the key pleasures and organising principles of this cinema. Whatever else may be demanded of the action hero, they are required to navigate shifting, dangerous, or occupied spaces with speed and confidence.
 
In my new book Hollywood Action Films and Spatial Theory I discuss this trait of action cinema, exploring how it represents architecture, globalisation, spaces of capitalist consumption, and cyberspace in under-explored ways. In this talk to mark the launch of the book I outline the key concepts of appropriation and embodiment, as well as how action sequences respond to space and what they do with it. I argue that in a globalised, technologised and consumerist world, action cinema reveals the possibilities and the privations of space.

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Oliver Kenny presents ‘It’s Not Just a Game: Ethics and Politics in the Saw Franchise’

Monday 17th March, 5:30pm, Hitchcock Cinema (Arts One, G19).

This paper will examine the highly successful and controversial horror series, Saw (2004-10), exploring potential reasons for its phenomenal success and probing its underlying ethical message. It will move beyond the common focus on the episodes of violence contextualising such violence within the films overall ethical and political perspectives. This will also mean critiquing current socio-political and socio-moral readings of the film which seek to align Saw and other ‘torture porn’ films with a post-9/11 mentality and criticisms of torture. Drawing together the narrative structure of the entire series, the moralising rhetoric of its protagonist and the cinematographic presentation of violence, I will suggest that the appeal of this series can best be understood by comparing it to American neoconservative political and social thinking. Ultimately I wish to highlight the series as highly retrogressive, opposing the suggestion that the graphic presentation of violence is a sign of an ever more liberal age.  ​

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