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Quart and Auster survey many of the public classics--fictional films whose critical acclaim, awards, or box office appeal indicate a connection with public consciousness--that have been produced in the United States since 1945. They analyze the cultural and social significance of these films, and how the formal elements of these works helped shape cinematic art. Their premise is that if Hollywood is the dream factory, then the post-World War II film--from The Best Years of Our Lives and Do the Right Thing--helps to unravel some of the central concerns and values of American society between 1945 and the present.
This revised, expanded, and updated edition emphasizes the films of the 1980s, discussing ideologically antithetical Vietnam films such as Platoon and Rambo, feminist backlash films like Fatal Attraction, rural sagas such as Places in the Heart and Country, teen films such as Risky Business and Back to the Future, and films dealing with the civil rights struggle, black history, and black contemporary life such as Mississippi Burning, Glory, and Do the Right Thing. This book also explores the contested and contradictory meanings conveyed by many American films such as Sylvester Stallone's Rambo, which is seen as both a patriotic, pro-war cartoon and a populist attack against government experts and bureaucracy. This uniquely accessible political, cultural, and aesthetic analysis of post-World War II Hollywood films can be read and enjoyed by students, teachers, and the general public alike.