Wheeler Winston Dixon

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Wheeler Winston Dixon
Dixon in 2016.jpg
Wheeler Winston Dixon in 2016
Born (1950-03-12) March 12, 1950 (age 67)
New Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.
Occupation Film critic, film historian, filmmaker, scholar
Language English
Nationality American
Alma mater Rutgers University (B.A., Ph.D.)
Subject Film
Notable works A Short History of Film,
A History of Horror[1]
Experimental films[2]
Partner Gwendolyn Audrey Foster[3]

Wheeler Winston Dixon (born March 12, 1950) is an American filmmaker and scholar. He is an expert on film history,[4] theory and criticism.[5] His scholarship has particular emphasis on François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, American experimental cinema and horror films. He has written extensively on numerous aspects of film, including his books A Short History of Film and A History of Horror. From 1999 through the end of 2014, he was co-editor of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video.[6] He is regarded as a top reviewer of films.[6] In addition, he is notable as an experimental American filmmaker with films made over several decades,[7] and the Museum of Modern Art exhibited his works in 2003.[2] He taught at Rutgers University, The New School in New York, the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and is currently the Ryan professor of film studies and English at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.[8]

Early years[edit]

Dixon in 1969.

Dixon was born in 1950 in New Brunswick,[9] a city in New Jersey halfway between New York City and Philadelphia. He grew up partially in Connecticut. In the late 1960s, he was a member of New York's "underground" experimental film scene while working as a writer for Life magazine and Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. In 1970, he co-founded the musical group Figures of Light. In London, he participated in Arts Lab in Drury Lane, making and screening short films. Returning to the United States, he worked with an experimental Los Angeles-based video collective called TVTV. Dixon received a Ph.D. in English from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1982.

Experimental films[edit]

A still from Wheeler Winston Dixon's film Serial Metaphysics
A still from Wheeler Winston Dixon's film An Evening with Chris Jangaard
A still from Wheeler Winston Dixon's film London Clouds

During the course of several decades, Dixon made numerous experimental films. In 1991, along with filmmaker Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, he made a documentary entitled Women Who Made the Movies.[7] In 1995, in France, he made a film entitled Squatters. In 2003, the Museum of Modern Art[2] acquired all of his experimental films, including the following:

  • Quick Constant and Solid Instant (1969)[2][10]
  • Madagascar, or, Caroline Kennedy's Sinful Life in London (1976)[2][11]
  • Serial Metaphysics (1972)[2][12]
  • What Can I Do? (1993)[2][13]

His films have also been screened at the British Film Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Jewish Museum, The San Francisco Cinématheque, The New Arts Lab, The Collective for Living Cinema, and The Kitchen Center for Experimental Art.

Scholarship and film criticism[edit]

Dixon writes extensively. He has published in Cinéaste, Interview, Film Quarterly, Literature/Film Quarterly, Films in Review, Post Script, Journal of Film and Video, Film Criticism, New Orleans Review, Film International, Film and Philosophy and other journals. His book A History of Horror was reviewed by Martin A. David who criticized it as a compilation lacking a narrative structure, although David noted there were "generous and moving portraits" of horror masters such as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney, Jr.[14] Dixon was quoted commenting on horror films,[8][15] women directors,[16] Hollywood film moguls,[17] new technologies for delivering movies such as streaming[18] and 3-D,[19] and public relations of movie stars and directors.[20] He has been quoted about the film business,[21] such as discussing firms such as Miramax.[22] His views have been quoted about particular movies.[23][24][25] In addition, he has talked about late night television shows.[26] He is regarded as an authority of future trends in filmmaking; for example, in 2013, he described the current decade as a "postfilmic era" when "movie film will no longer exist and all movies will be shot digitally".[18] He predicts that film will cease to exist, since all movies will be digitally delivered to theaters.[18] He has been critical of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino:

It's sheer exploitation filmmaking with no resonance, taste or value, but it delivers what the action crowd wants: violence, violence and more violence, all served up with a knowing wink in a very postmodern fashion. In short, Quentin Tarantino movies are long, empty, derivative and junk food for the mind, with no substance or nutritional value.

— Wheeler Winston Dixon, 2012, in USA Today.[5]

As a film historian, he wrote about the moguls of the 1950s:

(The corporate rulers of film) all figured they’d be immortal ... They couldn’t envision a world where they didn’t exist. They couldn’t envision a world in which they were not the head of 20th Century Fox or the head of Columbia or the head of Paramount or the head of MGM or the head of Universal. When they died, a huge corporate scramble began.”

