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Dixon was born in 1950 in New Brunswick, a city in New Jersey halfway between New York City and Philadelphia. He grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey and graduated from Highland Park High School in 1968. 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 1982.
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. In 1995, in France, he made a film entitled Squatters. In 2003, the Museum of Modern Art acquired all of his experimental films, including the following:
His films have also been screened at the British Film Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Jewish Museum, The San Francisco Cinématheque, Arts Lab, The Collective for Living Cinema, and The Kitchen Center for Experimental Art. In March and April 2018, along with Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, the BWA Contemporary Art Gallery in Katowice, Poland, presented a month long retrospective of Foster and Dixon's new video work. In May 2018, he presented a screening of his videos, along with the work of Gwendolyn Audrey Foster and Bill Domonkos at The Museum of Human Achievement in Austin, Texas. In the summer of 2018, he had a one person show at Filmhuis Cavia in Amsterdam, and his "Catastrophe Series" of ten videos were screened as part of a group show at Studio 44 Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden. In the fall of 2018, he had a one person show at La Lumière Collective in Montreal, Canada. In December 2018, he had a one person show at Studio 44 in Stockholm, and a one person show at the OT301 Gallery in Amsterdam. In January 2019, his complete video work was collected in the UCLA Film and Television Archive in Los Angeles. On June 23, 2019, he had an invited one person screening of his new digital video work at the Los Angeles Filmforum at the Spielberg Theater.
Scholarship and film criticism
Dixon writes extensively. He has published in Senses of Cinema, 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. Dixon was quoted commenting on horror films, women directors, Hollywood film moguls, new technologies for delivering movies such as streaming and 3-D, and public relations of movie stars and directors. He has been quoted about the film business, such as discussing firms such as Miramax. His views have been quoted about particular movies. In addition, he has talked about late night television shows. 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". He predicts that film will cease to exist, since all movies will be digitally delivered to theaters. 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.
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."
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." 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."
In 2020, the New York Times interviewed Dixon on the new wave of horror films from Universal Studios, and why the more recent "Dark Universe" films were unsuccessful. Dixon noted that "there will be films about Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, long after we're gone. They'll still be mining these things. But the ones that will be effective will be made by people who are sincerely invested in the material and treat these creatures with deadly seriousness."
In 2016, Dixon returned to experimental cinema working in HD video, with such films as An American Dream, Still Life, and Closed Circuit. From 2010 to 2020, he coordinated film studies at the University of Nebraska.
^ abcdefgMuseum 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. ..."
^Rutgers University Press, November 6, 2015, Black and White Cinema: A Short History, By Wheeler Winston Dixon, page xv, Acknowledgments, Retrieved May 29, 2016
^Bill Goodykoontz, May 13, 2013, USA Today, Reloading with reboots, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = "...A reboot is when a franchise has collapsed completely..."
^ abcBill Goodykoontz, December 23, 2012, USA Today, Defining Tarantino, Accessed Aug. 25, 2013, Quote = "...long, involved chunks of onanistic, meaningless dialogue..."
^ abThe 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..."
^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 ..."
^ abcdHosted 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..."
^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."
^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."
^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. "