Author: Julia Van Valkenburg

Hollywood’s Global Domination

My experience of foreign cinema – or the value that it has provided for me personally – is deeply rooted in my national identity and Hollywood’s history of global dominance. Scholar B. Ruby Rich writes in Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, “My guess is that foreign films function as a rebuke for some viewers, offering up evidence that the world is not made in ‘our’ image, and that neither our society nor our language is universal.”[1] While I agree with Rich’s evaluation, I’d like to complicate it just slightly. My argument, instead, is that foreign films function as a rebuke for most American viewers specifically, though not all. In his chapter titled Hollywood’s International Market, from The American Film Industry (ed. Tino Balio), Thomas H. Guback describes how Hollywood began to permeate the global film market after World War I, acting in a moment when numerous countries were economically devastated by the war and left financially indebted to the U.S. As a result, due to the surmounting strength of the American film market, international film …

A Weekend in NYC

A few weeks ago I spent a long weekend in New York City, marking my first trip to the big apple ever. On the flight from Reykjavik I started reading How to See the World by Nicholas Mirzoeff – on visual culture and how we see things and are seen – and realized that although I had the experience of observing the New York City of film, television, and advertising, I had never actually seen the city. While I had been dreaming of visiting NYC for years, I showed up almost nervous. After spending time in parts of rural Iceland (the least populated place I have ever been to) I was heading to the most densely inhabited place I had yet to occupy. Iceland has a way of slowing you down and I worried that the extreme change in environment would almost be jarring. But instead of feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of New York’s streets, it felt good to finally see it myself – not on a screen or billboard. I found New York City to …

Life After Facebook

Why I Can’t Stand Facebook, which I wrote in 2014 after dropping the site from my life, remains the most popular post I’ve written for Catch-all (apparently people are constantly Googling “Can’t stand Facebook”?). Since a few years have passed, I decided to share a brief update on what living without Facebook has been like. Before getting into the benefits of LWOFB (I just made that up but don’t you think “Life Without Facebook” could catch on?) I think it’s important to characterize what type of Facebook user I was, and how the site became damaging for me personally. After years of using Facebook, and being connected to nearly everyone I knew, I became obsessed with my online persona. I was constantly wondering “is my header photo cool enough?” “Do I look good in my profile photo?” “Are my status updates clever or getting sufficient likes?” I’m also a pretty curious (or maybe even nosy) person, and as much as I wish it weren’t the case, Facebook lurking was something I definitely took part in. “Oh that girl …

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Since my last blog post I’ve been all over Iceland, spent a long weekend in New York City, returned to Los Angeles for a few days, and took a trip back home to Tucson, AZ. Once I’m back in Los Angeles I’ll have to find a new place to live, move, say goodbye to my sister who’s leaving LA, and find a job. Regardless of the major changes coming my way, I’m still putting off the stress of thinking too much about everything until I can’t avoid it any longer. Beyond the logistics of moving and looking for work, there’s a lot in my life that’s currently up in the air. Graduate school was wonderfully rich and life changing – but exhausting – so I’m glad that’s over now. Aside from personal issues, drumpf and his people are wreaking havoc on this country and our world. I can’t help but feel that Americans are on the brink of a collective meltdown, and we’re all just holding on by a thread. But while all of this has been …

#RESISTANCE Playlist

With major news breaking every single day, the enormity of the issues that we’re dealing with in the U.S. and abroad can seem insurmountable. In America, I feel as though we’re on the verge of a collective meltdown. Stress and tensions are mounting and the government seems to be doing everything it can to weaken the people. From blocking refugees, to pulling out of the Paris Agreement, and fighting to dismantle our healthcare system – the list goes on and on. Across the globe we’re seeing an uptick in fascism, and it’s our duty to fight it. On the day of the election I listened to a playlist I made in hopes that Hillary Clinton would become our first woman president. That day didn’t arrive, but I’ve continued to make playlists – for the inauguration and the historic Women’s March – to either get me through the day or strengthen my resolve. Today I wanted to share my #RESISTANCE playlist, which is short, but packs a punch. We have to persist, and listening to music …

On America, Mobility, & Freedom in “Easy Rider”

“A man went looking for America, but he couldn’t find it anywhere.” Few taglines remain relevant long after a film’s release, but Easy Rider’s ominous warning (“he couldn’t find it anywhere”) maintains its potency nearly 50 years after its debut. In David Laderman’s Driving Visions, he situates the road film genre within an explicitly American context and characterizes Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) as “arguably the quintessential, genre-defining road movie.”[1] Following the cult popularity of low-budget biker exploitation films, Easy Rider seems to have borrowed from the aesthetic and tonal vigor of these works, but extended itself to a broader cultural critique that was relevant for a wider spectrum of Americans falling under the banner of “the counterculture.” While the influence of cinema imported from Europe and Asia facilitated the rise of the American auteur, the explosive socio-political context of late 1960’s could also be credited for cultivating unique works which explored social tensions and questions of identity, and more specifically, what it means to be an American. Easy Rider – in addition to preceding …

Visiting the Huntington

I’ve been meaning to visit The Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino for over two years, and finally went with my sister recently. Below are photos we took in the various gardens, which span 120 acres and include a Desert Garden, Japanese Garden, and Chinese Garden, among others. The photos below do not do The Huntington justice, so I recommend spending the day there if you’re ever in the Los Angeles area. The Huntington Library was founded in 1919 by Southern California businessman Henry E. Huntington. Huntington had a deep interest in gardens, art, and books – building a massive research library, art collection, and botanical gardens. Only 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles, the Huntington Library is a wonderful place to relax and appreciate nature.

Fast Fashion & “The True Cost”

The True Cost is one of those documentaries that everyone should watch, and then tell their friends and family to see too. I discovered the film after a friend told me it was necessary viewing, and I’m so grateful for her insistence. In order to be conscientious consumers, it’s imperative that we know where our clothes come from, who’s making it, and how they’re being treated. The True Cost examines the human rights, labor rights, and environmental impact of the garment industry, focusing on the horrific practices of fast fashion in particular. It’s also important to note that with women making up the majority of garment workers across the globe, this topic is a feminist issue as well. Before watching The True Cost I admittedly shopped at places like Zara and H&M because they offered affordable, cute clothing. But such low prices are the first sign that something is not ethically produced. Now I not only shop less (why do we need so much stuff?) but I buy second-hand and search for brands that are known to treat their employees well and embrace sustainable practices. Compared …

The Lessons I Had to Learn in Order to Survive Grad School

WOOHOO. I did what I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to do and finished graduate school. I’m grateful for the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree at such a prestigious university, but ultimately I’m most thankful for how I’ve grown as a person over these past two years. No matter what you’re studying, graduate school is extremely time-consuming, stressful, and often highly competitive. In my first semester we were required to take a professionalization course in which we learned about conferences, academia, and a lot of things that didn’t pertain to me since I was never interested in becoming a professor or pursuing a PhD. But one concept stuck with me, and that was the dreaded and all-consuming Imposter Syndrome. My entire graduate school experience was shaped by this syndrome, which Wikipedia characterizes as “a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (And yes, I wanted to use Wikipedia as a source since it’s such an academic no-no). I felt like an …