A Life in Pictures
This introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of the dearth of critical writing on the bio-pic despite their incredible popularity both at the box office and at award ceremonies. There are just two books. The first, George F. Custen's Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History (1992) focuses on films produced in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1960s. The second, Dennis Bingham's Whose Lives Are They Anyway: The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre (2010), focuses on the “evolution and lifecycle changes of the genre.” The chapter then sets out the book's purpose, namely to offer-up a series of case studies that will throw light on the complex genre of bio-pics, analyzing them in terms of their similarities (characters, plots, themes, and motifs) and points of difference (structure and intent). Each film considered will assist in the exploration of the following questions posed: Why is the genre enjoying such a resurgence? Who are suitable candidates for bio-pic treatment? How much of a life has to be included for a film to be a bio-pic and how are their stories told? How have the issues surrounding the subject's representation/misrepresentation contributed to the genre? Does the choice of actor and their approach to the role affect this representation? What response do these films have critically and commercially?
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