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Dictionary of Film Terms

The Aesthetic Companion to Film Art – Fifth Edition

Frank Beaver

Now in its fifth edition, Frank Beaver’s Dictionary of Film Terms has become an indispensable reference tool for the study of films and filmmaking. This trusted and practical handbook clearly and concisely defines the essential terms of film analysis and film art, with a special focus on the aesthetic parameters and values of filmmaking.
The updated and expanded edition includes new definitions ranging from «bullet-time» optical effects, to the coming-of-age narrative, and LED lighting technology in science fiction films such as Gravity. More than 200 film title references not cited in previous editions have been added. Many classic and contemporary photo stills are included to illustrate terms. Extensive cross-referencing among individual definitions ensures easy access to interrelated terms, and a comprehensive topical index relates to larger concepts of film art.
This up-to-date and comprehensive resource is a useful companion for film students and filmgoers, who will find it illuminating in its range and clarity.
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MacGuffin (McGuffin) A term whose origin is attributed to Alfred Hitchcock and is used to describe a plotting device for setting a story into motion. The term is frequently applied to that object or person in a mystery film that at the beginning of the plot provides an element of dramatic curiosity. The MacGuffin can be something that all the characters are trying to get their hands on—for example, a falcon in The Maltese Falcon (1941) or a gem in The Pink Panther (1963). The MacGuffin can also be someone or something that is lost and is being sought. In Hitchcock’s Family Plot (1976), the MacGuffin is a missing heir. The ensuing search for the heir leads to a larger, more involved mystery story. Once the dramatic plot is underway in a Hitchcock film, the MacGuffin often ceases to be of major importance. The search for the meaning of “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane (1941) has been widely viewed as a MacGuffin plotting device. “Rosebud” becomes the element of dramatic curiosity that motivates the mosaic investigation that helps explain the meaning of Kane’s life. Michael Moore’s contrived efforts to locate the chairman of General Motors in Roger & Me (1989) were described by critics as resembling the MacGuffin plotting device. A missing 35-mm ← 169 | 170 → film frame and the quest to locate it serves as a MacGuffin plotting element in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013).

Made-for-television movie A motion picture made initially for television...

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