Solid critical examination. McCormick does a great job of showing Weimar in its complexity, contradiction and profundity. He's repetitive, but his ove...moreSolid critical examination. McCormick does a great job of showing Weimar in its complexity, contradiction and profundity. He's repetitive, but his overview and critique of the critical literature is good and his contributions to the discussion are very thought-provoking. His analysis seems sound and detailed while eschewing any overbearing readings; the ambiguities and tensions within the examined works remain present and worth pursuing even further. (less)
A decent introduction and overview of the series and Buffy studies. If you're just getting into the criticism of Buffy then this might be a nice place...moreA decent introduction and overview of the series and Buffy studies. If you're just getting into the criticism of Buffy then this might be a nice place to start. I like the brief overview of female heroines on film and TV to help show where Buffy Summers joins the pack. Billson adequately highlights broad themes and how Buffy subverts, mixes, and otherwise plays with multiple genres to create something altogether new. This doesn't mean Buffy is perfect or easy to compartmentalize - it has its faults and moments of weakness.
Where Billson's book falls short for me is in her rather flimsy criticism of some of the "weaker" supporting characters. Billson basically doesn't like Riley, Tara and Dawn. She then verbally abuses them for being not to her taste and considers it criticism. It's not. Calling someone boring or dumb doesn't count as analytical criticism of the kind I expect from a book of this nature. I expect such benign criticism from aintitcoolnews, not from a BFI book.
Billson also spends a little more time summarizing each season than I thought necessary. An introductory text like this is most likely to be read by people who already have watched and know the storyline and just want a light dose of criticism to supplement their own thoughts. Still, her criticism is pretty good. Billson's examination of season one nicely shows how economical and well executed season one is and how it stands on its own quite well. I liked this part because the most general criticism I hear from people discovering the show now is that season one is more something you get through before getting to the real good stuff than a season to be taken seriously. The show remains remarkably loyal to that first season throughout its run and people would be well served by watching that season with as much generosity as they give to the other seasons.
Overall, this is a flawed but nice book. It's a really fast read and has moments of good, perceptive criticism. The supplemental section of websites and other Buffy studies texts is also useful. (less)
A flat read that's only use is in providing lots of mummy, vampire, and zombie film titles from the 30s to the 60s. This is just a fast overview of th...moreA flat read that's only use is in providing lots of mummy, vampire, and zombie film titles from the 30s to the 60s. This is just a fast overview of these undead monsters, with threadbare to non-existent criticism. London's tone is often so condescending that I wonder if she likes any of these films at all - why is she writing about this when she seems to hate almost everything? She makes no attempt to examine these films through any lens that, while not redeeming the shoddy quality of many of the films, may explain their existence and their historical significance to the horror genre. Instead, it just feels like she hates stuff and is so uninterested in the subject that she doesn't even bother providing an index or list of films referenced. Like many of the films she derides, this book is a real dud.(less)
This was a good looking book. The layout and stills were good, making this a cool book to flip through. The (only) essay was also quite good, laying o...moreThis was a good looking book. The layout and stills were good, making this a cool book to flip through. The (only) essay was also quite good, laying out the arguments for and against music videos quite well.
The problem is that there's only one essay. The rest of the book contains biographical sketches of notable music video directors and accompanying stills from some of their videos. This is a problem since the book is basically using one essay, director bios, and a bunch of stills to argue for the relevance and artistic value of music videos. Music videos are accused of always putting style before substance, and creating a youth culture with a shorter attention span (as explained in the essay). This book seems to be both of those things - a slick design that gives us a few stills from a few videos, and that's supposed to prove the artistic relevance of the form. Seems flashy and short, making this book much more fun to flip through than actually read; the director bios are nice, but not that useful in proving the value of the form. Nor are stills enough either; they can show a lot, but not all of the formal elements used in the video - it's rather reductive and void of explanation as to why these stills count as much more than style. Basically, the book largely caters to music video fans, who already know the videos highlighted by the book. Maybe this problem could be fixed by simply changing the title. As is, the title suggests more discussion and analysis of the form, but that isn't this book's intent.
