A book in interview snippets from some directors, producers and writers for whom the video store was one of his/her (welARC for review from NetGalley.
A book in interview snippets from some directors, producers and writers for whom the video store was one of his/her (well, only one or two hers, which was disappointing) primary influences. The usual suspects are here (Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, who always manages to elevate (OK, maybe "elevate" is the wrong word) with his humor) as well as some unexpected voices (I loved hearing from Morgan Spurlock - since he's from small-town West Virginia I have a feeling his video store experience was much more akin to my own, versus some of the directors who had access to video stores which likely had a wider range of choices).
I also loved Nicole Holofcener's repeated comparisons to video stores and bookstores, "It's similar to a bookstore. When I go into a bookstore, I am so happy to be in there and to look at the spines of the books and to go around that corner and see what author will be there. And just to see what they've got. And there was the tactile nature of the whole experience." Then later, when talking about the demise of the video store and the independent bookstores, "your bar just gets lower and lower. I was just at a Barnes and Noble, and I was so happy it was still there. Barnes and Noble had been the enemy. And so was Blockbuster. I really miss cruising the aisles and choosing movies that way."
As do many of us who grew up during that era. "Even the more conventional video store would have an indie section and you could find that stuff and you could connect it to people in the underground world." (Greg Mottola). This was true of my little independents in my small town in Virginia and it's the way (really the only way) I learned about and came to love independent film.....and Holofcener is correct - it was through browsing the aisles, by spending time reading the boxes, by looking at the staff choices and ignoring the copies of the movies that had actually shown in my three-screen town.
The book also covers the business model, "there was so much money flooding the marketplace from the home video business, it meant that a lot of independent films got made that would not have gotten made otherwise....there was financing available." (Ira Deutchman) - recouping video profits was easy pre-Blockbuster, therefore it was an easy choice for a studio or even a video maker to green light a film at one to 1.5 million dollars, knowing that it would be made back on video even if there was little to no theatrical run (in fact Reservoir Dogs just barely made the bar to appear in theatres).
No more, though. Once Blockbuster came on the scene they were able to negotiate cheap prices for the videos which no longer allowed for the same profit, so studios lost incentive and the public lost the sometimes great independent video stores (I was unaware of the power of Kim's in the NYC film scene).
What's next? Who knows. This short volume will likely appeal to filmmakers and big film buffs - most of the information has appeared elsewhere, but the interview format makes this a quick, interesting read for those interested in the topic.
For some reason I thought this might be an imaginative "then what happened" fictional look at some of our favorite shows,ARC for review from NetGalley
For some reason I thought this might be an imaginative "then what happened" fictional look at some of our favorite shows, but it's just a catalog of shows that had sequels, and only up through 1992 - it says its an updated edition, but only the index is updated after 1992. Only for television fiends. ...more
I've waited far too long to review this book so I'm really relying on my notes. Macks has quite the resume from years with Jay Leno onARC for review.
I've waited far too long to review this book so I'm really relying on my notes. Macks has quite the resume from years with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show (actually he was there the entire time Jay was the host, first show to last) to work on the Oscars, Tonys, etc. He dishes a little (the Hathaway/Franco Oscar hosting fiasco - totally Franco's fault) and has some interesting thoughts on whether late night hosts really impact politics (yes, especially Jon Stewart) and is it ever "too soon" for certain humor or are jokes on certain subjects totally off limits (probably not, in that there are always people ready and willing to be butt-hurt about something).
He also covers the basics of late-night history (created by Steve Allen on The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson the undisputed king. However, he spends a great deal of the book making his case for why Jay is second only to Carson, which is fine, but obviously comes across as a bit biased considering that he worked for Leno throughout his Tonight Show years. After Johnny and Jay he also admires the work of David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Arsenio Hall, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, the cast of Saturday Night Live and Bill Maher.
He also shares his list of five elements that he maintains make a great late-night host - monologue delivery, rapport with guests, willingness to ask the question or make the comment on everyone's mind, likability and the ability to come up with new bits over a sustained period. Though he still admits Johnny is king, this list seems a bit skewed toward making a case for Jay as the best late night host ever. It was especially good timing for me to examine these as I read this book as David Letterman was airing his last shows, and of the Johnny/Jay/Dave trifecta, Dave was always my preference, and I'm guessing he wouldn't have scored highly on Macks's "likability" standard. (Now, this was pre-Jon Stewart and for me Stewart on The Daily Show completely changed the game. And the book is notable for its failure to do more than mention Chelsea Handler, and though Arsenio Hall is given some props, I believe he's the only host of color mentioned).
