Editor’s Note:: Kudos to Steve for his trifecta coverage: Books, Movies AND Music. Well done, sir. ~kd
I used to be a big movie buff, and then I had kids. Then the kids grew up; now I’m a movie buff again! I occasionally like to read about movies, and have added on a few favorite songs written for the movies.
Here’s a list of my favorite books about the movies:
1. 5001 Nights at the Movies, Pauline Kael—I have all of the collections of Kael’s reviews, from I Lost it at the Movies to Movie Love, but I most often grab this compilation of excerpts from the longer reviews to get a dose of Kael’s irreverent, cross-cultural opinions. Giant is “an example of commercial filmmaking straining for prestige, and the performers can’t blink an eye without announcing that they’re acting.” Jaws “may be the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made.” I don’t always agree with her, but I always enjoy her. A new bio of her just came out; I’m curious, but I’m a little afraid to find out too much.
2. Hitchcock/Truffaut, Francois Truffaut — Great French director interviews the even greater British/American director. They go movie by movie through every film Hitch made. If you’re a fan, you have to have this book.
3. Fellini’s Faces, Christian Stritch — This coffee-table book features pages and pages of black and white photos: “More than 400 pictures from Fellini’s photo archives.” I hadn’t thumbed through the book in years, but I remembered a remarkable number of these faces from Fellini’s movies (even though I can’t remember where I set my coffee down), which is testament to Fellini’s eye for memorable faces.
4. When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins, Ralph Rosenblum— This book could make the list for its title alone, but it’s a fascinating look at movies through the eyes of a top-shelf editor. The experienced author (who edited Goodbye, Columbus, Mel Brooks’ The Producers, and quite a few Woody Allen movies) makes a great case for movie editors being the most-important-while-least-heralded part of the moviemaking process.
5. Have You Seen…, David Thomson—Critic Thomson’s book of over 1,000 one-page movie reviews is not a front-to-back book; it’s a pick-it-up-and-read-a-few-entries book. And that’s how I got through it. He’s about as outspoken and irreverent as Pauline Kael, and as insightful, too.
Top Five favorite songs written for movies:
- “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” by Jon Brion. The title tune of the 2004 movie is eerie and dreamy, setting the perfect tone.
- “Smile” by Charles Chaplin. A rare instance of a great movie, Modern Times, directed by the same person who composed the soundtrack music. Charles Chaplin wrote the music for the song which, with added lyrics, would become a hit for Nat “King” Cole and many others.
- “Philadelphia” by Neil Young. Although the song The Boss wrote for Philadelphia won the Oscar, I preferred Neil’s. Like much of the best Neil Young, the song is simple and touching.
- “Opening Theme” from North by Northwest by Bernard Herrmann. To play while reading Hitchcock/Truffaut: the music of a favorite soundtrack composer who often worked with a favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock.
- “La Dolce Vita” by Nino Rota. To accompany Fellini’s Faces: the music of another favorite soundtrack composer, who often accompanied another favorite director, Federico Fellini.
What are your favorite movie books and movie songs?
— Steve, the Buy Guy