This blog started as a way of pooling some ideas that will feed into future research projects and teaching materials. The title Spectacular Attractions matches the name of the new undergraduate module I’m currently putting together, so it will serve as a way of communicating with my students and investigating the potential of e-learning, but I hope it will be of interest to casual/accidental readers. The remit of the course is a focus on spectacle in cinema, from the earliest trick films to contemporary computer-generated special effects.
Bear with me while I practise my blogging. Today, I’m just playing with my formatting, but I’ll try and have something worth looking at later this week. For now, let me tempt you with a heads-up for a place that is very dear to my heart (and my office), The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture on the Exeter University Campus. Plugging the gap left by the closure of London’s Museum of the Moving Image, the Centre houses a massive collection of books, periodicals and artefacts relating not just to the history of cinema, but also to pre-cinematic visual culture more broadly. My research would have been significantly weaker if I hadn’t had this place on my doorstep for the past few years. The catalogue is navigated by a beautiful interface that provides images of many of the Centre’s items of memorabilia, including this cute Charlie Chaplin postcard:
I recommend trying a keyword search at the catalogue for Chaplin. There’s an extraordinary selection of merchandise – it’s amazing what this guy managed to put his face on. Like the Mickey Mouse head, which can be represented by three black circles, Chaplin’s features could be distilled to a hat, moustache and eyebrows, making him the easiest star to commodify. Studying the trail of merchandising crumbs left by such a star is a great way to analyse their cultural impact. And where else can you build your own Charlie Chaplin puppet? [To do this, scroll down to “Charlie Chaplin Comic Postcard” and click on it]