Berkeley Talks: Film historian Harry Chotiner on the state of American cinema

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Harry Chotiner, a film historian and an adjunct assistant professor at New York University, gave a lecture on Jan. 22, 2019, about film in the past year, from Hollywood blockbusters and indie favorites to the impact of the #MeToo movement, changes in the film academy and the Oscars. The lecture was part of a series of talks sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Harry Chotiner giving a lecture

Harry Chotiner (UC Berkeley photo by Max Godino)

“The two things that I think are most importantly new are streaming and the #MeToo movement, and that’s what I want to focus on,” says Chotiner. “In terms of streaming, I would say we’re sort of in the middle of the beginning of the streaming revolution. … Streaming is the biggest threat to movie theaters since television came in in the 1950s. Last year, Netflix spent more money making movies than all the studios combined. That’s stunning. That’s shocking.”

As for the #MeToo movement, he says it has created more gender and racial equality and inclusion, as well as safer working environments, in the film industry. But, he adds, there is still work to be done.

“By any measurable standard, sexual harassment has dropped drastically, and it’s not just measurable standards, but impressionistic accounts,” he says. “The experience of women working is drastically better. It doesn’t mean it’s all done and it’s all great. It does mean #MeToo has rocked the entire studio system.”

See Chotiner’s list of the best films of 2019.

Find upcoming talks sponsored by Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.