9. Mark Osteen, "Nightmare Alley: Film Noir and the American Dream" (JHU Press)

Loyola University English professor Osteen has a blast rethinking noir as an expressionistic failure to achieve the life and liberty that pursuing happiness promised. Osteen emphasizes how the genre emerged sandwiched between New Deal populism and Cold War fear, a conflict distilled into the blacks, whites, and shades of gray on screen. Osteen's writing at times relies on academic jargon, but when he zeros in on a good idea, such as the chapter about cars as American symbol of social mobility and transgressive space, he makes it sing. (BM)
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