If uninspiring, this is a user-friendly, nonintimidating guide to appreciating movies.




A film critic for the Washington Post offers advice on watching movies.

Hornaday isn’t the first to write a primer about critically assessing films instead of subjectively responding to them as simply good or bad. Avoiding critical jargon, she hopes to guide novice viewers into “appreciating movies more fully when they succeed, and for explaining their missteps when they fall short.” She has conducted extensive interviews with film folk over the years, which adds an informed, insider’s quality to her discussions. Hornaday smartly divides the book into seven sections: screenwriting, acting, production design, cinematography, editing, sound and music, and directing. Within each section, the author poses a number of questions that she then answers (“where was the camera and why was it there?”), giving the book an unfortunate textbook quality. The narrative is also heavily prescriptive. Hornaday is quick to give her likes and dislikes: “I’ve never loved the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu…credibility might be the chief problem.” On acting, “the most fundamental element of cinematic grammar,” she cites John Sayles: “casting the right actors is easily 90 percent of the [director’s] job.” But mistakes are made. Cameron Diaz was “fatally miscast” in The Gangs of New York. One of the stronger sections is production design, often overlooked by general moviegoers. It encompasses backdrops, locations, sets, props, costumes, hair, and makeup. Done well, writes the author, it establishes “the overall look of a film, the sense of richness, texture, and detail.” In the cinematography section, Hornaday confesses that one of the “few things I truly despise in life…[is] 3-D.” She was “awed” by Sandra Adair’s editing work in Boyhood; Raging Bull and GoodFellas are “masterpieces of editing and rhythm.” The section on sound and music is also good, the one on directing poor, and because the author’s picks are very American-centric, the book’s scope is limited.

If uninspiring, this is a user-friendly, nonintimidating guide to appreciating movies.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09423-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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