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Sat, Jun 15 | 11am-12:15pm

Panic Like It’s 1999: Crisis in Turn of the Century Cinema

Led by Claire Sisco King, chair of Cinema and Media Arts at Vanderbilt University 

Panic Like It’s 1999: Crisis in Turn of the Century Cinema

General Admission: $16 ($13 Belcourt members) | Full Series Pass Holders: Free


This seminar is in conjunction with the 1999 series. It will be presented in the 1966 Hall, prior to the 12:30pm matinee of TOY STORY 2. Film tickets and seminar tickets are sold separately.

The year 1999 was a very strange time in our lives. It was a moment of significant historical and social change — not the least of which was the coming of a new millennium and the widespread fears about Y2K. The late ‘90s were also a time when some prevailing cultural narratives experienced new challenges. In particular, longstanding ideas about white masculinity were disrupted by discourses about multiculturalism, affirmative action and third-wave feminism — leading many news outlets and pundits to declare white masculinity to be “in crisis.” Such alleged crises of identity reverberated through films like FIGHT CLUB, THE SIXTH SENSE, MAGNOLIA and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, which introduced new narrative and thematic frameworks for thinking about identity.

At the same time, the year 1999 was a watershed moment in cinema history. The movies saw several industry-changing developments, including the move to fully computer-animated films in the TOY STORY franchise and the use of bullet time in THE MATRIX films. These developments within the cinema were paralleled by other technological advancements — including the birth of the Blackberry and the continued expansion of the Internet. In turn, these changes inspired stylistic and narrative innovations in films like RUN LOLA RUN and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. This seminar will address a spectrum of changes and innovations in the cinema of 1999 and their relationship to each other — considering both the context from which these changes emerged and their implications for the cinema of the 21st century.

About the speaker:
Claire Sisco King is associate professor of Communication Studies and chair of the Cinema and Media Arts program at Vanderbilt University. She is a scholar of media and visual culture, with a particular emphasis on the study of gender and sexuality. Her newest book, Mapping the Stars: Celebrity, Metonymy, and the Networked Politics of Identity (Ohio State University Press, 2023), shows how close analysis of the complex and sometimes contradictory forms of celebrity culture can challenge dominant ideas about selfhood. King considers three stars with popular and controversial personas: Norman Rockwell, Will Smith and Kim Kardashian. Working in very different contexts and with very different public images, these figures nonetheless share a consistent, if not conspicuous, interest in celebrity as a construct. Offering intertextual and metonymic readings of their public images across such sites as movie posters, magazines, cinema and social media, King argues that these stars’ self-reflexive attention to the processes by which celebrity is created and constrained creates opportunities for reframing public discourse about what it means to be famous and what it means to be a person. Her first book, Washed in Blood: Male Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Cinema (Rutgers University, 2011) — named an Outstanding Book of the Year in 2013 by Critical Cultural Studies division of the National Communication Association — addresses the intersections between cinematic violence, masculinity and discourses of civic identity. Her work has been published in numerous journals in the fields of communication and media studies, and she is currently writing a new book on celebrity culture, gender and race. King is a past editor of Women’s Studies in Communication, a peer-reviewed, feminist journal addressing the relationships between communication and gender.