The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties


In what the New York Times’s A.O. Scott called a “suave, scholarly tour de force,” J. Hoberman delivers a brilliant and witty look at the decade when politics and pop culture became one.

This was the era of the Missile Gap and the Space Race, the Black and Sexual Revolutions, the Vietnam War and Watergate—as well as the tele-saturation of the American market and the advent of Pop art. In “elegant, epigrammatic prose,” as Scott put it, Hoberman moves from the political histories ...

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In what the New York Times’s A.O. Scott called a “suave, scholarly tour de force,” J. Hoberman delivers a brilliant and witty look at the decade when politics and pop culture became one.

This was the era of the Missile Gap and the Space Race, the Black and Sexual Revolutions, the Vietnam War and Watergate—as well as the tele-saturation of the American market and the advent of Pop art. In “elegant, epigrammatic prose,” as Scott put it, Hoberman moves from the political histories of movies to the theater of wars, national political campaigns, and pop culture events.

With entertaining reinterpretations of key Hollywood movies (such as Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, and Shampoo), and meditations on personages from Che Guevara, John Wayne, and Patty Hearst to Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan, and Dirty Harry, Hoberman reconstructs the hidden political history of 1960s cinema and the formation of America’s mass-mediated politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"One of the most vital cultural histories I’ve ever read. Hoberman’s deceptively easygoing yet deliriously compacted prose threads history through movie lore through McLuhanesque media criticism. . . . An extraordinary publishing event." —David Edelstein, Slate

"So invigorating that I had to ration myself to a chapter a week." —John Patterson, The Guardian

"Nobody in America writes as well about culture and film as J. Hoberman." —Peter Biskind

"Packs a salient and unique wallop." —Publishers Weekly

The New York Times
Weaving a detailed retelling of American history from John F. Kennedy to Watergate with a fresh examination of the era's most significant films, Hoberman writes that those movies fostered a mythology that became inextricable from reality -- how they ''emanated from, and returned to shape, the nation's dream life.'' — Lawrence Levi
Publishers Weekly
For a book that doesn't so much drive home an overarching thesis about its subject as unravel particular events that are dense with historical, political and cinematic import, this assessment of the 1960s and its aftermath by longtime Village Voice critic Hoberman packs a salient and unique wallop. Hoberman wants to remind readers that the '60s marked the first time in American history when "[m]ovies might be political events, and political events were experienced as movies." It is a lesson that by now seems fairly obvious, but the book's power lies in its assessment of how new and forceful the heady combination of politics and visual mass media was, as politicians began to stress their images in addition to their words, and the restrictive Hays Code, which had tightly governed mass media content, loosened. Although the book contains much political analysis, it's a rare history that also reveals the era's sensibilities. Hoberman does so by employing language of the time (when discussing Gordon Park Jr.'s Superfly, he describes the protagonist's "incredible pad" and his "mockery of the honky police") and by using a plethora of sources: Norman Mailer's contemporary writings, popular magazines like Life, the political news of the time, box office stats, etc. Hoberman's usual epigrammatic wit ("Easy Rider is, even in 1968, a costume movie") is on display here, making his long sections of political examinations more bearable. (Oct. 24) Forecast: Hoberman's book could be used as a particularly entertaining text in American history or film classes, but readers looking strictly for analyses of '60s films should search elsewhere. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
JFK, RFK, LBJ, Castro, Khrushchev, Goldwater, Wallace, Reagan, Manson, Communist paranoia, Vietnam, race riots, the counterculture-and the Hollywood movies that influenced and were influenced by political discourse during the 1960s and early 1970s. This is Village Voice film critic Hoberman's topic, and it is explicated flawlessly. The epic begins with the liberal Kirk Douglas making Spartacus and the conservative John Wayne The Alamo, both inspirational last-stand sagas; the unrolling-nay, unraveling-of the decade continues through such usual suspect films as Dr. Strangelove, Bonnie and Clyde, and Easy Rider but also via other, sometimes neglected or misunderstood movies like The Magnificent Seven, PT 109, Advise and Consent, Major Dundee, The Chase, The Dirty Dozen, Night of the Living Dead, The Wild Bunch, and Dirty Harry. It's an eyeopening and disturbing diagnosis of semideranged, if not fully demented, leading players and a dysfunctional society. The result is a well-wrought work that offers a unique way of viewing the Sixties. Highly recommended.-Kim Holston, American Inst. for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters, Malvern, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849785
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 5/4/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 461
  • Sales rank: 826,910
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 1.39 (d)

Meet the Author

J. Hoberman is the author, co-author, or editor of a dozen books, including the trilogy The Dream Life, An Army of Phantoms, and the forthcoming Found Illusions (all from The New Press) and Film After Film. He has written for Artforum, Bookforum, the London Review of Books, The Nation, and the New York Review of Books; contributes the “On Video” column for the New York Times; has taught cinema history at Cooper Union since 1990; and was, for over thirty years, a film critic for the Village Voice. He lives in New York.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: "Suddenly ... It's 1960!"
I Making Pre-History, A.D. 1960 1
Enter the Hollywood Freedom Fighter 6
Sputnik and the Specter of Communist Earth Control 10
When Superman Came to the Supermarket 17
October 1960: Spartacus vs. The Alamo 26
The Year's Best Western: The New Frontier and The Magnificent Seven 31
II Glamour and Anxiety: The Kennedy Scenario, 1961-63 37
Camelot Year One: Into the Twilight Zone 44
Camelot Year Two: The President's Double Lives 55
The Manchurian Candidate = The Secret Agent of History 69
Camelot Down: Thinking About the Unthinkable 76
Coups d'Etat: Four Days in November, Seven Days in May 87
Dr. Strangelove's Prescription 91
III South by Southwest: Lyndon Johnson's Trip, 1964-66 95
Jet-Age Bronco Busters and Twilight Westerns 97
The Cowboy Election of 1964 108
Major Dundee - Great Society Abroad 120
The Chase - Great Society at Home 132
Vietnam: "An Oriental Western" 143
Gathering the Tribes: Diggers, Panthers, Outlaws 156
IV Born to Be Wild: Outlaws of America, 1967-69 163
If You Are a Bonnie-and-Clyder ...: The Birth of Radical Chic 170
Spring 1968: Shooting Easy Rider, Going Wild in the Streets 186
Creating Our Own Reality: The Green Berets and the Battle of Chicago 207
The Election: Calling Coogan's Bluff 222
No Future: The Children of Bonnie and Clyde 232
V Nixon Time: The War at Home, 1969-71 247
The End of the Sixties 248
America's Night of the Living Dead (My Lai, Manson, Myra Breckinridge) 253
Spring 1970: Patton over Cambodia 266
Generational War in the Dream Life: Hey Joe (Where You Goin' with That Gun in Your Hand?) 281
The Last Round-Up: Counterculture Psychodrama and Hippie Westerns, 1971 296
The Legal Vigilante: Dirty Harry and Tricky Dick 315
VI After the Orgy, from Blowup to Blow Out 334
Flash-forward to 1968: Shampoo 336
The 1972 Campaign: Warren, George, Jane, and The Candidate 345
The Nixon Western 365
Cine Paranoia: Conspiracies Unmasked, 1973-75 384
Freedomland 1981: Ronald Reagan and the Last Sixties Movie 399
Source Notes 410
Index 434
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