The Motion Picture Academy’s Recommended Books

Posted on September 22, 2022 at 10:53 am

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science has published an excellent list of “Must-Read Books About Modern Cinema, Movies and the People Who Make Them.”

Some of my favorites from the list:

Copyright 2021 Atria

Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Slate movie critic Dana Stevens is more than a biography or a critical assessment of one of the formative characters in movie history. It is a cultural examination of Keaton in his times and I loved it.

Copyright 2021 Penguin Books
Mark Harris, author of Five Came Back and Pictures at a Revolution, two of the best books ever written about movies and the people who made them, has produced a superb biography of the director of “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Just as I Am is Michelle Burford’s biography of the incandescent Cicely Tyson.

“Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and a mother, a sister and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by his hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.”

Isaac Butler’s The Method is a fascinating history of a revolution in acting that was especially well suited for the movies. Instead of declaiming for the back row of the theater, the Method encouraged actors to look inside and access their own genuine emotions.

Spike Lee: Director’s Inspiration Last week, I visited the Academy’s new museum for the first time and one of my favorite exhibits was from the collection of Spike Lee. That was just a small portion. This book covers his extensive collection of original film posters and objects, photographs, artworks and more―many of these inscribed to Lee personally by filmmakers, stars, athletes, activists, musicians and others who have inspired his work in specific ways.

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Best Movie Fathers Book — Free for Father’s Day June 17-21

Posted on June 17, 2021 at 12:05 am

In honor of Father’s Day, my eBook, 50 Must-See Movies: Fathers is FREE today through Father’s Day, this weekend, June 17-21, 2020.

What do “Wall Street” and the “Star Wars” saga and, seemingly, about half the movies ever made have in common? They are about fathers. In “Wall Street,” Charlie Sheen plays the ambitious Bud, who respects the integrity of his blue-collar father, played by his real-life father, Martin Sheen. But Bud is dazzled by the money and power and energy of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). The movie will up the ante with Bud’s father’s heart attack as we see him struggle between the examples and guidance of these two male role models.

Copyright 20th Century Fox 1977

In “Star Wars,” Luke (Mark Hamill) does not know until halfway through the original trilogy that (spoiler alert) the evil Darth Vader is his father. He was raised by his aunt and uncle, who are killed very early in the first film, but the father figures who are most meaningful in his life are the Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Like Bud in “Wall Street,” Luke must choose between the good and bad father figures. Like Luke, Harry Potter is raised by an aunt and uncle, but he finds a true father figure later. For Harry, it is headmaster Albus Dumbledore. In opposition is He Who Must Not Be Named. Like Luke, Harry has the opportunity for great power on the dark side, but he lives up to the example set for him by Dumbledore.

The first stories ever recorded are about fathers. The central human struggle to reconcile the need for a father’s approval and the need to out-do him is reflected in the “hero of a thousand faces” myths that occur in every culture. In Greek mythology, Zeus is the son of a god who swallowed his children to prevent them from besting him. Zeus, hidden by his mother, grows up to defeat his father and become the king of the gods. Ancient Greece also produced the story of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, and The Odyssey, whose narrator tells us “it is a wise man who knows his own father.”

These themes continue to be reflected in contemporary storytelling, including films that explore every aspect of the relationship between fathers and their children. There are kind, understanding fathers whose guidance and example is foundation for the way their children see the world. There are cruel, withholding fathers who leave scars and pain that their children spend the rest of their lives trying to heal. There are movies that reflect the off-screen real-life father-child relationships. Martin Sheen not only played his son’s father in “Wall Street;” he played the father of his other son, Emilio Estevez, in “The Way,” which was written and directed by Estevez, and which is about a father’s loss of his son. Will Smith has appeared with his son Jaden in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “After Earth.” John Mills appeared with his daughter Hayley in “Tiger Bay,” “The Truth About Spring,” and “The Chalk Garden.” Ryan and Tatum O’Neill memorably appeared together in “Paper Moon.” Jane Fonda produced and starred in “On Golden Pond” and cast her father Henry as the estranged father of her character. Jon Voight played the father of his real-life daughter Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider.” And Mario Van Peebles, whose father cast him as the younger version of the character he played in “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song” made a movie about the making of that film when he grew up. It is called “Badasssss!” In the role of Melvin Van Peebles he cast himself.

Director John Huston deserves some sort of Father’s Day award. He directed both his father and his daughter in Oscar-winning performances, Walter Huston in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and Anjelica Huston in “Prizzi’s Honor.”