Overall, other than Macks's constant pro-Jay bias (he actually compares him to Oprah. Oprah. And while Macks feels Jay's monologues are genius, far surpassing even Johnny's, I never found them that funny) it was an interesting book for those interested in late night (but don't forget that hosts change quickly). And if you love Jay Leno, run out and buy this book immediately.
Full disclosure - I have no recollection of having heard of Stanley Kauffmann before seeing this book on NetGalley, but I enjoy film crARC for review.
Full disclosure - I have no recollection of having heard of Stanley Kauffmann before seeing this book on NetGalley, but I enjoy film criticism, so I thought I would give it a try and it was well worth the effort (it's not a short book).
Kauffmann was the film reviewer for The New Republic for decades, but he was also a playwright, a drama teacher, a theatre critic, a fiction writer and was involved in the arts in so many ways it's astounding he was able to fit everything into one lifetime. While not a household name like Pauline Kael (in fact, Kael called Kauffman and other, like-minded reviewers "eggheads" or "squares" while she felt she took a far more populist approach), Kauffmann had a distinguished career in criticism for more than fifty years. He also believed strongly that there was a clear divide between journalistic criticism versus academic film study and his reviews are generally quite short and to the point. He could also be quite wry, his take on The Greatest Story Ever Told: "Sometimes I am more relieved than at other times that I am not a Christian. These occasions include the experience of most films about Jesus."
I was even more interested in this book when I saw the dates of this collection, assuming I would have seen a fair number of the movies reviews. Unfortunately I hadn't reckoned with Kauffmann's love of foreign films (French films are a particular passion), so I would guess that I had seen around half the movies reviewed.
Kauffmann finally bows to the inevitable in 2011, reviewing the documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World" even though it was released on HBO, noting "some may think that therefore it fall under the rubric of 'television." But this misunderstanding has not prevented many of the best film directors in America from being driven to cable recently, for worthwhile work." This is quite a turnaround from 2001 when he lamented that Mike Nichols's film "Wit" was only available on HBO and he couldn't enjoy it fully since it wasn't on the big screen.
As to the reviews themselves, there's far too much ground to cover, so I'm moving to a Playboy interview form of Kauffman's general likes and dislikes (if he praised an actor or director more than once, he was definitely a fan..and obviously this doesn't include any releases since late 2012 - Kauffmann died in 2013) - some are what you would expect, but a few are surprising:
So, Kaufmann enjoys French cinema (natch), long walks on the beach, sunsets, Sharon Stone, Charles S. Dutton (especially in August Wilson's plays), David O. Russell, George Clooney ("born to be a leading man in film'), Dustin Hoffman, Kate Winslet (believes she's one of this generation's finest actresses), Albert Finney, Ian Holm (one of his favorite voices in all of cinema), "Center Stage", Akira Kurosawa (no surprise, with Kaufmann noting that "like great masters in other arts, Kurosawa is not "better than" others in his field: he is, at his best, incomparable")
He also lauds Morgan Freeman (my personal favorite actor), the film "It All Starts Today," Ang Lee (who "astonishes"), Poliah cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, Julia Roberts (a bit surprising, I thought), "Tender Mercies", any great performance by a child actor (though he disliked the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, calling him "an unexceptional boy in every way"...but also admitted he hadn't read any of the books), Eva Mattes, Maggie Smith (of course), Tom Cruise (prior to "Eyes Wide Shut," noting "if he would only stop smiling," America Ferrera in "Real Women Have Curves," Michael Apted's "Seven Up" series (these are phenomenal), Jeanne Moreau ("who for more than fifty years has been the epitome of Frenchness on the screen'), Charlize Theron in "Monster," Annette Bening in "Being Julia,"and Christopher Walken and Laura Linney in nearly anything.
Kudos also go to Oliver Stone ("one of the best American directors" even though he HATED "Alexander"), Joan Allen, Paul Haggis's direction and editing of "Crash" (he also singles out Matt Dillon's performance), Daniel Auteuil, "Jarhead," particularly the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins and editor Walter Murch), Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica," Sam Shepard (both as actor and writer,) Edward Norton (I think Kauffmann would have loved "Birdman"), Helen Mirren generally, and especially in "The Queen," Claude Chabrol, Liam Neeson (although who knows what Kauffmann made of Neeson's latter-day switch to an action star?), and "Shoah" (again, no surprise).
He dislikes much of Robert Altman's work (saying he was not as clever as the thought he was), Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc, the later films of Roman Polanski (anything after "Repulsion", "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby"), Renee Zellweger, "Dancer in the Dark" and Bjork's performance in it, "Cast Away," "Pearl Harbor" (but I think nearly everyone hated that movie), most boxing movies, "Kill Bill" (though he seems to generally admire Quentin Tarantino), and Colin Farrell.
