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Dr James MacDowell

Associate Professor in Film & Television Studies

Departmental Examinations Secretary

Email: James dot MacDowell at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room A0.17, Millburn House

Tel: +44 2476 573041


James MacDowell holds an MA and PhD in Film Studies from the University of Warwick. Before assuming his post at Warwick he taught film studies at the Universities of Birmingham, Royal Holloway, and Reading. James is a member of the editorial board of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, makes audiovisual essays for his YouTube channel The Lesser Feat, and tweets here.

Research interests

My research is primarily concerned with exploring the aesthetic strategies of popular screen art, with a particular focus on the generic conventions, narrative strategies, and stylistic properties of studio-era Hollywood, American independent cinema, and (most recently) YouTube. My work is influenced by philosophical aesthetics, and by critical traditions dedicated to exploring the interdependence of style and meaning. I have written books about the nature of irony in film, the Hollywood 'happy ending', as well as numerous articles about contemporary 'quirky' indie filmmaking, and cult movies valued for being 'so bad they're good'. Current research interests include the role of intention in the interpretation of film, and the aesthetics of YouTube.

Selected publications


  • Irony in Film (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
  • Happy Endings in Hollywood Cinema: Cliché, Convention and the Final Couple (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013) [Read the introduction here.]

Audiovisual essays


  • 'Romance, Narrative, and the Sense of a Happy Ending in the Before Series', in Philosophers on Film: The Before Trilogy, eds. Hans Maes & Katrien Schaubroeck (London: Routledge; forthcoming 2021).
  • 'Is The Room Worse Than Vertigo? The Aesthetic Philosophy of "So Bad it's Good"', in The Room: Deconstructing the Weird, Wonderful World of the Worst Movie Ever Made, ed. Adam Rosen (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; forthcoming 2021)
  • 'Comedy and Melodrama from Sunrise to Midnight: Genre and Gender in Linklater’s Before Series', in After “Happily Ever After”: Romantic Comedy in the Post-Romantic Age, ed. Maria San Filippo (Detroit: Wayne State University Press; forthcoming 2021).
  • 'Introduction: "So Bad it's Good": Aesthetics, Reception, and Beyond', Continuum, 33:6 (2019), 643-52.
  • ‘YouTube Activism or YouTube Art?’, In Media Res (January 7, 2019), Dossier: 'Online Influencers'.
  • ‘Interpretation, Irony and “Surface Meanings” in Film’, Film-Philosophy 22.2 (2018), 261-80.
  • ‘To Be in the Moment: On (Almost) Not Noticing Time Passing in Before Sunrise’, in The Long Take: Critical Approaches, eds. John Gibbs and Douglas Pye (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017), 147-61.
  • ‘The Metamodern, the Quirky and Film Criticism’, in Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect, and Depth after Postmodernism, eds. Robin van den Akker, Alison Gibbons & Timotheus Vermeulen (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 25-40.
  • 'Quirky Culture: Tone, Sensibility, and Structure of Feeling', in A Companion to American Indie Film, ed. Geoff King (London: Blackwell, 2016), 83-105.
  • 'Buffalo '66: The Radical Conventionality of an Indie Happy Ending', in US Independent Filmmaking After 1989: Possible Films, eds. Claire Perkins and Constantine Verevis (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 35-44.
  • ‘The Andersonian, the Quirky, and “Innocence”’, in The Films of Wes Anderson: Critical Essays on an Indiewood Icon, ed. Peter Kunze (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 153–169.
  • ‘The Aesthetics of “So Bad it’s Good”: Value, Intention, and The Room(Co-authored with Dr. James Zborowski), Intensities, Autumn/Winter 2014, pp. 1-30.
  • ‘Quirky: Buzzword or Sensibility?’, in American Independent Cinema: Indie, Indiewood and Beyond, eds. Geoff King, Claire Molloy & Yannis Tzioumakis (New York: Routledge, 2013), 53–64.
  • ‘Wes Anderson, Tone, and the Quirky Sensibility’, The New Review of Film & Television Studies, 10.1 (2012): pp. 1–22.
  • Britton on Film: The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton’, CineAction, no.84 (2011): pp. 44–49.
  • ‘Notes on Quirky’, Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, Issue 1 (2010), pp. 1-16.
  • ‘What we Don’t See and What we Think it Means: Ellipsis and Occlusion in Rear Window, The Hitchcock Annual, Vol. 16 (2010), pp. 77–101.
  • Does the Hollywood Happy Ending Exist?’, in Happy Endings and Films, eds. Armelle Parey, Dominique Spière & Isabelle Roblin (Paris: Michel Houdiard, 2010), pp. 15–27.

Teaching and supervision

I teach subjects covering classical and contemporary Hollywood cinema, ‘indie’ cinema, and - most pervasively - questions of film style and aesthetics.

In 2017-18 I am teaching the core undergraduate 1st-year module ‘Film Criticism’, the 3rd-year core module 'Film Aesthetics', and the MA option 'Film Criticism, Film Style'.

I am interested in supervising postgraduate projects related to my research interests - including irony in film, intention and interpretation, Hollywood/American independent cinema, 'badfilm', YouTube, and more broadly candidates who wish to pursue the detailed investigation of audiovisual style and meaning, and/or apply traditional questions in the philosophy of aesthetics to film and screen media.

National roles and professional associations

I am a member of BAFTSS (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies) and SCMS (Society of Cinema and Media Studies).