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.
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").
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)