In “I Lost It At The Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era” (The Critical Press, $25), Tom Roston’s lozenge-sized history covering three decades of an all-but-vanished era, filmmaker-conversationalist Kevin Smith puts it as unromantically as you can imagine. “I’m a movie lover at heart, so the quickest, easiest way you can get it to me is A-okay. I need it in me. I just need the movie in me.” But Smith is trumped by Quentin Tarantino, who says in a flurry of words, “I like something hard and tangible in my hand. And I can’t watch a movie on a laptop. I don’t use Netflix at all. I don’t have any sort of delivery system.” Tarantino adopted his very own videotheque atop his vast collection of 35mm prints. “I have the videos from Video Archives. They went out of business, and I bought their inventory. Probably close to eight thousand tapes and DVDs. I have a bunch of DVDs and a bunch of videos, and I still tape movies off of television on video so I can keep my collection going.” There are more morsels within the generous white space of Roston’s 153 pages. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
When I finished gorging on Josh Karp’s “Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind,” the late great director’s cryptic title was both fragrant poetry and flagrant prophecy, a sparky introduction to a film maudit no one would likely ever see. The book was released the Tuesday before Welles’ May 6 centenary, now amplified by May 7’s announcement of a $2 million Indiegogo campaign to complete a feature-length version of Welles’ long-in-the-not-finishing final film, drawing on a trove of 1,083 elements, including the immaculate negative, that reportedly weighs more than a ton-and-a-half.
Welles started his project forty-five years ago; he’s been dead for thirty of those. I recently asked Karp how long he’s been working on his often-rollicking, sometimes-detail-oriented tome on Welles’ parallel satire of Hollywood insiders and European art film of the era. “I think I signed the book deal in mid-2011 and the book was essentially done in Fall 2014,” the Northwestern lecturer and onetime Newcity contributor tells me, “So it was three years, give or take a few months. In my mind, it was going to take two years. I always think that, and it’s always three or three-and-a-half.” Read the rest of this entry »
But for a pitched altercation on a CTA bus between two elderly, raucously disagreeable men in wheelchairs—a not uncommon occurrence on the 66 bus, in my daily experience—I would have made it to the early morning screening of Ridley Scott’s filming of Cormac McCarthy’s script, the drug-deal-gone-oh-so-terribly-wrong tale “The Counselor” with minutes to spare. The studio showed the film to reviewers only this once, on Tuesday before a Friday opening, keeping it largely under wraps except for the visual sizzle of a few commercials shown on sports channels. Wonder why! While fate kept me from that screening, Vintage published the paperback ($14.95) a week earlier, and I continued to read it as I realized I would be a half an hour or more late. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre. On the page, this version is, I don’t know, bonkers? What’s a bigger pile-up of descriptors than brazenly bonkers batshit? Extended monologues alternately wound and caress the eye and, by some reports, what’s on screen deletes some of these scalding siroccos of language in favor of other sandy windstorms. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
As I write, I am surrounded on three sides by books; one window looks out onto the horizontal play of snowfall. Inside it’s warm: books do furnish a room.
Ways of reading and ways of writing are shifting; that opening paragraph’s fourteen characters too long to Twitter. Whatever to do! From the cool hearth glow of computers and laptops, rampant idle bloggotry is committed every hour of the day and night. Everybody’s writing about movies even if no one’s making a remunerative career of it for the moment. Scanning these bookshelves, especially of the titles on film from past decades that seemed important enough to acquire, alphabetize and dust, I wonder how many tomes on the subject will be committed between covers, hard or soft, in coming years. The tacky tens: the decade when the listicle became literature!
For me, the year’s most important film book is “Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber” (Library of America, $40). Read the rest of this entry »
Esteemed film critic and historian Jonathan Rosenbaum will give a talk at the Newberry Library on December 2 at 5:30pm about his upcoming collection of reviews and articles, “Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition,” set to be published in fall of 2010. A book signing will follow. Rosenbaum will be discussing the changing nature of film in regards to the Internet and digital media. “When I do these talks there’s an element of improvisation,” says Rosenbaum. “There’s a kind of division between the older generation of people who believe it’s the end of film, and the young generation of people who think this change is for the better, and it makes movies more accessible.” Rosenbaum finds himself on the side of this new generation of film enthusiasts. “I tend to think that the future of cinema will happen in places other than theaters. It’s no longer operated by the industry; it happens in storefronts and homes.”
By Ray Pride
One of the metro daily film critics still standing, the Oregonian’s Shawn Levy, has written four nonfiction books, including “King of Comedy,” a life of Jerry Lewis. His “Paul Newman: A Life” (Harmony Books, $29.99, 490 pp.), is the first complete biography of the charismatic actor, underappreciated director and epic philanthropist. Levy thinks Newman was a lot like Lewis, or Frank Sinatra, whom he wrote about in “Rat Pack Confidential”: “Men like this have incredible capacities for work and activity.” Levy expects there’s probably a scurrilous book in the works, but he says the man and the life that he found in extensive research, poring over archives, articles, interviews, letters, legal documents and his own interviews. It’s a no-nonsense read with a satisfying amount of detail. Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Skin may specialize in finding breasts in films, but he can appreciate finding irony in bookstores as well. The film-nudity mogul, whose recently released book “Mr. Skin’s Skintastic Video Guide” reveals his 500 favorite movies for nudie-viewing pleasure, can’t help but grin when people inside Barbara’s Bookstore start to notice that the children’s book section is bordering the room where his people have set up a video screen. Any little one intently reading “What Color is Your Underwear, Mr. Moo?” could look up to actually see Shannon Elizabeth only wearing underwear. Luckily, there’s no one under 18 even in the store, otherwise there would be hell to pay for the open can of Budweiser literally four inches from Mother Goose.
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