Maybe I'm being too picky, but I feel the book wanted to be substantive, but then just slid back into being something you flip through really fast, without thinking too much about what you're looking at. It made me wanna see some of these videos (functioning then as advertising), but it does little to help me understand them.(less)
Janet Leigh's book on Psycho is nice, especially the first half. It starts out pretty focused on the making of the film and her experiences during the...moreJanet Leigh's book on Psycho is nice, especially the first half. It starts out pretty focused on the making of the film and her experiences during the making of Psycho. This is the most interesting part of the book for me, for it is pretty well focused on the film. The second half begins to wander a bit and talk about other things Leigh was doing after Psycho. Fans of Janet Leigh will perhaps find this part equally interesting, but for me Psycho is the more interesting part. So I started to get a bit tired with the second half. But it was still a nice book.(less)
James Naremore writes a good little analysis of Psycho, which still feels relevant today, though he wrote this in the 70s. Some might think his summar...moreJames Naremore writes a good little analysis of Psycho, which still feels relevant today, though he wrote this in the 70s. Some might think his summary of the film to be pointless, since he only wants people who have seen the film to read his book, but it can be useful to quickly summarize the film being examined just as a quick refresher. This is a stylistic choice, and doesn't really have much to do with his analysis, which is clear, detailed and enlightening. He emphasizes the first third or so of the film - Janet Leigh's part of the film - feeling it to be more substantial than that second half. From his careful analysis of this part of the film, I can see and understand his point, though I am wary of overemphasizing the Marion Crane storyline. Norman Bates is the real main character of the film and Naremore does a good job examining some of the issues surrounding Norman. I especially like his concluding analysis of Psycho's effect on cinema and what we tolerate watching. He really nails the continuing trend in mainstream cinema to show more spectacles of violence and gore in horror films; he could really see the general direction the genre was headed in. This is a great little analysis and fans of the film I think would find it an enlightening read. (less)
This was a great introductory critical work on Psycho. Amanda Wells does a great job of laying out the basics on why Psycho has been so well received...moreThis was a great introductory critical work on Psycho. Amanda Wells does a great job of laying out the basics on why Psycho has been so well received by the public, the critics, and film studies. Her explanations are clear and to the point, placing the film in its historical context to show how the film deviated from other films at the time, and why the film has maintained such high praise and popularity through the years. For Hitchcock fans and scholars, this little book might not give them anything new; but for someone not familiar with the huge amount of criticism available on this film, and wanting to get a small taste of the criticism on Psycho, then this is a nice place to start. Wells lays a solid foundation of context and analysis that can enhance how one watches and responds to Psycho. It stands well on its own, as well as sparking thought that can lead the still-curious mind to other critical works on the film. Very nice stuff.(less)
Two stars might be rather unfair to this book. It is probably better than two stars - for someone else. But I did not think this book really taught me...moreTwo stars might be rather unfair to this book. It is probably better than two stars - for someone else. But I did not think this book really taught me anything I did not already know. The questions it gives to help people analyze a film would be useful to someone without any real experience with analyzing and writing about film, so I guess the book does just what it intends to do: teach you how to write about film. To the book's credit, it is clearly written and the pictures are nice (and I do like having good pictures). So those were pluses. I do not know what I was hoping for with this book, but I guess I wanted more than it set out to give, which probably shouldn't be considered a fault in the book, since it sets out to do a certain task and does that task efficiently. Still, I hoped for more.(less)
Dennis Perry writes a nice book on the connections between Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. Many of the thematic parallels addressed by Perry hav...moreDennis Perry writes a nice book on the connections between Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. Many of the thematic parallels addressed by Perry have been fairly common topics of critical discussion for Hitchcock and Poe studies people. This book, however, is the first time the two have been talked about together, which might not be that interesting a thing for some. Fair enough. But the commonalities that Poe and Hitchcock share are interesting and show how the same topics of discussion - voyeurism, duality, the sublime, psychological fracture, etc. - have been addressed at different points in time by two different artistic mediums. In that way, it is fun to read about how Poe expressed through literature similar things that Hitchcock expressed cinematically. Well-read critics and scholars of Hitchcock and/or Poe might not gain much from this book; but for a class of undergraduates wanting to learn something about Hitchcock and Poe could really benefit from this book.
