Jam-packed, sometimes enlightening collection of current writing about film.
As editor Landis (better known as the director of Animal House, etc.) notes in his introduction, he follows no general theme; the collection, he quips, might be better titled “Many Different Aspects of Film That Interest John Landis.” The eclectic assortment of works of varying accomplishment covers eight subject areas spanning the perennial (“Actors”) to the particular (“Nazis”), with individual selections favoring boomer movie heroes like stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, directors Stanley Kubrick and Sam Raimi, ape designer Charles Gemora. The section on censorship includes intriguing historical studies of All About Eve and Gone With the Wind. The article about the latter shows civil rights groups negotiating with producer David O. Selznick to tone down some of the more offensive aspects of Margaret Mitchell’s portrayal of African-Americans and reminds us that Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar was an early harbinger of advances to come for black people. Straight-up frame-by-frame movie analyses are well represented by Maria Di Battista's keen dissection of His Girl Friday, which applies the concept of time to find new meaning in much-analyzed elements of the film such as its lighting, tracking shots, and the power struggle between Cary Grant’s and Rosalind Russell’s characters. Rick Lyman's “Whoa, Trigger! Auteur Alert!” reveals Quentin Tarantino to be a devoted fan of genre director William Witney (who did most of Roy Rogers’s films); recalling John Waters's homage to William Castle, it may be the jauntiest piece in the collection. The most unpredictably informative is David Geffner's “People Who Need People,” a profile of indie documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick. As a whole, the pieces illustrate what series editor Jason Shinder calls “a major strain of contemporary writing about the movies: variousness of subject and form.” But they also evoke a longing for new influential critical ideas that could trickle to mainstream viewers.
Baroque entertainment and a telling time-capsule of turn-of-the-century film writing concerns.
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").