The book has a separate section for documentaries, one of my favorite genres and Kauffmann reviewed three of my all-time favorites (he liked two, "Capturing the Friedmans" and "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present" and disliked "Bowling for Columbine."
The final section of the book, titled "Remarks" are brief entries published to acknowledge the passing of a great (highest praise to Richard Farnsworth for his acting in "The Straight Story" an absolutely glorious movie), noting his dislike for "top ten" lists (although he created a few in his career) and the way in which the killings at Virginia Tech were likely Seung-Hui Cho's realization of the film that he sent to NBC News after killing the first two victims and before killing the rest, "imagine it. Every moment while he was doing those killings, the existence of that film was in his head."
And some choice quotes: His review of "Hannibal" begins, "Voltaire, says an anecdote, was invited one evening to go along with a friend to a bordello, a place with certain specialties. Voltaire went. Next week the friend invited him again, and he declined. 'But,' said the friend, 'you seemed to enjoy it last week.'' Voltaire replied, "Once, a philosopher. Twice a pervert. Anthony Hopkins has gone to Hannibal Lecter for the second time." (he thoroughly enjoyed Hopkins in the role in "The Silence of the Lambs, though).
On "The Mexican" (the Julia Roberts/Brad Pitt vehicle)...'[it has a screenplay by J.H. Wyman which contends for that always elusive prize, the worst ever written."
On "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" - "...what it produced in me was serenity. Little could make me feel more serene that the thought that an imaginative person is fulfilling his dreams. Can there be a happier person than George Lucas?" also noting that criticism was now irrelevant for the Star Wars franchise.
And my definite favorite, in his review of "The Devil Wears Prada," "...this heroine is played by Anne Hathaway, one of the more big-ballyhoo nondiscovery, the flattest "major" arrival since Audrey Tautou. Hathaway has big eyes and small talent."
One odd thing - since I have not seen about half of the films in the book (maybe more) I thought I would come away with a huge list of films that I needed to see. I did not. In fact, I only marked two ("Michael" (and Austrian film, not the one with John Travolta and the documentary "Stranded").
True cinephiles will adore this book. Kauffmann is a wonderful writer, and his drama and writing experiences inform his reviews, and the reader will likely find a few appealing gems that he/she hasn't even heard of before being introduced by Mr. Kauffman. Highly recommended. ...more
***Note - this was presented as a excerpt of this graphic novel and since there's no real summation I'm assuming that is true. I e-maiARC for review.
***Note - this was presented as a excerpt of this graphic novel and since there's no real summation I'm assuming that is true. I e-mailed the publisher asking for more information (are there 10 pages missing? Or 100? My rating would likely change based on that answer.) but didn't hear back, so this is a review of the first 106 pages of this graphic novel....if asked I'm happy to remove this review until I have a chance to finish the book.
Graphic novels aren't usually my thing, but it was a great way to take a look at narrative radio as practiced by the wonderful "This American Life," "The Moth," "Planet Money," "Radiolab" and other programs - we actually see the producers and editors at work and the use of the graphic format mirrors what the creators of these programs are trying to do - create vivid pictures in the mind of the listeners.
Each show has its own style, its own way of creating and telling these stories that make us sit in the driveway for a few minutes listening to the end, and many people in the arts could take lessons from some of the tools used by these creative individuals (loved the different "questions" used by the shows....for one "Someone does something for _______________, but ________________" or "I'm doing a story about X. And what's interesting about it is Y" or the big 'at this point I was engaged and then here I was thinking about what I was going to have for dinner".
The books dives deeply into the weeds about creating these programs, but I found even the smallest aspects fascinating. The goal of all these broadcasters is to allow listeners to walk in the shoes of the subjects and though each show does it a bit differently, the differences just reinforce how difficult and rewarding it is to create this type of experience. ...more
I'm a bad person. I bought this for my brother, the biggest Prince fan I know, for Christmas, then I hurried up and read it before I wrapped it.
I amI'm a bad person. I bought this for my brother, the biggest Prince fan I know, for Christmas, then I hurried up and read it before I wrapped it.
I am of exactly the right age to have been caught up in the "Purple Rain" phenomenon. I vividly remember buying the cassette at a record store in Myrtle Beach, SC while I vacation and then seeing the movie multiple times in the theatre. With all that said, I really enjoyed this book, but this is definitely not a definitive biography of the artist, more like a moment in time of a two-ish year period of making the music and the movie with a bit of rumination on Prince's place in pop culture history.
This can occasionally get a bit "in the weeds" if you don't care about both the film and the soundtrack equally, and the book focuses a bit more on the music than the filming, but since this was my soundtrack to 1985 I thoroughly enjoyed it.....and I think I managed to read it without leaving any tell-tale chocolate smears or anything. ...more
A solid 3.5 stars, rounded up. I didn't read Patton Oswalt's first book, but there was a fair amount of memoir, especially the years 1ARC for review.