I particularly like how Perry uses Poe's Eureka to help guide his analysis. I'm less enthusiastic about some of the Jungisn psychoanalysis, but that is more of a taste issue. Perry shows an enthusiasm for Hitchcock and Poe, which is cool. This book provides enough interesting analysis to help any novice of Hitchcock and/or Poe studies. (less)
Julia Knight gives a nice introduction to the New German Cinema movement. Aware that for a long time scholars, when talking about the NGC, have concen...moreJulia Knight gives a nice introduction to the New German Cinema movement. Aware that for a long time scholars, when talking about the NGC, have concentrated on but a few male directors (Fassbinder, Herzog, and Wenders), neglecting a great many other directors whose work heavily impacted German cinema during the 70s and early 80s. Her section on the women's movement is very interesting, but when focusing on specific directors and films, she picks the women everyone talks about (Sanders, von Trotta and Sanders-Brahms). Other significant women filmmakers, like Jeanine Meerapfel and Ulrike Ottinger, only get listed as having contributed to the movement. While this might be because the book is a short intro to the whole NGC movement and not an in depth study of the women in the movement (for that, see Knight's book Women and the New German Cinema), it is still a little frustrating.
Overall, this is a good introduction. Lots of references and additional reading suggestions, useful to anyone wanting to learn more. The book successfully gives you basic knowledge of the movement's origins and evolution, what it was trying to accomplish, its relevance at the time, and why those directors are still important today. A worthwhile read. (less)
Louis Giannetti gives a really accessible introduction to watching and (surprise) understanding movies. It's very easy to read - with lots of pictures...moreLouis Giannetti gives a really accessible introduction to watching and (surprise) understanding movies. It's very easy to read - with lots of pictures for those of us who only want books with pictures. The straight-forward, clear text goes a long way; he knows he needs to keep things kinda simple, but is considerate enough not to water things down and insult our intelligence. It lays a good foundation to build upon with future, perhaps more specific and/or advanced books on film studies. (less)
This is a good introduction to studying pop music & film. The breadth of topics is good and anyone interested in this subject will find valuable i...moreThis is a good introduction to studying pop music & film. The breadth of topics is good and anyone interested in this subject will find valuable insights here. It recognizes that pop music has not always been used well in film and that there are many poor films dealing with pop music; those old Elvis movies aren't always so great, nor are many of the rock docs out there. But those early films were trying to figure out how to even use pop music or make movies about pop stars. They bumbled around a lot and made some blunders, but how else do you learn how to do it right? The later essays on rock documentary are really interesting and cool. And as another bonus there are loads of pictures in this book. Loads.(less)
Irwin Bazelon is a film music traditionalist. He's pretty upset at pop music's tainting of the traditional film score. He doesn't consider most film...more Irwin Bazelon is a film music traditionalist. He's pretty upset at pop music's tainting of the traditional film score. He doesn't consider most film score composers as actual composers. That film music is often of lowest importance to a film is condemnable and he is more than ready to condemn. Too often musical decisions are under the control of incompetent producers and directors. Yeah, he's got reason enough to be upset, especially when you note that the book was first published in the mid-70s when Hollywood's scoring habits were at a generally embarrassing low.
Bazelon isn't all ranting and wailing, and even when doing that he is making a fair point - he's just sometimes a bit over the top and is naturally super sympathetic to the composer. An implicit point of this whole book seems to be that filmaking is really stinking hard. Even making a bad movie can be hard, so we could sometimes stand to be a little more forgiving when a movie struggles. It's a real balancing act between all the different departments and factors that go into a completed film.
While I think film music has changed considerably since this book was published, it is still a good, clearly written read. Bazelon's ultimate wish was for people to be trying to find new creative ways of scoring films. That's a good goal and I think we've seen it happen in how the traditional score and pop music have come together in the last 30 years. (less)
Anton Kaes's little book on M is a really fantastic book. A lot has been written about M and I haven't read much of it, so I don't know how this book...more Anton Kaes's little book on M is a really fantastic book. A lot has been written about M and I haven't read much of it, so I don't know how this book compares to others. But it's a really accessible and easy approach to the film that picks the scenes apart really well. Kaes is looking at the film as a reflection of the time, addressing Fascism and the idea of total mobilization, among other things. Super interesting analysis of one of Fritz Lang's finest films.(less)