At Home in Estranged Dreams: Contemporary Hollywood and the Uncanny

At Home in Estranged Dreams: Contemporary Hollywood and the Uncanny

Kevin Patrick McDonald

Language: English

Pages: 308

ISBN: 2:00145571

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This study examines contemporary Hollywood by focusing on films made
between 1990 and 2010. With chapters on the double, war trauma, the undead, and
automata, I delineate evidence of the uncanny within individual films along with the
underlying contradictions that symptomatically respond to the larger economic conditions
and industrial practices that shape the contemporary period. Each of the four chapters
also serve as an occasion to analyze theoretical and thematic concerns drawn from
Sigmund Freud’s 1919 essay on the uncanny. Throughout the project there is a strong
effort to link Freud’s initial account to subsequent theoretical developments with a
particular emphasis on introducing the work of Jacques Derrida. The cumulative aim of
these efforts is provide a critical foundation for analyzing the latent disorientation within
the practices of contemporary Hollywood and capitalist society more generally.

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rentals lagged behind the surge in US box office between the late 70s and mid 80s, the overseas markets had recovered by the end of that decade and grown much stronger throughout the 1990s.9 One reason for the growth was that the majors, recognizing the importance of these markets, began investing in new theater construction throughout Europe and Japan.10 Since the 1960s a significant number of Hollywood films have also been produced outside of the US. So-called runaway productions are motivated

diversification so as to maximize and exploit the synergistic relations between various sub-divisions within the parent company. An explicit example of these strategies can be found in the emergence of yet another ancillary source of revenues: the licensing of rights for the purpose of product placement or merchandising and the use of tie-ins such as sound tracks or video games for the purpose of cross-promotion. As a result of these synergies, Hollywood’s primary product is much more than just a

first by her own bedroom window, then by the TV, and finally by the cross-sections that divide Ricky’s bedroom window. As Jane removes her bra it is clear that she is performing for the camera, just as she will do again following her and Ricky’s later sexual rendezvous. This reminds us that these scenes simultaneously serve to doubly diegeticize Jane, producing an inner textual recess not only through composition but in terms of narrative as well.8 8 For a different analysis of this scene (and

Howard, 2001). Although this technique seemingly adheres to Freud’s formulation in which the uncanny involves a conflict or mistake in judgment, the twists and turns found in such films are often relatively predictable and have more to do with the demands of the marketplace than anything else. Conversely, we might consider a film such as Michael Haneke’s Caché (2005) for an example of how similar methods can be used to produce more unsettling effects. For more on this comparison, see H. Porter

examining the cinema in general as a type of doubling, I explore in the first chapter two recent examples where variations on the doppelganger illustrate the strategic importance of novelty in contemporary Hollywood. Both Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002) and The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) occupy the middle ground between a blockbuster or legitimate award contender on the one hand and a truly independent or art cinema on the other. Both films feature widely recognized stars and operate

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