A solid 3.5 stars, rounded up. I didn't read Patton Oswalt's first book, but there was a fair amount of memoir, especially the years 1995-1999. The subtitle is a bit misleading as to the amount of film discussion involved - really it's a love letter to the New Beverly Cinema, an old-time movie house, lovingly tended for years by Sherman Torgan, mixed with Oswalt's bona fides as he was coming up in the comedy scene - there was some good stuff here, but you'll definitely wish he had been willing to name names.
While all this was very enjoyable there was simply a bit too much filler. A good 10% of the book is a reprint of a blog post Oswalt made after Torgan's death, describing thirty days worth of movies that Oswalt wished existed so that Torgan can watch them in heaven. Then nearly 35% is simply a list of the movies he saw during those five years, along with the name of the theatres in which he saw each film. Look, there's nothing that I love like lists, but I might not be thrilled if I shelled out $30 for this book only to find such a large list.
Despite that, if you are a Oswalt fan or really enjoy older cinema or want a great look at LA's comedy scene in the late 1990s this is certainly worth reading. ...more
This was a tough read - lots of typos, partial sentences and words used incorrectly (including "the dye is cast." Twice.) If you are looking for a fulThis was a tough read - lots of typos, partial sentences and words used incorrectly (including "the dye is cast." Twice.) If you are looking for a full biography of Lindsay Lohan this isn't the book for you as there is scant mention of her early years, her years with Disney and even movies like "Mean Girls" - instead this book is all about her downfall, presumably to capture the interest of those who watched the "Lindsay" series on OWN and it's really a compilation of news stories with very little new information. Can't recommend this one, even for fans. ...more
First, the title. I liked it, but then I LOVED it when I saw the whole thing (the Fire Island motto as told by Frank Corradino) in theARC for review.
First, the title. I liked it, but then I LOVED it when I saw the whole thing (the Fire Island motto as told by Frank Corradino) in the Acknowledgments section, "fork on the left, knife in the back, spoon in the nose, dish, dish, dish."
As for the book itself, It appears to be an accumulation of Musto's columns from the Village Voice (and does he not write for them anymore? He was an institution.) so some of it is quite dated and other parts go into long discussions of people and places that those outside the NYC party scene (of various decades) would know nothing about (for example there are so many mentions of Kiki and Herb I felt like they might be at my house). He also notes that this is his second collection so perhaps some of the best bits were in the earlier volume.
I'm guessing that pre-Internet blog/Perez Hilton that Musto was THE man about NYC and quite risque and he still knows how to pack a punch....sometimes with his incredibly frank discussions of sex (including a few too many mentions of his own penis), sometimes just with his wit, "Wynonna Judd had an eighty minute therapy session the other night, and since she billed it as a concert, I totally managed to be there to watch." He also must have been, at least in part, the inspiration for SNL's fabulous Stefon character as he snarkily reviews lots of nightclubs along with Broadway shows, parties and other happenings in and around the city.
If you are a fan of Musto or the NYC "scene" during the 1980s and early 90s, enjoy it in small batches. ...more
This book was published in 2000, so it's a nice trip down memory lane to see who was on top (Julia Roberts) and who was not fourteen years ago and comThis book was published in 2000, so it's a nice trip down memory lane to see who was on top (Julia Roberts) and who was not fourteen years ago and compare their positions now. It's also, possibly quite a fair way to "rank" celebrities as Ulmer is looking toward bankability so the factors include a star's willingness to travel to promote and career management as well as his/her talent. Also some interesting Hollywood gossip, including the clearest statement about John Travolta's sexuality that I've ever seen in print (other than speculation). Also included some decent articles about star perks and names some names....so, fun to spend an hour with. ...more
"Last Night at the Viper Room" is a fairly salacious title for what is really a full biography of River Phoenix interspersed wMy newest "purse book".
"Last Night at the Viper Room" is a fairly salacious title for what is really a full biography of River Phoenix interspersed with interludes on the other things going on in the Hollywood scene at the time which offer a good perspective on where River fits into his time period (one of the authors big, and fair, questions...would River have been as big as Leonardo DiCaprio?). The author makes the point that River only made four really good movies (Dogfight, Running on Empty, My Own Private Idaho, Stand by Me) and of those three only one is considered a real "classic" (and he was a child in that one), so, really, is River primarily famous because of his odd upbringing and his death?
The book was interesting, but was a LOT of River for someone who was only a casual fan. However, for a huge fan of either that particular era of movie making or of River himself it's a must-read. ...more