The Criticwire Survey: A Film Book Gift Guide

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by Matt Singer
November 26, 2012 10:00 AM
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"Easy Rider."

Gary KramerGay City News:

"'The Dangerous Animals Club' by Stephen Tobolowsky. This memorable character actor has written a memoir that cross-pollinates hilarious anecdotes about life on the set with smart life lessons. It is a must for any actor who has worked with Tobolosky, anyone who has seen one of the actor's films, or anyone who likes a great books, so that means pretty much everyone."

Glenn KennyMSN Movies/Some Came Running:

"I wish you'd have been more specific about what the cinephile in the gift-giver's life already had in his or her library. Assuming it's a neophyte cinephile, and the aim of the cinephilia largely of a hobbyist nature, I'd recommend Francois Truffaut's 'Hitchcock,' the revised edition. Aside from being terrifically entertaining, it's about four or five excellent film books in one. The essay materials from Truffaut, writing as a scrupulous critic-turned-filmmaker and laying most of his cards on the table, are superb criticism, both relative to the specific topics at hand and in a more general sense of representing a critical ethic. The interviews are thorough, probing, giving valuable insights into the aesthetics and personalities of both the participants, and the portrait of a career the book eventually paints is admirable and kind of daunting. And the nuts-and-bolts filmmaking talk is incredibly enlightening. And although the illustrations are all black and white, they're both exciting and, literally illustrative. Assuming it's a neophyte cinephile aspiring to become some kind of movie 'critic,' then the gift would be Northrop Frye's 'Anatomy Of Criticism,' in the hope that it would frustrate, confuse, infuriate, and ultimately discourage the giftee."

John Keefer51Deep.com:

"'Sculpting in Time,' 'Film: An Introduction,' or 'Icons of Grief.' For the Calvinist cinephile I'd recommend 'Transcendental Style In Film,' though also I'd recommend all of them since I just did."

Drew HuntChicago Reader/The Talking Pictures:

"Kind of a tough question, because any self-respecting cinephile already has the essentials. So I'll go with 'Joseph Losey: A Revenge On Life,' by David Caute, which is both an acutely detailed biography and thorough critical examination of a truly great filmmaker most people still don't give a fair shake."

Jordan HoffmanScreenCrush:

"As a narcissist, clearly the best film book for someone to read -- particularly a neophyte -- would be the first hardcore wonky cinephile text I read as a young 'un, Robert Philip Kolker's 'A Cinema of Loneliness.' This book of essays concerning the work of Arthur Penn, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Robert Altman really got my motor running and prepped me for four ivory tower years at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. I read the original pressing from 1988 and I see there have been new editions as recently as 2011 that include sections of David Fincher (pff!) and Judd Apatow (double pff!). I endorse searching for the old one with the red cover and the picture of Travis Bickle to emulate me as much as possible. Honorary mention to Sidney Lumet's 'Making Movies' (brilliant, fascinating, and fun) and Stuart Klawans' collected reviews from The Nation magazine 'Left in the Dark.' I love Kalwans' writing and I love how he integrates his publication's crusade for social justice into his pieces in organic ways. And Hoberman's 'The Dream Life.' Dammit, you asked for one and I gave you four. I'm sorry, you touched a nerve this week."

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

"I'd recommend the first film related book that I ever read, 'Hitchcock' by Francois Truffaut. Consisting of Alfred Hitchcock interviews conducted by Francois Truffaut, it's like eavesdropping on two legendary geniuses discussing their craft, but without any worry of a restraining order. It's a win/win."

Melissa HansonCinemit:

"'Hey! It's That Guy!' These actors are so good at what they do, they hardly ever get the acclaim they deserve. Anyone who loves movie will enjoy flipping through and finding out the names and histories of these beloved actors."

Steve GreeneCriticwire:

"Not sure if this counts, but if you happen to know the person's favorite movie, I'd recommend buying them the screenplay, if it's been published at all. They're usually not the most elaborate publications, but seeing the film in an elemental state certainly provides a fresh perspective. Every once in a while, you can find a version with a director/writer Q&A, a piece of insightful criticism, or even a bit of source material. Sure, some might be posted online, but gift-wrapping a URL might prove challenging."

Jason GorberTwitch/Filmfest.ca:

"The Taschen 'Stanley Kubrick Archives' is a thing to behold -- unlike the ridiculous/awesome mega set for Napoleon which ran well over $1000, the original 'deluxe' version of the book ran 'only' a few hundred, and came with a slew of goodies including a strip of several 70mm frames from '2001.' The non-deluxe version is much less expensive, can be had readily."