— Wheeler Winston Dixon, October 2012[17]

In 2014, when computer hackers infiltrated Sony Pictures Entertainment, Dixon was quoted in the Los Angeles Times that the exposure of confidential studio emails and films served as a "wake-up call to the entire industry."[27] In December 2015, he was quoted by Manohla Dargis in the New York Times on the demise of the DVD format, saying that "if you go on Amazon and you see some great black-and-white film, and it’s going for $3, or any kind of foreign or obscure film, buy it, because it’s going out of print, and they’re not going to put them back into print.”[28]

In 2016, Dixon returned to experimental cinema working in HD video, with such films as An American Dream, Still Life, and Closed Circuit. From 2011 to 2017, he wrote a blog on film theory, history and criticism, Frame by Frame, which eventually had more than 1,000 entries, reaching roughly 5,000 readers daily. On October 12, 2017, he ended the blog to concentrate on other work; it is not archived. Since 2010, he has coordinated film studies at the University of Nebraska.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Dixon is the nephew of the artist Nina Barr Wheeler.


His books (as author or editor) include:


Independent films[edit]

  • Wedding (1969)
  • Quick Constant and Solid Instant (1969)
  • The DC Five Memorial Film (1969)
  • London Clouds (1970)
  • Serial Metaphysics (1972)
  • Waste Motion (1974)
  • Tightrope (1974)
  • Stargrove (1974)
  • Gaze (1974)
  • An Evening with Chris Jangaard (1974)
  • Dana Can Deal (1974)
  • Damage (1974)
  • Un Petit Examen, and Not So Damned Petit Either, or, the Light Shining Over the Dark (1974)
  • Madagascar, or, Caroline Kennedy's Sinful Life in London (1974)
  • The Diaries (1986)
  • Distance (1987)
  • Women Who Made the Movies (1992) Co-Directed with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
  • What Can I Do? (1994)
  • Squatters (1995)
  • An American Dream (2016)
  • Summer Storm (2016)
  • Still Life (2016)
  • The Shapes of Things (2016)
  • Closed Circuit (2016)
  • City (2016)
  • Lago di Garda (2016)
  • Acceleration (2016)

Commercial films[edit]

  • Amazing World of Ghosts (1978)
  • UFO Exclusive (1978)
  • Mysteries from the Bible (1979)[29]
  • UFO: Top Secret (1979)[30]
  • Attack from Outer Space (1979)[31]
  • World of Mystery (1979)[32]


