It’s World Book Day! (Checking Out My Cinematic Bookshelf)

Happy World Book Day everyone!

In celebration, let’s take a moment to highlight some new additions on this cinephile’s bookshelf as well as some upcoming titles that may be of interest to any lover of the movies.

America’s Film Legacy, 2009-2010: A Viewer’s Guide to the 50 Landmark Movies Added To The National Film Registry in 97814411586972009-10 (2012), by Daniel Egan.

[Editorial Review from Leonard Maltin] … This slender paperback covers the fifty newest films to join their ranks during the past two years, and like the overall roster, they truly run the gamut in terms of age, genre, and popularity. Eagan’s clear-eyed essays place each film into proper context within the larger picture of American cinema that the Registry seeks to represent, whether dealing with the 1906 actuality short A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire, Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow, or Sally Cruikshank’s nutty animated cartoon Quasi at the Quackadero.”

ILC’s Take: Given to me as a gift, I find this to be a great resource to have in my cinematic library.

 

An Empire of Their Own: An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (1989), by Neal Gabler

51WBbCixkiL._SS500_[Editorial Review from Library Journal] Gabler has written a thoroughly researched history of the early Hollywood film industry and the men who ran it. Coming from similar humble Eastern European and Jewish backgrounds, Fox, Laemmle, Meyer, Zukor, and the Warner brothers shared an overwhelming desire to achieve wealth and status in their new country. Finding barriers to success through traditional means, they gravitated to the fledging film industry where they “could simply create a new country an empire of their own, so to speak one where they would not only be admitted, but would govern as well.” Gabler documents the consequences of their quest and the tragic results that followed.

ILC’s Take: I only THOUGHT I knew the history of the foundation of Hollywood. This book went into exhaustive and personal detail about what motivated these early moguls to create the dream factory that entertains us and influences us to this very day. A must read.

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Coming Soon ….(or Just Released)

Film Criticism, the Cold War, and the Blacklist: Reading the Hollywood Reds by Jeff Smith (April 2014)
The UC Press synopsis is quite descriptive so there is no need for me to rephrase. But given the title, it seems to be an intriguing subject that intersects the worlds of Hollywood and politics. I am sure that we will see the worlds are much closer than we think.

Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins by Noah Isenberg (January 2014)
Chosen as a must read recently by TCM, Isenberg examines the life and work of the director best known for the noir classic Detour.

 

What have you read lately? Please share 🙂

Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco

Several years back, I reflected on a trip to San Francisco with an On Location feature. In this piece, I briefly mentioned the subject of this post, the book Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco written by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal (published in 2002). Now, after having just returned from the Bay Area, I decided to revisit this book in greater detail.

Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge (Location from Vertigo [1958]) – San Francisco, CA

It is apparent from the very beginning that this is not just some book without any ties to its principal subject. With a foreword written Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell. Now I am not one who usually combs over the foreword of a book, but this one is well worth the extra few minutes to whet your appetite for what awaits in the subsequent pages.

This personal touch assures the reader that the family has given authors their blessings with the project. To enhance this personal quality, Ms. Hitchcock O’Connell has shared some of her personal collection of family photos. It provides a truly unique insight.

On the set of “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) – Santa Rosa, CA

Part tour guide book, part on-location set map and part movie outline and summary, this book closely examines the three Hitchcock features closest associated with The Master of Suspense: Shadow of a DoubtVertigo, and The Birds. As a bonus, there is also a section in the book that looks at the role the Bay Area has (even if on its periphery) in some of Hitch’s other works, such as Psycho, Suspicion and Rebecca (see below).

 

What I Learned

While I kind of knew about the Shadow of a Doubt-Hitchcock connection with the San Fran area, what I did not know is that this appreciation for the region predates this film and went back a couple of years to his first film shot in the United States, Rebecca. According to the book, he formed a close friendship with star Joan Fontaine’s parents (who lived in Saratoga, California). In fact, some of the exterior shots used in Rebecca doubled for Monte Carlo and the Cornwall in England, respectively.

