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Clint M

Recommended Books on Film (Any Topic?)

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Lately, I've been wanting to read more about films, from filmmaking to history to techincal items to criticism, and relating to Christianity. I'd like some recommendations from this board on what books are essential in any topic of films.

Here's what I have in my current collection (Updated 9/1):

My First Movie: 20 Celebrated Directors Talk about Their First Film Edited by Stephen Lowenstein

How to Read a Film by James Monaco (3rd Edition) 45stars.gif

Reel Spirituality by Robert K. Johnston 40stars.gif

A Year at the Movies by Kevin Murphy 35stars.gif

I Hated, HATED this Movie by Roger Ebert 40stars.gif

Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven D. Katz

From Word to Image: Storyboarding and the Filmmaking Process by Marcie Begleiter

How Movies Helped Saved My Soul by Gareth Higgins 25stars.gif

Edited by Clint M

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Always talked about is Paul Schrader's "Transcendant in Film" or something like that - not quite managed to read it yet tho'

Matt

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Guest Russell Lucas

Ebert's collection of Great Movies essays is now collected in paperback. It's a great book, and every one of the essays I've read from it has increased my appreciation for the film involved.

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I agree with Russell about the Ebert collection - I've read and reread it many times. All those articles, plus another eighty or so, are also available for free online (click here), but it's nice to have them in a book. Can't wait for Volume Two!

Over on the Kevin Smith thread I also recommended Watching Movies: The Biggest Names In Cinema Talk About the Films That Matter Most, in which he interviews directors and actors about their favourite films. Wonderful stuff. (Turns out those pieces - plus a few others! - are also available online at the NY Times site. Thanks, PTC! You need to register as a member, but don't worry about that: I did it years ago and have never gotten a bit of SPAM as a result, far as I can tell.)

I also mentioned Michael Sragow's Produced And Abandoned: The Best Films You've Never Seen. The editor solicited reviews from fellow members of the National Society of Film Critics, of films that they had championed when popular or critical opinion was negative. I love the enthusiasm, and I love finding out about movies I might not otherwise know about.

As far as books with a spiritual angle, my favourite is Robert Jewett's Saint Paul Returns To The Movies: Triumph Over Shame. His observations about most of the films are far more astute than I find in many movie books from a Christian perspective - indeed, I feel he's far stronger in this volume than in its predecessor, Saint Paul Goes To The Movies. And the theology in "Triumph Over Shame" I found extremely fresh and invigorating - while still being orthodox! Also accessible for us non-theologians.

Reel Spirituality by Robert K. Johnston is also strong. He summarizes the various ways that Christians have interacted with film, and compares those responses to Heibuhr's models for interaction with culture in general. Valuable stuff, though I'm more interested in what he has to say about specific films, for which he has a good eye. How Movies Helped Save My Soul by Gareth Higgins is a current book, with very lively writing. I could see someone being put off by the author's audacious, opinionated, casual style, but I like his brashness, and he sure does love the movies! Writes about a lot of flicks that don't get covered by other Christian film books. I also appreciate his perspective: he's very involved in reconciliation work in Northern Ireland, and that passion comes through more and more as you read further in the book.

I also enjoy a dose of Pauline Kael every now and then. She's dazzlingly brilliant, kind of an intellectual bully, and she's scornful of films that are positive about Christian faith. But wow - can that woman write!

Edited by Ron

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I agree with Russell about the Ebert collection - I've read and reread it many times.  All those articles, plus another eighty or so, are also available for free online (click here), but it's nice to have them in a book.  Can't wait for Volume Two!

I've read almost every article in that series a few times. I was surprised by a couple of films (Planes, Trains and Automobiles - very underrated comedy) he listed.

Over on the Kevin Smith thread I also recommended Watching Movies: The Biggest Names In Cinema Talk About the Films That Matter Most, in which he interviews directors and actors about their favourite films.  Wonderful stuff.  (Turns out those pieces - plus a few others! - are also available online at the   NY Times site.  Thanks, PTC!  You need to register as a member, but don't worry about that: I did it years ago and have never gotten a bit of SPAM as a result, far as I can tell.)

