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Stanley Kubrick
Seven Films Analyzed
Randy Rasmussen
McFarland, 2001

If you’re a film buff, this is a very good book. If you’re an admirer of Stanley Kubrick’s work, it is an exquisite one. Kubrick rates as one of the best directors of all time. Clearly in the class of Hitchcock in terms of his meticulous scrutiny and eye for finite detail, Kubrick may have even surpassed Hitchcock.

Kubrick had a great talent for creating memorable images—such as his famous jump cut from a bone tossed into the prehistoric sky to a spaceship orbiting the earth in 2001. Like the composer of a great symphony, Kubrick also had the ability to draw his memorable moments into a lyrical whole. Balancing harmony with discord, he kept viewers on the edge by constantly shifting relationships among the dramatic elements in his movies. The results often confounded expectations and provoked controversy, right up through Eyes Wide Shut, the last film he made before his death.

This book is an intensive, scene-by-scene analysis of Kubrick’s most mature work—seven of twelve meticulously wrought films. Included are Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). In these films, Kubrick dramatized the complexity and mutability of the human struggle in settings so diverse that some critics have failed to see the common threads. Randy Rasmussen, also the author of Children of the Night: The Six Archetypal Characters of Classic Horror Films (McFarland, 1998, http://www.mcfarlandpub.com, 1-800-253-2187), traces those threads and reveals the always shifting, always memorable, always passionately rendered pattern.

Movie Love In The Fifties
James Harvey
Knopf, 2001

At the heart of most great films is a love story. With James Harvey’s Movie Love in the Fifties, we get a comprehensive look at the films that made "amour" the centerpiece of drama. Harvey begins by mapping the progression from 1940s film noir to the living- room melodramas of the 1950s. He shows us the femmes fatales of the 1940s (Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett), becoming blander and blonder (Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds) and younger and more traditionally sexy (Marilyn Monroe, Grace) in the 1950s. And he shows us how women were finally replaced as objects of desire by the new boy-men—Brando, Clift, Dean and other rebels without causes.

Harvey discusses the films of Hitchcock (Vertigo), Ophüls (The Reckless Moment), Siodmak (Christmas Holiday) and Welles (Touch of Evil, perhaps the single greatest influence on the "post-classical" movies). He writes about the quintessential 1950s directors: Nicholas Ray, who made movies in the old Hollywood tradition (In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar), and Douglas Sirk, who portrayed suburbia as an emotional deathtrap (Imitation of Life, Magnificent Obsession). He also discusses the "serious" directors, such as Stanley Kramer and Elia Kazan, whose films exhibited a powerful new realism.

Harvey, a playwright, essayist, critic and author, knows his subject. And as Movie Love in the Fifties illustrates, he has a great affection for the master works of American film.

The Films Of Joel And Ethan Coen
Carolyn R. Russell
McFarland, 2001

In 1984, filmmaker brothers Joel and Ethan Coen got their start in the independent film business with their debut feature Blood Simple, which won the award as Best Dramatic Feature at Sundance in 1985. It was also hailed as one of the best films of the year by the National Board of Review. Since their early success, the Coen brothers have built a name for themselves and gone on to create other big-name movies such as Raising Arizona, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. This book is a comprehensive account of these four films, in addition to Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy. Production information, in-depth analysis and critiques are provided, as well as discussions on how each movie functions in the broader context of the Coens’ work, along with the themes, strategies and motifs often utilized by the brothers.

Brave Films, Wild Nights
25 Years of Festival Fever
Brian D. Johnson
Random House Canada, 2001

Brave Films, Wild Nights is a retrospective look at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the world’s premiere film festivals. Created 25 years ago by a bunch of high-rolling Canadian impresarios, it has grown from a rude upstart to one of the world’s largest and most influential film festivals—second in importance only to Cannes. The eclectic festival plays host to Hollywood stars from Warren Beatty to Tom Cruise and to the renegades of independent cinema.