Bodega Bay Church, as seen in “The Birds” (1963)

On the Down Side …

If there is one complaint I would lodge against this book is that none of the fantastic photos are in color! Black and white is fine for films shot as such, for the films such as The Birds and Vertigo I would have liked to see the bold, rich colors in photographic form.

My last gripe has nothing to do with the book at all but rather with my sadness that many of the locations that featured in the book no longer exist (like the famous Ernie’s restaurant).

 

Overall this is a fun interesting book that I gladly recommend for people who to visit real movie locations. It is fascinating.

The iluvcinema Reading List

I would never declare myself an avid reader. But I do make a deliberate effort to read several books in a given calendar year. In fact, I end up at various stages of a collection of books which are in varying stages of completion. As always, they will get read – it is just a matter of WHEN. The answer is always EVENTUALLY.

My current “book du jour” is Stephen Fry’s autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, which I started this morning on my way into the office.

As I make my way through this and a few other titles over the next couple of months, waiting, in a pile on my desk, in my Amazon.com wish list and sundry other forms, is a collection of cinematically-oriented texts whose pages are ready to unfurled. Here is a sampling of that collection:

      

With any luck, throughout the remaining 8 months of the year, I will be updating iluvcinema readers as to what I think about these and any other titles I come across.

In the meantime, now it’s your turn, what are some of your favorite movie-related books? They can be fiction or non-fiction.

 

What I’ve Been Reading

This Thursday, I decided to change things up a bit and discuss my most recent accomplishment: FINALLY completing a book.

Over the past week, the voice in my head has been that of esteemed British film critic Mark Kermode.

As any regular listener to the program he and Simon Mayo co-present on BBC’s Radio 5 knows, Mark is a man of very marked opinions. For those you who are not familiar with The Good Doctor, I refer you to his BBC Blog and his and Simon Mayo’s Radio Show website, where you can subscribe to and download their weekly podcasts.

In his most recent book, The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies?, he has the opportunity to go on a series of no-holds-barred rants about what he feels is wrong in behind the scenes of today’s Hollywood films. In his book he waxes poetic about:

  • The advent of digital projection and the disappearing projectionist;
  • Why 3D is NOT here to stay;
  • The daftness of modern blockbusters, and most crucially,
  • Exactly what are film critics for?

Although I have heard many of these arguments, in the full expanse of the written word, Kermode’s stories take on another dimension. He backs up many of his arguments with a combination of hilarious, unbelievable personal anecdotes and some well-researched data. And you may not totally agree with his positions, but he gets props in my book for calling out some of the unspoken things many of us are probably are wondering. The one that sticks out in my head is: If blockbusters make money no matter what (including poor critical response), why make crappy ones? It is the classic Transformers vs. Inception argument.

This is Dr. K.’s second book; his first book It’s Only a Movie is also on my bookshelf and yet to be read. I promise to get to it … eventually.


For my readers in the UK, stay tuned for Kermode’s announcement of the annual Kermode Awards; for the uninitiated, these are posited as an “alternative Academy Award.” Previous winners of the award include Andy Serkis, Andrew Garfield, Christopher Nolan, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Cronenberg and this guy.

A Fantastically Breezy Read

Everyone loves a freebie or a little swag. At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, I picked up a few things; among them was a copy of City Secrets Movies: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Cinema’s Hidden Gems. After sitting on my bookshelf for several months, this morning I decided to throw it in my bag and read it during my morning commute into NYC. Am I glad I made that decision! The editor of the City Secrets series of books (which are primarily travel books) decided to create a special guide to satisfy his quest for what movie to rent. He has gathered a collection of actors, directors, writers, academics, etc. to reveal to him (and us) some of their favorite films both big and small. So far I am only in the B’s of the A-Z guide and it is so much fun! I even enjoy reading about those movies I have already seen (Americanization of Emily stands out early on).

This book is a MUST-HAVE for folks, like me who are will to broaden their cinematic horizons. This is equally relevant as, last week, I declared a “Call to Action” for my readers to participate in a little blogging project I am working on (see previous post). Think of this recommendation as my gift to you in thanks for your recommendations!