Kenji FujishimaThe House Next Door:

"Though I may not be the most ardent fan of the films of late veteran filmmaker Sidney Lumet, he did at least offer the world one of the best books about filmmaking I've read, his 1996 volume 'Making Movies.' A cinephile may love movies, but Lumet will add an extra dimension to one's appreciation of cinema by bringing the reader, with wit, insight, and brutal honesty, into the world of the much-revered (not to mention much-mythologized) film director. Granted, we may only get the inner workings of the mind of a particular director, but rare is the director that is as articulate about his methods and thought processes as Lumet is. Consider this, then, a starting point for wider explorations into the art and business of moviemaking itself -- and surely that is something a passionate, curious cinephile can appreciate."

Sam FragosoDuke & The Movies:

"'Secret Lives of Great Filmmakers' is an incredibly enjoyable page-turner that provides a brief foray into the madness of some of our most revered, iconic, and controversial directors. From Chaplin to Fellini to Godard to Tarantino, author Robert Schankenberg leaves no auteur with a bag of secrets, exploits, and bizarre fetishes unscathed."

Mario Alegre FemeníasPrimera Hora:

"I'm only halfway through it, but I can easily recommend Sidney Lumet's 'Making Movies.' Part memoir, part master class from one of the greatest filmmakers, it's a book any film lover should appreciate."

Jessica ElgenstiernaThe Velvet Café:

"Provided the recipient of the gift is a science-fiction fan, I think 'Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner' by Paul M. Sammon is a terrific choice. At 400 pages it can afford to investigate every detail and angle of the topic and also provides insight into what a production like this looks like behind the scenes."

David EhrlichMovies.com:

"The first book that pops to mind in this scenario (and many others) is Richard Brody's 'Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard.' Brody's insight to Godard's work is uniquely illuminating, and it's all wrapped inside a rich and readable biography. A great book to buy, as methinks it's too valuable a resource to lend. Oh, and in the unlikely event that your targeted cinephile has seen Godard's 'King Lear,' this book is less of a suggestion than it is a prescription."

Alonso DuraldeTheWrap/What The Flick?!:

"It's totally tacky to self-promote, but what the heck: This holiday season, why not get the film lover in your life 'Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas' by Alonso Duralde? (Yes, me.) Whether your idea of a holiday classic is 'Miracle on 34th Street' or 'Eyes Wide Shut,' Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' or 'Santa Claus' -- the demented 1960 Mexican classic of childhood surrealism -- you'll find something new and different for your December film-watching. It's also the perfect holiday gift for people you barely know. ('Look, I got you something Christmas-themed! Do whatever you want with it!')"

Edward DouglasComing Soon:

"Since most of my readers are reading my stuff for my box office analysis and predictions, I'd go with 'Open Wide: How Hollywood Box Office Became a National Obsession' by Dade Hayes and Jonathan Bing. It covers the months leading up to the 4th of July weekend where 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' and two other movies opened, showing how the studios marketed them, when they realized that at least one of them might not do very well and how they changed their marketing plans accordingly. Very few people get to see the inner workings of a marketing campaign, and if you want to discuss box office even halfway intelligently then it's a must-read."

Steve DollarWall Street Journal/GreenCine Daily:

"Kier-La Janisse's 'House of Psychotic Women,' of course -- for the Zulawski-head in everyone's life. Also, one hell of a memoir, in which an emotionally and physically fraught coming-of-age finds therapeutic release and psychological explication in off-the-rail genre flicks of women in crisis."

John DeCarliFilmCapsule:

"The most eye-opening book about cinema that I've read recently has been Mary-Ann Doane's 'The Emergence of Cinematic Time.' Doane uses the very beginning of film art and technology (Lumiere, Melies, Edison, etc.) as a case-study for the broader cultural and philosophical project of modernity that develops alongside cinema. Doane places cinema within this context of the railroad, Taylorism, and the motion studies of Marey to show how time becomes understood in a new way thanks to the technology of the late 19th century."

Michael DaltonMovie Parliament:

"'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls' by Peter Biskind. A fascinating and necessary read for any fan of films and the people behind them."

Marc CiafardiniGoSeeTalk.com:

"For the holidays this year, I'd recommend 'The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones' to any Amblin era film fan. Forget behind the scenes photos and production stories they can get anywhere else, this is what true fans of Dr. Jones will appreciate. It's a dense, fan-pleasing, 200 page faux leather journal that reads as if Indy chronicled the films as they were happening. Scribbling/sketches, personal thoughts, cocktail napkins, airline tickets, maps, photos, even an entry from Short Round, these are just a few of the many surprises to be found. If you're looking to get a friend/family member some film-related 'fortune and glory' this is it. Also, a bit of a added bonus, I'd throw a friend a copy of 'Jurassic Park' in their stocking. There are seemingly endless cases where an adaptation of the book never lives up to the novel. Well even though 'Jurassic Park' was a massive success, after all these years even Spielberg's amazing film pales a bit when compared to Crichton's work. So while the holiday season is thick with numerous films playing at multiplexes across the country, sometimes the best entertainment can be had on a couch in the form of this page turner that literally never gets old."

