Sunday, June 07, 2009

Reading the movies?

Shahn at Six Martinis and the Seventh Art has tagged me in a "Reading the Movies" meme started over at the Dancing Image. The following, in no particular order, represent five of my favorite books about movies:

1. The "perversely inaccurate" Fun in a Chinese Laundry, Josef von Sternberg's pastiche of a memoir. And when I say pastiche, I mean an amalgam of his paranoid ramblings, some fact, a few self-aggrandizing delusions and lots of apocryphal anecdotes.

2. Who the Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich. You'll learn more about writing for the movies than if you read any number of silly books like The Writer's Journey or Save the Cat.

3. What Made Pistachio Nuts? I remember loving this book in grad school, mainly for the way Henry Jenkins irreverently pokes holes in the supremacy of James Agee's adulation of the "silent clowns." Just the kind of contrary thinking I like, plus, a canny appreciation of an undeservedly maligned moment in film history (early sound).

4. Without Lying Down. Frances Marion's biography is overlong and far too full of irrelevant details (like who cares about every single aunt and uncle she ever had?) but an important work nonetheless because it inspired me to learn more about Marion as a writer.

5. Preston Sturges: Five Screenplays. Not so much a book about film as a book with films in it, if that makes sense. Another invaluable tool for the writer who wants to be funny, or entertaining, or even both if you can manage it.

4 comments:

bellanta said...

Well, the only one I know of these is What Made Pistachio Nuts, which is indeed a great book in my view. And you gotta love the title alone...

MovieMan0283 said...

Interesting observation on "Who the Devil Made It." I definitely find that one learns more about the structure, construction, and details of filmmaking indirectly than with a straight-on approach, as one would presumably find in the writing-instructional books you mention. Not sure why this is, exactly.

Andrea Janes said...

I think it's because the people quoted in these histories have actually done something in the movies, as opposed to those authors of technical manuals who generally, well, haven't.

MovieMan0283 said...

Or have, but not something you'd generally want to emulate...