David Thomson's headstone-etched achievement may very well be his A-to-Z doorstopper The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (now in its fifth edition), but there's great pleasure to be had in his longer, more philosophically inclined musings, as in this new collection, which aims to "make us think what movies have done to us and wonder how we feel about that. It's a love story, but you have to wait for the ending." In witty (if occasionally purple) prose, Thomson traverses cinema history in chronological, impressionistic pieces, returning again and again to personal obsessions like Los Angeles, light, and the erotic aspects of movie watching.
The New Yorker critic David Denby kicks off this collection of reviews and think pieces with a previously unpublished piece, "Conglomerate Aesthetics," which builds a fairly damning case that spatial integrity, continuity editing, and narrative causality are going the way of the dinosaur in modern studio-made pictures. Sometimes he veers too far into cranky-old-man territory – but it's not off the lawn he wants a younger generation to gravitate, it's back into the movie theatre for that essential big-screen experience.
This is no celebrity gawk: Yes, master thespian Burton had thoughts on his two-time wife Elizabeth Taylor's famous rack and wasn't averse to putting them down for posterity, but that's elevated by Burton's witty way with language and his unsparing account of his relationship with Liz, fame, and alcohol.
Got deep pockets and a yen for one of American cinema's most underrated practitioners? Leave it to the French to produce the first monograph devoted to the writer/director of The Yards and We Own the Night. Bilingual and packed with interviews with Gray and his creative collaborators (including Harris Savides, Mark Wahlberg, and Matt Reeves), the book is purchasable from the publisher via PayPal.
Sure, you could just rely on Amazon or Netflix to crunch some numbers and cough up recommendations for you, but wouldn't you prefer the human touch? Local author Scott Von Doviak goes old-school by breaking down discrete elements of The Terminator – tech noir, evil cyborgs, time travel – and suggesting related further viewing, from Robot Holocaust to La Jetée.
Copyright © 2015 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.