Christopher CampbellDocBlog

"I have to go with a book about documentary. While 20 years behind the times now, the best read on the history of docs is still Eric Barnouw’s 'Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film' (if you’re fine with something more textbook-ish, you can later go with Betsy McClane’s recently updated 'A New History of Documentary'). I also think Hollywood biographies and autobiographies are always a great gift. My favorites will always be the bio/autobio combo 'Ingrid Bergman: My Story' and Harpo Marx’s autobiography 'Harpo Speaks.' Finally, I have to pimp out Karina Longworth’s new Masters of Cinema biography of George Lucas."

Sean M. BurnsPhiladelphia Weekly/The Improper Bostonian:

"Most folks on my Christmas list will be getting Ty Burr's 'Gods Like Us.' An exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) cultural history of movie stardom from Florence Lawrence to Lindsay Lohan, it's overflowing with anecdotes, arguments and insights about how every generation creates their own icons, and the slippery, ever-evolving definition of what it means to be a 'star.' This is the meatiest, most all-around entertaining film-related book I have read in years, and I'm not just saying that because my friend wrote it."

Danny BowesTor.com/Movies By Bowes:

"It's a little pricey, but Frederica Sagor Maas' 'The Shocking Miss Pilgrim' is a great read, and notable for the relatively unique point of view of being told from the point of view of a woman writer in the silent era. The vivid early details of New York in the 1910s and Los Angeles in the 20s (like her playing dice with the train porters on her initial trip out to L.A.) fade into more vague discontent as the author's inability to play studio politics gradually and inexorably leads to the end of her career in Hollywood, but it's still a lively read with original takes on various legendary movie people."

William BibbianiCrave Online:

"Every movie fan is different. Some just want to know about the history of cinema, some want to know about how to make movies themselves, some just love one particular director, some are only interested in one facet of the craft. There are more great books about movies than I could possibly recommend in a single article, let alone a small part of one, but I'll throw out a tome that, on reflection, no film lover should be without: 'Understanding Comics' by Scott McCloud. Yes, it's about comics, but the easy-to-read volume, told in graphic novel format, has so many corollaries to visual storytelling in the cinematic medium that I'm surprised it's not a mainstay of film school curriculums. McCloud explains shot composition, pacing, editing, and even the philosophy of scene transitions in clear, entertaining language, and will also expand your awareness of the philosophy of art in general. Plus, because it's only related to cinema on a perpendicular plane, it's something that your movie-obsessed gift recipient may not even realize that they need in their library yet. If 'Understanding Comics' seems like too much of a stretch for you, then don't forget about 'Making Movies' by Sidney Lumet, 'All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from The Toxic Avenger' by Lloyd Kaufman, Adam Jahnke, Trent Haaga and James Gunn, and of course the indispensable collection of interviews, 'Hitchcock' by Truffaut."

Nicholas BellIONCINEMA:

"The best cinefile book gift this awards season would be pre-order them David Greven's 'Psycho-Sexual: Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin,' available 2/2/13."

Adam BattyHope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second:

"My stock solution for such a question is always to turn to Andrew Sarris' 'The American Cinema.' It might not be the most lavish gift, but it's the one book above all others that I've turned to on a regular basis since I first really got in to cinema myself. Honorable mentions go to Kevin Brownlow's 'The Parade's Gone By,' 'The Haunted Screen' by Lotte Eisner and 'For Ever Godard,' the epic tome exploring the work of Jean-Luc Godard edited by Michael Temple, James S. Williams and Michael Witt."

Raffi AsdourianThe Film Stage:

"There is this fantastic book 'Stanley Kubrick: Drama & Shadows' which showcases the director's early photographic work for the magazine Look, before he started making films. Its basically like getting to see what a young Kubrick's Instagram would have been like."

Edwin ArnaudinAshvegas:

"'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls' by Peter Biskind is a fascinating history of cinema's most exciting years. The ultimate insider's guide to the '70s, nearly every notable player from that decade comes off as an ambitious asshole, with the exception of Steven Spielberg, who escapes as merely an occasional jerk. Thoroughly researched and told with page-turning energy, Biskind's text is essential reading for the film fanatic on your list, whose copy is likely worn out and in need of replacing."

The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on November 26, 2012:
 

The Most Popular Response: "Holy Motors"
Other Movies Receiving Multiple Votes: "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Argo," "Skyfall," "Life of Pi," "The Master,"The Comedy.

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