Checked it out of a library and read most of it last summer. I may try to finish it this summer (too much to read and do for school this semester).

I also mentioned Michael Sragow's Produced And Abandoned: The Best Films You've Never Seen.  The editor solicited reviews from fellow members of the National Society of Film Critics, of films that they had championed when popular or critical opinion was negative.  I love the enthusiasm, and I love finding out about movies I might not otherwise know about.

Might have to check that one out.

As far as books with a spiritual angle, my favourite is Robert Jewett's Saint Paul Returns To The Movies: Triumph Over Shame.  His observations about most of the films are far more astute than I find in many movie books from a Christian perspective - indeed, I feel he's far stronger in this volume than in its predecessor, Saint Paul Goes To The Movies.  And the theology in \"Triumph Over Shame\" I found extremely fresh and invigorating - while still being orthodox!  Also accessible for us non-theologians.

I've seen it at school... may have to pick it up when funds become avaliable (we had a HUGE book sale here at school and I spent some 80 bucks on books)

How Movies Helped Save My Soul by Gareth Higgins is a very current book, with very lively writing.  I could see someone being put off by the author's audacious, opinionated, casual style, but I like his brashness, and he sure does love the movies!  Writes about a lot of flicks that don't get covered by other Christian film books.  I also appreciate his perspective: he's very involved in reconciliation work in Northern Ireland, and that passion comes through more and more as you read further in the book.

I'm planning on reading that this summer too.

I also enjoy a dose of Pauline Kael every now and then.  She's dazzlingly brilliant, kind of an intellectual bully, and she's scornful of films that are positive about Christian faith.  But wow - can that woman write!

Ditto! :wink:

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One of my favorite behind the scenes books....

user posted image

Also, if you can find it, Stephen Farber's Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego and the Twilight Zone Case is a terrific examination of the tragedy that claimed the lives of Vic Morrow and two children, and how the prosecuting attorneys failed to bring justice to those most culpable.

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I find the British Film Institute's Modern Classics series to be pretty interesting. (Though the quality varies from volume to volume.) I really enjoyed their volume on _Eyes Wide Shut_ (Amazon link below).

It's a really great series. Both the 'Modern' and the 'Classic' sides. The Titanic one was particularly perceptive, and I can't recommend Salman Rushdie's take on The Wizard of Oz enough as it's as good an introduction to both that film and Rushdie himself as you'd ever need.

Following on from the Brazil book, I'd add Paul Shannon's exhaustive "Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner" which, even if you're not a follower of the film itself, has so much detail on every area in the process of conceiving, designing, making and releasing a major film that you'd be in good stead to understanding even the most mundane of definitions for optical effects!!

Phil.

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There's a follow-up, or at least a kind of companion, to Produced and Abandoned called Foreign Affairs with a host of excellent American critics contributing fine brief essays on foreign language films. I think it came out in the early nineties (I picked it up second hand a couple of years ago) and thought it was the best guide to movies I'd ever bought. I like David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film (it's incredibly opinionated but reminds me of what Martin Amis wrote about Dr. Johnson, you don't always agree with his opinion but you do know it IS his opinion and that he's worked it out for himself.) The Joseph McBride biog of John Ford is the best film biog I've read. And the A List, which is another compendium of short essays by American critics and is published by Da Capo Press is good. Any Pauline Kael is well worth leafing through as well, same as Thomson, she's often wrong but entertainingly so. By the way, a name I always hear mentioned is Manny Farber. Worth getting?

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As for film history, try the following:

Thomas Schatz: The Genius of the System

Henry Jenkins: What Made Pistachio Nuts: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic

The "History of American Film" series (in ten parts) is excellent, although huuuuuuuuuuuuge and pricey. Well worth checking at the library though.

film theory:

Richard Dyer: Stars

Andre Bazin: What Is Cinema

They're a good starting point. Don't want to inundate you just yet...

