About the Conference
The Society’s annual conference provides a forum for scholars and teachers of film and media studies to present and hear new research; to provide a supportive environment for networking, mentoring, and collaboration among scholars otherwise separated by distance, language, or disciplinary boundaries; and to promote the field of cinema and media studies among its practitioners, to other disciplines, and to the public at large, in part through public recognition of award worthy achievements and other significant milestones within the field.
The story of Preminger's struggle to get the movie made has become Hollywood legend. As he tells it in his autobiography, Zanuck saw him as a producer, not a director, and assigned Rouben Mamoulian to the piece. When the early rushes were a disaster, Preminger stepped in, reshot many scenes, replaced the sets, and fought for the screenplay. Zanuck insisted that another ending be shot; the film was screened for Zanuck and his pal Walter Winchell, a real gossip columnist, who said he didn't understand the ending. So Zanuck let Preminger have his ending back, and while the business involving the shotgun in the antique clock may be somewhat labored, the whole film is of a piece: contrived, artificial, mannered, and yet achieving a kind of perfection in its balance between low motives and high style. What makes the movie great, perhaps, is the casting. The materials of a B-grade crime potboiler are redeemed by Waldo Lydecker, walking through every scene as if afraid to step in something.
And that really underscores the movie’s biggest problem. Watching the movie in a society 23 years more advanced, both technologically and culturally, I found myself wondering just who Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves was for in the first place. If the experiences of my friends, loved ones, and coworkers are any indication, it was meant for kids with a taste for action and explosions with few scruples about either acting or dialogue. But given the movie’s cast—Costner, Rickman, Freeman, Mastrantonio, Christian Slater, and a brief appearance from Sean Connery—it seems like the filmmakers and producers at least tried to approach the story with some seriousness. Certain characters, like Mike McShane’s Friar Tuck, are no doubt meant to add levity to the hand-chopping and macabre production. But others, like Rickman’s sheriff, sweep so wildly from horrifically serious to ridiculously comical that it seems like, halfway through the production, the cast and director just said, “Fuck it. Let’s have a little fun with this one.” And while that’s the kind of stuff that makes a movie memorable to a 10-year-old me—particularly when you don’t question how whole treehouse villages are built overnight in the forest without anyone in Nottingham’s employ noticing—it’s also the kind of stuff that makes a movie damn near unwatchable for a 33-year-old me. Despite what I thought 23 years ago, whimsy and costuming only go so far toward creating a great movie. Black powder and Christian Slater are cool and all, but real dramatic successes come when a film has both heart and a slate of talented actors who aren’t just leaning on their oversized patchwork capes to tell the story.