FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 21, 2011
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
Roberts shares vast movie knowledge in encyclopedia
COLUMBUS, Miss. – During his lifetime, Van Roberts has seen approximately 5,000 movies and professionally reviewed about 1,500. So, it should come as no surprise that the associate professor of communication at Mississippi University for Women was asked to share his abundant knowledge in an encyclopedia about movies.
Dr. Roberts has several entries in “Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia,” a referenced text focused on the relationship between American society and movies and filmmaking in the United States from the late 19th centuryhroughout the present.
About three years ago, he was contracted to write entries for titles such as “The Big Heat,” “Dirty Harry,” “The Great Escape” and others. His targeted word count per entry was 750 to 1,200 with a total of 22,000 words assigned.
“I tried to distill cultural significance…what does that film reflect about its day and age,” he said.
In the description about “Dirty Harry,” which depicts a San Francisco cop on a crusade against a serial killer, Roberts wrote, “`Dirty Harry’ not only redefined police procedural thrillers as political discourses for decades to come, but it also captured the ambivalent feelings that law enforcement held about the Miranda legislation.”
Roberts learned about the encyclopedia project through Alan Marcus, head of the history department of Mississippi State University, who was by contacted by Philip C. DiMare, general editor for the book.
“I sent him (DiMare) a letter showing my enthusiasm for the project and gave him a link to The Internet Movie Database,” Roberts said. “He read those and based on that decided to take a chance on me.”
“I am gratified to be published in a hard cover encyclopedia that reflects my knowledge of film history. It feels like I have begun to pay my dues,” he added.
In his acknowledgments, DiMare said, “…Van was there from the very beginning, working tirelessly on his entries and—an editor’s dream—making every deadline. His enthusiasm, good nature and grace are truly unique, and he has taught me a good deal about what it means to be a better colleague and person.”
Roberts, who has taught at MUW since 1988, has 25 years of experience in radio, television and film broadcast announcing, editing, production and directing.
Previously, Roberts wrote his master of arts thesis about westerns, The Western Films of John Sturges, where he analyzed the director’s consistent themes. Roberts wrote his Ph.D. dissertation about censorship in Hollywood movies made during World War II and scrutinized the output of Warner Brothers during the years 1942 to 1945.
“Writing about movies comes naturally to me,” Roberts said with a shrug. “I’ll watch virtually anything and have.” Currently Roberts writes a weekly column about film criticism in the Tuscaloosa-based Planet Weekly as well as the Golden Triangle based publication The Packet.
Roberts earned his doctorate and bachelors degrees from MSU and master’s from the University of Mississippi.