Keeping Company with Celebrities

StalloneReaderTo be honest, Professor Christine Holmlund (Chris, as she likes to be called) hasn’t actually met these superstars, but she spends a lot of time with them. Watching their films, studying in archives, following up to date research and commentary, she has become well acquainted with their biographies and their performances on screen. She thinks about WHY they matter, why some don’t get a chance anymore, why others get less of a chance. Years of careful industry research, film analysis, reading, teaching, and writing of film theory have equipped Holmlund to understand and analyze actors and celebrities. She’s attentive to the similarities and differences in their approaches as they define, enact, the characters they play.

“Maybe the most essential thing in cinema is the screenplay, but the performances and direction shape it and make the story come alive,” says Holmlund. “That’s what I’m most drawn to.”

Through study and analysis of the performances of superstars to discern and define their distinct “brands.” Recent subjects of study include not only Sylvester Stallone, but also Dolly Parton, John Malkovich, and John Cusack, among others.

Her study and analyses of performances within the framework of film theory have resulted not only in publications, but also in numerous invitations to speak about her work in local, national, and international venues.

In the context of Holmlund’s academic studies, one might be surprised to find her writing about action figures like Stallone. She explains that this interest was deeply influenced by her father, a first-generation Scandinavian American World War II veteran. After the war her father pursued a career in bio-chemistry and developed a great love of literature and the classics. Yet, he maintained his love of cowboy stories, westerns, and action figures in movies. Holmlund and her father spent hours together watching films of these genres. Not surprising, Clint Eastwood films were among their favorites.

Holmlund says very popular movies give insight into the ways people think, what is important to them. Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone are both populist figures with whom viewers can readily identify.

Personally, Chris Holmlund loves movies of all kinds! Because her scholarship and teaching center on film and cinema studies, she often “works” in movie theaters—unlike most other faculty who do their research in libraries, laboratories, or in the field. Holmlund’s students, friends and colleagues, and even the plumber and folks she encounters in the grocery store, joke with her about having a job where watching movies is defined as work.

Responding in Clint Eastwood-style Chris counters, “It’s a dirty job. Someone’s gotta do it. I’m glad it’s me!” And she laughs right along with them.

About Chris Holmlund

Currently an Arts and Sciences Excellence Professor in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, Professor Holmlund teaches cinema studies, women’s studies, and French.

She’s written on American independent film, action blockbusters, Hollywood features from the 1970s on, stars, experimental film, and documentary. She’s interested in feminist, post-colonial, and queer theory, as also in classic film theory. She teaches courses in all these areas, as well as on French and Latin American/Latino film and video. From 2011-2013 she was President of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (3000+ members from over 50 countries). She is now Past President , advising the largest international academic society for humanities-based study of film and media (digital media, video gaming, radio, television, film, comics.)

She is the author of Impossible Bodies (Routledge, 2002), editor of American Cinema of the 1990s (Rutgers University Press, 2008), co-editor (with Justin Wyatt) of Contemporary American Independent Film (Routledge, 2005) and (with Cynthia Fuchs) of Between the Sheets, In the Streets: Queer, Lesbian, Gay Documentary (Minnesota University Press, 1997). A fourth anthology, The Ultimate Stallone Reader: Sylvester Stallone as Star, Icon, Auteur, has just been published in 2014 with Columbia University Press/Wallflower. She is working on Female Trouble (Arsenal Pulp Press), and Being John Malkovich (Edinburgh University Press). She has additionally published numerous articles and essays on experimental, documentary, and mainstream films made in Canada, Europe, the U.S., and Latin America.

Before coming to UT, Holmlund completed a bachelor’s degree in French with High Honors at the University of Maryland-College Park before going on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to complete a master’s degree in French, followed by a doctorate in French with minor areas of study in film, critical theory, and women’s studies.

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