An elegant package of serious, insightful film criticism in an irresistibly concise and engaging format—delightful to dip...




Film school, pocket-sized.

Editors Black, the co-founder of both the Austin Chronicle and SXSW and founding board member of the Austin Film Society, and Swords, one of Black’s research and project assistants, gather a selection of the program notes written for the University of Texas’ “CinemaTexas” film program from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, meant to provide context for the films screened for students. But these notes go far beyond technical credits and plot summaries. The movie-mad scholars who wrote them, inspired by the impassioned criticism at the heart of the French New Wave, craft rigorously researched and reasoned critiques in handy capsule form, aided in great part by access to the university’s copies of the often difficult-to-obtain films themselves. (The New Yorker’s immortal Pauline Kael subscribed to the notes, for handy reference.) After establishing a historical baseline with looks at such foundational works as Sunrise and Citizen Kane, the collection reveals the progressive tastes of the CinemaTexas programmers, focusing on auteurist cinema (Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges), renegade and maverick directors (Samuel Fuller, Sam Peckinpah), and arthouse/cult fare, including the work of Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger, whose Scorpio Rising, “perhaps the most popular and widely renowned film of the American avant-garde,” is so succinctly and cogently explicated that it makes actually viewing the film seem redundant. The approach of the notes is consistent across the years and different contributors: close reading of the films as texts, emphasizing aesthetic analysis of composition, editing, and other technical elements in the service of narrative and theme. The tone is erudite while avoiding academic jargon or pretentious obscurity, and the brief length of each piece underscores the lively and engaged spirit of the project.

An elegant package of serious, insightful film criticism in an irresistibly concise and engaging format—delightful to dip into for cinephiles and cinema studies neophytes alike.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1544-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2018

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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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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