Some actors known for very non-paternal roles have delivered very touching performances as fathers. Edward G. Robinson is best remembered for playing tough guys, but in “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” he gave a beautiful performance as a farmer who loves his daughter (Margaret O’Brien) deeply. Cary Grant, known for sophisticated romance, played loving – if often frustrated — fathers in “Houseboat” and “Room for One More.” “Batman” and “Beetlejuice” star Michael Keaton was also “Mr. Mom.” Comedian Albert Brooks is a devoted father in “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory.”

There are memorable movie fathers in comedies (“Austin Powers,” “A Christmas Story”) and dramas (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Boyz N the Hood”), in classics (“Gone With the Wind”), documentaries (“Chimpanzee,” “The Other F Word”), and animation (“The Lion King,” “The Incredibles”). There are great fathers (“Andy Hardy,” “Call Me By Your Name”) and terrible fathers (“The Shining,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The Barretts of Wimpole Street”). There are fathers who take care of us, as well as they can (“John Q,” “Toni Erdnmann,” “Lorenzo’s Oil,” “Leave No Trace,” “The Road,” “Extraordinary Measures”) and fathers we have to take care of (“I Never Sang for My Father,” “Nothing in Common”). All of these stories are ways to try to understand, to reconcile, and to pay tribute to the men who, for better or worse, set our first example of how to decide who we are and what we will mean in the world.

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Behind the Scenes of Elf and Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted on December 6, 2020 at 10:45 am

Netflix’s entertaining “The Movies that Made Us” series has a new holiday edition called, you guessed it, “The Holiday Movies that Made Us,” with behind-the-scenes episodes about two beloved classics, Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Both movies had the most improbable, even daunting production histories, with inexperienced filmmakers and skeptical studios. Indeed, the stories behind the movies are as magical as the movies themselves.

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Hollywood Treasures Auctioned This Week by Profiles in History

Posted on November 9, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Movie fans will love this catalogue from the latest Profiles in History auction of Hollywood costumes and props. Would you like to have one of the Munchkin costumes from “The Wizard of Oz?” The iconic white Ursula Andress bikini from “Dr. No?” The special Oscar presented to silent movie director Mack Sennett or the prop Oscar “won” by Bette Davis’ character in “The Star?” Costumes worn on screen by Groucho Marx , Errol Flynn, or Humphrey Bogart?  Or Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable costumes from “Gone With the Wind?’

There are TV goodies, too, with a Tina Louise (Ginger) costume from “Gilligan’s Island,” a Sally Field habit from “The Flying Nun,” Urkel’s jacket from “Family Matters,” and a Fred Gwynne costume from “The Munsters.” There’s a model of the Ingalls’ home in “Little House on the Prairie” and Mork’s spaceship egg from “Mork and Mindy.”

If you’ve got room in your garage, you can get Luke Perry’s Porsche from “90210” or Boss Hogg’s Caddy from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” And if you’re feeling like a little magic, you can get “I Dream of Jeannie’s” bottle, though there’s no guarantee of any wishes. Same with Thor’s hammer and Wonder Woman’s lasso.

If you are a successful bidder, let me know!

And coming up next, the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer collection!

 

 

 

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Film School on Your Laptop: George Mason University Takes Their Filmmaker Lecture Series Online

Posted on March 30, 2020 at 4:08 pm

George Mason University’s Visiting Filmmaker Series is going online. Anyone can attend!

APR
1

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Dennis Boni, Director of Photography
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM

APR
2

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: A Conversation with Jennifer Baichwal, director of Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Thursday, April 2, 2020 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM

APR
6

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Doug Spearman Masterclass in Directing
April 6, 2020, 1:30 PM to April 23, 2020, 3:00 PM

APR
7

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Tony Marquez, director and filmmaker
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM

APR
8

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Panel Discussion on Unions in Filmmaking
Wednesday, April 8, 2020 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM

APR
13

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Christelle Matou, Costume and production design
Monday, April 13, 2020 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM

APR
14

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Henry Ogunjimi, documentary filmmaker
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM

APR
14

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Kwanza Gooden, filmmaker
Tuesday, April 14, 2020 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM

APR
15

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Steph Garcia, actor, writer, comedian
Wednesday, April 15, 2020 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM

APR
20

Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Akiva Peñaloza, writer, director
Monday, April 20, 2020 1:30 PM

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