A thorough but uneven study of the presentation of history in film.

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A Critical History of History in Moving Pictures

An examination of how the film industry has interpreted and depicted history from the early 20th century to the present.

In this debut work of film criticism, Dunbar offers a detailed examination of how historical topics have been presented in movies, from the days of silent films to the present. Although Dunbar doesn’t ignore the question of a film’s artistic merits, his primary focus is on how well the movie presents an accurate view of history and if it provides the viewer with an engrossing sense of the past. The book moves both chronologically and thematically through Hollywood history (non-U.S. movies are addressed toward the end of the book). Dunbar displays an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, citing dozens of films in detail as he explains how historically effective narratives—John Adams, Band of Brothers—distinguish themselves from the rest of the industry. The book isn’t shy in its judgments: The Production Code Administration was an “idiotic agency of moral regulation”; “any film maker who undertakes to portray the members of that ‘Greatest Generation’ as anything less than they were is committing an act of cultural and historical libel”; John Wayne is “the prince of phonies.” The result is a highly idiosyncratic approach to historical analysis, and its effectiveness depends on how much credence readers are willing to give Dunbar’s interpretation. The high frequency of misspellings, from the names of notable historians (Leopold von Ranke; Thomas Macaulay; Herodotus) to filmmakers and the authors of works cited in the text (Barbara Tuchman; Steven Spielberg; Jeanine Basinger; John Huston) to simple typos (“New Wold,” “Sargent,” “profit” for “prophet,” “grizzly” for “grisly”), is evidence that the book could have benefited from further editing. In addition, the book’s inline citations make frequent references to Wikipedia.

A thorough but uneven study of the presentation of history in film.

Pub Date: March 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491868850

Page Count: 438

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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