With The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez (2014) and Critical Approaches to the Films of Robert Rodriguez (2015), Frederick Luis Aldama has written the first single-author scholarly monograph and edited the first collected volume of scholarship on the work of the most prolific U.S. Latina/o filmmaker to date. The two books share the explicit goal of fostering scholarship on Rodriguez and thus address a glaring lacuna in the existing literature. . . . these two books advance their common aims, both explicit and implicit, quite admirably, providing readers with import-ant biographical information about the filmmaker, technical insights into his film-making, and a range of thematic, analytical, and methodological approaches for interpreting Rodriguez’s films.
The collection’s scholarly essays illustrate the broad range of possibilities for analyzing Rodriguez’s work within frameworks of fi lm, cognitive, and Latina/o studies. For example, although five of the nine collected scholarly articles adopt cognitive approaches, each offers a unique framework and nuanced reading of Rodriguez’s films. Sue J. Kim employs cognitive concepts such as chunking, typification, and cause-and-effect to highlight previously overlooked connections between Rodriguez’s more family-friendly children’s films and his more violent genre flicks. James J. Donahue adapts Alan Palmer’s typology of intermental units from Social Minds in the Novel (2010) in order to read the developmental progression of the films of Rodriguez’s “Mexico Trilogy.” Yet the highlight, in my opinion, of the cognitive studies work in the collection is a section titled “Narrative Theory, Cognitive Science, and Sin City: A Case Study,” which consists of three essays by Patrick Colm Hogan, Emily R. Anderson, and Erin E. Eighan. Each scholar takes a distinct approach to analyzing how Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller collaboratively adapt Miller’s graphic novel to fi lm: Hogan looks at the film’s opening three-minute sequence as an example of painterly cinema; Anderson explores how the fi lm “remediates” the graphic novel, and Eighan discusses through dual coding theory how the visual and aural elements in Sin City stimulate different systems in the brain. This suite of essays, or “case study,” as Aldama aptly puts it, demonstrates the rich interpretive possibilities of Rodriguez’s oeuvre when seen through the lens of cognitive studies. The four remaining scholarly essays similarly exemplify diverse approaches for analyzing Rodriguez’s fi lm within Latina/o studies. Phillip Serrato reads the developmental arc from child to adult of the male protagonist Juni in the Spy Kids series as a critique of dominant fantasies of Latino masculinity. Christopher González explains how, through sly uses of genre and intertextuality, Rodriguez articulates “post-post-Latinidad” in Planet Terror (2007). Enrique García also looks to Planet Terror to discuss how the zombie apocalypse allows Rodriguez to imagine a transnational utopian future founded on feminism and mestizaje. Finally, Zachary Ingle draws connections between blaxploitation films of the 1970s and Rodriguez’s Machete (2010) to analyze how the fi lm ambiguously engages the “Latino Threat Narrative,” or the fear that Latina/os will never assimilate into U.S. Anglo-American culture.