While this book fills a niche in the market and provides admirable coverage, it lacks the human insight or delight for the...

SHOTS IN THE MIRROR

CRIME FILMS AND SOCIETY

A sprawling but shortsighted survey of 300 crime films that details sub-genres and character types but offers limited aesthetic analysis and little appreciation for the industry.

After an acceptable introduction positing the basic truth that crime films both `reflect our ideas about fundamental . . . issues` and `shape the ways we think about [them],` Rafter (Law, Policy, and Society Program/Northeastern Univ.) hands the first chapter of her study to doctoral candidate Drew Todd. It's a mistake, because Todd's `The History of Crime Films` undercuts authorial command with bland observation and callow generalizations about actors and eras. Worse still are his inaccuracies, such as the contention that film noir was needed to bring `superb craftsmanship and technique` to an American cinematography built on `simpler point-and-shoot methods.` (So much for Freund, Toland, and Howe—all active in the 1930s.) Rafter continues, with a full (if partly problematic) survey of the genre, tracing movie criminology, varieties of crime-movie hero, courtroom and prison films, and the future of the genre, among other subjects. Pleasingly, the book brims with variety—this may be the only film book that cites the protagonists of Falling Down, The Last Seduction, and The Godfather in one sentence. But while many of her conclusions about the genre's appealing safety and increasing pessimism are sound, some specific calls raise questions. Dirty Harry Callahan was a department pain, not an `ideal cop`; mid-century courtroom dramas did not necessarily take a `generally uncritical perspective on the judicial system`; action heroes do not always need to examine their dark psyches to gain depth; the homosexual future of The Shawshank Redemption principals is not clear. And must all academics disdain Hollywood and proclaim that independent `critical` films are better (“Roadrunner to the blockbuster's Godzilla,` as Rafter would have it)?

While this book fills a niche in the market and provides admirable coverage, it lacks the human insight or delight for the medium that could make it a transcendent critical work. Warshow still stands alone.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-19-512982-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

more