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Critical Approaches to the Films of Robert Rodriguez

Critical Approaches to the Films of Robert Rodriguez

This companion volume to Frederick Luis Aldama’s The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez brings together leading scholars who take a variety of theoretical and critical perspectives in analyzing the filmmaking of today’s most prolific and significant Latino director.

March 2015
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264 pages | 6 x 9 | 17 b&w photos |

Frederick Aldama’s The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez (2014) was the first full-scale study of one of the most prolific and significant Latino directors making films today. In this companion volume, Aldama enlists a corps of experts to analyze a majority of Rodriguez’s feature films, from his first break-out success El Mariachi in 1992 to Machete in 2010. The essays explore the formal and thematic features present in his films from the perspectives of industry (context, convention, and distribution), the film blueprint (auditory and visual ingredients), and consumption (ideal and real audiences). The authors illuminate the manifold ways in which Rodriguez’s films operate internally (plot, character, and event) and externally (audience perception, thought, and feeling).

The volume is divided into three parts: “Matters of Mind and Media” includes essays that use psychoanalytic and cognitive psychology to shed light on how Rodriguez’s films complicate Latino identity, as well as how they succeed in remaking audiences’ preconceptions of the world. “Narrative Theory, Cognitive Science, and Sin City: A Case Study” offers tools and models of analysis for the study of Rodriguez’s film re-creation of a comic book (on which Frank Miller was credited as codirector). “Aesthetic and Ontological Border Crossings and Borderlands” considers how Rodriguez’s films innovatively critique fixed notions of Latino identity and experience, as well as open eyes to racial injustices. As a whole, the volume demonstrates how Rodriguez’s career offers critical insights into the filmmaking industry, the creative process, and the consuming and reception of contemporary film.


Rodriguez's Cinema of Possibilities: An Introduction (Frederick Luis Aldama)

Matters of Mind and Media

One. From El Mariachi till Spy Kids? A Cognitive Approach (Sue J. Kim)

Two. You've Come a Long Way, Booger Breath: Juni Cortez Grows Up in the Spy Kids Films (Phillip Serrato)

Narrative Theory, Cognitive Science, and Sin City: A Case Study

Three. Painterly Cinema: Three Minutes of Sin City (Patrick Colm Hogan)

Four. Sin City, Style, and the Status of Noir (Emily R. Anderson)

Five. Sin City, Hybrid Media, and a Cognitive Narratology of Multimodality (Erin E. Eighan)

Aesthetic and Ontological Border Crossings and Borderlands

Six. Intertextploitation and Post-Post-Latinidad in Planet Terror (Christopher González)

Seven. Planet Terror Redux: Miscegenation and Family Apocalypse (Enrique García)

Eight. The Border Crossed Us: Machete and the Latino Threat Narrative (Zachary Ingle)

Nine. The Development of Social Minds in the "Mexico Trilogy" (James J. Donahue)

It's a Wrap

Ten. Tarantino & Rodriguez: A Paradigm (Ilan Stavans)

Eleven. Five Amigos Crisscross Borders on a Road Trip with Rodriguez (Frederick Luis Aldama, Samuel Saldívar, Christopher González, Sue J. Kim, and Camilla Fojas)

Afterword. Postproduction in Robert Rodriguez's "Post-Post-Latinidad" (Alvaro Rodriguez)

Works Cited

Notes on Contributors



Frederick Luis Aldama is Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar at the Ohio State University, where he founded and directs LASER/Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment and Research. His many books include Analyzing World Fiction: New Horizons in Narrative Theory, Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez, and Toward a Cognitive Theory of Narrative Acts.


“Aldama’s done it again! With Critical Approaches he brings together preeminent scholars of film and popular culture to throw wide open the portals into understanding Rodriguez’s rich and bountiful cinematic world. Profoundly responsive to Rodriguez’s artistic vision and practice, the groundbreaking scholarship herein powerfully undercuts all those misguided judgments about Latino cultural production. Critical Approaches will certainly cement Rodriguez as at once an entertainer of the first order and as a dissonant creator who radically carves out new experiential spaces for Latinos today and tomorrow.”
David William Foster, Regents’ Professor of Spanish and Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University, and author of Argentine, Mexican, and Guatemalan Photography: Feminist, Queer, and Post-Masculinist Perspectives

“Aldama’s Critical Approaches is like a film itself! Picture it: over the Western horizon rides a talented posse of wily vaqueros y vaqueras, like some ridiculously over-talented, ivory-tower-ensconced version of The Magnificent Seven—only there are twelve of them and running lead, the lucky thirteenth, Prof/Caballero Aldama. They are packing six-shooters with sharp piercing intellectual ammo: Kim’s cognitive dynamite, Serrato’s mighty boogers, Hogan’s deft palette, Anderson’s whiptastic noir, Eighan’s nasty multimodalities, González’s mighty intertextuality, García’s randy miscegenation, Ingle’s fraught frontera, Donahue’s social mind reading, Stavans’s probing paradigms—with Saldívar and Fojas there too, riding shotgun. Before they ride off into the sunset, this rambunctious posse of cultural critics holds forth and lays bare the complexity of our great cineaste of the Americas, Robert Rodriguez. Buy this book. Teach this book. Or else, pardner—you’ll be messing with the magnificent trece, ese!”
William Anthony Nericcio, Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences program, and Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Chicana/o Studies, San Diego State University

“This lively collection investigates the broad range of Rodriguez’s output, from his explosive action flicks, to his hurly-burly children’s adventures, to his groundbreaking cinematic comic-book revamp, Sin City. Uniformly informative, insightful, and engaging, these analyses are as ingenious, varied, and entertaining as the films themselves.”
Charles Ramírez Berg, Joe M. Dealey, Sr. Professor in Media Studies, University of Texas at Austin, and author of The Classical Mexican Cinema: The Poetics of the Exceptional Golden Age Films

“The complex cinematic work of Robert Rodriguez finally gets its comprehensive due. Moving from El Mariachi to Sin City and crossing audience reception, content, and production, Aldama pulls together the most cutting-edge scholars in the field to provocatively map out Rodriguez’s significance to the study of film generally and Latina/o film specifically. If you love to watch, examine, and make film—it’s an absolute must-read!”
Isabel Molina Guzmán, Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies and Latino/a Studies, University of Illinois, and author of Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media