Brian Johnson, film critic and entertainment writer at Canada’s national newsweekly, Maclean’s, tells the story of a volatile marriage between the counterculture and the mainstream. From the fabled battles with Canadian censors to near riots outside cinemas, excitement and controversy have always been integral to the Festival. The Festival was famous for its parties, and in its early years it underwent a turbulent rite of passage with tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll involving high profile guests.

However, as the Festival matured, it became famous for its films. Among the landmark features launched at the Festival are The Big Chill, Chariots of Fire, Dead Ringers, Boogie Nights, Leaving Las Vegas, To Die For and American Beauty. The Festival has also discovered hit documentaries, such as Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, and found a North American audience for international directors, including John Woo, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Wong Kar-Wai.

Brave Films, Wild Nights is choked full of great photographs and has some fresh interviews with the stars and directors who have helped to make the Toronto International Film Festival an event célèbre.

Rubble Films
German Cinema in the Shadow
of the Third Reich
Robert R. Shandley
Temple University Press, 2001

At the end of World War II, Germany was a broken nation. Split in two and occupied by the victorious Allies, it would have to be rebuilt, literally, from the rubble of its own defeat. Volumes of books have been published chronicling its structural and economic rebirth; this unique study reveals how Germany rebuilt itself culturally.

Rubble Films is a close look at German cinema in the immediate postwar era and a careful examination of its relationship to Allied occupation. Professor Robert Shandley reveals how German film borrowed—both literally and figuratively—from its Nazi past and how the occupied powers (specifically the United States) used their position as victor to open Europe to Hollywood movie products and aesthetics.

In addition to a careful reading of several important immediate postwar films, Shandley also discusses how the German studio system operated immediately after the war, in the East and the West, giving special focus on DEFA, the East German studio that rose during Soviet occupation. Rubble Films sheds new light on a significant moment of German cultural rebirth and adds a new dimension to the study of the history of film.

The Reel Civil War
Mythmaking in American Film
Bruce Chadwick
Knopf, 2001

More movies have been produced about the Civil War than about any other aspect of American history. From 1903 (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) to the present, film studios have released more than 800 silent and sound pictures about the nation’s most cataclysmic event. In his comprehensive study, Professor Bruce Chadwick first shows us how historians, journalists, playwrights, poets and novelists of the late nineteenth century—partly as an effort to reconcile former antagonists—rewrote the war’s history to create enduring legends, most of which had no basis in reality. Early silent films followed their example, presenting egregiously distorted—and anti-black—stories about the war, which viewers accepted as truth.

Chadwick gives us a clear (and sometimes humorous) recounting of those films’ plots and themes, including D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, and goes on to describe dozens of movies from the twenties and thirties, among them the classic Gone With the Wind. In the forties and fifties, many westerns were partly or chiefly based on the Civil War, presenting veterans of both armies gone West to make a new life in the territories, now united in their hatred of the Indians, another minority group.

Collectively, all these films created a deeply mythologized and racist version of the war and of the antebellum period that preceded it and the Reconstruction era that followed. It was a war that, on film, no one actually started (unless they were radical abolitionists) and no one really lost. The movies gave us what the author calls a "moonlight-and-magnolias" view of the past, filled with gallant cavaliers, a saintly Abraham Lincoln, Scarlett and Rhett, brave northern warriors and beautiful southern belles. Slaves were portrayed as obedient servants pouring mint juleps, as happy "darkies" toiling long hours in the fields for lovable and benevolent masters or as mere background pieces, like furniture or bales of hay—and, once freed, as menacing and vicious. Thus, Chadwick tells us, Americans were given segregation and racism on screen in a way that not only validated the racism they saw in their everyday lives but also helped to maintain it. Even after the civil rights movement, which inspired powerful films like Glory that portrayed the courage of black soldiers, such prejudicial films did not entirely disappear.