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There's a follow-up, or at least a kind of companion, to Produced and Abandoned called Foreign Affairs with a host of excellent American critics contributing fine brief essays on foreign language films. ...

Oh YEAH! Thanks for the tip.

Tracking that down, I find another intriguing-looking title from the National Society of Film Critics;

LOVE AND HISSES: THE HOTTEST MOVIE CONTROVERSIES

EDITED BY PETER RAINER

Love and Hisses pits the nation's leading critics against each other as they take opposing sides on the most hotly debated movie controversies.

"A remarkably stimulating book, high in entertainment."

Backstage/Shoot

"Loves and Hisses will delight those who have found themselves in disagreement with a critic about a particular controversial film."

Los Angeles Daily News

560 Pages

Paper $16.95

. . . . . . . . . .

Edited by Ron

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That's a great series of books, and I wish there had been some more recent collections.

I never bought Produced and Abandoned, which I've paged through at the library, but I own three others in this series: The aforementioned Love and Hisses: The National Society of Film Critics Sound Off on the Hottest Movie Controversies, but also Flesh and Blood: The National Society of Film Critics on Sex, Violence, and Censorship, and They Went Thataway--Redefining Film Genres: A National Society of Film Critics Video Guide. They were published in 1992, 1195, and 1994, respectively, so if you're craving provocative reviews of films released in the last 10 years, these aren't the best starting point. However, if you're in your 30s, as I am, these films, and the controversies surrounding them, will be very familiar to you, and may be worth revisiting.

If anyone wants to borrow my copies, drop me a PM. The two smaller volumes are each about 400 pages; the larger Love and Hisses runs to 550 pages. I have no idea what it would cost to mail off my copies, but if you're willing to incur the fee, I'm willing and able to loan out these volumes.

Edited by Christian

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An ad in the fall book issue of Christian Century features pair of books by Robert K. Johnston (one a collaboration). Useless Beauty a look at Ecclesiastes through film, and Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith (by Catherine M. Barsotti and Johnston). Ad notes that Finding God in the Movies includes About Schmidt, Billy Elliot, Planet of the Apes, and The Truman Show.

Useless Beauty not out until Nov. 1, but I think it's going near the top of my Christmas list.

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Well, I'm still on the "poser" level as a film fan, but a couple books I've found to be intriguing are Truffaut's The Films of My Life and Walter Murch's short book on editing, In the Blink of an Eye. No one recommends Hitchcock-Truffaut? I have the most recent edition but haven't started reading it yet.

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An ad in the fall book issue of Christian Century features pair of books by Robert K. Johnston (one a collaboration).
Edited by Ron

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An ad in the fall book issue of Christian Century features pair of books by Robert K. Johnston (one a collaboration).  Useless Beauty a look at Ecclesiastes through film, and Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith (by Catherine M. Barsotti and Johnston).  Ad notes that Finding God in the Movies includes About Schmidt, Billy Elliot, Planet of the Apes, and The Truman Show.

Useless Beauty not out until Nov. 1, but I think it's going near the top of my Christmas list.

I saw that book today at school. I took a quick glance through it, and it looks solid. There's an entire chapter devoted to Alexander Payne movies; useful if you plan on seeing Sideways.

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I just picked up Patrick McGilligan's Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (for a fan-freaking-tastic price!)

Has anyone read it yet? How well done is it? I'm going to start on it when I'm finished with my finals next week.

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I just picked up Patrick McGilligan's Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (for a fan-freaking-tastic price!)

Has anyone read it yet?  How well done is it? I'm going to start on it when I'm finished with my finals next week.

I haven't read this one, but another good book on Hitchcock is Donald Spoto's The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.

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A few years back I read a book about watching movies. All I remember is that it was written by a Hollywood insider (a producer?), and the fact he divided films into three different aspects. One of those categories had the word voyeur in it. The book also focused on mainstream (versus art) films. Anyone know which book I'm talking about?

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I suspect the three aspects are Voyerism, Vicarious and Visceral. But I don't know the book.

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