This paper was originally written for the “Media Industries” course within the Film and Media Studies graduate program at Arizona State University, completed April 26, 2021.

The Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC) was a set of regulations for the content of American films, and was nominally in effect from 1930 to 1934 and from the late 1950s through the ’60s. In the intervening years, what was also known as the Hays Code (after regulatory instigator Will H. Hays) demonstrably shaped the topics Hollywood films could cover, preventing explicit examples of sex, racism, violence, and more. Although the MPPC was associated…


This paper was originally written as the culminating experience for the Film and Media Studies graduate program at Arizona State University, completed April 15, 2021.

The animated film has been and is often regarded as a genre as distinct as horror, romance, or science fiction. While the animation classification may be paired with comedy or musical, the reality is that an animated film is more so a medium than a genre. For a long time most animated films did fall into a similar format, from the earliest days of silent cartoons through Disney’s sound innovations and their almost singlehanded cultivation…


This paper was originally written as the culminating experience for the Film and Media Studies graduate program at Arizona State University, completed April 15, 2021.

Beginning with the stock market crash of 1929, the United States and then the world went into an economic crash known as the Great Depression, which lasted until some variable point in the late 1930s or the beginning of World War II. This time of widespread poverty paradoxically coincided with the formulation of the classic Hollywood “dream factory,”which developed the “invisible style” of American filmmaking. Film histories focused on this era often examine the influence…


This paper was originally written for the “Race & Gender in American Film” course within the Film and Media Studies graduate program at Arizona State University, completed December 4, 2020.

Raoul Peck’s 2016 feature documentary I Am Not Your Negro captures, with stunning faithfulness, part of author and activist James Baldwin’s essence. Based on an unfinished Baldwin memoir of sorts, parts of which are narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film examines Baldwin’s commentary on race relations during the 1960s through his association with the three most prominent black leaders of the decade. Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther…


This paper was originally written for the “Digital Media Studies” course within the Film and Media Studies graduate program at Arizona State University, completed September 8, 2020.

The video-audio sharing mobile app TikTok rose in popularity in the United States shortly before and during the COVID-19 pandemic as a digital disruption in the “canon” of widespread social media platforms. A major reason for TikTok’s success, now threatened by a potential ban by the United States government due to its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance, is its algorithm. While algorithms that tailor content to audiences are prominent on sites and apps…


Note: This is the hundred-and-sixtieth in a series of historical/critical essays examining the best in film from each year. Essentially, I am watching films from the beginning of cinematic history that interest me and/or hold some critical or cultural impact. My personal, living list of favorites is being created at Mubi, showcasing five films per year. All this being explained, what follows is an examination of my fifth favorite 1930 film, PEOPLE ON SUNDAY, directed by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer.

On the eve of silent Weimar cinema’s end, a handful of young filmmakers pooled together some money, time…


Raymond Burr, Barbara Stanwyck, and Fred Astaire at the 13th Emmy Awards in 1961

Welcome to “Emmys Evaluated,” a series that looks at the nominations and wins in the television industry’s foremost awards ceremony and performs some revisionist history to retroactively pick the winners from the categories and nominees the The Television Academy selected.

Following in the footsteps of the 12th Emmy Awards, the 13th were a smaller affair than the ceremonies leading up to the end of the 1950s. The 1961 event, recognizing the best in television of 1960, was slightly bigger than the previous years’. The number of major categories were brought up a bit more, from 15 to 17. The number…


Last night, the 93rd Academy Awards provided one of the strangest Oscars ceremonies in recent memory. Of course, the COVID-impacted event was going to take on a different shape, and with Steven Soderbergh as producer, the Academy Awards were certainly not going to be totally normal. But from taking place in a train station to a baffling lack of clips to a big, anticlimactic shuffling of the final categories and acting upset, Film Twitter and beyond had some thoughts. In my opinion, the 93rd Oscars were just fine, and hey, I’ll quote myself from Twitter last night. “The Oscars are…


Note: This is the hundred-and-fifty-ninth in a series of historical/critical essays examining the best in film from each year. Essentially, I am watching films from the beginning of cinematic history that interest me and/or hold some critical or cultural impact. My personal, living list of favorites is being created at Mubi, showcasing five films per year. All this being explained, what follows is an examination of my fourth favorite 1930 film, UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS, directed by René Clair.

In resisting the coming of sound, French filmmaker (and growing favorite of mine) René Clair made one of the most…


Robert Stack and Fred Astaire at the 12th Emmy Awards in 1960

Welcome to “Emmys Evaluated,” a series that looks at the nominations and wins in the television industry’s foremost awards ceremony and performs some revisionist history to retroactively pick the winners from the categories and nominees the The Television Academy selected.

After years of steady growth, both in terms of categories, nominees, and influence, The Television Academy turned to a pared down affair for its 12th Emmy Awards and the closure of the decade that contained The Golden Age of Television: the 1950s. From the previous year’s 29 major categories, the 12th Emmys celebrated the best television of 1959 across just…

Tristan Ettleman

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