  1. ^ Note: selected as an outstanding academic book of the year in 2011 by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Museum of Modern Art, Film Exhibitions, Joshua Siegel, April 11–12, 2003, Wheeler Winston Dixon, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Wheeler Winston Dixon ... has also been making experimental films of his own for the past three decades. ...”
  3. ^ Rutgers University Press, November 6, 2015, Black and White Cinema: A Short History, By Wheeler Winston Dixon, page xv, Acknowledgments, Retrieved May 29, 2016
  4. ^ Bill Goodykoontz, May 13, 2013, USA Today, Reloading with reboots, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...A reboot is when a franchise has collapsed completely...”
  5. ^ a b c Bill Goodykoontz, December 23, 2012, USA Today, Defining Tarantino, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = "...long, involved chunks of onanistic, meaningless dialogue..."
  6. ^ a b Susan Wloszczyna, April 2, 2010, USA TODAY, How to watch your dragons: 10 fire-breathing beasts on DVD, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924). ... Highly recommended by Wheeler Winston Dixon, editor of Quarterly Review of Film and Video,....”
  7. ^ a b The New York Times, 1991, review, Women Who Made the Movies (1991), Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, “...This documentary by filmmakers Gwendolyn Foster and Wheeler Dixon pays homage to women directors and filmmakers throughout the history of cinema...”
  8. ^ a b c Sarah McBride of Reuters, January 11, 2013, Chicago Tribune, In spite of violent national tragedies, horror films endure, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Texas Chainsaw 3D ... said Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of "A History of Horror"...”
  9. ^ Gwendolyn Audrey Foster (2003). "Community, Loss, and Regeneration: An Interview with Wheeler Winston Dixon". Senses of Cinema (27). 
  10. ^ Note: featured a Fluxus group-performance piece and the poetry of Gerard Malanga
  11. ^ Note: about a fictional Caroline recuperating from a hangover
  12. ^ Note: an examination of the American lifestyle recut entirely from existing television advertisements
  13. ^ Note: a rigorous, tender portrait of an elderly woman who holds dinner-party guests in thrall to her difficult family life.
  14. ^ Martin A. David (book reviewer), August 3, 2010, New York Journal of Books, A History of Horror, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...The result is not so much a book as a compiled, and quite extensive, laundry list of, as the title promises, a history of horror ...”
  15. ^ Nick Clark, 20 February 2012, The Independent (UK), Simon Oakes: 'It's a welcome return. We've managed to fire people's imaginations', Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Wheeler Winston Dixon ... said: "Hammer broke into prominence by being a cutting-edge studio....”
  16. ^ Ben Sachs, April 9, 2013, Chicago Reader, Tomorrow at the Portage, see one of the few female-directed Hollywood films of the 1950s, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = ...The Bigamist (1953) ...Film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon ... in an informative essay he wrote...
  17. ^ a b c Cameron Mount, October 5, 2012, The Daily Nebraskan, UNL professor Wheeler Winston Dixon unearths realities of pre-1950s Hollywood contracts, corporate egos in new book, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Wheeler Winston Dixon, ... new book, “Death of the Moguls: The End of Classical Hollywood,”..”
  18. ^ a b c d Hosted by Mark Lynch, July 31, 2013, WICN.ORG, Wheeler Winston Dixon: STREAMING, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Tonight on Inquiry we welcome back WHEELER WINSTON DIXON....”
  19. ^ Rebecca Keegan, September 25, 2011, Los Angeles Times, 3-D makeover coming to aging Hollywood blockbusters, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Converting a film to 3-D "undercuts the quality of the film and the verisimilitude of the film," said Wheeler Winston Dixon,...”
  20. ^ Stephanie Steinberg, August 2, 2012, The Boston Globe, Time to come clean as soon as possible: Crisis management requires fast action in era of social media, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...to slow the endless speculation about the circumstances and reasons behind the breakup, says Wheeler Winston Dixon,...”
  21. ^ Daniel Miller, April 9, 2013, Los Angeles Times, What the Michael Lynton contract renewal means for Sony, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Wheeler Winston Dixon ... said that Lynton's relatively long run atop a studio is a testament to....”
  22. ^ Daniel Miller, July 08, 2013, Los Angeles Times, Miramax chairman's exit adds another hurdle for firm's turnaround, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...The problem that is going on right now with Miramax ... said Wheeler Winston Dixon,....”
  23. ^ Jessica Guynn and Dawn C. Chmielewski, May 25, 2013, Los Angeles Times, The Internship, now starring ... Google, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Wheeler Winston Dixon, ... called "The Internship" an "epic piece of branding" for Google...”
  24. ^ Daniel Miller, March 13, 2013, Los Angeles Times, Participant Media hopes more filmgoers will get its messages, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...Wheeler Winston Dixon, ... said social action campaigns for films such as "Snitch" are essentially marketing tools..”
  25. ^ Ethan Gilsdorf, May 9, 2010, The Boston Globe, Merry men: Russell Crowe is the latest to inhabit the evolving role of Robin Hood, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “..“The Adventures of Robin Hood’’ became “the most eye-popping and action-packed version of the legend,’’ according to Wheeler Winston Dixon...”
  26. ^ Bill Keveney, Jan. 23, 2010, USA Today, Conan vs. Jay vs. David vs. Jimmy, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = “...To handicap the weeknight competitors, we canvassed interested industry observers, including: ... Wheeler Winston Dixon. ”
  27. ^ Meg James, Ryan Faughnder, December 13, 2014, Los Angeles Times, Fallout from Sony hack may alter how Hollywood conducts business, Retrieved December 14, 2014
  28. ^ Manohla Dargis, December 9, 2015, New York Times, The Best Movies of 2015, Retrieved December 27, 2015
  29. ^ Public Catalog -- Mysteries from the Bible
  30. ^ Public Catalog -- UFO: Top Secret
  31. ^ Public Catalog -- Attack from Outer Space
  32. ^ Public Catalog -- World of Mystery

External links[edit]